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Ever Increasing Influence, part 2
Last week I had a chance to see an old 1970’s TV broadcast of C.M. Ward preaching. (C.M. Ward was an old-time Pentecostal preacher - I have some of his old sermons in print form – good stuff). He made a statement that really impacted me. He said, “The Holy Spirit is the vicar of Christ on earth today.”
Just think of what that means! The term “vicar” means someone who acts for someone who has a higher-ranking than them. In the church world, that would mean that the Vicar of Christ, is someone who acts for Christ. Mere man cannot do that – however, any person who houses the Spirit of God can do that! God’s Spirit, is the Vicar of Christ, played out through our life styles!
The world today has a difficult time believing that we are true representatives of Christ, which is very similar to how the Pharisees had a difficult time believing Jesus was God. In both cases it’s because we don’t act in the fashion they think we should. Jesus twisted Himself and became like us to ultimately provide forgiveness for our sin.
The world tends to think that Jesus should change the world rather than them. That is why they will say things like; “If God is a good God why is there so much evil in the world?” They think that God’s primary task should be that of making this world a better place to live in – when in reality God’s primary task is to find a place to live within the hearts of people. His presence is what then changes the world. The world just doesn’t understand that when bad things happen their response should be: “I sure wish all people were like Jesus; then these bad things wouldn’t happen.”
Instead they blame Jesus as if He had something to do with it. Isn’t it true that if all people were like Christ, bad things would not happen? Therefore the question should not be, “Why would a good God let bad things happen.” It should be, “Why won’t people let Jesus into their lives?” “Why are they not allowing Jesus to influence them?”
Mark 2:16“When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked His disciples: “Why does He eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" Jesus had dinner at Levi’s house where there were common people, but especially “sinners.”
Down through the ages, that has become more and more the picture we have of Christ. Though He was fully God, He was also fully man. He came and lived with us, He talked to us, He ate with us, and He performed His first miracle at a wedding dance, which those who tend towards legalism wish He would not have shown up at. He most likely would have gone to a Twins or Wild game with us or maybe a Packers game – but that’s where He would have drawn the line.
I’ve titled this message, “Ever Increasing Influence,” because that is how our life is to be. Jesus should be having an Ever Increasing Influence in our lives. However, I was reading something the other day that stated just the opposite of that. It was about the diminishing influence of the church on our society. We often say that the reason we are not influencing society today in the same way we used to is because people are not coming to church like they used to. In one sense that’s true – only to the degree the church used to be a bigger part of our society and people did “just show up.” But that trend is changing.
I was talking to a man who now lives here but he is from England. He said that when he goes back to London he notices that people rarely talk about the church. In America we might hear someone in the grocery line casually mention that fact that they were in church last Sunday and we don’t think much about it. But in London if a person were to say they were in church last Sunday everyone within hearing of that would literally stop and look at you like you just said something very strange, “You went where?!” He said the church does not have much influence on the world over there.
Let me quote from a book I read a few years ago. “The diminishing influence of the American church on American society is not simply because fewer people are going to church, but rather, fewer people are going to church because of the diminishing influence of Christ on the church itself.”
Medication: A Merry Heart
Three friends – a surgeon, an engineer, and a politician -- were discussing which profession was the oldest.
The surgeon said: “Eve was created from Adam’s rib - a surgical procedure. My profession must be the oldest!”
The engineer replied: “Before Adam and Eve, order was created out of chaos. That was an engineering job! My profession is the oldest.”
Then the politician said, “Yes, but who do you suppose created the chaos?”
St Mark’s Community Church, Janesville
Verse of the Week: 1 Samuel 17:37a
Today’s readings: 1 Kings 7 & 2 Chronicles 4