Can you spell “Laodicean?”

dj lrspellingbee0531 19Recently a young lady from Kansas, Kavya Shivashnakar (which is hard for me to even say, much less spell) won the Scripps National Spelling Bee after spelling the word “Laodicean.” 

Smart kid-especially in a day when we all rely heavily on spell checkers.

If you are not familiar with this word Laodicean it means to have have a “lack of concern for religion and politics.” (Merriam Webster).  It is associated with the apathy and indifference of  a church in the Bible that Christ confronts after he ascended into heaven.

I thought this spelling bee and young Kavya’s winning word was ironic! 

It is reminder of the Bible text found in Revelation 3:14-22 where Jesus Christ says, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

This is a staggering rebuke from God’s Son!

I recall the insightful warnings about this spiritual state proclaimed by men of God in our churches in the past when I was a young convert and they warned us that we should not allow material wealth,  popularity and various successes to be a barometer for our spirituality.  But I think it is much deeper than that-because you can be poor and still be lukewarm toward Christ.

The Bible also warns about apostasy and some believe that it is going to be typical of the “last days” in the “church” but it does not have to be because Laodicea and its ministry were called lukewarm two millenia ago. I am not going to focus on the eschatological settings of this scripture.

Are these persons Christians and their spiritual fire is smoldering and their spiritual life is at a low ebb? I am sure it does apply to that.  As the LBC states, “And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God’s displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves, yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end.” (Matthew 26:70, 72, 74; Isaiah 64:5, 9; Ephesians 4:30; Psalms 51:10, 12; Psalms 32:3, 4; 2 Samuel 12:14; Luke 22:32, 61, 62).

Are these unsaved or lost people who only appear to be Christians? It can apply to them as well. They are described as the hypocrite or the one who is only a church goer and trusts in their own morality.  Like the Laodiceans they do not know the danger they are in, for they soon perish in hell. “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isa. 33:14).

Let me attempt to paint a picture about the Laodicean condition.

If a woman cheats on her husband she may be married to him but her affections belong to someone else. She alienates her husband while still married to him because she is indifferent and cold to him and her heart belongs to another. He becomes resentful, suspicious and jealous.

This is what the Laodicean pastor and his church  are guilty of: cheating on the Lord.  That is why God says, “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you.” (Jer. 3:14).  They are guilty of spiritual adultery because they want the security of being married to the Lord and be in bed with the world at the same time. God accuses them of spiritual adultery and says that anyone who is a friend of the world system is an enemy of God. (James 4:4).   Like Israel they vex and they irritate and grieve his Holy Spirit and “he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.” (Isa. 63:10).

Some are you are incredulous at this statement: God turned out to be their enemy. How could an all loving God be at war with people?

God is a jealous God. I know Ophrah Winfrey does not like that (and she has a twisted understanding of that concept) but Christ has set his armies in array against the arrogance of those who defy his word!  What kind of war are we speaking of? Jesus Christ says to lukewarm church people today that if they do not repent he will fight against them with the sword of his mouth (Rev. 2:16). What does he mean? Hosea answers that: “I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth;  my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.” (Hosea 6:5NIV). Jesus Christ says that he will send the ministers of his Word, who preach the truth and they will come at you with the two-edged sword of his Word until you change your cheating ways!

How can you tell if you are lukewarm?  Instead of going through a whole list describing what this person does, it can simply be summed up in one word-you do not have a whole hearted, passionate, devotion to God. Loving God with all your heart soul mind and strength is devotion (Deut 6:4-6).  Lukewarmers  do not have a strong regard, dedication and love for Christ and the things of God. They think they are devoted to God  because they give some things to God. The read their Bible every once in a while and even pray. They attend church, give in the offering and may even be a small group leader. They say they have received Christ but they are not devoted in any sense but their relationship is much too casual with God. Like Ananias and Sapphira who “kept back part of the price”  (Acts 5:2) when it came to serving God they hold back on their relationship with God.  John MacArthur says, “They’re just hypocrites touched in someway by Christianity but not belonging to Christ.  And there is something obnoxious about them.  They nauseate Christ.  They make Him sick.”

