Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Thanksgiving Meditation – Psalm 145

Nowadays, amid all the food and family gatherings, it is easy to lose sight of the central idea of the occasion, viz., the giving of thanks. Thanksgiving is an old American tradition that can be traced back to the Pilgrim fathers at Plymouth, MA, when they gathered together in late 1621 for the specific purpose of giving thanks to God for having given them a good harvest, and for having preserved them alive during the preceding year. The occasion served a fundamentally religious purpose.
    Today it would be well to take a few minutes to reflect on what God has done for us during the past year. And an appropriate passage for meditation might be Psalm 145. The psalm begins:
                "My God, o King, I'll thee extol:
                    & bless thy Name for aye.
                 Forever will I praise thy Name;     
                    And bless thee every day." (vv. 1,2)
    The psalmist, traditionally said to have been David, then goes on to focus on God's unsearchable greatness:
                "Great is the Lord, most worthy praise:
                    his greatness search can none." (v. 3)
    God's greatness consists in a combination of two things: His power and His grace. David goes on to mention the things that God has actually done in history:
                "Age unto age shall praise thy works:
                    & thy great acts make known." (v. 4).
    But God is not just powerful; He is also gracious.
                "The Lord is gracious, & he is
                    full of compassion:
                 Slow unto anger & full of
                    Commiseration." (v. 8).
Here David is using language very similar to that used by God Himself when He revealed Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:6).
    God's goodness expresses itself in the way He provides for His creatures:
                "The Lord is good to all: o'er all
                    his works his mercies be." (v. 9).
He cares for the downtrodden and afflicted:
                "The Lord doth hold up all that fall:
                    and all down-bowed ones raise." (v. 14)
He also (and this is especially important to remember on Thanksgiving Day!) provides us with food:
                "All eyes wait on thee & their meat
                    thou dost in season bring." (v. 15).
    It is truly a blessing to contemplate the goodness of God and all that He provides for us – family, jobs, health, and freedom, not to mention the gift of salvation in Christ Jesus. But the blessings God bestows ought not to be taken for granted. God does not promise to bless everyone indiscriminately. He wants us actively to seek Him. Notice how the psalm puts it:
                "He is near to all that call on him:
                    in truth that on him call." (v. 18).
In other words, God wants us to pray – to engage in earnest, heartfelt prayer.
    But then David goes on to say:
                "He satisfy will the desire
                    of those that do him fear. . ." (v. 19)
By "fear" he does not mean a terrified, cringing fear, but rather a kind of humble, reverential awe of God's majesty, power and holiness. To know God, even to catch a mere glimpse of His eternal glory, is to be profoundly humbled by the experience.
    But most of all, we are to love Him.
                "The Lord preserves each one of them
                    that lovers of him be . . ." (v. 20).
The question is, are we trying to find God?


[Note: The Scripture quotations in this blog post were taken from The Bay Psalm Book, first published in 1640 in Massachusetts Bay colony. It is the first book ever published in the English colonies of North America. This past Tuesday an original copy of The Bay Psalm Book was sold at auction for $14.2 million. It was one of two copies still owned by Old South Church in Boston. It was part of a historic collection of books that had been put together in the 18th Century by Thomas Prince, pastor of the church at the time and a friend and colleague of such figures as Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield.
    The Puritans sang metrical paraphrases of the psalms, i.e., the Hebrew original was turned into English poetic meter so that it could be sung to standard tunes. The translators of The Bay Psalm Book, some of the leading ministers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, strove for literal accuracy but the resulting verse was often awkward and ungainly, as some of the above examples demonstrate ("He satisfy will the desire of those that do him fear . . .").
    I am fortunate to have in my possession a facsimile reprint of one of Old South Church's copies of The Bay Psalm Book, possibly of the very one that was just sold at auction. The facsimile was done by the University of Chicago Press in 1956. In the blog post I took the liberty of modernizing the spelling somewhat.]

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Nation Under God?

