“Every house has a story. Ours is a ghost story. It’s also a lie. And now that yet another person has died within these walls, it’s finally time to tell the truth.” – Riley Sager (Home Before Dark)
What comes to mind? A haunted house? A vengeful spirit? Trapped victims racing against time to free the spirit before they die? Solving a mystery?
It is interesting to observe how fascinated our culture is with ghost stories. These tales of terror can be traced back to ancient times. In our modern century, a year does not go by without a film telling these haunting histories.
There is one haunting that is real. It is a true story. There is a ghost in our churches. It haunts us. When faced with it, our heart flutters and our instinct to run kicks in. Too many have died at the hands of this frightening phantom. It may not be a physical death (some have), but a spiritual death certainly comes.
All houses have stories. This includes the house of God – the church. There is a ghost story within the stone and brick walls sealing the fate of many in a cruel coffin. Except, when the light shines in the darkness, we find this ghostly tale is a lie we have been believing. A lie laying us down and burying us alive.
Is There A Spirit Among Us?
In many ghost stories, the character must find out if the strange happenings are because of a ghost or a hoax. Many pull out a Ouija Board to uncover the identity of the spirit. Once identified, the characters form a strategy.
How do we know if there is a ghost in the walls of our churches? Have there been ghostly happenings? Yes. How many people have had nervous breakdowns over sin and their Christian walk? How many people have left churches because they couldn’t measure up? How many coward in fear of a worship service until paralysis crept on them on Sunday mornings not being able to attend? How many have felt a strange presence in their soul leading them to harm themselves just to rid the pain?
You may or may not have experienced this. You may know or not know someone who has experienced this. It’s the shrewd deception of this ghost which haunts our churches. Its effects may not go seen at first, but once felt it is too late.
Who or what is this ghost? Scripture identifies it 365 times. The spirit haunting the halls and pews of our churches is Fear. It is cunning. It is deceptive. Fear betrays us. It is like a poison which slowly turn us mad. Then, in an abrupt action, we leave the church. Fear damages us. It swindles some into suicide. It collapses the confident faith to ruins.
Immediately, we think of fearing the future or fearing our enemy. Yet, the haunting of fear is neither. It is a fear of people and God. Both toxic. Both lethal. And both very real.
Fearing the Haunt of Man
When we hear the phrase, “the fear of man,” we immediately think it means we do not care what others say about us. Instead, we focus on what God says. We live our faith out loud without fear of man. We declare Proverbs 29:25. Yet, it is no match for the ghost of fear in our churches.
Ever invite someone from church over to your house and before they arrive think, “Oh no, I need to put that movie/book/picture/etc. away!” Or ever gone into a restaurant or a store feeling like someone from church might see you? Or you post something on social media and there is a second guessing of what the people your church would say?
We see this fear of man in John 9. A man born blind is healed by Jesus. He is brought before the religious leaders. In order to get to the truth of the matter, they bring in his parents. Verses 20-23 reveal this fear. His parents did not want to be kicked out of the synagogue by telling the truth of who healed their son. They feared shunning. They feared rejection. They feared man. They probably went next to sabbath singing psalms to God thinking they must remain quiet or else.
How many of us have a struggle we do not speak of lest we be shunned? How many of us want to declare the truths God is teaching us, but fear how our fellow believers will see us? How many of us make a decision that is before us and God, but then fearing what the people in the pew will ponder we scratch that decision? We dare not do this, say this, listen to that, read that, watch that, because what will they say?
This is the fear of man haunting our churches. It stalks us waiting to strangle our mind and faith. We keep silent. We do not do. What happens? Inside, like poison, our souls suffocate under the gaze of this ghost.
Fearing the Haunt of God
Wait, the fear of God? Isn’t that a good thing? Yes, there is a fear of God which produces an awe of our Creator, Savior, and Lord causing us to live for him. But, this is not the fear many see in the churches.
It is fear based in Romans 1:18-32. It is a ghost cloaked in I Corinthians 6:9-10. It whispers the three scariest words in Scripture (Matthew 25:41). This fear of God is the fear of his wrath. We claim to be under the blood of Jesus, but we live as prisoners to Romans 1:18-32. Anything can and will be used against us in the court of God.
If a struggle, thought, or temptation arises in our minds, then we fear God’s swift divine damnation. We beat ourselves up. We repeat in our minds, “Only the penitent man will pass.” We look at the lists from the passages mentioned above, and we fear for our souls if we ever were to struggle with “those things.” Pity walks out our mouths in the phrase, “they’ve gone off the deep end,” when we hear someone who struggles with sin. Our hellish motivation becomes this fear of God.
Where does it lead? Giving up because we will never be rid of our struggles. Feeling God does not love us. Feeling we need to earn his forgiveness if we just try harder. Following a list of chores so God does not cast us into the lake of fire. We drive ourselves insane, like those in a haunted house, as we appease the wrath of God.
“I do not believe in appeasing God!” Then why do you view your Bible reading, church attendance, standards, and other things make you a good Christian rather than only Christ? We may not verbalize this fear, but we live in its stalking shadow.
Vanquishing the Ghost
Do you see the haunting of fear in our churches? It stalks the hallways. It sits nexts to us in the pews. It on the tongue of our conversations.
One of my favorite ghost stories is The Haunting of Hill House. I have seen it on Netflix a handful of times. The ending lines are very powerful. Watch Here
“Fear is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. But so, it seems, is love. Love is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway. Without it, we cannot continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality.“
As fear haunts us in our churches, we relinquish love and Scriptural patterns. We do things to make sure we are seen as “good Christians.” We live in ways to make sure God is appeased, and we do not go to Hell. We beat ourselves up emotionally, we go out of our way to be seen right, and the list goes on. Spiritual insanity takes control and poisons our souls.
Yet, love. God’s love is the same. When we live in the love of God, we give up our old patterns of thinking and ways of living. We see the truth of God. He is not to be feared. He is the be worshipped, because he is love. The holy, transcendent God is love. He breaks our fallen logic (Isaiah 55:8-9). He redeems us, not out of pitying our pious deeds, but by his grace found in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). His love heals our souls, brings truth to the lie, and brings everlasting life welling up into a spring of water (John 4:13-14). We no longer have to live in Romans 1. Our God has moved us to Romans 8. Spiritual sanity says this chapter is our home; not the first chapter.
How do you vanquish a ghost? The truth must come forth. Too many people have died in fear’s haunting. Too long have we have been digested in the stomach of fear as we live our lives. The only way to have spiritual sanity is to rest in the unfailing love of God. That is what David and the other psalmists did, and it is what we must do. Without living in God’s love, we will remain haunted by fear and become spiritual insane till we snap.
The church building stands supported by its walls made of stone and brick. The wooden beams give the building its bones. The decor brings in color and beauty. Yet, it is the ghost of fear which shadows our churches. Fear has claimed so many lives within the walls. We have forgotten the church is actually us. When we live and and walk in love, fear has no choice but to leave. We cannot be loving half way. We cannot compromise that love. We need to be like the blind man in John 9 claiming Christ, because it was Christ’s love that healed him (John 9:24-38). We need to be like the woman reaching for Christ’s hem (Mark 5:25-34). Living halfway in God’s love means half our heart belongs to fear.
They always reveal something about humans. The haunting of the church reveals how much fear grips our soul. The story of the church no longer needs to be a story of fear. It is a lie claiming too many lives. The truth needs to come out. The true story of the church is a story of love. Perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18), and we are meant to live in this love each chapter by chapter.