Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
January 21, 2007
Misconceptions about the church you can give up for Lent
There are some misconceptions about the church that should be exposed and discarded. Unfortunately there are people inside and outside the church who keep these false ideas alive.
One goes like this: “All the church wants is your money.” The fellow who goes to church only three or four times a year always shows up on Stewardship Sunday when the sermon is about sacrificial giving or tithing. Having heard one sermon about money on a Sunday in October, some people conclude, “All the preacher ever talks about is money!”
Well, any preacher worth his salt had better preach about giving because Jesus talked about money more than any other subject. Unless you preach about money, you are preaching a truncated gospel. Many pastors do not preach often about money out of fear; they are afraid people will complain that “all you want is my money.”
Actually the church can use your money. It is happy to receive your money. Christian work can be done with your money. The church may even need your money. But as any good pastor knows, what the church wants, and what God wants, is you, not your money.
If the church can get you, then your money will follow. You will give to support what you love. Wise pastors then work diligently to persuade people to give themselves to God, knowing that the money will take care of itself.
Take my wife or my children for example. Because I love my wife, she can have my money or anything else I can give her. The same is true with my children. Love results in giving or it is not really love.
Once you fall in love with Jesus, your wallet and your checkbook fly open. Jesus died for the church. He is the Head of the church. So I can hardly love him without loving his church. A beautiful thing happens: once you start giving you realize that you can never out-give God. Then the question becomes not how much must I give but how much more can I give.
There is a similar misconception about bad habits. Some people think the church wants them to stop smoking, drinking, using drugs, or reading pornographic material. They think “bad” people do these things and God wants them to be good. So if they stop, then they will become “good” people.
That is a false assumption. The people who stop sometimes become so self-righteous and “spiritual” that they are repulsive to everybody around them, not to mention God. You can quit all your bad habits and still be on your way to hell because of your stinking pride.
Dozens of times people have come to an altar to pray with me – and put a package of cigarettes in my hand. What they want me to understand is that they are giving up smoking so God will be pleased. In their minds giving me their cigarettes is symbolic of their decision. Makes sense doesn’t it?
No! God does not want your cigarettes; he wants you! Forget the cigarettes, the porn, and all the other junk, and give yourself to God. Once you have done that you realize that you will have a better life by giving up your destructive habits. There are things you will not do simply because now you are in love with Jesus. But even without your bad habits you will not be “good;” you will still be a sinner saved by grace – that thankful for God’s mercy!
Listen to your preacher long enough and he will help you see that what the church is all about is not a list of do’s and don’ts. It is about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Once you have that, everything else will fall into place.
That brings up another misconception – that God wants you to “go to church.” Wrong again! Going to church every Sunday for 50 years will not do you any good if you have never given yourself to God. All you will think about is how sorry the sermon was or how badly the choir sang. You will sit in worship bored stiff, desperately trying to hold on until the benediction.
Actually, giving yourself to God, with no reservations, will clear up a host of misconceptions about the church! + + + +