The Lukewarmer lives in a state  the Bible calls a “divided heart.” (Hosea 10:2).  James says that these people are guilty of being “double minded” which can mean “double souled”  (James 1:8; 4: 8).  The Bible says they are “double hearted” as well (Ps. 12:2). Thomas Manton says that the Hebrew term for double hearted is that they have “a heart and a heart.”  They struggle between “two opinions” (1 Kings 18:21) and hobble like a crippled man with a cane at a crossroads, not sure of which road to take.  Like ancient Israel, “They feared the Lord and served their own gods.” (1 Kings 17:33).  Imagine that. They worship God on Sunday and bow low to their idols the other six day. Two minds, two hearts and two opinions and it seems like such a understatement to describe them as lukewarm, but not to Christ, it grieves him so he gets ill! 

mooringYou must understand Lukewarmers are hard to catch because backsliding is not an overnight thing it is a slow drift away from God where the knot of the soul loosens its grasp on the cleat and the mooring to the shore of obedience (Heb. 2:1).  They can still say the right things, go to church, give in the offering, even preach behind the pulpit but they make Christ nauseous. That is the difficulty.  They may have a past with God so they feel that they have a present with God. But as the Bible says, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof…” (Eccl. 7:8).

The thing that most people who I have heard comment on this passage is that they direct its message toward the church-but it is actually directed toward the angel of that church as the other prophecies to the seven churches of Asia.  This does not refer to those spiritual beings who worship God in heaven above. This is another way of referring to the pastor of  that church.  This message is a direct communique from Christ  to this lukewarm pastor and the ones of today.

Some believe this pastor to be Archippus the son of Philemon of whom Paul’s letter to Colosse found its way and was read in Laodicea (Col 4:16). Paul told him to,  “Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it” (Col. 4:17). The Lukewarm Pastor of today needs to hear those words as well. You are supposed to be a man of the Word, a man of prayer not an activities director or pulpit psychiatrist.  They are messengers so it must be implied that their message has become lukewarm, emetic or vomit inducing.  Christ employs the language of the Older Covenant which says, “Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out.” (Lev. 20:22). He is about to remove this pastor from his place and he will remove the lukewarm pastor out of his position as well.  God says that he will remove men who do not speak as his messengers-he will spue them out! Christ says, “You pastors who compromise with the world make me sick!”  

Instead of giving all the theological ramifications of this passage let me relate it to you in another way: the state of lukewarmness  is like a steaming bowl of soup that cools off or a cold glass of ice tea that melts and becomes room temperature.  In the same way a person who professes to be a Christian Pastor has either cooled off or become “world temperature”  in their heart.  They no longer preach the word with zeal, pray with ardor, worship with passion, but are perfunctory in their duties.  They will burnout at the church office and play the role of CEO and CFO but they are at a point where they do not know they have lost the sweet sense of Christ’s presence as the one who walks among the churches and all they can do is manufacture churchianity by media, music and motivational topics.

jesus_of_nazarethI am sure they were surprised at Laodicea when this sharp written rebuke came from Christ when all on the surface seemed to be going well. This means they had no spiritual faculty or sense to discern their true condition. They were deceived. The church was flourishing with people, the city was prospering but Christ saw their pastor and congregation as diseased, impoverished and pathetic despite their success and wealth (Rev 3:17). In fact, they could not discern their own spiritual state and Christ has to use this harsh language in order to open their eyes.

Like many in today’s church, Christ is sicknened at their lack of love for him he says that are not hot or,  “fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” (Rom. 12:11) or “aglow and burning with the Spirit.” (AMP). They do not pray or seek God and do not have the fire of devotion in their lives (Song 8:6; Luke 24:32).   They are not cold or they do not refresh the people of God being like a cold drink of water (1 Cor 6:18; 2 Cor. 7:13; 2 Tim 1:16; Phil. 1:7) and they are dried up wells and clouds without water (2 Pet 2:17; Jude 1:12).

We must also consider what many pastors today are unwilling to consider-that some of these folks who sit in their church, despite the morality, involvement in programs  and positions in leadership are not saved.  Some pastors, elders  and ministers should be questioning their own salvation. John MacArthur says again, “”It is the sickening condition of thinking you are spiritually rich when you’re bankrupt, of thinking you are beautiful when you are wretched, of imagining you are to be envied when you are to be pitied, of believing you see clearly everything when you see nothing.  You are stone blind…a feeling you are clothed in spiritual finery and you are stark naked.” 

