This is an entry from a dear friend of mine, Pastor Dale Lewis of Calvary Chapel Bitterroot Valley in Montana. Dale’s a passionate “new covenant” guy. He and I share something special in common: we both love Ray Stedman’s commentary on 2 Corinthians, entitled “Authentic Christianity.”
I was impressed and challenged by this post when I first read it. The more I think about what he shares here, the more I believe it to be a prophetic word to today’s ministers.
I’m finishing up 2nd Corinthians this weekend and came upon a verse that resonates in my heart as I look out upon the vista that is the Westernized Church.
Paul closes this letter to his critics by saying in 13:5 “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you are disqualified.”
R. Kent Hughes makes this observation: “Today the warning stands over the church, and especially those who have transmitted the present cultural values into the church, so that church is little more than a Christianized version of modern culture. The warning stands where leadership is built on the cult of personality—where image is everything. The warning looms where worship is show time—where preaching is entertainment—where God’s Word is muzzled and the pulpit panders to itching ears. The warning echoes where we are the focus of worship—our feelings, our comfort, our health, our wealth—where super apostles are preferred over Paul.”
I find it easy to gaze out my Church window at those “other denominations” as I examine them putting them to the “test.” But Paul didn’t say “examine others,” he said “examine yourself”!
I’ve had the blessing of being saved in a Calvary Chapel 31 years ago, and also going to a Calvary Chapel school. I’ve had the incredible privilege of being a part of two wonderful fellowships. Clearly there needs to be no examination, no test given to my incredible history!
Why we have “balance,” we have authentic work, right doctrine. Our success is evident, as some among us are numerically the largest fellowships in the country, with some of the most popular speakers around.
Yet I cannot escape my own reflection as I look out my Church window at others. Paul’s words speak to my face in the glass, “Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” Would my examination reveal that “my church history” has replaced Jesus on the throne of my heart? Would I fail the test, as now I’m more excited about what I’m doing for God instead what He has done and continues to do for me? Where is my humility and brokenness? Where is my invisibility that He may be all that people look upon? Would I pass the test as Paul before me—who held onto a vision of paradise for 14 years, seeing and hearing things that he no doubt didn’t even know were a mystery.
Paul never published a book, or produced a video of that experience. Would I, like Paul, not mention the five things that Jesus said would authenticate apostolic ministry in Mark 16 even though they were clearly evident everywhere I went? Is what I would speak most about in my Christian experience be my biggest failure: the day when as a minister all I thought about: how gifted, educated, and special I am was flushed down the toilet—kicked to the curb in Damascus (2 Corinthians 12:30-33). Would I, like Paul, commit to prayer for blessings for those false teachers who prayed for my failure?
Looming in Paul’s closing words of 2nd Corinthians is the thrice repeated word “disqualified,” but with it is also the exhortation of becoming complete, mature, or perfect. He wrote those words of personal examination not for destruction but rather for edification. I believe it is high time that I stop looking out my window and start looking in my mirror!
Pastor Dale Lewis,
Calvary Chapel Bitterroot Valley, MT