Countering Drip-by-Drip Change...
We need to take the time to question how the German people could have allowed Nazi fanatics to turn their country into a Satanic tool that killed Jews by the millions? While it is true that early on some Germans openly adopted pagan and irreligious heathen beliefs most Germans considered themselves a Christian or at least maintained a Christian facade. In May 1939 a census showed that 54% of Germans considered themselves Protestant, 40% Catholic, and 3.5% believed in some deity (Ref. Valdis O. Lumans; Himmler's Auxiliaries; 1993; p. 48). We must admit, however, that the Nazi party was vehemently anti-Christian. In fact, many high ranking Nazi party member were enraptured by occult and pagan beliefs; and, the Nazi party considered Hitler to have a divine destiny that would replace all other religious, cultural or social allegiance. Yet, as radically anti-Christian as the Nazi party was the people never really saw this until it was too late.
After their power was assured the Nazi party really began to openly challenge religion and by late 1940 a significant portion of the German people began to distance themselves from classical Christianity. Many Germans simply identify themselves as "gottgläubig," which means a believer in God … they did not profess a belief in Christ but they did acknowledge the existence of a supreme being. As the Satan inspired Nazi propaganda machine continued to drive a wedge between the German people and Christ it also began to slowly convince the German people that Hitler was given a divine destiny. The point we want to take from this religious transformation of pre-World War II Germany is the fact that almost an entire nation was led to abandon the Christian faith. As one German lady put it, during a post war interview, the change came slowly … drip by drip … so slow that it was easy to ignore it. The feel good rhetoric of Hitler and the positive things being done by the Nazi machine blinded people to reality. As the power of the Nazi party slowly grew so to grew the realization that what had been easily ignored was now becoming the very thing people had to publically embraced. As hard as it is to believe, an entire nation allowed one Satan inspired man to lead them down a beautiful appearing path, which eventually separated their nation from God and our savior Jesus Christ.
The Painted Pig
According to research conducted by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC), at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, in 2013 the United States ranked 9th in terms of missionaries sent per million church members. Yet, at one time we sent out more missionaries per million church members than any other nation. Now think about this, a missionary is the result of the Spirit of God moving a person to tell others about Christ. And, it is the spirit moving in a church that causes that church to produce missionaries. Thus, we might postulate that the number of missionaries sent out by a nation is an indicator of the power of the Holy Spirit in a nation’s Christian faith. If this is true … America had a great Christian past but it has a dismal Christian future.
An old athlete has his trophies on the mantel so people will know that at one time he was a winner. An honest athlete, however, does not fool himself by claiming his present status is determined by past performance. The Christian church in America, however, has a first place trophy on the mantel but they are foolish enough to think they are still running in first place. This is absolute ignorance. After all, you can paint an old barn and tell everyone it is new; but, it is still an old barn. You can put lipstick on a pig and call it beautiful; but, it is still a pig. You can fill a building with people who have a lukewarm faith and call them Christians; but, they are still not a part of the Body of Christ. You can call a country a Christian nation because over 80% of the people call themselves a Christian; but, calling yourself a Christian does not make you a Christian and a nation filled with so-called Christians does not constitute a Christian nation. The Christian church in America has a first place trophy on the mantel, but the odds of it adding other Christian trophies is highly unlikely.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a very powerful 19th century preacher. He once said: “The gospel is preached in the ears of all men; it only comes with power to some. The power that is in the gospel does not lie in the eloquence of the preacher otherwise men would be converters of souls. Nor does it lie in the preacher’s learning; otherwise it could consist of the wisdom of men. We might preach till our tongues rotted, till we should exhaust our lungs and die, but never a soul would be converted unless there were mysterious power going with it – the Holy Ghost changing the will of man. O Sirs! We might as well preach to stone walls as preach to humanity unless the Holy Ghost be with the word, to give it power to convert the soul.” Spurgeon captured the very essence of what makes a church a church … it is the movement of the Holy Spirit in that church. The number of people, the wealth of the people, its social programs, the size of the building, and the amount of marketing are all irrelevant if that church is not filled by and moved by the Holy Spirit. And, that is exactly the problem in America. American Christianity is but a shallow reflection of Christ; for we have become nothing more than a nation filled with decaying Christian monuments, which sadly tell of a once vibrant church in America.
