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Has the Church Lost Her Way? Part 5b

Wise Investing

A news report in 2013 related the story of a person who bought a unique white bowl at a garage sale for $3 U.S. As it turns out it was a very rare piece of 1000 year old Chinese pottery. So rare in fact that there was only one other piece like it and it has been on display in the British Museum for 60 years. This precious find was ultimately sold at auction for $2.2 million U.S.

As of this writing in 2022, with the U.S. dollar plunging in value and there is a mad scramble to find suitable places to make investments that will hold temporal value.

Sadly, there is not such a scramble to find investments of eternal value.

As we have seen, this is especially true among those who profess to be Christians. In an effort to find common ground among various religions, just like the person who sold the vase, the church has ignorantly sold the truth for cheap. This has effectively shut the Lord out of the church that He purchased with His own precious blood.

In the last article, we looked at the response of the Lord to the church at Laodicea who had shut the door to Christ, the truth of God. In response to this betrayal, the Lord offers counsel to any individual Christian who desires to “buy the truth and sell it not” (Proverbs 23:23) He says to anyone who wishes to restore their fellowship with God that there are two items of eternal value to purchase from Him and one item that we already possess that we are to apply:

  1. Gold tried in the fire = A personal commitment to the Son through the study of God’s Word;

“And have put on the new [man], which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:”

Colossians 3:10 KJV

This counsel to buy from the Lord gold tried in the fire draws the picture of something purified in a fiery crucible. The apostle Peter describes “…the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire…” (1 Peter 1:7) This is showing how faith that endures through severe trials has inestimable value to God.

Personally, fiery trials are not precious to me. Neither are they avoidable. So it really doesn’t make sense for me to purchase something that I don’t want and it is something that is going to come anyway.

The Lord’s counsel to buy of Him gold tried in the fire I believe speaks of something precious that is antecedent to faith. We learn in Romans 10:17 from the Apostle Paul that faith is preceded by hearing and the antecedent to hearing is the Word of God.

What I learn from this is that the faith that is precious to God has its source in the Word of God. For every true believer, the Word of God that leads us to faith and enriches our faith is precious. The scriptures that we have today have stood the crucible of time. In spite of manifold attacks, they have proven their sufficiency. They are profitable for us to know the very mind and will of God. (1 Corinthians 2:16)

Throughout man’s history, the enemy of men’s souls has tried to cause mankind to question what God has said. (Genesis 3:1) There are endless attacks on what God has preserved for us through the ages so that there always remains an element of doubt about whether the Holy Scriptures we have are trustworthy. This writer believes that the scriptures handed down to us in their original languages are indeed God’s Word and God’s Mind.

Emergent-cy!

Today’s church is in the grip of postmodernism. What is called the emergent church is what the Lord described to the apostle John nearly 2000 years ago when John saw the Lord knocking on the door of the Laodicean church. Postmodernism asserts that you cannot know with certainty what the truth is.

Doug Paget is an emergent church writer, and he writes that “At Solomon’s porch” which is the name of his church, “sermons are not primarily about extracting truth from the Bible to apply to people’s lives.”  [Doug Pagitt, cited in Oakland, 41-42]

Another quote from Dan Kimball, an Emergent Church writer, talks about his teaching philosophy.  “It isn’t about clever apologetics or careful exegetical or expository preaching… Emerging generations are hungering to experience God in worship.”  [Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church, 116]

This runs directly contrary to a very certain assertion of what Jesus says concerning Himself:

“I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me”.

John 14:6

True worship is a response to the truth. The claim that you cannot know the truth for certain means that you cannot know Jesus Christ and this falls short of true worship. Failure to present the truth through careful expository preaching is in effect denying the Lord admission into His church.

For a long period of church history called the dark ages, people were denied access to the scriptures. The Bible was literally chained to the pulpit so that only an elite clergy could read and interpret it to the majority who were, by this means, kept in ignorance.

The reformers restored that access so that until recently in the western world, the Word of God is readily available to anyone who cares to look for it. Where ever the Bible cannot be outright banned from the people, the devil denies access to the scriptures by sowing seeds of doubt through church leaders.