"Abraham Lincoln" delivering the Gettysburg Address
   Yesterday I had the opportunity of travelling to Gettysburg, PA to attend ceremonies commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Abraham Lincoln's famous "Gettysburg Address." The event was held in the Soldiers' National Cemetery on part of the battlefield not far from the spot where President Lincoln delivered his original address on November 19, 1863. Thousands were in attendance yesterday, most of us standing through the 1-1/2 hour event. A variety of politicians delivered brief remarks with major speeches by the noted historian James McPherson and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. A reenactor portraying Lincoln read the Gettysburg Address. The U.S. Marine Band played an instrumental arrangement of the old psalm tune "One Hundredth" (which had been played at the original occasion in 1863), and a male vocalist gave a solo rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Toward the end of the program U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia the oath of allegiance to sixteen immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship.
    Back in 1863 President Lincoln faced a daunting challenge. He had been asked to "formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use by a few appropriate remarks." Lincoln was to follow the principle speaker for the occasion, the renowned orator Edward Everett. Lincoln's task might seem simple enough, until the broader context is taken into consideration. For this was no ordinary dedication ceremony. The cemetery contains the bodies of thousands of union war casualties who had lost their lives in one of the most horrific bloodbaths in American history. Only 4-1/2 months earlier Union and Confederate armies had clashed over three days, leaving 51,000 men killed, wounded, or missing in action. The Union dead were still being transferred from shallow graves to their permanent resting places in the cemetery. The President was faced with the unenviable task of explaining to the grieving nation why the slaughter, for which many held him personally accountable, was necessary. (One of the casualties happened to be my great-grandmother's first husband, who was killed on the second day of the battle. They had only been married a year, and my great-grandmother was a Civil War widow at the age of 20!) Lincoln had to find a moral justification for the war, and he had to do it in just "a few appropriate remarks."
    In a statement that contained only 272 words and only took two minutes or so to deliver, (Everett had spoken for nearly two hours) the President reminded the nation of its founding principles. Echoing the Declaration of Independence he stated that we were a nation that was "conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." The Civil War was a test of whether such a nation could survive. He mentioned the soldiers who had given "the last full measure of devotion," and then challenged the audience to dedicate themselves – to dedicate themselves to completing the unfinished task, "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
    Interestingly the phrase "under God" was not in Lincoln's original manuscript. He apparently decided to add it later, possibly after conferring with Secretary of State William H. Seward the night before. Seward, it will be remembered, had caused a stir with his "Higher Law" speech of 1850. Originally the stated purpose of the war was to preserve the Union. But since the Emancipation Proclamation, which had gone into effect at the beginning of the year, the war had taken on a higher purpose, the abolition of slavery. But how could one justify overturning an established institution? Lincoln returned to the Abolitionist arguments of the 1850's. But whatever the source of inspiration, the question remains, are we, as a nation, "under God"? Did Lincoln overstate the case?
    According to Lincoln, the foundational principle of American democracy was idea that "all men are created equal." But what makes us "equal"? Many white Americans at the time were not prepared to accept blacks as their equals. The way it is stated in the Declaration of Independence is that "all men are created equal," and "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." In other words, in the final analysis all human beings are equal because God created us that way. "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Gen. 1:27; NKJV ). "And He [i.e., God] has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth . . ." (Acts 17:26). But once we accept the idea of Darwinian evolution, the case for racial equality, and by extension American democracy, collapses. It is ludicrous to suppose that different racial strains which are evolving independently of each other are equally adapted to some imaginary universal ideal prototype. They are just plain different from each other, and some are likely less "fit" than the rest. In a word, get rid of God and you get rid of our distinctive shared humanity and any concept of universal human rights. In the law of the jungle it is the survival of the fittest. To the victor go the spoils!
    So are we a nation "under God"?

See also:
The Higher Law 
One Nation Under God 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Sickness of Our Time

Old Bristol Congregational Meetinghouse, Bristol Center, NY
    Today the church is in a crisis. Faced with the collapse of Christian civilization in the western world, it seems powerless to do anything to prevent it. In many cases it is losing its own children from the faith.

