Thursday, July 16, 2009

Prostitution In The Church

I found this while doing some blog surfing and thought I would share it here. I foundit on this blog: http://danielfusco.wordpress.com/, but it is not by the author of that blog. The author of the article is David Ryser. This is a very thought provoking article. Read on.

The Question that Changed My Life

By David Ryser

A number of years ago, I had the privilege of teaching at a school of ministry. My students were hungry for God, and I was constantly searching for ways to challenge them to fall more in love with Jesus and to become voices for revival in the Church. I came across a quote attributed most often to Rev. Sam Pascoe. It is a short version of the history of Christianity, and it goes like this: Christianity started in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece and became a philosophy; it moved to Italy and became an institution; it moved to Europe and became a culture; it came to America and became an enterprise. Some of the students were only 18 or 19 years old--barely out of diapers--and I wanted them to understand and appreciate the import of the last line, so I clarified it by adding, "An enterprise. That's a business." After a few moments Martha, the youngest student in the class, raised her hand. I could not imagine what her question might be. I thought the little vignette was self-explanatory, and that I had performed it brilliantly. Nevertheless, I acknowledged Martha's raised hand, "Yes, Martha." She asked such a simple question, "A business? But isn't it supposed to be a body?" I could not envision where this line of questioning was going, and the only response I could think of was, "Yes." She continued, "But when a body becomes a business, isn't that a prostitute?"

The room went dead silent. For several seconds no one moved or spoke. We were stunned, afraid to make a sound because the presence of God had flooded into the room, and we knew we were on holy ground. All I could think in those sacred moments was, "Wow, I wish I'd thought of that." I didn't dare express that thought aloud. God had taken over the class.

Martha's question changed my life. For six months, I thought about her question at least once every day. "When a body becomes a business, isn't that a prostitute?" There is only one answer to her question. The answer is "Yes." The American Church, tragically, is heavily populated by people who do not love God. How can we love Him? We don't even know Him; and I mean really know Him.

What do I mean when I say "really know Him?" Our understanding of knowing and knowledge stems from our western culture (which is based in ancient Greek philosophical thought). We believe we have knowledge (and, by extension, wisdom) when we have collected information. A collection of information is not the same thing as knowledge, especially in the culture of the Bible (which is an eastern, non-Greek, culture). In the eastern culture, all knowledge is experiential. In western/Greek culture, we argue from premise to conclusion without regard for experience--or so we think. An example might be helpful here. Let us suppose a question based upon the following two premises: First, that wheat does not grow in a cold climate and second, that England has a cold climate. The question: Does wheat grow in England? The vast majority of people from the western/Greek culture would answer, "No. If wheat does not grow in a cold climate and if England has a cold climate, then it follows that wheat does not grow in England." In the eastern culture, the answer to the same question, based on the same premises, most likely would be, "I don't know. I've never been to England." We laugh at this thinking, but when I posed the same question to my friends from England, their answer was, "Yes, of course wheat grows in England. We're from there, and we know wheat grows there." They overcame their cultural way of thinking because of their life experience. Experience trumps information when it comes to knowledge.

A similar problem exists with our concept of belief. We say we believe something (or someone) apart from personal experience. This definition of belief is not extended to our stockbroker, however. Again, allow me to explain. Suppose my stockbroker phones me and says, "I have a hot tip on a stock that is going to triple in price within the next week. I want your permission to transfer $10,000 from your cash account and buy this stock." That's a lot of money for me, so I ask, "Do you really believe this stock will triple in price, and so quickly?" He/she answers, I sure do." I say, "That sounds great! How exciting! So how much of your own money have you invested in this stock?" He/she answers, "None." Does my stockbroker believe? Truly believe? I don't think so, and suddenly I don't believe, either. How can we be so discerning in the things of this world, especially when they involve money, and so indiscriminate when it comes to spiritual things? The fact is, we do not know or believe apart from experience. The Bible was written to people who would not understand the concepts of knowledge, belief, and faith apart from experience. I suspect God thinks this way also.

So I stand by my statement that most American Christians do not know God--much less love Him. The root of this condition originates in how we came to God. Most of us came to Him because of what we were told He would do for us. We were promised that He would bless us in life and take us to heaven after death. We married Him for His money, and we don't care if He lives or dies as long as we can get His stuff. We have made the Kingdom of God into a business, merchandising His anointing. This should not be. We are commanded to love God, and are called to be the Bride of Christ--that's pretty intimate stuff. We are supposed to be His lovers. How can we love someone we don't even know? And even if we do know someone, is that a guarantee that we truly love them? Are we lovers or prostitutes?

I was pondering Martha's question again one day, and considered the question, "What's the difference between a lover and a prostitute?" I realized that both do many of the same things, but a lover does what she does because she loves. A prostitute pretends to love, but only as long as you pay. Then I asked the question, "What would happen if God stopped paying me?"

