Have you ever asked yourself what God sees when He gazes down from on high and looks at His church today? Perhaps these are the things He sees:
The Rich and the Poor
He sees a great contrast in the ways that His children live. For starters, they are scattered throughout different parts of the globe. Some, living in poor underdeveloped areas, are struggling somewhat to make ends meet, but they will make it because He will see that they do. Others, living in economically successful and politically stable nations, are enjoying the material affluence of their societies.
Although both groups are members of the same household, there is little association between them; they are busy with their own lives. Those living in affluent societies cannot truly appreciate the physical toils and hardships of their brethren in poverty-stricken societies. One might argue that inadequate interchurch communication and lack of information, coupled with physical distance, has led to this poor awareness. In fact, if there were ever an appeal by the church for assistance, more affluent members would probably contribute willingly and generously too. But, by themselves, they make little effort to find out how their brethren in different parts of the world are coping, both materially and spiritually, and whether there is anything they can do to help. The gap between them remains; the rapport that should exist within a family is missing, and without this rapport, they cannot truly care for one another and look after one another's welfare.
Until a breakthrough is made, it is difficult to see how the present-day church can ever share the experience of the early believers, who were "of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common... Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need" (Acts 4:32-35).
Lovers of Mammon, and of God
When God searches the hearts of His children, He again sees great contrasts. There are those who have failed to heed His warning and have fallen into the trap of trying to serve both Him and mammon. They do not want to lose God; they keep their religious practices of attending church, prayer, and, on occasion, when time permits, Bible reading. But at the same time, they have become used to the good life and all the modern conveniences that money can buy. They appreciate gourmet food and enjoy entertainment like karaoke. They follow the entertainment scene closely and spend heavily on videos, cassettes, and digital media. They drive expensive cars and take exotic holidays. They buy only branded goods and pay excessive attention to external appearance. To maintain this lifestyle, they devote precious time and energy to devise ways of making their money grow. They avidly follow the market trends. Instead of concerning themselves over the matters of God, they are more concerned over their financial investments. In fact, they center their lives around themselves rather than around God. He does not play a key role in their everyday existence anymore. He has become someone to turn to only in times of need, but in most instances, just someone who can be "kept in view"â€”not to be forgotten but dealt with when the occasion arises.
O My people, what have I done to you?
And how have I wearied you?
Testify against Me. (Mic 6:3)
Sadly, these people are not aware that their faith has not progressed. They think that as long as they continue with their religious practices and maintain the status quo, salvation is within their grasp. While it is true that salvation is a free gift from God and is not obtained by virtue of one's own efforts (Eph 2:8), they fail to realize that those who are called have a responsibility to lead a life worthy of that calling (Eph 4:1). This includes being "careful how you walk,... making the most of the time,... understand[ing] what the will of God is,... be[ing] filled with the Spirit" (Eph 5:15-18, RSV).
Actually, God does not demand that His children renounce the world to lead ascetic lives. The very fact that a person has wealth and possessions and can enjoy them is a gift from Him (Eccl 5:19). As the author of Ecclesiastes states, you can "walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of your eyes," but he also warns, "know that for all these God will bring you into judgment" (Eccl 11:9). In other words, while one has the freedom to decide on the kind of life that he wants to lead, he has to remember that his actions are accountable to God on the day of judgment. By then, it will be too late for regret. What is important is how he lives out his life now.
The Sheep in Need of Pastoring
As God searches further, He will come across His wandering sheep. This is the group who have yet to be rooted in their faith and are unsure of their own beliefs. They have doubts over certain aspects of the church's teachings and, at times, find messages from the pulpit "too strict and uncompromising." They try to find reasons to justify why such messages cannot be applied today. Surrounded by the proliferation of religious novelty, they are easily misled by false teachings. They are to be pitied, because they are being "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting" (Eph 4:14).
