“I know I should believe but I am fighting this ongoing intellectual battle” -- too often I hear this type of confession from churchgoers. Tragically, it is a lot more prevalent than we would want to believe or acknowledge. How can you be so sure? It’s a question that keeps ringing down the aisles. So much apathy! So much unbelief! So much compromise!
Of course, Paul was not doubting or questioning the gospel. Not for one single second! “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,” he states emphatically and then proceeds to clarify many issues.
But just as he had to firmly reassure the Corinthians, so the modern church desperately needs to divest itself of wretched soul-destroying unbelief. What if it is all true? We are desperately in need of a reality check. We dearly require a cold shower of truth, a thoroughly intrusive wake-up call. It really is time to start taking the Bible seriously! And that includes the church and its leadership!
As Jesus speaks to the end-time Laodicean church in the Book of Revelation, He shakes them to the very core by telling them that they are “lukewarm!” He then threatens that He will “spew” them out of His mouth. He confirms that they, the church, are deceived and humanistic, even though they may think all is well and on track.
Jesus’ use of words like “blind,” “wretched” and “naked” would certainly upset scores of modern adherents who resolutely believe they are saved, prosperous and on fire and, naturally, doing a great job of witnessing and campaigning for God!
It is also interesting and very disturbing to note that Jesus is standing outside knocking at the door of the Laodicean church. This symbolically represents the frightening truth that this end-time church/organisation is severely lacking the true “lordship” of Jesus Christ.
Additionally, as Jesus points out, the Laodiceans don’t have white clothes (righteousness/holiness), eye salve (spiritual discernment) and true gold, the stuff that comes from fire, not the glittery, fancy pseudo stuff we tend to manufacture for ourselves.
A few years ago I was profoundly impacted by a challenge that I believe came from the heart of God. In a nutshell it was this: If God is the God of the Bible, and He is; if Jesus is the Son of God and Lord of the Bible, and He is; and if the Bible is the Word of God, and it is; then we are all playing games!
Along similar vein it was with a sense of deep burden and alarm that I realised that the God of Moses, and the God of the Bible is removed, yes estranged from the “different” gospel we preach these days. It is time to stop editing His gospel! And its time to stop apologising for Jesus!
A.W. Tozer wrote: “We have made a brush-salesman out of Jesus Christ. It is as if He meekly stands by wondering whether we will accept Him or not. To receive Jesus as Lord, is not a passive, soft affair! It is not a pre-digested kind of religion. It is strong meat, brethren. It is such strong meat that God is calling us in this hour to yield everything to Him.” We must stop patronising Jesus Christ!
What we need is revelation. The awesome revelation of the God of the Bible. The Lord of the Bible. The Words of the Bible. The powerful, illuminating Spirit of the Bible. It is not about dynamics. It is not about dianetics or forms of Christian “science.” It is about Jesus! The real Jesus! The living Jesus! Regeneration! Rhema! Revelation! Revival!
The world needs the real truth, not our watered-down attempts at finding common ground between man’s carnality and God’s holiness! The true beatitudes, the blessings as per Jesus, are not to be found in books promising prosperity and material gain. “Blessed are the poor in spirit. The meek. Those who mourn. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. The merciful. The pure in heart. Those who are persecuted, reviled, accused falsely.” -- that is what Jesus said!
Reading the Sermon on the Mount should produce absolute despair in us because it is totally unachievable on the human level. Only Jesus Christ in us can enable us to travel that road, with fear and trembling as we work out our salvation. It’s the same with Corinthians 13 as God describes what love is. That too is unachievable. It’s a pipedream! Only Jesus Christ is love, not the things we have made it.
When Jesus spoke to his disciples before sending them out, He warned they would be as sheep amongst wolves. They needed to beware, be wary of men. The disciples would be hated! Detested! Mocked! Scorned! They would be called the devil! And they were not to expect better treatment.
