Get Thee To God
|The sermons, essays and
writings that I share with you are never edicts to be taken as orders,
but suggested propositions to be prayerfully considered. I wish them to
make you think,
but that is only the beginning. Thought without action is dead, but bad
actions can be the result
of unclear thinking. However, I pray your thinking may arouse you from
and wake up Christ sleeping in you.
But the final decision on what to do must be made by your conscience, and I urge you to think spiritually, lest your conscience shrivel. I ask you to consider prayerfully according to the grace you have as well as the circumstances you are in. Naturally these put together may create a new synthesis of thought and action. But it is not uniformity of thought or creed that holds believers together, but uniformity of love. When God’s grace shines upon us like the warmth of the sun upon the earth, it encourages many different plants and does not single out just one. Grace make a thousand flowers bloom. The same love creates varying forms of beauty.
It is one of the tragedies in the history of world religions that the Christian church fell onto creeds prattling about Christ when it could no longer generate the love of Christ. When it needed to accept and encourage varying relationships with God, it instead tried to substitute creed for Christ and force everyone into a creedal strait jacket as the solution. Belief in the right creed became the way of salvation rather than experience with Christ which you could have anywhere. The substitution of creed for Christ became the answer of a deadened spirit in the churches, and a crippled frightened mind. Grace does not force itself on others. Grace respects but it does not force.
The churches are supposed to be organizations to get people to God, but some churches have given up the quest for the Spirit of God to argue about which creed is the only way to God. So I suggest believers stop worrying about creeds and just head for God. For that is the heart of the matter, that you may get to know Christ. (You may change creeds or theology later, if you wish, after you get to God or God gets to you.)
Look, the way of God is not about being saved by mumbling creeds and the crackling of knees. You are saved by a living awareness of God, preferably a personal relationship with God. This relationship with God may come from growing slowly in grace or being moved in grace as dramatically as the Apostle Paul. The end purpose of faith is not just to save your soul for heaven, but to have you awakened to Christ on earth that you may glorify God and give harmony and joy to others.
Slow or fast, verbalized or non-verbalized, you first need to be awakened to the fact that you must cultivate a personal relationship with God. Your awakening to grace may call others to grace as God appeases your heart. For man thirsts for God, and as you drink in God, you change and grow. I think continually on the lives of those who have helped me believe in God and thereby blessed me so.
But do not settle for a halfway covenanted religion of grumbling prayers and mumbling rituals. The sometimes humbug of ritual and creed can mask a poverty of thought and spirit. We need to wake up the Christ within us, not lull Him to sleep with mumbo-jumbo. Don’t settle for churchy nonsense but transcend it, going straight to God. The church is supposed to be an aid in your search for God, but it often ends tragically as the termination of that search. In the corporations that are contemporary churches I see not much of God.
The fallen churches of the West in history have shamed God by being obsessed with creeds bent on stressing organizational uniformity rather than transcendent spirituality. But religions are rather like cooking stoves. If you are not going to cook anything on them, why argue over which kind you should have since you are not going to use it anyway. For most religion is an unused thing.
Most people have an unused faith that is never awakened or turned to any serious purpose. It reminds me of the remark of the old Duke of Wellington who commented that when going to the Chapel Royal that he went only out of duty and the quicker it was over, the better.
Our churches have largely given up on transcendent spirituality and settled for creeds and social work. Most go to Trollope-like churches that cover the tracks of their spiritual smallness with hierarchical nothings, denominational bureaucracies and making altar clothes. I have heard the term, “buron,” used which means a moron working in a bureaucracy. What a wonderful name for those often running the many churches today. The Burons of Christ. (And how are burons paid? Is it not greed that rhymes with creed? My view is the creedier they are, the greedier, they are. But this is like our liberal college foundations: the more endowment they get, the more they raise the fees for the colleges.)
The religious liberals, or that leprosarium of liberals usually making up the faculty of American universities, teach there is no God, and therefore no need of religions. Liberals say that no valid religion exists because there is no divine spirit, energy, or force of God.
Liberals are largely comic to me. They are people who have achieved a blocking out of what they don’t want to face, they are in fact in denial. Why? Because I am actually changed or matured by a divine energy that liberals say doesn’t exist. The liberals tend to say, because God is not understood, there is no God. But that is rather like saying you can’t drive a car because you don’t understand the motor. Or the caveman mentality that would did not use fire because he didn’t understand it. But I am profiting from divine energy. So has Mother Teresa, the Apostle Paul, Albert Schweitzer, Wilburforce, the anti-slavery M.P. in England, and all sorts of diverse types. There are hundreds of thousands of believers whose lives are enriched and changed by this divine energy.
However, this is one of the points of liberalism: don’t believe in what you can’t understand. Now if you were a caveman, that would mean, since you don’t understand fire, you could not use it. Liberalism is a sort of caveman mentality to me. If you can’t explain it, it is not there.
And this brings up a type of religion that is very close to liberalism. I mean Christian Science. My mother’s brother, a college professor, was a practitioner of Christian Science. He grew a black tumor on his eye that was obviously cancer. He would not go to a physician. He did not believe in disease. He went to a Christian Science Hospital that read over him that there was no such thing as disease or cancer. He came home and died screaming from pain but maintaining there was no pain. I have no use for liberalism or Christian Science, a split off of it. Neither accepts the obvious.
