Deep in slumber this morning, I was enjoying a wonderful dream about my family when I faintly heard a sound far off. I really didn't want to depart the comfort of my slumber, but something kept calling to me. I roused myself enough so that I was able to tell it was our basset hound calling for me to let him out. Naturally, I was annoyed. Early morning on a day off and our delightful pet had to waken me from a pleasant dream. Nevertheless, I heeded the call and took care of his needs.
As I sat on my couch drinking a strong cup of coffee, I began to reflect on the state of the church today. I have been reading a book by Os Guinness entitled "The Last Christian on Earth: Uncover the Enemy's Plot to Undermine the Church". Written in a similar style of C.S. Lewis's tome "The Screwtape Letters", the author presents a series of communiques written by a senior leader of Satan's forces to a junior director who is taking over an area from his predecessor. Guinness, through this clever and well-delivered series of missives, presents the many areas where the church has been asleep and ineffective. It serves as a clarion call to Christians to wake up before it is too late.
Already there are many cracks in the foundation of once hearty denominations. Having grown up in the U.S.A. Presbyterian Church, I was disheartened when I heard about their vote to allow homosexuals to be ordained. There are many conservative congregations within this body who objected, but not enough to prevent this vote. When I was growing up, we studied the catechism and heard solid messages based on God's Word. How did they drift so far away? Then, I picked up a news article that spoke about the Episcopalian Church seeking to come up with a blessing for same sex couples. This denomination already has ordained practicing homosexuals as bishops. The question is how can they bless that which God condemns as sin in His Word? Winking at sin to become culturally and politically correct means we have exchanged the truth of God's Word for a lie.
Paul describes what happens when man ignores God's instructions in his letter to the church in Rome: "Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen" (Romans 1:24-25). Any time we set up a standard for conduct which ignores God's Word as the foundation for our life, we are in danger. Worshipping the idol of political and cultural correctness has led many astray. In fact, Paul says in verses 22 and 23: "Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things."
In a footnote in my "Reformation Study Bible", it reads: "Intellectual arrogance before God displays a reversed sense of values; the worship of God is exchanged for devotion to man-made and man-reflecting idols. The indelible instinct to worship is perverted by being centered on the wrong object." So what happens next? The footnote for verse 24 reads: "Judgment involves the removal of divine restraints, both on sinful actions and on their consequences." This is what breaks my heart. Judgment does come. The lamp stand can and will be removed from those who do not repent before God...not just as individuals but as a whole church body.
There seems to be a carnival like atmosphere among many who call themselves Christians today with light shows, dazzling displays of electronic gadgetry, rock band style of worship and feel good messages devoid of God's Word. Unless we all awake from our deep slumber, we, too, shall succumb to the traps of the enemy. As believers, what must we do?
In the book of Revelations, the Lord commends the Church at Ephesus but gives them a stern warning: "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen: repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent" (Rev. 2:4-5). We must individually and collectively repent and return to our first love through Bible study, public worship and prayer. Our churches need to hold fast to the sound preaching of God's Word (I am grateful for the church in which I worship because the Word is faithfully given each week) and to the right use of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord's Supper). If we do not, our lamp stand will be removed and our saltiness in this world will diminish.
Just as my hound interrupted my deep slumber today, I believe that the "Hound of Heaven" is baying for the church to awaken. We need not be swallowed up by our culture. Christians are meant to influence the world not the other way around. May God give us a heart for reformation that we may return to our first love and turn away from culture worship and man-reflecting ideas for God alone deserves the glory. Selah!