Even more interesting, is a prophecy of Spurgeon that has come true: A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats. Think about it, there is no place to lay blame for the insidious drip-by-drip erosion of Christianity in America than at the preacher’s feet. Leonard Ravenhill said it best: “If Jesus preached the same message minister’s preach today, He would have never been crucified.” Preachers are supposed to launch from the pulpit programs and instructions for making disciples by teaching people to obey everything Jesus commanded; not fill the people’s heads with prosperity messages and tickle their ears with platitudes. In Herman Melville’s book Moby Dick there is a passage that describes the pulpit in terms of a ship’s prow.
“The pulpit is ever this earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bearthe earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.”
The men who stand in the pulpit and steer the church should have their course set by the Word of God and receive their instructions from the Holy Spirit. The sad truth is, however, most preachers have their course set by the world and receive their instructions from the people in the congregation. Billy Sunday was dead on when he said: “The backslider likes the preaching that wouldn't hit the side of a house, while the real disciple is delighted when the truth brings him to his knees.” And J.I. Packer sums up our eroding church when he said: “We complain today that ministers do not know how to preach; but is it not equally true that our congregations do not know how to hear?” If the congregation did not want their ears tickled, and if they truly desired the Holy Spirit in their services, they would see to it that the church was a part of the Body of Christ … instead of a painted pig. They would put preachers in the pulpit instead of hirelings.
The Lost Message
We are a nation of people trained to think that feeling good about ourselves is more important than actually being a good person. We are taught that sticks and stone may break our bones, but it is names that really hurt us. We are not only socially a nation of whining wieners; we are also a nation where the church is filled with whining wieners. These are the people who want the prosperity-promises of a feel good preacher; or they are people who want preaching replaced by things like country-rock entertainment; or if they have to have preaching they want it to be lukewarm. Let us fact facts; American Christians are more interested in what makes them feel good than they are in serving Christ.
We can construct a building and call it a church, but that does not make it a church. We can gather a congregation and call them a church, but that does not make them a church. For you see, the church was designed by God and not by man; before the world existed the church was designed for the supreme purpose of manifesting the manifold wisdom of God so that it might be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:8-12) For a congregation of Christians to fulfill this purpose they must have a singular goal, which must to be to make disciples, by teaching people to obey everything Jesus commanded. (Matthew 28:16-20) And, this has absolutely nothing to do with the building, or the number of people, … it has everything to do with the movement of the Holy Spirit.
If a building does not make a church any more than a congregation makes a church then what does make a true church? If you ask worldly people they will say things like: being loving and friendly, or having strong fellowship with one another, or being gentle, or having a strong outreach. Kind of sounds like the church Jim Jones founded or the Branch Davidians. The truth is, you know you are in a true fellowship of the Body of Christ when you hear the unaltered and complete Word of God being preached and taught. On the other hand, you know you are in a shallow painted pig when you never hear messages that hit close to home, or challenge your way of life, or drive you to your knees in repentance. Think about this, you are in a shallow church when you seldom hear a sermon about certain scriptural teachings; such as those listed below.
1. We believe in vain when we fail to remain obedient to the gospel.
The gospel message has been preached, we believed, we now stand in the gospel, and we are saved by this gospel … assuming we hold fast to the message. If we do not remain in the gospel we have believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)
2. When our religion becomes our tradition we lose our love for Jesus and our salvation.
We believe and we have faithfully served Jesus and we continue to do what is right. But, our actions have become the traditions we live by and not actions springing out of a passionate love for Jesus. Least we repent we are lost. (Revelation 2:1-7)
3. When our service for Jesus has died, so has our salvation.
We believed and we have faithfully served, but our service has died. If we do not wake up and repent and return to a live spiritual service for Jesus we will be lost. (Revelations 3:1-6)
4. We are not fit for the kingdom if we serve reluctantly.
If we serve Jesus but keep looking back to our old way of life we are not fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:57-62)
5. We must remain firm in our conviction regarding Jesus.
When we are saved we are grafted into the olive tree of Jesus. But, if we do not remain firm in our conviction we will be broken off and removed. (Romans 11:17-22)
6. We may have belief in Jesus but we can still fall away.
We have heard the gospel and we believed. We have been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift. As proof of our salvation we have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come. If we fall away, it is impossible to renew us again to repentance. (Hebrews 6:1-8)
7. We are not a Christian if we fight and argue with other Christians.
We were sinners but we were saved and sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. But, now we fight with one another and are as lost as fornicators, or idolaters, or adulterers, or effeminate, or homosexuals, or thieves, or the covetous, or drunkards, or revilers, or swindlers. (1 Corinthians 6:7-11)
