Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stronghold in the Church: Self-satisfaction

Bull on Wall Street outside the NYSE in Manhattan
Self satisfaction. “You say, ‘I’m rich; I have acquired wealth and have need of nothing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17.) The deception of self-satisfaction can be so covered up we cannot see it. It is a blind spot. It is the plank in our eye (Matthew 7:3-5). 

Charles Spurgeon says of this passage that churches are very apt to fall into this position, a position that may be far from her reputation outside (Revelation 3:15a) or inside (Revelation 3:17, “But you do not realize . . .”).[1] The world judges by externals. Christ judges by internals. 

The deception of self-satisfaction is one of indifference and carelessness (Revelation 3:15b-16). We must ask God to reveal our blind spots. For a local congregation, new members and visitors are our best friends when they help us identify them. Self-satisfaction never considers the need for self-examination or accountability (Psalm 139:23-24). It assumes that self is the standard by which to measure everyone else. 

Self-satisfaction does not want to be bothered with how the world has changed around it. Within its own self-constructed fortress, self-satisfaction spends its days admiring itself, its past, its goodness, and its own self-sufficiency (Revelation 3:17), unaware that it is mired in hypocrisy (Matthew 16:16-22). 

Self-satisfaction values human opinion above the Word of God (Matthew 15:1-6). Self-satisfaction is more concerned with appearance and image and the self-deception of hypocrisy than with Christ-honoring authenticity (Matthew 15:7-11). Because of this one thing, many of our young people leave the church and never come back. 

Self-satisfaction is deeply offended by hearing that it is not righteous, but is only right-ish (Matthew 15:12), “Did you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” God honors hungry, desperate seekers. Worship, abandoned worship is the opposite of self-satisfaction. 

Tozer writes, “The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestations of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted.”[2] It is the call of desperation for Christ. A.W. Tozer wrote, 
“Did you notice what Luke said about the Pharisees and their request that Jesus should rebuke His disciples for praising God with loud voices? Their ritual rules probably allowed them to whisper the words, “Glory to God!”, but it really pained them to hear anyone saying them out loud. Jesus told the Pharisees in effect: ‘They are doing the right thing. God my Father and I and the Holy Spirit are to be worshiped. If men and women will not worship me, the very rocks will shout out my praises!’ Those religious Pharisees, polished and smoothed and polished again, would have died right there in their tracks if they had heard a rock given a voice and praising the Lord. Well, we have great churches and we have beautiful sanctuaries and we join in the chorus, ‘We have need of nothing.’ But there is every indication that we are in need of worshipers.”[3]
Our adversary dulls us with our own comfort, wealth, success, charm, or goodness. Self-satisfaction is easily recognized by the self-imposed stiffness in our religious lives. Self-satisfaction is a profound blindness (Matthew 15:13-14). The worst thing about self-satisfaction is that, like carbon monoxide, it lulls us into a deadly sleep of no appetite, no desperation for the Lord. The lack of desperation is a silent killer. It regularly kills churches. The only antidote to self-satisfaction is crucifixion by way of repentance (Revelation 3:19). In that way the Lord Jesus will be allowed back into their midst to do his work and be worshiped (Revelation 3:20).

[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, “An Earnest Warning about Lukewarmness, July 26, 1874, Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
[2] A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1982), 17.
[3] A.W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship? (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1982),  16.