Why the Church and Its Members Cannot Be Even One Degree off Course

March 2018
By Jeremiah Krieger
In our world today, many simple tasks are completed thousands of times per day with exact precision. One of those tasks that we might not even think about is flying. Many of us fly to different cities on a fairly regular basis. We probably don’t think much about the logistics of how we get from place to place. That’s what we pay the Captain for when we buy our airline seats. But what would happen if your pilot would accidentally navigate just a little bit off course?
For every degree you fly off course, you will miss your target by 92 feet for every mile that you fly. For every 60 miles you fly, you will miss your target by one mile. Flying around the equator will land you almost 500 miles off target. Flying from JFK to LAX will put you nearly 50 miles off course. Getting that far off course wouldn’t be very noticeable during the flight if the pilot was only one degree off, but upon arrival to the destination reality would quickly set in.
Sometimes we can look at disasters in life and wonder, “How did that happen?” Recently, I was reading an article about a once thriving church in Philadelphia that has now become a heroine den. I thought “How did that happen?” In my short life, I have seen friends who appeared to have thriving marriages quickly disintegrate after 15-20 years together. I wondered, “How did that happen?” I have lamented with addicts in recovery groups who have lost everything. And I wondered, “How did that happen?”
It happens when we allow our lives to go one degree off course. There is that small and subtle thought that becomes a bad decision. The bad decision becomes a habit that quickly becomes a lifestyle. Then we deplane after a while, and we realize the disaster we have because we weren’t paying attention to small things that took us a great distance away from God.
God’s Word continually affirms us about the atrocities that occur when God’s people live outside the boundaries of the grace of community with God. We think, “It’s OK just this one time.” Or, “I’ll get back on track after I enjoy this just once.” Suddenly, we are walking away from God.
There are several places in God’s word that compel us to enjoy the blessings of life through Christ and warn us not to drift away from Him. One of the most prominent books in the Bible that warns us about the dangers of walking away from God is the book of Judges.
The book of Judges depicts Israel’s dark spot in history as their hearts slowly drifted away from God. They were never fully faithful to do what God had commanded them to do when they entered the promised land. Instead of conquering their enemies and fully destroying the idols of the pagan land, Israel continue to live in mediocrity and tolerance of sin.
Appearance of faithfulness occasionally blip the pages of Judges when God would raise up a deliverer for His people after Israel had whined long enough in their bondage. But in reality, their true state is understood in the final chapter of this messy book: “In those days Israel had no king. Each man did what he considered to be right.”
Judges chapters 1-21 are a testament of what happens to a nation when they turn away from God and turn towards themselves. Throughout these pages the reader continually asks, “How did that happen?”
The answer is one degree. Judges is a testimony of the false repentance of people who wanted to live their own way and then beg God for help when they got in trouble. Israel had a habit of leaving her King and then running back to him in the midst of her trouble. Does that sound familiar?
This kind of cycle can be played out in the lives of believers today too. We too can think one degree is OK. Today, when we let our guard down and downplay the importance of each choice we make, we have become one degree off course. The church becomes sick and powerless as His presence fades into the backdrop of our sin.
Today, Christians must be careful to make sure they are living in right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The state of our relationship with God will show in our attitudes and the decisions we make. That tiny step of unfaithfulness away from Christ will become a chasm of pain and suffering that we needlessly inflict on ourselves. Nobody plans to create a mess in their life. It happens by subtle unfaithfulness left unchecked that erodes our faith little by little.
As we evaluate our life today, how does it measure up to God’s word? In our marriages, have we drifted from God’s standard of love that we are to have for our spouse? As we raise our children, are we discipling them and teaching them in a way that doesn’t provoke them to anger? What are we doing to help serve the body of Christ so that others will be successful in their journey of faith? Do we participate regularly in the weekly gatherings to worship Christ together?
Every step we take will affect our ability to be faithful to our calling from Christ and commitment to others. Nobody wants to one day look at our church or life and say, “What happened there?” The journey away from Jesus is a slow fade. It might start with an attitude that has gone sour. That attitude then becomes a behavior. That behavior then becomes the steps in a journey that can take us far away from God and all the blessings that are found in Him. Suddenly, we are doing what is right in our own eyes. That’s not the way we want to live.
As we enter into March, let us consider our compass. How does it read? Are we on the right course in the journey? We cannot afford to be one degree off. We all want to get to the right destination.

God bless you,

Pastor Jeremiah

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