The New Normal

    "The New Normal," is a much used term today to describe the state of our culture both within and outside of the organized church.  I realize that this can be an effective means of measuring those cultures, even to a degree, understanding them.  However, it sometimes seems as if there is a kind of element of acceptance in it all.  A kind of resignation to the thought that "this is just how it is today."  I'm not sure that it's conscious, but I do think it's there.  How do we who constitute the Body of Christ respond to all of it?  Maybe it can begin with us coming to an understanding of just what "normal" in the church really is......As defined by Christ.
     The great evangelist Vance Havner once said something to the effect that if one were to live normal New Testament Christianity in the modern western church, he would surely be considered abnormal by the majority of those who thought themselves a part of that church.  He was, and remains right.  Francis Chan once shared how one of his church members offered a "gentle" rebuke to him as concerns his deep desire to see people become wholehearted, surrendered followers of Christ.  They told him that he needed to understand that there was a "middle road" that could be walked on, that didn't demand the kind of life he was consistently teaching and preaching on.  Juan Carlos Ortiz called such teaching "The 5th gospel, the gospel of St. Evangelicals.  Take all that we like, are offered or promised, make a system of belief about it, and forget the other verses that present the demands of Christ."  I think this is pretty close to the "new normal" in a great part of the American church. 

     The only response to the new normal of the surrounding culture as well as how that culture has affected the church is, as always, only found at the cross.  Francis Frangiapane said that "Perversity has moved to center stage of the culture.  It's the new normal."  Because of our great desire to take on the views of that middle road gospel, the church has become not only affected, but infected by the perversity of that culture.  We may have sanitized it somewhat, but it's influence is powerful.  It can't be tamed by new terminology or methods developed by the church.  It has to be killed.  It has to die, and that can only happen at the cross.  The 5th Gospel of St. Evangelical has no real place for the cross.  Do we?
     Oswald Chambers, speaking over 100 years ago said that so much of our struggle in these things are the result of "starvation of the mind."  I would add of the heart as well.  Our hearts and minds are starved for the Living Bread and Water that is Christ.  It's not that we don't want them, but that we want to have them as a result of illegitimate means.  We want them without having to go the cross to receive them.  The perversity of the new normal cannot be overcome by the middle road belief system Chan speaks of.  That perversity will instead infiltrate and then indoctrinate those it touches into its system.  Our only hope, our only defense and victory is found in Christ and the cross.  There is no other hope or victory.
     Jesus called that road "the narrow way," but narrow is a very unpopular word in the culture, the new normal of today.  It always has been, and always will be.  Yet He calls us to it, commands us to it.  May it be that His way, narrow to be sure, but yet so wide as to provide all the fullness of His life, would become our "new normal."  We will certainly be abnormal to all those who embrace the middle road, the 5th Gospel, but we will be at home with and in Him.  The culture of the world calls us to its definition of the new normal, and the culture of Christ calls us to His.  Which call will we answer?

Pastor O
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   May 2019   
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