One of the marks of being a Christian is reading and studying Holy Scripture. We must recognize, as an aside, how fortunate we are in the modern world to have printed copies of the Bible available easily and affordably. The earliest Christians did not have that luxury, as it was virtually unheard of and ghastly expensive to have written copies of Holy Scripture back then.
Anyways, back to it. I have begun to follow a reading plan that I heard Fr. John Whiteford put out awhile back. You read six chapters a day, one chapter from each of the major sections of Holy Scripture. So, a chapter from the Torah, a chapter from the Wisdom writings, a chapter from the Prophets etc…
This morning my chapter from the Gospels was Matthew 7. If you’ve never read it or at least haven’t read it recently, you should go and do that before proceeding. Jesus says something here that is absolutely terrifying. Picking up in verse 18,
“A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”
Right in the middle of this text..see that? Jesus says that not everyone who calls Him Lord and even prophesies, cast out demons and does wonderful works will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He says that not only will He say to them, “I never knew you” but also calls them workers of iniquity. What?! Think about this. These people, He says, will prophecy, cast out demons and do wonderful works in His Name. That indicates, to me, a certain amount of faith and we would even call them Christians. But He says that He will cast them out.
Because they will be known by their fruit. Because they will just hear but not do, He says. I’m noticing a trend among most people who call themselves Christian these days (including me). In fact, I had this conversation with a young man yesterday. I said to him that, if early Christians saw us today (in both our private and church lives), they would not recognize us as Christians. We are far too worldly.
We are far too worldly.
For example, I dare say that our forefathers in the faith would never have asked or thought, “if I go to a wedding, does that count as my Sunday obligation?” They would not have viewed attendance at Church as merely an obligation. I dare say that our forefathers in the faith would not have worried if the clothes they were wearing made them hip or trendy and they certainly would have made sure that their bodies were covered. Many of them lived in rags and abject poverty in the desert and monasteries and didn’t really care about the style of the day. Our forefathers would never have questioned “sacrificing” sleep for prayer or the giving of tithes because inflation has risen. Our forefathers in the faith never said they needed a vacation or that Church services lasted too long or that fasting isn’t necessary.
We are weak and worldly people, brothers and sisters. We have traded a way of Life, a manner of being for comfort. We have traded Christ for TV, fasting for fish on Fridays during Lent, and our preferences over prostration in humility before the majesty and grace of our Lord Jesus.
Will you join me as we purify our lives and hearts? We must flee from sin and run to Christ (1 Timothy 6:3-14). We must get rid of the things that hold us back from Christ (Hebrews 12:1-2). Jesus even went so far as to tell us that, if our eye causes us to sin, we should gouge it out (Matthew 5:29)! We should be ruthless with sin and the things that can lead to sin and the world. We should be ruthless with ourselves and the passions which so easily enslave us (1 Cor. 9:24-27). Do we really think we are immune from God’s wrath because we espouse a certain set of moral imperatives? Because we go to what we call church once a week and don’t sleep around? What about what we say, the words that come out of our mouths (Eph. 4:29, James 3:10, Matt. 12:34-37, Prov. 4:24, Luke 6:45)?
We are weak and worldly, brothers and sisters. Let us fall on our faces and repent. Let us cleanse from our lives, our hearts the things of the world that we have allowed to distract us from Christ. Let us throw off the things that so easily ensnare us and turn again to Christ.
Pray for me and each other.
I gotta be honest with you. I cannot stand weak people. I mean, come on! Stand up for something and don’t back down. For the love!
That probably makes me sound really harsh but stay with me and I’ll get there. First, I want to tell you a story from my own life to illustrate what I’m talking about. Anyone who knows me knows I typically have no problem voicing an opinion or taking a stand on something. I may get crushed for taking that stand and my stands have not always been the right thing, but you get the point.
This is genetic, I think. It’s in my blood. My family has never really been a back down kinda people. But, the story…So, if you’ve been reading anything I’ve written, you know I was a police officer (it feels like eons ago). I was up for promotion at one point and had to sit for an interview before the chief of police and the command staff. My chief asked me what the one character flaw was that was inexcusable for supervisors (in my opinion). I said, “Indecisiveness.” I meant that. The one thing police officers cannot be and most certainly supervisors cannot be is indecisive. Lives hang in the balance. Make a decision. But I also hate cowards. So not only should you make the decision, but you also need to be man enough to stand on that decision. If it was right or wrong, stand on it. Take your praise or take your lumps like a man (or woman).
What’s the point?
I am sick and tired of meely-mouthed, weak Christians (and my own weakness at times). I am sick of people who are Christian in name only. I am sick of watching those who claim the name of Christ fail to stand for Him and cower to the world. For far too long, Christians have (for the most part) bowed to the culture in this country and in the West and this has got to stop.
I remember “back in the day” when I made fun of conservative Christians who called for a boycott of Disney. I’m ashamed to say that I made fun of my dad for that. Well, I’m officially on that train now. It’s time for us to stop cowering, Christians. It’s time for us to worry more about our souls and the souls of our children than our comfort. The truth is that we want our cake and eat it too. We want the comforts without the cost.
We have failed to take Jesus seriously when He said things like,
“He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” (Matthew 12:30)
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)
We have failed to take the testimony of the early Christians seriously or even the Lord’s own brother when he said,
“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:17-26)
Enough with the compromise with the world! Enough with us pussyfooting around with sin and our comfort. We have compromised with the world, brothers and sisters! Let us turn away from the filth of the world. Let us repent, lest we be like the Church of Laodicea and hear Christ say to us,
“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15-16)
I commend to you the 3rd chapter of The Book of Revelation.
We quibble and we compromise, and our very souls are at stake, dear brethren. The souls of our children are at stake. Do we love Christ so little that we aren’t even willing to give up our love of our appetites?! Do we not know that eternity is much longer than the 70-80 years we live now? Do we not know that the damnation of Hell will be utter misery and depravation and torture and the absence of all that is Good and Holy and Beautiful?!
I want to leave you with a quote by St. Theophan the Recluse. He said, when commenting on the offer that we have of union with God and deification, “Know that there is no middle ground – it is all or nothing.”
There is no middle ground.
You are in or out.
We are either with Him or against Him.
We either scatter or sow.
We either gain the world or we gain our soul.
We cannot have faith without works.
We must be hot or cold.
There is no middle ground.