"I Will Spit You Out": Why The American Church Must Spurn Complacency and Risk It All

by Matthew VanHuis

Wake up... before it’s too late. Believers in an American setting today are surrounded by secular distractions at a constant rate. Materialistic promotion and sexual or violent temptation are accessible at the fingertips of every person in moments. Taking part in the vicious cycle, Americans strive for worldly success in the form of wealth and social status in our consumeristic culture. The American Church is in danger of joining this immoral failure of the surrounding culture by focusing on market-driven ministry rather than God’s will. As seen in Scripture, the body of Christ is not called to live like the world. There is a responsibility to carry out the commands of Scripture, and this calls for risking the comfort of wealthy homes and secure salaries in order to share the love of God throughout the world. The gospel must be the focus of the Church in such times, because of its power to save souls who urgently need deliverance from the strongholds of sin and death. The secular society is in desperate need of a Savior, but when the Church embraces the gospel, the world can be changed by the saving love of Jesus Christ.

Nominal Christianity has filled the American Church, causing it to lose focus on the truth of the gospel and consequently be consumed by the distractions of our unrighteous, secular culture. This modern, lukewarm interpretation of Church has undermined our Christian values, leading to inaction and contentedness in a time when the gospel is needed urgently. The American Church must rise to oppose modern pressures by risking their comfort and popularity and living in radical servitude towards the will of the Father.

Complacency and Failure

The Church without the gospel is misdirected and ineffective. Dangerously balancing between the world and the Spirit leads to complacent believers who lack urgency for the gospel. Throughout history and Scripture, God’s people have continually struggled against succumbing to culture. In the name of modernization and success, the American Church has followed in the poor examples of the shortcomings of the past by choosing comfort and popularity defined by soft belief and the rejection of the gospel.

The American Church has largely lost sight of the gospel due to their lack of Biblical knowledge, poor leadership, and weakness against peer pressure. Each of these dilemmas is caused by a single issue: believers in the American Church today are too comfortable. There is an overwhelming amount of pressure on believers from the secular culture around them to seek a life of comfort over a life of risk for the Kingdom of God. Is your car modern enough? Do you have the newest and hottest brand of cell phone? Is your wardrobe fashionable? These are questions that our culture asks of us continually. There is an overwhelming amount of pressure in this nation to reach the status quo. Climbing the social ladder of popularity in order to meet expectations, be accepted, or even be recognized are the primary concerns of people today. America is a nation of immense luxury. Too often the Church has begun to ask misguided questions due to this pressure. The Church also struggles to meet the secular pressure of modern ethics and ideals. Tradition and theology are being abandoned daily by congregations across the nation in order to accept a less offensive gospel that allows people to live a lifestyle which is minutely different from those who have not welcomed Christ to be the Savior of their lives.

Since the beginning of the Church, people have traded their faith for counterfeit gospels. The call for believers to live in a radically different form than the world is made explicitly clear in Revelations. Writing to the Church of Laodicea, John is inspired by the angel of the Lord to directly issue a warning to the believers in that city. The angel calls upon the church to wake up from their slumber and revive their spirit. The Churches of Laodicea and Sardis had the reputation of being alive but were truly dead. This false illusion of faith is what the modern day Church has embraced. John writes,

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

This passage clearly outlines the painful truth of complacency. The Lord desires His creation to be devoted fully to Him. The nominal Christian is content with their faith, believing that they are doing fine. This comfort is found in the Church today. Believers must always be pursuing a deeper, richer relationship with the Lord. The gospel calls the Church to something more, and yet the American Church today has clung to a manner of lukewarmness which is dead inside. John clearly lays out the implications of living with the illusion of faith. The Lord will spit you out. The Lord is a just judge, showing mercy to those who desire Him. But there is no compromise regarding the devotion of the Church to Him. If people stray towards living in a lukewarm manner, the righteous Judge will reject them completely, condemning them to an eternity of suffering without hope. The terrible truth of failing to recognize lukewarmness has eternal implications.