    Interestingly, the Bible told us right at the very beginning that this was how it was going to end. In II Tim. 3:1-5 the apostle Paul gives us a vivid description of what conditions will be like "in the last days." He tells us that "perilous times will come" (NKJV), and then goes on to describe what life will be like at that time. The indictment begins with the basic characteristic of selfishness. People in the last days will be remarkably self-oriented. People who are self-centered, in turn, typically have inflated opinions of themselves and a corresponding contempt for others. They are boasters and at the same time disdainful of others. This, in turn, results in a serious of anti-social actions: they slander others, and young people in particular are disobedient to their parents.
    There then follows in verses 2 and 3 a list of eight adjectives, seven of which, in the Greek, begin with the "privative alpha," denoting the absence of some quality. It is a stunning picture of a morally bankrupt society utterly lacking in basic human qualities. The people of this society are devoid of gratitude, a sense of the sacred, natural affection, respect for others, self-control, or appreciation of the good. It is a society that has largely abandoned standards and ideals of any sort.
    Paul goes on in verse 4 to describe the members of this society as treacherous and reckless. They will evidently stop at nothing to get what they want. And the Paul sums it all up by saying that they are "haughty" and are "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." They were both egotistical and materialistic, as self-centered individuals invariably are.
    Does all of this sound familiar? It should, for it could very well be a description of our society, a liberal democratic and capitalistic society in an advanced state of decline, a society sunk in the mire of consumerism, irresponsible, self-indulgent, and narcissistic.
One might suspect that in a society in which people are "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" that there would be a general contempt for religion. But this is not necessarily so. In fact, Paul goes on to make a remarkable observation: in the last days they will in fact have "a form of godliness" (v. 5). But then he goes on to add an important qualification: "but denying its power." "Godliness" (Gk: eusebeia; Lat. pietas) might better be translated "piety" or "devotion." It is the reverence and devotion that we owe to our superiors, and especially toward God Himself. The "form" (morphosis) is the outline or semblance of a thing. In other words, it is entirely possible to maintain the outward forms of religion – its structures and rituals – in a thoroughly materialistic society. What is noticeably lacking, however, is the "power" (dunamis), the ability actually to achieve some result. The forms and structures of organized religion are present, but they do not have much of an effect on behavior.
Such is the church in our own time. On a typical Sunday morning multitudes of professing Christians will gather in church buildings all across America and will sit through church services that are marked by hymns, Scripture, and a sermon. All of the outward trappings of religion are present. But in most churches, on a typical Wednesday evening, the traditional prayer meeting night, there is hardly anyone gathered to pray. Here, then, is the supreme irony of the situation. Everywhere we see Christians who profess to believe in God, but few are bothered even to talk to Him.
Why not? The answer, we think, is probably this: in a materially prosperous society two things typically happen. The first is that people's attention is so focused on the here and now that they simply are not interested in anything else. And secondly, many people in a prosperous society do not feel any need for God – they always have what they think they want, or they think they have the means of getting it. If life is good down here, why ask for more? We go to church to feel respectable – to acquire a sense of self-worth, but that is as far as it goes. We are definitely not interested in anything that will require effort or self-sacrifice.
What most American Christians today do not realize is how far removed their concept of Christianity is from anything found in the New Testament. Real revival will come only when we wake up to the difference. May God hasten the day before it is too late!

See also: What Is the Church Supposed to Be Like?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hymns No Longer Sung

D.L. Moody preaching -- notice Ira Sankey at the organ to the left of Moody
   Those of us who are older Christians still have fond memories of the old gospel songs and hymns of our youth. Back in the days before blaring guitars and pounding drums, back when there was still such a thing as melody, harmony and rhythm, we would sing old favorites in church such as "At Calvary" and "Redeemed." Looking through an old hymnbook from those days some of those songs strike us as probably not worthy of preservation. If the truth be told some of them weren't really suitable for public worship even when they were being sung. The hymnody of the late Victorian period could be overly sentimental and the message buried in florid poetry. We were astonished recently to learn that the well known hymn "In the Garden" was meant to portrait Mary Magdalene's reaction at seeing the risen Jesus in the garden, something not at all obvious in the text itself!

    But there was one class of traditional hymns that has been lost, much to our own detriment. They are not often sung today, even in churches that still use traditional hymnals. They are songs that are often grouped together in a section of the hymnbook entitled "consecration" or "commitment," and they speak to a very important but often neglected part of the Christian life.
    One such hymn is entitled "Living for Jesus." The first stanza goes like this:
        "Living for Jesus a life that is true,
            Striving to please Him in all that I do,
         Yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free,
            This is the pathway of blessing for me."
The chorus then goes on to say,
        "O Jesus, Lord and Savior,
            I give myself to Thee,
         For Thou, in Thy atonement,
            Didst give Thyself for me;
         I own no other Master,
            My heart shall be Thy throne,
         My life I give, henceforth to live,
            O Christ, for Thee alone."
Subsequent stanzas elaborate on the theme, talking about the need to make personal sacrifice ("Willing to suffer affliction and loss, / Deeming each trial a part of my cross") and commitment to reaching the lost.
    Why is this song rarely heard today? Probably because most hymns sung in church services are selected by the pastor, often to tie in with the subject of the sermon. And pastors today are intent on extolling the benefits of Christianity, not the sacrifices. Hence they rarely pick hymns like "I Surrender All" or "Take My Life, and Let It Be." These songs have become relics of a bygone era.
    But they shouldn't be. And the fact that they are points to a serious weakness in modern Christianity. Modern preachers are eager to tell people what Christ can do for them; they are much less eager to say what Christ wants us to do for Him.

