Thursday, January 18, 2007

Running God’s Glory out of the Temple: Why these are Dangerous Times for Our Churches and Our Nation

We are in critical and perilous times as a nation. The influence of post modern thinking has caused an erosion of Judeo-Christian values. The light of Christ is dimming to a flicker of an ember as we are swallowed up in consumerism and values based on feelings and selfish desires. The Bible based churches in our land are facing a full frontal assault of the enemy and largely responding with impotence and fatigue.

This same battle is happening in our midst. We are engaged in a struggle for the future and direction of the visible representative of the body of Christ.

Many Bible believing and teaching Pastors are under satanic attack. This tension and discussion is not unique to Pastors who boldly teach the whole counsel of God. Jonathan Edwards was dismissed from his church and found great resistance throughout the course of his ministry. John McArthur was himself under great criticism and almost lost his church as he preached from God’s word.

Why the problem may be us and not our Pastors.

In II Timothy 3, Paul tells us a lot about what is happening in our culture today.

"1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra”which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

Many pastors and people who have positions of spiritual authority will continue to struggle as these characteristics become more prevalent in our land and in our congregation.

Reasons for these persistent problems:

#1 Our culture resists authority when it goes against them. “Every decision is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:33.) It is common now to resist the God ordained authority in society. Romans 13 tells us to accept this chain of command and be submissive. Our culture is uncomfortable in doing so.

#2 Our culture wants ear tickling feel good sermons. The largest congregations in our nation today contain more fluff than stuff. Expository preaching is on the decline and entertainment based presentations are on the rise.

#3 Personal holiness is out of style.

#4 Leisure and consumerism dominates our idle time.

The consequences:

The book of Ezekiel is arguably the saddest book in all of Scripture. It documents the decline of God’s presence and His glory leaving the temple.

I truly believe that we are witnessing this same movement in our land today. We are driving God out in the midst of our rebellion and our land is becoming desolate in its wake.

EZ 2:1 And he said to me, Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you. 2 And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. 3 And he said to me, Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, Thus says the Lord God. 5 And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.

EZ 11: 12 and you shall know that I am the Lord. For you have not walked in my statutes, nor obeyed my rules, but have acted according to the rules of the nations that are around you.

EZ 12:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house

EZ 13:22 Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his evil way to save his life,

2 And the word of the Lord came to me: 3 Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them? 4 Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, 5 that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols. 6 Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations. 7 For any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I the Lord will answer him myself. 8 And I will set my face against that man.

There is still hope:

I have grown tremendously in Christ since coming to my church and learning under the leadership of my pastor. My knowledge of the Bible has deepened, my love for Christ has grown more passionate, and my ministry has been fruitful. We have seen changed lives and restored marriages in our small group. My wife and children have grown. Our Sunday school class has been amazing. We love memorizing the scripture together!

The gospel has never been hindered and our mission is one of hope and excitement. Our church has been involved in faithful laboring for Christ in Nashville and around the world.

My church has a tremendous ministry in our academy with a promising future and momentum.

We are on the threshold of seeing great fruit for the cause of Christ in a strategic city in our nation and world!

People are in need of the hope of the gospel. The Holy Spirit can use even our missteps and weaknesses for His good and glory.

I call on us to pray for the peace of the church and ask for prayers, petitions, and fasting on behalf of all pastors and churches. May we weather this attack of the enemy and move on to more glorious and fruitful days ahead.

Ez 11:17 "Therefore say, Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. 18 And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. 19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God."

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