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Houston we have a problem…it’s time to face the brutal facts!

In Jim Collins' book, Good to Great, he writes, "All good-to-great companies began the process of finding a path to greatness by confronting the brutal facts of their current reality. . . . It is impossible to make good decisions without infusing the entire process with an honest confrontation of the brutal facts." This statement is not only good advice for companies, but it's also good advice for marriages, parenting, and churches.


In marriage, spouses can very easily slip into the "neutral zone" where everything looks neutral: it's not really bad, but it's not good, either. There's no color, no spark, and no joy. Everything is a dull gray as the husband and wife rarely speak to one another, take time for each other, and basically live separate lives under one roof. How do we splash color on our marriages and create a spark once again? Only when we confront the brutal fact that our current reality is not healthy. When we're honest about our condition, we're far more likely to search for the remedy.


In parenting, moms and dads can find themselves being a taxi service and calendar scheduler more than a discipler and nurturer. I've been traveling a lot the past four weeks, and I realized I hadn't had a meaningful conversation with my daughter during that entire time. So, yesterday I picked her up from school and took her out on a date. I wouldn't have done that, though, if I didn't confront the brutal fact that I've been an absentee dad over the past month.  


The same thing applies to the state of the church in America today. Many churchgoers are content with the drabness of their faith and church experience. Much like the frog in the kettle, many churchgoers aren't even aware there's a problem. But there is. Every year more than 4,000 churches close their doors compared to approximately 1,000 new churches that start. There are just over 350,000 churches in the U.S. today. I'm no expert in math, but when we have a net loss of 3,000 churches a year, that means we would be almost "churchless" in roughly 100 years. Churchgoers are also getting older, on average, than the general population. The younger the generation, the higher the percentage that reports they are unaffiliated with a church. Every year 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity. From 1990 to 2000, the combined membership of all Protestant denominations in the U.S. declined by almost 5 million members (9.5%) while the U.S. population increased by 24 million (11%).


Houston, we have a problem.


It's time to confront the brutal facts, not so that we wring our hands in despair, but so that we get on our knees in prayer. In marriage, parenting, and churches, we need to be honest about our current reality in order to wake up to the Spirit's leading for repentance and renewal. To repent means to change your mind and go in a different direction. We change our minds by acknowledging that where we are is not good in order to begin moving to a better place--to a healthier marriage, family, and church. We repent of letting the weeds grow in our hearts and homes, and then we renew our commitment to kill the weeds and grow healthy once again.


Jesus said to the church in Ephesus, "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent" (Revelation 2:4-5, ESV). Confront the brutal facts. Have you abandoned the love you once held for your spouse, your children, your Lord? Has your heart grown cold? Are you in the "neutral zone" of your marriage? Is your church just going through the motions? If so, it's time to repent and do the works you did at first. Return to the love you once had. "Keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 21), and "the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you" (1Peter 5:10). And praise God that He will. 

Living a Life of Holiness

Holiness is a topic you don't hear much about these days. When I scan church websites and look at the volume of sermons preached from pulpits in American churches, I see a lot of topics such as marriage and family, finding fulfillment, discerning God's will, and overcoming anger, fear, disappointment, etc. All of these are important, but I wonder if the reason we struggle so much in marriage and family and finding fulfillment, etc. is because we're not addressing a deeper issue of God working deep in our souls to transform us into the likeness of God Himself (Ephesians 4:24).


Perhaps part of our struggle is that we view "holiness" as either unattainable or unadvisable; unattainable, because we never measure up, and unadvisable, because we don't want to come across as "holier than thou." The harsh reality, however, is that the Bible teaches us we are to strive for holiness, "without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). So, apparently, holiness is a pretty big deal. If we want to see the Lord, i.e., enter His heavenly kingdom, we must be holy. I don't know about you, but I don't always feel holy. Is holiness a scale of right and wrong, and if you reach the tipping point of, let's say, 80% on the "right" side, then you're holy? Would 85% of right behavior be enough for being labeled holy?


Fortunately for us, holiness is what we become in Jesus Christ, and not what we make of ourselves. Holiness is about the alignment of our lives with the holiness of our Lord and Savior. This is why "holy" people can at times do "unholy" things. The Apostle Paul wrote, "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing" (Romans 7:19). Ever experience that? These inspired words come from the Apostle Paul—if there was ever anyone who walked planet earth whom we would say lived a holy life, in addition to Jesus, it would be Paul.


Herein lies the spiritual reality of growing into our new identity in Jesus Christ. We are new creations in Christ. "The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). In the Greek text, the old passing away is an "aorist tense" verb which means it has been done away with in one past action—the action of the cross of Jesus Christ. "The new has come" is a "perfect tense" which differs from the aorist in that it emphasizes the continuing result of the action which was completed in past time. In other words, the past action of Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross takes away our old self and it continues to bring results of the new self.


The point is that we are made holy through Jesus Christ, and we continue to become holy through Jesus Christ. Therefore, do not give up and grow weary in doing good, for you will reap a harvest if you do not give up (Galatians 6:9). You are a work of holiness where you continue to yield to the Holy Spirit in your life as He uses His scalpel to remove and infuse. He removes the things from your life that keep you from growing in His holiness, and He infuses you with His holiness. To put this in the words of Oswald Chambers, "A holy man is not one who has his eyes set on his own whiteness, but one who is personally and passionately devoted to the Lord who saved him" (Conformed to His Image, 380).


"For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness" (1 Thessalonians 4:7). If you ever think that means you have to become a monk living in a monastery, guess again. You can live a life of holiness in the ordinary moments and routines by keeping your eyes on Jesus. There are times we need to narrow our focus in order to have a broader vision. Holiness does not come because we keep all the rules (which is called moralism) but by keeping in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). This is an ongoing process of walking with Jesus (Colossians 1:10), dying to the things of the world (Colossians 2:20), being raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1), and setting your mind on things that are above (Colossians 3:2). 


When you're driving down the interstate, it's a whole lot harder to keep your car in between the lines if you're only looking at the lines. It's when you look ahead that you're able to have a greater vision of keeping your car moving in the right direction. Likewise, it's a lot harder to live a holy life if you're only looking at the rules, lines and boundaries. It's far better to keep your chin up and your eyes on Jesus, and He will guide you in the right direction.

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