Introduction – What went wrong & what is God’s will?

Introduction – What went wrong?

Sunday Morning USA.
Check out the man standing numbly by the church coffee bar talking about his impending divorce. Listen to the voice of the Christian mother as she asks people to pray for her teenage son who’s just been arrested on drug charges. Then take a moment to watch the expressions on these same faces as they settle in for a sermon on how to become a better spouse . . . a better parent . . . a better you.

What’s wrong with this picture? Why aren’t things getting better? You don’t have to be a modern-day prophet to hear all the unanswered questions burning in the minds of American believers. Many of us seem to be silently repeating the words from Jackson Browne’s song:

I want to know what became of the change We waited for love to bring;
Were they only the fitful dreams Of some greater awakening?”
– from “The Pretender.”

What about that change we waited for God’s love to bring? What happened to the zeal we once knew as we reached out to grasp the pearl of great price? We felt incredible feelings, sang inspiring songs, listened to awesome testimonies, experienced spiritual revelation and absolutely believed in miraculous intervention.

Why then have so many of us lost our focus? Or could it be that, like the Galatians, our focus has been misplaced? Would the apostle Paul say to us, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3). I believe my answer (along with many of you) would have to be “yes.”

When I became a Christian twenty five years ago, I lived and moved and found my being in Jesus. I believed in the rising of the Son more than the coming of the dawn. But as the years went by, churches split. Plans failed. Leaders lied. Christians stumbled. Ministries tumbled. Disappointment after disappointment, I stopped focusing on the wounds of Christ and started tending to my own.

This didn’t happen overnight, but year after year, my reckless trust in the things of God began to diminish. Like so many in my generation, hope deferred had made my heart sick, and so I began to protect myself, rely on myself, comfort myself and medicate myself with food, fun, friends and feelings. Having begun in the Spirit, I now chose to put my confidence in the flesh.

Two years ago, I started listening to the teachings you are about to read. To put it bluntly, the lights in my darkened understanding began to flicker. Suddenly I realized how much my focus had shifted to the things of earth rather than the things above. Whereas my greatest desire had once been for Jesus, it had gradually morphed into a desire to create a better planet upon which my better self could live.

Instead of focusing on the host of the armies of heaven, I remade Christ into the host of Let’s Make A Deal. Instead of reaching out for the keys of the kingdom of heaven, I wanted Him to hand me the key to Door #3—the one with “Abundant Life” written on it in big gold letters.

I couldn’t wait to open that door, because inside I was sure to find health, wealth, happiness and the love I deserved. But I forgot one essential truth. Being a Christian isn’t about being healthy, wealthy or happy. It’s not even about finding true love. It’s about following Jesus. The cross before me, the world behind me even though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back? No turning back! (“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” public domain).

Why do so many of us want to turn back? Because when life on earth becomes our focus, the unending sorrow of human existence makes our hearts sick. C. S. Lewis commented on this very problem when he wrote, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’; aim at earth, and you will get neither.” (C. S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”) I believe that most American believers have aimed at earth and come up empty.

But this wasn’t always the case. Up until about one hundred years ago, most Americans didn’t need to be reminded to focus on eternity. Poverty, disease, war, famine, hardship and trouble were the norm for most believers before the twentieth century. You didn’t need to tell a coal miner that earth isn’t the end of the road; you didn’t have to remind an eighteen-year-old about to walk onto a battlefield that there’s more to life. A mother who loses three out of five children before they reach adulthood doesn’t put all her hope in this world, and a man trying to feed his family with a mule and forty acres isn’t mistaking a dirt farm for the promised land.

But things have changed for most Americans. Human life is a more pleasant experience these days, complete with good food, comfortable churches, great vacations, luxurious homes and endless entertainment. Who needs to focus on eternity when earth is so full of “good things”?

We do! As our lifestyles have grown richer, our Christian faith has become impoverished. Yet through the satisfaction of all our earthly desires, we have ceased to desire heaven. And consequently we are offended when life doesn’t treat us in the style to which we have become accustomed.

We are surly when our lattes aren’t hot enough; we are angered when the car in front of us doesn’t drive fast enough; we are insulted when service isn’t professional enough and we are enraged when we aren’t treated well enough, and we are self-pitying when faced with unexpected trials and tribulations.

How far we have fallen from the words of scripture, which tells us to “Consider it all joy . . . when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:2–3).

There’s nothing new about the truths you are about to read. On the contrary, they’re very old. Ancient, in fact. But I can tell you that these simple teachings can help you “return to your first love” and “do the deeds you did at first” (Revelation 2:4–5).

The purpose of this website isn’t to establish a ministry, start a church or ignite some new wind of doctrine. Mr. Barton’s goal is simply to call Christians back to a true biblical faith and forward to maturity in Christ.

If your desire is to know the truth that can truly set you free, then I invite you to join me on this journey.

Claudia Lovejoy