In Part 1, we talked about how our entire approach to church is about ourselves and our desires.
In Part 2, we talked about how dopamine is driving much of our approach to church.
In Part 3, we took a very brief look at the Bible’s teaching against pursuing certain desires.
In Part 4, we talked about Dopenet’s destructive role in the church.
Today, (If I haven’t completely ticked you off and you’re still reading) I want to talk about the answer.
In the upper room, Jesus established a New Covenant between His followers and the Father. (For a quick tutorial on Covenants, I highly recommend this video from The Bible Project: https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/covenants/)
The church was created in the upper room on the foundation of the New Covenant. However, that covenant where we remember the sacrifice of Jesus is not just a reminder of the Cross. It’s a reminder of the call to follow Christ and a reminder of the unity of all believers throughout History.
And just like the covenants prior to Jesus, this covenant came with a command. But, unlike the covenant with Moses that had 613 commands, this covenant only had one accompanying command, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)
As the old Hymn goes, “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her lord. We are a new creation by water and the word.” We are built together on the foundation of Christ and the apostles, with Jesus himself as the cornerstone. (Eph. 2:20)
That means that the entire church throughout human history, everyone who claims Christ, is built on the foundation of the New Covenant and its one accompanying command, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
How did Jesus love us? “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Before we existed, before we could do anything to earn his love, God extends His love toward us through Christ on the cross.
This is the self-sacrificial love that started the church and it’s the self-sacrificial love that is supposed to be the hallmark of the church. The light that we are supposed to shine brightly to the world as a city set on a hill is the light of laying down our lives for one another. When Jesus said, “anyone who comes after me must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me” it wasn’t just figurative language. To be a follower of Christ requires self sacrifice and it requires us carrying the same cross of loving one another to the point of death the same way Christ loved us.
It doesn’t take must to see the stark contrast between Jesus’ approach to church and our modern approach. The two could hardly be more different. Jesus died to give the church life. We take from the church until it has nothing left to offer us and then move on to do the same to another.
The problem with our current, dopamine driven approach to church is that we’re trying to join together two things that are fundamentally opposed to one another.
Dopamine and desire are the root causes of our rebellion against God. The fruit with which Adam and Eve rebelled against God was “desirable.” It was desirable for gaining wisdom, aka being more like God. The pursuit of personal desire is equitable to rebellion. As we have said, when what you want is more important than anything else, you’re not only rebelling against God, but you’re worshipping an idol.
Our current approach to church is all about personal desire. And that’s what we, as modern day Christians need to deny and die to.
We have to stop seeing the church as something that exists to meet my needs and desires. We have to stop seeing the church as yet another thing in our modern society that we can customize and have “our way.” It’s “my way” thinking that got us into this mess in the first place.
In a recent sermon at our church I said: We need people who will say, “the pastor said this stupid thing, and the elders did this dumb thing, and they don’t have the programs that I want for my kids, and the worship isn’t quite what I would prefer, and the building is kind of a ghetto, and the pastor thinks his funny but he’s really not, and I just absolutely love my church.”
Why? Because church isn’t about the fulfilment of personal preferences. Church is about serving one another in love. It’s about carrying one another’s burdens. It’s about faithfully walking with one another. It’s about being there for one another without needing the organization of church systems to coerce us into it. It’s about sticking it out through the thick and thin. It’s about reconciliation.
The real church is about all the things that the modern church isn’t about.
Our role as Christ followers is to love God with our entire being and to love our neighbor in the same way that we love ourselves.
We are supposed to be actively working to deny ourselves the things our flesh wants and to be people who hunger and thirst for righteousness. When we use the things of this world to fill the hunger in our souls, we are always thirsty and never satisfied. But when we are hungry and thirsty for the righteousness of the Kingdom of God, we will be satisfied. (Matt 5:6)
We have it so good today. If the early church leaders knew the luxury of modern church, they may scoff at us. “You have buildings? You have Microphones? You can do church online so people can watch from their couches? Wow, our people get used as street lamps and lion fodder.”
So what is the answer for the problem of the church today? The same as it was at the beginning. Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus. Love one another the same way Christ has loved us.
We need to stop fighting for our rights and getting what we want. We need to stop jumping from church to church because they have something our current church doesn’t offer. We need to stop using the church to benefit ourselves personally. We need to stop running when there is a conflict in the church or when someone has a problem with me or when I have a problem with someone else.
We need to stick with the church God led us to until God leads us away. And by God I mean God, nothing else.
So, your church isn’t like you want it to be. So what. Your church isn’t as cool and your pastor isn’t as trendy. Yeah? Big deal. Those were never meant to be determining factors in our covenantal commitment to God’s bride that Jesus died to create. The church is supposed to be counter-cultural. We’re supposed to look different. We aren’t supposed to look the same.
God didn’t lead you to your church to consume your pastor’s preaching until you get tired of it, or until you discover another preacher on YouTube that you like better. God led you to your church because he has a role for you to play in fulfilling the great commission through that body. God is assembling the perfect body at your church to reach the people only your church can reach. Your purpose at your church is not to fight for your way. Your purpose is to die to your way so that someone who is outside the kingdom can find their seat at God’s table.
So, what if you took leaving your church off the table? What if you committed to staying at your church until you die or until God speaks very clearly to you to move you somewhere else? What if you determined to work through all the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the coming and going of others, the changes in style that you love and the ones that you hate? What if we were as committed to our church family as Jesus was to us on the cross? What if we stop fighting for what we think we’re entitled to because we’ve put in our time and deserve to get what we want for a change and instead thought about what others around us need to deepen their faith?
That’s the kind of church I want to lead. That’s the kind of church I want to be a part of. That’s the kind of church I want my kids to grow up in and remember when they’re older.
The thing we’re looking for we will only find when we stop looking for things and start seeking God with all our hearts.
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13.