Sunday, June 22, 2014

Has your church shut the door to Jesus?

To the Church at Laodicea:

"Rather than allowing for the common interpretation of Christ knocking at a person's heart, the context demands that Christ was seeking to enter this church that bore His name but lacked a single true believer. This poignant letter was His knocking. If one member would recognize his spiritual bankruptcy and respond in saving faith, He would enter the church." ~John MacArthur commentary

This was Jesus' letter to the Lukewarm church. Looking around at churches today, is it SO hard to believe that an entire 'church' could lack one believer? Not really. True believers are so much rarer than we think.

Though millions call themselves Christian, the actual number is quite small. We'd have to erase most Catholics from the group, and most Eastern Orthodox, and many Charismatics, and all cults that call themselves Christian, including Mormons.

Here Jesus uses the word many to remind us of the fate of the unsaved:

Jesus said, "On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’’" (Matthew 7:22-23).

Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many." (Matthew 7:13)

In both those verses, the word for many in Greek is polloi. It means a "multitude, numerous, great in amount." So, no, it isn't hard to believe that churches could be full and there be not a believer among them. After all, on the day of judgment for the Cities of the Plain, among the bustling cities of Admah, Zeboiim, Sodom, and Gomorrah, there were found only three true believers.

We read the following from 2 Timothy 4:4, "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,"

We usually envision that verse as one which the teacher has accumulated the people, as an Osteen or a Joyce Meyer has accumulated. But the verse depicts the reverse: the people will heap up false teachers to themselves. What people? People calling themselves Christian but lacking discernment, or even true faith, they will follow the false ones who bring a pleasing but Gospel-less message. The Greek word for 'heap up" [teachers] means "to obtain a multitude of."

When Jesus said He will destroy the cities Abraham asked Jesus if, for the sake of 50 righteous, would the Lord destroy the city? For the sake of Lot and any believers, Abraham contended for them with Jesus. Abraham dwindled the number down and down until he got to ten:

Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place." (Genesis 18:32-33)

The Lord is gracious and merciful! And again, we see in the Revelation verse, if there be one inside the church, the Lord will come in and sup with him and he with Him.

Many inside the church are lost!

AW Tozer said in his devotional,
So skilled is error at imitating truth, that the two are constantly being mistaken for each another. It takes a sharp eye these days to know which brother is Cain and which is Abel.
So what is to be done? Here is what we can do in these waning days:

1. Do not automatically assume that every church member or teacher who calls themselves Christian actually are. (1 Peter 4:17).

 2. Give the benefit of the doubt, certainly, but also test what they say, watch for fruit, and exhort for holy living. (1 Peter 1:16). This is important for two reasons. First of course is the Lord's glory. Second, when one exhorts for holy living, the holy will appreciate it. The lost will be flushed out, because they will react badly.

3. Pray, pray, pray ceaselessly. Pray for your brethren inside your own local church. Pray for your local church; for protection, clarity and wisdom for the leaders, for discernment for the members. The Spirit gives discernment. (1 Corinthians 2:14). Therefore pray to Him for the wisdom we need in these terrible days. (Psalm 119:125).

4. Pray for the global body. Appeal to Jesus on behalf of the brethren who are in places where apostasy is likely or present. (1 Corinthians 12:12–14; more here)

5. Pray for yourself, for all of the above; wisdom, clarity, discernment, protection. (James 1:5; Proverbs 2:6, Psalm 5:11)

6. Repent often so that your purity is of the highest levels. (Matthew 3:8).

How utterly tragic that in some congregations all or most believers are so devoid of Spirit that Jesus is outside the church! It makes it all the more joyous to anticipate glorious, perfect worship in true, righteous unity in heaven!

1 Thessalonians 4:14–18

"For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words."

John 14:2–3

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

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Further reading

What does the bible say about heaven?

Spurgeon, Faith's Checkbook, "It Will Not Be Long"



"Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." (James 5:8)

Spurgeon: "The last word in the Canticle of love is, "Make haste, my beloved," and among the last words of the Apocalypse we read, "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come"; to which the heavenly Bridegroom answers, "Surely I come quickly." Love longs for the glorious appearing of the Lord and enjoys this sweet promise - "The coming of the Lord draweth nigh." This stays our minds as to the future. We look out with hope through this window."