They need to start doing business with Christ! There is no other way. Like the foolish virgins they must go to those that sell and pray the door is not closed upon them and they are treated as unwelcome guests (Matt. 25:9-12). He wants to be their spiritual broker and make them invest in eternal gold for he says,  “Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.” (Prov. 8:18). He sees them like Adam and Eve (Gen 3:21) and desires to clothe their nakedness as their tailor and give them a makeover for their shabby wardrobe  and give them beautiful white raiment for their burned out religious ashes (Isa. 61:3). He wants to be their Great Physician to help with their poor eyesight and give them the balm of Gilead for a  prescription for medicine that will help them see their true state correctly (Jer 8:22). A lukewarm person is oblivious and in a dense fog about their true state before God because they are so busy trafficking in the sinful flesh and the world system they do not not realize are broke, busted and disgusting spiritually.

Jesus warns, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Rev. 3:19). Jesus Christ tells them they better be zealous or very enthusiastic in their repentance because he is about to bring his board of education to their seat of understanding! They are lost if they do not repent-period. No repentance, no restoration. Those among that group who belong to him he will chasten, because he will only chastise his own children (Heb 12:6).  They are in desperate need of Christ attentive correction.

Christ tells them that this letter is not just a writing but a knocking on the door of this church that is locked to him.  His presence is not among Lukewarmers. They have form without godliness. In todays’ American Churchianity it seems image is everything but it does not fool Christ. He is not even a visitor. But he gives a final opportunity for them to turn from their worldliness. Christ says that there are those among them he loves. He is calling them out of their apostate starvation to enjoy a meal at the table of fellowship with him. Sit down with Christ today and start discussing your spiritual portfolio over a good meal.

How do you spell L-a-o-d-ic-e-a-n? Do not know how? Then you may want to try the word “I-c-h-a-b-o-d” because the glory departs from people who are not devoted  and are lukewarm (1 Sam 4:21-22).

Unity Through Truth

rated-rWhat is a creed? It is a testimony of the faith in God and the scriptures that defines “those things which are most surely believed among us.” as Christians. (Luke 1:1). It is simply says, “We believe” or, “I believe.” The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God and are the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). It is the only criterion of doctrine that has any power to insist people to believe and obey what it teaches. All other standards that a person subscribes to are of value or authority only as they teach what the Scriptures teach.

 

R.C. Sproul said that “creeds are distinguished from the Scripture in that Scripture is norma normans (“the rule that rules”) while the creeds are norma normata (“a rule that is ruled”).[i]  The wonderfully practical thing about creeds is that they summarize and give clarity to what we believe as Christians and they are important for the harmony of God’s people because they help us to unite around important issues. It is hard to have unity with others when you do not know what they believe. Creeds were intended to bring unity not division despite the fact that creedally challenged people today seem to think that they are divisive.  But men who made creeds and confessions studied the scriptures and considered it their duty to intellectually and logically construct a system of faith out of the materials presented in scriptures. When you can be specific and clear on what you and the church believe, unity becomes more cherished and unity must be based on truth, not the lowest common denominator. 

 

How can you fellowship with someone when you do not know what they believe? How can you ignore the teachings of the scripture for the sake of unity? Today the great sickness in the thought process of people is pluralism-the belief that all religious paths lead to acceptance with God. This is anti-Christ thinking and will only lead to religious slavery and eventually societal breakdown. Unity today is at best the setting aside of your beliefs for the “greater good” of soceity. But the Bible makes it clear that Jesus Christ and Christianity are the true religion and this cannot be compromised.

 

Many ministers egotistically teach that we have no creed but Christ. But the Bible asks, “What? Came the word of God out from you? Or came it unto you only?” (1 Cor 14:34). The men of God who hammered out and forged the creeds of the church should not be ignored or set aside by those who question their teaching just because it is seen in a creed. This erroneous attitude of non-creedalists is nothing new. It goes back to the time where the church in Corinth was having terrible disunity, “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:12). I that group who do you think was the most problematic? Was it Paul’s group? Was it Peter’s denomination? I think not. It was that elitist congregation those who claimed that they exclusively belonged to Christ above their brethren that were the most dangerous.

 

I read somewhere that the real question is not about accepting the word of God over the creeds of men or placing the Creeds above the holy Scriptures but the issue is the tried and tested faith of the collective body of God’s people, versus the private opinion of the person or groups who object to creeds to make up or reinvent the church and their own beliefs. Creeds are an expression of beliefs that line up with scripture (orthodoxy) and are detailed in their phraseology to avoid beliefs that deviate from scripture (heresy).

