Faith is a nifty feeling

Published 5:43 pm Tuesday, September 17, 2019

By Charles Qualls

You hear a particular notion expressed via church-talk in so many ways. On the surface of it all, they sound very different from each other. These things I am about to remind you of are little things that church folks sometimes say.

● “We left that church because we just weren’t being fed.”

● “I really like so-and-so on TV. It feels every week like he/she’s talking just to me, and that makes me feel good.”

● “I visited my son’s church this week and they had the most dynamic young preacher, and he didn’t use any notes!” When you ask what he said that they connected with? “Oh, I don’t remember. But, he was good!”

● “I only like the old hymns. They are so familiar.”

● “When are we going to change to that worship style the folks across town are using? They are attracting so many young people.”

These statements all sound different from each other if you are only hearing them in a shallow way. In reality, they all say the same basic thing. This week at our church, we continued the sermon series on Lies the Culture Tells Us. This week’s lie is: “Faith is a nifty feeling!”

In Ephesians 4: 1-16, Paul spoke about what he was concerned about in a fragile faith. He was convinced it was time for the Christians at Ephesus to grow up. His central worries seem two-fold. First, he didn’t want them fooled because they only had a shallow understanding of their own faith. Second, when life tests a shallow faith, it can be found to be severely lacking.

Why does this matter? What does this have to do with you? I don’t know about you, but my faith does not always give me a nifty feeling. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to be bored. I do love the chill of the holy spirit’s movement in my life.

But sometimes my faith also challenges me in ways I so badly need challenging. It afflicts me with a disturbance in my spirit rather than always with a soothing balm of good feelings. Sheds light on truths that awaken me to blind-spots I have traveled with for far too long. My faith sometimes causes me to do things that are counterintuitive on the surface.

Don’t miss what Jesus said in Luke 12: 49-53. “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

When we take seriously Christ’s teachings, they don’t always sound or feel good. They can be controversial, as our Lord stated in the Scripture above. It’s not that Jesus’ wanted division. He just knew there sometimes would be around his teachings.

American Christianity has had custody of God’s word-through-Christ in an embarrassment of riches for the last several generations. Since the boom of the Christian movement in America that predates Billy Graham, we have had what seems to be a church on every corner.

I believe we will be judged, in part, one day on what little we did collectively as stewards of God’s word. Instead of taking it seriously, sometimes we have dumbed it down egregiously only to watch our churches still empty out. Instead of taking it in whole, we have picked the carcass of our dusty Bibles savoring only the scant meatiest and tastiest morsels, without regard to context or God’s intent behind the sacred and inspired words.

Instead of using God’s gospel as a salve for what ails the world, we have selectively lapsed backward mostly to the Old Testament for God’s judgment that secures our own biases and prejudices. Selfishly, hypocritically and quietly hording the New Testament’s grace in Christ for our own salvation hopes.

It’s OK when our faith hits us a bit hard. We need substance rather than fluff. We need real, grounded faith rather than sweet songs and words.

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.