Mt 16:18 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it”.
Jn 17:20-24 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one; I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you loved me.”
Often times I’ve shared my worry about the total powerlessness and disunity of the church today. It had so baffled my mind that for a while I was very confused. The question I’d been asking myself (and most genuine Christians do) was is this the church that Christ is coming for?
The mark of a man is determined not by his knowledge of the truth, but his reaction when confronted with the truth. My personal search for the truth has led me to believe firmly that the church today is in no way what Christ is coming for and I’ll let a little of that conviction known on this post.
A church is an assembly of people, and Christ has determined to build his own such assembly. The first point to understand is that it will be owned by Christ (“My church”). Secondly, if it is owned by him, then it will be built according to his own standards. Now what standard will that be?
Eph 5:25-27 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word and to present herself to him as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
This is a high standard indeed. I bet we’ve all read this before. But how many of us have stopped to ask ourselves if the church today meets this standard. Most of us in our heart of hearts know that it doesn’t match up to it. But Ps 119:89 says “Your word, O Lord, is eternal; It stands firm in the heaven”. God’s will is already written down. It’s not what we want that will come to pass, but what he wants. So it is rather up to us to make sure that we are in that plan, because God is not about to change his stance to suit us.
The church today is not what Christ wants. Period. Why? Let us start from the most fundamental point – the gospel. If you’ve read my previous post on “What Is the Gospel Of The Kingdom?”, you’ll find that what we even preach today as the gospel is just a cloud of jumbled confusion. We do not know why we ourselves are called to become Christians, a knowledge which should shape every action that we take as a church.
Secondly, we have lost the emphasis on the importance of the Holy Spirit in our Christian walk and the necessity for individually asking for its infilling in the lives of every Christian. Most of our orthodox churches believe the Holy Spirit is received at conversion therefore there is no need for it thereafter. Lk 11:13 says “If you the, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
How many times have we seen the apostles converting people and subsequently laying their hands on them to be filled with the Spirit. (The Samaritans’ Example – Ac 8:1-25; Paul’s personal example -Ac 9:15-19; The Ephesians’ Example – Ac 19:1-7).
Even our so called “charismatic” and pentecostal churches have lost their “charisma”/ “pentecostalism” and have only turned to money making and self-aggrandizement in the name of “motivational speaking”. The power-filled life of the believer has now been delegated to only the “men of God”, and they use them as if they were their own property. But every Christian is supposed to be an exhibit of the power of the Kingdom. “And these signs shall accompany those who believe; In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” (Mk 16:17-18). Wasn’t Ananias just a disciple to have healed Paul and prayed for him to be baptized with the Holy Spirit?
“But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Mt 12:28) “But the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (Ac 4:20). “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit” (Ro 15:18-19a). Hmm. Where did all that go? We don’t have to look far to know the cause of this spiritual bankruptcy in the church today. Rev 3:14-22 will tell you why. But let me just point out a little detail of it – “You say I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing” (v 17). Ah there it is. Today’s church is being run on all sorts of emotions, confusion, traditions of men and worse things instead of looking to the ultimate source of direction – the Spirit of God which leads us into all truth. No wonder God says in Jer 2:13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water”. Much of the church today is “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Ti 3:5).
Thirdly the church today is a very defeated one, unlike what Christ himself is building where “the gates of Hades will not overcome it”. Trust Christ, “Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand‘” (Mt 12:25). I think most of us don’t realize how this applies to the church today. But I believe the model of the church in the book of Acts and the Epistles is the model that a Holy Spirit directed church will follow to be part of the “radiant church”. Why do you think that Paul was so vehement about divisions in the church?
