by Mike Ratliff
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so 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 eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” Revelation 3:14-22)
The number one disturbing attribute of the leaders of Compromised Church is their rock-hard “conviction” that they are doing what God wants them to do in spite of overwhelming Biblical evidence that they are not. The measure of success or failure in business is profitability. It is that bottom line in the company ledger that reveals whether a company is on the right path or not. Unfortunatly, the Compromised Church leaders have taken the ways of the world and integrated them into their method of “doing church.” Church leader success is now measured in how well the church is managed. Is the church growing? If not, there must be something wrong. That church up the street started meeting in the library just a couple of years ago and now they are three times the size of our church. Their new building looks like a cathedral! What have they done right that we have not? We need to find out what their formula is and make it work for us.
Of course, this scenario is going on all over this country. The measure of success for a pastor is numbers and growth. Even a cursory look at the ministries of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel in the Old Testament will show that God measured these men’s ministries by their faithfulness not how “successful” they were in being men pleasers. In fact, the majority of the people they ministered to hated them. Isaiah was most likely martyred by being sawn in two inside of a hollow log. Jeremiah was persecuted by kings and nobles. Ezekiel preached righteousness and was largely ignored and hated by the exiles in Babylon he ministered to. Why? They preached God’s righteousness according to His law and contrasted it against the people’s utter lack of that righteousness. They called for repentance. They did not tell the people that God loved them and wanted them to be rich, healthy and free of trouble. Instead, they simply laid out the Law to them and told the people how they broke that Law in every part of their lives.
Were they successful? In man’s eyes, especially in the eyes of the leaders of the Compromised Church, they were stupid and old-fashioned. They needed to forget all that repentance stuff and start preaching positive and uplifting messages. They needed to become more relevant to where the people were. However, in God’s eyes they were of those of whom the world was not worthy.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets– who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated– of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:1-40)
The marker of those of whom the world was, and still is, not worthy is faith. Those who step out on faith and do what God commands are the faithful who have the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. Yes, their churches may not be Christian Disney Lands jammed with people every Sunday, but their sermons are God honoring, sheep edifying and Biblical.
God has raised up discerning Christians to shine His light of Righteousness into the darkness of the Compromised Church. These Christians suffer much, not only from Satanic attacks, but also attacks from those of the Compromised Church who lash out against the godly rebukes coming from God’s messengers. These deceived “Christian” leaders portray themselves as the persecuted and the discerning Christians who have rebuked them as self-Righteous hypocrites. They say that these rebukes are Satan’s attacks on them. They say that these discerning Christians are being used by Satan to be divisive within the Body of Christ. They say that we should all just get along despite our differences. A light study of what they say sounds right. In fact, if we don’t look deeply into this with discernment, we can become deceived just as they are. However, we are to test the spirits. We must compare what ministries teach with what the Bible says. Any other criteria will result in compromise and confusion. When a pastor compromises his ministry in order to conform to the Compromised Church we must compare what comes from that ministry with clear Biblical teachings.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
If any Christian, who is rebuked Biblically, repents and humbly comes back to the truth we should praise the Lord and welcome him or her back into fellowship. However, many will not. Those who will not repent after being rebuked biblically will display one or more of the following markers of the self-deceived.
Not only do they claim that those who have rebuked them are the tools of Satan, but they also flatter themselves in their own eyes.
Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. (Psalms 36:1-2)
This is self-deception through self-justification. They are so sure they are doing what is right that they refuse to listen to the truth. Instead, they tell themselves they are on the right path. Since they are spiritually blind due to a hardened heart, their conscience cannot break through to condemn them of their sin. They see that their moves to grow their church pragmatically must be right because God is blessing their ministry with large numbers and positive church growth. Never mind that they don’t preach about sin and repentance anymore.
This self-deception blinds them spiritually more and more until they are in spiritual bondage to their idol of Church Growth.
The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isaiah 44:13-20)
Idolatry always produces spiritual blindness which leads to spiritual bondage. Why? God sends a strong delusion, a spirit of stupor, to harden their hearts to give them over to what they really worship. (Romans 11:8) Since they are hardened in their hearts, humility is overtaken with their pride. Genuine humility grows and thrives in the soft, broken-up tender heart. Pride thrives in the hard, rocky, sour soil of the hard heart. Since pride is in control, all of man’s natural tendencies spring into view. They see their work in their churches as their own work. Their pride in their work produces conceit.
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Galatians 6:3)
A conceited heart combined with a hard, prideful heart that is also in spiritual bondage to the spirit of stupor, produces a level of self-deception that is amazing. Clear rebuke from God’s word is ignored or brushed off with comments such as, “That is just your opinion.” “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.” “You are welcome to believe what you want, no one can know precisely what the Bible really means.” “Doctrine is too confining, it makes people self-righteous and legalistic.”
Do you see how the tables are turned? Those who, by faith, believe God’s Word and test the spirits, rebuke those who are false shepherds and are made to look like they are legalistic and self-righteous. The deceived believe that those who are rebuking them are tightening down the screws on their doctrine too tight. They believe there needs to be more wiggle room. They hear the word, but don’t do it, instead they do as they please.
Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:21-25)
A doer of the Word is one who hears it, it pierces the heart, and the hearer obeys it. He or she does them because their heart is tender towards God. They are not deceived. They are not in spiritual bondage. They humble themselves before the Living God and obey Him. On the other hand, the self-deceived hears, but ignores the Word of God. He or she, is blind to truth because their hearts are hard. The Word of God does not pierce their hearts. The spirit of stupor blinds them even further.
They start to see themselves in a sanctimonious way. Since they never preach about sin or the need to repent their view of God’s Righteousness, Holiness and Justice does not matter with them anymore. They see themselves as a law unto themselves. God will accept them because, after all, aren;t they doing this great work of God in building the largest church in town? However, this is just another symptom of their self-deception.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)
The truth is not in them. They believe they have no sin because their hearts are hard and, therefore, they receive no conviction about their sin. This leads them to ever greater levels of compromise of their ministries. They see the growing numbers and how wonderfully the world accepts them now and start to believe they are rich in God. When they look at the faithful men of God they scoff and call them irrelevant. However, these blasphemers are leading masses of people into blasphemy. They say they are rich, but they are destitute, spiritually, before God.
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:17)
Let us agree to pray for the Church. Let’s pray that many of the deceived will be awakened to the awful blasphemy of the Compromised Church. Let’s pray that God will pull many brands from the fire before He pours out His wrath. He will awaken and purify His church or He will judge it. We cannot make anyone believe the truth, but we can stay the course and be found faithful when He returns.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.