The drive up altar: Convenience has changed our way of life

I am still young enough to remember the locally owned grocery store, the full-service gas station and even Cokes for a nickel. The days when you could park your car in your driveway and not lock the doors.

The days when your signature and your word were enough. The days when you could turn on the television — or even radio, for that matter — and not race to cover your eyes and ears. Or at least those of your children.

I even remember when McDonald’s came to our small Louisiana town. There wasn’t a drive-in at the original restaurant. When the owners began to knock out the wall to install one a few years later, critics called it a gimmick, a fad that wouldn’t last. (Yes, I scoffed myself.)

But, during the past twenty years in the race toward a communications superhighway and one-world government with its accompanying religion, the societal climate has undergone a continual metamorphosis. Morality and trust are fleeting, and the love of many has waxed cold — true to prophetic utterance.

The rapid-fire pace of change has sucked up like a vacuum cleaner the traditional way of life we knew as kids. Today, it has influenced the church.

We live in a day and hour of convenience, where the tendency is to drive up to the altar for a fast healing, instant salvation, quick fix, or immediate answers to life’s complex questions.

It is revealing to look at the term convenient. Its definition is “easy to do, or get to; handy.” About convenience, the dictionary says, “The quality of being convenient; comfort; anything that adds to one’s comfort or saves work; at a time or place suitable to one.”

The final verses of James are powerful, concerning prayer offered in faith restoring the sick and the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availing much. Still, because of the convenience-oriented mentality of the world, many Christians attempt to experience those truths in James, chapter 5, without the preparation of the first four and a half chapters.

Many fall away or give up when they become convinced that “it doesn’t work for me,” forgetting — or indeed not knowing — that “the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

The world and the church have nothing in common. The two are diametrically opposed, locked in a battle to the explosive finale. The object of the battle: you and me.

One side uses deception and trickery; God’s side uses truth and integrity. Joining leagues with one side means fighting against the other.

James 4:4 firmly draws the line. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

The convenience store Christianity prevalent in the church today is an attempt to eliminate the perseverance of the saints. But, James 1:4 reminds us to “let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Patience, or endurance, requires singleness of mind, another of the early warnings of James. To reap results in your “effectual fervent prayer,” you must first realize James 1:7-8: “For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

The prevailing wisdom of the days encourages us to somehow “fit God into your schedule,” to be hearers of the Word, but not doers. In other words, conform yourselves to the world and to the preaching of a new faith–a cheap, shallow belief in God that brings tremendous instant fulfilment and results.

The church that has the power to pray the effective prayer will not conform but will resist the devil and his quick fixes and shortcuts.

James teaches that faith without works is dead. What would have happened to the children of Israel if they had approached the Red Sea and Moses had simply looked intently into heaven and said, “God, I have great faith you will deliver us?” Nothing. Absolutely nothing. His faith would have been dead if he had not struck the waters with his rod.

Then, of course, remember James 3. Most Christians could preach from it, and yet it is one of the most difficult chapters in the Bible to walk.

God watches over His Word to perform it; do we?

Indeed, we are responsible for our words. Jesus says we must “account for every idle (careless) word” (Matt. 12:36). That word idle, in the Green, means “unemployed, not doing anything.”

In Isaiah 55, God says, “so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prospect in the thing whereto I sent it.”

God uses employed words, words of action, and purpose. He speaks only those words He knows He can and will back up. Should we as Christians use anything less?

The final verses of James 3, and the first verses of chapter 4 address selfish ambition, jealousy, and praying with wrong motives.

Then, after three and a half chapters of pointing out the error, James relates the cure, beginning in chapter 4, verse 7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” This response addresses a longer, continual process that we cannot pick up at the altars of our local convenience store church.

As Jesus is the Word become flesh, we are flesh becoming Word, a process that we will not complete until we see Him face to face.

We can pray diligently and long, but the “effective, fervent prayer” will follow only a cleaning and purification process and a lining up with God’s Word.

James gives us a good outline for that purpose.

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