Friday, April 18, 2008

Separating the Men from the Rabbits

In general, I would consider myself to be a fairly optimistic person. I believe I have very good reason to be optimistic because I know God wins every time. When it comes to converting false teachers in the church and awakening their ardent followers; however, I have to admit that the prospects of overwhelming success are quite minute. The deceived are content and the deceivers love having it so.

Confronted with this reality, I have often asked myself what would have to happen to change this situation. Today I was reminded of a story that was once emailed to me. It went something like this . . .

"One Sunday morning, Rev. Smith (not his real name)was about to begin his sermon at ____________(insert name)___________(insert denomination)Church. Just as he was about to speak, the doors to the sanctuary were thrown open. Ten masked men, dressed in black and brandishing semi-automatic weapons charged into the room. The leader of the intruders stepped forward and announced, "We are going to kill every Christian in this room. If you wish to live, deny your Christ and we will spare you and let you leave." The men went through the congregation of more than 100 people and demanded their denial of the Lord Jesus. When they were through all that remained were the ten masked men, Rev. Smith and 15 of the congregants. Among those who denied Jesus and fled were: 3 ushers, 6 deacons and the entire mass choir.

When all those who had made their denial were gone, those remaining were gripped with fear as they faced their last moments of life. Just then, the masked man who had issued the ultimatum removed his mask. It was Deacon Jones, a member of the church for over forty years. Deacon Jones smiled broadly and said: "Now that only true Christians are here, Rev. Smith, we can really have church!"

What's your point, Tolbert? My point is: the only thing that will bring out the real church, the invisible church is some good old fashioned persecution. Nothing like a little suffering for Jesus' sake to separate the men from the rabbits! Now, don't get me wrong, I hope it doesn't come to this. I can't even claim to know conclusively that I would pass this supreme test; but it sure would ease those church parking and traffic problems every Sunday morning!

Yes, persecution has that peculiar power to reveal our true character and to display our true allegiances. Undoubtedly, those who are only in this for the big house, the fancy car, and the six-figure income would fold up their tent and try their luck on "Jeopardy" rather than face the big "P". After all, it's hard to enjoy routinely eating at five-star restaurants when you have been disemboweled.

I know, I know, this isn't Nero's Rome. That sort of thing could never happen here . . . right? Well, what if the secular humanism that is gaining so much strength in our society becomes the norm? What if the philosophies of Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher held sway rather than those of our founding fathers (which have lost considerable influence already)? Would the prosperity gospel have the power to sustain its adherents in the face of the loss of home, fortune and freedom. In the face of death for confession of Christ? Would black liberation theology prove to be a mighty fortress against blacks who throw in their lot with anti-Christian forces? Just as in the story, I have a feeling that only those who love the Gospel and love the Jesus of the Gospel would be left if true persecution fell upon us.

I am currently studying the book of Judges and it's words seem very haunting to me. I see so much that the church (the visible church) has in common with the children of Israel. Consider this passage from Judges 2:11-15:

" And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress."

With few alterations, can this not be said of the church(the visible church)today? We have pastors who are not content with one jet, but must have two. We have pastors who are not satisfied with their church building them 10,000sq ft homes, but also must also have attached a 10 million dollar line of credit. We have pastors who have grown weary of their Bentleys and therefore have added Maybachs to their repertoire. All of this while influencing their followers to aspire to the very same things. Can it not be said that the church(the visible church)has fallen into idolatry just like the Israelites? Are we not also kindling the Lord's anger potentially to the point that, for our sake, He must give us over to "plunderers"? Do we not deserve to be "plundered" so that the church(the visible church)may be purged of all those who fake the faith?

I get the feeling that many of us are starting to feel like Deacon Jones in the story. We want to somehow slap the church(the visible church)around and make it come to its senses. Blogs like this give us the opportunity to vent; but we realize that more times than not we are preaching to the choir. Our comfort, however, comes from the secure knowledge that God has dealt with this kind of thing before. God surely will redeem His own.

For our part, we must pray earnestly and remain faithful. We must not delude ourselves into believing that God would not allow the church to be plundered. We must continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. For, " . . . God is not mocked,for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith". Any of this sound familiar?

