by Mike Ratliff
17 “Ephraim is joined to idols,
Let him alone. Hosea 4:17 (NKJV)
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 man-made religiosity and there are only a few left, a remnant, 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 “visible church” that God hates the sin, but loves the sinner. This teaching says that God hates no one, but what does the Bible say?
2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord.
“Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’
Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?”
Says the Lord.
“Yet Jacob I have loved;
3 But Esau I have hated,
And laid waste his mountains and his heritage
For the jackals of the wilderness.” Malachi 1:2-3 (NKJV)
15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? Romans 9:15-24 (NKJV)
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 study Revelation we always envision that the sinners shaking their fists at God are 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 “visible 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. 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?
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:18-32 (NKJV)
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 absolute truth. Most church folks won’t become as visibly evil as we read in the passage above. Instead, they will resemble the following.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NKJV)
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 Bible Study class for young adults on Sunday mornings. 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, but of course I was answering him via Sacred Scripture. 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 the rumors begin to fly that massive changes were coming down from above, and so the exodus of many of our most faithful began. Right after that our Pastor did indeed start moving towards the Purpose Driven Church stuff and that ended that for my wife and I. After we left we found out from friends still there that the first fellow that was not letting me teach that day was arrested for trying to make a date with who he thought was an underage teenage girl he met in a chat room just a few months later. I never saw or heard from the other fellow again.
1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:1-7 (NKJV)
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, according to their theology, doesn’t God just hate the sin while loving the sinner?
Soli Deo Gloria!