Let us consider another inconsistency, but let me first warn the reader that it may cause some real heart searching, especially if you have children.
The scene is the same just about every week. Families struggle to get up on Sunday morning. Many have not bothered to prepare their hearts throughout the previous week, and especially the Saturday night before. This quickly becomes obvious as the rest of the morning progresses.
Breakfast is rushed and the parents are shouting at the kids to “Hurry or we will be late to church.” With a final flurry of activity, everybody runs out and jumps in the appropriate vehicle. On the way, the driver is pushing past the speed limit and hoping that a policeman is not sitting over the next hill with a radar gun. In the back, the children begin to bicker and then fight. The parents both threaten to stop the car to take care of the problem that does little to straighten out the children. The little ones are mostly immune to the threats because they have already figured out long ago that the parents don’t really mean what they say.
Every now and then, a word of wisdom may grace the conversation. One of the parents will remind their offspring that “we all need to settle down as we are going to worship the Lord.”
Arriving at their chosen place of worship a few minutes late, the parents send their children off to a little classroom. In the room, they only manage to get through 45 minutes due to the seemingly endless supply of snacks and juice. During the class, they may receive a pithy little lesson which may come complete with puppets and pages to color.
Stated otherwise, this means: Continue reading
It wasn’t long ago that Christians wished for revival, churches held “revival meetings,” pastors would open up the altar after services so that those who were being convicted could come forward and repent of their sins. Although there are churches that still do those things, I do not see it very much anymore. We have grown accustomed to our comfort, entertainment, a feel-good lifestyle, and we really don’t want anything to rock our boat. I get discouraged when I look around and feel like I will never see revival because the hearts of many have grown cold.
I just listened to the audio version of a book that I had read years ago titled Floods on Dry Ground. It focuses on the Hebrides Revival that took place in the late 19th and early 20th century. The stories are amazing. Often, revival began when just two or three people dedicated themselves to fervent prayer, asking God to come and save their cities. This wasn’t just, “And, Lord, if it’s Your will, would You save my neighbor?” This was crying out to God and staying on their knees until He answered. Because of their prayers, even the vilest sinners were changed by the power of God.
A while back, I could spend an hour or two with God no problem. I treasured the time and did not understand why everyone would not take that time each day. Now spending 20 minutes with Him is a chore as my mind is constantly on things I need to be doing, but I long to get back to being content to sit in His presence and hear from Him as well as presenting my petitions before His throne and knowing that He hears me.
Revival is not something that makes people feel good. It is a move of God that shows people what they are really like without Him and convicts them of their sins. They realize that no sin is small in the eyes of God and that they are worthy of judgment. They can’t think about their neighbor’s sin because their own sins are glaring. But they also know that God is faithful and just to forgive every sin so they confess them to Him and leave a different person than they were. When was the last time you have been in this kind of meeting?
If you attend a church that still focuses on holiness and repentance, thank God for it. If your church has lost that focus, intercede for the pastor and the church leaders, that they would have a greater hunger than ever before to walk with God and to challenge others to do so. Pray for a burden for your church, your community, lost souls, and then share that burden with others. You may find that you are not alone.
I think of the old song we used to sing that said, “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin with me.” That should be our continual prayer.
A dear friend and brother in Christ wrote this recently. It is a wonderful reminder of how awesome is our God and how much we have to be thankful for, regardless of our station or circumstances in this age.
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!
As I’ve gone through my life I’ve found many times that my heart has been hardened against the things of the Lord. Before the Lord drew me to Himself, my conscience was pretty much hard and cold except every once in a while. Then, I would have a glimpse of what would happen if I continued on the path I was traveling.
After salvation, I was still quite a bit like a worldling in most everything. As I watched my husband and learned a lot from him, who’d been saved for awhile, I began slowly changing in areas. He read a lot of theological books and I wanted to learn so I began reading them. There were many times I stopped reading, struggled for awhile and then grow hard and cold again. The Lord sent trials my way and I’d realize how cold I’d gotten. I had been so immersed in my own self that I never even saw what had happened and the stagnation within my own life. My heart was no longer tender towards the Lord and it would take awhile to return to tenderness towards the Lord.
Many churches we went to made a call for the conscience but not a call that would bring my heart to a tenderness towards the Lord. It was normally done to make me feel guilty over something I was doing (or not doing) that would prove to the leadership that I wasn’t spiritual enough. Some of the things were valid points but most weren’t.
Sadly, a lot of churches and even believers can be very dictatorial over what is spiritual and what isn’t. We find, in evangelicalism, that rules or the lack thereof seems to take precedence over Biblical truth. So many churches that claim to be preaching the truth only tend to preach a portion of it. It’s easy to add a little error to truth but a little error makes the truth nonexistent.
The example Mark Anthony Escalera used about the barrel of apples is prime. If you have a barrel of apples and one is poisoned how will you know which one to choose? You might grab the first one and it could be clear of the poison but how will you know? Eventually you will grab the wrong one and pay the price.
So, how do you know which church has the poison, the error mixed in with the truth, and which doesn’t? Well, the Word of God is there for our learning and, as we grow in faith and in the knowledge of the Lord, we will have our senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Heb. 5:11-14. The Word of God has both truth and principles to follow in our lives. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” The Holy Spirit makes it plain to us.
The poison can apply to either churches that add extra to God’s Word or say that God’s Word is irrelevant and you can do whatever you want or that all roads lead to heaven. As we study God’s Word regularly and feast on His truth, let us be mindful to exercise our senses to discern good and evil. So many are headed in a direction that goes contrary to God’s Word because they refuse to read and refuse to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in such areas as is important for their walk with the Lord. May we be of that number who “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that we might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”
As we journey in this life towards the next, our hearts need to be tender towards the Lord. The strength of tenderness towards the Lord is where our relationship with Him grows. As we desire to do His will as well as do it, our hearts are exercised in obedience towards Him. Next time you visit a church the questions should not be — What can I get out of this? Or…is the music my style? Do they have great programs here? How long do services last!
Instead, ask these questions, Is this church teaching the Word of God in its entirety? Am I seeing the sin within my life and being convicted of it? Am I becoming more like the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Word of God? Am I able to discern if the leaders are teaching truth or error? May each of us be always tender towards the Lord.