“He must increase, but I must decrease” ~John 3:30
Some troubling questions have been burning within my soul in regards to the state of the pulpit and Christianity, as a whole. It is my hope that this blog will act as a ‘wake-up call’ to Christians worldwide. The true Bride of Christ is beautiful and respected, no doubt. However, it saddens me that some claim to be the Bride, yet, act as if they are engaged to this world, instead.
The Bible plainly states that, “by their fruits, you shall know them” (see Matt. 7). Jesus taught that a corrupt tree (likened to an evil person) cannot bring forth good fruit; neither can a good tree bring forth corrupt fruit. If a discerning Christian sees someone bearing corrupt/bad fruit, it is not a ‘judgmental attitude’ which causes us to be aware of this fact. You see, it is the Holy Spirit of the Lord that gives us the discernment and wisdom to see such things. It is a protective mechanism, if you will, which guards us from false teachers, heretics, deception, and the like.
It is deeply concerning to me that I see much corrupt fruit. However, I not only see this amongst sinners, but alarmingly, amongst some professed-Christians and ministers! I do not wish to stereotype or make a blanket-statement to insinuate that all of God’s followers are powerless or unholy, for that would be entirely untrue and unfair. However, it is clear that there are only a few left who take the Bible seriously; who strive to please God above all else. There are so few who still strive to live a holy life and remain unspotted by the world of sin.
The Powerless Pulpit
“…we have too many dead sermons to too many dead people. Oh, the horror of it!”
~ Leonard Ravenhill
Why is anointed preaching of the truth so hard to find, nowadays? A powerless message never encourages anybody to seek Christ or to deepen their relationship with him. Certainly not all, but many ministers nowadays preach an ‘easy-to-swallow’ message that never challenges sin; perhaps, because some are in sin themselves – or else, they fear losing their congregation by preaching truth. In Matthew 15:14, Jesus calls such ones, “blind leaders of the blind” – where there is no sense of direction and both the leader and followers fall into a ditch of deception. They only preach what the people’s ‘itching ears’ want to hear (see 2nd Timothy 4:3).
Leonard Ravenhill (click to enlarge)
Revivalist, Leonard Ravenhill, used to say, “The early church was married to poverty, prisons and persecutions. Today, the church is married to prosperity, personality, and popularity.” In his classic book, “Why Revival Tarries”, Ravenhill felt the primary reason for dead and powerless churches was due to their lack of prayer. He writes, “No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. The pulpit can be a shop window to display one’s talents; the prayer closet allows no showing off. Poverty-stricken as the Church is today in many things, she is most stricken here, in the place of prayer.”
Nowadays, such ministers are a ‘dime a dozen’, so to speak. They also do not express the horrific weight of sin and how it grieves our Lord; rather, they are very passive about sin. This type teach on vague topics which will be accepted by the majority, without contest. Their sermons will consist of ‘how-to-steps’ in order to get you rich, successful, and happy – while neglecting the deeper things which would create a spiritual depth in the congregation. You see, true joy comes from a deep relationship with the Lord. Yes, it is great to know that God provides our needs and that he is able to heal our bodies – I certainly don’t deny that whatsoever nor look down upon that fact. But, my concern is that all of the external ‘things’ are becoming the primary goal for many Christians.
The Bible is Relevant
“The church, in the days of her power, never got along with the world; and the world never got along with the church.” ~ A.W. Tozer
In addition to prayerlessness, I truly believe that another reason why many churches have lost power is due to compromise. Many modern pastors strive to make church a place of entertainment while embracing an ‘anything goes’ attitude – all in the name of relevance. However, allow me to assert this: The Bible is relevant! Founder of Heart Cry Missionary Society, Paul Washer, so accurately said:
“We [most modern churches] are using carnal [worldly] means to attract people. If you use carnal means to attract men, you are going to attract carnal men; and you’re going to have to keep using greater carnal means to keep them in the church. So, what has happened is this – we have these large churches filled with many unconverted, carnal people. But, in those churches, we also have this small group of people that honestly want Christ… all they want is Jesus.” He continues, “But the pastor, in order to keep this larger group of unconverted people, he caters to them; so, while he is feeding these carnal men and women with carnal things, he is letting the sheep of God starve to death… The leadership is catering to the carnal and letting the Bride of Christ starve to death impoverished. That is wrong, and there is going to be judgment for it.”
