Monday, October 22, 2012

When Is the Church Not the Church?

I understand why Jeremiah wept for his people. Their willful ignorance brought about spiritual blindness. They accepted leaders who led them in error. As Jesus said, “If a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14). Unfortunately, this describes the vast majority of churches today … blind men leading blind men.

I'm sure that many will consider me overly critical or too judgmental. How I wish such people would actually read the Scriptures they claim to follow! Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Righteous judgment is that which God has clearly declared in His word. This is a pattern clearly established for us by the apostles.

In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul speaks of those who preach “another Jesus” and “a different gospel.” He speaks of Christians who have received from such preachers “a different spirit” (2 Corinthians 11:4). It is righteous judgment that causes him to declare such men to be “false apostles” and “deceitful workers” (2 Corinthians 11:13). His rationale for making such a declaration is based upon the evidence of comparison. He has set their words and actions against the measuring rod of God's revealed word and found them to be liars. And “no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. [15] Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Now then, as Christians who are supposed to let God's word guide us, how do we apply such reasoning to the church today? We already have the Spirit's prophetic words recorded, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, [4] and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). “For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, [12] in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12).

Let's use a little simple common sense here. Two churches each declare they preach and teach the truth, yet their doctrines are the polar opposite of one another. Either one church is right and the other is wrong … or they're both wrong … but logic dictates that they cannot both be right if they teach opposing viewpoints.

Now let's apply that to modern churches. They all teach different things, yet none of them will admit to being wrong. Therefore – by virtue of simple logic – the majority, if not all of them, are wrong based upon they're doctrinal inconsistencies with one another. This is not the working of the Spirit of God. We have an apostle of Christ who has declared, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). The divisions prove “a different spirit” and “a different gospel.”

So when is the church not the church? When the claim is not backed up by the evidence. When preachers utilize more of men's words than God's words and preach a gospel of ease and convenience. When church leaders are so ignorant of the Scriptures that they do not know the difference between real teachers and false teachers. When members blindly imitate the faith of such leaders before first “considering the result of their conduct” (Hebrews 13:7).

The Bereans of old “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Today's Christian knows nothing of God's word. They are given simplified versions of the text with accompanying pictures and videos and STILL do not grow spiritually. “Always learning,” they are “never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” By their own willful ignorance, they “oppose the truth.” They are a people “of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith.” The apostle – writing this about supposed “Christians” - says “they will not make further progress,” and “their folly will be obvious to all” (2 Timothy 3:7-9).

It is obvious to me. I wish it were as obvious to everyone else. When tolerance replaces faithfulness, there is a problem. When Christian behavior is determined by the majority rather than by our Master, there is a problem. When preachers can keep their jobs for thirty minutes – let alone thirty years – preaching that which is 50% laziness, 49% internet and 1% God, there is a problem. When elders are continually reelected based upon their congeniality rather than their Christian character, there is a problem. When members gather weekly – year after year after year – and show zero signs of growth, there is a problem.

Just because people say they love God doesn't mean they really love God. Just because people call themselves the people of God, doesn't mean that it's the truth. Paul says that the children of Israel all witnessed the same miraculous power of God. They all shared in the supernatural provision of food and water. Yet still a majority did not really believe. “With most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness” (1 Corinthians 10:1-5). And most of them is a serious understatement, since in fact only two of the original generation coming out of Egypt – Joshua and Caleb – actually entered the promised land.

“Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). “The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14). “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, 'THOUGH THE NUMBER OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL BE LIKE THE SAND OF THE SEA, IT IS THE REMNANT THAT WILL BE SAVED; [28] FOR THE LORD WILL EXECUTE HIS WORD ON THE EARTH, THOROUGHLY AND QUICKLY' (Romans 9:27-28). “In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice” (Romans 11:5).

Today's congregations do not believe or accept such teaching. They believe that God loves everyone, and that apparently no one will be lost. The truth is far more sobering. The strong majority of those claiming to represent Christ today DO NOT REPRESENT CHRIST!

So when is the church not the church? Isn't it obvious? When they're not the church at all.

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