2 Thessalonians 2:3, Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion (apostasy) comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction (ESV).
1 Timothy 4:1-2, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared (ESV).”
The apostle Paul provided us an insight into what the future would hold for the church. His warnings were not written because he had nothing better to do than to try and scare the believers of the 1st century. The church was in its infancy, yet the problems were already present. Just about every book revealed another aspect of what they faced, and the issues were real.
For example, in Romans, he reveals a great deal of doctrine, but he also pointed out the reality that sin in the life of the believer was real. It would not be eradicated in this life but we could be thankful that we, as believers, would not be found to be under any condemnation. Nothing would separate us from the love of God, who had adopted us into His everlasting family.
Could anything have prepared the early church for the events that transpired in Corinth? Despite the debauchery that was a part of the Roman Empire being found in the presence of brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul had to remind these precious believers that although many had participated in various sins, they were now clean. They had been washed in the blood of the Lamb and justified. Their accounts had been settled and they were no longer enslaved to the slimepits of the world in which they once loved to wallow.
The problems that were addressed were game-changers. As each scroll must have been unrolled, read, and shared, each local body of believers had to have rejoiced that their names were truly written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Paul picked up his quill though and continued to warn each group.
To the believers in Thessalonica, he lovingly encourages them by pointing out that the Lord had not yet returned. In fact, one of his greatest joys was the testimony that this local assembly had before the inhabitants of the city, and yes, even beyond the region in which they lived. This was a group that did not allow their testimony to wane. Were they perfect? Were they super pious? Did they live on some spiritual plateau where they had become free from the ensnarements of sin? No, no, and no! The Thessalonians were real people facing real threats from an empire that hated the God of the Bible first.
However, Paul then gets another parchment and writes to a young pastor named Timothy. This letter is different. He gives pastoral counsel and godly wisdom for how this young man can shepherd the flock of God carefully, biblically, prayerfully, and lovingly.
In the middle of this epistle though, Paul uses a phrase to show the importance of what he is about to share. “The Spirit expressly says…” We understand the inspiration of the entire Word of God, yet, under that inspiration, his words point out a solemn truth that was meant to be a word of warning to Timothy.
When I began teaching in a ministry capacity over 25 years ago, you would not have been able to convince me that the blood-bought church would be where it is at today. Were there cults to deal with? Yes, of course. Were books being written based on, at best, shady theology? Again, we affirm that there were such books.
However, had you told me that so many churches and even entire denominations would depart from the faith in such record numbers, I would have struggled to believe such a thing to be possible.
To have been told that the proliferation of local assemblies would involve being willing for many ministers to become a Judas and sell-out their testimony and the Word of God for the purposes of entertainment or for profit, I would have told you that you were crazy.
Believers have gone from a hunger for the Word of God to having itching ears. They want to hear nice platitudes that make them feel good about themselves. Churches no longer want to hear about sin, righteousness, and the coming judgment. Padded pews keep people comfortable while they learn how to have a higher level of self-esteem. We are now so full of ourselves in many churches today that there seems to be a self-imposed moratorium on the Holy Spirit’s working in our midst.
Today, an overwhelming number of pastors and churches are more interested in hearing “Judge not!” from each other than they are interested in hearing God say, “You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. Judgment is coming!”
Above all else, we have smoothed sin over to the point where churches are looking for ways to embrace it, instead of calling sinners to repentance. Step on board a blogsite, Facebook post, Twitter feed, or whatever medium you choose and dare to speak out and proclaim the truth of God’s Word. It won’t take more than 4 or 5 minutes before people who have never spoken to you before arise from the dark mists of the internet to shout you down. “How dare you judge?” “Who do you think you are? God?” “We are called to just LURVE everybody without question!” Et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
And the words of the Spirit to the church at Ephesus rings out saying, “You have left your first love. You no longer hold Christ preeminent over all others and to the exclusion of all others.”
Sadly, the clarion call to repentance has mostly fallen on deaf ears and now we have truly become closer to the model of the Laodicean church, “You are neither cold, nor hot, but you are lukewarm. I will vomit you out of my mouth.” There is not one good word that is ever said about the church at Laodicea. They had passed the point where there was no turning back. The writing was on the wall.