Another concern Paul Washer has (as do I) is when ministers declare people to be ‘saved’ or ‘born again’ without any true signs of conversion or deep repentance. Their lives do not reflect that they have, indeed, been converted – nor are they sorrowful over their sin. The sinner will, perhaps, mouth a short 1-minute prayer – yet, they will be told that they are truly a Christian and on their way to Heaven. As Paul Washer puts it, “we make a two-fold son of hell” when the unrighteous are declared to be righteous.
Charles H. Spurgeon (click to enlarge)
We must all be careful – for it is God who declares one as righteous. God’s Spirit alone will bear witness of salvation. Romans 8:16 states: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” God’s Spirit is holy; therefore, if one is truly converted and Heaven-bound, they will strive to be holy in order to please God. They will have a holy hatred of sin and evil. The Bible will be relevant for them; they don’t need all of the smoke and strobe lights in order to worship God. One of the most revered preachers of the 1800’s, Charles Spurgeon, put it like this: “If your religion does not make you holy, it will damn you. It is simply painted pageantry to go to Hell in.”
Entertaining the Masses
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” ~ 1st John 2:15
It seems that the bulk of modern church leaders are striving to become relevant in today’s culture; but, most of the methods used to achieve this ‘relevancy’ are only causing more destruction. The focus is on entertainment and socializing. They will host car shows, movie nights, campfires, and Halloween costume contests in an effort to attract sinners. Okay – I get it, but then again, I truly don’t. Isn’t Jesus enough to attract them? Doesn’t the Bible say that they will see our good works and our life will attract them? What are they seeking… entertainment or Jesus? Charles Spurgeon once said, “I do believe we slander Christ when we think we are to draw the people by something else but the preaching of Christ crucified.”
Keith Daniel (click to enlarge)
And the music during worship services… oh, let us be very careful with this. So often, it borders on being worldly and sensuous. So many sound like songs to a lover with the name of ‘Jesus’ scarcely or never mentioned. Music is powerful – let’s make sure that the music directs us to God and not to the singers, band, or musicians. Respected missionary from South Africa, Keith Daniel, once preached: “Don’t let the world into the church, America. You don’t win the world by becoming like the world – the world wins you, always… Entertainment is sin in the pulpit of God and in the church; there’s no place for it. Be careful, be careful. If you’re not sure that you are so sanctified by God… and filled with the Holy Ghost, and prayed through as much as a preacher before you stand before God’s people… [then] don’t ever get up and sing. Don’t ever get up and play any instrument. Go to the theater if you want applause; why come to the pulpit?”
Personally, I became keenly aware of this entertainment epidemic not long ago. I have visited churches who were trying so hard to be relevant that they were nothing more than social clubs or Broadway shows. Their methods included silliness, irreverence, worldliness, pep talks, and so little focus on Jesus Christ or the Bible. I cringed at the thought that there might be a person who came, desperate for Jesus – and all they got was an empty message and a couple of jokes, with refreshments afterwards. What if a hopeless, suicidal soul was giving Christianity a chance – yet all they were offered was entertainment with a couple of ‘amen’s’ thrown in to Christianize it? To me, it is a tragedy when such a holy God is misrepresented. People say, “Oh, lighten up! Don’t be so serious and strict!” But, a person’s eternal soul is nothing to take lightly. I would to God that we could all have eyes that saw beyond the here-and-now and into eternity! How differently we would view life!
Needless to say, I would leave such churches feeling frustrated and saddened, to the point of tears. I was so hungry for God’s Word but felt as if I could find it nowhere (in its true form)! I have even heard of people who were relegated to travel hundreds of miles each week to find a decent church to attend; or else, begin a home church. I could easily identify with the scripture in Amos 8:11-13 which states: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.”