8. Those who do not forgive will not be forgiven.
If we forgive others for their transgressions, our heavenly Father will also forgive us. But if we do not forgive others, then our Father will not forgive our transgressions. (Matt: 6:14-15)
9. To remain saved we must remain in the faith.
We have been reconciled to Christ that we might be saved but only provided we continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that we have heard. (Colossians 1:22-23)
10. Our time on earth is a journey and we must remain faithful until the end.
We are part of Christ if we hold fast the hope of our salvation until the end. (Hebrews 3:6, Hebrews 3:14)
11. We cannot be a Christian and follow the ways of the world.
If we have been saved and escaped the defilements of the world, because of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and we are again entangled in them and are overcome, then our last state has become worse than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. 2 Peter 2:20-22
12. We must be a faithful steward to serve Jesus, and we must serve Jesus to be saved.
We are not a steward of Jesus Christ unless we are first a believer and if we are a believer then we have been saved. Now, if we remain a true steward we will continue to faithfully serve Jesus. If we do not continue to faithfully serve Jesus we will be assigned a place with the unbelievers. (Luke 12:41-46)
13. Our relationship with Jesus is attacked and we must overcome this opposition.
When we are saved we are given to drink from the spring of the water of life without cost and those of us who overcomes will inherit eternal salvation. (Revelation 21:5-8)
14. Those who fail to labor for Jesus will not grasp the prize of Salvation.
If our believing does not remain the most precious commodity in heaven and earth, then we will lose our reason for believing. If we lose our reason for believing we will lose our will to struggle for eternal life and if we lose our will we will never lay hold of the prize. (Philippians 3:7-16)
15. Those who return to sin and fall from grace will go to hell.
If we have truly believed in Jesus then we have truly escaped our slavery to sin. But, if we once again become the slave of sin we will have fallen from grace and are severed from Christ. (Galatians 5:1-6)
You know you are in a shallow church when the bulk of what you hear deals with how God owes people health, wealth and happiness; or there seems to be more emphasis on entertainment than discipleship; or it is a feel good about everything kind of place. When you paint religion on secular tools like these and put them in the hands of a powerful Svengali, you can fill a church; but you cannot make disciples. On the other hand, a powerful church exists where it is preached that hell is real; that good people are going to hell; that being born again is the only way to escape hell; that you cannot be born again until you are convinced Jesus is the Messiah; and you are not truly convinced unless the most important thing in your life is laboring to obey everything Jesus taught. There is nothing wrong with having a pretty building, lots of people, and loud entertainment; but, in most cases this is a sign that it is a shallow church filled with shallow christens … it is a painted pig.
People do not want to hear that their church might not be meeting the standards set by Jesus when He told the Apostles to teach us to obey everything He taught. People do not seem to want to hear about the absolute singular divine authority of Jesus Christ; but that does not change who Jesus is or what Jesus expects from us. We are to obey everything Jesus taught; and we are to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. This means we should fellowship where we hear the Word and where we are taught to die to our self-interests and be reborn with Jesus as our Lord and Master. St. John said it best when he recorded Jesus’ parable about the vine and the branches.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:1-11)
We may not like the message; but, the message cannot be changed just because we do not like it.
Christians need to understand that Jesus is a monarch and His government is thus a monarchy. This means that Jesus is sovereign and He embodies the complete and final identity of Christianity. The authority and power of Jesus is completely despotic. This means that there is no way to be allowed into the Kingdom that Jesus rules without our complete and total subjection to everything Jesus commanded. Just remember, when they killed Jesus they were truly killing the king of the Jews. And. when God raised Jesus from the tomb He crowned Jesus as the king of the universe and gave to Him total authority and power over all of creation. Jesus is our monarch … Jesus rules.
Most assuredly, people would rather listen to lukewarm sermons and have their ears tickled with prosperity messages than be told the truth about who and what Jesus really is. That is why pulpits are filled with shallow whining wieners and money grubbing charlatans who ply to the whims of immature and counterfeit Christians. Neal Stephenson, in his book ‘Snow Crash’ writes: “Ninety-nine percent of everything that goes on in most Christian churches has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual religion. Intelligent people all notice this sooner or later, and they conclude that the entire one hundred percent is bullshit, which is why atheism is connected with being intelligent in people's minds.” While Stephenson may not be a source of Christian wisdom, we must admit there is a great deal of truth in what he wrote. The decay of Christianity is truly evident by the number of clowns in the pulpit but the real problem with Christianity is the counterfeit Christians in the pews. In fact, if the congregation did not want shallow services that tickled their ears they would see to it that prophets were in the pulpit and that the church was a part of the Body of Christ instead of a painted pig.