2 Timothy 3:5 (KJV)
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
There are some in the churches that are not Christian. Some are hopefully 'soon to be' Christian, but we must also admit that some in the churches are downright devilish.
Some think that those who attend a church are guaranteed to be headed for heaven, and able to help the others in this spiritual battle.
Many do attend church. Yet, 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."
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.
So, attending church does not create automatic spiritual and strong saints. We need to realize that much of our battle is in the congregations. The devil and some of his cohorts are there to battle the Lord’s saints.
The devil and his workers assemble with us for various reasons.
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)
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.
If we assume we have found a ‘perfect’ church, and there will be no spiritual battles within its walls, there will be grave disappointment. There is no church that the devil does not find a cohort occasionally, at least, to use in disrupting God’s desired plan. Even Jesus had a ‘judas’ in His group. There are spiritual battles within the church.
Some are used of the devil to disturb a congregation. When they do, it is not surprising to see that often they will not recall their defiance and repent. Many will not consider their deeds to be wrong. We all need to weigh our thoughts and deeds. 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.
Many Christians 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. Some are a source of heartache, and a source of disillusionment to a starving and thirsty world. Some are selfish and power hungry. We sometimes even see some that are cruel, devilish, and hateful.
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. The ‘sword’ of the parishioners and of the pastors is too often only a ‘wet noodle’. The sermons are about as effective on the battle as a wet noodle would be in a sword fight. We need to heal our ‘wet noodles’ to be sure we can battle the enemy successfully.
Some think the clergy are to do the battling, and that thought has resulted in many pew sitters with a wet noodle for a sword. 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. We are all to have a ‘sword’ of rhema word in this battle.
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 rhema Word of our Lord. We are to show forth the Christ-life. We are to intercede for this world, and through prayer access the power of God for this battle against the devil.
The true church should be strong, loving, forgiving, and Godly. The saints in the church should all be speaking rhema word, and praying effective prayers. The world should be seeing God’s signs and wonders. The devil should be fleeing this body of believers. It should be showing forth God's healing for the human hurts. It should deliver many from the fear, guilt, and shame of sin. It should be doctrinally pure. It should be a body of believers who are under the control of the "head", i.e. Jesus Christ.
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 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."
Each of we the saints are 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."
We are to be more than ‘members’ of a church. Membership, alone, nails you down, discipleship sends you out. A disciple is a Christian who is learning and doing. A disciple is willing to ‘go’ into places of battle, to win souls from the devil, and from his oppression, so they can become disciples along with us.
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!"
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.
Yet, to where we go, while still here on earth, is a war zone. The devil is at work, and he does not like us. Many are ‘afraid’ of the ‘go’, because they have a ‘wet noodle’ instead of a ‘sword’. We need to get our ‘swords’ healed, so we can bravely ‘go’ into the battle.
Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you."
We must do something, we must ‘stir up.’
II Timothy 1:6
"...stir up the gift that is in thee..."
We are told to be ready, prepared, armed, and then go to battle against the devil.
"... build up the body of Christ."
Spasms of zeal do not replace spiritual health and fitness. Many congregations have been so unhealthy that they only occasionally exert a spasm of muscular effort to evangelize. The effort is short-lived, and so ineffective that it usually leaves its perpetrators with a frustration that discourages any further effort.
When there is sickness in a body church, (such as prejudice, hypocrisies, spiritual abuse, grudges, bitterness, etc.) the saints are unfit for the battle. These sins, and many others, afflict many. They struggle to survive as a body, like a sick patient in intensive care. It will be a wonder and miraculous, if this kind of congregation can just survive till the rapture. The sickly, anemic, body churches will never see sustained growth, revival, and ministry development. They may try programs, contests, crusades, and other outward programs, but they will always go from crisis to crisis. They may seek someone to blame for the crisis, but the reality of the problem is the anemic, sickly condition of their souls.
The admitting of these kinds of problems brings embarrassment, discouragement, misunderstanding, and opposition. The Lord is more embarrassed than any of us. He has made it possible and easy for the church to function properly, but the saints have failed to heed His way, and have attempted to create dogmas, rituals, and denominational structure to accomplish what they can never accomplish.
Love proves spiritual health.
"A new commandment, I give unto you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another."
This kind of concern of Christians for each other makes the world marvel. They stand in awe when they see a healthy church body at work. The love is so evident, and so different from the love they see on the soap operas, at work, or in their own homes. Jesus is the divine example and prototype for this kind of love. The Holy Spirit deposits this same kind of love into the hearts of believers. Believers can either allow the love to develop and shared with others, or can allow it to be self consumed. It is so vital to have this love in operation, that the Lord Jesus made it a commandment.
"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
Love will make the saints want to have a ‘sword’, and not a ‘wet noodle’ for battle. For if we want to defeat the devil and to win souls, we need to be ready and willing for battle. Love is our motivation.
Many cannot admit to their unhealthy lack of love. This is why the Word of God so emphasizes the confessing of weaknesses. The Bible also encourages the intercession of one saint for another. This fault confession with intercession will bring a sickly church into a healthy condition of love.
"Confess your sins one to another, and pray one for another that ye may be healed."
