Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Decay of the Church's Sacrificial Zeal

A great little reading from Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 947–948. Here it is...

Many churches in America are looking less like armies engaged in war and more like La-Z-Boy chairs, from which drowsy Christians are saying, “Don’t wake me up!” Who among us hasn’t seen this decay? Who cannot see a difference between the ancient church and us? In former days, a fire burned within Christians, but our hearts seldom, if ever, burn within us. Formerly, Christians seemed driven by a holy passion, but now little seems to motivate us. Christians of old were at war with their sin and strove for holiness by heavenly strength, but we seem to tolerate sin rather easily and are satisfied to do the minimum of what God requires of us.

What has happened? God did not change; the power of salvation did not change; the call to holiness did not change; the threat of the enemy did not change. So why are so many Christians drowsy rather than being on fire for God?

The Puritan John Reynolds (1667–1727), in A Discourse Concerning Sacred Zeal, asked,
How long shall we lie still under our formal complaints of the decay of Christian piety? How long shall we idly see the retirement of warm religion from the hearts and bosoms of its professors? Are we willing to yield to all the lukewarmness and degeneracy that has overspread us? [Even] the truly pious are dull and heavy in their religion, [and] march on wearily in their appointed race, as if either their Lord had lost His glory or His promise to them; or they [have lost] their faith and hope in Him.… Is it not time to proclaim among the churches, the message of the Mediator sent from heaven to the Church of Laodicea: Be zealous and repent?
Like the Laodicean church, too many of us have grown lukewarm. We are not zealous for the things of God. Where today do you find zeal for the honor and glory and holiness of God? Where do you see zeal to cut off the offending hand and pluck out the offending eye? Where is zeal for the advance of Christ’s kingdom, which overcomes all obstacles and perseveres to the end? Our lives are not marked by zeal, nor do they reflect the sacrifices necessary to strengthen and embolden true Christian zeal.