Have the ones you feel called to serve been vaccinated with religion?
We all know what a vaccine is in this day and age. The basic principle is simple: if you place some dead disease into a person’s body, the body will react as if it were alive and do its best to fight it off. In the process the body will form antigens, dedicated warriors, to combat this specific disease. Then if the person is infected by the real disease, the antigens are already present and kill the invader.
Most of the church in America is inoculated. The sheep have been given a dead religion of which the main effect is to make the person immune to live religion—the real thing. This is a doubly dangerous vaccine however because it infects the host with the disease of religion. The result is millions of people who believe they are Christians, but who only practice the form of religion denying the power thereof.
As some of you are aware, Paul told us this was coming in his second letter to Timothy—I’ll paraphrase parts of it. If you are not familiar with the verses you really need to read them.
But realize this, in the last days perilous times will come, for mankind will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, verbally abusive, disobedient to parents,[and on & on]…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of religion but denying the power of it—avoid people like this… [II Timothy 3:1-7 MVP]
The greek for perilous is chalepos we get the following meaning in the lexicon
1) hard to do, to take, to approach
2) hard to bear, troublesome, dangerous
a) harsh, fierce, savage
The greek for times is kairos which means a limited time, a fixed and definite time, the time when things are brought to crisis, the decisive period for which we have been waiting. Additional meanings suggest this is a relatively short time within the last days. This is a time when self-centered people focus on the financial side of life but there is no humility here. They are certain they are doing fine. They boast of their achievements. They actually believe aphorisms like “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps”, becoming a self-made man or woman. Their insecurities make them arrogant and verbally abusive. Their parents can’t tell them anything—after all what could they know about plugged-in digital age? Look at how the New Living tells the tale:
They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. [II Timothy 3-5 NLT]
As we read this we can surely see we are in those days. Young people who are not that way get daily teaching on how to become that type of person in countless sitcoms and weekly dramas. The movies have become propaganda for this type of life style. These people are often religious. But, they only have just enough religion to become immune to it. So, how do we minister to them and lead them out of the darkness?
Religion will not work!
While it is true that real religion is a good thing, those inoculated get no benefit from it. The enemy has done a number on the American church. Most of the pastors in the church are no longer believers.
In 2004 George Barna took an extensive survey of American pastors, and I quote:
What constitutes a “biblical” worldview? Christian researcher George Barna says it includes a belief in absolute moral truth as defined by scripture, as well as acceptance of six core biblical beliefs: the accuracy of biblical teaching, the sinless nature of Jesus, the literal existence of Satan, the omnipotence and omniscience of God, salvation by grace alone, and the personal responsibility to evangelize.
In a recent survey of Protestant pastors conducted by the Barna Research Group, only half (51%) passed the test on whether they possess a biblical worldview.
Barna told us several years ago that something like 62% of pastors, priests, and ministers no longer believe in the virgin birth. Huge numbers do not believe in real miracles and try to explain them scientifically. Most have bought into the “old earth theory” put forth by the religion of evolution. If you believe that— then Jesus lied in the Gospels when He talked about Adam & Eve being created in the beginning [Matthew 19:4–6] and we’re off to the races.
The statistics are far worse for Americans in general. In 2009 Barna did another followup poll:
Overall, the current research revealed that only 9% of all American adults have a biblical worldview. Among the sixty subgroups of respondents that the survey explored was one defined by those who said they have made a personal to commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in their life today and that they are certain that they will go to Heaven after they die only because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior. Labeled “born again Christians,” the study discovered that they were twice as likely as the average adult to possess a biblical worldview. However, that meant that even among born again Christians, less than one out of every five (19%) had such an outlook on life.
The figures are appalling for young adults and liberals:
The research data showed that one pattern emerged loud and clear: young adults rarely possess a biblical worldview. The current study found that less than one-half of one percent of adults in the Mosaic generation – i.e., those aged 18 to 23 – have a biblical worldview, compared to about one out of every nine older adults.
Other groups that possess a below average likelihood of having a biblical worldview included people who describe themselves as liberal on social and political matters (also less than one-half of one percent); Catholics (2%); Democrats (4%) and residents of the Northeast (4%).
In 2011, a poll found many more appalling stats. Here’s one more: In particular, 84% of Christian 18- to 29-year-olds admit that they have no idea how the Bible applies to their field or professional interests.
We are not saved by religion
Though all the stats above give us cause for concern, we all know the spiritual shape of the people we meet and those who we feel called to love, serve, and mentor. The true good news is that the Holy Spirit is not limited by religion or these polls. In fact, Jesus never had any trouble with people. The only ones he rebuked and chastised were the religious. All that did was get Him killed, but then that was the point, right?
True religion where people worship Jesus and the Father in Spirit and in truth [John 4:23–24] is a wonderful thing. Once you get a person born from above and saved, true religion will be an amazing blessing to him or her. The key is simple, they must be born again. So, the question becomes: how do you do that?
You focus on Jesus
You talk about Jesus: His love, His joy, His power, His wisdom, His Love. You acknowledge within yourself that the Holy spirit is doing all He can and that He can do it better than anyone. In fact, Here’s a checklist:
- You cannot lead anyone to the Lord: only the Holy spirit can do that
- Asking someone to church is a waste of time: in many if not most cases today, they will not hear the Gospel there unless you preach it, teach, and lead them into it.
- You must love them: This is genuine agape love where you put their needs before your own. You love them, serve them, laugh with them, play with them, work with them, and let them see what a difference Jesus is making in your life.
- You need to show them that Jesus cares about everything in your life: Thank him for the things he does as you work,play, and talk with your friend.
Peter shows us how this works in his second letter:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection (philadelphia, or brotherly love); and to mutual affection, love (agape, God’s unconditional love by conscious decision). [II Peter 1:5-7 NIV]