And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing—the utterly detestable things the Israelites are doing here, things that will drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see things that are even more detestable.” -Ezekiel 8:6
Let me begin this blog post with a disclaimer. This is not being written in a judgemental or “holier-than-thou” attitude. I’ll begin with admitting my own guilt because if you were to peer deep inside my “private or internal life” you would be disappointed and repulsed by what you would see that I have allowed in my heart and mind over the years even as one who claims to be a believer. I have grieved, quenched and allowed things into my life that I know have made Jesus uncomfortable (rather than at home) dwelling in me. I need God to continually purify my heart and cleanse my life.
Even as I write this, I don’t feel worthy of doing so, nor do I do so from a position of being where I want to be in regard to my own walk with Him. So I write this not condemningly but while simultaneously confessing my own sin and acknowledging my own guilt. And I encourage you to do the same.
But here is what this article is about. This post is about those who claim to be believers but seem to have no sense of conviction, guilt or shame about things they allow in their lives that are clearly unbecoming of a child of God. This is aimed at those professing to be believers but doing “detestable” things in “secret” or other settings, while acting “spiritual” in religious settings without it bothering their conscience.
I realized the other day anew that the most disappointing, devastating and disturbing thing I began to see when I was a pastor, that I believe is only growing worse since, is that many of us who claim to be believers are not what we seem outside of “religious settings.” This is different than the reality that we all blow it and stumble in many ways and times. It is even different than the fact that we all have areas of certain blindness or things in our lives that others could point out as not being consistent with our Christian claim.
The issue I am addressing is the fact that so many of us seem to have no conviction that this is a problem. We joke about inappropriate things, we laugh at lewd and obscene talk, we use language that would not distinguish us as redeemed children of God, we continually watch shows full of filth, immorality, obscenity and depravity, we blow our money on worthless things rather than kingdom work, and we participate in activities that are flat out sinful…while seeming to have no sense of conviction or being uncomfortable with it.
Yes, we all sin. Yes, we all continually fall short of who God has called us to be. But this is not the burden for which I am writing this article. The cry on my heart as I write this is simply this: where is the conviction among God’s people?
Have we so grieved, so quenched, grown so callous of heart, fallen so low and drifted so far, that our sin no longer pricks our conscience and breaks our heart, knowing that it breaks our Father’s heart? Do we even genuinely practice confession of sin anymore with a godly sorrow that leads to repentance, rather than just an empty ritual with no life-transforming power along with it? Do we just go through our religious ceremonies, services and activities without our lives actually being changed and conformed more to the likeness of Christ?
Is it any wonder that the Church in the US is powerless (despite churches on every street corner) and severely lacking the very real and tangible presence of God? It is the presence of God alone that distinguishes us from all other people. (Not that we are better than any other people, but simply that God dwells in our midst). It is the one reality that the people of God possess that no other people on earth can claim. And yet, it seems the lack of His Holy presence doesn’t even bother us. I wonder if many of us have even ever experienced even a taste of it, or when the last time was that we knew we were standing on “holy ground?” Are we even quiet long enough anymore to allow ourselves to have opportunity to experience the Holy One? Have we lost the fear of God? Have we driven Him far from His rightful place in the sanctuary of our hearts?
I must admit I am baffled, burdened and broken afresh over this. How can we watch the things we watch for example (without admitting it is not pleasing to God), knowing that Scripture says Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Could this be why anxiety is on the rise in the US and becoming such an epidemic and plague?).
Or how about Ephesians 5:3-20? Is this really what characterizes our lives, conversations and relationships?
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Who are we truly to please? Who are we truly seeking to live for? Have we forgotten why we are here and to whom we belong and are called to represent? People are perishing because they do not know God. People are daily dying and going into an eternity separated from God that we are meant to be reaching and giving our lives to share the Good News with.
Where is the conviction? Where is the fear of the Lord?
Where is the conviction that leads to confession with a genuine godly sorrow, where we are deeply sorry over how our sin grieves the heart of God? Where is that sensitivity to the Holy Spirit who has come to make his home in our hearts and in our midst? Would He really be comfortable with what we do behind closed doors, outside of “church” or how we are living our lives in the world? Are we representing His heart, interests and kingdom well? Do we even care? Have we tuned out the still small voice of God, drowning it out with the loud and distracting noise of this world?
Where is a sense that He is holy and has called us to be holy as He is holy? Where is that ownership that we are called to be representatives of His in this dark, evil, depraved and fallen world that is desperately in need of the Light and Hope of the Gospel; of a true alternative? Do you even believe that about the world? Are we no longer shocked and disturbed by anything? Can we walk comfortably in the midst of such depravity without feeling burdened? Without grieving? Without feeling a righteous anger? Without having a holy burning in our hearts for the Gospel to penetrate and pierce through to our culture?
How we need an Isaiah 6 moment again! How we need to gaze upon the holy beauty of God again! How we need His conviction in our lives and the Spirit of truth to sanctify and purify our hearts. How we need to experience something more than a service or ritual or religious activity. How we need to quiet our hearts and let Him search us and try us and see if there be any offensive way in us.
May God open our eyes, soften our hearts, convict us by His Spirit and cleanse us by his grace. May we be still in His presence, reverence His Holy Name and tremble at His Word. May He make us more like Him and sensitive to His Spirit.
Let us remember that He died for us that we might live for Him. And let us remember our life here on earth is short and that we are going to one day stand before Him and give an account of our lives. Is the way your living, a life that you know deep down is pleasing to Him as your Heavenly Father and gracious Redeemer?
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” -Isaiah 6:5
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. -Psalm 51:10-12
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. -1 John 1:8-10