Now I have had an experience of Christ, which did not make me perfect, but certainly much better than I would have been without it. It touched me not unpleasantly but like an invisible fire. I did not understand the experience, but I was not such a mental defective as to say it was not real, or because I could not prove it, it did not happen. (Had I done so, expecting understanding before using it, I would have placed myself in the same situation as a cave person who did not understand fire so therefore might not use it and say it was not real. Do we not naturally deny what we do not understand?)
I would venture to say that the proof of God does not lie in the theory but in the practical proof of the applied Spirit. Now religious folk may be different, but I don’t think they are deniers of reality. Albert Schweitzer was not crazy nor was Mother Teresa. They knew what they knew.
But what of barbaric Christians and those of other religious organizations who often seem to me meaner than they otherwise might have been because of organized religion? Some may think they have a divine mission to kill the immoral but will not start with themselves as all are sinners. I suggest the mad religionists are really mentally ill people in touch with a mean, literal creedal organization that has settled down to be an organized creedal club of white, black, red race or creedal supremacists. Instead of offering a transcendent path to a compassionate God, they offer an exercise in hate to honor a false God who is really non-existent. How do we know if they are true religionists. By their fruits you shall know them. (Galatians 5:22) Albert Schweitzer divided religion into true life-affirming faiths and life-denying faiths.
Some religions have a very low level of grace, yes, they believe in God, but they do not have those higher levels of grace that come from experiencing the transcending immanence of God, or meeting Christ, or becoming aware of the Amazing Grace of God. I would warn you to respect all religion, but avoid low grace and life-denying religions with creeds of hate.
Christ is not just needed by those outside of formal religion. He is badly needed by many of those in various religions who may think they have forged the right creed but have absolutely no knowledge of the true transcendent Spirit of Christ. None. What are creeds without Christ? And any church in line with the government is not in line with Christ who is above and beyond all governments and transcends politics. There are false creeds that drag Christ down to political pettiness. He becomes not the God of all, but the God of one group.
Christ must be brought not only to those outside the churches but to many, many inside the churches of today’s religions. Without a sense of the transcending immanence of God, the present churches of today often are preaching brassily of empty creeds. Such are many of the churches today. We are told Christ is living, but we do not see Him lived. Are we not told God is love, but do we see these religions loving others, which, if they were love, they would do?
Now do not run out disgusted and abandon your Christ-empty churches. That is not the Christian Way. Where Christ is not, put Him there. Consider with prayer about staying in the Christ-empty churches you are in, no matter how vile, obtuse, abstruse and wretched spiritually, they may be. Let your presence produce at least one Good Samaritan: you, who will not cross over to the other side.
I suggest in a Christ vacated church, you begin a house church in your home to begin to purify the springs and wells of faith. That man or woman who knows Christ best should preach, but he or she should not take any money for doing so. Please, no “burons” departmentalizing Christ, you know; the ones who decide from Harvard sociological texts how to place the new churches in the ritziest neighborhoods. These know Christ de jure but not de facto.
The plight before all our churches is not just to gain new members, but to convert some of the members already there. To be in a pew is a far song on a different key from being in Christ. We need to purify the springs of all religions. While we, of course, believe Christianity to be the best path to the most grace, it is not the only religion in the world. We must see further than our own selfish interests. Only when we help others in different religions out of a right spirit of love will others want to be helped by us. If Christ is rightly shown to them, they will want Him. But as for some present churches acting as ministers to the world, being physicians to the world, we must recall Luke 4:23, “Physician, heal thyself.”
But how are the churches to show a Christ they do not know? Or how may any of you vouch to others of a Christ you have not met? Stop talking God, and go straight to God. He can be found. “Behold,” says God, “I stand at the door, and knock.” (Revelations 3:20)
As I look around at the churches of America, I see the wrong people have been answering the door. I suggest what America and many countries of the world need is a spiritual revolution that begins in personal relationships with God that may change the character of the churches from the inside. If the larger official churches cannot lead the people to Christ, then let the people find God for themselves, perhaps in house churches, real New Testament churches, and thereby influence the larger churches for Christ.
We are in deeply decadent times. Many of our churches cannot help repel the decadence society is in because they are part of the decadence. The situation calls for the re-dedication of your heart first, then the re-dedicating and redirecting of the churches. By change, I mean not merely changing phrases, but putting in Christ. Then our churches may help serve our present values disaster of a society, and deal with the wrong thinking of that decadence we are now plunged in. Realizing that the moral spinelessness of our sad cake, too liberal churches, many of which are empty of Christ have greatly contributed to the problems we now face.
When there is devastation in the church, there will be devastation in the land. Here let us take a stand: facing honestly the lack of Christ in the churches and in too many lives. Let us be out to change that by putting Christ back in people’s lives, in our creeds and in our churches. That will be no easy task. But dare we do otherwise? If you were blind to this, now I hope you see. (Gospel of John 9:25)
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.