Dear Bride of Christ,

Complacent in Zion?

Elect Lady: your forerunner, physical Israel, also was to love the Lord her God with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. She, too, was warned to be alert and self-controlled. Yet she succumbed to the world's call to be complacent and self-indulgent. Israel's spiritual stupor caused your Groom intense pain. He warned her time and again through the prophets. Please, please look through this window into His heart:

"Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria…You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end" (Amos 6:1,3-7).

If any of your elect children long for Jesus' appearing, will they not reject the idolatry of ease and pleasure and stir themselves to care deeply about the spiritual ruin they see around them in the house of God? Will they not, as the Scriptures say, "Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace" with God? Will the cry of their hearts not be to "live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" as they "wait for the blessed hope"? Will their deepest longing not be that they and all of God's people remain "pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness"?

Those thoughts can be frightening, because of abuses we've witnessed. Most of the efforts I have seen to pursue corporate righteousness and godliness fall in two categories. There are those who would attempt to incite alertness and self control among your members through brow-beating, scolding, and manipulation of emotions with guilt-laden "sermons." It is as though the Word of God said that if people feel rotten enough about themselves, sin will automatically stop happening! Certainly we need to rebuke sin and "expose the fruitless deeds of darkness." But continual public verbal lashings only dishearten those who care--and harden those who don't. Like the Pharisees, we can "tie up heavy loads" for others, but not lift a finger to help carry them. And when has "getting tough from the pulpit," regardless of how high the motive, done much more than weigh people down?

Then there are those among your members who attempt to achieve righteousness through regimentation and control. I have seen entire assemblies organized into a pyramid of relationships. Each person is assigned other members to be "under" them or "over" them as "accountability partners." There is a chain of reporting relationships, so that the people on top can keep rigid control of the rest. The goal is somehow to restrain sensual indulgence by having a "big brother" to watch over the members. The fruit I personally have witnessed involves a whole lot of unhappiness, external conformity with internal turmoil, hypocrisy, and ongoing sin.

Dear Lady, let me remind you how your people lived when your faith was young. There was a great fear of God and respect of His word among your people and their unsaved neighbors--yet without guilt-laden sermonizing. Your members were "joined and knit together," meeting together daily in public and from house to house with "glad and sincere hearts"--yet without any assigned "discipling relationships" or "cell groups."

Your people then simply loved Jesus. They weren't pursuing life style, career, or family goals with Jesus somehow tacked on. They were living for Him 168 hours per week, with life style, career, and family fitting in as ways of showing that passionate devotion to Him. And your people simply loved one another. Even their enemies had to admit it. The self-sacrifice, the consistency, the purity, the focus of their relationships was unearthly.

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