Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Old Cross vs. the New Cross by A. W. Tozer

The Cross:  New vs. Old
by A. W. Tozer
Good, Clean Fun
The World but at a Higher Level
Following Human Taste and Reasoning
A Symbol of Death or of Redirection?
Not Diplomats but Prophets
Repent, Believe, and Forsake

Friday, November 21, 2014

Why I Left Church For A Season

What has turned me off from going to church.

I left my last church around two months ago. Churches have been turning me more off than on. I found such a shift that many of today’s churchgoers barely notice the changes that have occurred over a period of time. Another problem is many in the church accept this as the norm for services.
I read a link that Stand Up For the Truth to Pastor Randy White. Much of what he wrote was intriguing reading and all of what he said and relayed, I have to agree with those statements. I will add more, but let’s get on with the nitty-gritty of what is keeping me from church in this moment.
Last year, I could not understand why contemporary worship music was not giving me “the high” I received when I was a newer Christian. Simply, since I was not fully established in the Word and my relationship with the Holy Spirit, I did not know any better.
After a period where I spent more time being lukewarm than chasing God, I realized many things that kept me from the chase. While my wife was attending WoF conferences (more on this later), I couldn’t stomach what was going on during these services. I stayed out on the foyer during these times, and the blessing is my wife finally saw what was wrong and left the movement.
What is REALLY keeping me away from churches today? Since I was so lukewarm, I repented and began seeking the Lord with a new passion. I re-read some books by Charles Finney and Derek Prince, and starting realizing what TYPE of church was being played in Western churches.
Understand, I am not saying ALL churches in America are like this. Also note that I believe there is a zero probability that anyone has been in every church in America. By my writing, I can only write about what I see and research on the internet. Remember, as you read forward, this is opinion from my standpoint and no expertise in theological standings for churches.
First, it relates to my question on why church membership isn’t growing, except for the Emerging megachurches in many of the metropolises today. I read an article recently about why membership is declining, and the writer gave five thesis, on which I could only agree on one.
The writer said that churches are not setting high enough standards for Christians to obtain membership. Granted, the only one I agreed with was that many were not getting involved with the church’s ministry, and I have not been part of a ministry since 2005.
I do not believe in going to church just to go. Every church I went to have the same basic program – worship, announcements, tithe, and sermon. Anything else became “led by God” for an altar call and prayer time. I am not saying this is wrong, but I have attended a church where the Holy Spirit disrupted the services for a month. Just worship and watching people get ministered to for two hours. The pastor was not allowed to preach during this time.
Worship music
Let’s start with worship. I have been to some churches where the worship was recorded, because the size of the church wasn’t enough to have a band. Another was straight basic, with little electrical instruments but the worship was there. On the flip side, I have also been to churches where worship is a full blown concert, with loud amps and flashing lights.
I stumbled upon an ebook called “Spiritual Anorexia” by Doug Erlanson, and what he wrote was astounding. He was unaware of the changes from hymnal based to contemporary worship music and, until he went to an older style church. When the worship band played a hymn, he listened to the words, and it took on a whole another meaning for worship. I concur.
I know what someone is going to say – you do not like the new music. Sadly, you are easily wrong. I was raised in the songwriting era in the 1970s, disco, techno, and the hair bands in the 1980s, so don’t tell me I despise the upbeat. Some Christian songs are just wrong, due to trying to employ rock songs and making them Christian, because it was sung by a Christian artist.
The lyrics have changed so subtly that churches haven’t noticed it. When you compare a hymn with many popular contemporary worship music today, you will find the lyrics are so drastic, it woke me up. What a difference.
First off, when I was a teenager, I listened to music incessantly. I fell asleep listening to music, I woke up listening to music, I would head to the basketball court with headphones attached to the boom box (if you are not old enough, please ask someone older than you). I know what this music gave you, and it was an emotional charge. As long as the fuel with an upbeat, no matter the lyrics, was good to get the juices flowing for any young person. And now we have this in the worship today as well
Now the lyrics. Here are the lyrics to the old hymn The Old Rugged Cross:

