In these post-modern days where truth has become subjective, based on ‘what feels right for me’ rather than the application of logic or facts, people are hungering more and more for something that is truly genuine. Whilst this is a great opportunity for the kingdom of God to be advanced, that hunger makes people much more discerning in their quest and able to spot imposters who claim to offer the genuine but whose own lives are fake or hypocritical. Sadly, they are also far more prone to believing a lie because it feels right and appears to be sound on first impressions.
As the body of Christ in such an environment, we must seek to proclaim the truth that we hold and the genuine message that we have received from God in such a way that others “may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5: 16). These words, spoken by Jesus as part of the Sermon on the Mount, come right after the Beatitudes where He preaches a radical change of attitude towards our fellow men that results in those who obey being compared to salt and light, seasoning and brightening the world. It is not their great deeds for God that makes them so – it is the genuine change in their lives that demonstrates their devotion to God and their solid foundations.
This genuine change can be summed up in one word; ‘love’. This love, I believe, is not ordinary human love but divine love, poured out by the Holy Spirit upon the lives of those who belong to Jesus. This love should revolutionise our way of life and lead us to “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal 6: 10). Without this love, our churches become empty shells, echoes of their former selves, and wide open to the accusing fingers of the world. Any attempt to reform our churches to demonstrate real community without love at the centre of our motivation is ultimately doomed to failure.
The promises of 2 Chronicles 7: 14 only apply to those who will “humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways”, yet recently I heard someone comment incisively that, “the churches can’t even agree on what they need to repent about.” It seems to me that the issue of a lack of love is both obvious and foundational. I can readily identify it in my own life. I can also immediately appreciate something of how God, who is love, feels about it!
My suggestion to all those who might be seeking to make changes in their own lives and in their churches is that you first at least begin to deal with a lack of love in your lives. Firstly, come before God and confess your sin; if your repentance is genuine you won’t need too many words. Remember that God is the source of all genuine love, so also expect to receive from Him – in fact, don’t leave His presence without receiving! Then examine your attitudes to others in your church, and begin to confess together. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in your midst as a body of believers. Don’t rush the process or be guided by anything other than the Spirit’s leading. Expect Him to emphasise the word ‘Holy’.
Once the church has started this process of being “rooted and established in love” (Eph 3: 17), it has begun to re-lay the foundations upon which it was originally built, and renovation can safely start to take place. This is underlined in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3, and is demonstrated by the early church in Eph 1: 15, Col 1: 4, 1 Thess 4: 9, and 2 Thess 1: 3.