May 4, 2003 (re-edited August 26, 2005)
During 23 years of ministry I noticed a very surprising reality: many unbelieving older people, near the end of their lives, are no more concerned about their end than when they were young! And many appear to be less concerned.
As a small boy I was one of the privileged few who had the wonderful opportunity of living next door to my maternal grandmother. Seven days a week, 365 days a year Grandma and I were close friends. She loved the Lord and taught me many wonderful truths.
Many evenings a week I would go over to Grandma's to sit and watch TV. Grandma, being a believer, would point out any sinful or ungodly thing she noticed on TV. Most people would think that television between 1952 and 1959 couldn't have had much bad stuff to point out. But Grandma and I knew that even then sin was at the very door-step, peeking into people's living rooms. Grandma and I especially loved to watch church on Sunday on T.V., because Grandma was not well enough to go to church. She had serious heart failure. So sometimes I stayed home so that Mom and others could go to church. If the TV got too worldly Grandma had me turn it off. Then we would talk of spiritual things, or I might even read the Bible to her.
Because I lived next door to her 20 years of my life, I got an eye-full of how a saint of God lived and then went to Glory.
Because Grandma was my childhood example of what seniors were all about, I wrongly concluded that all older people get more focused on the things of God as they age. That was the way it was with Grandma. Every day that passed she was looking more and more to the Lord, seeking God. She was homesick for Heaven. She wanted to see Jesus face to face.
Much later I discovered that most people are not more focused on God as they age. The Saints are the ones who become more focused on eternity, the closer they get to it. But elderly sinners become less focused and more deceived the older they get.
As a boy I just figured all the grandmas and grandpas must be like my Grandma. I remember thinking to myself that the older I got the more I was going to be concerned about my eternal destiny. I thought that as I would grow older surely I would become more interested in spiritual things. So, for a time I figured I could spiritually coast along. I reasoned that since old age would make me better, I could wait until late in life to really grow for God. I could kind of take my time gravitating toward the Lord later on.
Years later I learned, through many rest home ministry visits, that old sinners don't often get nearer to God, but they often get further and further away. My mind was so shocked to see lost elderly people not caring one bit about their future, not wanting to think about tomorrow. It amazed me that they could sit on the border of eternity and be very much unconcerned, as they spoke wrong words, took the name of God in wrong ways, and held grudges.
The saints are the ones focused on Jesus. The saints were waiting for that glorious day when they will see HIS blessed face and walk arm in arm with the Master.
I have shared this background in order to bring up a related subject and my great surprise concerning that subject. The church in America, at this very late hour on God's holy chronometer (clock), is not very focused on it's coming graduation.
Everything I learned from Grandma would make me think that the church of Jesus Christ would be more and more focused on it's "home going" as it grows older and nearer to the end of this age. But overall the visible churches seem to be on the same road that the sinful rest home folks were on! How strange! The escape of the church, the Rapture or "twinkling of an eye" event seems to be on the back burner, or even repudiated as a false doctrine!!
Here we are in a World, and in a Country that has slowly sunken mega-steps into darkness. All around us are the clear signs of the End-times. Prophecies of the end-time are coming to pass on almost a monthly and even weekly basis. And yet, when I visit churches, or watch Christian services I see "business as usual!" There doesn't seem to be any big hurry toward awakening. Folks are focused on the next potluck, the next church picnic, the next "Christian" concert, their 100 year centennial of church organization..
In many churches the people of God are going on in their traditions as before. They go to church while their Nation disintegrates morally and language in the streets of our communities becomes so ugly that bad words are in the air all about.
Still the programmed church services go on. The traditions and practices of the years and years of worship and church administration continue pretty much as they have always been.
I have a question: Why is the church of America, for the most part, acting like those lost seniors in the rest homes who couldn't care less that they were living on their last breath and about to drop into eternity? Why is that??
I believe it is a fulfillment of a prophecy in the Book of Revelation that says the last church period is the period of Laodicea. [See Revelation 3:14 and following] The Laodicean church was a church that thought is was very spiritual. But in reality Jesus said it was the opposite, ultra-unspiritual.
I believe those seven churches Jesus sends a message to in the Book of Revelation also represent the seven kinds of churches that can be found in church history. I believe the last church, the Laodicean church represents our era.
One of the reasons that I believe those seven churches are examples of types of churches is because all of those churches were in what is now the Nation of Turkey. Turkey is now an Islamic country. All those seven churches vanished. And I believe Jesus selected churches that would not exist in our day, so that we could NOT say that Jesus was speaking merely to only those particular churches. Those churches disappeared from the Earth very shortly after the writing of the Book of Revelation. That tells me that God had a long range reason for putting that into HIS Book. It wasn't just for back then. But it was for NOW We can read about those churches today and know that Jesus' words transcend time. They are words for all believers, everywhere.
Some times I sit and watch some great church in worship. As I take these services in I wonder how the people of God can go down the same programmed path, the same path that didn't change the Nation 50 years ago, and isn't changing the Nation today. The jails are still filling, the casinos still go 24 hours, the bars are still filled, the wrong books and wrong videos and wrong jokes still multiply and the babies are still being killed. The salt of today's church activities has done little to change the Nation or to slow the fast fall of the elevator of morals. How can we go on "business as usual?" How can we not begin to wonder if our salt has lost it's flavor?
The great revival of Finney's day in the 1850s did change America. It emptied jails. It erased a lot of crime. It touched the Nation. But the grand religious things we do today sparkle, shimmer, jump and jive. But the jails fill faster. The language gets dirtier. The politicians get naughtier. The babies are murdered faster.
On the other hand, the Third World is having GREAT revival and awakening. This is especially true in the Southern Hemisphere where people are moving to God at three times the speed of population growth (According to Grant Jeffrey). But in the Northern Hemisphere we see apathy and coolness.
