I was recently blessed to be part of a pertinent discussion with a group of loving, caring, well-educated young pastors. We talked about some of the difficult issues facing the church today. Our culture is increasingly complicated, squeezing out God for the sake of other agendas. As I listened to these men share their concerns and their hearts, the reality of this burden weighed on me like a ton of bricks.
The problems we face today certainly aren’t new.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote:
“As life in general becomes more and more complex, so religion tends to be affected in the same way. It seems to be assumed that if the affairs of men are difficult and complicated, the affairs of God should be still more complicated, because they are still greater. Hence there comes a tendency to increase ceremony and ritual, and to multiply organizations and activities. The argument is that it is ridiculous to assert that the vast problems of life today can be solved in an apparently simple manner suggested by those who preach the gospel in the old evangelical manner. The fact is, that as we get further away from God, life becomes more complicated and involved. We see this not only in the Bible, but also in subsequent history. The Protestant Reformation simplified not only religion, but the whole of life and living in general. The truly religious life is always the simple life.”
As followers of Christ, we must learn how to keep it simple.
I’ve had the pleasure of teaching 1 and 2 Corinthians at the Calvary Chapel Bible College this semester and have felt an urgency to prepare the young men and women in my class on how to deal with the current complexities that exist in the church. Paul must have felt the same urgency when He wrote this in 2 Corinthians 11:2-3: “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. For I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
There are two points from Paul’s words that will help us be effective Christians in a culture similar to the one in Corinth.
First, we should have a godly jealousy for others. We are not to have a human jealousy, selfish and destructive, but a godly jealousy, selfless and constructive. Godly jealousy does not consider itself but comes from a deep love and care for others. I love how Paul compared godly jealousy to a father betrothing his daughter to her future husband. The greatest privilege the father of a bride had in Paul’s day was getting to present his daughter as a pure virgin to her husband. Paul’s greatest desire was that the Corinthians would be purified and prepared for Christ’s return.
Secondly, Christ should be central in everything. The Corinthians made church more about the scene than about the King. Like so many churches today, they increased the ceremonies and rituals in their services and multiplied their organizations and activities, but neglected to keep Christ the central focus.
Christians today have more knowledge about Jesus than in any other time in history. If there is something we don’t know, all we have to do is Google it and be flooded with instant information. But all the information in the world about Jesus cannot guarantee a transformed life. Consider what happened with Adam and Eve in the garden. In Genesis 2:17, God warned them that “of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 3:1-5 says, “Satan came to Eve in the garden saying, ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”'...Then he said, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”
Did you notice what happened? God made it simple for Adam and Eve, but Satan came along and complicated everything. Adding complexity to God’s simple commands is one of Satan’s main tactics. He knows complexity leads to distraction, and distraction leads to separation from God, Satan’s ultimate goal for us.
When Adam and Eve kept it simple by obeying God, they had perfect fellowship with Him. As soon as they became distracted by Satan’s temptation and ate the fruit, they experienced separation from God for the first time.
The tactics Satan used in the garden are the same tactics he uses today.
Why? Because they work. How do we as Christians overcome the complexities in our culture? There is one simple way: desiring to be in fellowship with Christ. This is our main calling as Christians. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:9, “God is faithful who has called us into the fellowship of His Son Christ our Lord.”
God’s desire from the beginning of time is that we would have fellowship with Him. He created us in His likeness and in His image for this very purpose. Why does He so greatly desire to have fellowship with us? Because He loves us.
Karl Barth was regarded as one of the greatest Protestant theologians of the 20th century. He had a greater knowledge of God than most. His influence expanded well beyond the academic realm into mainstream culture, leading him to be featured on the cover of Time Magazine. Someone once asked him, “What is the greatest theological thought that has ever crossed your mind?” He answered, “Jesus loves me; this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
Keep it simple, saint!