Friday, October 23, 2009

Righteous Snakes

We as followers of Christ have been instructed to examine all things and hold to what is good (1thess.5:21). I would guess that’s because many things have the appearance of being something valuable but in fact are worthless. Another reason is that something useful today might become worse than useless tomorrow. This is particularly true with spiritual things. Take for example the snake on a pole used by Moses to heal all those Israelites bitten by snakes on their pilgrimage in the desert (Numbers 21:4-10). You know the story….God’s people get discouraged, started complaining (again) against God and the man God gave to lead them, so God sends them a lesson on complaining in the form of some terrible snakes. When they repented and asked Moses to pray for them the Lord spoke to Moses to make a brass snake and stick it on a pole. All who then would look upon this snake would be healed and not die. This is another example of the mercy of our Great King. This act of grace would foreshadow and become identified with Christ becoming our sin and dying on a cross (John 3:14, 15). How revered this snake on a pole must have become. How the natural thing to do was to keep the snake on a pole polished and always remember the good things that came from it. You might even say it needed to become something we could use in our worship service and give it a special name….and that is exactly what the Israelites did …until the righteous man Hezekiah examined this thinking and consequently smashed it to bits (2 Kings 18: 1-4). What once had been mightily used by God to heal his people had slowly become just one more idol. It is said of Hezekiah that he trusted the Lord, held fast to the Lord, kept His commandments and would not depart from Him (2 Kings 18: 5-7). I also believe he was constantly examining everything and held on only to what was good not traditionally accepted. By Hezekiah’s time that snake on a pole had been around for a long time and many people thought that offering it incense and giving it a special name was the thing to do. Not Hezekiah. He had to examine everything…..because he always wanted God’s heart and knew there is no such thing as offering righteous snakes incense even if they had been once used by God.
If ever there were a need of the spirit of Hezekiah it is now. The 21rst century version of the “American Church” is filled from top to bottom with “righteous snakes being offered incense”. And I am not talking about the idolatry of the Catholic Church or the sorcery of the Charismatic Church. I am talking about the lifestyles of evangelical protestant Christianity. Is there anybody (that has looked at what Christ taught) who will not admit that the American Dream contends with the Faith once delivered to the Saints? Would anyone like to consider the effectiveness of continuing in “Christianity as Usual” while examining the statistics of moral living between secular 21rst century conservative Americans who don’t believe in Christ and today’s Christians who say they do? Why is it that most Christians are quick to say the answer to the terrible similarities of depravity between Christians and non Christians is …read the bible more, pray more, witness more and attend church more. Those answers have not brought any reasonable relief to the divorce rate, suicide rate, teen pregnancy rate, or in general sloppy moral living among believers. Is the American church, as most people know it, worth keeping? Great Mega Churches boast great attendance, while the smaller ones look on and drool. Yet is this slobbering really because of the Mega Church gaining actual spiritual deliverance (Salvation) from the defilement’s of the world, or is it because of the ever growing list of programs, baseball teams, bowling allies, swimming pools, and ” electric church” services, with the latest music freshly Christianized from their worldly piers by aspiring “Christian” musicians? Would people still come if all the “kudos” were removed? Would anybody still be standing around if it were made know that their church was going to head in the direction of having all things in common, sharing all possessions, selling all extra lands, houses to take care of the poor among them? What if next Sunday a movement began to lay all things down at the feet of the church leaders so that they could distribute them to any who had needs? What would you do if you were told that you shouldn’t purchase that new car you wanted because of the bad example it would set of going into excessive debt…what would be your response? If those who call themselves the people of God want to make any substantial difference in this country they will have to rid themselves of the incense offered to their righteous snakes. We cannot live like everyone around us and expect the world to pay attention. Christ didn’t, the Apostles didn’t, the early church didn’t and we mustn’t either. Something vastly different is needed. Our idolizing of family, traditions, customs and that ole time religion will have to go. It may have been good enough for Mama but is painfully inadequate for such a time as this.
RCV Grandfather

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