Mt. 7:21-23 π Mt. 22:12-13 π Mt. 24:12 π Lk. 14:23 π Lk. 14:24 π Jn. 4:23-24 π Acts 7:48 π Acts 17:24 π Rom. 2:6-11 π 2 Cor. 7:1 π 2 Ths. 2:3 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4 π Jas. 4:8-9 π Jas. 5:5 π 2 Pet. 2:1-2 π Rev. 2:6 π Rev. 2:15 π Rev. 19:7 π Rev. 21:8
In America, especially in the "Bible Belt," one is often asked "What church do you go to?" An answer to that question that keeps coming up more often these days is "I don't go to church anymore." When pressed for an answer, many times one finds that those who "don't go to church anymore" also want nothing whatsoever to do with God. This is a grievous condition, to say the least.
The question such people need to be asked is this: "Do you equate God with the churches you've been to and with the people who attend them?" Even when the answer is "No," however, there is within each of us the hidden presumption that somehow God must have had something to do with the building they said was His house and the people who gathered there must have had something to do with God because His name was claimed and spoken about, if not actually printed somewhere on the building.
But let us look carefully at what the Scriptures really say. Jesus said,
"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." ( Jn. 4:23-24 )
Stephen and Paul both taught,
"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands." ( Acts 7:48 , 17:24 )
And Paul wrote,
"God 'will give to each person according to what he has done.' To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism." ( Rom. 2:6-11 )
And Jesus said to John,
"But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstones, which is the second death." ( Rev. 21:8; top )
Let us compare these Scriptures with a common occurrence at "church." "I'm a good man - I go to church" is a defense often made by "church" attendees. But let's look at the man's life. Is he a good man when, in the course of his business or work, he steals or skims off as many pennies as he can safely get away with? Or when he gossips and lies and cusses and tells dirty jokes with those he works with? Or secretly and unrepentantly lusts after the women in the office? Will such a one truly inherit the kingdom of God? No. It will do no good for this man to come before the Lord and say, "Lord, Lord, did I not go to church in Your name?" (see Mt. 7:21-23; top )
Or how about the "pastor" of the "church" who sermonizes long and loud about how the people should live but then sneaks off with the "church" pianist or uses the assets of the "church" to take care of his own desires, spending hours on various sinful websites, or uses the power of his unScriptural office to chase off that troublesome young man who is asking too many questions and raising too many Scriptural objections to the way they practice "church" here. Will such a one truly get to remain in God's kingdom for all of eternity? No. It will do no good for this man to come before the Lord, boasting of all the "good" things he's done. The Lord will simply ask him, "What about all those lies you practiced in My name?"
And these are but some of the more usual, milder and more subtle forms of "church" abuse - the extreme examples (which aren't all that uncommon anymore) makes one want to puke.
Any "God" who would allow these men to share in eternal glory and honor would have to show favoritism (by receiving these men who claimed something in His name while rejecting other men for the same sins) and would have to be a liar because the standards of the coming judgment as set forth in the Scriptures would clearly declare these men deserving of anger and wrath, not glory and blessing.
It is simply wrong to equate the "God" of the "church" with the God of the Scriptures, the Creator God and Father of love, truth and justice who dwells in unapproachable light and transcendent holiness. The "church" has stolen His name and brought it to shame and made it an object of ridicule and blasphemy. And God has quietly allowed this, quietly raising His remnant to maturity in the wilderness until such time as He will lead them into a fuller understanding and a purer walk with Himself. Whether He ever leads them out of the wilderness or not, or whether they ever understand all that He does with and to and through them in this wilderness, does not matter. So long as His sheep walk with Him, hearing His voice, truly obeying His leading and guiding, His temple, His people, His household, His body will be strengthened and built up.
Actually, the one who has abandoned the "church" has done well. But to abandon God at the same time is a catastrophe. The New Testament told us there would be a great falling away from the faith before the return of Christ ( 2 Ths. 2:3 ), that this falling away would be characterized by large numbers of teachers who soothe and stimulate ears but reject sound (wise, solid, true) teachings ( 2 Tim. 4:3-4 ), that this falling away would be characterized by dangerous divisions created by men who deny the lordship of Christ even as they call upon His name and teach things about Him that bring the way of truth into disrepute. ( 2 Pet. 2:1-2 ) This is the massive "teaching ministry" machine of denominational divisions and mega-"churches" ruled by "pastors" (Nicolaitan overlords - Rev. 2:6 , 15 ) and television preachers, all fueled by the lawlessness (what is right in one's own eyes - Mt. 24:12; top ) that abounds today. And almost the only ones who cannot see any of this are those millions who have willfully chosen to remain faithful to the institutional abominations men most commonly call "church" at the expense of their loyalty to Christ and God. This is that which was spoken of so long ago.
It is now time to sound again the call to those who have abandoned the "church," in order to better follow the Lord in spirit and in truth, to press on with Him, to keep on with the process of "purifying ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." ( 2 Cor. 7:1 ) It is now time to seek out the ones and twos who have abandoned both God and the "church" and compel them, with love and with tears, to return to the Lord of glory, honor and justice. ( Lk. 14:23 ) And it is time to cry out with a loud voice to those who blindly remain in their "churches" that the Lord is sounding His final warnings that "none of those men who were invited but who excused themselves shall ever taste My supper." ( Lk. 14:24; top )
James wrote, "Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom." ( Jas. 4:8-9 ) It is time to cease "living on the earth in pleasure and luxury; fattening our hearts as in a day of slaughter." ( Jas. 5:5 ) It is time for all true servants of Christ and God to sit quietly at His feet, hear the specific directions of the Lord about their own lives and then go and do and be exactly and only what He has made them to go and do and be. We must shake off all the teachings and traditions of mere men and forsake all the deceptive influences the demonic has added to the true way of following Christ and God. We must check in the "mirrors" around us (those genuine brothers and sisters the Lord has placed around us) to be certain all the spots, blemishes and wrinkles are removed from our part of the bride of Christ. The wedding day of the Lamb soon approaches and only those who are appropriately attired and prepared to receive the Bridegroom will be included among those who enter into the joy of their Lord and Husband. (see Mt. 22:12-13 , Rev. 19:7 , etc.; top)
Let he who has ears hear.
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