Why is it that the church does not, in total unity, wake up and fall on it's face and repent? Why is it that most churches you visit and many TV churches you watch seem to be patients at a classy rest home. Yes, many of them are winning souls. This is good. But after they win them they leave those new babes in the incubator. They don't allow the new child of God to grow up and meet the Holy Ghost and get into the school of the Spirit of God. There are very few giants in the churches. Mostly the churches are full of spiritual juveniles and newbies. And the men of the churches are the least spiritual. Most deeper Christians are usually women. Why are the men of God so immature, compared to the women of God?
The answer has everything to do with the acceptance of the leadership of the Holy Spirit! The Spirit of God is the controller, the governor of the church. But the Spirit of God has been supplanted by the leadership of men and committees and traditions!
The church has changed from an Army of God to an army of "Privateers." If you are a student of American history you know that the privateers where people with ships who became a private navy for George Washington. These privateers would sit off the coast of England and act like pirates. They would attack British supply ships and keep supplies from arriving in America. In this way they would help defeat England. But the "privateers" fought the war as they saw fit. They didn't really get their daily orders from George Washington. They did what they thought would best help and win the war. Each day they gave themselves the orders of the day.
That is what has happened to Jesus' Church. We have become so educated in Church Growth, Spiritual formation, hermeneutics, and theology that we now deem it our job to take the reins of the battle over. We decide what hill we will attack. The church decides what ministry it will open, who will become the next pastor, superintendent, overseer, missionary. We are so brilliant that we have decided to show God what a great help we will be to HIM through our marvelous outreaches, our gifted writings, our wonderful inspirations.
Our spiritual senility, has tricked us into thinking that we are God's greatest asset. When in reality we may be HIS greatest pain in the neck!
"For as many as are *LED* by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." [Romans 8:14]
This is where the refined, cosmopolitan, cool and rocking North American churches differ with the Word of God. They teach that the chain of command in the Army of God is: God, then comes the General Superintendent, then comes the superintendent, then comes the pastor and Bible teacher and then comes the local church leaders and then comes the guy or gal in the pew. That's their chain of command in God's army.
As Romans 8:14 states, the chain of command for mature Christians [not new converts and babes] IS: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and then John and Jane Q. Christian. There are to be NO intermediaries for mature, saintly, Holy Spirit-filled believers!!
When Philip moved to Samaria he didn't write to Peter and John in Jerusalem and get their okay to start a work. The Spirit told him to minister and he proclaimed the Gospel. A big awakening began as a result. Many came into the Kingdom. Then the Lord sent an angel who told Philip to leave Samaria and go to the desert. Again Philip simply obeyed. He didn't communicate with Jerusalem to get an okay.
When the Spirit of God speaks, you go, you obey!! If Peter and John have a problem with your orders, then they can take it up with God. But you go and you obey, IF you are a mature Spirit-directed believer. New believers are under Pastors and teachers. But the saints answer directly to the Holy Ghost!!!
And in our society where people grow so very slow in the Lord most believers are still babes after ten years, sad to say! New believers need Pastors and teachers to nurture them and teach them and lead them into the experience of Holy Spirit Baptism. But once they start devouring the Bible and praying and hearing from Heaven they don't need to be in the nursery any more. They need to be turned over to God for HIM to control and direct them.
Many churches and denominations today want to keep all the soldiers in boot camp forever! Many pastors and denominational leaders are growing kingdoms. And the more subjects that they have in their kingdom, the more important they are in the realm of church growth and numbers.
Let's face the truth, right now, okay?? Here it is: When the church of Jesus Christ is totally controlled and directed by the Holy Spirit, denominational and organizational infrastructures may crumble. God's kingdom grows....but the physical, visible, corporate, sparkling campuses of religiosity don't necessarily have the same bottom line. They may, in fact, crumble and degenerate. What happened to the Church of Jesus Christ in China, under the Communists proves that. The church grew better, faster and stronger when all the churches were padlocked, the hymnals and Bibles burned and the pastors put in prison. It was like putting fertilizer on roses. The Church in China flourished more under oppression than under freedom and infrastructure. Those Chinese believers were forced to come under Holy Spirit direction. And because of that there were more Christians produced in China, than there are Christians in America today.
Old age has a very wicked trick. It can make us feel like all is okay. For elder sinners old age tricks them into thinking that today is all that counts. It makes them think that they are just fine and dandy.
For the saints, old age can trick us into thinking we have arrived. we don't have to seek God everyday. We are in....doing great...assured of our eternal reward. We've earned the right to travel, get an RV, live life to the fullest.
For the churches old age has caused them to often swallow a lie! They think that they have arrived. They think they understand the battle so well that they can just automatically do what the Commander and Chief wants. They think any sanctified committee can tell you the will of God. They think God doesn't guide HIS church by miraculous signs and wonders, and words from Heaven. They think God uses sanctimonious committees, under Robert's Rules of Order praying a token prayer and casting a fair vote, to determine HIS instructions for the church.
They think God doesn't like to micro-manage things. They think HE leaves much up to the wisdom of pastors and teachers. They act like God's too busy running the Universe to tell a nursery teacher what to say to a toddler. They act like that's why God has raised up the denominational publishing houses, to print good literature and good, sound lesson materials. They act like the denominational publishing house has taken a big administrative load off the Lord's back. They act like God was always overworked before people invented the Christian publishing house. They act like their innovations are making God's life easier.
We need to wake up, follow the Holy Spirit and look up for our redemption is drawing near. God wants to run everything! God has called us to be HIS sheep, NOT HIS entrepreneurs! Sheep are stupid! They need a shepherd. The Shepherd micro-manages the flock! People of God wake up!!