 

The Article Seven of the Belgic Confession states this adamantly concerning scriptures and any other human writing, “For since it is forbidden to add to or subtract from the Word of God, this plainly demonstrates that the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects. Therefore we must not consider human writings– no matter how holy their authors may have been– equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else.

 

Creeds demonstrated how the church developed and became more sophisticated in their interpreting Scripture. It also serves to help discern pure doctrine and defend it from the distortion of heretics and the assault of unbelievers, and creates a unity of faith through teaching.  They also give us a syllabus in training our children and other Christians. They should manifest a convincing competent knowledge of the fundamental teachings of the Christian faith and live a life that glorifies and serves God.

 

Many people will say that they do not agree with the Greek and Roman forms of the church and that is why they do not accept Creeds. That is why we must test the Creeds in light of the scripture. I think the Second Helvetic Confession says it beautifully, “Wherefore we do not despise the interpretations of the holy Greek and Latin fathers, nor reject their disputations and treatises concerning sacred matters as far as they agree with the Scriptures; but we modestly dissent from them when they are found to set down things differing from, or altogether contrary to, the Scriptures. Neither do we think that we do them any wrong in this matter; seeing that they all, with one consent, will not have their writings equated with the canonical Scriptures, but command us to prove how far they agree or disagree with them, and to accept what is in agreement and to reject what is in disagreement.”

 

[i]Norma Normata A Rule that is Ruled Right Now Counts Forever By R.C. Sproul © 2008 Tabletalk Magazine

Exposing The Beast of Man’s Praise

to_chain_the_beast “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Rev. 21:8KJV).  I want to focus on the word fearful or cowards. Are the fearful cowards those who retreat from war, those who abandon their homes and family, or civic responsibility? These may be included but it focuses mainly on those that apostasize or fall away from Christ on account of fear. A.T. Roberston says that it is an old word that refers to recanting or retracting your beliefs under persecution.

The Beast in the book of Revelation has many interpretations but I am using this as an analogy not eschatologically. I see Satan intimidating preachers by his growling Beast and the seductive woman that sits upon it. From Saddleback to Broken Back he will do anything to stop the preacher of the gospel of Christ! This Beast threatens them with the fear of the loss of  finances, congregation size, and reputation. On one hand Satan raises up external forces like militant homosexuals, violent Islamic extremists, liberal politicians in places of power to make the preacher back down. Internally, the Devil raises up recycled church hoppers full of rebellion and bitterness,  he strategically places unregenerate people on an elder board, or church goers who are into the latest and greatest spirutual fads.  He coerces them to downsize their doctrine, and be generously compromising in their orthodoxy- upgrading activities, programs and entertainment. Idolatry to say the least is entertaining. That is what makes the Beast come to life.

God help those who choose this path that serves the Beast called “the praise of man.”  This is a day and age where courage is needed the most, especially behind the pulpit. God has called men to preach the gospel and minister his Word despite the consequences without letting fear deter them from their calling (2 Tim 1:7). But many men have become ashamed of the gospel of Christ and ashamed of Christ himself! It is almost as if they have taken black highlighter and smeared it all over the Bible.

With that that being said, today there is a growing number of ecclesiastical Castrati.  We have men standing behind the pulpit today with absolutely no guts to speak the truth (if they know what truth is) especially, if they are part of the church growth cult. The church growth movement is anti-biblical because it rejects the purest teaching of scripture the Sovereignty of God in his purpose of election by grace. It is also a reinvention of the church. It is not supernatural and definitely unnatural. It is not “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47) but a religious factory that employs empirical, social, scientific principles to build worship centers with entertainment, magic shows, and carnivals and a party like atmosphere that gives life to the image of their Beast so all will wonder (Rev. 13:15). 

Oh preacher friend take not the mark of such a delusive Beast! The Beast uses the fear of man to entrap many pastors. Your church must be built on the unique foundation of Christ! Appeal to people so you fill the building, building ideas and agendas on people make seem like there is spiritual life there but it is not. It is only the Beast becoming animated! It will make you  the lowest slave, subservient to the whims of people that change like the wind. But how seductive the praise of man remains batting its eyelashes, forcefully kissing and leading him away to the slaughter. Yet they love the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:43).  That is why all you hear is emaciated cheer-leading, unsubstantial motivational speaking and diet Bible sermonettes. It does not rock the boat. I am sickened by this limp wristed  “sharing.” Sure, every once in a great while they will preach something that touches the surface of truth and prick their congregation with a pin, or pinch them with a non specific message about sin but they are fearful to swing the sword of the spirit unless they gash of few of their large tithe payers. This is done at the cost of souls. How such preachers will spend eternity in hell for such cowardice.

