Last Monday we caught the surprise hit movie, Jesus Revolution. The title comes from a cover story in Time magazine in 1971 about a revival that began among the hippies in California. I remember it well. I still identify more with the stodgy old churchgoers in the movie than the youthful barefoot free spirits with their deeply flawed but charismatic leader who invaded their languishing church. I don’t cry in movies but my eyes flooded multiple times. It was a masterful piece of movie making with great acting and I can’t get it out of my head. Here’s the heart of my dilemma (spoiler alert): There was a scene early in the movie when a struggling church pastor (Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel in California in real life, superbly played by Kelsey Grammer) stood before his dwindling congregation—the regular church members on one side of the center aisle and jam-packed scruffy hippies whom he had invited in on the other—and graciously announced that his church doors were open to all and if you don’t like it the doors swing both ways. Three old men whom I wanted to believe were church elders stood up. As a former church elder, I could sympathize with their agonizing dilemma to the marrow of my bones. The first two walked out of the church and the third walked across the aisle and sat down with the hippies. Instant tears from this hardcore Christian. It was a gracious, God-glorifying thing to do and profoundly moving to watch, but history has shown it was also another giant step in the church’s continuing compromise with a culture that is increasingly hostile to God. Instead of absorbing the kids into the church culture and channeling all that zeal and energy into the revitalization it needed, the kids absorbed the church into their culture and California dreamin’ became a fad that became so popular it made the cover of TIME magazine. A half-century of cultural and moral decline later, liberal Christianity continues to compromise in lock step with the culture.

 Surely hearts were regenerated in that revival, as many veterans still living will attest by changed lives. It had another mark of true revival—it was messy and full of flawed people. The hippie who started it sincerely claims to have been saved in a drug trip in San Francisco and, beyond the time frame of the movie, died tragically with his salvation problematic. But if God can use a talking donkey to convey his truth he can use a hopped up hippie from Haight-Ashbury (Numbers 22:21-39). Greg Laurie, the young man who was the real protagonist in the movie, found religion in the revolution and today pastors one of the largest churches in California and has a wide international audience, but I do not share all of his theological underpinnings (nor that of Chuck Smith, whose church also became quite large). But “large” per se is not necessarily a mark of a true church, and I think both men would agree. The revolution was big on the theme of love to the exclusion of the rest of God’s equally infinite attributes, a common contagion in the liberal church today. The critical issues the movie addressed are even more prominently at the forefront now—the soul’s search for meaning and belonging in an increasingly God-mocking, drug infested world. As the hippie leader told the preacher, “They’re looking for God—they just don’t know it.” For the majority today the search goes on in all the wrong places, a malady of man since the fall in the Garden.

I would suggest taking the whole family above the age of adolescence and praying for discernment. It will provide hours of conversation for family devotions and mealtime. There were some powerful lessons in the movie. Some scenes might even frighten young people out of experimenting with drugs. It was thought-provoking—the most important thoughts that can ever provoke the mind of man. The Apostle Paul said, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). In other words examine yourself. Is your faith soundly scripture-based, the only source for faith and practice, or is it a hybrid of Christ and culture? Is yours the God of the Bible…or have you torn out a few pages? Or modified God in the margins to fit your wants? Is church a social construct for you, or a place of refuge in a dying world for the family of God to gather and corporately worship our Sovereign God in spirit and in truth? The God who loves you so much he sent his Son to die for you is the same God who condemns souls to hell for eternity if they refuse to accept his Son as Lord and Savior … on his terms—repentance and obedience to his Word … uncompromised. (Deut. 4:2, Prov. 30:6, Rev. 22:18-19)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? –unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”(2 Corinthians 13:5)

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

See you in church.  


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