By Dr. Donald Whitchard
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world. And the world passes away, but he that does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17
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“You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” – James 4:4”
“For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” – Matthew 16:26
The Scriptures are clear and do not need an alternative explanation to satisfy one’s feelings, thoughts, or opinions so he or she can remain comfortable in their sin. Like it or not, the LORD has made one thing perfectly clear. There is right and wrong, good and evil, black and white. In the standards of a holy God, there is no place for any shade of grey or uncertainty. The Scriptures plainly point out that we are hell-bound reprobates without hope or any chance of redemption (Romans 3:10-18), save from the merciful act of a Sovereign King who didn’t have to offer it in the first place. We are making a big mistake if we think that we’re above any need to receive the just punishment for our rebellion against what He demands of us as His creation. The world and the present day church, of which a majority of its members are not saved and are under a false sense of security, needs to quit believing that God sees us as “blessed and favored”, “champions”, “King’s Kids”, or “free from poverty and sickness”, “prosperous”, “children of God”, or whatever the catch phrase is to satisfy our egos. The present day organization called the “Body of Christ” is suffering from a case of a desire to be liked by people who don’t care about us in the first place. We’re falling for the siren song of “tolerance” and lowering our defenses against a deliberate attempt by Satan to destroy our effectiveness as witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ and to make what “salt and light” we possess unusable and only fit for the dung pile.
If I were to come before the average American church and declare these truths to a congregation that is satisfied with their respective status quo, I do believe I would not be invited back there after the services are over. The message I feel called to share and declare here will probably get me uninvited to a lot of places and I would probably not be asked to deliver the evangelistic message at youth retreats or other venues if I were to present the truth of the gospel and not some hip, relevant, cool message about “tuning into Jesus”, or whatever catch phrase is used that undermines the seriousness of commitment and courage. The hard, cold fact of a growing hostility towards any mention of Jesus that gets us out of the comfort zone and makes us realize that we are in a war for the souls of men and that the idea of going AWOL is foreign to the cause of Christ and His expectations of us as His people.
Our problem is that we have gotten too cozy with the attitude and expectations of the world. In the name of what is commonly referred to as “friendship evangelism” or some other strategy that we think might be effective as a means of outreach, with all good intentions, means that we don’t pay attention to the person’s lifestyle as much as we attempt to win him over with kindness and invitations to varied types of fellowships to make the person see that Christians can have fun and can get along with all types of people, regardless of background or behavior that might not fit in with the mission and scope of the church.
A lot of churches in the past few years, to stave off declining numbers and other factors, bought into the idea of “seeker services”, designed to make a visitor or someone who wanted to be affiliated with a faith group feel more at ease rather than be subject to what some churches see as “barriers”, defined as events and organization that might just exalt the glory of God and resulting in alleged discomfort in the visitor’s expectations. Churches started to market their programs and varied ministries by asking people what they wanted to see in churches rather than the original purpose of the church, which was to be a place to experience God’s holiness, sense of unrighteousness, and the need to get right with Him through Jesus Christ. In the name and desire to be “with the times”, churches listened to what people in the world wanted and expected. Somewhere along the way, they forgot to ask God what He expected of them and to not listen to people who wanted to be comfortable in their sin and not be challenged or convicted.
When I read about the birth of the church in Acts 2, we see the commissioning of 120 people who were awaiting instructions from the Lord Jesus, who had left this world 10 days beforehand. The unmistakable, supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit enabled these plain, ordinary men and women, who had been uncertain and unsure of what Jesus expected of them, now were emboldened, like Peter, to proclaim the message of repentance and salvation that resulted in thousands being saved and brought into the fold. The preaching of the Word was above all other issues, with the result of changed lives being in fellowship one with another. When we read sections of the book of Acts like we read about in Chapter 2, a lot of believers start wishing that the church of today would have that same zeal and love. What a lot of them don’t want is the persecution, hatred, rebuking, hiding, threats by authorities, and the possibility of being imprisoned or executed for their faith. The problem with the attitudes of some churches is that they want to experience the good without having to go through times of difficulty and suffering like what is presented in Scripture. In our desire to get along with those outside the church, we forget that these individuals will be more than happy to turn on us and see us sent off to jail or worse. Their interest in the church only goes so far as to use it as a means of pretending to be religious without the expectations of change and obedience to Christ. Our trouble is that we make sinners more comfortable than making them face the harsh truth that they are heading to an eternal hell without Christ and having them leave when facing this fact.
The world now sees the church of Jesus Christ as a threat to their way of life than as an accepted part of a civil society. The true colors of the unredeemed are beginning to show and now are making demands of the house of God that if enacted, will end up as just another part of a history founded upon mere opinion and relativism. In these closing days before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have allowed the world and its wickedness to dictate the terms of acceptance and to enforce their godless ways upon congregations that will go ahead and compromise the biblical standards upon which they were founded and lose their prime mission for the sake of getting along. Quite frankly, we have taken our eyes off of Jesus and we are reaping the putrid harvest. Since when did we think that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, born in the blood of Calvary and enacted by the fact of the Resurrection, proving that the mission of Christ had been accepted by the Father as a payment for the sins of the world, get the idea that we had to do as the world wants? The wretched, hell-bound sinner has got a lot of nerve telling the Creator what needs to be done. We’re allowing godless reprobates tell us that the church of Jesus Christ has to operate in a way that doesn’t offend or convict and is “tolerant” of behaviors that they have no desire to change or give up. If they can just be allowed to sit in the pews and not be bothered with passages of Scripture that confront them with the fact that sin leads to death (Romans 6:23), and the spineless pastor keeps proclaiming that “God loves all”, without emphasizing that love also demands change, growth, obedience, surrender of self, maturity, and the fact that you are not the center of the universe, these sinners are comfortable in the knowledge that they will have nothing to worry about, and the mission of that church is now gone and will see a slow death.
