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