You can see the fear of man in the content of preaching. They will say that they cannot preach about certain truths in the Bible. God did not call them to pick and choose!  They are to preach the whole counsel of God.  Then preachers play the psychologist. They concentrate on the many hurts and wounds of  church people. But God has not called them to invent medicine to heal them. Only God Word can help them. Only truths balm heals as its wine hurts.  Instead of exposing sin as the real culprit to save people from its power to hurt, they paint a pretty picture of their lives and fill them with false hopes and dreams (Lam 2:14).  Thus they breed and hatch a new kind of proselyte, manufactured of the flesh and not born of the spirit. It may seem shocking but Satan censors their preaching. How? Because they operate in fear and they engage in man centered, humanistic  pulpiteering .

American church structures  are so much like corporations they need motivational speaking the keep people working hard so they do not have time to be troubled about their souls. They make people feel as though they have  godlike potential and fill them the idea that their destiny is in their hands. It is despicable. They savour the things of men like Peter who for a moment rejected the idea of a crucified Savior (Mt 16:23). They set aside  the power of God for the attributes of man. They savour this christened humanism, they relish and enjoy it slowly! The message of the cross of Jesus Christ has been footnoted or made a deeper truth.  They have forgotten that all we preach is foolishness to the heart of an unregenerate person (1 Cor. 2:14) and it must be spiritually revealed. This is a heart condition that rejects the idea of a Supreme Deity!  The idea of an omnipotent God has no place in their hearts practically and eventually biblically. The God who decides in mercy who he will save and who in justice he condemns is seen as legalistic. They would rather pander to the felt needs of people rather than God’s glory. They have forgotten that every sermon should be holy and an act of worship not another commercial for agendas or new programs.

Truth is always subversive and shocking and pastors must not let the consequences that may come deter them  from their God given calling to walk uprightly according to the truth of the  gospel (Gal 2:14). While pastors must shepherd their flocks with love, compassion and understanding we still must speak the truth in love to a generation unwilling to receive the love of the truth (Eph. 4: 15; 2 Thess 2:10).  Oh that our fellowship was based on what John the apostle taught as we see our brethren as those we love in the truth! (2 John 1:1).  That preaching the truth would be seen as honorable, dignified and praiseworthy for men to blaze the truth of God from their pulpits and everyday lives that threaten the Beast of man worship. It is a frightening animal that tests the faith of every man or woman of God everyday. But it has been defeated in the lives of those who seek to do all things for the glory of God.

Reformation Now!

martin20lutherHappy Reformation Day! is not the usual greeting you expect on October 31st. But it is this day in history over 490 years ago that began a spark that turned into a blaze when Dr. Martin Luther challenged the existing form of Christianity with the Holy Scriptures. Sadly, the real meaning of this day in history has been ignored or forgotten by the evangelical church with its harvest festivals to substitute for the secular celebration of Halloween. In a day when the study of church history is either revised or ignored we are tempted to relegate the chronicles of the Christian church and things like the Protestant Reformation to the place of insignificance. 

 

In the days of the Holy Roman Empire, the church was living in a Babylonian Captivity or under a religious slavery for over a thousand years! The people of God could not even read the Bible or pray in their native tongue in those days. The scriptures, written in Latin, were chained to an altar for a thousand years and prayers prayed directly to God by ordinary people were forbidden. People were told that absolute unquestioning obedience was the only way to be saved from hell. People could not partake of the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. People lived in fear of a vengeful God and forgot the mercies and love of God.

 

But God heard the cries of his people groaning under this tyranny and began to light the torch of the Protestant Reformation. Through men like John Wycliffe, John Huss and William Tyndale who set the foundation for this movement, Martin Luther arose.

 

Through a simple, innocuous act on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed a proposal on the doors of a church in Wittenberg, Germany to debate the erroneous doctrine and practice of indulgences or paying for the forgiveness of God as a tax to release people from a mythological place called purgatory a place where sinners went after they died to pay for their sins and be purified by a “temporary” punishment that could last from hundreds to thousands to millions of years!

