Tuesday, June 30, 2015


The church was born, according the promise of our Lord Jesus (Cf. Matthew 16:18), on the Day of Pentecost.  In miraculous fashion, by a work of the Spirit of God, ordinary men were supernaturally empowered to proclaim an extraordinary message—the gospel.  3000 souls were saved on that day (Cf. Acts 2:41).  And the church continued afterwards to grow in depth and breadth (Cf. Acts 2:47, 4:4, 5:14, etc.).  The Spirit worked through the early church to turn the world upside down (Cf. Acts 16:8). 

2000 years later the church in our day bears little resemblance to what it was in its beginning.  Spirit-born love and devotion have given way to apathy and complacency and self-sufficiency (Cf. Revelation 3:17).  Anemic religiosity has taken the place of the “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” which was borne of the Spirit of God in the church in its beginning (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Timothy 3:5; Revelation 2:4).

I like this quote by Francis A. Schaeffer, and though he said this many decades ago, it still holds great relevance in our day: “The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us.  All these are dangerous but not the primary threat.  The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit.  The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.”

As the “Pogo” cartoon once put it, “We’ve met the problem and it is us.”  So the problem which works to threaten and weaken the church is not any external force.  We serve a Risen Savior who has availed to us surpassing power and immeasurable love (Cf. Ephesians 1:19, 3:18-19).  The Lord Jesus, who is the “same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), still “stands in the middle of the lampstands” (Revelation 1:13).  He, the One who promised to build His church (Cf. Matthew 16:18), privileges us to have a part in His triumphant and glorious work (Cf. Ephesians 2:10).

We would do well to evaluate ourselves according to what we find to be true in that historical church.  Those early believers believed in Jesus.  The loved Jesus.  And because they loved Him they continually devoted themselves to certain things.  These were not religious things they did out of duty or external constraint, these were things they were led to do by the Spirit of God who indwelt and filled them.  They did these things because they loved Jesus more than anything else.  Nothing mattered more to them than Him.  What was it they were doing?  Acts 2:42 tells us: “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

What if we did the same?  What would happen if all of the born-again believers in America were to return to the same pattern of behavior that we find in the early church?  What if all the Bible-believing churches across the land were filled to capacity on Sunday?  And not for the sake of entertainment, but of out of a sense of need and worship of the Jesus Christ (Cf. Philippians 3:3).  What would happen if churches reinstituted their prayer meetings?  What would happen if we all gave attention to confessing our sins?  We’ve quenched the Spirit and grieved Him in our churches.  Let’s cry out to God for forgiveness.  He is full of grace and mercy and stands ready to forgive (Cf. 1 John 1:9).  We’ve left our first love.  He’s prescribed for us a remedy (Cf. Revelation 2:5).  There is no political or social or economic solution to that which ails us.  No church growth plan or new methodology can make up for what is lacking by way of the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us.  Let’s throw off all vestiges of self-sufficiency and self-confidence and depend instead fully on the All-Sufficient and Powerful Helper (Cf. John 14:16; Ephesians 5:18-21).

The Supreme Court issued a verdict last Friday which is direct contradiction to God and His Word.  God has issued a verdict too and He has called us, His ambassadors, to proclaim it.  In the courtroom of Divine Justice He amazingly declared His OWN SON guilty of OUR sins (Cf. Romans 3:23, 2 Corinthians 5:21).  In the greatest act of love ever demonstrated He has provided for the salvation of all who place their faith in Him (Cf. Romans 5:8, 10:9).  Divine justice has been fully and finally satisfied for the believer on the basis of Christ’s death and resurrection (Cf. Romans 5:1, 8:1).

The Supreme Court’s verdict made the news last news and people soon gathered in places around the world to celebrate.  In the weeks and months to come its effect will spread across our land in unforeseen and unimaginable ways.  And what will be the response of the church?  Will we, God’s people, carry on in our complacent, compromising and apathetic ways?  God forbid!  There is too much at stake.  The battle that is ongoing is a battle for the souls of men.  It is a good fight to which we’ve been called (Cf. 2 Timothy 6:12).  “So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).  We’ve got a message to share.  Over the course of time it spread from Jerusalem to the remotest parts of the earth.  God did that!  He did it through ordinary men and women who had availed themselves to be used by Him.  They did not succeed in their own abilities, but by the power of the Spirit of God working in them (Cf. Colossians 1:28-29).  Let us respond to the Supreme Court’s decision with the message that God Himself has founded in response to man’s sin problem, His glorious gospel (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:11).  And may we, in the proclamation of His gospel, “spread His praise from shore to shore” (“O The Deep, Deep, Love of Jesus”).