"This sacred "window of agate" lets in a flood of light upon the present and puts us into fine condition for immediate work or suffering. Are we tired? Then the nearness of our joy whispers patience. Are we growing weary because we do not see the harvest of our seed-sowing? Again this glorious truth cries to us, "Be patient." Do our multiplied temptations cause us in the least to waver? Then the assurance that before long the Lord will be here preaches to us from this text, "Stablish your hearts." Be firm, be stable, be constant, "stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." Soon will you hear the silver trumpet which announces the coming of your King. Be not in the least afraid. Hold the fort, for He is coming; yea, He may appear this very day."

8 comments :

  1. You can also add many Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists etc, to that list.

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  2. I sometimes think I could be on your list, but then I really look at myself and know that I am a new creation, very different from before; and yet, still without one piece of my own goodness. Jesus is my savior, redeemer, friend and creator (first time, second time). I am so thankful to Him for what He has done for me. The hard thing for me is resting in Him. I think (somewhere in the back of my mind) that I have something good that I can do for Him, and that is so wrong. The only thing good in me is HIM. I pray that I will learn to do nothing unless He is in it..

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  3. You said, "2. Give the benefit of the doubt, certainly, but also test what they say, .."

    I no longer believe that believers can give any church the benefit of the doubt. To the contrary I think we should approach any "professing" Christian Church with the utmost caution and skepticism.

    Doubt should now be practiced by all of those seeking a place of worship or in evaluating any Pastor you think might possibly be a leader and teacher for you and your family.

    Even mature Christians too often depend on public opinion, local popularity and filled parking lots as an influence in Church selection. They give their choice the "benefit of the doubt" without FIRST testing them against the light of Scripture as you also said was necessary. So why not test first and discard any need for the "benefit of the doubt"?

    I just believe we are now in a fight for our spiritual lives and can no longer afford the luxury of any "benefit of the doubt" when it comes to Biblical Doctrine or acceptable worship in the eyes of God. But I do realize we should not get hung up on minor differences in beliefs that have nothing to do with the major doctrines accepted by all true believers.

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    1. Hi Gates,

      You make good sense, and I agree with you. Please allow me to explain my thinking. When I say give a teacher or pastor the benefit of the doubt, it means I do not want to initially approach that pastor or teacher with the mindset from the get-go that they are going to be false. I choose not to automatically assume that a teacher I will listen to or a pastor is going to be teaching false doctrine. I give the benefit of the doubt that they adhere to the essentials of Christianity as they say they do, and go forward on that basis, testing what I hear against scripture of course as it comes through on sermons or lessons over time.

      I think to adopt a mindset of automatically assuming they will teach or preach falsely doesn't follow the scripture of 1 Timothy 5:17.

      I agree that these days the odds aren't good that someone will be firm in the faith. But unless given reason to think negatively, I'll give the benefit of the doubt. I was specifically thinking of guest pastors, new teachers, new pastors coming in, etc, a leader we might not have heard before.

      Even the ones I've heard often, say, Phil Johnson for example, if he were to say something that pricked up my discernment ears, I'd give the benefit of the doubt because he is a brother in the faith, a leader, knowledgeable, and has a body of work accumulated that gives solidity and credibility to his teaching. I wouldn't leap to any conclusions, is what I'm sayin,g and give benefit of the doubt that it was a temporary aberration, lasting momentarily.

      For others, like Beth Moore or John Piper, I find their teaching today too full of suspicious softness (Piper) and too many doctrinal aberrations (Moore) to continue giving the benefit of the doubt. There does come a point in time where we each must say, "That person's teaching causes me as a woman to have to work too hard at discerning truth from error, and I will no longer follow them."

      It makes the ones like John MacArthur all the more precious to us in the faith. He turned 75 years old this week. He has been preaching for over 50 years. As Todd Friel said on his Wretched Radio show of MacArthur's birthday, "John MacArthur is finishing well."

