SNT (Stained Napkin Theology)
December 14, 2017, 12:00 AM

A Subtle Shift


A foundation Scripture of Simply Church Ministries is 2 Cor 11:3 -

       But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be

       corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

In the passage, there is a phrase ascribing "subtlety" [1] as the serpent's choice of weapon in deceiving Eve.

While searching Scripture for an example of subtlety, I was lead to 2 Chronicles 16:1-9 concerning the last years of Asa, King of Judah, who reigned for 41 years {1 Kngs 15:10}. His reign was characterized by peace {2 Chrn 14:6}, prosperity {2 Chrn 14:7} and progress {2 Chrn 15:3-15}.

Asa may have started right, but he didn't finish right. Scripture reveals that Asa experienced a "subtle shift" during the latter years of his reign (v 7).

I believe there are analogies in this narrative indicative of a "subtle shift" affecting the spirituality of 21st century churches.

 

Misplaced Trust - leading to the idol of "Professionalism".

Being installed in the office of King of Judah meant Asa was the top dog! The buck stopped with his office! When he was first crowned, he was young and inexperienced. He relied on the Lord constantly {2 Chrn 14-15}. He continually experienced God's provision and protection, the latter particularly when the Ethiopians and Lubims attacked early in his reign. {v 8}.

In the text, Baasha, King of Israel, attempted to plug his "back door" problem of immigration (think church-members leaving). Presumably, the peace, prosperity, and protection (safety and security) enjoyed by his subjects drew many Northern Kingdom refugees (think America & 3rd world nations) . Baasha's solution was to build a city (Ramah) on the border between the Northern (Israel) and Southern (Judah) Kingdoms in order to lay siege and control immigration (v 1-think Berlin Wall and/or border wall).

Amazingly,  Asa's reaction to Baasha was not to seek the Lord but to ignore Him! Asa adopted a strategy which depended not on the Lord but on human resources. He formed an alliance with Benhadad, King of Syria, who drew Baasha from Ramah by attacking Israel on their northern border with Syria.

During the years of peace and prosperity, a "subtle shift" had taken place in Asa's heart. His experience, education, and ego had simmered to produce an idol: professionalism. Asa was now a "professional" who did not need God as he did when first crowned King. His "professionalism" led him to misplace his trust (reliance) in human resourcefulness {v 7} (think marketing, merchandising, leadership, and presentation skills).

It is not to say that pursuing an education and honing skills through experience are wrong. Yet, when we rely on these skills to produce spiritual results rather than relying on God, we "idolize" the very skills that were simply gifted to us from the Lord. We have replaced the "Giver" with the "gift" as the object or our faith (reliance). God has made it abundantly clear in His Word that He is a "jealous" God, Who will not share His Glory {Ex 20:5, 34:14} Furthermore, He said the flesh is not capable of producing spiritual results {Jo 6:63}.  By relying on the skills of human resources, we are doomed to failure.

 

Mismanaged Opportunity - leading to the idol of “Personalism”

Asa used Temple treasure to finance his personal agenda {v 2} in opposition to former countrymen. There are innumerable examples in 21st century church life of leaders using church assets (social, tangible, and monetary) to further their agenda (which, in their view, is always the will of God). A "subtle shift" has occurred in the church. God is treated as a resource used to fulfill human agenda rather than human resources being used to fulfill God's will (agenda)!

 

Malignant Consequences - leading to idol of "Pragmatism"

Initially, Asa's scheme appeared to be successful {v 4-5}. Apparent confirmation came in the form of material gain: the stones & timber from Ramah, resulting in the cities of Geba & Mizpah (v 6). "It worked, so it must be ok" was the practical (but not Biblical) theology of the time.

Unfortunately for Asa, material gain was far outweighed by the loss of peace in his kingdom for many years to come {v 9 & 1 Kngs 15:32}.  A "subtle shift" had occurred in Asa's heart, leading him to experience "mission creep"; wherein his mission objective shifted from opposing the true enemies of God's people (Benhadad - Syria) to maintaining the status quo of feuding with Baasha.

Like Asa, a"subtle shift" has occurred in today's churches. Because spiritual results are difficult to quantify, buildings and budgets are deemed a primary indicator of God's blessing. Energy is expended on promoting building campaigns, budget pledging, planning meetings & conferences, leadership seminars, denominational programming, deriving vision, formulating mission statements, and developing implementation strategies.

When these are substituted for confession, repentance, prayer , fasting, submission, surrender, total abandonment to God, Holy Spirit filling, & anointed gospel proclamation, they have become idols!

Asa contracted a foot disease in his latter years. In light of such Scripture as Rom 10:15...And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things, this is an apt metaphor indicating that gospel proclamation is hindered in churches as a result of misplaced trust.

Simply Church Ministries exists to exhort and encourage today’s churches to return to total and complete reliance on God for spiritual life and energy! Abandon the works of the flesh and return anew to God!

Once again the Simply Church Ministries foundational text: 

          2Co 11:3  I am afraid that your minds will be corrupted and that you will abandon your full and pure devotion

          to Christ—in the same way that Eve was deceived by the snake's clever lies (subtlety). (GNB)

          Pro 3:5  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding


[1] Merriam-Webster treats “subtilty” as old English spelling & “subtlety” as current spelling of the same word.

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