Musings 62

I visited a professing church today. I think that this professing church would consider itself as conservative and as biblically oriented. This professing church had two services and the one I attended had a few hundred people in attendance. As I sat there in some degree and mixture of sadness and anger, I watches the color of the lights change on the stage as the musicians played and sang the words of songs (high degree of repetition) that had little to no substance or truth to them. The songs were amazingly man-centered and void of truth regarding God. The lady who played at the keyboard and seemed to control the whole show played the keyboard and sang into a microphone fairly loudly in a way that her voice was heard over all others. She also played the keyboard as she talked and as she prayed. It was all interesting enough in one sense, but there was no reverence for God and the absence of reverence and truth meant that the true God was not worshipped.

The “sermon” would with a far greater degree of precision be thought of as a motivational speech. While there was a text that was read, the “sermon” had little to do with the text but was more of a jumping off point to make points and draw conclusions that were not found in the text. As I sat there, I thought of Packer and Johnson’s Historical Introduction to Luther’s Bondage of the Will. They wrote and wondered if the Reformers would even own the modern “Church” at all. It was a sad fact as I sat there with a heavy heart that the Reformers would not have thought of the “service” that I attended as even remotely close to true Christianity.

The last sentence is a severe statement, but I think it is a true representation of reality. The music had nothing to do with the truth of God and the Gospel and the “sermon” as well did not have the truth of God and the Gospel either. By sheer definition a church is not a true church if there is no Christ and no Gospel. When the Gospel is not preached, a church is not present. When God is set forth as nothing more than one who values you and loves you and will meet you where you are in order to help you become the person you want to be, the truth of God and His Gospel are nothing more than a distant memory.

The “sermon” had nothing to say about the true God and the sermon barely (and I mean barely) even mentioned Christ. The “sermon” had nothing in it about the nature and work of Christ, nothing about His cross, righteousness, and resurrection. The “sermon” had nothing about the law, sin, hell, and a God who hates sin. There was an altar call at the end of the “sermon”, but it was calling people to do things God’s way and to become friends with God. Nothing was said about repentance and faith. The “sermon” had nothing to do with biblical theology and had nothing to do with biblical categories. It was a “sermon” that would likely go over well in almost any setting, whether religious or not and regardless of the denomination. But it was not Christian in any way. It was not Christian because there was nothing of Christ, nothing of the Gospel, and not a word about grace which is how the true God relates to sinners.

As I have reflected on that off and on this afternoon, and admittedly have thought on matters such as these a fair amount the past few years, it hit me with a renewed sense that Ichabod (The glory has departed) has been written across the professing churches of our land. The Reformation was a time when Christianity was recovered (certainly not perfectly) because the truth of God and of His Gospel was recovered. In the United States at the present time that heartbeat (sovereign God, sovereign grace, depravity of man, Gospel of grace alone) that the Reformers had is no longer with us. They would not recognize what goes on in the vast majority of the professing churches because it is no longer Christianity.

It is a sad and disturbing thing to realize that it may be the case that hundreds of people that went to the same professing church that I attended this morning are very deceived about the nature of God, themselves, and the Gospel. It is even sadder to think of how many people in our land this morning attended a professing church and did not hear the truth about God, themselves, and the Gospel of grace alone. Instead, they heard some drivel about how good man is and how much God wants to help man if only man will ask God to meet him. It appears that our land is full of things like that and truth is rare. God has us under a severe judgment and the truth of Him and the Gospel are being withheld. Only God can turn our hearts to Him and He will only do so by grace alone.

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