THE CURRENT STATE OF THE CHURCH
IS NOT GOOD
There is a wide variety of ideas describing the "church" of today. To some it is a snooty country club, and to others it has become a political action group. It has often been described as a bunch of do-gooders. Some have felt that it was a religious bunch on a joy-weekend. For many it becomes judges trying to legislate morals for the rest of the world. Many have found it to have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reputation, containing some good and some hypocritical people.
Since the church has had such a confusing, contradictory, and startling reputation - the reactions to it vary greatly. Some will occasionally attend, but often will consider alternatives to be better places to go on Sunday than the church. Many will use church as a quiet place to go and relax on Sundays. Others use church attendance as a place to go in order to feel better. Some have used church as a place to achieve better social position. A few will attend church during hard times, as a crutch is used in times of ailment.
Many congregations are places of meaningless noise, and not a "House of Prayer." The noise itself is not bad, but noise alone is not enough. Mary (sister of Lazarus and Martha) chose the "better" part and sat at Jesus' feet. She came to Jesus to sit in His presence, learn, and worship. Others are like Martha, and come only to serve. In our day, we find many who only come and go through the motions.
It might surprise many to know that the devil still attends worship services. In fact, he attends some in heaven itself.
"Now there came a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them."
We don't know which day it was, perhaps a Sabbath, or perhaps this type of service occurs daily in heaven. The term, "sons of God" occurs five times in the Old Testament. It always refers to the angels of heaven. These angels gathered to worship God at His throne. The evil one, the devil, entered amidst the righteous angels. If the devil can enter this worship service, certainly he and his demonic henchmen are possible in our worship services on earth. Even at the last supper, Judas was there whom Satan had entered. We are presumptuous to assume that the devil and the devilish do not care to attend our worship services. Their attendance records are probably often better than the saints' attendance records.
Mere assembling is of no value. We do not get "points" for our attendance. We are not going to get to heaven for proper church membership and attendance. The devil attends church, and he will not be accepted into heaven. He came to criticize, to condemn, to complain, and to find fault. The devil came wicked, behaved wickedly, and left more wicked than he came. Many people in congregations of today do the same. It was amidst a holy congregation, and before the Holy God, that the devil lied about Job. It was there that he plotted the persecution of Job.
The best of congregations are not free of evil ones. At the last supper, the disciples asked Jesus, "Is it I?" (John 13:21-27). We too must search our hearts as we attend worship services. We must be careful we do not assume that our attendance assures our spirituality.
The devil and his workers assemble with us for various reasons.
1. To do mischief to the saints.
To accuse them before the Lord.
To distract them from heavenly thoughts
To encourage criticism
To sow dissension
To encourage pride
To cool down ardor
To sow counterfeit saints (Matt. 13:25, 38-39)
2. To do mischief to the unconverted.
To distract them from God's salvation
To raise doubts in their minds
To suggest delay
To deaden feelings
To rob memory of the Word of God (Matt. 13:19)
To recommend procrastination in accepting Jesus
Just as the devil is brazenly impudent with God, and rails against God's people, and resolves to tempt man, and to torture man, so some in the congregations of today are brazenly impudent. We must beware of the devil's ways for we find the same criticism, backbiting, slander, complaining, bitterness, trouble and abuse within congregations today, as was happening in Job 1.
The devil did not review himself at the end of the service. He did not recall his defiance and repent. Nor did he even consider his deeds to be wrong. In the same way, many in today's congregations come and go from service to service, and never consider the evil of their ways. We all need to weigh our thoughts and deeds in the congregation. The outstanding purpose of communion, is not the simple partaking of elements, but the examining of oneself in relationship to the whole of the body of Christ (i.e. the church congregation).
Many churches have become hindrances to the gospel, and to the work of Christ Jesus. The pews of many congregations are nearly empty. The truth is seldom taught in some congregations. The pews in many that are full, are full for the wrong reasons. Some have come to find out how to get rich, not how to get to Jesus. Some preachers preach hatred and riot. Some teach works and not faith. Some teach bigotry and isolation. Some simply go through a form, and escape untaught at all.
The false church is a source of heartache, and a source of disillusionment to a starving and thirsty world. The false church is selfish and power hungry. It contains the cruel, the devilish, and the hateful. There is much counterfeit Christianity in our day. This type of religion is dull, barren, and deadly. The Lord warned us that these "tares" would grow with the real wheat until the end times.
"Let both grow together until the harvest."
Much of the church of today is in desperate need. It is suffering, hateful, bigoted, unjust, miserable, perverted, shallow, stupid, ignorant, and unaware of it! Usually the true church has tried to apply superficial bandages to the leprosy of the church of today. It is like taking an aspirin for a broken arm, it only deadens awareness of the problem, and not very effectively. It is like taking tums for a cancer, inadequate and foolish. To cleanse the church of the selfishness, and cruel sinfulness needs a revolution within the church. This revolution must precede the great revival.
When we compare the present day congregations with the original plan of God for the church, it is very apparent that they are far from God's plan. Through the centuries the congregations of the church have more and more turned from the powerful ministry that it is to have.