Pride shows weakness. The proud congregation that wants to hide its lack of love, cover over its hypocritical judgmentalism, and escape listening to any sermons on its own sins, will die a sickly body church in these last days. Humility and admitting the need of help shows the strength necessary for the body church to undergo the surgical removal of the cancers that have kept the body sick.
The world teaches that one should reject or ignore one's faults. Some Christians have also taught to only confess the positive, and never admit a fault. This is nearly as un-Scriptural as one can get. Some of these, who won't admit their own faults, will try to blame others for the problems. This creates bickerings, anger, and grudges. Some of them will try silence, and think that if the sins are not admitted, they will go away. They will "put on airs", and hide their faults. Ignored cancer will not go away, and neither will ignoring the lack of love make the associated weakness of the body go away. The congregation can only get into right standing with the Lord by confessing their weaknesses.
The second part of confession of faults, is the interceding of one saint for the other. Whenever a fault is admitted to another, the proper response is to pray for them. The next verse after the one encouraging confession and intercession says:
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
Problems are quickly solved in body churches once admission starts. When a body church starts to openly admit their failures and weaknesses, healing will take place like never before. Many a congregation has sought and prayed for physical miracles and healing to occur. They wonder why they are so rare. The reason for the rarity of physical healing is the spiritual weakness of the body of Christ. When the proper functioning of the body begins, when the saints begin to admit weaknesses, and then intercede one for another, the body church becomes healthy enough that the miraculous becomes normal.
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore him in a spirit of gentleness."
"If I then, you Lord, have washed your feet, ... you also should wash one another's feet."
When a church body can get to the loving exhortation to those who confess faults to us, spiritual health is the result. The process may seem frightening to the inexperienced. Yet, to those who have seen the body church in health enough to obey the Lord's instruction, know that the miracles, the growth, the health of the body is almost un-imaginable.
The early church came to this kind of accord and love in the upper room. They went from a few sickly, scared members hiding during the crucifixion, to 120 in the upper room. Then suddenly when the body became healthy, 3000 were added with the first sermon. In seventy years, the number of saints in the body grew to over half a million. Then in the next hundred years, the number grew to over 2 million. In the next 100 years, the number again more than doubled to 5 million. When the body churches become healthy again, the church will astound the world with its growth and blessings.
The Lord desires to bring us into a perfection of knowledge, and of holiness. God is trying to add daily to the church (Acts 5:14, 2:47). There will come a time when the number will jump immensely. The Lord has begun a good work in us, and will continue to strive with our misconceptions, our mistaken rituals, and our hindering hypocritical ways until He gets the church to the revival of blessing that He wants us to have.
"He Who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
"The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me."
"Him, we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ."
"Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, Who is the Head, even Christ. From Whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
We are to come into the "stature of the fullness of Christ." We have been predestinated to be "conformed to the image of His Son"(Romans 8:29). We cannot be like unto Jesus without first getting the body healthy, and then growing in this health to a maturity.
Immaturity is shown by:
"tossed to and fro..."
"carried about with every wind of doctrine..."
"carried about... by the sleight of men..."
"carried about... cunning craftiness... lie in wait to deceive."
I Corinthians 14:20
"Brethren, be not children (PAIDIA) in understanding, but in malice, be ye children (NEPIAZO), but in understanding be men (TELEOI)."
We are thus instructed to not be "paidia" in understanding. This Greek word indicates "children beginning in school." Too many Christians are still beginning students in understanding the spiritual battle we have in Christianity. They are immature students who are easily fooled and led astray by the hypocrites, tares, and false prophets within the church.
In malice we are to be "nepiazo," which means "infants who do not yet speak." The Lord wants us to be immature in battling each other, but not immature in recognizing the sinfulness of the false prophets of today.
In understanding we are to be "teleoi", which means "men of mature age."
By maturing in understanding, but not in malice, we learn to avoid certain false teachings and their proponents. We will learn to avoid certain judgmental members of the body churches, and their gossip and condemnation. We will stay away from the arguments on color of carpet, type of brick, and manner of dress. We will not look to condemn others for attire or embellishment. The search will be for those we can help, encourage, lift up, pray through, and carry. The condemnation, fault-finding, and judgmentalism will be shunned and avoided. It is vital that the loving church grow up in understanding which paths and which people lead us in the wrong directions.
Maturity is maintaining the fruit of the Spirit. The "faithfulness, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) are to be exercised on purpose.
"Rather, speaking the truth, grow up in love."
There is a necessity of learning, knowing the truth, and thereby also knowing what is the error, the heresy, and the false. Yet, when that has been learned, we are to then "grow up in love." This is a real test for love, to know error and its proponents, and still be able to love and show the fruit of the Spirit .
The Lord desires to have the "whole body fitly joined together" (Ephesians 4:16). The word "joined" is made up of three Greek words. One means "harmony", another means "with", and the third means "choosing." We need to come to a place of love and fellowship, where we have chosen to be at harmony with the others. It is a choice, not an accident, and by chance. We must choose to love and fellowship with those who are imperfect, weak, and stumbling saints. It is time-consuming, difficult, and wearying to us, but we choose to continue.