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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Your Fears May Oppose the Presence of Christ

I have met many people who are afraid of what they think the church might become. They have become comfortable. They do not want a change in any of the elements of worship. They oppose those who appear to make any change. Their fears may keep them from the presence of Christ.

I read a story a few days ago about a priest having difficulty with his new congregation. The parishioners said that they did not like his way of worship because he did not administer the Communion correctly. The former priest had always taken the chalice over to the radiator and touched it before giving out the sacrament. The new priest was not following the proper method because he failed to touch the radiator. The new priest contacted the old priest to ask if he actually did touch the radiator and what it had to do with the sacrament.

The old priest said that he did, indeed, touch the radiator before administering the wine. He said that he did so to discharge the static electricity so that he would not give the parishioners a shock. They had interpreted it as part of a religious ritual in following Communion correctly. They did not like the new priest because he did not follow the correct methods in "the Church of the Holy Radiator!"

Ultimately, it is not about the method of worship but the fear of change which causes people so much discomfort. It takes them outside their comfort zone.

The method of worship can easily become the object of worship. The fear of having to change oneself or be changed can be a powerful force. It can make people think they are acting righteously when they are, in fact, being very sinful. It can even make them oppose the presence of Christ.

Jesus casts the money changers out of the Temple. He was opposed to His Father's House becoming a den of thieves. The process of selling clean animals for the sacrifice and the exchange of money to pay the temple tax had been going on for a long time. People had accepted it as part of the religious ritual of coming to the Temple. The chief priests and the teachers saw it as part of the process of worshiping God. They did not know how they could maintain the Temple and its practices if the money changers and those who sold clean animals were removed. They had become so accustomed to this method that they were afraid of Jesus. They wanted to get rid of Him because He was changing the way they had done things.

Of two things we can be assured: Things are going to change  and people are going to judge you.  The chief priests and teachers decided to judge Jesus because He was bringing change. Their actions would forever bring judgment upon themselves.

The church is changing or it is dying. Dead things don't change.

Not all changes are good. The litmus test must be the answers to these questions: Does this change bring people into the presence of Christ? Does it bring them to salvation? Does it bring them to worship the Lord? Does it reach people- not for attendance sake- but so that the presence of Christ will change their lives? Is it helping people become mature, victorious followers of Jesus? If it does, we must adapt even though it may take more energy and "feel" wrong at times.

Frankly, your fears may keep you from the presence of Christ. Your opposition to the change may be an opposition to Christ. You, too, may want to get rid of Him so you can keep things exactly the way they are.

Mark 11:18 (NIV)
18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

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