As a young girl, I tapped my toe and laughed as three guys with guitars and banjos belted out the song, “Excuses” in our small church. The chorus went like this:
Excuses, excuses, you’ll hear them every day.
And the Devil he’ll supply them, if the church you stay away.
When people come to know the Lord, the Devil always loses
So to keep them folks away from church, he offers them excuses.
Watch “Excuses” by the Kingsmen Quartet at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQmAlc3nzUY
Years later, I recognized the song isn’t all that funny because sadly, it’s true. I grew up in the church. My dad was a pastor. I married a pastor. I’ve not heard many new excuses given for skipping church–or walking away from it entirely.
“Excuses” came to mind again after the Pew Research Center came out with its statistics on the decline of “Christianity” this spring. Every media outlet spewed their spin on this supposedly new revelation. The “well worn path” for criticism of everything and everyone Christian has only jaded my opinion of the critics’ legitimacy. Over time, I have become increasingly frustrated at their attempt to tack a renewed sense of guilt and self-loathing ever and only upon Christians. It’s been going on for years. Every Bible-believing church I’ve ever known has experienced its share of difficulty, struggling weekly to minister effectively to imperfect people who fill the seats or to reach out again through yet another special event or effort.
The reasons people in the community give for not coming to church, for leaving the church, or not being attracted to Christianity are varied, but the favorite reasons usually center around hypocrisy and perceived judgmental attitudes. A local paper editorial played this blame game as did scores of Christian blogs and articles. The comment sections were full of the same thing: “People are leaving the church and here’s why: Christians are lousy examples.” However, all these reasons boil down to mere excuses. The “judgments” expressed in the op-ed revealed an equal hypocrisy (perhaps that should be read, “hostility”). The gleeful supplier of lousy ‘excuses’ is the Devil.
The ironic thing is that if you pick up the paper and read what is happening up in the town hall, attend a school board meeting, or become involved with any civic organization, you’ll find hypocrisy. But the church seems to love torturing itself with their excuses. We are hypocrites. (We must be. Everyone’s saying so!) We aren’t loving. We are judgmental. We’ve failed, etc., etc., etc. And although a certain level of self-evaluation and introspection isn’t a bad thing, we seem so laden with false-guilt that we are too embarrassed to speak out. Guilt has never been a great motivator. We hang our heads in shame and admit we are at a loss for words when the church is accused. We’re apologetic for standards and convictions. It’s almost like we’re saying, “I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to become a Christian. We’re such poor examples.” The Devil loves this. When we constantly see ourselves as failures, we’ve all but convinced ourselves the church is irrelevant and there’s nothing we can do about it.
How well we know the church’s shortcomings. Yes, it’s true! The Body of Christ has never been perfect because it is comprised of human beings—yes, saved by grace, but never above failure. I don’t know of any church that has claimed perfection for its members. We are not slaves to sin, but time after time, pastors, deacons, leaders and lay people fall into or engage in sinful actions and behavior. The Devil capitalizes on this. The evil one loves to bring whole churches down with his well-practiced tactics. He’s always looking for a figurehead. He loves to keep people away from a relationship with Christ by slaughtering the testimony of Christians, splashing their failures across town and through the media. The concept of the forgiveness and restoration God offers is lost in the process.
Believing friend, recognize the bull’s eye on your back (Ephesians 6:12). Recognize you are a target of Satan and his schemes. Consider the damage you do to the Body of Christ by falling prey to his tactics (Ephesians 6:11). Never smugly consider yourself above failure (I Corinthians 10: 12-13). Be sure secret sins will eventually be found out (Numbers 32:23). When you make a judgment, consider yourself, lest you also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1) Determine to be faithful (I Corinthians 4:1-2; 15:58; 16:13). Live your life differently, set apart. Prove the life-changing power of Christ! Stop allowing guilt to shame and paralyze you from sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16). Oh, and if you are constantly blaming the church instead of attempting to make a difference by living a committed life wholly devoted to Christ, recognize you might be part of the problem.
Unbelieving friend, I know this: The church isn’t perfect, but it is comprised of many faithful, genuine believers who love Christ and strive to love and serve others sacrificially. They have dedicated themselves to Christian service. God’s transforming power is evident in their lives. They have a standard of holiness which does not allow for compromise of convictions. For this, they are labeled as judgmental and unloving; but mercy and truth are sides of the same coin. Grace and Truth are Divine currency. If you walk into a Bible-believing church content to live in a way that defies God’s Word, you aren’t going to feel entirely comfortable. The uneasiness you should feel if you are unrepentant in sin is called conviction, and its source is the Holy Spirit through the Word. The truths of God won’t be watered down for your comfort, and that will feel like judgment. It’s not because the pastor or the people don’t care about you. Every genuine Christian agonizes over friends, acquaintances, family members, children or spouses who make ungodly choices. It grieves their heart to see loved ones walk away from God. I know these people. They are the church. I’m tired of them being bashed, accused and laden with guilt. For their sake, I am calling out your excuses. More importantly, for the sake of your eternity, I urge you to stop using them to justify yourself. Stop using them to reject the God Who created you and cares about you.
One day, every individual will stand before God. Regardless of the religion or belief system chosen on earth, every human being will recognize and acknowledge God for Who He is and bow to Him. And every one of us will give an account. Romans 4:11-12: “For it is written, ‘AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.’ So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” You will not be able to point at a Christian you knew and use him or her as an excuse for not accepting God’s free gift of salvation. All of your excuses will not excuse you from God’s judgment. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools. ” Romans 1:18-22
How will you stand on your own? How will you justify yourself? By your good deeds? Isaiah 64:6 says that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that we are only saved “by grace through faith,” and “not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The Devil will have duped you into thinking you are good enough in comparison to someone else. He will have convinced you that you do not need a Savior. He will have successfully kept you occupied with your pursuits and personal happiness, comfortable with the god you created for yourself. You will have let him use his lies as your rationale to explain away the truths of God’s Word you were uncomfortable with. You will have let him blind you. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
The day you stand before God will be too late. Do not be deceived. One day you will be without excuse.