Since they are not yet rooted in the Scriptures, they do not fully understand the reason for following Christ. They may have come to God because they believe that God will bring them success in all their endeavors, that He will give them good health, and that He will make their lives in this world as peaceful as possible. Their reasons for embracing Christianity are many and varied, but these all reflect the fact that they are seeking after the blessings of God. They are not seeking after God Himself.
Because of this lack of true understanding, they are also easily disillusioned when they see the shortcomings of the believers. They have yet to realize that the True Jesus Church preaches the complete gospel of salvation, that this is where the Spirit of God dwells, and where miracles and signs abound, and that she is therefore the true church that leads to salvation. Problems arise within this community of faith only because its members have yet to live up to the teachings of the Bible; they have yet to completely apply these teachings to their daily lives.
Of course, the church has a responsibility towards these spiritually young believers. After all, the very essence of Christian fellowship is one of mutual care and concern. The teaching that the strong should care for the weak is well known. However, those who are weak ought not to remain weak all their lives. At some point in their lives, they have to become givers of care, not merely recipients. And instead of being disillusioned with the imperfections of their brethren, they have to find ways to help them overcome these imperfections. Perhaps they need to turn the mirror on themselves, to see their own imperfections. If they themselves are not perfect, who are they to criticize the imperfections of others? That one ought to be magnanimous in dealing with the faults of others but strict in dealings with one's own faults is a worthy principle.
The True and Faithful Servants
Finally, from on high, God will see the group that forms the pillars of His church. These are His children who center their lives around Him and His teachings; they are His true and faithful servants who have established close relationships with Him. Through their daily speech and conduct, they magnify and bring glory to Him. Although they may shoulder heavy responsibilities in society and lead busy lives just as everyone else, in their hearts the matters of the church and the welfare of their brethren are their key concerns. They actively participate in every aspect of the church's ministry and always pray to God to guide and direct the footsteps of the true church. They are full of compassion for those in need, and always take the initiative to care for them. They visit the ill in hospitals and maintain constant contact with the weak in faith. Such members have set the right priorities in their lives.
In fact, this group has not always been this devout. In the early days of their faith, they had to make difficult decisions between serving God and mammon, too. As they were still unsure of the teachings of the Bible, they also had doubts about their own faith. Yet in spite of all, they pulled through because they turned to God at the critical moments of their spiritual lives. When they were at the nadir of their faith, they remembered God and His love for them. Among all the people of this world, He had chosen them to be His very own and had given them the hope of eternal life. They were not the best, and of no great worth, yet of His own accord, He had saved them from a life of darkness to one of hope.
Touched by this divine love, they repented and returned to Him, resolving to lead a life worthy of His calling. Most importantly, they kept their word. They made the effort to know God by studying the Bible and to build up their relationship with Him through prayers. Once they took that difficult first step, they received strength and support from God, which they discovered far outweighed the efforts that they had put in. This provided the motivation to strive to know Him even better.
Over time, with this new approach, they have found their lives deeply enriched. When they study the words of God, they are not only amazed by the works of God throughout the history of humankind, but also by its dynamic power to influence their daily actions. And when they pray, they experience the beauty of being near God, as though heaven has opened and all barriers between God and man have been removed. They can talk to God as though He is their close and intimate friend. When they experience difficulties, they can appeal to Him and He will respond. When they are afraid, they will remember the psalmist's prayer and be strengthened:
In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me? (Ps 56:10-11)
Even when life becomes extremely stressful and the pressures tremendous, they can still have tranquility and joy in their hearts, for they are confident in the knowledge that whatever the future may bring, the Lord is near. And having tasted the goodness of God, the glittering world cannot lure them away from Him anymore. They share the sentiments of the psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You" (Ps 73:25).
The psalmist tells us, "The Lord is in [H]is holy temple; the Lord is on [H]is heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; [H]is eyes examine them" (Ps 11:4, NIV). When His eyes fall upon you, what will He see?