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.
Now I will show you the lyrics to the recently popular song I Am Free:
Through You, the blind will see

Through You, the mute will sing

Through You, the dead will rise

Through You, all hearts will praise

Through You, the darkness flees

Through You, my heart screams

I am free

Yes, I am free
I am free to run

(I am free to run)

I am free to dance

(I am free to dance)
I am free to live for You

(I am free to live for You)

I am free

(I am free)

Yes, I am free

(I am free)

Through You, the Kingdom comes

Through You, the battle's won

Through You, I'm not afraid

Through You, the price is paid

Through You, there's victory

Because of You, my heart sings

I am free

Yes, I am free

And I am free to run
(I am free to run)

And I am free to dance
(I am free to dance)
And I am free to live for You
(I am free to live for You)
I am free
(I am free)
Yes, I am free
(I am free)
Who the Son sets free, is free indeed
(Now the Son sets free)
Who the Son sets free, is free indeed
(Now the Son sets free)
I am free to run
(I am free to run)
I am free to dance
(I am free to dance)
And I am free to live for You
(I am free to live for You)
I am free
(I am free)
Yes, I am free
(I am free)

There is three major differences between the hymns and today’s worship.

1. Repetition.
Look at the repetition of “I Am Free” compared to “The Old Rugged Cross.” In the old hymn, the song only repeats through the refrain. The song I Am Free repeats itself many times over and over. As long as the emotional charge is there from getting the feel that “you are free,” might as well say it over and over again.
The Old Rugged Cross gives four sets of verses, with the chorus and refrain sung after each one. Unless someone finds a way to modernize the music, this song would not go over well with the younger generation. The strange thing is noting that the old hymns have stood the test of time for their next view.
I am amazed how many songs today have maybe one or two sets of lyrics, and chorus and repetition allows the song to reach past four minutes long. I am talking of Christian contemporary worship music now, not that regular rock played mostly on Christian radio stations. I makes me think that either this is all they have to offer or what is listed as #2.
2. It is devoid of revelation.
Look at not just the words (ignore thy, thine, etc) but how they are written. Today’s worship music has most of the same words jumbled into different music. God’s love, more words use to describe God and Jesus as “You and He,” and it emphasis more on feeling good for who we are than Scripture based. It appears today’s writers are more concerned about getting words to rhyme and people’s emotions more than the works of the Jesus and how God served us.
Rich Mullins was a rare writer in the 1980s and 1990s with his music. When I owned some of his CDs, I noticed in many of the lyrics were Scripture references for much of his songs. Awesome God was only a three minute song, but its impact through Scripture holds its own, compared to Christian songwriters today.
I rarely hear songs about the Blood and Calvary anymore. You cannot get riled up talking about the suffering Jesus went through, and somehow we assume the presence of God is the best for our flesh and spirit. It isn’t about honoring our God anymore, it is about the third point.
