Much of today's Western Church desperately needs to get back to spiritual fundamentals. Its castles in the sky seem impressive, but they have largely been devoid of fruit and many have become corrupt.
Whatever the intentions of such churches and their pastors, the resulting fruit has brought about great spiritual damage.
The proof is in the pudding
Sadly, the damage speaks for itself. Most churches now resemble nightclubs and are more about a lust for money and power than what Jesus wants.
If you disagree, take a moment to reflect on the way in which the American Church is presenting itself to the world, being portrayed in the media and what it's exporting to other countries. Do mega churches and rich pastors with flashy cars come to mind? How about endless messages about material prosperity and self-fulfilment? A lack of focus on Jesus has also been rife.
This isn't just happening in America—many countries, including Australia, have followed their lead.
If you still disagree with all of this, let's think on a smaller scale. Consider for a moment just how many godly people you know. How many people do you know who display the fruits of the Holy Spirit, read the Bible and know it well, pray, give generously, serve the Lord and consider their relationship with Jesus to be the most important thing in their lives?
Jesus says we will know true believers by their fruit, not by the size or material grandeur of their churches, wealth, possessions, eloquent words, leadership positions or number of programs.
Using these criteria, you've probably begun to doubt the number of actual Christians and Christian churches you really know.
A simple solution
The solution to this problem is quite simple: we must turn away from these castles in the sky, these monuments to men, and get back to spiritual fundamentals.
This begins with the desires of our hearts, so let's start by taking a moment to honestly reflect. What is your biggest love and highest goal? What purpose are you driven by? What place do you give to a relationship with Jesus?
The heart drives and motivates us—the importance of words and actions pale in comparison. The Pharisees always had the 'right' words to say and did 'right' actions, but in reality their hearts and lives were far from him.
A fundamental focus
In contrast to the Pharisees was the Apostle Paul; a man who passionately lived a fundamental Christian life.His spiritual zeal was constant and had a single focus: to know Christ and the experience of a Biblical Christian life.
In his letter to the Philippians Paul writes, 'I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrections and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow attaining to the resurrection from the dead.'
Paul never let this focus be compromised or corrupted, even when he went through the worst kinds of suffering and persecution:
'...but whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him...' (Philippians chapter 3, verse 7–8).
Compared to Christ
Paul counted everything apart from Christ as having little to no value. Nothing even came close to the value of his relationship with Jesus, so he gladly discarded or lost all else for His sake.
This attitude stands in stark contrast to the things our society—and many churches—value today, things such as riches, popularity, power, vanity, selfishness, hype, entertainment, numbers and programs.
All those things have little value in comparison to Jesus, and none apart from him. The have also spawned great corruption in the modern Church because they have more to do with the flesh than the Spirit, and are often involved with temptation and the works of the enemy.
In light of these truths and Paul's example, it's vital for churches and Christians to pursue spiritual fundamentals. God desires for us to have a relationship with him, and serve and worship him in spirit and truth.
Less is more
Above all, God is after the heart. Out of the heart flow all the issues of life (Proverbs chapter 4, verse 23). All of what is corrupted or broken in the Church today would be fixed if we all got back to these fundamentals.
Apart from the heart, what does God want? The answer is short and simple. The Lord wants his house to be known as a house of prayer (Matthew chapter 21, verse 13), where widows and orphans are looked after, and where its members keep themselves unspotted from the world:
'Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.' (James chapter 1, verse 27)
Let's get back to basics—God style:
'Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practises steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord."' (Jeremiah chapter 9, verse 23)
Tim has lived on the Gold Coast in Queensland for most of his life. He has a BA in Journalism and Writing, a Graduate Diploma of Education and an Associate Degree in Theology, and has taught in Christian Education for just less than six years. He enjoys writing, bodyboarding and watching movies.
Tim Price's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/tim-price.html