 

People were taught that gazing at relics would shorten their time in purgatory like purchasing an indulgence or a payment for pardon for sin. A relic was some body part or clothes of a dead saint. A saint was a person who seen as having a superior holiness and virtue above other people in the eyes of the Roman Church. People were taught that the viewing of these relics promised to reduce their time in purgatory just like paying for an indulgence. This entire tradition that existed for hundreds of years, was based on the false doctrine of a metaphysical “treasure chest of the church,” which supposedly contained the merits of Christ and the extra spiritual credit of the super-saints. They were like leftovers of good works that these super saints did not need for their own salvation. The Roman church taught that this surplus could be used vicariously or used on the behalf of others. The Pope was entrusted with this surplus and could draw on it as if it were a bank account for the use of others.

 

The Pope at that time, Leo X, used this tradition for to raise funds for St. Peters Basilica and to fill the empty bank accounts of Rome. He appointed a Dominican monk name Johann Tetzel a fast talking religious salesman, who went through the cities and villages of Germany to promote the sale of indulgences. This monk produced live infomercials that manipulated people to buy indulgences to get forgiveness of personal sin and amnesty for a loved one or a relative who had died and whose soul was in suffering in the flames of purgatory. It was a fast growing Christian marketing technique that some people bought hook, line and sinker. Others were disgusted by it. It was confusing and was a major turn off to Germans and a blatant double-cross of true Christian faith and teaching! Pope Leo X approved as long as money kept rolling in.

 

Thus Dr. Luther was strategic in his choice to nail his 95 theses to the Castle Church doors. Since the Castle Church faced the city of Wittenberg’s Main Street, the church door operated as a public bulletin board and was the best place for posting important notices. It was All Saints Eve and indulgences and relics were particularly sanctioned. This one document exposed the rats hiding in the Church of Rome’s basement! Martin Luther’s life had been completely changed by the discovery that the scripture taught that being made right with God by grace alone, through faith alone and by Christ alone. He began to scrutinize other practices of the Roman church in light of scripture at that time and the more he investigated the practices of the church he saw this religious business as a symptom of an ever-growing deformation of the Church. We could say more but time does not permit. But let me ask you a few questions.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO INTRODUCE A NEW REFORMATION INTO THE CHURCH? Do you even think American Christianity needs to reform? This church needs an overhaul and restructuring! By this I do not mean peripheral issues of church government, styles of worship or denominational distinctiveness. But we should break down the idols of the new church growth movement and focus in on growing the people we pastor. What we need are men and women who are attentive to the illumination of the Holy Spirit upon Holy Scripture. God is calling us to respond to the words of Christ who said, “I will build my church!” (Mt. 16:18). Christ will build his church and he word of Christ should dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16). You must let God’s Word shape the church you have been called to pastor. God created the world by his Word (John 1:1) and he can build his church with it! You must read, preach and pray the scripture and let it by itself interpret itself and it will change lives. It should hurt you to see the preaching of the gospel substituted with motivational humanistic messages. Media and religious entertainment have replaced the spiritual gifts. The church is spiritually sick. People are wounded, hurt, and guilty and slaves to destructive, overwhelming sins. The church today focuses on behavior modification, psychology, marriage seminars, step programs, principles and keys for success instead of having the heart changed through an encounter with the one who turns the heart of stone into a soft heart! Where are those shepherds willing to pour in the stinging wine of truth and correction where there is disease? Where are the men and women who comfort not with false hope but with the application of the balm of mercy and forgiveness to heal them after their repentance?

 

THE CHURCH MUST BE VERY DIFFERENT IN ORDER TO REACH THE WORLD. Consider what God sees in the world and says that, “I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease.” (Zech 1:15MKJV). The people in your community are not terrified at their coming day in court for eternal sentencing in hell. They are rushing headlong into it! He is grieved with what is happening in the world. Today is much like the days of Noah, human wickedness is becoming more and more unrestrained and the earth has become a cesspool of sin. We live in the last days! Seven years have passed since 9-11 and even then after the short lived flood of souls into our buildings, it showed us that the church is not ready to bring the masses of hurting souls to Christ! Mobsters and madman control entire countries. Terrorists unafraid of killing others and themselves are brainwashed in thinking their eternity is secure if they will annihilate themselves for their religion. The global economic collapse around us is a wakeup call to the corruption that is rampant in the government and corporate America and smacks of a certain inclination to having the man of sin ushered into power. Christianity has become an object of scorn by those who do not know the Lord and we have lost our credibility. Oh that the church would return to the Lord their God with fasting and weeping in his presence! You must lead and be an example in that repentance.