It seems much of worship that is played and selected for the beginning of service holds more for uplifting my the beat and music and not of the lyrics. What would happen if the electricity went out? Would the bands be able to continue at the top notch many have come to expect week after week? What of those places in Africa that have no electricity, I wonder of their worship time is better than the concerts we have in America...
3. Man centered vs. God centered.
In the song I Am Free, the only reference you see of God/Jesus is “You.” Any nonbeliever who walked in the church may have no idea who You is. But the song more focuses on “I,” and what I am. I am free to do this, I am free to do that. I hate to say this, but others are free to run, and free to dance, but why? What did God do? What took place for all this to happen?
The Psalms are replete where David saw God deserved all the praise. In the last five chapters (146-150), all that is written is praising Him. Any instrument, any voice, any time of day, He deserves every praise. It should never be about us. It is all about Him.
The Old Rugged Cross was written in a way that it would reflect all the glory to Calvary and the sacrifice of Jesus in our place. The writer made every point there was no way any thing he could do unless Jesus suffered and took his place on that Cross.
I Am Free took the other approach. At the start it may seem God gets glory, but nothing is mentioned what took place for all this to happen. The glory doesn’t go to God but “I.” It reflects more of what I can do, now that God has done all this for me.
Where is the reverence to the LORD in these songs? Where does the growth come from in worship songs that is based more on how you feel than who He is? The lack of content in many of today’s worship songs does little to direct us to the Bible, does little to delve to know more of Him besides what is sung over in different songs. I have come to dislike these songs.
Worship has come to be more of a concert to give a charge to start the service. Once that gets some of the congregation in the motion, it sets the stage for the announcements. If these churches have the technology, most will broadcast them on the big screen. These are either taken from another church program or prerecorded from the other pastors and edited for presentation. This is usually done between songs are at the end, with the sound turned up like a concert hall.
Preaching on Tithe
Depending on the need of the church or ministry, the tithe offering is next. Please don't send verse on tithing, I am well aware that the church needs these to survive and do God's work, especially the laymen. I am not here to argue of the collection, but I have heard some preachers give a 20-30 minute mini-sermon every week on the practice of tithing, and they make sure they tell you Malachi 3, to testify that YOUR storehouse will be full. The preacher will emphasize that God will bless you in return of 30, 60, or a hundredfold, which is not directly Biblical. Some go so long, you just want to give so they get off the subject.
The reason I hate it is that people look to give to God just to get back. With that attitude, why bother to give. Let God do what He wants with it, and let God bless you as He wills, WHEN He desires to do so. He desires a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), then churches should present the giving as an offering to Him. Guilty and manipulative practices to get you to give, especially when you don't have it to give, is dangerous. I heard one person trust what was promised that God will give back, she overdrafted her bank account. In a sense, it caused to give MORE for what she had.

