Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Urgent Need Of The Church

What is the most urgent need in the church of the Western world today? Many different responses are given to that question....

Some in the church say that what we need is purity in sexual and reproductive matters...

Others locate the most urgent problem of the church less in personal morality than in larger policy issues connected with reproduction...

Others say the church's most urgent need is a combination of integrity and generosity in the financial arena...

Well, then, someone might say, what we need in this hour of spiritual declension is evangelism and church planting...

Perhaps what we most urgently need, then is disciplined, biblical thinking. We need more Bible colleges and seminaries, more theologians, more lay training, more expository preaching. How else are we going to train a whole generation of Christians to think God's thoughts after him, other than by teaching them to think through Scripture, to learn the Scriptures well?...

Time fails to list other ugent needs that various groups espouse. Some groups point to the desperate need for real, vital corporate worship; others focus on trends in the nation and therefore the need to become involved in politics and policies.

Clearly all of these things are important. I would not want anything I have said to be taken as disparagement of evangelism and worship, a diminishing of the importance of purity and integrity, a carelessness about disciplined Bible study. But there is a sense in which these urgent needs are merely symptomatic of a far more serious lack. The one thing we most urgently need in Western Christendom is a deeper knowledge of God. We need to know God better.

When it comes to knowing God, we are a culture of the spiritually stunted. So much of our religion is packaged to address our felt needs--and these are almost uniformly anchored in our pursuit of our own happiness and fulfillment. God simply becomes the Great Being who, potentially at least, meets our needs and fulfills our aspirations. We think rather little of what he is like, what he expects of us, what he seeks in us. We are not captured by his holiness and his love; his thoughts and words capture too little of our imagination, too little of our discourse, too few of our priorities.

In the biblical view of things, a deeper knowledge of God brings with it massive improvement in the other areas mentioned: purity, integrity, evangelistic effectiveness, better study of Scripture, improved private and corporate worship, and much more. But if we seek these things without passionately desiring a deeper knowledge of God, we are selfishly running after God's blessings without running after him. We are even worse than the man who wants his wife's services--someone to come home to, someone to cook and clean, someone to sleep with--without ever making the effort to really know and love his wife and discover what she wants and needs; we are worse than such a man, I say, because God is more than any wife, more than the best of wives: he is perfect in his love, he has made us for himself, and we are answerable to him.

A Call To Spiritual Reformation: Priorities From Paul And His Prayers, D.A. Carson, p.11-16
Amen, Don. Amen. This past summer I was blown away when I realized how Paul prays for the church in Ephesus. Paul knows that in the Ephesian church people struggle with lying, anger, stealing, improper speech, strained relationships, unforgiveness, sexual immorality, covetousness, drunkenness, and more. Just read chapters 4 and 5. But how does he pray for this church? Does he pray for the power of lust to be broken in their lives, for them to have restored relationships, or for idols to be destroyed? As good as these things are, no. And it dawned on me. If he prayed in these ways, he'd be fighting the wrong battle. The presence of these things aren't ultimately what their problem is. Their problem is owing to a lack of something. So this is how Paul prays:
I do not cease to remember you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know...
Ephesians 1:17,18
Paul really only prays for one thing in verses 17-23. Everything after verse 17 is an expansion of what that one thing is: that God may grant the Ephesians a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.

That was their greatest need. If this prayer would be answered, all the other issues would disappear. And 2,000 years removed, times haven't changed.

3 comments:

Mel said...

Hi Chris,

I have to share this "word" that I believe God gave me on January 21, 2006:


"God desires radical obedience.

Radical obedience is an automatic by-product of knowing God intimately.

Because when we know Him intimately, we can’t not trust Him.

And when we trust Him absolutely, His words, commands, laws, and principles become life and healing and wholeness to us.

Jesus said His yoke is easy and the burden light.

Do you feel burdened down by what you feel are the “have to’s” of a Christian Life? Don’t!

Make seeking to know God more your most passionate daily pursuit, and all the rest will fall into place."

......

I wrote about how the whole thing happened in a post on my blog dated 6/1/08. Your post echoes strongly in my heart. Thank you for sharing it.

Jessica said...

Yes! Exactly. This is what has been on my heart lately. I feel like I am brought back to this basic principle every once in awhile when my zeal and road to learning new things (ie about seeking the KOG) sometimes leads me to forget the fundamentals (ie knowing my God). And the trust thing is key. I realized recently that I was having a hard time trusting God with things because I didn't know him very well. I am thankful for the faith of my youth, but it needs some strengthening as I get older.

JJ Peterson said...

I couldn't agree more. In Revelation, the church in Ephesus is commended for doing amazing things and standing strong in the truth. However, they are scolded for forsaking their first love.

My prayer is that through this all we would not fall into the same trap.