“I advise you, O daughter, not to fret about your parents in your homeland far away. Your royal husband delights in your beauty. Reverence him, for he is your lord. Psalms 45:10-11 (TLB)
Ancient kings had a son or daughter marry the offspring of other kings largely to cement treaties between two rulers; not much romance in that, eh? In this Psalm the Israelite king is offering advice to a foreign girl brought in to marry the prince. His advice runs simple – cut the ties, your umbilical cord to the family of your birth; you now have a life here. Throw your whole life into loving your husband-Prince; you won’t regret it!
Some would call this “spiritualizing the text,” but I don’t believe it’s a far leap to compare the bride of Psalm 45 with the church, the Bride of Christ (Revelation 21:9). And, to draw-out the comparison, God, the king is telling me, part of the church, to love, serve and honor Jesus the Prince. Jesus reinforced this when he declared that following him must be so passionate that, your love and devotion to Christ would be so strong that your relationships with all other people look like you hate them (Luke 14:26).
There are a couple of questions I hear, read and see worked out in real time today:
Is the church on the way out? And if so, why?
There are no short or easy answers to these questions; there are only opinions.
A growing segment of our culture says “Yes, the church, particularly as an institution, is on the way out…because the church is irrelevant and won’t see things the way they are.” I have a knee-jerk to that kind of thinking which snorts-back: The church (bride of Christ) sees things the way they ARE, and prays for the way things SHOULD BE.
But reality speaks louder still; a spiritually-anemic church has still-weaker prayers!
Or worse; a spiritually-anemic church has no prayer-life at all. And so, we live in twilight, the end of the day; the sun is setting and we bask in the fading light of what used to be, while the encroaching darkness begins to take hold.
Nineteenth century Baptist theologian, Alexander MacLaren wrote:
There are many Christian people that have only religion enough to make them uncomfortable, only enough to make religion to them a system of regulations, negative and positive, the reasonableness and sweetness of which they but partially apprehend. They must not do this because it is forbidden; they ought to do that because it is commanded. They would much rather do the forbidden thing, and they have no wish to do the commanded thing, and so they live in twilight, and when they come beside a man who really has been walking in the light of Christ’s face, the language of his experience, though it be but a transcript of facts, sounds to them all unreal and fanatical….A languid Church breeds unbelief as surely as a decaying oak does fungus.
What a picture – a languid (anemic, sickly, worldly) church, living in its self-created twilight, the very image of death. Where did today’s culture get the idea the church is dying?
So…is the church done? Is there no hope?
My short answer – done? Maybe.
Second short answer – Hope? If we’re living in twilight, created by our lack of passion for Christ, but rather loving the old life we should have left behind: political influence, stature, respect…the appearance of being right, and not enough commitment to do right….
Well…this leads to two more conclusions:
1. There’s no hope if we won’t turn to Christ and leave the old world behind.
2. There’s always hope for those who turn to Christ in faith and total trust, with commitment to leave the old life behind. Always!
It’s Lent – what did you expect?
Time to put off the old garments; let Christ build that “new creation” in you.
Title Photo: http://onebigphoto.com/sun-dusk-at-great-ice-fall/