loadAfter hearing some famous pastors lately, reading contemporary Christians authors, viewing popular Christian Facebook Fan Pages, and attending some new churches for informational purposes, I have seen one common thread in a lot of contemporary teaching: the messages are not insightful or challenging, and often feel watered down intellectually or theologically to the point where they are “acceptable” or popular, but they do little to bring people to spiritual maturity

I do not mean this in a negative way, but I am making this observation based on years of knowing Christians friends who do not have relationships with God that are truly life-changing and vibrant, which leads them to struggle with crippling emotional issues, latch on to crutches of all types rather than trust God, and pursue him as if he is an after-thought rather the primary focus of their lives

Jesus died so that we could have freedom, not live as those crushed under the weight of the world and our own sin

Part of being a light unto the world means Christians should be living examples of freedom, not living as contradictions, bound in slavery

Galatians 5:1
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery

2 Peter 2:19
…for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
You are not your own; you were bought at a price

In no way am I critical of other people’s relationships, but the result of not having an intimate, mature connection to God is that even though people go to church, read the Bible, listen to praise music, and do their best to be “good”, they have not come to a place where their relationship with God changes them to the point where they are healed emotionally, become spiritually mature, and start producing a righteous crop as Jesus intended, but most importantly, they do not enter into an intimate relationship with God on a personal level

Doing “all the stuff” does not make us close to God, it just makes us religious

I do not say this to condemn anyone as we are all on a journey towards greater righteousness and wisdom, but after looking at a large number of popular teachings, music, theology, blogs, Fan Pages, etc…, it is easy to see that Christians are not being fed messages of deep wisdom that reveal intimate parts of God’s character and righteousness

By making messages “seeker friendly” and geared towards the masses, this often results in causing them to be watered down, resulting in a “feel good” faith that does not accurately reflect God’s personality and character in key areas (especially on resisting sin and gaining godly wisdom), and usually focuses on “Christian cheerleader” type messages that pump people up but do not leave them with long-term wisdom or growth

Here are some examples:

“Like this if you think Jesus is awesome!”

“Like this picture of a puppy if you think God’s Little Helpers are adorable!”

“You will go to heaven no matter what you do, yay!”

Aside from being generally pointless, and often alienating to our friends when they appear in our news feeds, these teachings and snippets tend to anchor themselves in the promotion of God’s promises and blessings rather than revealing his actual character, and they rarely discuss the conditions necessary to actually receive the blessings they promote

Most of all, these messages do not help people achieve intimacy or spiritual strength–this means people focus on what they want, rather than being taught, let alone follow, the steps it takes to have a life-altering relationship with God

I mean honestly, I do not remember anyone’s life changing because they read puppies were cute, and people typically do not stop themselves from sinning when they think there are no consequences and instant forgiveness waiting for them regardless of whatever choice they make

Sin hurts God’s feelings tremendously, but if people are stuck in the place of “God will always forgive me no matter what I do”, it will be very difficult for them to suddenly understand they are hurting God and pushing him away through sin, because they will be constantly focused on their own guilt (the enemy loves playing people like yo-yos with their own guilt and shame)

Isaiah 59:2
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear

I will not argue that a “bright outlook” message here and there has its place, but this type of “promises first” approach to faith ends up, intentionally or not, “baiting” people into becoming Christians. In these cases, it is very difficult for people to mature past wanting God’s promises and blessings, which leads their prayers and relationship to be about what they want from God, not about drawing near out of love and a genuine desire to know him intimately

Ecclesiastes 5:1
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice offools, who do not know that they do wrong

Another aspect of this, is that some people try to make their teachings and messages accessible to the largest possible audiences

For example, people teach that salvation is for everyone who says “Jesus is Lord” and believes he exists, and that they will go to heaven regardless of how they live their lives

…seriously?

If this were true, Jesus would be a liar

So would Paul, Peter, etc…

Read the verses below and judge for yourself whether these are messages spoken by shepherds who are eager to please their congregation by sharing a message of “you get into heaven no matter what happens, yay!”

Matthew 7:21-23
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. any will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

(Note that Jesus is not talking about “fake” Christians who just act religious, he is talking about people who have gifts of prophecy, can drive out demons, and also perform miracles–this means they have a relationship with God and did great things, but it did not mean they were guaranteed a place in heaven as a result!)

1 Peter 4:18
If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?

Hebrews 10:26-27
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God

To be fair, even though some people distort the word of God for their own benefit, others mean well, but since they are not mature themselves, they still lead people astray with inaccurate teachings all the same

2 Timothy 4:3
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear

Luke 6:39-40
Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher

Hosea 4:6
…my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge

The last verse is especially important, as if people’s faith is based on “feel good” promises, it will do little to carry them through difficult times–making them easy targets for the enemy to take down through trials or temptation

Guidance on developing an intimate relationship with God involves the “standard” encouragement to study the Bible and live righteously, but it also means eating food meant for the mature, and evolving past “seeker friendly” messages that do not line up with God’s Word–no matter how uncomfortable they sound at first

Rather than react to things we do not like with statements like “that’s not *my* Jesus!” and get offended because something sounds “outrageous”, we should have an ear to hear, and make sure our points of view are grounded in scripture, not just our personal preferences for who we want God to be

To get close to God in terms of spiritual maturity and wisdom, I have found no replacement for studying the Bible eagerly as it reveals so much about God’s character and personality–the perfect love we should be modeling ourselves after!

And of course, living righteously is key

Hebrews 5:14
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil

1 Corinthians 2:6
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing

2 Timothy 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth

Isaiah 66:2
This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word

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