“I appeal to you brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another “I follow Christ”. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised into the name of Paul” (1 Co 1:10-13)
Was it just for fanaticism sake? Jn 17 shows the prayer of Christ before he was arrested. His will was that the unity of the church will be a visible sign of him having been sent by the Father. Paul says “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Eph 3:10). The church as a visibily united organic body is a display of the glory of God and his purpose for the redemption of men. It is a sign of the preparedness of those who have been given “an inheritance among those who are sanctified” (Ac 20:32) – those who are going to be co-heirs to the throne of Christ when his kingdom is established. It is interesting to note what Paul says here: “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Eph 3:14-15). Today’s Christian generally accept that in heaven there is no distinction in terms of denominational names/inclinations that a Christian belonged to. In the light of the above verse, are we doing the will of the Father in giving ourselves names and dividing ourselves on this earth? In almost all the introductory passages to every epistle, Paul refers to them as “the church of God in ‘blah blah blah town or city’”. Ask yourself why.
Fourth and most importantly, the church today is totally bereft of love. No, I don’t mean sensual or filial love. I mean “the love of God” – Agape. This is the love that Christ talks about when he commanded it on his disciples. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn 13:34-35; Jn 15:12; I Jn 3:16). I don’t mean going to orphanages to give donations and calling the media to cover it. I mean being burdened by the needs of the individual members of the church most importantly and then extending that love to the neighbourhood or community. Today the church is only a meeting place to “worship” God, not to meet the utmost need of the people. People leave church drained of all their monies, meanwhile nobody has bothered to find out their employment status. James puts it aptly “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (Jam 2:15-16). Our so called “men of God” are more bothered about riches and fame than about the financial, social, marital etc problems that individuals in the church face. There is no self-sacrifice for the benefit of a brother, unlike the extreme outpouring of love exhibited in Ac 2:44-45. Some of our modern day Christian leaders cannot even love their own wives, and others pride in openly displaying their “God given” wealth on TV. Meanwhile they live or come from communities where poverty levels are unbearable.
The standard of love that Christ commands is very high, and again can only be achieved by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Ro 5:5). This “the love of God” is a love that is defined fully in v 6-8 “You see, at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. We can see that the church today is only marking time because it is definitely not meeting this standard.
But the church as it is today is not going to bring about this revolution that Christ yearns for. They are too busy consolidating their monolithic, money-making, political-aligning, praise-singing, fame-seeking, denominated, disobedient model – a model which values the mega church buildings they build and not the real temples of God – the individual members (I Co 6:19) and the congregation of members together (I Co 3:16); a model which values quantity and not quality (Mt 7:13-14; Lk 13:22-24; Ac 15:14; Ro 1:5). No, rather it will be a church based on the model of the apostles of old – small, household and neighbourhood based churches which refuse to be denominated and which sees itself as just another part of the bigger family of the Father. It shares an “open source” ministry with all other related churches around it, allowing the Holy Spirit to use anybody in one church to minister to both physical and spiritual needs of another. Such a church will recognize the Holy Spirit as it’s power source which must fill every individual in their congregation and the bible as the ultimate standard of life and scriptural direction and not the traditions of men. Such a people will understand the glory to which they are called, and the sacrifices in obedience that this glory requires.
Paul told Timothy in 1 Ti 4:1-7 that some will abandon the faith in the last days. Note from v 7 that he wasn’t only talking about the future but he was addressing what had already began happening in his day and warning them not to be a part of it. The seven messages to the churches in Rev 2&3 had started pointing out the mistakes of the church even before the death of some of the apostles. There is no doubt that the message to Laodicea relates completely to the church today. The fall of the church happened a long time ago, right from the day the Roman Catholic Church (or is it “Cult”) decided to hold itself as the only true church that must rule every other one. Unfortunately, the Protestant movement did not take the cleavage much farther than it should have – returning completely to the model of the New Testament church – and still exhibits appendages of the Roman Catholic hegemony.
However, there is hope. In whatever situation that God finds his people in, he still preserves a remnant.
Mal 3:14-18 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenged God escape.’ Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honoured his name. ‘They will be mine’, says the Lord Almighty, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassions a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”
The revolution of the church that Christ is building is upon us. Are you ready to stand up and be counted, or will you go with those on “the broad way”?
Jam 4:17 “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins”
Quotes are from the NIV version of the bible. All mistakes are mine please, not the bible’s :-).