Forgetting to heed the warnings of the past, the Church today is slipping further and further into an attachment to secular culture rather than a focus upon the gospel. Our American culture has undermined theological, physical, and spiritual truths within the Church to a dangerous tipping point of nominal Christianity. The Barna group conducted a vast survey in 2016 and again in 2018 in order to capture the theological temperature of evangelicals in the United States. Participants were given a statement concerning an essential theological truth which they had to agree or disagree with on a five-point spectrum from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The results were quite staggering. One statement was, “Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.” In response to this statement, 66% of Christians agreed. Over half of believers reject the concept of their evil brokenness without the saving love of God through Christ. This statement suggests a lack of necessity for the gospel itself. If man can be naturally good despite his sin, there is no need for a Savior to redeem him from the just punishment for evil. Another such unorthodox viewpoint in this survey showed that 51% of American Christians believe that “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.” These results show an incredible laxity in essential theological truths for the Church. Acceptance of all religions destroys the picture of the gospel that only those who believe in the death and resurrection of the Son of God may be redeemed and live eternally in the presence of the Father. This is seen illustrated by John 14:6, which says, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” This is a failure of the Church to recognize a key component of the gospel. Another example of these potent and sobering results was the response to the statement, “Even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.” 69% of Christians disagreed. Again, the state of theology for believers in the United States dangerously undermines the very root of the gospel. Without recognizing that every tiny imperfection of humanity deserves eternal punishment, the very faith of Christianity is absolutely worthless. And yet this is the threat of the Church today.

The theological mind of believers must be saved. David Platt writes, “In efforts to accommodate the culture, scores of individuals and churches have already abandoned Christ. Most dangerous of all is that they’ve done so under the semblance of supposed Christianity.” Christian theology in America has dissipated almost completely. Accommodation to culture leads to a lack of responsibility in seeking and preserving the essential truths of the faith. Mark A. Noll writes about American believers’ failure to preserve theological truths, saying,

The importance of cultivating the mind for Christ can also be seen more generally by realizing the practical matters at stake in such activity, by heeding the weight of two different historical arguments, and - most important - by attending to the truth concerning God, the world, and ourselves.

Noll states that a reason for the great need of the intellectual life of believers is a grasping of the truth concerning God. If evangelicals do not know how to think of God, they will completely miss the gospel. This will lead to misinterpreted focus amongst believers as well as unrooted young Christians. Young believers are being introduced to a time where the Church does not know how to wrestle with cultural, social, and theological issues, leading to easy miscommunication and bad doctrine. Christians must be able to answer complex ethical questions in this day and age, and without a life of the mind, this is impossible. His argument is absolutely essential in showing that the gospel message must command our very minds in order that we may navigate through culture in order to find truth. Noll states, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind… American evangelicals are not exemplary for their thinking, and they have not been so for several generations.” Believers must engage the mind in matters of the gospel in all situations they confront. If the gospel does not command their thoughts and decisions in life, they will be aimless and ill-equipped. Believers in America must continually incorporate a theological lens of the mind in all areas of culture in order to combat dangerous temptations which would detract from the gospel itself in their lives or the lives of others.

Furthermore, Jesus discusses the Christian mindset with the disciples in Mark. Jesus rebukes Peter after the disciple challenges His teaching on the manner by which He might die at the hands of the Jews before rising again in three days. Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” In this Scripture, Christ clearly puts an emphasis on a mindset which focuses upon the gospel. Believers must engage in this mindset to see the things of God over the things of man. Peter could not recognize the message of the gospel itself in his rebuking of Christ. The disciple rejected the concept of the Savior dying at the hands of mankind in order to provide redemption. By not setting his mind on the things of God, Peter lost sight of the gospel completely. The notion of the mind engaging in the gospel is continued in Romans 8, which says,

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

The flesh is completely rebellious towards God. The mindset of those who belong to it affects their actions and lives. This passage clearly shows the incredible danger in clinging to a mindset defined by American cultural values. The ideals which culture promotes such as wealth, popularity, and immoral sexual activity distract from a healthy intellectual life among believers. Without it, the Church is unable to submit to the Father fully and denies the life that is in the Spirit. The Church so often looks to bridge the gap between secular culture and Christianity, and yet when it does so it treads on dangerous ground of attaching itself to the things of the flesh rather than those of the Spirit.

In the preservation of the Christian intellectual mind and the provocation of faith-inspired action, the leaders of the Church, particularly those preaching from the pulpits, have ultimately failed in their responsibility to teach the gospel. Pastors must embrace a shepherding role by fostering an intense focus on the gospel in their flocks. Any pastor who fails to recognize the gospel as the most important criterion for his church is failing to guide it according to Scripture. An incredible number of pastors have traded their church's gospel focus for what John MacArthur calls “market-driven ministry.” He writes, “And since for the chief criterion for gauging the success of a church has become attendance figures, whatever pulls in the most people is accepted without critical analysis as good. This is pragmatism.” This states that the reason for the failure of churches to engage with the gospel is a focus on attendance. Soft messages, which focus on making people feel good and engaged, and entertainment have become widely accepted as ‘church,’ while gospel messages and theologically sound worship are considered too harsh or boring. The urge to bring in more people to churches is not itself an evil and should be encouraged. But the danger is forfeiting the gospel message so that crowds may come into churches. The gospel is truth, and cannot be watered down so that it does not require anything of Americans who want an easy commitment level on top of their busy lives amidst a secular culture. MacArthur again writes,

