7/23/16 Mike about 45
I had reached out to a middle-aged man named Mike while he was sitting in his car at a gas station playing a video game. We talked about his beliefs for a while and when I found out about the religious tradition he grew up in it was no wonder to me that he now believes the Bible is too hard to understand or irrelevant for today's culture, that we are all just animals acting on instinct, unaccountable for our actions, and that God is to blame for our sin because “He made us this way”. His lifestyle reflects gluttony, addictions to cheap entertainment, and an inability to think critically about the consumer culture around him.
The religious tradition he grew up in too often emphasizes feeling over spiritual discipline, and putting on an outer show over inner substance. Its gatherings often focus on emotional experiences and cheap shortcuts to holiness, rather than the truth of God's Word. It claims a special relationship with God through the Holy Spirit, yet it too often doesn't display many fruits of the Spirit such as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Its excesses, especially its televangelists, make it in my opinion the equivalent of professional wrestling in American Christianity. The religious tradition he grew up in was Pentecostalism, and its self-centered theology, self-indulgent religious practices and paranoid fear-mongering make it a driving force in our consumer-oriented religion and in conservative politics today.
This sort of immaturity in the Church isn’t limited to America or our time in history. The writer of Hebrews wrote of it in Ch.5: “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” And Paul wrote of it in 1 Corinthians 3: “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?” Let’s pursue the maturity that comes from exposure and obedience to God’s Word, rather than self-centered emotional experiences.