“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
This prophetic utterance from the pen of Paul was not written to describe the downturn or decline of civilization. The Holy Spirit prophesied through Paul concerning the apostasy that would affect the church. As a result of the infiltration of the church Christianity would become a religion of society, of form and of name. The gestation of such apostasy would produce false teachers who would rise in the name of Christianity and declare their opposition or indifference to the truth of the Gospel and be believed as “men of God”.
“For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with diverse lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:6-7).
What is Paul speaking about?
We have those who profess to be Christian (60% of Americans do) and appear to be religious, yet do not manifest the power of God that can save them from sin, selfishness and immorality. He speaks of people who tolerate immorality within the church (those who say they are saved and love Jesus) and teach that it is OK if people have an habitual sinful lifestyle; that these people will still inherit the Kingdom of God and salvation.
The church has become so focused on becoming relevant in the modern (post-post modern) era. We have focused on technology, communication, new interior design, updating & creating programs for as many segments of the congregation/society as we can that we have in many cases ended up looking like a political party rather than the Kingdom of God.
It is easy to see how this crept into the church. It comes from poor (false) interpretations of verses like, “Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
The apostle make clear distinction between adopting culture and preaching the gospel. There are many, many cultures. The differences can range from across a variety of subjects (food, clothing, greetings, politics, music, architecture, methods of education, transitions from youth to adulthood and the list could go on). Paul spoke of his willingness to blend into the culture of those to whom he was ministering so that he could preach the Gospel. Verse 21 he states, ” I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.”
The gospel is for everyone, the church is for the Christian.
The reason so many of our churches being dead or impotent is that we have replaced bringing people to the cross with bringing people to the church. The church cannot save the sinner, only Christ can save the sinner.
“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” Billy Sunday
In our effort to be inoffensive and attractive to the lost we have focused on the production quality of our services and events, the universality of our messages and the positivity we want people to take away from our meetings (excuse me while I regurgitate).
Churches with lights, camera and action tend to believe they are radical because of the lights, camera, action. Churches with study or support groups for every segment you can think of tend to believe they are radical because of their groups. Churches with no groups and no lights, camera, action tend to believe they are radical because of their purity to the old ways. We measure success by the standards of the world far more often than the standards of heaven. Crowds do not equal success any more than empty pews equal success. The success of ministry and churches cannot be measured by attendance, offerings, album or books sales or any other measure than:
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Far too often we forget that our purpose as a Christian is #1 to be like Christ and #2 to bring others to Him. The church has reversed the equation and instead of converting men with the gospel has ended up converting the gospel into something palatable to men. The end result is a church in the United States of America that is dying. It is dying because the love and life of God does not fill its members, the Word of God is not preached from its pulpits, the power of God is not demonstrated in its services and in an effort to revive itself it has turned to the ways of the world instead of the throne of God.
“Mere heathen morality, and not Jesus Christ, is preached in most of our churches.” (George Whitefield)
“That world outside there is not waiting for a new definition of Christianity, it’s waiting for a new demonstration of Christianity.” (Leonard Ravenhill)
“In answer to your inquiry, I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.” (William Booth)
“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.” (John Wesley)
“The world will never believe in a religion in which there is no power. A rationalized faith, a socialized church and a moralised gospel may gain you applause but they awaken no conviction and win no converts.” (Samuel Chadwick)
“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)
“The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life. ” (Theodore Roosevelt)
I could write for years on the plague of false doctrine and/or no doctrine that has invaded our churches. We could drone on and on about the quenching of the Holy Spirit. We could blast the pulpit and the pew for failure to speak the truth concerning:
- the blood
- the resurrection
- the cross
- the rapture
- heterosexual fornication
- the baptism in the Holy Ghost
- the Great Commission
- feeding the hungry
- etc., etc., etc.
The only ones who would amen are the ones who are still reading the article after that introduction. The dead and the lukewarm do not search the Internet for sermons.
Exposing the lost, the dead and the lukewarm to the truth is our calling. Your life will be measured by the fruit you have produced that remains.
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 15:16).
“And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” (Luke 12:15)
“There can be no higher enjoyment found in this world than is found in pulling souls out of the fire and bringing them to Christ” (Charles Finney)
“There is a dying world and a risen Savior, and you and I are the miracle link between the two.” (Rod Parsley)
The power of reformation and revival must always begin with prayer and a shaking of the heavens. It truly begins on earth, when we cease to attack that which is incorrect and begin preaching, teaching, demonstrating and living that which is true.
It is much easier to pull down that which we are opposed to than to give birth to and raise that which we believe in.
To demolish an existing structure is easier than building a new structure. Harder still is to reconstruct a defective structure while trying to preserve the original. This is the task that faces the church.
There are many things wrong in the body of Christ today, but what is right in the body of Christ is capable of cleansing and curing the wrong.
Your life gains meaning through its eternal impact on the lives of others. That impact is best spent building the Kingdom of God into their lives.
“You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
- Revival and reformation begins with you.
- Do not wait for God to correct your pastor, denomination, or cell group leader.
- Begin in your closet of prayer.
- Maximize your impact by beginning in your circle of influence.
- Fulfill the call of God on your life.
- The church in which you function will either begin to change with you or you will find they invite you to join another church
The purpose is love: Love of God, Love of His Word and Love for His People. “But speaking the truth in love…” (Ephesians 4:15)
True love is recognized by God:
“If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” (John 14:15-17)
The love of God has been shed abroad in your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). We speak truth to the church and the world because God loves them and we do to.
Only from a posture and attitude of love should the gospel be preached; for it is then that God can truly use the words that are spoken.
Speak the truth in love and expect God to confirm His word.
“And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen” (Mark 16:20)