Rebuild Christ's Church
"Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while [the Lord's house] lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of Hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. go up to the hills and bring wood and build the [Lord's] house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord." (Haggai 1:4-8).
The Babylonian Empire destroyed Jerusalem and the Holy Temple in 586 B.C. The Jews were sent into exile, but in 538 B.C. King Cyrus allowed them to return to rebuild the city and Temple. The Jews neglected the Temple, however, choosing instead to build beautiful houses for themselves. God's own people ignored Him and focused all of their energy on their own worldly desires. God sent a message through His prophet Haggai that it was time for His people to stop focusing on their own selfishness and rebuild the Lord's Temple.
God's people living in the West today have largely taken a similar attitude. Christ's Church lies in ruins, destroyed by secular values, the devil's craftiness, and our own selfishness and apathy. Meanwhile "Christians" focus on ourselves. We are more motivated to spread our influence than spread God's word; to raise our brand than raise up disciples; to grow our investment portfolio than grow in faith. We're more concerned with our children's grades and athletic abilities than with their spiritual growth. We are prideful, greedy, and selfish creatures who view God as a magic genie, a doting old grandfather, or some kind of self-help guru.
Church is a place we go to sometimes because we feel guilty, or to make business and social contacts, or to be entertained by an exhilarating Christian rock concert followed by a short motivational message designed to make us feel really good about ourselves. But we don't need to go to church if we're too tired, or if our kid has a soccer game, or if we just don't feel like it. God understands. He's cool.
Christian is a label we give ourselves sometimes when the mood strikes, but it doesn't really have any meaning. After all Jesus isn't the only way to Heaven, and we don't really believe any of that nonsense about Hell and sin=death. Since God loves everybody He would never try to change us or force His truth on us. He is quite happy for us to live our own truth, and as long as what we do makes us feel good and nobody is getting hurt it can't be a sin.
The early church saw things quite differently. Followers of the Way, as they used to be called, refused to declare any deity equal with Christ even when threatened with death. It was generally not a quick and painless death either, but death by crucifixion, being torn apart by wild animals for sport in the coliseum, or being hung on a pole and lit on fire to light the streets of Rome. Eleven of the Twelve (Matthias taking Judas' place) Apostles were killed for their faith. Only John survived and he was exiled to the island of Patmos where he spent his old age sleeping in a cave and using rocks for a bed.
Christians in the developing world often see things differently, too. Being threatened with torture and death by Communist soldiers, Hindu radicals, or Muslim fanatics has a way of weeding out those who are not all-in for Jesus. For these Christians, God is not a genie in a bottle or self-help guru, but the all-powerful Creator and Ruler of the Universe. He is not here to serve us, but rather we are here to serve Him. These people face true persecution, starvation, disease, extreme poverty, unsanitary conditions, and a host of other terrible situations, yet they stand strong in their faith. In fact, often times, their faith is all they have. Their hope in salvation through Jesus Christ is enough to pull them through circumstances that we cannot even imagine.
How would my faith stack up next to theirs? I fear not well. But perhaps it is time to strengthen it, to face adversity, to live my life as the early Church did. Perhaps it's time to become a follower of the Way. With help from the Holy Spirit, maybe I can take my eyes off of myself and my own selfish desires for long enough to see the path Christ has illuminated for me. Maybe if enough of us in the West can step out of our comfort zones and follow Jesus out of the mire of vainglory, carnal pleasures, and worldly pursuits we can rebuild His Church. Maybe--just maybe--the Church could be a lamp shining through the darkness of this world, calling people toward the Truth, that salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone.
Lord, I am filled with pride, selfishness, greed and vainglory. My heart is dark oh Lord and desperately needs Your holy light to shine inside of it. Please God, lead me out of the darkness of the world. Shine Your light throughout this land to bring my brothers and sisters out as well. Remake our hearts Lord, so that we care not for our own glory, but only for Yours. Awaken us Lord so that we have the strength, faith, and will to rebuild Your Church.
R.C. VanLandingham has been a lawyer, Marine, and historian. He currently writes Christian fantasy novels. His Peter Puckett series has been described as "Harry Potter meets Narnia!" Find his books here!