Sermons (Tickling Ears)
First, I will say that I believe there are many preachers and pastors who have a desire to preach the Word. I believe there are very good churches that have pulpits that are filled with laity that preach such solid food that believers eagerly learn week after week. Some churches need this desperately, and only get milk.
Granted, I believe it is hard to teach from the pulpit when there come new believers who can’t readily handle the meat that sometimes need to be presented from the Bible. What becomes a dilemma is when preachers continue to give milk and this prevents those who need to reach spiritual maturity to get there when they are still given the proverbial baby bottle. Usually, these are good times to get the newer believer engrained in a Bible Study. Get many of them in fellowship and learning the Word, where they can ask questions and gain insight more freely.
There are preachers who afraid of letting go of some of their congregation, or fear some will leave if the message gets “too hot.” Frankly, some will leave because they don’t want the message too hot or too cold just enough to keep them warm enough by the fire, but not in it. The problem is, this may keep them in their seat but that is as far as the butt will take them.
Giving them the message they want to hear may be good for some seasons, however, many like to gravitate to the fire to keep them warm only. Scripturally, fire is used to purify or to consume (1 Corinthians 3) and when a message is given just to roast marshmallows, we miss what it really needed.
Paul warned of those who need to have their ears tickled (1 Timothy 4:3) and they will chase unsound doctrine to get it. It give them the benefit, they want all the promises of God without obedience to do His Word accordingly. Grace is extended past the point of repentance, and many are happy to live their lifestyles of the world while believing the will reap the promises of heaven. This is all to keep butts in the seats and the coffers flowing for the salary of those in the church.
There are many warnings to the church in the Bible, and many are ignored, maybe because those in attendance needs to hear but fear a backlash of exodus. Strangely, if message like this are done, like 1 Corinthians 6, those who are feeling the sting and leave may be the ones who are living a sinful lifestyle and don’t want to be confronted.
Let me say this before stones of judgment can be tossed at me. I have sinned. I have fallen. I have backslidden at times. I AM NOT PERFECT in the LORD’s eyes by any means. The ones that struggle with sin and want to be free from it, willing to confess these before God and others, those we should pray for and help them in any way we can to break free of this bondage. Like Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6, one was purposely living in sin, and the people did not mourn of the leaven that was infecting the whole church. Simply, they did nothing, and Paul saw this glorying was not good.
Well, others are not sinning as bad as what was described, someone sleeping with his father’s wife. Sin is sin. What is troublesome is that there was no repentance, and worse, the people did not see this as concern. And we wonder why the world sees us as no different from them. We strive for forgiveness but not holiness. Holiness is another thing that should be preached from the pulpit.
Grace has been watered down to the point it has lost any effectiveness to bring people back to the Cross. We have people claiming baptisms of the Holy Spirit but ignore communion with Him. We are taught that God serves us with all the promises, grace and mercy we can hold in. Obedience is becoming the forbidden fruit, when it should be the center of our lifestyle unto the Almighty.
Sermons used to be so filled with the Word that believers held the Bibles open, always searching for the Scripture verses that the preacher said in the sermon. The way it was meant to be was, if any of the family members had a question of the sermon, they were to bring it up to the father, and they would discuss it at home.
Today, we print easy to follow “fill in the blanks” pamphlets that offer little in growth. Large projector screens have the verses all for you in an easy to follow PowerPoint layout. (Understand, for those who have problems reading the Bible, this is good for those, so I will not dismiss this as totally wrong, IMO.) For many people, why bring a Bible, it is already lined up for them. Just take the pamphlet home, and maybe read it later.
We are called to test EVERYTHING (1 Thessalonians 5:21), even what is taught from the pulpit. I have heard preachers make mistakes, but some are concerned about teaching Scripture that seems “offensive,” so they twist it to make you feel more at ease. Taking some verse out of context is more taught to them by seminary’s doctrine than from the Holy Spirit is another common problem from the pulpit.
There are times we need messages that prick our hearts (Acts 2:37) and cause us to make a major decision, and this includes inside the church. The younger generation needs to be challenged, and we need to stop patronizing the congregation into simplistic promises where obedience, holiness and sanctifying ourselves should be a common practice. Preach sin as it is, and do not be afraid to preach on the wrath and judgment of God. It is a character of Him, and you cannot truly know Him without understanding His judgment (Jeremiah 9:23-24). Stop picking and choosing, Jesus is waiting for a spotless Bride without blemish.
I will say this, and I have wondered where my passion has gone in this area, and that is prayer. In service, you might here in half-hearted prayer that coincides to the worship song that preceded it. If the song is “All About You, Lord,” then the simplified prayer will be “that we are here for You, and it is all about You.”
