by Mike Ratliff
Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone. (Hosea 4:17 ESV)
Idolatry is the natural state of man. Left to themselves, people will worship or idolize someone or something. On the top of the list of those things we place on pedestals of idolatry is self. Professing Christians are not immune. They idolize Christian leaders, their churches, their doctrine, their liberty, their self-righteousness, their denomination, their particular translation of the Bible, and anything else they can view as something that gives them a sense of religious identity. Tragically, most see nothing wrong with this. Genuine Christianity has been supplanted by religiosity and there are only a few left who see the difference. We lament over the growing apostasy in the Church, but should we be surprised?
There is a false teaching in the Church that God hates the sin, but loves the sinner. This teaching says that God hates no one, but what does the Bible say?
“I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” (Malachi 1:2-3 ESV)
For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory– even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:15-24 ESV)
God is Sovereign. Who are we to tell God that He can’t do as He sees fit? He is the potter and Man is the clay. So, the condition of the Church right now seems strange. It appears that God has lost control or maybe moving it in another direction. While there are pockets of genuineness in the Church, there is, over all, little tolerance for sound doctrine. If a teacher or preacher teaches the truth from God’s Word as our Lord did or as John the Baptist did, or as Paul and Peter and John did, then people become offended and either leave or get rid of the offensive teacher or preacher. Because of the overwhelming lack of tolerance for sound doctrine and a refusal to move from unbelief into submission to His Sovereignty over all things, God is in the process of giving the Visible Church over to its idols.
The Church, the genuine Church, has always preached the dangers of sin. We have always viewed the sin preached against from our pulpits and from the Bible to be against the reprobate sinners in the world. When we studied Revelation we always envisioned that the sinners shaking their fists at God were from that bunch. However, over the last several years, it has become increasingly apparent that the fox is in the henhouse. Satan no longer has to deceive to enter our churches and homes and families. Instead, he is at home in them all because the world is there. The Visible Church is full of the world. Christians are called to be separate from the world, not be part of it while being in it. Because of this, the church and its professing Christians look just like the world. Their leaders use the world’s methods instead of being obedient to God and His Word.
I receive email and comments every week from people who have left their churches because they could no longer tolerate the encroachment of the world in them. In many cases they were not sure what was wrong, but they knew that something had changed and they were no longer being fed the pure milk from God’s Word anymore. I was one of these as well. The extreme guilt trip that is laid upon those who have come out of the Scarlet Woman can be hard to take. However, God is doing this and He has provided a network of leaders all over this country to minister to and teach these dear saints until they can find a decent church. Many of us fear that the genuine church will have to go underground someday. If that is the case, then what about those who remain in the Scarlet Woman?
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32 ESV)
Now, if you don’t think that church people can’t act like this then you haven’t taken a stand for the truth while being in their midst. I have experienced the viciousness and the exclusion and the loss of classes or ministries because someone didn’t like the truth presented to them as the absolute truth. Most church folks won’t become as visibly evil as we read in the passage above. Instead, they will resemble the following.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)
Church hopping is a symptom of this as is pastor firing. In any case, when we tell the truth as the truth then unregenerate people who believe that they are real Christians will not stand for it because God’s truth demands action. It demands obedience. It causes sin to be exposed. Then those in our churches who are not of the Spirit, but of the flesh will either leave or will try to expose and expunge what they don’t like. Early in 2006 I was still teaching a Sunday school class for young adults. One Sunday in February I was preparing to teach when one of my students asked a question about election. We had not been discussing this and I was not prepared to discuss it in depth. However, I had been reading a book called The Doctrines of Grace by Boice and Ryken. So I took a step into a nightmare by reading from Ephesians 1, John 6, Romans 8 and 9, etc. I didn’t try to teach anything, I simply read the passages. Before I could get halfway through there were two guys in the class who started taking turns trying to interrupt me with questions or simply by talking louder than me. For every question I simply read the passage that addressed it. The one making the noises began badgering me about not addressing his questions. So I did, but he and the other fellow would not back off. I tried to get back to my lesson, but it wasn’t going to happen. So I simply asked each of them to show me from scripture where God is not Sovereign in election. Of course, they could not do it. That was the beginning of the end for that class. In just a few months I was down to just a couple and perhaps one or two others then our Pastor started moving towards the Purpose Driven Church stuff and that ended that. The first fellow that was not letting me teach that day was arrested for trying to make a date with a teenage girl he met in a chat room just a few months later. I never saw the other fellow again.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV)
What we must remember is that God gives people over to their idols. They are given a spirit of stupor that blinds them. They cannot nor will they ever see the truth unless God allows it then they repent. Also, these people are in the visible church big-time. They may even be in leadership positions. They will not tolerate sound doctrine because their reprobate minds totally reject the truth because it condemns them. They are in the throes of God’s wrath of abandonment. They are blind to it and consider those of us who do stand on God’s truth to be self-righteous, legalistic hypocrites. After all, doesn’t God just hate the sin while loving the sinner?