My complaint is with a philosophy that relegates God and His Word to a subordinate role in the church. I believe it is unbiblical to elevate entertainment over biblical preaching and worship in the church service. And I stand in opposition to those who believe salesmanship can bring people into the kingdom more effectively than a sovereign God. That philosophy has opened the door to worldliness in the church.

The gospel is not to be preached by the means of a sales pitch or catchy sermon series. God’s truth is to be and will be proclaimed in all nations and from every tongue. Minimizing the gospel shows shame in its message as pastors and church leaders feel a necessity to sugar-coat the idea of the depravity of mankind and the salvation of Christ. MacArthur effectively argues that a sales approach to Scripture will lead to lukewarm belief, unfastened to the truth and unacceptable before God. “Preaching - particularly preaching about sin, righteousness, and judgment - is too confrontive to be truly satisfying. The church must lean to couch the truth in ways that amuse and entertain.” Pastors shrink from a bold interpretation of Scripture which clings to the justice of God constantly in sermons. The truth should be satisfying in itself for those who have a passionate yearning for growth in relationship with the Lord. Issues such as the prosperity gospel or personally focused messages have become the topics of large numbers of sermon series today. Instead of preaching about the need to pursue God in complete devotion, the appeal is to give congregations what their itching ears want to hear: messages that will affirm their standard of living or promise them amazing material wealth as a gift from their pampering Father, who is portrayed as the farthest thing from the concept of a righteous Judge with bitter wrath towards sin. “This certainly is no time for weak men, weak messages, and weak ministries. What is needed is moral strength and courage, and uncompromising proclamation of the truth that can set people free.” If the target is weak messages for large numbers, the people coming to listen to those messages will not be truly set free. In this time specifically, we need a radical change in preaching from appeasement of misled lukewarm believers to spiritually awakening messages. The theological mind must be enhanced from the pulpits so that the Church may be fostered in an environment focused upon the gospel rather than messages which cater to worldly appetites and wishes of lukewarm believers attached to their secular culture’s lusts and desires.

The lack of fixation upon the gospel in the theological mind has also been demonstrated in the complacency of the Church. Inaction on behalf of the gospel is common, and radical devotion to it is almost unheard of. The secular culture which surrounds the American Church today is overrun by overwhelming pressure on people to seek comfort and luxury in life. Pressure on Christians today is enticing in every possible way. The comfort of fancy cars, homes, and clothing constantly engulfs the lives of all. Choosing the distractions of comfort over a sacrificial mentality is sinful and represents lukewarm belief. Culture presents many things which in themselves are not sinful, but an attachment to growth and luxury in the place of fixation upon the gospel is wrong. Charles Spurgeon writes,

Doth that man love his Lord who would be willing to see Jesus wearing a crown of thorns, while for himself he craves a chaplet of laurel? Shall Jesus ascend to his throne by the cross, and do we expect to be carried there on the shoulders of applauding crowds? Be not so vain in your imagination. Count you the cost, and if you are not willing to bear Christ’s cross, go away to your farm and your merchandise, and make the most of them; only let me whisper this in your ear, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

Spurgeon brings forth the powerful imagery of the cross in his charge against material gain. The gospel demonstrates the terrible suffering which Christ underwent so that we might be free in Him. The Church has largely forgotten the sacrifice necessary to an acceptance of the Christian faith. One must count the cost truly of his faith. Jesus teaches this in the gospel of Mark, saying, “He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff - no bread, no bag, no money in their belts - but to wear sandals and put on tunics.” Jesus called His disciples to live without physical comfort in order to share the Word of God. Those who compromise with culture seek to attend to their worldly desires, sacrificing their relationship with Christ as an adulterer. Seeking comfort is driven by a deeply individualistic passion which rebukes the supremacy of God in our lives. Platt writes,

Yet this is exactly what so many of us in the Western church have done. We have retreated. We have insulated and isolated ourselves from the massive material poverty that surrounds us in the world. We have filled our lives and our churches with more comforts for us, all while turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to abject poverty in others. We have a gaping hole in the way we see the world, and we need new sight.

