James Hartline Nails It!
I follow James Hartline on Facebook. I’m not necessarily proud of that fact. I could cite numerous problems that I have with the man just from his status updates. But, every once in a while, he posts something that is dead-on. Here is his most recent status update (posted 3/24/10 at approximately 9:30pm EDT):
Jesus already built the kingdom. What He now requires is obedient servants to live in it. The Father in Heaven did not send His only son to become a bloody offering upon the cross so that human beings could claim heavenly benefits while wallowing in demonic rebellion.
Unfortunately, it is often the practice of the so-called “popular” preachers to claim that God wants to help us live better lives (yes, this is a direct reference to Joel Osteen), or that God wants to make known our purpose within the framework of his plan (yes, that’s a direct reference to Rick Warren). But that isn’t necessarily the case.
Sometimes, the life we’re living now is the best life for us. It may not be necessary to change anything:
Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised?Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God. (1 Cor 7:17-24)
Sanctification is a continuous process. God’s plan for each individual is unlikely to be revealed all at once. This is something that typically takes time to unfold (check Eccl 3:9-15 and Rom 8:28). Of course, as a new Christian, I learned quite a bit from The Purpose-Driven Life (my definition of worship, for example, and my contention that everyone has their own ministry to fulfill), but the central idea that we can know our purpose within God’s framework right now isn’t a feasible one. God deals in eternity–he doesn’t deal in linear time (despite what the open theists teach). That means that his purpose might not be known to you right now. But that’s okay. He will reveal it in his time.
If God’s will isn’t to necessarily live a better life than what we are already living, and it isn’t his obligation to reveal the details of his plan to us now, then what is God’s will? The component that is left completely out of most megachurches: obedience.
God most certainly does not want someone who shows up to church on Sunday, refrains from meat on Fridays during Lent, proclaims “He is risen!” on Easter, complains about the lack of “Christ” in Christmas, but proceeds to live every other day as he so pleases. As Hartline puts it, “wallowing in demonic rebellion.” As the Calvinist terms it, total depravity.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Ps 51:16-17)
Don’t get me wrong. All Christians sin. Some commit serious sins. But the mark of a Christian, as described by the apostle John isn’t subscription to this or that ideology, it is obedience:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 Jn 5:1-5)
Maybe if more Christians heard messages like this and followed through with it, there wouldn’t be such a “Christians are all hypocrites” mentality among critics. We’re not all hypocrites, but I can see where someone would get that impression sometimes. The lack of the church to preach that repentence is necessary is a major contributing factor.