"The Way Things Used To Be"
Dear Calvary Family,
I have lived long enough to experience many changes in the church that at one time would have been the basis of a church split or call into question the salvation of a person’s very soul. Too often, what should have been seen as incidental to our faith were used as foundational standards for what was acceptable and who was welcome. Let me go down memory lane, with a little bit of my tongue in my cheek. These are the way things used to be:
As I grew up, we sang from hymnals, all four verses, and sometimes we might stand up. Occasionally, women on verse two and men on verse three, to be radical worshipers. No other external expression of worship in the pew zone was acceptable. If you raised your hands, palm facing backward, you were one of those Pentecostals there to split our church by getting ready to speak in tongues. The organ and piano were the only instruments allowed in the “sanctuary.” And, godly churches had pews. Some padding was acceptable. Chairs, cushioned or wood, were not allowed since the evil movie theaters used them.
When the Beatles came to America and Elvis swayed his hips on the Ed Sullivan show, some thought it was the “birth pangs” of the end times. They sang songs that said “I want to hold your hand.” Such open displays of affection encouraged by the Beatles were surely going to lead to premarital sex. The Beatles had long hair and used loud electric guitars and drums. Use of such instruments in the “sanctuary” would have split our church. They were of the devil because they had a beat that makes you want to dance, and dancing leads to premarital sex. Ushers may have prevented any long haired hippie from entering the “sanctuary.” Long hair leads to drugs and, you guessed it, premarital sex. While I did not see a sign that said, “No Tie, No Coat, No Worship Service For You,” it was implied all around the “narthex.” And don’t call it a lobby, that is what evil movie theaters call it.
Try walking into our church with one of those new-fangled translations and you may be stopped. Only the Schofield Study Bible King James translation with black leather, red letters, and pages well warn so none are still stuck together was seen as the ultimate mature Christian. So what if you do not say “thee, thou or thine” when you talk, you sound more spiritual when you use them in prayers. We allowed for those indented tabs that helped find certain books like the Habakkuk, but better to have the location of each book in the Bible memorized and never go to the table of contents. Someone may notice.
I could go on, but enough of memory lane. As I look back on some of those areas of my Christian past, I still at times feel pangs of guilt from standards that were imposed on me (no playing cards, movie theaters and going to the grocery store on Sunday afternoon) that had nothing to do with true worship of our Lord or Christian maturity. But I am thankful for the good hearts and godly people that the Lord used to impact my life. I am reminded that relationships, not rules, form the best of Christ in each of us.
Today, we must be careful to not impose our own “man-made” standards that prevent authentic spiritual growth. We must always strive for what Jesus Christ said were the most important biblical truths and way of life and not be distracted by the incidental opinions that can divide us.
In contrast to my upbringing in the church, we must focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ, and live according to the most important command God has prescribed: To Love our Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Then use that same love to love our neighbor, no matter who they are, what their lifestyle may be, or how far away from our Lord and His truth they may seem. Just love them like Jesus would.
This Sunday we will explore these areas again as Paul teaches us about our freedom in the gospel and how to overcome the man-made restrictions that steal that freedom from us. Who do you know that needs to experience the true freedom only Jesus can provide? Reach out and invite them to join you at 9am or 11am.
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