[Jesus said] “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt 7:13-14, NIV)
There’s something going on out there. Spiritually speaking, that is. Something new. Something old. Something different. Something familiar.
Concept #1. A friend noticed it the other day. “All these contemporary worship services… no matter what kind of church you’re in… they all have the same feel. They even know the same songs. Something’s going on…”
Concept #2. Truly spiritual thinking has become incredibly rare these days. Some examples of What Not to Believe In.
“Christianity” that majors in producing conservative Caucasian American Republicans as if Jesus Himself was one. This movement needs to go the way of the dodo, and as soon as possible. It was always only a play for power and money, just like the “worldly”, only with a Christian veneer. In this crowd it’s OK to stir people up politically to oppose issues they don’t really understand. Having common enemies keeps the people united. (Apparently the Holy Spirit isn’t enough to produce unity.) And the constant asking for money — It’s OK, people need to learn to honor God with their wealth, and it’s your job to teach them. Christianity lived without the power and direction of the Holy Spirit is an impossibility.
“Christianity” that majors in producing “relevant”, goddess-worshiping, tree-hugging liberals. Mercifully going the way of the wooly mammoth but not quite extinct yet. If ever there were a breed that could actually afford to buy eternal life, this is it. Thankfully they are rapidly decreasing in number, and only just in time, since their favorite pastimes are pursuing legal actions and boring people to death with religious jargon and platitudes you need a Doctor of Theology degree to interpret, leaving you in the end as confused and directionless as they are. A religion without God is no religion at all.
“Christianity” that is nothing but the “if it feels good do it” philosophy of the 60s, regurg… er… repackaged to appeal to the upwardly mobile. A/k/a the Prosperity Gospel. Life at its most shallow. Adherents are taught that God wants them to be rich and successful, that success is a sign of God’s favor. Where does that leave the early Christian martyrs? Christianity without the cross is no faith at all.
“Christianity” that has faith in Grandma’s religion. She made us get baptized and confirmed, so we’re in good with God. Casting off the shackles of organized religion and chasing after everything our hearts desire has made the very pinnacle of American society — the highest achievements the world’s greatest nation can produce — look like Paris Hilton or Justin Timberlake. At least that’s what you’d think from watching TV or glancing over the nearest newsstand. America is the world’s largest producer and consumer of “junk food for the soul”. We are the moral equivalent of couch potatoes, rolling with whatever the talking heads tell us, not a backbone to be found among us. Life without a greater purpose is no life at all.
“Christianity” that compromises with other religions. All roads lead up the mountain, don’t they? It doesn’t matter what you believe in, so long as you believe in something. Live and let live. Why can’t we all just accept each other and work together for justice, freedom and peace? Because… because there will never be peace as long as women and minorities are being oppressed in the name of God… because there will never be justice as long as people abuse the planet and put their own self-centered desires above other people… because there will never be freedom as long as we are rebelling against the One who made us for Himself. A life lived only to oneself is no freedom at all.
“Christianity” that is more about America than about a Jewish carpenter from Israel. America has it right. We know best. Everyone else on earth would be better off if they just listened to us and learned to live like us. After all we have the highest standard of living, the most secure borders, the most efficient government, the best health care of any nation on earth. If only the other nations could be like us. Arrogance comes at a cost. “An unexamined life is not worth living.” — Socrates
“Christianity” that is more about following this denomination or that religious teacher than about following Jesus. Have you ever run into someone who just can’t stop talking about Calvin, or Augustine, or how wonderfully spiritual the ________ Church is? Someone who insists that unless you become (Catholic, Mormon, Baptist, Calvinist, nondenominational, Orthodox, etc) you can’t possibly be going to heaven? How often do these people talk about the Lord? Are they willing to set aside their heroes for the sake of Christ, or does Jesus take a back seat to their chosen way of life? Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” Jesus said: “the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 14:6; 6:37)
Concept #3. Or to put it another way, back to Concept #1. Finding the Narrow Road. I think maybe that’s why the contemporary services are so similar. In every kind of church, from Presbyterian to Episcopalian, from Baptist to Catholic, and everything in between, God is guiding the ones who love Him to the Narrow Road. They — we– have seen through the lies and our faith has survived the disillusionment. We know that God is true even when others are faithless. We know that God is worthwhile even when everything around us seems worthless. We know that God is present, even when it seems like we’re alone, he is closer than a brother.
We’re walking along the Narrow Road, and the songs we sing are songs of the road, songs to travel by… songs that remind us of our Destination, that help keep it in view. We are throwing off everything that entangles and running the race before us. I pray our example will be an inspiration to the ones who come after us, and not the next candidate for ecclesiastical calcification. The next generation will need to write its own songs as they follow the Narrow Road.