I visited two churches last Sunday. The first church was a non-denominational Christian church that I have liked and have visited four times. It feels like more, since I sometimes listened to the church’s sermons during the week! The second church was a small Baptist church. We sang old hymns, and that felt nostalgic. I also noticed that on one wall there were prayer requests, and on the opposite wall there were pieces of paper about answered prayer. I thought that was cool!
If there was a common theme in the two services, it was about making Christ the center of one’s life. At the non-denominational church, the pastor’s daughter was preaching. (And, by the way, it does impress me that two of the pastor’s children are serving God as pastors of this church.) She was going through the Book of Ezra. She was talking about how the Jews returning from exile wanted to create a community that worshiped God, and they were disciplined and fully committed to that vision. This church does have its share of prosperity Gospel rhetoric, but the speaker was saying that life is not about making money and having a good job and living in a nice house. It is about worshiping the God who made us. She told us about a book that she was reading, in which the author lamented that so few people are willing to commit to a cause larger than themselves. She said that Christians have as part of their DNA (figuratively speaking) a desire to be part of something larger, of bringing others to the worship of God.
She also said that many Christians like to box up their Christianity and treat it as something that they do on Sunday mornings, when it is supposed to permeate their entire lives. That reminded me of a sermon that her dad preached, which I heard earlier that week. He had an interesting interpretation of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis 2-3, and why God forbade Adam and Eve to eat from it. He said that eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil put Adam and Eve in the position of deciding for themselves when they wanted God to be a part of their lives, and when they did not. And that reminds me, somewhat but not totally, of what Abraham Kuyper said about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in his book Common Grace: that it had to do with Adam and Eve deciding for themselves what was good and evil, rather than accepting God’s standard.
The pastor at the Baptist church was preaching about Matthew 6:19-21, which states (in the KJV):
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
The pastor was saying that we should place our current desires and the things that we treasure within the context of eternity. We should value eternal things, because eternity lasts forever. He painted a pretty compelling picture of how short this life is.
Ordinarily, I get defensive when I hear sermons about being 100 per cent committed to God. I doubt that is even possible: after all, we cannot spend all of our time in prayer, or in church, or reading the Bible. Many of us have to work! And is it wrong to have time that is non-religious? Do we have to be thinking about religion all of the time?
These sermons did not put me on the defensive, though. It’s all right to have a job and hobbies. But I believe that people should also devote time to the spiritual. And, yes, I would also say that all that a person does should proceed, in some sense, from a person’s spiritual life. A Christian employee should be a hard worker. When a Christian watches a TV program, she does so from a Christian worldview, one that is in reference to God. When a Christian plays, at some point he should give thanks to God for giving him the ability and opportunity for recreation. A Christian should continually place life in a larger context, and God should be an integral part of his or her everyday life.
The part about being committed to a larger cause, which was in the first service, certainly stood out to me. There was a time when I was a committed evangelical, rooting for people to come to Christ. Nowadays, I am not so much. I wonder if I truly am rooting for a larger cause, at this stage of my life. Part of me fears people converting to conservative Christianity: will they become right-wing zealots who think it’s their way or the highway? I don’t particularly want to wrestle with that struggle right now, so I will stop here!