Recently, there was an article posted on the blog of The Weekly Standard (http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/hhs-publishes-sample-church-bulletin-insert-promote-obamacare_852728.html) that was rather disturbing to me. The article focuses on how recently the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has partnered with churches and other faith based organizations around the country. The purpose of this partnership was to distribute bulletin inserts encouraging parishioners to sign up for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as well as an announcement from the pulpit.
Now, I have no problem with the HHS encouraging people to sign up for health care that need it. I do however, have a problem with the government (the State) putting their agenda into the bulletins of congregations that are supposed to be under the Lordship of Jesus Christ alone. This to me seems a clear violation of what many deem the “separation of church and state”. Do you suppose that the HHS would allow a Christian organization to place gospel tracts into their literature to be given to people? I don’t think that they would. They would cry foul and claim it is a violation of church and state. So, why would congregations around the country allow themselves to be used by the state to push their agenda for health care? I would conclude that they have lost their focus on who they are and whose agenda they are to communicate.
Churches that are under the lordship of Christ are supposed to focus their message on Christ, and Christ alone. The Church is supposed to take care of the widow, the orphan, and the poor. These are ministries that the Church has continued to do for the last 2000 years. The Church is supposed to place their focus on the Kingdom of God and the purpose of God, not government programs. The gathering of believers in Christ for a service is to worship the Lord Jesus Christ and to share Christ with one another. He is to be the center of the worship service. Now I realize that announcements are generally given at these services, but they too must focus on the life of the Church and not on any state sponsored agenda. The Apostle Paul knew what his purpose and message was to be about. He said, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Cor. 4:5 NKJV) What is preached today in many churches is also subject to debate, but that is another blog post entirely.
The government has spent enough money on television, printed media, and internet advertising to promote Obamacare. They do not need to place inserts into the worship bulletins of Christian congregations. The news media around the country has also given Obamacare quite a bit of publicity and coverage as well. Yet, in spite of this partnership, the government has banned pastors from publicly endorsing measures and candidates from the pulpit, but it is fine for the HHS to promote their agenda in a Christian church. I don’t think so. This is a double standard on the part of the government. Congregations under the Lordship of Christ should have no part of it.
I recently came across this article posted at wnd.com. I remember hearing a speech from the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower about the rise and danger of the “military industrial complex”. This article makes me think about the rise and danger of the “evangelical industrial complex”.
I would agree with most of this article. If you have walked into a “Christian” book store lately you have seen all of the books by Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, etc. These mega pastors have all become a branding icon rather than simply being leaders of a local church. This is another glaring example of how the “institutional” church has been lead astray from the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“If you want to be a good Christian and please the Lord, then you need to read your Bible everyday.” “If you really want
to grow in your faith you need to volunteer on a ministry team at church.” “If you’re not witnessing to your unsaved co-workers and family regularly you aren’t very mature as a Christian.”
I have been around church folk long enough to hear these comments in my 30 years as a Christian. Over the years I have heard comments like this and found myself feeling guilty for not measuring up to someone who I perceived as being more “mature” than myself. These thoughts of not doing enough, combined with my “habitual sins” have left me feeling so far away from experiencing God’s love and the presence of Christ, my savior. I have discovered over the last year that I have been practicing the religion of Christianity rather than the relationship with Jesus Christ.
Thankfully, the Lord has revealed to me some of the reasons behind my keeping my distance from Him. It revolves around fear and guilt. Now, generally speaking most religions of the world are based upon a works based system of pleasing their god. There is a natural fear of the consequences of not doing enough to earn your way to heaven, nirvana, or some other after life idea. Yet, in the western institutional church, there is still a level of doing good works to please God on top of trusting in Christ for salvation. Granted, works will be a natural outflow of gratitude towards Christ for salvation, but it shouldn’t be a series of “have to’s” to be followed. A dear friend of mine reminded me recently, “If you have to do something for Christ, then it isn’t of Christ.” What this means is, any service we do for our Lord should be motivated purely out of our love and devotion to Him rather than a out of duty.
The antidote for this mindset of guilt and doing things out of a sense of duty is to be reminded of His love and complete forgiveness. For myself, it also means forgiving myself for my past failures and accepting His perfect forgiveness. More on this in future post.
“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” 1 John 4:17-18 NLT
Are you practicing the religion of the Christian life or living Christianity through a vital relationship with Christ?
“You’re no good.” “You can’t be forgiven for that.” “A real Christian would never do that.” “You need to feel bad all day long after the sin you just committed.”
I have heard these words many times since I began my journey with Christ. I have had loving brothers and sisters in Christ tell me many times that I shouldn’t pay any attention to these words. Yet, I have paid attention to them and even believed them many times. But, not anymore. My brother Mike reminded me very recently that when the Accuser, Satan, the devil says these things to me I must turn it around. Instead of allowing the devil to remind me of my past failures, I need to remind him of his future. It says of Satan in Revelation 12:10b, “… for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.” He accuses us of our past sins and those besetting sins that weigh us down on a regular basis. But, take heart because we are assured that he has been cast down. As believers in Christ we have an advocate who stands in our favor, Jesus Christ. The next time I am feeling the weight of accusation by our Enemy, I will thank Jesus for his grace, and I will remind Satan of these words from Scripture.
“When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Revelation 20:7-10
I can say that my sins have been forgiven and covered by the precious blood of Christ. But as for the accuser, he is a defeated, but powerful foe, that is on his way to torment.