Monday, December 16, 2019

Open The Door And Let Him In

Today one of the problems that captivates most people, including believers, is image. Just standing in the checkout line of most stores, all you see is tabloids and magazines concerned with how one looks. Basically, image deals with how one projects themselves, which in turn becomes what people think a person is. Although this issue has been present throughout man's history, since the mid 1990’s it has had a profound affect on the church. There is a greater concern about image that unfortunately has come in the form of compromising God's Word which results in a lack of integrity and solid character. Billy Graham said it this way, "When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost." What is meant by this?

Today many church leaders seemed to have adopted various worldly concepts and have brought them into the "Body of Christ." Some of these concepts are; the church building needs to look appealing and non-threatening to an unbeliever meaning, remove anything that presents a Christian view (banners, scripture verses, etc.); church members need to refrain from using certain Christian phrases that may make unbelievers uncomfortable; the church needs world class entertainment to keep people interested and coming back; music must be upbeat only with a time limit; worship means maybe one slow song but no true expression of worship; and sermons also known as a message, are to be short and sweet to make people happy and feel good about themselves (this type of sermon is considered to be "relevant" for today). The thinking is that if the church does these things, we then can expect to reach unbelievers and have a successful ministry.

Naturally, we should have clean facilities, but are we representing Christ or the local coffee shop? One of the things that separates believers from the world is how we talk and act. When the presence of the LORD begins to touch lives during a service believers should be shouting the name of Jesus. When Jesus entered Jerusalem look at the response of the people, the religious leaders and Jesus Himself. "Then they brought the colt to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: "'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!'  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." But He answered and said to them, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out."
(Luke 19:35-40)

Notice that "the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice." This was a multitude of disciples not unbelievers. To keep believers from shouting or speaking "Christian Phrases" is to deny God the honor that He is worthy of. It is ignorance motivated by fear in church leaders that want to squelch believers from verbalizing their excitement about Jesus because it may offend an unbeliever or make them feel uncomfortable. Though the people may not be shouting out the praise due to the LORD one day the stones supporting the building may. There is certainly nothing wrong with doing drama or having special music during a church service. The problem lies when we saturate people with entertainment to keep them interested and coming back to "Our Church".

The following is the entertainment that the LORD provided in the church to multiply the number of believers. "And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all." (Acts 4:33) "And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed." (Acts 5:14-16) "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people." (Acts 6:8) "And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city." (Acts 8:6-8) 

Not to belittle or make light the power of God in any way shape or form, but these are the entertainment, if you will, that unbelievers truly need to bring them to a conversion to Christ not a decision for Christ. What is the difference. Well a decision means, "the action or process of deciding something." However, a conversion is, "the process of changing or causing something to change from one form to another." Notice, conversion brings change whereas a decision has nothing to do with change. No one can honestly deny when the LORD reveals Himself by a demonstration of the Spirit and power. (1 Corinthians 2:4). However, this takes faith in an all powerful God who has not changed. It also take courage for church leaders to step away from the pressures that the world wants to conform the church to, and let Jesus build His church through His people.

Music is a powerful medium especially during church gatherings (not to exclude any other time). It is a means to usher in the presences of the LORD as we exalt and magnify Him through singing. David tells us, "...In Your presence is fullness of joy..." (Psalm 16:11) and "But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Your people". (Psalm 22:3) Why would any church leader want to exclude Gods presence as to not offend an unbeliever or to make them feel uncomfortable? I have been in numerous congregational and small group meetings where unbelievers were so taken by Gods presences that some were saved, some healed, some delivered and some a combination of them all. I have been in other meetings where the presence of God was so strong that the praise and worship continued unplanned for two hours. There was no preaching during this time and in the LORDS presence, time seemed to stop. It was extremely powerful having such an affect on both believers and unbelievers that many still talk about the experience today. To exclude an intimate time of ministering to the LORD through worship or to place a limited time frame on worship is to say that God is not worthy of our admiration and we do not need His presences to have a successful church service.

I find it very interesting how church leaders advertise that they share a "Relevant Message" at their meetings but rarely preach from the Bible or use the Word of God in context. Honestly, the gospel (God's Word) has always been, is and will always be the only relevant message that the world will ever need to hear. Church leaders must stop being ashamed of the gospel of Christ and begin to preach and teach God's Word without reservation or apologizing for what it says. Paul says,  "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." (Romans 1:16) Notice that the unadulterated Word of God has the power to save all people. To not preach and teach God's Word is to deny Jesus the preeminence in His Church. He is the Word! (John 1:1-2, 14, Revelation 19:13)   

When the Prophet Samuel was sent by God to the house of Jesse to anoint a king to replace king Saul He made this statement concerning David, "...For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, (Image) but the LORD looks at the heart (Integrity, character)." (1 Samuel 16:7) We should not be concerned as to how we match up with the worlds image, but realize that Gods presences and glory far surpasses the best the world has to offer. We should concern ourselves with being a sanctified, a people set apart, as we serve the one true God, more than trying to adjust our image with worldly concepts that are motivated by Satan (1 John 5:19) and infested with sin (1 John 2:16) that only appeal to the flesh.

The real problem is not trying to reach the unbeliever per se, but how congregations go about it. We must stop reducing the church to a palatable organization where we fit into the world, but once again become a life filled Body that turns the world upside down. The church must begin to operate in faith and return to preaching the full gospel. The apostle Paul makes it clear as to what the full gospel entails, "For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient, in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel..." (Romans 15:18-20) As Paul tells us, the Full Gospel is preaching God's Word (the gospel) in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God. This is the churches legacy; this is how multitudes will be saved, healed and delivered; this is church growth Gods way!   

Won’t it be wonderful when the church becomes the envy of all once again. Well I have some good news and some not so good news, you can decide for yourself. We will see the so called "Open Church" (not the name of a congregation, but how they perceive themselves) continue to compromise the truth (God's Word) for the sake of unbelievers who unfortunately never come to Christ. We we see what is known as "Seeker Friendly" church's who currently have thousands of members begin to shrink and some will even be forced to close their doors (this is already happening) because all their programs and entertainment have not truly fixed broken lives. We will see many main line denominations reject sound doctrine and teach such things as Christ not being the only way to eternal life (this also is currently happening). Some will even be deceived by Mormon's, J---- Witnesses, Muslim's or other false religions and join their ranks.  

However, on the other hand, there are some church leaders and congregation that have not bowed their knee to the world for the sake of having a world pleasing image. They have maintained their integrity in Christ and have not compromised God's Word. They are not trying to please the world but save people from the world. They understand and embrace the kind of faith that pleases God which will open the door to many lost souls being saved, healed, delivered and becoming true disciples. We will see reformation taking place in some denominations. Many denominational church leaders will throw away doctrines that they have embraced for years which are contrary to God's Word. They will come out from under the religious laws of men and begin to live by grace through faith.

Even now there is a stirring in many believers, young and older, who want more of Christ. They have participated in many church programs that are more therapeutic than life changing. They have listen to sermon that are psychology based rather than steeped in the Word of God. Even now many are seeking a congregation where the Full Gospel (as Paul presents it) is the norm and where true Christian community is experienced replacing the social club atmosphere. Why are these things happening and why will they be? Because the church is Christ's Body which He loves. Even now He is cleansing her so that she will be a "glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5:27) PTL

As I close I would like to share a quote from General William Booth, Founder of the Salvation Army. Although the church is in the twenty first century, his statement is still worth pondering…
The chief danger of the 20th century will be religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God and heaven without hell.” (William Booth Quotes) How prophetic...

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