The State of the Church, Part 16

Last time we looked at Jeremiah 3:11-15 and saw that when the Lord returns to a people He gives them shepherds after His own heart and they feed His people (sheep) on knowledge and understanding. On the other hand, when the Lord has withdrawn from a people He does not give them shepherds after His own heart but instead so-called “shepherds” who lead people in the ways of men and of external religion. The Jewish people in Scripture never drifted totally away from all the truth of religion, but their hearts drifted far from God. They did not worship other gods exclusively, but had both YAHWEH and other gods. When God turns from a people and does not give them shepherds that feed the people on knowledge and understanding, the people still have forms of knowledge and understanding. Many scholars devote themselves to what is called “biblical studies” which is really humanism and rationalism. Pastors are coming out of seminaries today and only know about the Bible from a humanistic view and so don’t know God. This is humanism and rationalism under the guise of Christianity. The professing Church is under the judgment of God as seen by what “ministers” teach and what they don’t teach.

Ezekiel 13:1 – Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, ‘Listen to the word of the LORD! 3 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing. 4 “O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins. 5 “You have not gone up into the breaches, nor did you build the wall around the house of Israel to stand in the battle on the day of the LORD. 6 “They see falsehood and lying divination who are saying, ‘The LORD declares,’ when the LORD has not sent them; yet they hope for the fulfillment of their word. 7 “Did you not see a false vision and speak a lying divination when you said, ‘The LORD declares,’ but it is not I who have spoken?”‘”

From the text above we can see that Ezekiel the prophet was sent to prophesy against the prophets of Israel. Notice several points that Ezekiel made against the prophets.

  1. These men prophesied from their own inspiration and told people to listen to the word of the LORD.
  2. They were men who followed their own spirit and saw nothing.
  3. They were men who were like foxes among the ruins eating as they wished and doing no good.
  4. They were men who did not protect Israel by declaring the Word of God to them.
  5. They were men who proclaimed falsehood and lying divination yet said that “the LORD declares.”
  6. They were men that the LORD had not sent and yet they hoped in the fulfillment of their word.
  7. These were men who spoke lies when they declared that “The LORD declares.”

What is eerie is that the same things are being done in the name of the Lord today. Many books about the Gospel are pouring from the presses, but it is not the same Gospel that thundered forth with the lightening of the glory of God and conviction of sin during the time of the Reformation, the Puritans, and the early preachers in America. It is not just that American Christians are too self-centered; it is that Americans are too self-centered to be Christians. Many Americans are a religious people with the name of Christ, but they do not have the life of Christ in their souls. Many attend a building that has “church” on it, but they are not truly the body of Christ which is the real church. Many Americans pursue church growth by methods, but they do not pursue the growth of the Church in love and holiness. Many have church building programs, but the true church is not building itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16). Many Americans are pursuing morality, but they are not pursuing the true God from whom alone true holiness comes. In other words, the professing Church is pursuing things with the right names but not in biblical ways. What does that come from? It comes from the LORD who is judging the professing Church and giving it preachers and teachers who speak from their own minds and in reality are speaking lies in the name of the LORD.

Matthew 7:2-23 is a New Testament text that speaks directly to this issue: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.‘” Many will profess Christ as Lord and many will prophesy in His name and still others will cast out demons in His name and even perform miracles in His name. Previous to these verses and still in the context we are told this: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves (v. 15). In other words, there will be many preachers on that day who will have the correct theology (Jesus is Lord) and will have preached in the name of Christ. There will be many preachers who will have cast out demons and performed miracles and have done those in the name of Christ. Correct theology and the practice of miraculous things are not in and of themselves guarantees that a man has the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. God is surely judging the professing Church in America today.

God judges the professing Church or those who take His name by sending them leaders who lie to them. Indeed, as He says in Jeremiah 5:31: “The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority; And My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?” The people loved it when the prophets preached lies and people love it now. As Paul wrote to one church about sending them a pastor: “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:21). Preachers are so concerned about their packages that they are not concerned about the glory of God. They are so concerned about numbers and offending people that they do not preach the truth of God and of the depravity of man. In other words, when men are given over to preach and lead from anything other than desires for the glory of God they will be like foxes among the ruins. The church will be in spiritual ruins and they will run around gathering whatever is left for themselves.

We often hear of men telling how they feel in the pulpit. Without saying that all of that is wrong, it is a sign that men are declaring what they think and feel rather than the Word of God. This can be men following after their own spirit and following their own reasons rather than God Himself and His Word. When the Word of God is not declared the truth of God is absent and the professing Church is without defensive walls. This is seen in the spiritual warfare section of Ephesians 6. The church must be strong in His strength with the armor of God so that it can stand against the schemes of the devil. We must see that our struggle is not against the things we see in this world, but is against spiritual forces, powers, and wickedness of darkness in the heavenly places. We are to stand firm having girded our loins with truth and put on the breastplate of righteousness. We are to shod our feed with the Gospel of peace. We are to take up the shield of faith in order to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. We are to take up the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. Without the true preaching and teaching of the Word of God the professing Church is utterly helpless. When men are in the pulpit and teaching in churches and the true Word of God is not being taught, the judgment of God is upon those churches and they are slaves of Satan.

When men stand in the pulpit and utter lies in the name of the Lord and of the truth, they show that their father is the father of lies (John 8:44). Once a man has the people of a particular group swallowing his lies as truth, if someone comes along and teaches the truth he will not be heard. As Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 8:45, “But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.” We must understand that the hearts of men are by nature selfish and hate the truth. They will hear error and false teaching easily because it fits with their own selfish nature. When the Gospel is preached in truth the hearts of men will rise against it. When the gospel is diluted with enough humanism they might hear it gladly. Yet those who go forth speaking their own minds rather than the Word of God speak it in the name of the Lord and that just makes it more deceptive. When someone comes and preaches the truth about sin, self-denial, repentance and the Gospel, those who love error with the Lord’s name attached have no shame in fighting the truth of God. After all, they are doing just what the Pharisees did.

The Word of God must be preached in our land today regardless of the complaints. As in the days of Scripture, the religious people will be the ones who complain the loudest. The liberals will cry foul when the absolute truth of the glory of God is taught. The Charismatics will cry foul when the true work of the Holy Spirit is proclaimed. The modern Pharisees will cry foul when the truth of holiness and the glory of God are taught. The Pelagians will cry foul when the glory of God’s self-sufficient grace is proclaimed. The Arminians will cry foul when God’s free will is taught rather than theirs. The Calvinists will cry foul when it is taught that one is justified by the grace of God applied by the Holy Spirit rather than an intellectual belief in a correct doctrine. The Church must hear the Word of God in spirit and truth so that it can seek Him in spirit and truth. If not, final judgment is sure and it is close. If we continue on in our humanistic and rationalistic ways, we will never see the truth of God and of the true Gospel. We will run around seeking the Lord in name with busyness, religious externals and activities yet without true humility and brokenness which are absolute necessities. Until ministers repent of preaching their own minds, seeking salaries and pleasing people instead of the glory of God, the judgment of God will remain and the sheep will not be fed with knowledge and understanding. That is without question the judgment of God. We must repent.

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