“O that my people would listen to me.” Psalm 81:13
The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly. Titus 2:11-12
My parents owned an independant motel. We lived there and ran the business. They had friendly competition. They would have dinner together, talk motel business with the owners and operators of the Sunset Motel, the La Petite Motel, the West Mount Motel, and Town House Motel. They would see the national chains, Holiday Inn, Ramada Inn – as they built along Interstate 55 – as not-quite-so-friendly competition.
There may be a parallel for us at St. John. Friendly competition would be those decidedly Christian churches in the area. The less friendly competitors would be the religious organizations who use Jesus’ name but never really get to the core of sin and grace, salvation, repentance and faith.
It has long been my contention, however that the local church is not in competition with other local churches. We’re in competition with the ways, values, ideals, and distractions of the world. Unbridled greed. Unapologetic pride. Godless ambition. Abusive exploitation. Idol worship of movie stars, sports heroes, and celebrities of many sorts. These are the church’s competition. They are part of a triumvirate of evil set against the ways, works, and will of God. The devil, the world, and our flesh all conspire with these competitors for God’s glory and proper place in our lives.
What is vying for your attention and honor today that is not of God? Are you listening to his word? The stakes are high; much higher than whether you will go to one church or another. For the devil, the world, and our flesh vie for our souls. They would turn us away from God the source of life, health, and salvation. They not only rob God of his true glory and proper place in our lives. They destroy hope. They kill the soul. They steal your joy.