Jesus also confirmed that He had not come to bring peace, but a sword. And that He would set households against each other. My how we have avoided all that tough stuff.
The Gospel is not about padded platitudes, nor is it about peace prophets. Once I heard a preacher tell about the time when Peter and John were involved it that healing outside the City gate. “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give unto thee. Be healed in the name of Jesus,” was the gist of the healing prayer. The preacher added, however, that we must not take that statement to suggest that Peter and John were not rich. All it meant was that they didn’t have any loose change on them at that time!!
I heard someone else suggest that Jesus was the greatest marketing man of all time. That is humanistic rubbish of the highest order and direct from the pit of hell!
Jesus told us that the true prophet would have no honor in his house, his family and his country. He certainly would not be raking in big audiences! We are reminded of John the Baptist, the “greatest” in Jesus’ words. He was taught, raised and prepared in the wilderness, not by any human institutions. He understood from the very beginning that he could not even begin to tie the Lord’s shoelaces and that he needed to decrease and have no disciples of his own. There were no signs and wonders. And, in fact, there was no inside information or special revelation. “Are you the Christ?” he asked.
Times have certainly changed!
Before Jesus went to the cross He prayed a special prayer. “I pray not for this world,” He said. He prayed for the church, its influence, its unity, its ministry and that it would be salt and light. He knew, however, that His Father had handed over the “world” to the consequences of its godlessness and sin.
Paul so lucidly describes all this in Romans. But today we reject such judgement or condemnation. How dare Paul be so outrageous as to suggest that we are going to suffer retribution and that homosexuality is an abomination. In the midst of it all Paul acknowledges “wretched man that I am!” Not wretched man that I was, but that I am. Yes, and lest we forget, only one disciple was not martyred. How convenient that we have left all this uncomfortable stuff behind!
What about Moses, who needed 40 years of preparation? Indeed there were no short-cuts, just years and years of patience and humility. And he didn’t make the “promised land” because he lost his temper! Samson’s greatest ministry was when he had lost all his hair and good looks. He was blind, bound and helpless. And that was his true moment of glory!
Jeremiah was the weeping prophet. No small wonder! What a life he led pronouncing fearlessly God’s word. It would be fair to say that all the prophets were speakers of doom because the hopelessness of life outside God is not something to anticipate keenly. And, needless to say, very few listened or even took the prophets seriously.
How can we turn a blind eye to the way God punished Miriam and Korah for their rebellious behaviour. God is immutable, meaning that He does not change. He does not have to change because He does not make mistakes nor need to apologise!
As in the days of Noah, so it will be. Sin and debauchery abounded as they mocked and scorned Noah and his family of ark builders. There should be a very real and heavy sense of déjà vu, spiritually speaking, as we recognise all the signs.
We are playing games! Very clearly we just don’t seem to believe that the Bible is true. We accept that in part the Bible carries and propounds much that is valid and believable, but the tragic bottom line is that the liberal and intellectual “yes-buts” and the “surely-nots” are winning the minds of the great majority.
Despite claims of revival and church growth, the truth is that Noah and John the Baptist would probably have an even harder time of mockery and rejection these days than when they walked the pages of the Bible!
True discipleship, writes A.W. Tozer, is a willingness to turn our backs on everything worldly for Jesus sake. But evangelical Christianity is on a dead-end street if it is going to continue to accept religious activity as a legitimate proof of spirituality.
Why should believing Christians want everything pre-cooked, pre-digested, sliced and salted and expect that God must come and help us eat and hold the food to our baby lips while we pound the table and splash? We are like spoilt brats, demanding our own way. We think this is Christianity. It is not. It is a degenerate bastard breed that has no right to be called Christianity – writes Tozer.
Indeed, one day we will all have to face one great truth. And we
will certainly view it from different vantage points. The truth that will ultimately trump all other truths is that while we were here on earth there was only one issue of any consequence – the Lord Jesus Christ. It is time to take it all very seriously!