“The Church has lost its hold on the masses. The Church does not hold the young people passing out of its Sunday schools. The Church has failed in meeting the increase of population.”
“The Church is in a state that is not pleasing to God, it is not answering its destiny, it is on a downward path.”
There is no place left for the growth of that faith which realized those frequent conversions which were the glory of previous generations.”
Most of us, however, would be surprised to learn that these quotes come from a book called “The Dearth of Conversions” written by Andrew Murray one-hundred twenty years ago. There have always been those who try to live with one foot in the world and one in the Church; maybe it’s worse today, maybe not, I don’t know. But I do know that unless we renounce our conformity to the world and begin to pursue the transforming power of the Word and the Spirit that we are promised in Romans 12:1-2, we will never see God move the way He desires to move in us, and make us into the people He has called us to become.
I can’t speak to the specifics of the state of the Church in 1897; Andrew Murray is better equipped to pinpoint the exact deficiencies in His day than I am, but I do think I understand some the root problems in our thought processes today. One of the most critical errors we have made is in the way that we have presented the Gospel (an error which, Murray warned us about 120 years ago). We have told people that the goal of their salvation is to get to heaven. If you asked one-hundred Christians if they agreed that the final goal of their salvation is to get into heaven, I would be surprised if less than two or three objected. Now, it might seem strange to suggest that a statement like this is incorrect; after all, heaven in our future hope and our promised “blessed inheritance.” Maybe it’s not incorrect to suggest that heaven is our goal, but, biblically it is incomplete:
Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son – Romans 8:29.
He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him – Ephesians 1:4.
As Christians, heaven is our future home, it has come to earth in the person of Jesus, and residing within each believer in the person of the Holy Spirit, but it is not the ultimate goal of God’s plan. The ultimate goal is to make us right with Him; to make us righteous. When we have Churches filled with people who are hoping only in heaven, not in righteousness, we are much less likely to take temptations and other threats to our righteousness seriously. “Well, it doesn’t really matter, I’ll get to heaven either way.”
However, if we understand the ultimate goal of our salvation as being made righteous, our perspective begins to change. “Why would I want to do anything to move myself away from my goal of righteousness before God?” “Why wouldn’t I do everything I can to conform my life to the ultimate goal of righteousness before God?” Recovering the understanding of righteousness as the ultimate goal of our salvation is key to reversing the “downward path” that many of us may be on.