Now, where did I put my ski mask and grenade-launcher?

Be Like the Bereans, Baby!!!

Feel like throwing up? Check out Richard Dawkins' website


LaVrai said...

Amen, brother!

That's exactly why I think people need to stop dreaming and get real -- there is no pre-tribulation rapture!!

How else do you think we will get tried and refined in the fire (may just be literal for some of us)?

This is one major thing -- folks loving their life and the world more than loving our Creator GOD ALMIGHTY and our Saviour Lord Jesus the Christ -- that will surely be one of the primary causes of the great falling away.

That scenario you have in the post is no joke. People deny Lord Jesus Christ every day -- in the office when the topic of faith comes up and the majority involved start ridiculing GOD or Jesus... how much do you want to bet some who say they are Christians not only keep quiet (which isn't necessarily anything bad, as battles have to be chosen carefully), but may even 'join' in with the ridicule so they don't appear as an outsider or outcast?

But that's the thing, isn't it? Christians are outsiders and outcasts when it comes to the world... we are not of this world, but we have to live in it.

And is your earthly life really worth the trade of your eternal one with GOD? Don't you know that when you supposedly turned your life over to Jesus Christ that the old man or woman that you were died anyway? ...Well, it should have...else you would be disturbed/distraught/disgusted by the world in which we live.

What will you truly miss when you die anyway, besides your loved ones (whom we all hope submit to the LORD)?

You should be looking up, family, not at the world, for your redemption draws near.


Keith L. Tolbert said...

Thanks for your comments, Lavrai!

We can sure get comfortable here in the good ol' USA despite what the Jeremiah Wright's of the world would have us believe. A rude awakening seems to be inevitable.

I certainly agree with you about the pre-trib rapture. How very American. We get to live in a nice cozy country, never have to fear for our lives as Christians and just when the stuff hits the fan we are wisked away safely to Jesus.

Meanwhile, our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Sudan are experiencing the Great Tribulation on a daily basis.

Call me crazy, but I just haveto believe Jesus was right when he said the gates of hell would not prevail against His church. I believe that as sure as He is God, He will give the church the ability to complete His great commission. That's why I'm a dyed-in-the-wool postmillenialist.

I believe there's a blog in that somewhere.

michael said...

Jude encourages the believers of his time to "defend" God's unchanging truth, we're also encouraged to
"Prove all things" "rightly dividing the word of truth". The debate between Mr. Don Preston and Mr. Melvin Jones
is as biblical as it gets when there're disagreements between believes, every believer should be thrilled
that the man of God has chosen not act as the world, but as men of God trying eschatology by the Word of God.

Don K. Preston in an Up Coming Radio Debate
You can listen to the debate live, on on May the 22, at 7 Eastern time, 6 Central time.
Depending on the time available, there may be two propositions. Don K. Preston will affirm the following.
Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (i.e. final) coming of Christ occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in A. D. 70.
: The Bible teaches that the Second (i.e. final) coming of Christ occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in A. D. 70.
Don K. Preston: affirm
Melvin Jones: Deny.
If time permits, Mr. Jones will also have an affirmative, which will be:
Resolved: The Bible teaches that due to Jewish unbelief and rejection of Jesus in the first century, the Davidic Kingdom was postponed until the Second Coming of Christ which will occur at the end of the current Christian age.
: The Bible teaches that due to Jewish unbelief and rejection of Jesus in the first century, the Davidic Kingdom was postponed until the Second Coming of Christ which will occur at the end of the current Christian age.
Melvin Jones: Affirm
Challenge your eschatology, because it's not what I believe, it's what the bible affirms is Truth……..

John said...

That's a great post, Keith. My wife and I talked about this very thing yesterday. You haven't posted in a while - keep up the good work.

Keith L. Tolbert said...

Thank you very much, John! I realize that it has been a while. You might say, I've been slightly preoccupied with some training I have to complete for my job. Add to that, I don't want to just publish fluff ( I don't love hearing myself talk THAT much :-))

When the smoke clears, I'll be back at it with something I hope hits home with my readers.

I sincerely thank all of you for even taking the time to read the thoughts of a complete stranger!

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