On Sunday we looked at the ‘Woes’ from Jesus to the religious leaders of the first century and we saw that His frustration stemmed from their lack of true reverence for God. They treated God as nothing more than someone to be kept in their lives based on what they could get from Him. They treated Him as a friend with benefits; not much has changed. The church today tends to relate to God based on what it can get from Him rather than what it owe to Him. I ended by describing what these woes would look like addressed to the American church today:
WOE TO YOU FOR DISTORTING SALVATION | For preaching a false sense of regeneration that is based on something you do, some prayer you say; for replacing dependence on God with an assurance built on works.
WOE TO YOU FOR CONSUMING THE CHURCH | For taking what God have given as a means to find His truth and turning it into a service industry. For expecting the church to serve your needs rather than seeing yourself as a part of a body that works together to serve one another and then overflows to the community.
WOE TO YOU FOR NOT ENGAGING THE WORLD WITH GRACE | For both looking exactly like the world around you and for pulling yourself out of the community. For underestimating the purpose of grace: to open your eyes to the reality of something much greater and the power of grace: which gives us the justice and mercy and faithfulness of God to impact the world.
WOE TO YOU FOR TREATING THE GOSPEL AS A POSSESSION | For trying to get all of the benefits of the gospel without Jesus. For shortcutting the work and believing that you can simply make disciples through a 12 step process. For trying to avoid struggle and difficulty instead of embracing them as means of growth.
WOE TO YOU FOR CREATING A CHRISTIANITY THAT DOESN’T NEED CHRIST | By watering down the gospel, evangelizing to convince, creating short-term (and achievable) goals, allowing our priorities to be driven by culture, and by seeing the gospel as something that can be possessed, we have effectively created a Christianity that doesn’t actually need God. It is not reliant, it is not dependent, it does not fear God. The modern American church is 2 parts humanism, 2 parts self-help, with a dash of Eastern spirituality mixed in to make it seem a bit mysterious. In the end, we have, like the Pharisees replaced the depth of the gospel with a religion that has a lot going on, but is dead on the inside.
But the woes are not the end; they are the grace of God offered to us to respond to. He doesn’t convict us to push us away, but so we can see our need for Him, repent, and pursue true relationship. Being able to see sin is how God shows us our dependence. When we feel at our most broken, we must remember:
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. | James 4:6-8a, 10