As the church age draws to a close, these attacks against truth are intensifying so that people are distracted and discouraged from reading the Bible. Even in the church, rather than personal communion with the Lord and reliance upon the Holy Spirit to bring us into all truth, arriving at the truth is now a product of group think and consensus.

The churches of today look to the spirit of the age rather than the Spirit of our God in order to find ‘common ground’ between various religions. This search for an ecumenical consensus in effect gives up the ground of truth and slams the church door shut in the Lord’s face.

In addition to these attacks, there have appeared ‘other gospels’ and ‘other writings’ that never made it into the canon of scripture that we acknowledge today. These ‘new revelations’ cause deeper doubt about the reliability of God’s Word so that people remain in darkness regarding God’s will.

For help in understanding how we received the scriptures, here are a couple of resources that I have found very helpful: 7 reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible by Erwin Lutzer; How We Got Our Bible, by Chuck Missler

This universal animosity toward the truth of God means that there will always be a cost to buying the truth from God. It also means that holding onto it as something precious will not be without its dividend.

2. White Raiment that ye may be clothed = A personal commitment to the Father for righteousness;

And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

Ephesians 4:24 KJV

In Revelation 19:8 we are told that fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. In Revelation 3:5 and 4:4 white raiment is used as a picture of something that God grants to those who love righteousness. So this internal, alien righteousness is represented as having the external appearance of white raiment. In Revelation 3:18 and 2 Timothy 3:12, we are reminded that there is a cost to living righteously.

Phony Baloney or True Threads?

In the church that I grew up in as a young boy, it was a common practice to ask to serve as an altar boy in the church. There was usually a brief interview and then some instruction about what we were responsible for. We practiced at what point in the service we were to ring a bell, when we were to bring water and wine to the priest, when we were to kneel and when we were to stand. At that time we were even required to speak phrases in Latin.

As part of our participation in this ritual we were given a robe and cassock to put on. I remember how sanctified it made me feel to wear those garments. It motivated me to put on an air of holiness and reverence which was normally something that was totally foreign to me. These garments that were given to me, conferred upon me something that was not mine by nature.

Was it a phony holiness? Of course it was. Did it give me any merit before God? Not in the slightest. Yet it illustrates that there is righteousness that is foreign to every believer by nature but it is conferred to each at the moment of salvation.

Now wait a minute…, is this saying that we can buy a phony righteousness from God? No, because the righteousness given to every believer is freely and eternally implanted within the believer, not merely given as a sanctimonious display. (Romans 3:21,22) Whatever is within a person eventually is seen on the outside. (Mark 7:21-23)

God’s righteousness is given or granted to individuals who take God at His Word. The costly exchange of taking God at His Word comes at the price of giving up our own will. Sadly, even as Christians we deceive ourselves into thinking that we can purchase this white raiment through our own efforts when just the opposite is true. Giving up on our own efforts to gain God’s favor is what allows the Spirit of God to break through our proud self-will so that we can be recognized to be His children.

3. Anoint your eyes with eye salve: A personal commitment to the Holy Spirit for discernment of truth from error;

But the anointing which ye have received of him abides in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, ye shall abide in him.”

1 John 2:27 KJV

It is interesting that it seems the eye salve is not something the believers in Laodicea were counseled to purchase but something it seems that they already possessed and needed merely to apply. The eye salve referred to here was a poultice from the medical school in Laodicea. It was a mixture of Phrygian stone, rich in minerals, mixed with oil that was used as a healing balm for eye maladies. It appears that having ready access to this medicinal staple was part of the privilege of being a resident in Laodicea.

Just as this Laodicean eye-salve was ubiquitous in Laodicea, it nevertheless had to be applied in order to effectively restore clear vision. Even so every believer has an anointing from the indwelling Holy Spirit that must be applied in order to provide spiritual clarity. The anointing that every believer receives from God is part of the present possession gifted at the moment of salvation.

What a privileged position belongs to the child of God in the church age! The indwelling Holy Spirit is a privilege that carries with it a great responsibility. I know that I don’t appreciate this as much as I should. In fact, I am not sure that I am even capable of doing so. However, every once in a while my dulled mind has a flash of illumination that causes me to consider how blessed it is to be a ‘called out one’ to serve in the church of the living God.