 

LET GOD OPEN YOUR EYES TO THE WAY THINGS REALLY ARE. Like King Josiah who rediscovered the scriptures you may be shocked at what you see (2 Chr. 34:14-21)! How things change when the word of God is really understood! In certain periods of history the church’s beauty has gone to its head and made her vain and apathetic. But the people of God who think they are rich can be miserable, poor, blind and naked (Rev 3:17-18). Many churches and preachers are backslidden. The religious and societal pluralism and multiculturalism of our day has made the people of God in danger of unknowingly exchanging their God for other gods and ensnaring them in the trap of Satan. All the compromise with the world has left the church of America powerless and we sit outside begging for the blessings of God like Lazarus did for the crumbs of the rich man (Luke 16:21). Christianity has become an object of scorn by those who do not know the Lord. Hypocrisy is the worst enemy of the church, not atheism or liberalism. The children’s bread has been given over to the dogs, the pigs trample the pearls of biblical spiritual truth and we have forgotten the blueprints that scripture gives us for a simple pure love for Jesus Christ. Instead of being beside themselves for Christ, consumed by a love that breaks their heart for the lost people in the world (2 Cor. 5:11) people in church are selfish and cold. The people of God are living dangerously close to the world in these last days! No matter your beliefs about prophecy we are not to take this lying down. Can you handle the truth about yourself and the church? It is a special grace to love the truth! That is why,

 

YOU MUST BE WILLING TO REPENT OF PRAYERLESSNESS AND NEGLECT OF SCRIPTURE. This is the pastor’s greatest sin and a gravest error! A preacher must be a man of prayer. Do people see you as someone they would call for prayer? There are not many preachers that we would call for prayer but we know some mothers among us we would call first. Satan would rather you do anything other than pray. He will begin to see if can distract you by urgent issues and will even viciously oppose you and try to stop you by guilt, fear, loneliness, accusation and anxiety. The scripture is our food and sustenance and if we do not feast upon it we cannot feed others. We cannot give a drink of living water to anyone if we have not tasted of the powers of the age to come on a regular basis. You have not had a call on your life since you were born to throw it all away because you are unwilling to spend time with God in solitude and secret prayer. You will become cold, dull and lifeless and Satan will lull you into a stupor and a conceit where you won’t even know you are dead. Nothing can satisfy us like being in the presence of the God who loves you. We were set aside that we might be with him (Mk. 3:14). Without Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5), but it is not what we have done that Christ looks for but if we knew him (Mt. 7: 21-23). Our greatest asset in the kingdom is that we know him (Jer. 9: 23-24). A person who knows the Lord is a vessel meet for the Master’s use. No matter how animated and skilled in speaking you are it does not matter. That is not the anointing only man fueled talent. On the other hand, your messages are not dull and ineffective because of your personality, but because they are not delivered with a burning heart ignited by the Spirit of God. Where have all the men of God gone? The Bible says, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” (John 1:6). To be a man or woman of God you must come from his presence in prayer to be sent out to the world. When we pray with all our hearts we will find him (Jer. 29:13) that is how,

 

WE LET GOD REMOVE ALL OF OUR MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT HIM. God says, “My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.” (Jer. 4:22NIV). We cannot be valiant for the truth if we do not know the Lord ourselves (Jer. 9:3). This can only happen as we pursue to know the Lord intimately, personally and let him remove all our mistaken beliefs about him by the study of scripture and learning about our relationship to Christ (Hosea 6:3)! What we understand about God will impact our personal lives and the relationships around us. Job said, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6). Men and women of God how we need to know the Lord! Dr. Luther had many issues but despite all his faults and sins he was the vessel God chose to use in his day! An unknown monk, the product of the religion of his day who shuts out all other counsel and turned to the Holy Scriptures for guidance about his guilt ridden soul, his misconceptions about God and found out that a merciful loving Christ was a man forsaken by God and crucified to make us right with God. We must do the same and that revelation will shake us to the core (Psalm 1:1-3). God tells us,

 

