“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain” – Ps. 127:1
Notice the beginning. “Unless the Lord…” Ultimately, isn’t everything meaningless if we don’t have our priorities right? If the Lord orders our life, everything will fall into place. It’s when we go off on our own that we really louse it up.
But that should be a given. If we are truly Christians, our days, our lives, our calendars, our checkbooks will all be ordered according to God’s will. For as we go on, we should become more and more like him.
But that’s not what struck me when I saw this verse recently. What struck me was the second half. Or more specifically, the inverse of it. If we take the opposite position that the verse implies, we get “if the Lord builds the house, the workers do not labor in vain.”
Balaam was an idiot. In 3000 years, we haven’t learned a lot.
Balaam’s story (Num 22-24) contains a lot of great lessons. Balaam was a prophet, but not a good one. Balaam was a non-Israelite diviner who was summoned by the king of Moab to offer his services. This king – Balak – thought he could hire a prophet to speak anything he desired, and it would happen. Balaam really, really wanted to please the king because he would make him extremely rich. He asked God over and over to allow him to go and curse the Israelites on behalf of king Balak, but God repeatedly said no.
Balaam ended up going with the king even though God had told him not to on more than one occasion. Finally, while on the road, Balaam’s donkey stopped and refused to go any farther. Balaam beat the donkey badly, not realizing the donkey saw an angel God had sent to stop them. Once Balaam’s eyes were opened and he saw the angel, he said this:
What church doesn’t love to have miracle stories?
“When Jim started attending he was into XYZ, but since then…”
“Suzy had gone through XYZ in the past, but since coming to our church…”
“Bob was addicted to XYZ, but he found God and now…”
“John and Lisa’s marriage was XYZ, but since getting plugged in…”
We all love these. They make great testimonies and sermon illustrations. We put them in our church videos, and have people read them before they get baptized. They are great stories that we should get excited about. But I want to look at a different side.
I picked up a bunch of great books at a school sale recently, and Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God” was among them. It’s a book that’s been on my list for some time. I guess I needed it to fall below 75 cents!
This book is not a light read! I’m also finding that it’s not a book I can read without a highlighter handy. Just two pages in, and I’ve been stopped already.
“The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be “received” without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is “saved,” but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God.”
Tozer made these observations around 1957, but I don’t think it is a problem we have moved past. I’ve had similar thoughts about “conversion” over recent months. The whole process, especially among the strictest adherents to free will, can easily turn into accepting Christ on our own terms. What does “accepting” mean anyway? It sounds like we are limply conceding that Christ exists, and putting that belief on a shelf along with all of our other thoughts and feelings. Shouldn’t an experience where we are confronted by God’s grace and salvation reorder our priorities?
To say “I’ve received Christ” or “I’ve been saved” to me have always sounded too passive. I’m not suggesting we abandon the terms, or proposing any new ones. But we need to think differently. Salvation requires that we submit our lives to Christ. But, although they sound similar, submission and passivity are not the same! Surrendering your will does not mean you remain prostrate. We are not merely losing our will, we are acquiring his. Salvation demands a response. We must pursue. If we do not “hunger and thirst for righteousness”, that indicates we are content with our situation. A real encounter with Christ will point out our emptiness apart from him, and will cause us to draw ever closer.
Are you content with “receiving Christ”, or are you responding to him?
Tonight I asked on my Facebook page, “So, Jennifer Knapp came out. How long until the church crucifies her?”
Here’s the article that I read: Christian Singer Jennifer Knapp Comes Out
I was then asked “So, what is the appropriate response?”
That’s a great question!
Here’s my attempt at a reply:
I don’t have all the answers for sure! Off the cuff, I’ll tell you some things that would be inappropriate responses…
- Wiping her off of Christian radio playlists tomorrow
- Anything knee-jerk
- Pretending we are sinless
We see bands like U2 and Creed that make no claims of faith, and we raise their songs as anthems in our churches. Why are they elevated, yet Jennifer will lose many contracts tomorrow?
We tolerate pompous, prideful Christian singers, but Michael English had to go. Did his songs lose their impact overnight?
Is a gay Christian worse than a Christian who is a glutton? How do we tolerate the “prosperity preachers” who are addicted to money, but a singer with a different issue is excommunicated?
Does her entertainer status make her a fair target and nullify the plank/speck rule?
Is Jennifer’s now-public admission worse than the private struggles that other musicians and preachers would lose their families over if they were known?
I think we need to first start by being honest with our perspective. I don’t know how to respond to it directly. I know a lot of ways to alienate people from the church though. I’ll try not to do those while I’m thinking it over.
What do YOU think?
FWIW, found an article in Christianity Today too. CLICK ME