So here’s some simple advice for myself and my fellow believers.  The other side (i.e. those lost in sin and led by the devil; Cf. Ephesians 2:1-3) are fighting hard on their side of the battle to win the right to justify their sin (though in reality that is something that they can never do).  Let’s endeavor, by the Spirit, to enthusiastically devote ourselves to the good fight (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:12).  Ours is a good fight constrained and instructed by love (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14).  We follow in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Himself who has set forth our path (Cf. 1 Peter 2:21-23; Hebrews 12:2-4; Ephesians 5:1-2).  We fight with “divinely powerful” weaponry (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).  I think if you look around you might find some fellow soldiers who are discouraged or who have fallen down or been wounded in the battle.  Perhaps you could encourage them (Cf. Hebrews 10:24-25).  Let’s encourage one another.  I’ve read of the close comradery of fellow soldiers on a battle field.  Surely they need it if they are to be “strong and brave to face the foe.”  The day demands that we respond in kind.  That we stand firm “in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).

Go to church.  Go to worship.  Go to serve.  Stop making excuses for not going.  What can be more important than gathering together with your brothers and sisters to worship your Lord and Savior?  Go to church on Sunday as if it matters, because it does.  And if your church isn’t preaching the gospel and teaching the Word—find another one that is.  And enjoin yourself to it.  And find your place of serving in it.  And take is seriously.  As I mentioned before—if all the professing believers were to take the next Sunday seriously and fill up the Bible believing churches across this land it would make a difference.  It would make a difference in the church.  We could not help but be mutually encouraged by such a thing (Cf. Romans 1:12). 

Pray.  I’ve said it before…if there ever was a time for believers in America to pray this is it.  We need to pray for our fellow believers in Christ (Cf. Ephesians 6:18).  And not just for our earthly concerns.  There’s nothing wrong with praying for such things, but let’s be careful to pray not only for the good health of others, but for good spiritual health of us all (Cf. 3 John 2; Colossians 1:9-12).  Go to prayer meeting.  Pray yourself.  Encourage others to pray.  The early church prayed.  A prayer meeting preceded Pentecost and devotion to prayer came on its heels (Cf. Acts 1:14, 2:42).  When the church faced its first great obstacle, the people gathered together to pray (Cf. Acts 4:23-31).  We’d do well to follow their example.

Devote yourself to the Word.  Those early believers were continually devoted to the Apostle’s teaching (Cf. Acts 2:42).  They were Spirit-borne to a love for the truth.  Ever since the church has been “the pillar and support of the truth” in the world (Cf. 1 Timothy 3:15).  But the pillars and the foundation are crumbling away in our day.  Too many professing believers have no appetite for sound doctrine (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:2).  And it shows.  History shows that there is a cause and effect relationship associated to the devotion to the Scriptures.  Spiritual decline is always accompanied by apathy and inattention to the Word of God (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:3, 3:1-5).  Spiritual revival, on the other hand, happens when the Word of God is taken seriously (Cf. Nehemiah 8; 1 Peter 1:22-23).  Love the truth.  Grow in it (Cf. 1 Peter 2:2).

So these are some things we need to do.  But not just do, do for the right reasons and in the right spirit.  We need to do them “by the Spirit,” because apart from Him we can’t do a thing that is pleasing to God or that is done in a way or manner that is of any spiritual benefit (Cf. John 6:63; Philippians 3:3).  And we need to do them because we love Jesus—we want to worship Him; we want to be with His people; we want to spend time with Him in prayer; we want to grow in Him through the teaching of His Word; we want to be used by Him in doing things that matter for eternity; we want to be made to be like Him.  For all these reasons—and many more besides—let’s give attention to these matters.

“Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
‘Twixt that darkness and that light.”
One to Every Man and Nation (Text: James Russel Lowell; Music: Thomas J. Williams).

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