    But the idea of personal consecration is very much a part of the Christian life, and is clearly taught in Scripture. Jesus plainly stated that "If anyone desires to come after Me*, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24. NKJV). And the apostle Paul could say, "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ . . ." (Phil. 3:8). None of this is to say that we are saved by works or by human merit of any kind. But it is to say that we are saved from our former sinful lifestyles, and that the aim of salvation is to bring us into conformity with the will of God. We are saved for good works, not by them (Eph. 2:10).
    All of which is to say that a true Christian is fundamentally a servant (lit., "slave") of Jesus Christ and that Christ is his Lord and Master. We no longer live for ourselves, but for Him. Thus every Christian should be able to sing "O Jesus, Lord and Savior, / I give myself to Thee," and mean it, genuinely and sincerely.


*The phrase in the German is "mir . . . nachfolgen," which gave rise to the expression "die Nachfolge Christi," the following after of Christ, a term used among the early Anabaptists for discipleship.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Jonathan Edwards

    In Matthew 22 we are told that Jesus was approached by one of the Pharisees, a lawyer, who asked Him, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" (vs. 35), the type of sharply analytical question one would expect a lawyer to ask. Jesus responded by referring him to two different commandments. The first one was part of the famous "Shema," the great creedal affirmation of the Jewish Torah: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (vs. 37; cf. Dt. 6:4,5). "This," said Jesus, "is the first and great commandment" (vs. 38). But then there was one other thing as well. "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (vs. 39). This commandment was also in the Torah, in Lev. 19:18. Jesus then added the comment, "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (vs. 40).
    Here it will be observed that a personal relationship between God and His people is presupposed. He is "the Lord your God." (The word "your" is singular in the Hebrew, making it especially personal; cf. "thy God" in KJV). Furthermore, in this relationship we are to love Him, and love Him, moreover, "with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." In other words, true religion is heart religion. It must include a strong personal attachment to God that involves our entire inward being.
    Furthermore, we have a duty toward our fellow man as well. We are to "love our neighbor as ourselves." Here we have stated for us in the simplest terms possible the "Golden Rule". Whatever we desire for ourselves, we should wish for others also. We should be willing to sacrifice our personal well-being for the sake of others in greater need than ourselves. These two commandments, then, sum up our whole duty toward both God and man.
    It will be noted in this connection that mere orthodoxy, by itself, is not enough. The demons believe that there is one God, and even tremble (Jas. 2:19), and yet they are not saved. Our aim rather ought to be to "know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings. . ." (Phi l. 3:10). Moreover, we are to be "doers of the word, and not hearers only" (Jas. 1:22). We must not be content merely to recite doctrine, but to live it. To a great extent, then, the essence of true religion consists of experience and practice, and the great value of doctrine is found in its usefulness as a guide to the practical side of the Christian life.
    By the same token more than just a mere external observance of religious duties is required. We can be baptized, join a church, attend services regularly, and even tithe, and not be saved at all. We can even sing in the choir, teach a Sunday school class, and help out with the youth program, and yet not know Christ Himself. "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing" (I Cor. 13:3). In a word, if doctrine does not have a practical effect on our lives, then we have missed the whole point of Christianity.
    Our forefathers in the faith used to call this "experimental religion," that is, the actual experience of God's grace in our hearts and lives, as opposed to a merely speculative theology or sectarian dogma. It was the religion of the Puritans and the Scottish Covenanters in the seventeenth century, of the "New Light" Congregationalists and the "New Side" Presbyterians of the Great Awakening, of the Separate Baptists in the late eighteenth century and of the Methodists in the early nineteenth. It was the religion of the German Pietists and of the Moravian Brethren. Under it untold millions were converted and entire nations transformed. These various groups differed from each other, often sharply, over points of doctrine and church government, but they all agreed on this one fundamental point: " . . . I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I might gain Christ . . ." (Phil. 3:8).
    Today, however, this glorious heritage of ours has largely been forgotten. It has been nearly a century and a half since the United States experienced a nationwide revival, and the Modernist / Fundamentalist controversy of the 1920's and '30's left Evangelicalism orthodox but spiritually dead and powerless. "Standing for the truth" had come to take the place of practicing the truth, of actually knowing Christ in a personal way. Today we largely have "a form of godliness but deny its power" (II Tim. 3:5). Perhaps nowhere is the spiritual bankruptcy of the modern church seen more clearly than in the demise of the midweek prayer meeting. A lack of interest in prayer betrays a lack of interest in God Himself, and yet tragically this is precisely the situation today in church after church.
    Christians are concerned about trends in society today, and rightly so. Yet we will not make the impact on society we want until we first take stock of ourselves. We think we are "wealthy, and have need of nothing," yet, like the lukewarm church of Laodicea we are in fact "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. . ." (Rev. 3:17). Jesus stands (outside!) of the door of this church, and knocks. He waits for someone to hear His voice and open the door, so that He can come inside and dine with us (vs. 20). Let us open the door now, and restore our Savior to His rightful place within our hearts.
Adapted from Chapter 1 of The Road to Heaven: A Practical Guide to the Faith of Our Fathers, © 2004, by Robert W. Wheeler      

