The State of the Church, Part 15

The state of the Church is far worse than anyone imagines. Americans are blinded to the spiritual realm by activities, entertainment and outward success. Our culture is incredibly shallow as seen by what it focuses on and the TV shows that it watches. We are a shallow and hollow people when we cannot look beyond the shell of outward things. The professing Church is the same. It goes on glibly with programs and outward performances with no substance. It can claim growth in numbers in some places, but where is God? It has many activities, but where is God? It has many building programs and many mission trips (vacations?) planned, but were is God?

The point that I keep trying to stress over and over is that the absence of God is what judgment is truly about. When God is absent, the professing Church will turn to all sorts of things in an effort to fill the gaping hole that they may not realize is there. All the things the professing Church has brought in are man-centered attempts to hide the absence of God. Down deep many know that something is wrong in all of the activity and glitz and know that it is hollow and shallow. But the apparent success keeps them so busy and entertained that they don’t look beneath the activity and see that nothing of substance is really there. Without the presence of a holy God, all that we do is shallow and hollow. When God is absent we turn from true love and holiness to morality and outward actions. When God is absent we turn from fellowship in biblical churches to entertainment and social activities.

One thing that should be obvious from what is said above is the absence of biblical teaching. This is not to say that there will not be many people teaching many things about the Bible and even teaching many outward truths from the Bible. What is missing, however, is a deep and spiritual understanding of the Word of God. When God removes His presence from a church or the professing Church, the only source for a spiritual understanding and true love for God and even the inner life (Christ Himself) is withdrawn. That is why that all else that can be done in a church is a veneer that covers a hollow place or an empty shell without the presence of God. Nothing can ever replace the presence of God and that is why the first thing a church should do in all things is seek His face.

When the Lord is blessing a church, He gives them ministers who will feed them with the true Word of God and of His glory. After all, what did Jesus say to Peter after He asked him if he loved him? He told him to feed His sheep. Love for Christ demands that the sheep be fed. In the modern day ministers are thought to be CEO’s, chaplains, cheerleaders, counselors and many other things. Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep if he loved Him. When ministers become responsible to plan activities and all sorts of things in the church rather than to spend time in the Word and prayer, you know that the judgment of God is upon that church.

Jeremiah 3:11 – And the LORD said to me, “Faithless Israel has proved herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. 12 “Go and proclaim these words toward the north and say, ‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the LORD; ‘I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious,’ declares the LORD; ‘I will not be angry forever. 13 ‘Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the LORD your God And have scattered your favors to the strangers under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,’ declares the LORD. 14 ‘Return, O faithless sons,’ declares the LORD; ‘For I am a master to you, And I will take you one from a city and two from a family, And I will bring you to Zion.’ 15 “Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.

Israel was commanded to return to the LORD. They had to acknowledge their iniquity and that they had not obeyed His voice. The promise is that if they would return God would give them shepherds after His heart. The incentive God was that He would give them shepherds after His heart. This is so utterly vital. There are many hirelings and people who will preach and teach things for money and other reasons, but where are the ministers today who are men who are truly after the heart of God? Sheep are hungry and need to be fed. A shepherd that does not feed his sheep is either angry with them or negligent. The Lord Jesus Christ is not negligent and so when He does not give His sheep shepherds after His heart we can know for sure that judgment is upon a people.

What a true shepherd does is to feed the sheep. We see that in what Jesus taught Peter and we see that in the text in Jeremiah 3 above. But in the church the sheep are spiritual and so must have spiritual nourishment. Spiritual sheep cannot feed upon and be nourished by moralism and dry teaching that talks about the text without opening the glories of God. Spiritual sheep cannot be fed with doctrinal teaching that never gets past the outward husks of the intellectual part of the doctrine. This is doing nothing more than the Pharisees who studied the Bible and thought they had found life in that rather than going to Christ who was Live incarnate (John 5:39-40). True preaching and teaching must feed the people with knowledge and understanding that goes beyond the knowledge and understanding that an unbeliever can gain from the Scripture. This is teaching that must come from God Himself who feeds His people through His ministers.

We have all heard of the complaints of people who attend conservative churches and complain that they get nothing out of it. Ministers say that the problem is that the people don’t have their hearts right when they come to church. The people say that the minister is not feeding their souls. In other words, both sides are like Adam and Eve in looking to blame others for the problem. The real issue, however, is that when God has withdrawn His presence He is not teaching the ministers and then they are not feeding the people. While there may be a problem with the minister and there may be a problem with the people, the real underlying problem is that God is not feeding His people with knowledge and understanding. The only cure for this is to seek the Lord Himself.

All across the land there are myriads of problems in the churches and just as many answers. The real problem in the professing Church in our land is that it is starving to death on the sugar laden nonsense of humanistic teaching couched in biblical terms. God will not be present except in judgment when that is the focus of a church. We simply must begin to seek the Lord Himself rather than try to cure all of the symptoms of the real problem. It is true that if God returned in glory to many of the professing churches many people would leave. It is true that seeking a return of God will cost us much inner pain over our sin and much repentance in dust and ashes. But that just shows that we prefer comfort and ease of living over the presence of God. When God is present, people are uncomfortable and things cannot go on as they used to and the pain of sin becomes so acute that a person must deal with it or flee from His presence. The return of the presence of God would be a return to biblical preaching and a biblical dealing with the sins of the hearts of the people rather than lying to them about how well things are going.

When ministers speak from their own minds they are speaking from a humanistic point of view and not feeding the sheep of God with the Word of God. When ministers began to water the Word of God down they are doing nothing but holding back nutrition from the sheep and giving people prison rations to live on. This is again a clear sign that God is not feeding His people as He does when He is present. We can see a bit of the glory of a present God from Colossians 1:3-6: “We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel 6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth.” During the times when God is present to activate (so to speak) His Word, people heard of the faith and love of others. They knew that these people had truly heard the Gospel and that whenever the Gospel is truly heard it bears fruit and increases. Fruit is born and increases when people hear and understand the grace of God in truth. It is not just hearing about the grace of God that saves and bears fruit, it is hearing of the grace of God as God teaches it in truth and understanding.

Until ministers begin to seek the Lord Himself they will not understand the grace of God in truth themselves and so will not be able to teach it. They will fill the people with dry platitudes, outward morality, and perhaps orthodox doctrine. People will work harder at doing church, being more moral and in studying their Bibles and doctrine. Yet without the presence of Christ who is life Himself there will be no true life in all that is being done. All that is done in the church must be driven by a life of grace. All that is truly moral is the grace of God in the heart sharing His life, holiness, and love. All that is true and spiritual in the Bible and of doctrine must come from the breath of the Holy Spirit and the life of Christ. Until the ministry is one given by God to feed the people, we will remain under the judgment of God and delivered over to our own humanistic methods. Until the ministry is taught of God and follows the ways of God, the churches will either grow in numbers or die by the methods of men. Either way it is simply the methods of men being practiced or not practiced without the presence of the glory of the Holy One in Christ. Without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5) regardless of how intense our activity is. Surely this is a matter for brokenness and prayer rather than more religious activity that ignites the anger and jealousy of God.

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