Fortunate Children

This reminds me of a time when I was a young boy of 11 or 12 and my older brother and I delivered papers. My brother had been delivering on this route for several years already and he was teaching me how to fold the papers along the route and which houses to deliver them at. While I followed my brother, consumed with folding papers as we walked, my brother suddenly stops and turns toward me saying, ‘You know, we are really lucky to be adopted!’

Although we were from different birth parents, my brother and I were adopted as infants by parents willing to love us as their own and teach us to appreciate life with all of its opportunities and dangers. Up until that moment, I probably hadn’t given it much thought. That is likely why I remember that illuminating moment even to this day, over 50 years later.

We often hear of a privileged class in society. This refers to those who are born into wealth and have only to worry about how they spend their money rather than how they earn it. As heirs of great fortunes they have only to grow into an appreciation of what has been handed to them so that it may be used wisely. For many, this never happens. They are blind to their privilege.

Jesus reminded His disciples, “Unto whom, much is given shall much be required” Luke 12:48

For a few of these elites, something startles them into the realization of the responsibilities that come with privilege. Even something as simple as a brother or a peer sharing their own appreciation of what has been given to them. Perhaps this writing may do the same for you, dear one.

The privilege that each believer in the church age has been granted is so much more than we realize. We have been given a vantage point in human history that the prophets of old desired to see.(Luke 10:24) We have no need to ask for more of the Holy Spirit because He indwells us and God does not give the Spirit of God by measure. (John 1:16; 3:34).

What we need to ask for is the grace to give Him more of ourselves.

Making Room For Daddy…

As children, we are drawn to those who make room for us in our lives. This is why the bond with our mothers and grandmothers is often so strong. They are often the ones that we spend the most time with. My wife is always rearranging her schedule in order to make room to be at events in order to see her children and grandchildren. They are very close to her as a result and they often make room in their own schedules to spend time with her.

In many ways this is what it is like to be filled with the Spirit of God. He has committed Himself to be with us for evermore. Our intended response is that we would make room for Him in our lives. If our lives and schedules are so full of what we want to do then there is no room for Him to fill us.

The result of this choice is that our knowledge and experience of God will be limited in kind. God is asking us to take what He has already given us and apply it so that we can see with clarity who He is and see the signs of His return. The church or the Christian who is self satisfied and focused on their personal prosperity has lost their way and in that condition can never know fellowship with Christ.

Conclusion:

“And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”

1 John 1:4 KJV

This series of articles is an attempt to show what the purpose of the local church is. The Lord Jesus spoke a parable regarding persistence in prayer concluding with the question: “…Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) It appears He is anticipating when He returns, that for the most part His church will be lacking in purposeful fellowship with Him.

May we be encouraged as individual believers to find fellowship with Christ even if the local church that we are a part of is not fulfilling its purpose. Our joy in and knowledge of Christ does not have to be limited by the failure of others.

This requires of us that we make a threefold commitment to the Godhead: (It’s time to get out my ‘P’ shooter)

  • We invest our time and energy into the Word of God that the Father has provided for us so that we can know our Privilege;
  • We sacrifice our will to live righteous lives that the Son has provided for us through His own sacrifice so that we can know our Position as children of God;
  • We apply the knowledge of God that the indwelling Holy Spirit gives to us so that we can not only see God but also be Prepared for His return.

Let us thank God for local churches that are committed to teaching the truth of God. However, recent surveys indicate that less than half of Christian churches are. If you are a part of one that is, do all that you can to support it. If you are not, you can still minister to the saints that you are among by your own growth in the knowledge of God.

Looking at the world in 2022 through biblical lenses leads me to believe that in the very near future, it will be nearly impossible to find a Biblically sound church. Nevertheless, it is always possible for believers to have fellowship with God apart from the world even within a failing church.

When we commit ourselves to making room for Him in our lives by personal study of His Word that He has preserved for us, and submit our wills to let our lives be conduits of His grace, He has promised to come in to our lives and sup with us.

There is nothing so precious as a good meal with your best friend.

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smc

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