The American Church has stepped down in the face of secular pressure to pursue wealth and prosperity. Comfort defines the lives of many believers now in the context of a broken world. Poverty, sex slavery, social injustice, and abortion run rampant while Christians idly sit by in America, acquiring wealth only to be spoiled on the newest smartphone model. Comfort and luxury in American society come at the expense of a focus upon the gospel.

Historical, Scriptural, and current testimonies and statistics show that the people of God have and continue to turn away from God in order to live lives of utter complacency and inaction. Choosing comfort or abandoning a theological mind leads to poor faith. Retreating denies the opportunity which God has given us to stand as a light in the midst of a sinful and broken world. The gospel must be the focal point of the Church. Today, American churches are flooded with lukewarm belief, and each will face eternal judgment at the hands of the Father.

The Gospel

The message of the gospel must be the center of all doctrine and activity for churches in America and across the globe. Francis Schaeffer, a renowned American theologian and pastor, writes about the failure of the modern Church to surrender themselves, saying,

The problem which confronts us as we approach modern man today is not how we are to change Christian teaching in order to make it more palatable, for to do that would mean throwing away any chance of giving the real answer to man in despair; rather it is only a problem of how we may communicate the Gospel so that it is understood.

Schaeffer explicitly states that the lukewarm manner of believers is largely caused by Christians seeking to water down theology and teaching. Instead, he proposes that the Church must attempt to find guidance in the gospel alone in order to find true solutions to effective communication and faithful devotion to the Lord. The gospel must be taught through a Biblical lens, so that all believers may understand its power and live accordingly.

There are several necessary components to the gospel message. It must highlight several key concepts which will radically change our lives when brought together to paint the narrative that God has been weaving throughout all of time. First, the gospel message must include the nature of God. The Lord is the Creator of the Universe, who deeply loves all of His work, and yet He is also a God of perfect justice. God desires His Creation to glorify Him, but He condemns those who reject His Lordship over all.

Next, believers must recognize the hopeless state of mankind without a Savior. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” There is no man who stands blameless before the throne of God because of the sin which separates Him from the perfect nature of his Creator. His hopeless state demands the need for a Savior, which is the next essential component of the gospel.

Because of His eternal, unending love and the broken separation of His creation from Him, the Lord sent His Son as the only way to Himself in an act of redemption. Therefore, Christ came to earth, incarnate as a man, so that He might rescue the souls of men. Paul writes about Christ’s incarnation and sacrifice, saying, “but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus became the Savior of mankind by dying on man’s behalf to satisfy the judgment of God.

This sacrifice is the only path by which humans might be reconciled to God. Platt writes, “If there were 1,000 ways to God, we would want 1,001. The issue of is not how many ways lead to God; the issue is our autonomy before God. We want to make our own way. This is the essence of sin in the first place - trusting our ways more than God’s way.” The gospel message must cling solely to the concept that Christ alone is the way to the Father. Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” The sacrifice of the Son of God is the only way by which people might return to their Creator.

Through this sacrifice, the chains of death were shattered in their bondage of mankind. Christ’s death on the cross defeats death and brings hope of reconciliation. The gospel focuses on these concepts in order to show that Christ indeed is the victor, and He allows us to share in that victory through our submission of ourselves to Him. Humans who were lost without hope of redemption were given the ability to choose a glorious inheritance in the glory of God through the willingness of the Son to die in their place.

In essence, the gospel message captures the nature of the God of the Universe in His perfection, His justice, and His mercy. It shows the offense of mankind in sin, but the hope of redemption through the sacrifice of the unblemished Lamb when man forsakes himself in order to submit to Christ. This message is offensive. It directly defies the ideas of catering to cultural values of popularity, status, or temporary pleasure. This message is offensive because it tells men that they are worthless sinners who deserve death due to their utter depravity before God.

Focusing one’s eyes on the eternal rather than the present is deeply involved in the gospel. Christians are bold to proclaim the King, a great Lordship over themselves. This should completely transform believers’ lives. Knowing that a loving King has saved one’s soul from eternal condemnation should evoke a response, not allow one ultimately to look no different than the rest of the world. There is no grander thing in life than to lay yourself down to do all that you can in order to glorify the great God who has orchestrated all of time and space so that you might be able to praise His name in thought and deed throughout all of eternity. Francis Chan cries out to fix the issue of the American Church in his book, Letters to the Church. He writes,

Herein lies the danger of clamoring for attention: we don’t realize that true joy comes from the opposite. Joy comes as we stand among those Jesus has redeemed and get lost in a sea of worship, becoming fully a part of something sacred. Gathering with the Church should lead us to holy ground. You get to come and worship Someone else, with someone else. You get to pour out love to Him by serving those around you and considering them more important than yourself. It’s not about you. And you are glad it’s not about you. Because this is something far greater than you. It’s sacred.

