Half-hearted Christianity is the mark of the American church. We are infested with doctrinal compromise, cheap professions, nominal commitment, moral failure, and half-baked passion. No doubt most of you would agree. But I think that one of our biggest weaknesses in the conservative church is that we tend to think that these problems are limited to the “liberal” church. In other words, we don’t think that we’re half-hearted or lukewarm. We think that only “they” are — the people out there, the people who only claim to be Christians, those who are the real hypocrites (outside of our circles, of course). We can tend to be like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14 who looks with contempt on those around him, living under the blinding assumptions of self-righteousness.
If the truth were known, we are actually far more dispassionate, materialistic, compromised, and spiritually lethargic than we would like to imagine. Too often we grow sluggish in our commitment to God’s Word, back away from opportunities to serve, find ourselves with no love for unbelievers, flinch in the face of adversity and opposition, and find our identity more in our personalities and talents and jobs and financial status and friends than in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are far more worldly and apathetic than we know.
What is the greatest challenge to this spiritual apathy and compromise? What is the main antidote to lukewarmness and worldliness? What has the greatest power to draw us away from earthly interests and to capture our hearts with the things of heaven? A vision of the splendor and supremacy of our great God.
Many of the old hymn-writers knew this: “Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. Thou my best thought by day or by night; waking or sleeping, Thy presence, my light.” “Immortal, invisible, God only wise; in light inaccessible, hid from our eyes. Most holy, most glorious, the Ancient of Days; Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise!” “Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”
Every single honest person reading this has seasons in which God does not seem to be glorious, when divine grace does not inspire gratitude and awe, when the cross of Christ ceases to be amazing, when the call to discipleship does not carry the weight that it ought to carry. We struggle daily to fix our eyes on things above, to disentangle our hearts from the cares of this world, and to love the Lord our God with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength. We are frail and fragile people. Our spiritual passions are easy to smother and hard to kindle.
We turn to so many earthly methods to inspire and motivate ourselves, to help us get out of bed in the morning. We feed ourselves with so many things that may be good but are not best. All the while, what we really need to fuel and fire our souls is a biblical vision of the majesty and preeminence of God. We need to saturate ourselves in the character of the Triune God who was and who is and who is to come. We need to drink deeply of the perfections of Jesus Christ who is the exact representation of God, radiating the glory of His Father. And we desperately need the indwelling Spirit to fuel and control us from day to day so that we might be filled with the love of God overflowing in the fruits of the Spirit. We need, above all things, to see God.
John Piper said it best: “People are starving for the greatness of God.”
These will be my first words to the Bereans Sunday School Class at Placerita Baptist Church tomorrow morning. We will then turn to 1 Kings 18, and I will pray that God will light a raging fire of covenant loyalty in our hearts like the fire that fell on Mount Carmel 2,800 years ago. Surely He deserves a full and fierce allegiance.