Saturday, May 31, 2014

How Do You DressTo Meet Your Lord In Worship?

We live in an age when shorts, sweatpants, and bare midriff (sometimes all at the same time) are considered acceptable attire for most churches. I have also noticed that more and more men are throwing away their suit and ties and taking on more extreme casual ware when they go to church.

I remember when the "tradition" of giving honor to our Lord, was by dressing up to meet with His people to worship Him.

And, I might be as bold to suggest that Scripture could, in fact, suggest this. In the parable told by Christ in Matthew 22:11-12, the king expected each of his guests to come with the proper “wedding garment.”  Not to do so was to show disrespect for the king and for the occasion.  In like manner, our forefathers felt it important to come to church with clothing that showed proper respect to the Lord and to the occasion.

As a child growing up, it was required that we take a bath on Saturday night, even if we needed it or not, in preparation for Sunday Church.

Today we swerve boldly in the other direction. We energetically oppose dressing especially for church. Many even consider it hypocritical to do so. We should come as we are and avoid any pretense. But do the dress patterns of today prove that we have a greater sincerity and are more genuine than our predecessors? I don't believe they do.

The slouchy dress that we see in worship services directly corresponds to our flippant attitude toward meeting with our Maker and Saviour. We have lost our respect for the spiritual dimension of God meeting with His people. Now, we want to dress like we would at a backyard barbecue. God is everywhere. Why approach His house with any more formality than we would enter the neighborhood grocery store?

The key word for today is comfort.  “Why shouldn’t I feel comfortable?  After all, my comfort is the main thing.  I’m not going to go out of my way for anyone–even God.” We exult in our come-as-you-are philosophy. Our services have become user-friendly for everyone except God. More and more, He seems to be left out in the cold. O how we love ourselves unto death!

The Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes may be a tradition that is quickly fading away.  But it was a good tradition and one whose parting is just another sign of the times–the last times.  Where is our sense of awe in the presence of God?  He says He dwells in the midst of us when we meet with Him (Matthew 18:20). The church is the people, not the building. When the people of the church meet, they become the “house of God” (1Timothy 3:15); they become His dwelling place. What a special privilege to enter into this presence!

Psalm 96:8-9 “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth."

When I meet with the congregation of the Lord, I count it not a burden, but an honor to give extra pains in preparation, in physical cleanliness, and in dressing up.  I count it a privilege to wear my Sunday best.  Any discomfort I may feel from a tie about my neck, from a coat about my body, or from clothes too good for playing kickball is offset by the solemnity and wonder of the occasion.

It is seldom that we in America get to suffer anything for the Saviour who suffered so much for us.  The least I can do (and I mean the least) is to honor Him by dressing more formally when I come to His church than I do for other events.  Certainly, I can suffer a necktie for Him.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Pervading Attitude Of The Church Today

There is a very dangerous attitude pervading the Church today, and it's an attitude of "It's all about me".

Consider these statistics of Christianity in America: Eighty-four percent of the inhabitants of this nation say they believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, according to one of Barna Group survey, and 45 percent claim to be born-again Christians. Other studies show it is closer to 33 percent.

Which ever numbers you use, they are high. 
  • Seventy-seven percent believe their chances of going to heaven are excellent. 
  • Thirty-three percent believe one day everyone will go to heaven. 

Yet America has:
  • the highest percentage of single-parent families in the industrialized world, 
  • the highest abortion rate,
  • the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases, 
  • the highest rate of teenage birth by far, 
  • the highest rate of teenage drug use and 
  • the largest prison population per capita than any country in the world.

And, when you look at the great moral decline of the last generation (50 to 60 years) and the telling statistics of our society, you wonder how much time we have left. Here is what the statics are saying.
  • The divorce rate has doubled, 
  • teen suicide has tripled, 
  • reported violent crime has quadrupled, 
  • prison population has quintupled, 
  • percentage of babies born out of wedlock has risen sixfold, 
  • couples living together out of wedlock have increased sevenfold, 
  • and gay marriage is now a legalized reality in a number of states, with many believing the end is not in sight.
In this past generation, we have experienced an overwhelming increase in lawlessness, permissiveness and selfishness, even among Christians. Moral actions that were unthinkable a few decades ago are now commonplace—Christian leaders indulging in sexual sin and grossly immoral scandals, addicted to pornography and accompanied by an exploding divorce rate have greatly factored in the rapid decrease of morals in the American church. And as the church goes, so goes the world. 

The most staggering statics from the Barna Group survey is that among young American adults, the percentage who follow biblically based values for living has now dropped from 65 percent during World War II to a mere 4 percent today.

There has never been a society in the history of mankind whose moral values have deteriorated so dramatically, in such a short period of time, as those of Americans in the last 50 years. And so far it shows no sign of stopping. These statistics are eye-opening, and they serve to warn us that something is terribly wrong with our brand of Christianity. They reveal how poorly the church has communicated the true gospel to mainstream America, and thus the reason for so much deception in our culture.

When the rich man died and went to Hades (Luke 16:19-31), he was surprised to find himself there. In the Jewish culture, they equated wealth with godliness, so this man thought God favored him. The common thought, especially among the Jews, was if you were blessed financially, then you were a good person and therefore favored by God and on your way to heaven. This also explains the disciples' astonishment when Jesus told them how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:23-25).

Similarly, there was a church in Laodicea (Rev 3:14-22) who, due to their wealth, thought they too had attained God's favor. Jesus expressed great disapproval over their spiritual condition as well, which they were totally unaware of. They were deceived.

Here are some questions that you should ask yourself:
  • Do you really know what your true spiritual condition is? 
  • Are you allowing the pop culture around you to dictate your standards? 
  • Are you conforming to the world's standards or to the Bible? 
  • Are you being deceived? 

How can a nation of people among whom a large percentage claims to be born-again Christians experience the kind of degradation the above statistics reveal? Such deception is the state of America today, and the above statistics reveal the fruit of it.

The problem has been that the real gospel has not been preached nor lived. 

Both the profession and the practice of many so-called Christians in this nation have not matched up. Our substandard message has produced substandard believers. Our departure from the preaching of the cross, repentance, holiness, and the real empowering grace of God has increased the level of deception in the church. How else can we explain the disparity of the above statistics in the church and the nation?

But what is really at the root of this deception? This is what we need to carefully discern. In one word, it is humanism—the glorification of self. 

Humanism has crept into much of the modern-day church and is diluting the power of the real gospel.