The State of the Church, Part 23

Another sign of judgment upon the professing Church today is an extreme lack of prayer. During times of revival prayer meetings were held several times a day and it was a seeking prayer. In our day even the Wednesday night prayer meeting has fallen away and few have those any longer. In the few places where that is held the prayer is primarily for the physical problems of people that few in attendance have even heard of. We would rather pray for a church member’s 122nd cousin who has a hangnail rather than pray for true revival in repentant hearts. We would rather pray for a bodily problem than the spiritual strengthening of the person. We would rather feel good about doing our duty in prayer rather than seeking the Lord for true prayer. We have previously noted from Isaiah 64:7 that when no one is calling on His name and no one is arousing himself to take hold of Him that the Lord has turned His face from them and that is a very hard judgment. When we see the death of prayer meetings, we know that no one or at least very, very few are seeking the face of the Lord in truth from a heart that aches for the Lord.

Without going into the specifics of prayer at the moment, one of the reasons that prayer has fallen into disuse and is really more of a formality in churches today is that our hearts are laden with sin. God does not hear the prayer of the wicked and is far from them. While the liberal ministers believe that they know better now than in former times and sin is not that bad, we have conservatives trying to explain sin away as well. Even if many conservatives don’t explain sin away, their humanistic views of sin have blinded them to the truth of what sin really is. As long as we think of sin as just harming human beings rather than as acts of cosmic rebellion and treason against God we will not see sin as all that bad. Other conservatives are so taken with exegetical preaching that they deal with the words of the text and never get to the sins of the heart. All of those methods or ways of preaching amount to the same as they practically ignore the real issue of sin. This is a sign that the judgment of God is upon us. This should also awaken us to one reason that we don’t truly pray. When we regard sin in the heart, the Lord will not hear us.

Ezekiel 3:26 tells us that it is a judgment of God on the people when the prophet or minister does not rebuke the people. When people are not rebuked for their sin, they don’t see it and so remain under the wrath or judgment of God. “Moreover, I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be mute and cannot be a man who rebukes them, for they are a rebellious house.” When people are not rebuked for their sin, they don’t see it and so remain under the wrath or judgment of God. God was going to judge these rebellious people and so He restrained the tongue of the prophet so that he would not rebuke them for their sin. This should awaken us to the nonsense going on in our day where we are told to stay away from and not teach about sin so that people will be comfortable in our churches. That is no less than saying that we want people to be comfortable in their sin and under the judgment of God. When a minister or leader has degenerated to the point where others are encouraged not to speak against sin we know that the judgment of God is upon us.

It is a sign of bondage to sin and the judgment of God when sin is not exposed. “Your prophets have seen for you False and foolish visions; And they have not exposed your iniquity So as to restore you from captivity, But they have seen for you false and misleading oracles” (Lamentations 2:14). This is surely a word that makes a direct hit on our day. Ministers are saying many false and foolish things and they are not exposing the sin of the people. When the sin of the people is not exposed, the people are not restored. In the Old Testament the false prophets were speaking from the vacuity of their own brains and were not declaring the words of God. They were giving their false and misleading visions. When they did that and did not expose the sin of the people, though indeed the people loved it and the prophets and priests gained financially, the people remained in captivity in another land. This applies to preachers and ministers today who will not expose the sin of those who are in bondage to sin and so the people remain in darkness and are captives to their lusts of deceit and to the bondage of the domain of darkness. A minister that will not expose sin is one that joins hands with the devil to do his work. The devil wants people to remain in the ignorance and darkness of their sin so that he will keep his power over them. A minister that will not expose sin is simply an agent of the devil in doing his work. It is also not enough to preach against certain actions, we must preach to the fountain of sin, which is the heart, and reach the sins that people love.