You might also want to read:
The Church Needs God  





Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why Men Hate Going to Church

Why Men Hate Going to Church
David Murrow
Nelson, 2005
Pb., 232 pp. $14.99


    Why do men hate going to church? According to author David Murrow it is because modern church life is dominated by women. As a result, "almost everything about today's church – its teaching style, its ministries, the way people are expected to behave, even today's popular images of Jesus – is designed to meet the needs and expectations of a largely female audience. Church is sweet and sentimental, nurturing and nice. Women thrive in this environment. In modern parlance, women are the target audience of today's church" (p.14). Men, however, are bored to death by all of this, and for this reason have largely dropped out. They have little interest in joining a girls' club.
    Murrow's book is certainly thought provoking. He delves into the differences between male and female psychology, and shows why men feel so out of place in church. The question is, what to do about it? How can the church attract more men? Murrow has plenty of suggestions. Because men, according to him, are more aggressive but less verbal than women, he suggests having strong, forceful leadership, clearly defined goals, a high standard of quality, physical activity, competition, along with fewer unison readings, less singing and shorter sermons.
    Many of Murrow's insights and suggestions are indeed valuable. The truth is, many churches today do offer up what Murrow calls "velvet coffin Christianity": "show up on Sunday, participate in comforting rituals, listen to a pabulum sermon of familiar truths; then go home and forget all about your faith until next Sunday" (pp. 26-27).
    But in some ways we cannot help but think that Murrow's book itself is part of the malaise of modern Christianity. Like so many other books on the market today, it takes an essentially sociological approach to what is really a spiritual problem. We conduct surveys, we examine people's perceptions, feelings and beliefs, and then we devise a strategy to reach the selected "target group." We have been searching for decades for effective methods and strategies, but what has it gotten us?
    There are, in fact, serious problems with this whole approach. First of all, a sociological survey does not make value judgments. It does not distinguish between virtues and vices among the respondents. A vice is thus often confused with a "need." A good example of this in Murrow's book is his discussion of men's alleged "need for greatness," in Chapter 12. According to Murrow, men have a "need" to be recognized for their accomplishments, and he makes some pointed barbs about the "humility police," certain churchgoers "who see it as their job to humble anyone who might get praise or credit" (p. 98). Murrow insists that "it is no sin to recognize men for the good they do" (p. 102). To support this assertion he appeals to Mark 10:35-45, in which James and John approach Jesus and ask to be given positions of honor in the kingdom. Jesus replied by saying, "If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others" (v. 43). Murrow interprets the words "if you want to be great" as an endorsement for the quest for greatness. But the whole point of the passage was the exact opposite of this. Jesus was encouraging a servant attitude. It may be a sociological fact that men crave recognition, but that does not mean that the church should be in the business of stroking male egos!
    But more to the point, a sociological analysis of the church's problems overlooks the spiritual and supernatural dimension of true religion. What exactly is it that should draw men (and women) to Christ and transform their lives? Is it music and architecture, technology and organization? No! The New Testament church had none of these things! They relied instead on the power of the Holy Spirit working in hearts and minds – convicting, illuminating, and regenerating. Most churches today, however, have lost that dimension, and the gender gap is the result. Women are in church for the wrong reasons (the music, the flowers, the fellowship) and men are not there at all. The church has become a social club, and a social club that appeals to just one particular demographic group. But in true Christianity men and women from every walk of life are drawn to Christ. The common interest that brings them together is not their social backgrounds or cultural tastes. Rather, it is their common interest in the Savior.
    Is the church too feminine? It undoubtedly is. But the standard must be God's Word, not what polls and surveys tell us men want. The real question is, are we measuring up to what Christ wants us to be? Where we have failed, because we were content to be a women's social club, we must repent. But the answer is not to become a rowdy bunch of jocks. It is to become sons of God, who know Him and serve Him truly.