For the next several months, I allowed God to search me to uncover my motives for loving and serving Him. Was I really a true lover of God? What would happen if He stopped blessing me? What if He never did another thing for me? Would I still love Him? Please understand, I believe in the promises and blessings of God. The issue here is not whether God blesses His children; the issue is the condition of my heart. Why do I serve Him? Are His blessings in my life the gifts of a loving Father, or are they a wage that I have earned or a bribe/payment to love Him? Do I love God without any conditions? It took several months to work through these questions. Even now I wonder if my desire to love God is always matched by my attitude and behavior. I still catch myself being disappointed with God and angry that He has not met some perceived need in my life. I suspect this is something which is never fully resolved, but I want more than anything else to be a true lover of God.

So what is it going to be? Which are we, lover or prostitute? There are no prostitutes in heaven, or in the Kingdom of God for that matter, but there are plenty of former prostitutes in both places. Take it from a recovering prostitute when I say there is no substitute for unconditional, intimate relationship with God. And I mean there is no palatable substitute available to us (take another look at Matthew 7:21-23 sometime). We must choose.

Dr. David Ryser

7 comments:

M. Steven Smith said...

Pastor Dave,

The Holy Spirit never ceases to amaze me. Father God has been speaking to my heart and challenging me with some of the same things. Would I be content to just have Christ for Christ alone and not for all the blessings? Do I love Him for HIM or for the STUFF? You put it into words very nicely.

Thank you.

Pastor Mark
1 Thessalonians 1:4

Steven Weyhrich said...

(from the Jesus Music newsgroup)

That is a thoughtful commentary. I had to wrestle with some of this years ago when the prosperity movement was in full swing (it hasn't gone away, but is not nearly as audible as it was before). That interpretation of Scripture argued that we are redeemed by Christ, we therefore have all the blessings of Abraham (health, wealth, etc), and made it out that God is just waiting to give me all these wonderful things if I just believe Him and His promises in the right way.

The problem is that not all of God's people in the Bible (whether in the New or the Old Testaments) necessarily found their lives to be prosperous and care free. In fact, the most powerful stories in the Bible are of those who had nothing, or had it all taken away from them, and how they responded to God in those circumstances.

If I am poor, does that mean that God is not blessing me? If I am in poor health, does that mean that I am not believing God in just the right way? Many of that ilk would say so, which puts the blame for my position squarely on MY shoulders for something that very possibly I had no control over whatsoever.

Following that line of argument, if I am blessed (health, prosperity, etc), then I am walking in God's will. If I am not seeing those material and physical blessings, then I am not in His will and need to get myself right with Him.

How much different to view God as the One who love me fully, completely, and utterly, the One who may choose to allow something to come my way not because His blessing does not rest on me, but for His greater glory to show in how I respond to the trial. And if I truly love God for Himself and not for what He does for me, then I trust Him. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:11-15).

It is a grievous thing that there are many who will choose to become angry with God when life doesn't go their way, when they are no longer (apparently) getting "things" from Him. I don't love my parents only when I get things from them; I love them because of who they are (my parents), and the things are just icing on the cake.

Again, great thoughts in your post. Thanks!

Penny said...

What a terrific class discussion. Thanks for writing about it and about how God is working in your life. It's the first time I've visited your blog and I really enjoyed this post.

Have a good day,
Penny

Bob Wild said...

Two of the most influential books I've read are "The God they never knew: The tragedy of religion without relationship" by George Otis Jr. and "The Ultimate Intention" by DeVern F. Fromke

Here are some inspirational and challenging thoughts:

From prayer that asks that I may be
 Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,

From fearing when I should aspire,

From faltering when I should climb higher,

From silken self, O Captain, free

Thy soldier who would follow Thee.
From subtle love of softening things,

From easy choices, weakenings,

(Not thus are spirits fortified,

Not this way went the crucified)

From all that dims Thy Calvary,

O Lamb of God, deliver me.
Give me the love that leads the way,

The faith that nothing can dismay,

The hope no disappointments tire,

The passion that will burn like fire;

Let me not sink to be a clod:

Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.
~ Amy Carmichael

You can give without loving,
but you cannot love without giving.
~ Amy Carmichael

"I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the center of the market place as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles but on a cross between two thieves; on the town garbage heap; at a crossroads so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek ... at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where he died and that is what he died about. And that is where churchmen ought to be and what churchmen should be about." -- Ian Thomas

Dennis said...

Pastor Dave,

I found you through the Jesus Music newsgroup. I was interested in your blog, as you live in one of the most beautiful areas in our country. (My wife and I attended Church Camp at Diamond Arrow outside Grass Valley.)

God is truly amazing, as I needed to read this.

Thank you for posting this article by David Ryser on your blog,
Dennis

Anonymous said...

Yo this subject is pretty concerning. Keep it going buddy !

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