23 But [Jesus] turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. 24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:23-25, KJV)
Wow! Those are some strong words by our Lord Jesus. Peter had just uttered some of the most profound words any person has ever spoken when he affirmed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God! A few moments later Jesus began to speak of persecution and death, and Peter begins to rebuke Jesus. Jesus looked straight at Peter and spoke to Satan who was influencing Peter's rebuke of the Lord. Our enemy, Satan, is subtle. He often fools us into thinking that our own selfish ways are the actually the ways of God. It is VITAL that we daily spend time in God's Word and in prayer seeking the Lord and learning from him. If we fail to do this we will try to save our lives - our preconceptions, our point of view, our way of managing life - and will end up losing it.
Earlier today, I was reading a blog post from Thom S. Rainer about the need for churches to change. You can read it here. He emphasized the five types of churches that had to change for if they would not they would die. The main flaw I saw in all of those churches was selfishness. The members of these churches wanted things their way. The members were often critical. They were shallow theologically - that is, they did not desire to truly study God's Word and conform their lives to it. Many congregations have sacred cows that have become idols in their midst. I've seen churches that had photos of previous church members that could never be moved. These areas had become shrines to former leaders who had been good and godly leaders. Many churches have turned inward and have not wanted to engage in the messy work of evangelism. Sinners sin and many of them sin greatly. However, we have a Great Savior who can redeem and transform. Take a look and listen here to hear a glorious testimony of the transformation Christ makes for those who trust Him.
The common thread in all of these church problems is selfishness. I am a voracious reader who has spent some of my reading time exploring testimonies of those who were Satanists. Many people think the Satanist churches are all about dark magic arts and overly weird things, but most are simply places where folks can engage in and promote a lifestyle of selfishness. While God does expect us to have some love for ourselves in that we are His creation and have value and worth because He created us, we are not to engage in pursuing our own agendas in violation of God's agenda for us and for our families, churches, and society. I hear very few people ask, "What does God want from me?" Often church members complain about music, the color of the carpet, the elimination of a favorite church program. Rarely have I heard, "What does God command us to do and be in these areas?"
Very few seem to have the glorious contentment that comes from basking in the presence of Jesus and living a life of surrender to Him. An attitude of thanksgiving and praise will radically change our perspective and eliminate fear, fretfulness, and finicky temperments. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.(Philippians 4:6-7, NKJV) I have attended and have even served in some churches that had some of the characteristics that Thom Rainer mentioned. Many folks who attend such churches will think it to be a tragedy that their church might die. Many today are fretful about the state of their churches that fail to evangelize and practice discipleship. They see the decline, but they refuse to embrace the remedy. It is not a tragedy for churches that refuse to fulfill the Great Commission of evangelizing and discipling to die. It might even be the best thing. Sometimes we have to see the death of our organizations that are built on our selfishness so that a Christ-honoring organization can arise. I've seen a few churches that were on the verge of death that repented of their faulty ways and selfish attitudes and experienced reformation and revival.
On the other hand, while the death of such churches could eventually be beneficial there could be one huge drawback that results. What if no one moves in place to plant a God-honoring church based on God's Word - a church that will evangelize and disciple. Some of the very broken, selfish churches do have a pastor and a few members who are speaking and living out the message of the gospel. Let us all examine our lives and make sure that we are surrendered to the will of God as it is revealed in His glorious Word, the Bible. Ask God to give you a tender heart that is submissive to His glorious Word. Repent now of attitudes of selfishness and pride. May we all humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt us in due time: Casting all our care upon him; for he cares for us.8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:6-8, My Paraphrase). Let us choose the way of life. Let us seek after the Lord. Let us forsake our selfish ways and be shining lights of hope and salvation in a world that is running toward destruction. Let us examine our hearts and minds and ask the sweet Holy Spirit to shine His searchlight one our desires, our ambitions, our frustrations, and our pursuits. Our God is a great God who is mighty to save! Choose life today! The only life worth living is one lived in surrender to the claims of King Jesus!