Have you ever scrolled through your Facebook Memories and read one of your previous posts and had your mind absolutely blown? That was my morning.
As I was scrolling through my memories, I came across a conversation I had with a good friend of mine. In this conversation I had made a slick comment about how some people, instead of accepting God's adoption, decide to marry into the family instead of going through the hassle of actually changing. I said it jokingly, but looking back at that conversation, there is something so profound in that statement. Because, you know, I wasn't wrong. Look at this text:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)
A lot of people read this text and then go on to teach about a generation that is far from God. A generation not unlike our own. That is distant and unfamiliar with God. A stubborn and broken generation. But you know, that's not really the picture Jesus painted here. He said that these people would come to Him with evidence of their godliness. A history of prophesies and devils on the run. A history of mighty works for the kingdom. Mighty works only accomplished by the name of Jesus. The picture Jesus painted here is a people who are involved in the work of the Kingdom, that they are confident they belong with Him. And yet, He will send them away as people He never knew.
Think about that. I have friends who walk in a very noticeable prophetic gifting. I have friends who seem to exude spiritual authority. When they pray, things happen. The sick are healed, devils flee. I would never consider that they are far from God. Why would I, when He is sharing His secrets with them and granting them His power? Isn't the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit evidence of their depth with God?!
Guys, the people Jesus was talking about were not the people sitting in the back of the room napping during service. He wasn't talking about the nineteen year old being forced to come to Church by his grandmother. No, he was talking about the people who are so actively involved in the work of the Kingdom that no one even bothered to notice they didn't know God....even themselves.
That. Is. Terrifying.
I remember reading this passage a few years into the deeper part of my walk and being absolutely devastated. At the time, I had completed an internship at the biggest church in town, was helping to lead a youth ministry, was running a prayer ministry, was an adopt-a-block pastor and was discipling a handful of young, hungry Christians. I heard the voice of God, and was known for the effectiveness of my prayer and the depth of my love for God. But when I read this passage, I remember falling on my face and crying out to God, "Daddy, please! I don't want to be one of the ones resting on my gifts and never having known You!"
Some of you are reading this and muttering to yourself that I really need to grasp the grace of God. Well, friends, Jesus understood His grace when He made this statement. The truth is, there is a great great host of people who have married themselves to the Church, but have never met the person of Jesus. They are devoted to the faith and the teaching of their Pastor or their Small Group leader or their praying Grandma, and they have followed their footsteps of faith but have never humbled themselves before a living God.
As a people, the Western Church has reached a place where the vast majority of us are clinging to the history a few of us have built with God. And yes, we have our Churches that are known for their remarkable depth. But tell me this: If the Christians who run the Church were replaced by similarly gifted people from the congregation, would the Church's depth remain? If you changed the worship leader with someone who doesn't sing as well, would your Church still worship the same? If you replaced your preacher with a newb who doesn't understand the necessary balance between biblical expository and a well placed joke, would the congregation still grow? If you got rid of the keyboard player, would there still be a "word from the Lord" at the end of the service? If not, the Church is not deep. The leaders are. And although that is beautiful and necessary and commendable, the Church does not consist of a few leaders. It is made up of every single part.
Guys, this is serious! Jesus did not say "and a few will say to me". He said, "On that day many will say to me".... many. Let that sink in. There is coming a moment where the entire Bride will stand before Jesus and He will tell each of us to either go to the right or to go to the left. Not based on our behavior. Not based on our giftedness. Not based on our theological understanding. Not based on how many sermons we preached or how many prophesies we got right. No... His decision will be based entirely on whether or not He knows our face. Our voice. Our name. Our love.
I have been in ministryfo r over half of my life. Making disciples and teaching Christians to know God, and one of the things that I have learned beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the way we "do church" has set the body up to be unacceptably distant from God. It's not a secret. In fact, its something that ministry leaders cry out to God about on a regular basis. I can almost guarantee you that your Pastor prays about this problem when He is alone with God. Because despite how much improvement and innovation we have seen in the preaching and teaching and worship of the Western Church in the last Century or so, our actual expectation for the depth of the Church has declined. Because there is little to no community that is not centered around the teaching of a few individuals, we are not driving each other deeper, we are just driving each other to understand what the Pastor said last Sunday.
Do you see how terrifying that is? In a blink of an eye, we are going to face Jesus. And when we do, many will say to Him, "Did we not...?"
Did we not serve at the soup kitchen? Did we not lead the prayer line? Did we not give to the mission fund? Did we not take two names off of the angel tree? Did we not go on that world mission trip? Did we not teach sunday school? Did we not serve in the nursery? Did we not pay our tithe and give extra whenever we were asked? Did we not help break ground for the new church building? Did we not serve the poor and take care of the widows and orphans?
We have replaced intimacy with service. Allowed what we do to replace who we are. Not even noticing that doing so is a return to the legalism Jesus so desperately gave to free us from. Your service, your gifts, your faithfulness... they do not speak for you. The only thing that grants you access to the person of God, is the person of Jesus. This life has to be more than hitching a ride on someone else's story with God. More than growing because someone else has read the Bible. More than experiencing God's presence because someone else knows how to worship intimately.
You. Need. To. Know. Jesus.
It is time for a generation to fall on their faces and to cry out, "God! I will not be one of the people so distracted by their effectiveness that they don't notice that You are not present! Take everything away from me that distracts me from loving You! I don't need the gifts! I don't need power! I don't need to understand. I just need You! I just need You! Let everything else fade into the background of my story. I just want You."
It is time for a generation that is not married to the Church, but living as the Church.
Please, don't be offended by what I am saying here. Be changed. Be driven deeper. Be determined to not fit the mold I am writing about. Be nearer to the person of Jesus.
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