Too many evangelical churches have a hidden weakness. A gap in their armor through which a fiery dart could come, burning to ash their treasures.
The evangelical church is rightly concerned for the Gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ has come and brings grace and mercy for anyone who has failed. God loves you, no matter what you have done or not done. Turn to Jesus, live life in relationship with him, accept that his death and his resurrection are the answer to anything and everything that afflicts you, because in him you are made new.
This is not illusion, but truth. Jesus does come healing, transforming and making new.
But the fatal flaw is to expect Jesus to make you new in an instant. You realize your need, you bow your head and pray the prayer, come forward and say the words and now rejoice in the promises and the peace with God. You know you are broken and needy, and you are grateful for a new chance, for Jesus coming and meeting you when you needed his help. But you also look around the church and see the confident smiles of people who have come for a while. "Then, I was a sinner like you," they seem to say, "but now I am new." And you notice that messages and prayers always assume that the needy ones are those outside. So then you're in the church for a year, two years, five years, and wonder when the complete change will arrive for you. When can you too look back on a fallible past, comfortably different from your almost infallible present. You still struggle, but how can this be? Didn't Jesus make all things new? Didn't you believe, come forward, receive the promise? Are you the only one still struggling? What is wrong?
Another part of the myth: There must be certain sins almost unknown among the truly born again. No depression or bitterness or unreasonable anger, no alcoholism nor drug dependencies, no struggles over sexual purity, no abuse of children. No people who live just to control things and have everything their way. How can those things be among people made new? At least among those who really believed and prayed the prayer right and have joined the right church.
How long does Jesus take to make anyone new? How long did it take God to deal with sin? Eighteen hours, right? Late Friday afternoon he said "It is finished" and gave up his spirit to the Father. They took him down and buried him, and Sunday morning before dawn he was alive again. That is one perspective. But look again. It took three years of public ministry before that Friday afternoon came, and it took thirty years preparing for those three years of ministry, and it took centuries of prophets and priests and kings leading up to the fullness of time when God With Us could be born in Bethlehem; and before that centuries of judges and prophets from Moses' time until David's time, and centuries from when the first promises were made to Abraham until Moses came to deliver the people out of Egypt. And on this side of the resurrection, almost two thousand years of "these last days" waiting for the promise that he'd return on the clouds of heaven as they'd watched him go away into heaven.
We like to think the default moment in the Old Testament is Moses parting the waters and leading the people out of Egypt into the Promised Land. And the default moment in the New Testament is Jesus on the cross saying "Father forgive them," then dying and rising again a few hours later. But the most common experience before Christ or after Christ has to be knowing that God has made promises, remembering that he did something powerful, and waiting for God in power to act again and finish what he started. Completion not now, but in an indefinite future we don't know when it will come. All we have is the promise it is coming. So we live with patience and longsuffering enduring the present mess because we know while no end may be in sight and it's been all we've ever known, it is not permanent. If God makes all things new in a short time, why do the Scriptures talk so much about patient endurance? If God changes everything for anyone who truly believes, why does he commend the faith of those who didn't see what he had promised (Heb 11:35-40?
So let us take up the shield of faith, faith in God and his promises, faith that we don't have to pretend we are all finished now, faith that God has still more to do in us and we don't know when he will do it, but that is OK because he has promised he will do it.
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