The Easter holiday has just passed. Usually this is a big Sunday for churches. Visitors come to church on Easter, and for the twice-a-year people this is one of the two. Churches are usually prepared and excited about having higher numbers than usual on Easter. I saw an advertisement that a local church was doing this year to lure visitors in and it greatly disturbed me. The advertisement promised a $50 gas card to every new family that visits this particular church on Easter Sunday. Only one word came to mind when I read that: bribery. Offering people a gift to come is bribing them to come to church.
Is this what it has come to in our country? Are we so cowardly that we cannot even muster the courage to invite people to church? Do we have to bribe them to come? Are we so desperate for numbers that the ends justify the means? Do we so casually dismiss the words of Jesus when He said, “I will build my church” (Matt 16:18) and “apart from Me you can do nothing?” (John 15:5). Are we so untrusting of the gospel message that we believe good ol’ evangelism doesn’t work? Are we so unfaithful to the Great Commission and the purity of the church that we would turn to marketing strategies to grow? Are we so man-centered that we don’t care about what God thinks? Are we so confident in our own power to save that we think if we can just get them in the door, we can probably save them? Are we so full of deception that we would give a gift to get people in, and then expect them to sacrifice and serve for the church?
While I don’t think the aforementioned church is the only one doing this, and I don’t believe it is the main cause of the problem, I do think the actions of that church are the symptoms of an epidemic in this country. The epidemic is a loss of reverence for God. He has been dumbed down and simplified so much that we no longer think of Him as a “consuming fire.” (Heb 12:29). What happened to the God of the OT who warned the people at Mt. Sinai to not even try to look upon him or many of them would perish (Ex 19:21)? Where is the God who consumed Nadab and Abihu for not performing sacrifices according to His clear commands (Lev 10:2)? Where is the God who killed thousands of citizens of Beth-shemesh for looking into the ark (1 Sam 6:19)?
And where are the believers like Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John who were able to get a glimpse of heaven and could not help but fall on their face in awe of God and mourning of their own sin (Isa 6, Ezek 1, Rev 1)? Where are the believers who open the Word of God trembling (Isa 66:2) because they know that it will pierce through the thoughts and intentions of their heart (Heb 4:12)?
These kinds of believers are becoming rare because of the lack of reverence for God. Now, in our country, we can post a cute little ‘God saying’ on our Facebook wall or like a picture of Jesus and think we are giving God glory. In reality, the way to bring God glory is to open the Word of God, trembling, and allow it to pierce right through our false attempts at humility, our prideful self-righteousness, our fear of man, and our wicked hearts. We should allow the Word to lay us completely naked and bare before an Almighty Holy God who is the Judge of the living and the dead and will not let the guilty go free. Only then do we understand we have absolutely no right to stand before Him or name His name; the only thing we have is the righteousness of Christ given to us, and that is the only reason why God doesn’t consume us on the spot. Friends, let’s remember who God really is. Let us bring back awe and reverence for the Holy One of Israel and let the fear of God motivate our actions.
Pastor Mark Scialabba