The issues that are important to the world are almost always in conflict with the will of God. The world has no desire to serve God or to bow to Him and will get pastors and church officials to take their eyes off of the work of the LORD and start championing issues like social justice, rights for certain groups, the demand for social change without the need to change personally, demands for repentance of acts of the past that have already been handled by God towards the offender, cases of abuse, or other topics that look important but take away the need to preach the Word, witness, defend the integrity of Scripture, the mission of Jesus, the pastoral office, the need to pray for these issues, or other situations. We’re allowing the causes of the flesh to override our prime purpose. This is exactly what the devil wants, and we’re too preoccupied with secondary situations to notice until it’s almost too late. What modern pastors and church officials who take up the world’s causes and concerns fail to realize is that this world as we know it will not last in its present state and whatever global emergency grabs our attention today will be cast side for a new crisis later on. What the world considers vital such as global warming and gay rights will soon be consigned to eternal oblivion. Our life is a vapor, and so is the course of world history.
Listen up, church, and listen well. Our job is to rescue people from hell by proclaiming the eternal gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in spite of what is going on around us.
The first century church lived with homosexuality, corrupt government, slavery, abuse, cruelty, paganism, false teachers, and the ever present probability that they might be arrested and executed for the simple task of sharing their faith, proclaiming that there was King Jesus, the true ruler of all, and not the egomaniacal emperor of Rome who fancied himself divine and worthy of worship. When I read the New Testament and the letters of the apostles, they condemned the sins of the world and those who compromised their faith to suit it. They taught the fledgling churches meeting in secret in houses the doctrines of the faith, encouraged young pastors and elders to be firm in the faith, and to remind everyone that they were going to a better place and that they were strangers and pilgrims in this world. They were to live in peace with those around them but to not engage in practices that were clearly against what Jesus and His apostles taught. These men, often on the run, composed the letters and gospels that have withstood critics and criminals for over two thousand years. Three hundred years passed between the time of Christ and the Edict of Toleration by the emperor Constantine in 313 A.D. In between those years, the church endured intense persecution and threats. Things of the world were the least of their concerns, and they knew that the Roman world would not rest until it got rid of every vestige of the Christian faith. This attitude of the world towards us has never gone away and we see it festering larger with each passing year.
Here’s something worth considering. We have, as a nation, enjoyed the privilege of religious freedom for over two hundred years. We don’t have to live in fear, at least not yet, of being dragged off to prison or a camp and executed, or watching our family getting ready to be executed unless we deny Christ, or having our possessions seized, or the government burning down our churches and destroying our Bibles, or having to hide in varied locations and have a worship service away from the prying eyes of officials, or having people you trusted as firm believers betraying you and notifying authorities, or a host of other scenes. Because we have been blessed with these freedoms, we have also witnessed the rise and acceptance of so-called “pastors” and “teachers” proclaiming a false gospel based on material possessions and plain appeal to greed, or denying the authority of Scripture, or substituting emotion and experience for a real walk with the LORD, or anti-Christian cults and the rise and acceptance of outright demon worship by a large number of citizens. We have suffered from sermons that exalt the dignity of man, the personality of self, half-hearted devotion to God, or the false assurance that we are saved by works or repeated prayers or church membership instead of salvation through Jesus Christ and Him alone. We champion inter-faith prayers, dialogues, acceptance of other religions as equal to Christianity, and the call to be tolerant of things that were once condemned by the pulpit.
We have numerous brothers and sisters in Christ around the world right now who are living the days of the church in the book of Acts. They don’t know if this will be their last day of life for suffering for the cause of Christ. They don’t have jets, mansions, money, or possessions. They are fortunate to have a small piece of the Scriptures at their disposal. They are without a home. Their families have either been butchered or have disappeared into the black market of slavery. No national government will assist them.
Yet, they are content in the fact that they belong to Jesus and will be faithful to Him no matter what the cost, knowing that this is not their home and they are not comfortable here. If anyone is ready to be caught up to meet the LORD in the air, it is these precious saints who will have crowns that we could never hope to earn in our life of ease. They never compromised their faith to satisfy the world’s expectations, nor did they desire to do so. If that’s the case, then why are we so eager to have the approval of a system that hates us and wants us dead? Throughout history, the remnant church has stood firm against the siren song of comfort in exchange for silence or rewards from kings and popes.
A real follower of Jesus Christ will have troubles, especially with those who claim to have faith, but are comfortable with their stuff and live like the devil during the week. The authentic follower of Jesus Christ will be mocked, ridiculed, hated, slandered, possibly fired from their job, told to resign if they’re a pastor who convicts instead of soothes, and may even face the possibility of serious or fatal harm if they don’t stop practicing their faith. When real persecution comes to this nation (and it will), prepare to see if you’re really in the faith and to accept the consequences. I can guarantee that those so-called “ministers” who measured their success by material gains will be the first in line to take the Mark in order to keep their possessions without any pity for the poor souls who they scammed and those who were courageous enough to stand up to their evil and condemn it in Jesus’ name. It is my conviction that these hucksters have sinned away their day of grace, and so have all others who wore the title of “pastor”, “bishop”, or other office who sold out their so-called “faith” for acceptance from the world and its obvious evil and deceit.
Those of us who are faithful to the LORD and desire His return will not have to endure this world’s garbage and dung for very much longer. Even now I believe He is getting ready to step on the clouds and await the order from the Father to come get us. Let the world have its riches of costume jewelry and pasteboard and burn up in the process. Stay true to Christ, endure the hardships like a good soldier, and remember what we go through now will vanish into the dust bin of eternity, along with the empty promises of a sin-sick world. Let the name of the LORD be praised.