As we approach the end of this blog series called 3 Questions, I want to deposit one more primary thing that I hear God saying to the Church in this present hour. While God is always speaking to His people, and while we have open access to hear His voice at any time we choose to open our Bibles, what I am submitting in this post and my previous one are things that God keeps reinforcing to me personally. The Father is certainly saying more than what I am offering in these last two posts, but He is not saying less than these things. As a preacher and leader in the local church, my calling requires that I speak what I hear Him saying. Any time I attach God’s name and character to a message, I do so with sobriety and a fair amount of trembling. I am going to give an account to Him for how I used my words. If you are not sure if God still speaks to people outside of the written word, please take some time to read the previous posts in this series. For now, here is what the Father is reinforcing in my own heart and mind, using multiple layers to do so, leaving me convinced that this issue is important and urgent as the second Coming of Jesus Christ draws near.
God is calling us to holiness. There is rampant flippancy concerning personal holiness in the modern Church. In an overcorrection against the heinous sin of legalism, there has been for a number of years a flaunting swagger of personal liberty and freedom that has now morphed into a wave of theology and practice that is indulgent in unbiblical and clearly sinful practices in the Church. I hope I sound very old-fashioned in this part of the blog. As a matter of fact, I hope I sound two-thousand-year-old-fashioned as that would be the time period where God inspired the New Testament writers to define the moral expectations for us which are embedded in the Gospel.
The Church in the West has become permissive and indulgent. I am speaking of our beliefs and our behaviors. Because legalism became entrenched in the Church in America, and because cultural moralism prostituted itself as Christianity for so long, when these errors were then exposed by biblical truth returning to the center of our beliefs, people developed a justifiable distaste for legalistic, traditional displays of the faith. I hate legalism. By the way, so did the Son of God. This rejection of legalism has, in my opinion, now mutated into an embracing of the opposite end of the spectrum which I would call antinomianism (a theological term which refers to the casting off of the moral dictates of Scripture). This casting off of any moral accountability by Christians has resulted in people desiring and permitting themselves to do whatever they wish to do. People who claim Jesus as Lord apparently can now indulge in the very same practices which unregenerate people embrace. They can get drunk. They can view entertainment and listen to music that audaciously exalts the very same sins which God denounces and forbids. To behold on-screen sex and nudity is a practice which presumably Spirit-filled people can engage in without even feeling a prick of Holy Spirit conviction. Christians believe that they can engage in sexual activity outside the bounds of heterosexual marriage. Christians can tolerate racial prejudice in their hearts and still presume to lift their voices in worship to God. This may sound silly to some, but many Christians have no qualms about cursing and engaging in coarse humor, sexual innuendo and vulgar words and never pause to consider that their mouths were made for prayer, praise and glorifying God. Abortion is permissible according to some Christians. Gluttony is not a sin anymore to many who name the name of Jesus. Christians have no qualms about being lazy on the job, telling little lies to their employers or cheating on their income taxes. Christians are still trying to make up their minds on what the bible clearly says about human sexuality and marriage – as if it was an unclassified topic. And what about the flagrant sins of gossip, slander, bitterness, and sowing of discord – how did these become respectable, tolerated sins? Also being refused are the disciplines of financially sowing into the Kingdom, serving sacrificially with our time or attending weekly worship gatherings with our spiritual family. The record of our regression into the very sins which we were once convinced were actually sins is long and somewhat alarming, and I could add a dozen more infractions, fumbles and transgressions to the list above without even trying too hard. By the way, God’s Word actually has something prohibitive to say about all the things I listed above. I am not offering my opinion. I am exposing how far we have fallen from how the Holy Spirit says He will live out His life through us. We presume to be filled with the Holy Spirit while we live as compromised, unholy vessels. Christian friends, this is NOT legalism that I am communicating here. This is heartfelt outcry so that each of us might examine ourselves and answer the question, “Am I truly a disciple of Jesus Christ?” A born-again surrender to Jesus includes a commitment to obey Him, and the ongoing evidence that we are living a life of trusting, loving and submissive obedience to His holy governance.
Where has living in personal holiness gone?
When did God get off His throne and welcome us to govern our own lives in our own wisdom?
When did repentance for Christians become a forgotten reality?
When did we give ourselves permission to claim His name but exclude His loving rule over how we are living?
When did we stop pursuing holiness, change and sanctification?
The Lord is calling us to return to consecrated living. He wants our minds, our mouths and our manners. He is not playing around. Scripture is replete with teaching that warns us that if our Christian beliefs are not producing Christian behaviors, then we are deceived about our salvation. I am not saying that we won’t struggle and stumble with sin from time to time. We all fall short of God glory. What I am saying, however, is that if we view God’s grace as the means by which we can live flippantly in and out of sin, then we have no legitimate claim of truly belonging to Him.
So, what should we do as individuals and as the Church?
We should examine ourselves. We should welcome Holy Spirit to shine the light of truth into our hearts so that we can repent for any sin He lovingly exposes to us. We should pluck out our eye and cut off our hand if it offends us (Mark 9:45-47). We must become radical against the encroachment of casual sin in our own lives. Kingdom leaders need to repent more than anyone else because our words over the last forty years have led to what is now an epidemic of nominal Christianity the tis absent of holiness and power. The American church at large is not distinct from our unredeemed culture. We do not see miracles very often, not because God no longer does them, but because God will not facilitate them through a purposefully indulgent and sinful Church. He does not cast these precious pearls before the swine of our hypocrisy. If we will engage in heartfelt repentance, God will immediately usher in a new release of His presence and power. We will see New Testament Christianity before our very eyes. The power of God WILL return. We hold so many prayer and worship gatherings and cry out to Him about how we are waiting on Him to bring us authentic revival. Then we return to our sins until we gather again the same time next week to offer up the same hypocritical pleas. We keep telling God that we are waiting for Him.
I hear Him saying, “That’s interesting. I have been waiting on you.”
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