Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The "Riches" of the American Church

Yesterday I talked about America. I know it was not an easy message and it was not easy to write.  I can only say that it is something God has put on my heart for quite some time.  Another thing God has put on my heart is the church in America.  I have been blessed in my time as a Christian to be parts of church where there were so many people on fire for the Lord and many great examples for me to follow.  It is those influences that God used to protect me from the error that invades so much of our church today. 

I do know that God has a remnant in this land and I believe with all my heart that God is calling that remnant to make themselves known because it is through those following after the Lord that God can bring revival to His church and through that Awakening to this land. 

Today I want to address the opulence and resulting complacency of the American church.

The church in America has been blessed like no other church in the world.  We enjoy freedoms not seen in the rest of the world.  We have been blessed financially and materially like no other.  We have resources for our health and well being that is the envy of the world.  We have air conditioned churches with professionally educated preachers and free Bibles and "entertaining" worship.  Many of us go to church because our parents brought us as children.  The problem is that the church, in large part, has grown to not only take these blessings for granted but has also grown to put their faith in them.  Remember from yesterday from Luke 12:48 "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required."  If there is one verse in the Bible got has put on my heart for much of the American church it is this.
"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked." Revelations 3:15-17 NKJV
In America, we have expensive ornate churches, air conditioning, padded seats, and pastors living in mansions.  In fact, we have several well known pastors who drive expensive cars, own multiple mansions, and some even have private jets .. all while asking their congregations to "give sacrificially."  As though those pastors know the meaning of the word.  They whip people into a frenzy through emotionalism, false signs and wonders, "gifts" of the spirit that are either imitation and not Biblical utilized or not in the Bible at all, and play on the greed and desperate people promising them a healthy and wealthy life if only they give all they can in "faith."  They preach a different Gospel and to them I say"
"But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed."  Galatians 1:8-9 NKJV
As for the people in those churches, you have no excuse.  You have the Word of God and God's Holy Spirit directing you.  If you took the time to read it you would see how wrong these preachers are.  But your desire for comfort and wealth are greater than your desire for Truth and so you fall in error.  You follow the wolf hoping for some of his scraps.  To you I say:
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. " Matthew 6:24 NKJV
Even outside the health and wealth movement there are many Christians who are rich and while I do not believe in a forced poverty, I do believe that God blesses materially for His purposes and not our own desires.  You have riches because God wants you to give richly.  If you hold onto your money, what faith are you showing?  Do you trust God AND your wealth?  Or do you trust God and God alone.  If you give your 10% of your wealth and feel good about yourself, what does that show?  Remember that 90% you keep is by the grace of God. 
Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; "for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."  Mark 12:41-44 NKJV
I ask you who think you are wealthy, where is your treasure? 
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Mark 6:19-21
Who is richer? You who have your treasures on this earth or a young man named Munyeshema in Rwanda who lives in poverty you could never even imagine yet always gives part of gifts he receives back to his church.  I tell you, that young man knows where his treasure lies and how that treasure is secure, abundant, and eternal. 

And while I am taking pages out of the book KP Yohannan, let's speak of our ornate churches.  I know that some churches need to be large to accommodate many people and I know that air conditioning and such are just a way of life in America.  I am not saying we all need to meet in mud huts, but what I am saying is that churches do not need to be gaudy.  What can be done with thousands of dollars spent on a fancy light?  What can be done with money spent to build a church out of glass?  What can be done with the opulence displayed in many of today's churches?  The argument I have heard is comparing our churches to the opulence of the Temple of God in the Bible.  And while the Temple was ornate, lavish, and full of riches and jewels, your church is not the Temple! 
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  1 Corinthians 3:16
Your heart is the Temple of God, not some building.  Our focus should be on the condition of our hearts and not how "nice" our church is.  In much of the world, people rejoice over a mud hut to gather together in to worship God.  May we have such a heart. 

And finally, there is the Word.  Just about any church will give you a free Bible and if you don't have one, I will send you one so there is no excuse.  Most I am sure have several Bibles at home but don't actually use them.  So many heresies get their footing in America and its because we do not know the Word.  We do not treasure it, we do not hold our Bibles and the most precious and valuable thing that we own and we should.

For wisdom is better than rubies, And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her. Proverbs 8:11 NKJV
All these issues have brought us to a place of trusting in ourselves and not of God.  We rely on our wealth for our time on earth and figure that we go to church so we must be Christian.  We rely on our own wisdom and education and not in the richness of God's Word.  We are not cold because we do not know even know that we have rejected God and we are not hot because we are not on fire for God. We are lukewarm because we are complacent in our faith in God.  We are doing right in our own eyes.  We know we are saved but, in large part, we don't really care.  We go to church, meet our friends, listen to a sermon, then go on with our routines.  We don't desire to give up our faith but we don't desire to grow in it either.   We are lukewarm. 

I know I painted a broad brush today and used some generalities.  I am not saying that all poor Christians are deeper in their faith then rich ones.  I am not saying that the church in America is dead.  I am just creating a contrast between those who are forced to trust in God for everything and those who feel they have or need everything.  Remember, the power of God is revealed in our weaknesses. 

If you are part of the remnant, then be encouraged because I believe God is going to raise up others through your obedience. I believe God is not done with the American church yet and that God can and will do great things.  To those who are lukewarm, who trust in your riches, or who seek after the material, I urge you to give up that trust in things that are temporary for that which is eternal.  I urge you to seek after God.  Get into His Word as though your life depended on it because your Spiritual life does.  Letting go is not easy.  Jesus even acknowledged it:
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, "Who then can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible."  Mark 10:25-27 NKJV
Its impossible in your own strength but with God all things are possible.  The abundant life is not an abundance of material things but the hope of the abundance God has for us in Heaven.  The abundant life is a life filled with the Spirit of God.  Its an abundance of hope, joy, and peace regardless of what you have or do not have on earth.  Its an abundance you can not imagine if you only allow God to work in your heart.  Bless others with what God has blessed you with, allow God to work on your heart the true Temple of God, seek after eternal Truth and not empty emotionalism or false doctrines that tickle the ear but poison the soul, repent of the sin in your life, fulfill the calling God has on your life.

I ended my opening verse at Revelations 3:17.  God did not end His message there.  That is the amazing thing about God.  No matter what, He loves us and wants what's best for us and desires a relationship with us.  I will close with the rest of God's message.
"I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Revelations 3:18-22 NKJV

1 comment:

  1. Mary and I were just talking about this today: all the stuff we have, all the things we desire, and yet we have so much and so many people have practically nothing.