Today, I look at the 21st century church and realize that the 1st century church would not recognize us today. They would probably wail with despair realizing that we are not prepared for persecution. From the pulpit to the pew has capitulated to the world so much that some may well be willing to sit in the arena looking down on those being sacrificed to the lions.
It is heart-breaking to realize that if and when persecution comes the words of warning will fall on mostly deaf ears. Brother will turn against brother, children against parents, parents against children, and so-called believers against true believers as they ignore the reality of the dangers that were there all along.
Dear believers, if you are not willing to stand for something, then you will fall for anything. We must seek forgiveness from our Lord and with humility dust off our armor. We need to prepare for the fight of our lives and become like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress when he was willing to face the dangers of Vanity Fair.
The world mocks our “standards” when they look just like the standards to which the world adheres. Why should they want what we claim to have that makes us special if we look the same on Sunday as we did while partying with the world on the Saturday before? If our music, words, actions, and attitudes look no different week after week, month after month, and year after years, then we cannot claim to worship and adore the only One Who has the power to make us a NEW creation in Christ.
God does not save us to leave us wallowing in our sins. That simply means that the world can change to accept all the wickedness it wants. Even, the so-called church can accept all the evils of the world and call evil to be good or good to be evil. However, the day will never come when it is acceptable to God.
To conclude, the 21st century church of the future is failing as the church for the present, and they are a far cry from the church of the past. Are there any who will mourn when our children reject biblical Christianity because of the hypocrisy they see from parents? Will any be willing to weep as did Nehemiah over the sin that surrounded him? Will those who are true believers recognize that while Paul recognized the sin within his own life that grace abounds so that we no longer have to live as slaves to sin anymore than he did?
My prayer remains that God will begin a work of revival within my own life and heart so that I will be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. Then, I want to see the Holy Spirit move in a way that helps other true believers realize that there are still 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. The end result is that when those who come after us look back, I want them to say with full confidence that the church of the past left a testimony for the true Church of the Future!
Amen and amen, my brother! Even mostly solid churches near me are shallow and somewhat lukewarm. One example: all Baptist churches make much of baptizing new saints, in full view of the whole church on Sunday mornings yet they relegate the other ordinance given us by our Lord to an occasional Sunday evening when few are present. Had deacons in one church tell me they did this because they had members who would be uncomfortable with the Lord’s Supper, and they did not want to cause anyone discomfort.
Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!
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I also believe many faithful churches have failed to evangelize from door to door and in public areas!
I have been your reader for some time. We are from India and were attending an American church in CA. 2 years back, we were introduced to the mandatory teaching of Rick Warren’s book “Purpose Driven” for 40 days. My husband and I rejected it and tried to voice our stand against this teaching, but sadly we had to leave instead. Some of our friends in the small group which we were attending then, still try to reach out to us from time to time. And my heart hurts for the false teaching promoted in our church. And my question is how many times will you try to talk truth to your friends, if they keep rejecting your counsel?
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Rick Warren’s teaching is as deceptive as the serpent in the garden.
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Thanks Manfred. After warning them and trying to explain why we reject Rick Warren’s teaching, we were told instead told to be humble enough to be corrected for our stand against him. In this scenario, how many times should as a christian we warn a fellow brother/sister?
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I spent time in a Warren satellite church before I knew who he was. I wept as I read his books but God used that man and his work to awaken me and dig into the Bible. I reviewed both of his wretched books: http://www.biblebb.com/files/PDLreview-SB.htm and https://truthinator.wordpress.com/tag/quasi-christian/
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“The god of this twentieth century no more
resembles the Supreme Sovereign of Holy Writ
than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory
of the midday sun. The god who is now talked
about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the
ordinary Sunday School, mentioned in much of the
religious literature of the day, and preached in
most of the so-called Bible Conferences is the
figment of human imagination, an invention of
maudlin sentimentality. The heathen outside the
pale of Christendom form gods out of wood and
stone, while the millions of heathen inside
Christendom manufacture a god out of their own
carnal mind. In reality, they are but atheists, for
there is no other possible alternative between an
absolute supreme God, and no God at all. A god
whose will is resisted, whose designs are
frustrated, whose purpose is checkmated possesses
no title to Deity, and so far from being a fit object
of worship, merits nought but contempt.(Pink,
The Attributes of God 1930)
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