The American Church has lost sight of the gospel; the most horrid atrocity it is capable of committing. When the Church loses sight of the gospel, it spits in the face of the sacred God of the Universe. The gospel proclaims that those who seek to live transformed surrendered lives will have greater joy than is humanly comprehensible. The gospel should awaken in believers a great sense of joy and pursuit of action because it is the greatest satisfaction to man and brings the greatest honor to the Father. Imagine the peace that comes to a man who forgets about his needs and pains in order to glorify Someone else. That is the transformation of the gospel.

This message, therefore, has great urgency. If the joy of the gospel comes to surrendered lives, there is eternal despair for those who do not surrender themselves. English Puritan preacher Thomas Watson writes, “Thus it is in Hell; they would die, but they cannot. The wicked shall be always dying but never dead; the smoke of the furnace ascends forever and ever.

Oh! Who can endure thus to be ever upon the rack? This word ‘ever’ breaks the heart.” Thousands of souls daily enter into eternal death. Jonathan Edwards, who, after writing an unsettling description of the horrid nature of Hell, wrote about the anguish of it, saying, “when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains.” Watson writes that in each second spent in Hell, the soul will cry out with the pain of wanting to die and cease, but it cannot. Edwards then writes that the soul will experience the awful nature of this, but also recognize that it is only a point of time that will last forever. No time less will be spent than the time already spent in Hell. Believers who de-emphasize the gospel will not approach this issue with grave seriousness. And yet this reality should bring them to their knees in lamentation.

In its lukewarm state, the American Church has brushed aside the issue of lost souls for modern appeals. In agreement with a theologian named David Swing, Chris Evans, an advocate for liberal Church movements and professor at the Boston University School of Theology, wrote, “Swing’s contention was not that the Bible or church tradition wasn’t true. Rather, these needed to be interpreted in light of modern intellectual trends.” This is the message which the American Church holds to today. But the awful reality is modern intellectual trends seek to form a healthier, smarter, more attractive individual, rather than a sacrificial lifestyle which preaches the urgency of the gospel. Contradicting the ideas of Swing and Evans, David Platt writes,

When we attempt to usurp (or even eliminate) God, we lose objectivity for determining what is good and evil, right and wrong, moral and immoral… Rapid shifts in the moral landscape clearly communicate that we no longer believe certain things are inherently right or wrong. Instead, rightness and wrongness is determined by social developments around us.

Platt writes that when the Church allows culture and social movements to dictate its focus, the ability to navigate through light and darkness becomes impossible. The gospel is the lens by which believers must view the world. The gospel firmly outlines good and evil; it upholds righteousness and expels wickedness. He again writes, “The gospel not only compels Christians to confront social issues in the culture around us. The gospel actually creates confrontation with the culture around - and within - us.” David Platt clearly words the conviction that when the Church seeks to confront social issues but fails to counter the ideals of a godless culture, it rejects the gospel. The Church must rise to proclaim the gospel loudly because of its urgent need in a world full of great spiritual poverty.

Devotion and Sacrifice

The modern state of the Church and the message of the gospel are in conflict. Platt writes,

What must be consistent of all of us, however, is that we pray, give, and go as He leads, and as we do, that we proclaim the gospel with conviction, compassion, and courage. As I hope we've seen, once we recognize that the gospel is the central issue in any culture, we realize that this gospel compels us to confront pressing social issues in our culture. At the center of such confrontation, we prioritize gospel proclamation, for it alone has the power not only to change cultures on this earth but to transform lives for eternity.

Realizing the failures of the Church must awaken believers to confront the sinfulness that dominates our culture. In this, lives will be transformed to the glory of God. American Christians today must embrace their faith by surrendering their lives individually, living corporately in love amongst the body, and carrying the message of salvation to the nations as is commanded.

Christians in America today must recognize the root issue in complacency as the lack of gospel focus. Believers must immediately become aware of the lack of personal spirituality and devotion to the Heavenly Father. Most Christians fail to read their Bibles twice a week and limit their faith to a ninety-minute timeframe on Sunday mornings. Individuals must rise up to embrace living out their faith radically first personally.

