Why So Shocked?

    In my 32 years in this life I feel I’ve witnessed the tail end of what I think I’ll call an opportunity or practice.  The opportunity that I speak of is traditionally what is offered at the close of every sermon preached it seems or at least service.  It’s the opportunity for one to “come forward” during the “invitation” song.  I’ve only heard stories of gospel meetings where in one service 5-10 people responded to the message.  I’ve only witnessed a few occasions when after one person responds another person comes forward as well.  In some ways I think it used to be a positive thing.  Many times people were responding to the gospel message and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.  Other times people were responding to the message and coming forward for encouragement and prayers of the saints.  So why the shift and decline?

    I don’t claim to have all those answers because after all I’m not involved with every congregation, so this may not be true where you worship.  I think one aspect of its decline and even rarity is because culturally we’ve turned it into a negative thing.  What I mean is when someone goes forward often our minds are no longer focused on the words of the song we’re singing but rather our minds are racing with I wonder what they did…I wonder what they’re confessing.  I realize that may not be true for everyone but I think we’d all agree we’ve heard people say, maybe even say ourselves, things like “I can’t believe they committed that sin.” or “It doesn’t surprise me.”  You see those kinds of thoughts, attitudes, and talk have created the environment where no one wants to go forward or even reach out for help because it’s a negative thing.

    Not too long ago in an adult bible study we were discussing great characters of faith and why such stories were given to us by God (Romans 15:4).  We talked about considering and thinking about our current breaking point spiritually and preparing for Satan’s schemes to try and get us to break.  It was mentioned how often its shocking and heart breaking to hear of great men and women of faith such as evangelists and elders who all the sudden get caught up in some grievous sin and turns their back on the Lord.   While that definitely does happen more than we as a Christian family would like why are we so shocked?

    I know that may seem like an odd question but yet I still think it’s interesting to think about.  While there have been people whose decision and rebellion has surprised me, I’ve never known anyone who had strong active faith one day and the next morning they turned their backs on the Lord.  The reality that always sinks in is that their struggle has been going on for quite some time and no one ever knew. 

    One reason is because the truth is we don’t have the fellowship like we should with one another to know the difference.  Fellowship is something we have (a relationship) not something we do.  Saying hello to one another each time we meet and saying how have you been doing isn’t fellowship.  I think another reason is because, as we mentioned above, we’ve made confessing sin such a negative and judgmental thing the one struggling covers it up and hides it which just leads to more problems.  While we shouldn’t go around calling ourselves sinners, (because Scripture doesn’t) we also don’t need to act as if Christians never sin.

    Sin is nothing that we should take lightly, downplay, or sugarcoat.  It’s eternally serious and we should treat it as such.  But we can also cultivate a culture and fellowship in our congregations that says to one another and even those searching for Christ that we’ve all sinned (Romans 3:23) and still struggle with our personal temptations (James 4:4) but we’ve also been set free to sin no more (1 John 2:1) and if we do sin we have an advocate, Jesus the Christ and only He can save us from this body of death (Romans 7:24-25).  There’s not room for judgment of one another.  There’s only one Judge and I’m not Him (Romans 14:4).  How thankful we are to have a God who is righteous, faithful, and just Judge and will always do the right thing.