YOU ARE A SERVANT OF CHRIST AND MUST PREACH THE ENTIRE SCRIPTURE IN ORDER TO PLEASE GOD. You cannot pick and choose what you think will help people, or what you think will meet their needs. A man pleaser cannot be a servant of Christ (John 12: 43; Gal 1:10). You are first and foremost a messenger that gives what God says, not what you say. God can replace the preacher who refuses to preach his Word with someone who can do it much better. There is a homeless man drunk sleeping on a park bench somewhere that God can save and fill with his Spirit that can preach better than you. God speaks through his Word and Jesus Christ, the Lord of the church, is very interested in what is being taught in your church (Rev 2:14-15). We have been wrung out of truth by the tightening grip of men who refuse to preach the Word of God, the Bible (Rom 1:18), and let it loose to do its work despite the consequences. They are disappointing clouds that have no rain and that cannot quench spiritual thirst! These rebels are wandering planets who cannot be trusted for direction because they do not proclaim hearty, wholesome biblical truth. They have a look of godliness that denies the power of the Word and the power of the spiritual gifts (2 Tim 3:5)! No wonder the Bible says, “And the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them.” (Jer. 5:13).  They seek to meet the felt needs of people but sell those souls religious products and principles rather than giving them Christ-God’s unspeakable gift! God says their need is the preached Word and the presence of the Holy Spirit at work among them! It is only the spoken Word and the Holy Spirit that can slay the spirit of antichrist that has run amuck in the United States with the sword of his mouth and the brightness of his coming among the people of God. How we need men like the prophet Elijah in the scripture who had a voice like a thunderclap and a heart like a raging inferno!

 

YOU MUST DETERMINE TO BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS. What if men and women of God, pastors, and churches, decided this Sunday that enough is enough? The Bible is not just a sermon book but a book that is living a powerful to reveal the God who saves, heals and fills people with the Spirit of God (Heb. 4:12)! What if right now you developed a courage that is completely fueled by heaven? A courage that despite all your fears of what your people in your church or community will do or say or act that you will determine to preach what God gives you through your intense prayer and study of scripture every time you stand behind the pulpit. This decision you are about to consider has danger. It may cost you. Courage is not the absence of fear but right action in spite of fear. It is at times these that God has a man or woman to speak the heart of God to the Church and bring them back to him. You must determine to be that person. The religious spin doctors, powerful leaders in the community, even some positioned in your church are far more agile and powerful than you and they will oppose you. God will be with you, do not be discouraged and depressed or fearful (Josh 1:9). The Spirit of God will give you a mouth, or ability to speak and wisdom that your enemies will not be able to withstand or contradict (Luke 21:15).

 

YOU MUST RECOGNIZE THE CLEAR TRUTH THAT THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST IS WHAT SETS THE CHURCH APART FROM THE WORLD! The place of religious amusement and pretending end with this truth: Christ among us and in us and as us. The church is the body of “Christ members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.”  (Eph 4:30). Should we not begin to ask, “Saw ye him whom my soul loves…My beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.” (Song 3:3; 5:6). Without the scripture being the center of our lives and preaching how can we say he is among us? Jesus among his people is the real acid test of the Christian faith. For he says, “there am I in the midst of them!” (Mt. 18:20). Is it unreasonable theology to believe that Christ walks among his churches (Rev. 2:1)? There is a unique, biblical experience other than omnipresence (Acts 17:28) that Christ actually manifests himself in the life of obedient Christian individuals and church gatherings (John 14:21-23). Where is the preaching that talks about Christ as the scripture portrays him? Where are those who preach about Jesus Christ and who he is? Where is the message that Jesus saves and Jesus heals and Jesus fills with the Holy Ghost! The beauty of Jesus among his people is our main message! The old chorus we used to sing was, “Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noontime, Jesus when the sun goes down!” That was the secret of the apostles-it was a full diet of Jesus! We are poverty stricken without Christ’s abiding presence. It is time to seek the Lord! It is time to stop the wheels of religious machinery from turning and fill the altar of our churches with weeping! We must pray that God cleanses our hearts from sin, prayerlessness and disregard of his Word! The hammer of Martin Luther that tapped so long ago the Wittenberg Church is now drowned out by a louder knock of Him who seeks entrance to this lukewarm, tepid, church in America! How long will we leave him outside covered with the dew of the night as we live sterile lives, focused on self and success rather than on those who need the message of the scripture! We need a Reformation Day of our own.

 

God Bless you as you go to prayer and the Word to seek him!