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    2. As a philosophically minded guy, I'd like to offer the suggestion that there's a distinction between "taking one's word for" something and "believing" them. I also assume the best of people, but not to the point of acting on a confident trust. That requires a different level of scrutiny. The first affects your public judgments and your fair treatment of somebody, the second affects your own personal safety and whether you promote somebody, for good or ill. So I think the two of you are in agreement because Elizabeth was talking about the first thing, but Gates brought up that we should never as per the second definition assume that somebody is orthodox. Hopefully I made some degree of sense.

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  4. Some years ago while grappling with the issue of the sovereignty of God, I had a dream of standing inside of a church foyer ready to enter the sanctuary, and several steps down from there toward the entrance glass doors were three people dressed as janitors ready to clean the building. They had buckets, mops, brushes, etc. While looking at them, I had the impression that they were locked out. They just stood outside the doors looking at me and waiting to be let in to do the job of cleaning. Now, this dream applied to me personally some years ago, but it could also apply to the corporate church today. It kinds of sums up the condition of many hearts as well as churches in this time that we live. Thank the LORD that I unlocked those doors, on the personal level, for a good spiritual cleaning all those years ago. God is so good.
    Denise

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  5. I was wondering about church after the rapture. We know that the Church will be in Heaven and all true believers will be taken away. But I have two questions. The first is related to how the world will view this. I used to think that the rapture would convince many that what they heard was true, but would that be the case? From the world's point of view they will likely see many Christians gone, but many other churches will be almost unaffected. Many (or most, who knows) of those who carry the label Christian may well still be on earth. And then there are those who the world would not consider Christians who will be gone. I am thinking there will likely be prisoners, people from countries with other religions, secret believers etc. So considering that from the world's perspective some Christians are still around and some non Christians are gone, do you think it will be obvious to the world that believers have been taken, or maybe not so?
    My second question is this. While some churches will be almost entirely gone, many others will likely be little affected by the rapture. I am hesitating to say absolutes there. There are good churches with seekers who are as yet unsaved, and very bad churches with believers for one reason or another. So, if someone gets saved after the rapture, should they be trying to find a church or not? It seems like a hard thing to advise in a 'left behind' letter. We always say to find a church, but would that be a good idea if those left are not true churches?

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    1. Well, Kevin, those are certainly good questions. And tough. I'll answer, declaring I don't have the answers, and especially since both questions must rely on a certain amount of speculation, especially #2, since they are not directly addressed in scripture. If they are, I am ignorant of it.

      As to the first question, I believe the rapture will be a sign to millions. Both Revelation 6:9-11 and Revelation 20:4 show us that many will come to faith. In addition, 144,000 Jewish believers will be sealed in order to witness of Christ, (Revelation 7:4), the Two Witnesses prophesy to the whole world for 3.5 years (Rev 11:3) and there will be three angels flying at midheaven, one of which will declare the Gospel to all tribes, tongues, peoples and nations (Rev 14:6).

      Howe MANY will there be who will know and understand the sign of the rapture, and what it means in relation to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Rev 7:9 has the answer. "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands"

      Hallelujah, a great multitude! They are Tribulation saints! "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. (Rev 7:13-14)

      As to Q #2, I'll have to speculate. The Tribulation will be a time of dismantling everything we know- religion, commerce, geography etc. "Church" as we know it won't exist. The antichrist will rapidly institute a one world religion, and those who adhere to Christianity will be hunted and persecuted. Not the global Church but the local church is a place where a number of members gather to worship. That likely won't be possible during the tribulation. I believe there will be secret churches, places where a very few gather to study and pray and praise. I think there will be pastors but not in the sense we have understood them. Pastors lead as shepherds, but the chaos and scattering of the sheep will make this task nearly impossible. But I do believe there are many in seminaries with head knowledge who will be left behind, and will be able to instruct ably during the time of persecution.

      There are also a lot of left behind letters, and videos made by pastors. I was watching one today.

      So when we think of people 'finding a church', that will not be happening in any sense that we understand it. The Trib is a time of dismantling, of hell on earth, of a taking down of all institutions and man-made structures. Clandestine gatherings, single and paired up believers, pop-up churches, yes. Congregations as we know it today, not so much.

      Again, I'm speculating, but I believe this is in keeping with the theme of the Tribulation, which is chaos, no Holy Spirit restraint, satan given the run of earth, and persecution of the highest and most bloody order (Mt 24:22).

      What do you think?

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