The first step towards a devoted personal walk with the Lord in all people is surrender. The Word of God continually repeats the Lord’s command for His people to deny themselves completely. Paul writes in Romans,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

The apostle challenges members of the body to give their lives to God as a sacrifice. He then writes that the denial of secular culture for the sake of the Father will lead to a transformed mind. An attachment to the gospel in one’s life will lead to new individual focus upon the Kingdom of God. Surrendering calls for a person to meekly hold everything lightly, holding out their life, family, and possessions to the Lord with an open hand. A truly surrendered life holds nothing in superiority over the will of God. Jesus also demands this in the gospels, saying,

Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man… If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?

Christ clearly cries out for believers to deny their own lives for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Surrendering one’s life calls for believers to set their minds on the Father. Without first setting his intentions on the spiritual, a believer will not be able to carry the burden of the cross. Jesus’ call clearly illustrates the difference between living according to secular culture and being transformed by the gospel. The message of truth requires our lives. We must fully surrender every part of ourselves, knowing that we are walking with Christ towards His return and triumph over sin and death. Francis Chan writes of his role of leadership in the Church, saying:

The older I get, the more aware I am that the end is near. There is no time to care about what I want in the Church. There’s no time to worry about what others are looking for in a church. I will be facing Him soon, so I have to stay focused on His desires… If I really was going to die, I would care very little about people’s complaints. I would be obsessed with seeing the face of God and wanting His approval.

The Kingdom of God is at hand. Chan recognizes the urgency of time that is left and therefore writes that we cannot be concerned with minor things of comfort in our churches or lives. Believers must surrender their lives immediately, knowing that living without the gospel as our foundation is meaningless. Sacrifice is the first step to living in active obedience to the gospel, as it calls a believer to be willing to lose their wealth, home, status, or even life, denying themselves and proclaiming that the will of God is greater than any other thing.

As one lives with a surrendered heart, one will thirst for the Word and constant communication with the Father. Prayer and spiritual discipline must be a priority in a believer’s life. David Platt preached about the necessity of prayer, saying, “God, in His providence, has chosen to make prayer a powerful means by which we interact with Him and effectively shape the course of history. Do not underestimate the role of desperate prayer.” Prayer is a powerful gift which the Lord has given to believers. Constant communion with the Father will lead to an incredible transformation in one’s life to focus on the gospel. As individuals, we must set aside more time to intentionally approach God earnestly so that we might pursue Him. When we pray, God acts. Countless examples in Scripture show the power of prayer on behalf of yourself or another. After serving in ministry for extended amounts of time, Jesus would withdraw to call upon the name of the Father. Luke 5:16 says, “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” Christ’s example shows the necessity of faithful prayer in one’s life. In the Garden, He demonstrated that prayer gives strength in times of weakness. He also demonstrated what faithful prayer must look like by preaching the Lord’s Prayer. Paul compels believers, saying in Ephesians 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” The apostle shows that men must cry out to the Spirit of God with all things. Prayer in one’s life will lead to incredible growth in one’s relationship with the Father. In the same way, the spiritual discipline of believers must include individual devotions. If the Church is the bride of Christ, then should they not seek to form a healthy relationship with Him, affirming their marriage? This is done by making intentional time to devote oneself to His Word, which gives Truth and life. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Believers must study Scripture in order to attach themselves to the gospel. Sadly, much of the content which draws people to the Church today is surface-deep and disconnected with Scripture, with the purpose of making people feel good about themselves and their cultural lives. Studying the Father’s Word, however, will reveal Truth and the importance of the gospel to believers. We must today seek more to fast regularly, pray constantly, and be in the Word daily. If we take a step towards recognizing the importance of this, our pursuit of the Father will lead to our own transformed lives and a transformed Church. In order to live out a surrendered life, gospel fixation through prayer and intentional devotion are essential.

The unadulterated pursuit of God will transform souls to become focused singularly on the gospel. In our secular American culture, however, the challenges are many. The greatest danger to faith is becoming stagnant, complacent, and comfortable with our current position. The gospel fiercely denies the ideas of pursuing safety, popularity, or even life. It calls believers to give all they have to Christ because He has bought us with the price of His blood (1 Cor. 6:20). As Christians in an anti-Christian age in our nation, we are forced with a choice: the choice to risk everything for the sake of the gospel or to retreat by numbing our minds to and participating in a sinful culture. The gospel message inarguably affirms a path of risk. Before his martyrdom at the hands of native warriors deep in the heart of the jungles of Ecuador, Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” John Piper affirms this statement by writing, “It may not be loving to choose comfort or security when something great may be achieved for the cause of Christ and for the good of others.” There is an abundant cry throughout Scripture that believers must be fully willing to deny the comfort of American living and pursue loving sacrificially. With such urgency of unbelief in the world, Christians cannot afford to sit idly by with the saving love of Christ within them. Platt discusses the reality that living in America today undoubtedly calls for risk, saying,

In a culture that places great emphasis on leisure, luxury, financial gain, self-improvement, and material possessions, it will be increasingly countercultural for Christians to work diligently, live simply, give sacrificially, help constructively, and invest eternally. Yet this is what we must do.

