Dear American Christian (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1 of this blog (points 1-5), you can find it here: Dear American Christian (Part 1). I want to reassure anyone reading this that there is no ill-intent on my part in shedding some light on these topics. In reality, I’m only scratching the surface and have prayed that God would allow these conversation starters to be seasoned with grace and truth. If what is shared here at least puts in motion some discussion, some points to chew on, etc. then I will feel justified in putting these words out there. I am not one who wants to push the envelope or be “edgy” just for the sake of shock value. My hope is that many other believers are seeing these things going on around them. That being said, can you and I be stirred to act because of what we see?
 
Picking up with the back half (points 6-10), here is part 2 of the letter:
 
6. The Devil is ruining many lives through sexual sin
 
If there was one topic in this list that I could spend literally weeks on, it would be this one. Sadly, the #metoo movement is a dark commentary of what many of us could see coming. We have allowed sex to become a god in and of itself and the pursuit of pleasure to be our end goal. However, there is never enough to satisfy this pursuit in its entirety. It’s ravenous and always wants more. The guilty parties we see in popular culture are simply acting out from years of hidden behavior. But I believe God allows hidden sin to be exposed to the light.
 
Sadly within the church the numbers do not lie regarding sexual sin (these numbers are already well outdated, taken from crosswalk.com):
 
Could half of Christian men have a problem with porn, as so many of the statistics say? Porn is reported to be a 12 billion dollar industry in the U.S… 50 percent of men viewed pornography within one week of attending a Promise Keepers stadium event… 54 percent of pastors said they viewed porn within the past year in a Pastors.com survey… in a 2003 Focus on the Family poll 47 percent of respondents said porn is a problem in their home.
 
Porn is destroying marriages. Divorce rates in the church are not much better than the general public. Books and movies like Shades of Grey are read and well-received even by believers. Kids are being exposed to sexually explicit content at younger and younger ages.
 
In all of this, I point the finger squarely at Christian men who have failed to lead and be the godly examples they need to be. I know that there is no faster way for Satan to destroy a man than through sexual sin. Christians, honestly we are losing this battle. We must raise a better standard, a higher standard. The standard of Jesus is the one men and women must follow.
 
How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. Psalm 119:9
 
7. Scripture literacy is not a priority
 
What item in this list could not be improved upon by simply having a better knowledge of Scripture? There is nothing here that is hidden in secret for any believer; at least for those who read and understand God’s word. What I fear within the American church today is that consumerism is turning us into Bible illiterates. Let me explain. We go to church, we may even attend Bible studies, perhaps conferences, retreats, etc. We do all of this in an effort to receive and to (hopefully) grow in our walk with Christ. We become sponges and sometimes bingers of the latest teaching, book, DVD series, and so on. But soon we are faced with a glaring problem: we are not addressing the need to grow spiritually beyond “milk” and onto “solid foods.” We are content to let others teach us and believe that the teacher alone is the expert; the only one with access and training to discover God’s truths. We don’t evangelize because we don’t know the right things to say. We don’t engage in apologetics because we don’t know how to defend God’s word. We don’t know the Bible and how to apply it in real-life scenarios; the moments where the rubber-meets-the-road in which we have to stand on our own. We are becoming more and more immature collectively as believers and have allowed ourselves to hide behind pastors and teachers with bigger names and followers than our own. In order to feed others, we must be able to feed ourselves. We must be in patterns of growth…it’s different from person to person and I’m right there addressing my own failure in this area. Can I defend God’s word? Do I know any Bible verses besides John 3:16? Do I have the ability to share Christ and back it up with Scripture?
 
I share a challenging verse from Hebrews with the knowledge that I myself have been guilty of being lazy and lacking maturity in Christ. I pray it brings conviction where necessary:
 
We have a great deal to say about this, and it’s difficult to explain, since you have become too lazy to understand. Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation again. You need milk, not solid food. Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil. Hebrews 5:11-14
 
