Who’s Zooming Who?

“The problem with the _________________ is that it’s always telling you what to do and how to think.”

For decades now, the forces of anti-Christianity have used this argument against the Church itself. The Church is demonic because it’s always telling you what to do and how to think.

But is the Church the main culprit? Looking at things today, just how successful has Christianity been in actually accomplishing this alleged brainwashing? Is the problem today really that the Church is always telling everyone what to do and how to think?

Might I suggest another word to fill in the blank above? How about the media?

Let’s try this on for size: “The problem with the media today is that it is always telling you what to do and how to think.”

Works for me. In fact, I would argue the media is far more successful at this brainwashing project than the Church has ever been. That’s because the main messages of the Gospel are so foreign that they aren’t teachable by force or brainwashing. Jesus Himself admitted this when He told Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it wills” (John 3:8). When the Church used force in its history, it undercut its own message. But not so with the press! When the media forces you to think a certain way it is acting exactly in accord with its own message. The people must be brought to comply and think right!

Moreover, the media today has a message which comes at us in so many different forms (TV, radio, Internet, Social Networking, among others) that it truly is very successful in doing the thinking for most Americans while duping those same Americans into thinking they are so open minded and more intelligent than ever before. Meanwhile, glued to our screens like slaves to the noise, we start thinking the way the media wants us to. It thinks for us while deceiving us into thinking we came up with our ideas by ourselves.

The same people who criticize the Church for telling people what to do and how to think are told what to do and how to think by another master, a flashy and interesting master known as the media. So…who’s zooming who?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be forced on a person. Dr. Norman Nagel used to say that the Gospel isn’t the Gospel unless God suffers it to be rejected. Sure, the Church has often resorted to force, but as I wrote above, it was then that it didn’t act like Christ’s Church. Jesus didn’t force anyone into faith. He let the rich young man walk away sad! He didn’t hold a gun to his head or run and apologize for offending him. He didn’t make anyone believe Him.

The problem is that true Christianity already knows it can’t force people to believe the right things, think the right thoughts, or do the right actions. Indeed, true Christianity won’t even try to. It will scatter the seed of the Word, knowing that the soil isn’t always good and fruit won’t always be produced.

False Christians have always tried to force it and are still trying. Promising success and wealth and prosperity is all a form of using force to get people to believe. All true Christianity has is forgiveness for sinners, life for dead people, the Holy Spirit for those who cannot believe in Christ by their own reason or strength.

The Gospel doesn’t force. It invites. It doesn’t coerce. It calls. It doesn’t tell you what to believe. It draws you to the unbelievable love of God in Christ Jesus.

So if you are one who thinks “the problem with the Church is that it is always telling people what to do and how to think,” let me lovingly invite you to not let the media do that same thing to you. Who’s zooming who? Who’s teaching who how and what to think?

The Holy Spirit is calling. He won’t force you to answer the phone and listen. But don’t say that the Church is busy brainwashing people who have already been brainwashed. If you’re looking for freedom from that, you might want to reconsider the Gospel. Jesus is calling.

40 Days

Lent, like so many things in the Church, is not what many people think it is.

Lent is not joyless or hopeless. Its emphasis on repentance is coupled with a joy which Jesus teaches in the Sermon the Mount when He teaches His disciples not to crumple their faces and act miserable when they fast. Rather they should wash their faces and not impose their fasting on others. This is between you and God. And because God is who He is (loving, merciful, gracious), there’s no good reason to act so sour in the middle of our self-denial.

Lent is not about giving up things. While there may be health benefits to giving up your daily chocolate fix, a more sincere Lent is about giving up sins–giving up those idols which threaten to control us every day. Lent is a season to give those pet sins of ours a rest and devote the time we would waste pursuing them to Scripture and prayer instead.

In that regard, Lent’s 40 days are just the right length to help us attain to ridding ourselves of those sins. Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness were the original Lent and they had as their goal the cross which saves us all.

Therefore, these 40 days are best understood as forty days of joy. Muted joy, to be sure. We’re saving our alleluias and glorias for Easter, but we are not joyless. We’re meditating on the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ, purposefully, toward a renewing of hope, a reviving of joy in God’s love, a restoration of our lives under God’s love in Christ’s sacrifice.

Lent’s 40 days are 40 days of passion; 40 days of joy; 40 days of hope; 40 days of love.

God bless you these 40 days. Come to our extra services. There is lots of good news to go around for this sin-darkened world.

Praying for you,

Pastor T.