Surely it is a sign of judgment when the devil can sit easy while the ministers within the professing Church do his work. The ministers will not expose sin because of their love for honor and for fear of running people off. So they have given in to the lies of the devil who is using religion to blind sinners to his vile work in the domain of darkness. Sinners are in such darkness that they do not see the chains that bind them and they need someone to stand up and shine the light of the glory of God in their eyes so they can see who they really are and what it is that truly binds them. It is a terrible judgment when enough truth is taught to deceive people into thinking they are truly saved when in fact their sin is not exposed and so they remain fast in their bonds of sin while thinking they are free. Leviticus 26:39 then tells us the result of being left in sin and the blindness of sin: “So those of you who may be left will rot away because of their iniquity in the lands of your enemies; and also because of the iniquities of their forefathers they will rot away with them.”

What did Paul do in his letter to the Romans in order to get them to the point where their mouth was closed and they had no excuse before God? He preached to them about their sin. From Romans 1:18-3:20 he set out to shut the mouths of Jew and Gentile so that they could see who they were before God and of their great need for Christ and His righteousness. The great doctrines of the Gospel only came out after all that effort in showing people that they were helpless before God in sin. In our day we think we are smarter than Paul and that all we need to do is be nice to people and show them how nice Jesus was and is and they will make a decision to be saved. We think that we are smarter than Paul and that we need to stay away from the teaching of sin in order not to offend these poor people who just need to make better choices. However, Paul tells us that he would not have come to know sin apart from the law. It is through the law that we die to the law and so come to Christ. The preaching of the law is meant to show us how vile we are and the depths of our sin against a holy God.

The law must be preached because the heart must be contrite for its sin and humbled in order to have Christ dwell in the soul. The law must be preached because the unbroken heart is full of pride and self and, though it may have an intellectual belief, it is full of unbelief (Hab. 2:4). We must preach the law in order to be broken from our unbelief, pride, and self in order for Christ to dwell in the soul. We must get that into our heads and our hearts. Unbelief is not just an intellectual problem; it is a problem of the entire soul. The soul must be broken from its unbelief (pride and self) before Christ will dwell in the soul through belief/faith. The law must be applied to the heart and the heart must be reached and broken in order for faith to be in the soul and therefore Christ. When ministers will not preach the Law and deal with the heart so that it is thoroughly broken, they are not doing what it takes for there to be true faith in the soul. In our day we tell people to believe but we don’t tell them that their unbelief is of the heart and that it must be driven out by contrition and brokenness in order for there to be true faith. If we continue to refuse to preach the Law and apply it to the heart faithfully and forcefully, there will be no true repentance for sin and we will not seek the Lord in truth. The judgment will continue.

Surely, then, we can see why prayer is nothing more than a formality in so many churches and why the prayer meeting is considered to be of no importance. A sinful heart does not truly want to see the truth of God and it does not really want to deal with God as He is. If we do not see our sin, there is no real need to seek the Lord as if something is really wrong with us. If we do not see our sin, then we don’t really understand what sin of the heart is and so we think a little behavior modification will serve us quite well. If the Law is not preached, we don’t see the need for a new heart and so we don’t see the need to seek the Lord for a new heart and will settle for a trip up an aisle or to repeat a prayer. If the Law is not preached to show the sin of the heart and the true nature of the heart, then we think that external and formal prayer will do all we need. We will miss what true prayer is and we will miss what is needed for true prayer. We will just go on with a vast amount of self-satisfaction in our formal prayers while we remain deluded in our sin. It is a terrible judgment upon us when even our prayers are forms of judgment and delude us to the true state of the heart.

We must remember that the Pharisees prayed a lot. Their very prayers were also form of delusion on them. But at least they thought that even their external prayers were important. It would appear that in modern America we are worse than the Pharisees because we don’t even practice much external prayer. Can we say that we believe if we do not pray? What is it that we believe if we don’t pray? Jesus told us that eternal life consisted in knowing God (John 17:3). Can we claim to have eternal life if we don’t commune with God in prayer? If we don’t commune with God in prayer, how can we claim to know Him? Thus we see that the professing Church has been plunged into an awful darkness. Unless the Law begins to be proclaimed and applied to the hearts of the people, we who are without prayer have no prayer at all. The Lord has turned His face from us and has left us in our sin and our external and formal prayers. It is truly a judgment that we cannot bear up under much longer. When even what we think is prayer is really a covering up of the sin of our hearts, we are in dire need of God turning His face to us.

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