There was a transfer of responsibility from the people to the "clergy." God's original plan was for every believer to be a priest. The word "clergy" is from the Latin, "clericus" which means "priest." In the epistles of Peter, we are told that we are all "priests" to God. In Ephesians 4, the Scripture indicates that all Christians are in the ministry. The doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, mentioned in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, was the idea that there should be a special "clergy" category within the church. These were to be the elite of Christianity who were to have special prestige and station. The rest of the people were to attend, support, and listen to them. Instead of all doing the work of evangelism, they simply tried to get the people to hear the clergy. These congregations became a spectator religion. It is of note to mention that the Lord Jesus said that He hated this Nicolaitanes' doctrine. He still hates these types of congregations.
That false doctrine places an unbearable burden on the pastors. They cannot, and were never intended to, do the whole job. They usually end up frustrated and exhausted. The churches are therefore impoverished, isolated, impotent, confused, and ignorant.
In the early church, the congregations had great impact on the world. Then the changes began to come. The Ephesians lost their first love. Some adopted the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, others slipped back into legalism, and some tried to mix heathenism with the Christian faith.
Some today are ignorant of the state of the church today. Many do not even know how far it has departed from God's original plan. Some don't even know what the Biblical plan for the church is. God has planned for the church to be His government on the earth. It is higher than any earthly government. The church is to be the epitome of law and order. It is to demonstrate the rule of justice with mercy, forgiveness, and peace. The church is to bind and loose with the power of the Spirit enabling it to demonstrate the greatness and sovereignty of God.
The first aim of the church is to live to the praise and glory of God. We are to declare the Word of our Lord. We are to show forth the Christ-life. What would happen if the church ever began to act on this pattern??? The magnitude of the latter rain revival will reveal what happens when the church does act on God's original plan.
What should we now do about the tragic state of the church?
Should we ignore it? To ignore catastrophe would only make us one of the casualties.
Should we resent it? Resentment only succumbs to its deadness.
Should we join in the deadness? This would only insure that we also join in the judgment of this church.
No! We should change the church to something else... before the judgment of the church comes.
Many are homesick for what the church had. Some have never experienced a church that possessed the meaningful experience that God intended. Many are standing with mouths-a-watering for the possibility they see within the church plan given by God in the Bible. Many want to stand up and claim what the Bible has revealed for them.
The true church will be strong, loving, forgiving, and Godly. It will be able to show God's healing for the human hurts. It will deliver many from the fear, guilt, and shame of sin. The true church will be doctrinally pure. It will powerfully show forth signs and wonders. It will not be a human institution, nor will it be an independent organization. It will be a body of believers who are under the control of the "head", i.e. Jesus Christ.
The true church is getting ready for this revolution of change. The false church is opposing this revolution. The true revolution must be Biblical, and will be led by the Spirit of God. The revolution is now beginning in many parts of the country and world. We must soon choose sides, and will be forced to choose. The Lord Jesus is soon coming for a pure, unspotted, and unblemished church that is being the hinderer of sin, and the power of God in a dying world. The revolution in the church is reviving His church to this state.
Services of the church don't need large crowds. John the Baptist was a "voice crying out in the wilderness." There he stood in an empty wilderness preaching the gospel, and the crowds came to hear this lone man who bellowed out the need for repentance. He announced a coming "kingdom", and a coming King. We too may start by announcing a coming kingdom, and a coming King in like-lonely conditions. Don't be in despair at the greatness of the task. This is God's way, not ours.
The secret of the power of the true church is not in the numbers, nor in the majesty of its buildings. It is not in its political clout, nor in its popular acclaim. The power of the true church is the power of the Spirit.
"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord."
The secret of being a church is in the presence of the Lord Jesus. He dwells within the true church. The church of Laodicea in Revelation chapter 3, has Jesus on the outside knocking, and seeking admittance. The true church of the last days will have Jesus within and enjoying His presence.
"He has put all things under His (Christ's) feet and has made Him the Head over all things for the church which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all."
The true church is the dwelling place of the Lord Jesus. He lives within His people. The true church is the "body of Christ." The multitudes that make up the true church are so filled with the presence of Jesus, that the whole is called - "the body of Christ."
Membership within this true church is different from membership within the false church. Membership in the true church is found in discipleship. Membership, alone, nails you down, discipleship sends you out. A disciple is a Christian who is learning and doing.
Remember how often Jesus told His disciples to "go." He told them to "Go preach, go sell, go work, go into the highways, go to the lost sheep, go and see, go and learn, and go in peace" etc. Some churches are weighted down with members, but scarce of disciples.
Most churches emphasize the "come" rather than the "go".
They may emphasize the -
"Come to prayer meeting!"
"Come to Sunday School!"
"Come to women's meetings!"
"Come to... etc."
Jesus occasionally said "Come!" Yet, His main emphasis was to have the disciples ready to "Go!" We need to re-direct the emphasis of the congregations today. We do "come" to be fed, exhorted, and strengthened... so we can "go" into all the world.
We, as Christians, must submit ourselves to God's plan for the church.
Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you."
Then we must begin to stir up the church, and encourage the revolution. There is power in the church, it needs revived. The church needs the gift of exhortation restored to proper use. The church needs to "shape up!" With the gift of exhortation restored to the church of our day, we will see many changes to the state of the church.
II Timothy 1:6
"...stir up the gift that is in thee."