by Mike Ratliff
7 Ephraim is joined to idols;
Let him alone. Hosea 4:17 (NASB)
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?
2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob; 3 but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” Malachi 1:2-3 (NASB)
15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. Romans 9:15-24 (NASB)
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 Pilgrims traveling through 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?
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 that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:18-32 (NASB)
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.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NASB)
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.
1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:1-7 (NASB)
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?
Soli Deo Gloria!