8. Our Americanized faith doesn’t translate well into other cultures
 
Part of the downfall of consumerism and the prosperity gospel is that they simply do not work outside of America. We come into our worship services with a desire to consume....it's easier to be served than to serve. Alongside that desire, we are attached to a belief that “bigger always means better.” Mega churches with comfy seats, smoke and lights, the coffee just right, and if it doesn't work for me here, I can always check out the next church down the street. Honestly, I don't believe our "Americanized faith" exports well...not to the underground believers in China nor the persecuted Christians in Iraq. Is anything wrong with being in a church that has all the bells and whistles? No. But I'm simply asking where is the priority in our budgets and where as Christians are we spending our money in building the Kingdom? It's a question across the board for us to consider; as believers in corporate movements and as individuals as well. We have been so blessed as a country but with the blessing we have an obligation to give freely to those in need. I only look no further than my own checkbook to see where my treasure lies. What have I chosen to do with the money God has entrusted to me? Is only 10% His or is it all His? It's all convicting and not an easy point to bring up. Here’s where I see things going (track with me a bit): the individual and the corporate system of faith in America is coming to a head (see point 10). We have allowed commercialism to play into our faith so much that it needs a “Jesus overturning the tables” moment to get us back into reality. The world is hurting. We are not an island in and of ourselves. Many churches and many believers do get this. But as with so many other issues, we will have to give an account for where and how we spent the resources entrusted to us.
 
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21
 
9. When did we stop caring for widows and orphans?
 
I'll admit this sounds like point #8 all over again. But here is where it is different. Somehow in our “me-first” mindset of American thought we have allowed the government to do much of the job we as Christians are called to do. Taking care of the poor. Feeding the hungry. Caring for the sick. There is a Biblical mandate for God’s people to be providers to those in need. In so many ways, the government has stepped in (as we the people have willingly allowed it) and become the providers of welfare. I believe there is a need for government systems and before anyone accuses me of condemning the already established beneficial programs, I must explain. Christians will always have a responsibility to care for the needy and there’s never a replacement for what the church can do in times of need. I’m encouraged by the fact that during recent tragedies (hurricanes in Houston and Florida), it was faith-based humanitarian organizations that largely led the relief response; even greater than the efforts of FEMA and other government agencies. So why can’t this be the case on a daily basis? Why do we depend upon the government to do many of things we are called to do as believers? When Christians take the lead to respond to the hurting in selfless ways, the world cannot help but notice. Beyond that, the door is flung wide open for the gospel to be presented and for a great response to occur. This hits home for me personally and I share mainly because I feel like my efforts are next to nothing when it comes to being the hands and feet of Christ to those in need.
 
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:34-40
 
10. We need a new Great Awakening
 
Perhaps the main root of all I’ve mentioned is that as American Christians, we have forgotten our first love. We have gotten comfortable. Dare I say we have gotten lazy. It’s a position that I think follows the life cycle of any nation or people which has incorporated God into its founding (and I believe America has a foundation rooted in Scripture). Nothing we have experienced is new or hasn’t followed a pattern already seen within history. Most notably, ancient Israel followed a continual pattern of faith, disobedience, correction, and restoration. And within the New Testament, one particular church among the 7 in Revelation is chided for it’s departure from it’s first love:
 
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. Revelation 2:4,5
 
Revival I believe is for the church. We can agonize over the state of culture all day long. We can watch the news and be horrified day after day about what state our nation is in. But somewhere in the midst of this we have to realize culture will not simply correct itself. Things will not “magically” get better. The government won’t right every wrong. There’s not a thing that fallen man can do to save fallen man. But the Christian living within this country can and does have access to something that is transformational. It sounds cliche but if we are to see any change, we must be the change. We must look at our sin with an honest assessment, repent, and ask God to cleanse us. We need revival as individuals and also as corporate believers. We need to weep at the altar for our own sin and the sin of the “American church.” It is humbling. It is raw. And it is not natural within the flesh. But it is so necessary if we are going to see anything change within this list.

You may think that after reading all of this, a very bleak picture has been painted. And I swear I am not a pessimist nor am I here to just rail against a bunch of stuff and then go back and retreat into my corner. I think much of the hopelessness we see in this country is due to an inactivity on our part as Christians and that we as hope-bringers and light-bearers have such a responsibility to proclaim the Gospel wherever we go. We sometimes want to get beyond the scope of the cross and onto more necessary things. But we fail to realize it is the cross and resurrection (the power of the Gospel) that makes any impact in our world possible. Without those aspects, our faith is of no value.

We must pray and seek the Lord. We must get a sense for His heartbeat and then move forward following His lead, trusting in His provision and timing. Can everything in this list and beyond be solved by any one individual? Certainly not. But each of us operating under His empowerment will see mountains move before our own eyes. America is in need of Christians who will live out the Bible’s teaching as if it is as real today as it was 2000 years ago.
 
Much love to you my fellow brothers and sisters. We are united in the common bond of faith.
 
Please reach out: info@derekcharlesjohnson.com

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