Saturday, August 16, 2008
Restoring Ancient Landmarks
Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set - Proverbs 22:28
Many years ago, Melanie and I celebrated our wedding anniversary on the island of Aruba. We walked across the natural bridge pictured in the photo here.
It was a beautiful site to see. The bridge was formed by the incoming waves of the ocean, which over time eroded the rock until the water pushed its way through the stone wall, leaving this walkway over the top. The site was such an attraction on the island that few tourists who went there didn't make the drive to see it.
Since we were there, this landmark has disappeared. After thousands of years, one day, early in the morning, the bridge collapsed into the sea. The erosion had worn it down until it caved in under its own weight.
The natural bridge reminds me of what has happened in Christendom. The greatest spiritual landmark that has ever existed is the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross is the bridge that reconciled sinful man to a righteous, but loving God. There is no greater vantage point from which we can see the panoramic plan that God has for mankind.
Unlike the natural bridge on Aruba, the cross will stand forever as tribute to the eternal love our God has for us. But the perception of the cross as the eternal landmark of the church is threatened by erosion caused by the constant incoming tides of legalism. Don't misunderstand. The cross will stand forever, but if the murky waters of legalism continue to wash into our churches, its beauty will continue to erode. The Apostle Paul said that "Christ has become of no effect" when that happens. (See Galatians 5:4)
As a child, I often heard about the danger of the tides of liberalism in the church. Nowadays, I see the tides of legalism as a greater threat. Christ-loving, Bible-carrying, church-going Christians everywhere are often oblivious to the danger of the incoming current into the church.
When we focus more on what we should do, than what He has done - that's dangerous.
When the focus in a church is on pastors and programs more than Christ, that's dangerous.
When we focus more on "bringing in" than "reaching out," that's dangerous.
If a person who had never been exposed to Christianity visited your church, what would they leave saying was the most important thing among the people there? Christ? Programs? Building plans? Activities?
Don't think I'm suggesting that buildings or plans or activities are inherently wrong. I'm simply saying that when they take preeminence over Christ, those very things have become the waves that will erode our witness for Christ.
It's time to restore the ancient landmark by making sure that Jesus Christ is front in center in everything we do.