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Sunday, July 8, 2007

"Woe to you, Scribes, Pharisees, and American Churches...?"

"Woe to you, scribes, Pharisees, and American Churches..." No, that is not what Jesus says in Matthew 23, but the more I look at the woes given and the condition of the American church, in general, I cannot help but see many parallels. Jesus says in verse 13, "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people ; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." The vast majority of so-called Christian churches are guilty of shutting off the kingdom of God by presenting their own way to righteousness through works rather than trusting in the righteousness of Christ. These churches state that partaking of the sacraments (baptism, the Lord's Supper), prayers, good deeds, and tithing contribute to salvation. By presenting anything other than sola fide not only condemns the church presenting it but all others following after it as well. Ephesians 2:8 declares, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God..."

Verse 14 says, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation." Oh how the American church has been guilty of this. This can be seen vividly on most so-called Christian television programs. The evangelist/preacher (pardon me while I scream) preys on the hurting, poor, and elderly by telling them to give money or "sow a seed" to their ministry and sit back and wait for God to bless ten fold. What a scam! What hypocrisy! Not only are these men and women robbing people with lies but they present themselves as people seeking the heart of God through their extravagant prayers and fake healings to make people think that are genuine. Jesus in Matthew 7 speaks directly to these people, saying "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles ?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'

The next woe in verse 15 is, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte ; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." This woe stands out amongst the others because of its implications. This is a very devastating problem facing American Christianity in the present days. The church in general has abandoned preaching repentance and faith as a means of salvation and began making the gospel a way to wealth, health and happiness. When churches teach this or its followers go out into all the world and declare this false gospel the converts of it become "twice as much a son of hell" than before. What that means is that if you were to run into this person in church or on the streets and try to witness to them it would be useless because they think that they are already saved by walking the aisle, signing a card, raising their hand, saying a pray, or getting wet. Now they are not just lost but are convinced that they are saved while the whole time being condemned in the eyes of God. Without repentance, no one will see God. Mark 1:15 says, "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." Repentance and faith is the message that Christ preached and none other. We are not saved so that we can be wealthy, healthy and happy, but so that we can "die to ourselves, take up our cross and follow after Him." In that only is all joy and peace!!

The last two woes that can be paralleled to the American church are found in verses 25-28. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. "So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. One of the foremost reasons the lost want nothing to do with Christianity is the hypocrisy in the church. Yes it is true that Christians are not perfect therefore no church will be perfect, but the state of the American church reveals a picture far from perfect. It appears that we have more concern for buildings, programs and externals than the spiritual health and holiness of the church. We spend millions of dollars building new buildings that are beautiful but are filled with people who are anything but a imitator of Christ. We seek to make the church building and name appear spotless before the world while the members are filthy. This is all done for the sake of attraction so that more people will come. It is better to have a spiritually growing fellowship than a numerically growing church. Furthermore, it is not the building that is to attract people to God, but His mercy and grace that was shown to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. One way that the world sees the effects of salvation is through the body of Christ walking in a manner worthy of Christ.

The solution for the problems facing the American church is repentance and humility. We must repent (turn from mentally and physically) from our self-centeredness. Then we must humbly seek God's face and Word to find out what the TRUE church is to be and what we are supposed to be doing. We are the "bride of Christ", it is about time we start acting like it and being faithful to Him.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

It Is Okay to Hate - Somethings!

"Abhor (hate) what is evil; cling to what is good." - Romans 12:9

"But examine everything carefully; hold fast to what is good; abstain
from every form of evil." - 2 Thessalonians 5:21-22

Biblically, believers are commanded to hate. Unfortunately the command to hate is taken up to quickly by so many and directed at people rather than the intend object. We are commanded to hate evil and the greatest evil in our lives is SIN. Therefore we are to hate sin. This does not mean that we are to sit back and watch the T.V.: seeing the sins of the world and spew hatred toward those involved. Nor does it mean that we look at those around us to find fault in them while condemning them and thinking that we are hating biblically. This kind of hatred is to be directed at the very sin that plagues our own life. We are to "examine ourselves" (2 Corinthians 13:5) and in doing so, seek to purge our lives of the very thing that Christ died to set us free from. Whenever we see sin in our lives we are to strike at it as if it were the most deadly cancer known to man. Just like a physician dealing with cancer, we are to strike with the first detection and with deadening precision, leaving no hint or trace of the sin. This is a hard task that requires discipline, reliance on God's wisdom and strength, and the guidance of the Word of God. Richard Baxter, a 17th century Puritan, left us a list of directions to hating and ridding yourself of sin.

"1. Labour to know God, and to be affected with His attributes, and always to live as in His sight.
2. Consider well the office, the bloodshed, and the holy life of Christ. Love Christ and you will hate that which caused His death.
3. Know and consider the wonderful love and mercy of God, and think what He has done for you; and you will hate sin, and be ashamed of it.
4. Think what the soul of man is made for, and should be used to, even to love, obey, and glorify our Maker; and then you will see what sin is, which disables and perverts it.
5. Look always on sin as one that is ready to die, and consider how all men judge of it at the last.
6. Look now but upon sickness, poverty, shame, despair, death, and rottenness in the grave, and it may a little help you know what sin is."

Once you have come to hate your sin and desire to begin to deal with it, Baxter continues by giving directions to destroying sin.

"1. See that you take no part with sin, and wrangle not, or strive not against your Physician, or any that would do you good.
2. Keep as far away as you can from those temptations which feed and strengthen the sins which you would overcome.
3. Live in the exercise of those graces and duties which are contrary to the sins which you are in danger of.
4. Account the world and all its pleasures, wealth, and honours, so better than indeed they are, and then Satan will find no bait to catch you.
5. Take heed of the first approaches of sin.
6. Make God's word your only rule and labour diligently to understand it.
7. Wait patiently on Christ till He has finished the cure, which will not be till this life be finished."

For Baxter's complete work, see: http://www.puritansermons.com/baxter/baxter16.htm

"You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin." - 1 John 3:5