Leonard Ravenhill always talked about how much prayer is missing from the churches, and he passed away in the early 1990s. He mentioned how he was having services on Wednesday nights, attended by about a hundred. When he changed it to a prayer meeting, the people stopped coming, only a remnant came. Why the difference?
Could it be that the Holy Spirit is not part of these meetings? Sometimes our flesh gets into these meetings, and we pray from it. When we pray in the Holy Spirit, we are in communion with Him, I believe there is a unity that flows within these meetings. When He is not present, it is like a dry tree, and there is nothing to ignite it with.
There are churches that are lucky to have community prayer once a month, and barely get a tithe to go. Sometimes it is the same old routine. Play some worship music to get you “in the mood.” Then the leaders tells the group what should be prayed for, and maybe gives a list of things. Then it is done. This is scheduled once a month.
From what I have read in the Bible, we are to be in prayer unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We must admit, there are very few who are in prayer constantly. Yes, there is work, children and bills to take care of, stress, and eating. I believe God knows all this. I fail this many times. Even Samuel called prayerlessness a sin (1 Samuel 12:23) and I am guilty of this countless times. Count me as one where I should pray more than I ought.
Fear and Respect
In olden times, I heard that when it came for the sermon, the Word was read, and everyone stood accordingly to give homage and respect. Prayers before the sermon were sometimes lengthy, but needed. Now people go into churches with their lattes and coffee, holding one hand up with the cup in another. Where is our fear and respect in His house of worship?
What is ironic that some of the older preachers, ranging from John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards to A.W. Tozer, Paris Reidhead and Duncan Campbell never feared the people before giving their messages. Their conviction was more on James 3:1 and truly poured their hearts as a sacrifice, and were more than willing to preach truth to a people who unknowingly were desperate for it.
During the Hebrides revival (1949-1952), Mr. Campbell was known to preach hell to a congregation, and the wrath of a holy God was bearing down on those who were not right with Him. It is has been known that people were crying mercy during these sermons were commonplace during this time. Only after the sermon, would he invite those who were serious of their salvation, and those that did not accept, he let them to their own device. His understanding of God and knowledge of Him was based on reverence.
We have no reverence of Him in hardly any church today. Worship starts, and half of the people are still in the foyer talking or gossiping. Some enter the sanctuary, still having conversation while the music plays. Sermons and Bible Studies are given that He is a loving God, and I even got to hear someone candidly waiting for a time he can sit on “Daddy’s lap.” Why not, what do Christians have to fear because “If God is for me, who can be against me?” Right?
I have not been able to count how many verses are about fear and reverence. We ignore the fact that He is King of kings and Lord of lords. In the book of Esther, it mentions all the preparation and prayer it took before Esther presented herself before the King, even though he was her husband. We should wonder why God does not come down in His glory and holiness, because the church has not prepared herself for His presence. As long as it took Esther to get ready, how much more should we be before our King?
Here are some verses that give much insight on why we need to have the fear of the LORD:
Psalm 119:120
My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments.
Proverbs 1:7
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 8:13
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
Proverbs 9:10
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
Proverbs 14:26-27
In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge. [27] The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
Proverbs 15:16
Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith.
Proverbs 15:33
The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.
If the Bible is replete with the fear of the LORD, then the importance is much more than we proceed in our life. We are called to work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), and if pastors are called to watch over and feed the flock, then their concern should be much more. It should NEVER be enough to believe that people say that Jesus Christ as Lord, but to walk out their lives in the ways of our Savior. Job was so concerned over his children, he continually offered sacrifices for them (Job 1:5). Even as a father, I have these concerns for my children as they grow. Do pulpits really have this passion and see what fruit their congregation has, and not what their wallet holds? I am not that it isn’t so, it doesn’t appear from my perspective that leaders are searching through all their congregation and getting them involved with church.
Life Groups
There has been a recent trend to shift what has been called Bible Study to the term “Life Groups.” This was done to bring more of a family feel to a group. I now wonder, what was wrong with calling it Bible Study?
It has evolved to where the main focus isn’t just walking and studying the Word anymore. Many are following study guides that other people wrote. I am not saying this is bad, but there has been a strong change to getting these study guides. No deviation, just read what is required, discuss what you “liked” from the study, and fellowship afterward.