An eternal mindset must be the focus of our lives within the Church. We must deny the worldly motivations within our culture by having the heart of a servant, as Christ had for us. The gospel message calls for us to be different, and it also affirms us eternally. This message promises our salvation and eternal happiness with the Father after death. This then should encourage us in our faith to step out and risk it all, knowing we have nothing to lose in obedience to the Father. “It is not possible to profess gospel truth to all and remain popular among all.” It is not possible to share the comfort of luxury or popularity while being completely devoted to loving the poor, comforting the widows and orphans, and confessing gospel convictions concerning sexuality or marriage, yet this is exactly what we are called to do. Many Christians hide from countering culture because it will undoubtedly lead us towards a harder, more uncomfortable life. Piper, however, illustrates the example of Paul, saying, “Honoring Christ, magnifying Christ, making much of Christ. That was the meaning of Paul’s life. It should be the meaning of ours. And Paul prays it will be the meaning of his death as well. We live and we die to make much of Christ.” The gospel compels believers to a life of risk. James 4:13-15 says,

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” - yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

This is the passage individuals professing Christ in America today must cling to. The Lord’s will is the most pressing thing in our lives and in the lives of every person walking towards eternity without the Savior.

The gospel also compels believers to operate within their churches with Christ’s love and wisdom towards one another. Francis Chan writes,

I can’t help but see our own lameness in failing to see the beauty in God’s design for the Church. Heavenly beings are shocked by God’s Church, while many on earth yawn. The early church didn’t need the energetic music, great videos, attractive leaders, or elaborate lighting to be excited about being a part of God’s body. The pure gospel was enough to put them in a place of awe.

Chan dives deeply into pointing out that the gospel should be the center of our churches. The gospel requires nothing of a show to appease; the message itself is glorious in its power and its promise. God has a unique purpose for the Church on the earth to minister to lost souls and proclaim the coming of His Kingdom. Churches in America must wake up to embrace their purpose in the world by addressing theology in a gospel mindset, loving one another, and missionally serving physically and spiritually needy souls. We must seek to heal divisions and brokenness in our churches, knowing that the love of Christ extends over all hurt and sin. We must uphold, support, and love one another in a way which draws each other to the gospel and sets an example of devotion for the nations. We must pursue God-honoring theology that places the gospel foremost in our churches, rather than the show of the service or comfort of the sermon. We must also correct one another, seeking to aid the body in living according to the gospel. In all this, love and the gospel must be at the forefront of our words and thoughts.

When the Church fully gives itself to the gospel, it also will cling to a mission of outward-looking service to the world. Despite the moral failures of our culture, we must be engaged with it. Christians see the desperate wickedness of America but sit idly by. The Church must seek to fulfill the Great Commission. This is not done by simply taking a part in culture, which so many believers have done. Under the name of modernization, they have abandoned the gospel for secular theology. The gospel itself is the banner of the Church, and it is active and powerful to transform lives.

For the greatest way to achieve social and cultural transformation is not by focusing on social and cultural transformation, but by giving our lives to the gospel proclamation - to telling others the good news all God has done in Christ and calling them to follow Him. The fruit of such salvation will be inevitable transformation - of lives, of families, of communities, and even of nations.

If we are called to stay in a culture which is not spiritually unreached, we must counter culture by giving sacrificially and living simply, rather than pursuing possessions and popularity as our culture pushes us to do. The Church is God’s glorious creation of the body of believers on earth.
We are bound by the unifying glory of the gospel and must allow it to transform our relationships and lives inwardly and outwardly.

