Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Leaven-Filled Church


Today's topic is very related to yesterday's.  In fact, a large part of yesterday's topic is a symptom of today's.  Today we will talk about one more thing that has infiltrated the church.  Today we we will talk about the idea of "tolerance."  Tolerance is a buzz word that goes well beyond what "tolerance" actually means.  We live in a country where many things I disagree with are legal.  There are things I see that offend me every day.  A plethora of sin is celebrated. There are religions abounding that deny my Lord.  There are people who even deny that my Lord ever existed.  The response of the Christian is to speak the truth with the hopes that other will come to Jesus, but our response is not to force conversion or to go around killing those who do not agree with us.  We "tolerate" them.  Tolerance, though, has come to mean much more than that.  It has come to mean that we must embrace those opposing views as plausible alternatives to our way of life.  Unfortunately, this same mindset has crept into the church.  We pride ourselves on welcoming sinners into our midst and making them feel right at home, we join other faiths in prayers, we go so far as to claim that other faiths worship the same God as we do, and we even go so far at times to deny that Jesus is the only way.  The result is what we talked about yesterday.  We have churches filled with dead souls who never truly accept Jesus as Lord. 

The first issue is allowing sinners into the body of Christ and making them feel right at home.  I am not saying that sinners should not be welcome into our churches.  They should be allowed in and they should be given the opportunity to hear the Gospel and to see Jesus working in our lives.  They should also see the love of Jesus coming through us and make sure they get the message that they can come to Jesus just as they are.  However, if they leave church without accepting Jesus and feeling good about themselves then we have failed them.  They should not be comfortable sitting in our midst in their sin.  They should feel convicted.  The should feel uncomfortable.  They should feel miserable about the sin in their lives.  They need to feel that because they are under the judgment of God unless  and until they receive the Gospel.  If we allow them to feel good while being under judgment, we are "loving" them and "welcoming" them right into Hell.  We are also frustrating the convicting work being performed by the Holy Spirit in their hearts.  I have posted on this several times in the past, but our churches are not an outreach.  Outreach is just like it sounds, it is reaching out from the church.  The church is a body of believers and is meant to equip those believers for the work of the ministry.  Church is meant to edify the body so we can go out and edify the world.  Treating church services as a perpetual Gospel presentation only serves to keep the members as babes in Christ. 
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.  Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV
By making that first mistake to allowing your church services to be an outreach, you open the door to the rest.  The body never has a chance to regroup and train.  If the message is one of salvation but never one of growth, when will the people grow?  You have a body of immature believers infiltrated with nonbelievers.  That is a recipe for disaster.  That is a gourmet feast for a wolf hunting for its next meal.  As more and more sinners come into the church, the entire nature and character of the church changes until the saints are more influenced by the sinners then the sinners are by the saints.  The saints, being babes in Christ, are sitting ducks for deceit, false doctrines, and being led into sin.  The Bible warns of this happening.
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 1 Corinthians 5:6-7 NKJV
This story in Corinthians is often rightly used to justify the excommunication of an unrepentant Christian.  What we need to keep in mind is that at the time this was written, churches did not yet become the outreaches we have turned them into today.  There was not many who were not Christian who were not part of the church and the epistles of Paul meant to be read in those churches reflect that.  What the Corinthians were glorying in was how welcoming and loving they were in allowing that sinful brother to remain in their midst.  What they think is right, is dangerously wrong.  How much more dangerous today when that little leaven among us is not even Christian.  That unrepentant unredeemed person allowed into the body of Christ and allowed to feel as through he or she were a part of the body is a deadly leaven that will spread and grow.  We should welcome sinners, but they should never be counted as one of us until they are saved and they should not feel comfortable being around us while still unredeemed.  If that person begins to spread influence around the church, he or she should be told to leave.  As the leaven begins to spread, it becomes more and more difficult to remove it.

I have spent much time on this first subject, but I feel that allowing leaven into the body is the gateway to the rest.  It is the gateway to what we talked about yesterday.  It is the gateway to heresy as false doctrines spread fast among immature Christians.  It is the gateway to the church losing any power or witness.  We have some churches who have gone to far as to allow practicing homosexual pastors, bless homosexual marriages, preach in favor of abortion, and more. 

The other side of tolerance (and I know I spent much time on the first) is spiritual tolerance in that many churches believe that Jesus is but one of several ways to Heaven, that other religions worship the same God as us, and to pray with other religions. I will dispatch these heresies quickly.  In fact, it is the ease of which these heresies can be dispelled that makes their prevalence in the church so troubling. 

First let us address the heresy that Jesus is but one way to Heaven.
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.  John 14:6 NKJV
I do not see how any Christian who claims to believe in the Bible can get around this statement.  The only way is Jesus.  The Bible tells us that there is no other name under Heaven by which man can be saved.  The Bible shares that when Jesus prayed in the garden, He conceded that death on the cross was the only way to save mankind.  To say that there are other ways to heaven is to deny the Word of God and to make pointless the death of Jesus on the cross. 

Another belief is that other religions worship the same God.  The problem is that no other faith acknowledges the deity of Jesus nor do they believe in the Trinity.  If Jesus is not God, if the Trinity is not part of their doctrine, then they are not worshiping the same God. Even if they claim to believe in the same "god", they are not worshiping Him if they do not acknowledge the deity of Jesus Christ.  Islam believes Jesus to be a prophet.  Other faiths call him a fraud.  Others count him in as part of their gods.  Others deny He even existed.  I again refer you to John 14:6.  If Jesus is the only way to the Father, you can not truly believe in or worship the Father except through Jesus. 

Finally, we have the issue of praying with other religions.  Why would we even put ourselves in that position?  Do you understand what you are doing when you share a stage with someone praying to a false god?  To some you are discrediting the true God by equating Him with a false god.  To others, you are elevating a false god by equating it with the true and living God.  It is never right or appropriate to pray with other religions.  Again, I refer you to John 14:6.  If Jesus is the only way to the Father, then why would you let someone share a stage with you thinking they are praying to the Father when all they are doing is praying to the air or, worse, a demon.  If you want to see a wonderful example of an interfaith prayer service in the Bible, I suggest you look up Elijah vs. the prophets of Baal. 

As Christians, we must stand for truth.  We must not concede any ground in our stand for righteousness.  There can be no compromise.  We must circle the wagons in our churches and turn them back into what they were established and called to be - a place where Christians are equipped to be sent out to do the work of whatever ministry they were called to be in.  Turning our churches into social clubs and outreaches has done much damage to the body of Christ.  The body is sick with impurities we allow to exist among us.  Perhaps I sound unwelcoming or unloving in my call to not allow sinners to sit among the brethren on the body of Christ, but that is just the wicked influence of modern tolerance affecting you.  My position is to teach the believers to be sent out and reach people for Christ.  My vision is for a strong church of solid believers being trained up do take their part in the body of Christ.  My vision is for sinners to feel convicted of their sin instead of holding their hands as they walk right into Hell.  Making an unredeemed sinner feel good about their life does nothing for their salvation.  A week church full of sinners and weak believers is not the church we are called to be but has become what we are due our shift of turning church services into outreaches and our pride in how "tolerant" we can be of welcoming sin into our midst.  The end result of this will be a land of churches where a cowering pastor shares to a flock of wolves.  I know that there are many "good" churches filled with strong believers. Those tend to be lowly small churches, which are just the kind of fledgling remnant God can use to change the world. 
And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, 'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:1-6 NKJV

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