Many churches are hoping by calling them Life Groups, that they can attract their congregation in a most serene way. I understand that some people may feel a little underwater when it comes to learning the Word, but that is why there should be gifted teachers.
Bible Studies feel good about what was studied, tell everybody, and forget. Use of study guides are growing more as a substitute for the genuine study of the Word. No need to prepare and pray about the upcoming life group, it has already been done for you.
The best part is that is usually follows the latest Christian item going on. The movie that played over the summer, “God's Not Dead,” created a study guide, though I have not looked at it. What we must be careful for is not everyone walks the same path, so what worked for one may not work for another. (Interestingly, why did the movie show the professor getting killed, when the original had a cameo in it?)
Some of these use Scriptures to best suit the author's theme out of context. Many don't remember what was originally read, and the leaders do their best to follow the steps to complete the study guide portion for that day. The best part is bragging how marvelous the study was, fellowship the rest of the time, and don't realize when most get home later, they barely recall what was taught.
I grew so much from the Bible Studies I attended when I began to take my walk with God seriously. Bringing your Bible to these groups are not required, as the study guide supplies the needed ones for you. Again, we should test everything, but seek God what is best for you in your walk with Him. From my standpoint, I would rather talk about the Bible, let someone ask questions, wing it and see the Holy Spirit lead.
My family attended a church off and on for about a year and a half (It would have been more, but every other weekend was spent taking care of the mother-in-law). After the service, there was time for fellowship in the basement. What was difficult was the traverse time we spent trying to find friends within the church. One couple always volunteered for greeting, so they were open with everyone. Another one came to us once in a while, but we ended up talking with the ones who were like us, outside cliques.
There just was not any “room” in the inn here. No matter how much we tried, we found some family and friends held up the “No Vacancy” sign. After a period of this, we just gave up and sat alone, or most times we just left after the service. Since we felt we weren't going to be part of the church, we felt it was best to move on. Then I watched as some elders felt we weren't part of their church. I straight up told them what happened and I heard no response.
What we should realize that the Body is called to be a family. If we are called to be sons of God and daughters of Zion. Sons and daughters are siblings, and if this is true, we are to be like spiritual heirs to God. Sadly, we fight like siblings at well, but that mostly happens when children are immature. Yes, I still try to annoy my sister after all these years, but I still love her and give her respect and honor.
The old cliché “birds of a feather flock together” holds more true in the church. I am not implying women spent more time with women, and the same goes for men, we each need to sharpen each other, and mentoring has its needs as well. How it is today comes forth of people who act this way will gravitate toward people who think in the same way. Ironically, people who speak the truth at most risks to their reputation are not liked by believers who promote love and grace more. Those who don't like “judging” avoid those who hate sin. So on and so on...
Division will only grow in the church as we speed on toward the coming of Jesus Christ. It may come down to the division of the ten virgins, as the five who keep their lamps full are always looking ahead and desiring their lives to be full of light, while the other five waited until it was too late. Choose your group wisely...
The Holy Spirit
This was the biggest challenge I ever faced with a leader. I brought a DVD that focused not on the baptism of the Holy Spirit but the communion (intimacy) to him. It took almost three months before he found time to watch this, and before he finished the second one, I received a small “tongue lashing” about this, and I had a letter written in response, but I did not send it out. The Spirit knows ahead of time...
He finally finished the second and it seems he got the message that He longed for him to have, and he received at surprise at church the following Sunday, as the Holy Spirit showed up and disrupted the service. Obviously, there was a reason for him to see this, and I hope this happens more frequently.
What many of us claim is the baptism of the Holy Spirit but not communion with Him. Some of us can pray in the Spirit's tongues but we need to learn how to pray with His leading and help. In fact, if there is one Person who needs to be a part of not just church but our every day walk, it is the Holy Spirit.
Referring the songs of today against the main focus of the Holy Spirit is like fire and ice. The Holy Spirit never talks of Himself, only directs us to glorify Jesus (John 16:14). He counsels and convicts us, He speaks for us and helps us pray for what is God's will. We need to stop believing what we think is God's direction without the Holy Spirit. It is difficult to do so we are not in communion with Him.
Many of us will claim the baptism of the Holy Spirit but we neglect the baptism of fire. Some claim this is one in the same but that is not always true, since at Pentecost there was seen tongues like fire (Acts 2:3). We are called to be filled daily (Ephesians 5:18). Paul told the Corinthians to keep with the communion of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:15).