Scripture affirms this with the clear example of the bold, countercultural living of Daniel. When Daniel is enslaved by the Babylonians in Daniel 1, he resolves to uphold the Jewish traditions given by God rather than embrace the wicked culture. He refused to partake in the foreign culture because he valued what the statutes of the Lord more than the threat of the Babylonians. Resolve is not a matter of compromise. Daniel 1:20 says, “And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.” Not only was Daniel set apart from the culture because of his actions, but he became superior to it. The culture noticed the difference of the young men and marveled at it. This should be the same for the Church. Daniel 6 also shows this in the firm resolve of the three Hebrews to stand before Nebuchadnezzar despite the risk of their lives. The glory of the Father will be shown to the world when the Church declares His name loudly. The Babylonian kingdom was led to the Lord through the sacrificial, surrendered passion for the Lord which the Hebrews demonstrated. They clung to righteousness wholly without compromise so that the work of the Lord might be done through them, and His name was glorified among thousands. The book of Daniel shows that our response to the depravity of our culture should not be compromise, but immediate prayer and undying resolve to magnify the cross.

As individuals, we must strive to be like Daniel, devoted to prayer and constant focus upon the Father. We must be ready to risk it all for the gospel as we are called. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” The Church must embrace a spirit of living that magnifies Christ in all things, and through this purpose in the will of the Father, He will be glorified by the outpouring of His Spirit in relationships within the Church and an outflow of the gospel to the culture around us. Platt closes his powerful book with this quote:

So do these things with the unshakable conviction that God has put you in an anti-Christian age for a reason. He has called you to Himself, He has saved you by His Son, He has filled you with His Spirit, He is captured you with His love, and He is compelling you by His Word to counter culture by proclaiming His Kingdom, knowing that the reward of following Christ is worth any risk to your life, your family, your future, your relationships, your reputation, your career, and your comfort in this world.

This is the work of our lives. Compromise and complacency must be shunned for radical, countercultural living on behalf of the glorification of the sacrifice of the Son on behalf of all men. It is an incredible gift to serve the Lord, so let us do so with gladness and urgency, knowing the glorious reward that is to come when we reach the Kingdom of Heaven with the conviction that we had poured all that we had into the service of the Lord and Creator of all.

Opposite to this action, nominal Christianity is dangerous on two fronts: inwardly and outwardly. Individually, the gospel message must be foremost for a believer. If it is not, they are abandoning the foundation of their relationship with Christ and will not be compelled to serve Him wholeheartedly and sacrificially. The stakes of this mindset are terribly high, as so-called believers ultimately risk their own salvation without valuing the Lord in their life. Outwardly, there is a great urgency for the gospel among the nations. Approximately 151,600 people die every single day, 44,000 of whom have never even heard the gospel before. This does not even account for those who have heard and rejected it as well. Nominal Christianity fails to fulfill the Great Commission in seeking to save lost souls who are damned to an eternity of horrific pain and suffering in judgment. The pressing issue of complacency in the Church must be confronted. We must avoid modernizing church in theology and cling to the gospel rather than showy services and undevoted faith.

The gospel has the power to save and transform lives. The message which proclaims the victory of Christ over sin and death should lead us to surrender our worldly lives so that we might glorify His name. We have been given life from our Creator, and now we must live in a way which brings honor to His name. Our faith should be a living sacrifice to the will of God, and we will stand as lights to a dark and broken world.

Recently a close family friend passed away. Mr. Frank McGraw served as a powerful example of service to the Lord and devotion to the gospel. In remembrance, a missionary wrote,

He was a warrior. He was a good preacher of the gospel. He was special, authentic, godly, generous, selfless, a true lover of King Jesus and a true soldier of the cross. I do believe he has already heard the Master, King of Kings and the Commander of the Great Commission Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, say to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

This is the legacy we must seek to embrace. Will we be known as soldiers of the cross? Will our legacy be men and women of the Lord who sought to live in devotion to the gospel daily in all of our thoughts and deeds?

We now have a duty laid out before us. We must rise as individuals and as a Church in the midst of a rampantly vile American culture to deny the concepts of comfort or popularity by giving much and seeking Christ. What a glorious way to live! We can bring glory to the Lord each day by seeking His face in our own spiritual attachment to the Word, and by actively pursuing the physically and spiritually impoverished in our nation and globally. Through this, we will experience new life which comes from the transformation of a surrendered soul for the work of the Father. The Church must come alive in America for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. So take a leap of faith in risking much to claim the certain victory of the cross.


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Platt, David. Counter Culture: Finding Christ in an Anti-Christian Age. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2017.

Platt, David. “Secret Church 19: Prayer, Fasting, and the Pursuit of God,” promotional video. McLean Bible Church, Washington, D.C.: Secret Church 19_ Prayer, Fasting, and the Pursuit of God_Live Gathering.mp4, 2019.

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