Friday, November 1, 2013


Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity  . . .and Why It Matters
David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons
BakerBooks, 2007
hc., 255pp., $17.99
In their provocative book Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity . . . and Why It Matters, authors David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons describe and analyze the negative image that Evangelical Christianity has in American society today, especially among the younger generation. Christians are perceived as being hypocritical, anti-homosexual, sheltered too political, and judgmental. The authors point out that part of the reason for this perception is a shift in attitudes in society – the younger generation has a relativistic morality – but they also note that part of the problem lies within the church itself: we simply fail to live up to God's standards. As a result, we often come across as a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites. Even young people who were raised in the church often complain that the religious faith of their elders is shallow and phony. The authors then ask a pointed question: "What if millions of us are living for ourselves, even while we are going through the motions of religion?" (p. 219). The problem, they suggest, is that we lack a genuine care and compassion for others.
    If we look at ourselves honestly, we will have to admit that they are largely right. Today in the church there is very little holiness, very little evangelism, and very little prayer. The underlying cause of this is painfully apparent: there is something lacking in our own relationship with God. We are living for ourselves and not for Him, and , as a result, we care little about others. And the unsaved call tell it.

    So what should be our attitude towards those outside of the faith? Paul gives us a good idea in Titus 3:1-8. Writing to Titus, who was helping to organize the church on the island of Crete, Paul instructs him to tell the Cretan believers what they should do. He says that they should obey the civil authorities, and then he tells them "to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men" (vv. 1,2; NKJV). In other words, the behavior that is expected is the very opposite of the angry, shrill discourse that many people have come to associate with Christians today.
    The church cannot be governed by polls. Its aim must be to please Christ, not the world. But a charge of hypocrisy, coming from whatever quarter, is serious indeed, because it implies that we are not living up to our own standards. And in our present situation there is far more truth to the accusation than we dare to admit. A visit to a Wednesday evening prayer meeting is all that it takes to see what has gone wrong. Few are gathered there, and their focus is almost exclusively on the physical needs of their friends and loved ones. There is rarely any prayer at all for the success of the ministry or the salvation of the lost.
    Or to look at it from another angle, the problem, ironically, arises from a lack of true evangelism. We have become so complacent and self-satisfied that we have ceased to care about the eternal destinies of those around us. The church has become a social club for nice, middle-class people. We make it clear that we disapprove of certain forms of behavior, but that is about as far as it goes. The inevitable result is that our unsaved acquaintances have a sense of condemnation but not of compassion. We do not really care about them, and unfortunately they know it.
    It was said of D.L. Moody the famous evangelist that he had a deep love for his fellow man. "Sympathy for all men apparently obliterated all traces of selfishness and unworthy ambition, so that he lived and died for others," as one put it (Moody: the Man and his Mission, 1900, p. 347). As a result, "the people flocked to his services, they heard him gladly, they were led to Christ" (Ibid., p. 194).
D.L. Moody preaching

    The problem is that our relationship with God is not what it should be. We have lost that sense of unworthiness and gratitude that should be the mark of every sinner saved by grace. We have forgotten what we once were and we have forgotten to Whom we owe all that we are now. We are proud when we should be humble; we are self-centered when we should be caring and compassionate. We have forgotten the love of Christ for us, and indeed, for all mankind.
    We need to begin with prayer. We need to confess our own sin and failures, and then we need to pray for others. We need to pray for their salvation. We need to pray that God would open up opportunities to witness. We need to ask God to open hearts and minds to receive His word.
    Compassion for the lost does not mean that we do not tell them that they are sinners. They will never come to Christ until they can see their lost condition. We do not show love by allowing them to perish in their sin. But the personal context is everything. What the poor lost sinners needs to see is a Christian who is conscious of his own unworthiness, a Christian who is humble and gentle, a Christian who genuinely cares about those around him. He needs to see a Christian who is willing to listen and is able to sympathize. And then the Christian needs to make it clear that we are all sinners, and that we all need God's grace. Then our image among those still outside the faith will be what it ought to be.