Communion (Lord's Supper)
This is a touchy subject and this is to be understood of what I have seen. The reason I bring this up is I have seen churches take this too lightly. Some go through the routine of reciting 1 Corinthians 10, than take the elements. This may not be “bad” in essence, but we miss another point that Paul wanted to make and clear in both Chapters 10 and 11.
Chapter 10 gives this as a warning:
1 Cor. 10:21-22
Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. [22] Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?
Now on the Chapter 11:
1 Cor. 11:27-32
Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. [28] But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. [29] For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. [30] For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. [31] For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. [32] But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
When we partake together, does the pulpit warn us of taking the elements unworthily? Do some of us attempt to take of the world and of the Lord's table? Do we realize when we think we are right with the LORD, and partake in communion, we can provoke the Lord into jealousy? We are called to judge ourselves, and “judge” is the same Greek word that Jesus uses in Matthew 7:1 (krinos). Simply, if we judge ourselves to the point if we are right with God or not according to the Word, we would not be judged in accordance when we take communion.
I don't know why we do not take things more seriously in our walk with God. Many come to church and their plain assumption that they are right with God, and have literally no relationship with the Holy Spirit. Many of us going through our life on earth and use the mere reflection of Jesus in our walk at church, maybe in hopes we will have the form of godliness, but we deny its power to transform (1 Timothy 5:8). We readily accept any word that comes from the pulpit as truth without testing it against Scripture. The main reason this happens is those who are lukewarm only hear the Word from the pulpit and their knowledge is restricted to Sunday mornings. Churches go through services in the same routine week after week, and they expect different results. Sermons have barely enough strength to get their congregation out the door feeling good of themselves but not much else.
We need truth that reaches to the division of soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:15), and this holds the possibility of damaging the flesh. We need to seek holiness that far bypass what we believe it is. In fact, this is one topic that needs to return to the sermon list. Fasting and prayer should be once a week, and with conviction of the Holy Spirit to lead us in this arena.
There is one area that I have lost, and that is the spirit of prayer. Jesus taught that we should go into our closets (Matthew 6:6). This is so we can give our undivided attention, not just so we can give our supplications to Him but so He can speak to us as well. My current conditions makes it difficult.
Before I met my wife, I would go to a quiet location and spend much time alone. At the time I wrote this, I realized how much I have not been able to be alone with Him. My wife sleeps in the afternoon for her night shift, so I can't go in my room to pray. I need to pay attention to my children, and usually one of them is in the other bedroom. During the day, I home school my children, and at night I do my schoolwork, though I graduate soon. By the time my kids are crashed for the night, so am I. Considering it is winter, walks are not a solution, either.
It has affected my relationship with God, and sometimes I do not spend as much time reading the Word as I should. I lay in bed listening to old time sermons, which helps, but I am guilty, and I can freely admit it. Which leads to another thing...
James 5:16
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
How come this is rare? There are some things we are willing to profess, but many are not the deep ones that cause us strife. The Greek word translated fault here is paraptoma, which literally means side-slip. Other words Strong's Concordance uses is lapse or deviation. We are human. There should be a small trust among us where we can confess these among ourselves and pray for each other to make us whole.
I want to be a part of a spiritual family, that takes part not just church functions but part of ALL of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit for the benefit of ALL. I don't want to see part of the church fall through the cracks, where some don't care and just willing to sit in the seat. Others have the gifts but cannot use them. Then there are some who believe they are in the Body of Christ, but are lukewarm and have pushed Christ outside the door (see Revelations 3). We need revival.
Duncan Campbell said it best, that “revival is a community saturated with God.” Revival starts with the cleansing of the church, for God does not want to seek unbelievers without bringing her to a bride without blemish. Brian H. Edwards studied revivals throughout history, and found three things that associated all the solid ones -
1. Spirit of prayer
2. Conviction of sin
3. Fear of God and His holiness
Revival won't be come unless we seek these three things. Revival can't come until we realize we fall short in all three – me included. Until we sit back and find the church is not saturated with God, either, and we are not as holy as we should be. We must step forward and step up, see our flaws, acknowledge our sin. We need to ask why we are not experiencing the Holy Spirit in our churches in His wholeness.
We are not as desperate as we should be. God is much more, Jesus is coming back for a bride with more pureness than we say we are. What is our purpose?