There are even those who claim Christianity, yet, do not respect the Bible. They think their ideas are more relevant than a book which is ‘over 2,000 years old’. In opposition to this thought, let me affirm – the Bible is far more relevant at over 2,000 years old than the wisest man’s words spoken only 2 minutes ago. The Bible is the living Word of God!
Few & Many
“We [Christians] are a colony amongst billions.” ~ Leonard Ravenhill
Matthew 7:13-14 states: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Few… few will find this narrow way that leads to life; but many will find the way of destruction!
Are you with the few that are unpopular in the world? Or, are you with the many whom the world loves? In John 15:18-19, Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” Are you willing to stand alone, being unpopular, hated, and persecuted? With the way the world is going, this is not merely a hypothetical question of ‘if’ you will be hated – but ‘when’. If you follow the standard of the Bible, you will be accused of being a narrow-minded, old-fashioned bigot; and you will be viewed as being unreasonable. Be warned of this and be prepared.
In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus said: “Not every one that saith unto me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?’ And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
“Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I [God] am holy.” ~1st Peter 1:16
The gist of this entire blog is to give some food for thought and to urge all Christians to be holy. It is a tragedy that some pseudo-Christians will chastise the genuine Christians for speaking truth. They will even argue with what the Bible says and make excuses as to why they don’t have to obey it. They live prayer-less, Bible-less, worldly lives while still wearing the label of ‘Christian’. But as the English evangelist, Arthur Pink, once said: “Let not the child of God become discouraged because his efforts to please Christ make some of those who call themselves ‘Christians’ speak evil of him.”
Holiness doesn’t make a person immune to the troubles of this life, nor does it mean perfection in all things 100% of the time. But holiness does cause us to press toward perfection in God’s eyes (see Hebrews 6:1). Holiness also causes us to be exceedingly sorrowful if we do sin; to the point that we desire for sin to be completely eradicated from us. Holiness requires discipline, yes; but it also requires a desperate dependency upon God.
It seems there is just a small remnant of those left who wish to please God above self. Sadly, it has become more and more challenging to differentiate the professing-Christian from the sinner. Many seem to be very passive and apathetic about their walk with God – which is deeply concerning. It seems they’d rather argue than pray. They’d rather spend time with their sin than time with God. They’d rather read a dark novel than the Bible.
“Many of you will read a novel from beginning to end, and what have you got? A mouthful of froth when you have done. But you cannot read the Bible. That solid, lasting, substantial, and satisfying food goes uneaten, locked up in the cupboard of neglect, while anything that man writes, a catch of the day, is greedily devoured” (Charles Spurgeon).
Why is it so important to live a life of holiness and withdraw from those who do not practice nor preach holiness? Because, Hebrews 12:14 states: “Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness–without it no one will see the Lord.” Furthermore, we are instructed to withdraw from those who do not teach sound doctrine. 1st Timothy 6:3-5 explains, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”
The Bible also gives a distinct outline as to what standards a bishop/elder (preacher/one who oversees) must adhere to. This instruction was originally given when appointing the elders in Crete; but I believe it still acts as an accurate guide and safeguard for us, nowadays. It says, “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre [money]; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.” Verse 16 concludes, “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:6-11, 16).
In conclusion – let us be wary of these things and always use the Bible as our protection. Remember, in the last days, there will be many false teachers. They may look good on the outside, but even the enemy of our soul disguises himself as an angel of light. That is why it is so easy to become deceived if we neglect careful study of God’s Word. “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:7-9). In other words, it only takes a small amount of false teaching to destroy a man’s entire ministry and to deceive those who sit under his teaching. Consider yourself very blessed if your pastor is genuine, through and through. Yet, ultimately, it is Christ who we all can trust 100%. Let us be a beautiful Bride for Christ in our words and deeds – and be fully committed to him in all of our ways.
“Wake Up Church!” Video Compilation
“Is Entertainment Worth Being Defiled?”
“Churches are Using Carnal Means to Attract Visitors”
“The Modernist Preacher – Entering Hell” by Oscar C. Eliason
“Hated for the Right Reason” by Revealing Truth Today blog
“Pseudo-Christianity Will Not Stand” by Revealing Truth Today blog
“Could the Persecuted Church Rescue American Christianity?” by Russell D. Moore