Monday, December 26, 2011

State of the Church: Introduction. "Love growing cold"

Part 2: Are you tending your anchor?
Part 3: The numbers aren't good
Part 4: Carnal Carnival, & the greatest sin pastors commit
Part 5a: When carnality leads to spiritual abuse
Part 5b: Is your church spiritually abusive?
Conclusion: Spiritual Leaders and Humble Relationships

This blog is an apologetics, discernment, prophecy and encouragement blog. That means that after prayer and study, and through strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, I contend for the faith, distinguish between truth and error, and I encourage the brethren. It means I have a very dogmatic worldview, a biblical world view. To me, things are black and white, either truth or untruth, narrow or wide. I have this view because that is the view that Jesus gives us and by use of the gifts, His Word, and the Spirit, I employ it.

My heart and ministry is for fellow believers. I pray for the lost and I witness to them in word and in deed, but the ministry given to me by the Spirit is to believers. In this apostate, false, and dangerous time, there are many who are failing, falling away, going out from us, or simply are goats and they don't know it.

These are times when we are told by Jesus that love will grow cold. "Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold." (Matthew 24:12). This is what I call a see-saw verse. The first half of the verse depicts a condition of increase and the second half of the verse depicts a decrease, and the whole verse is causal. One causes the other.

I believe the timing of that prophecy is during the Tribulation but we know that the conditions of increased sinfulness and decreased love will reach painful proportions just prior to the Tribulation as birth pangs, and thus the resulting conditions of cold-heartedness will increase also.

M. Vincent explained the word "cold" from the Greek in the verse this way: "spiritual energy blighted or chilled by a malign or poisonous wind." The word 'love' in the verse is the Greek word Agape, the ultimate kind of Christ love, or divine love. Lawlessness means sinfulness. Therefore the verse doesn't speak just to coldness of unbelievers, in my opinion, it speaks to as much to believers. Unbelievers do not have Agape love in them to begin with. The prophecy depicts a dark time with an ultimate end as the loveless Laodicean Church (Revelation 3:14-22). Paul prophesies, "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;" (2 Thess:2:3). This is a church so apostate that Jesus stands outside it and knocks to come in. (Rev 3:20). The further apart from God we are, the less love we have. We are heading there now.

Clarke's commentary says, "The love of many shall wax cold - By reason of these trials and persecutions from without, and those apostasies and false prophets from within, the love of many to Christ and his doctrine, and to one another, shall grow cold. Some openly deserting the faith, as Matthew 24:10; others corrupting it, as Matthew 24:11; and others growing indifferent about it, Matthew 24:12. Even at this early period there seems to have been a very considerable defection in several Christian Churches; see Galatians 3:1-4; 2 Thessalonians 3:1, etc.; 2 Timothy 1:15."

See? It is about believers growing cold in their love.

Here is something to consider- the downward effects of choosing to get on the seesaw (or choosing to stay on it). Love grows cold because we do not study the Word and thus drift away from Him. (Hebrews 2:1). Or we privately believe the Word is insufficient, and seek carnal means to please God. Either way, we open ourselves up to destructive heresies brought by false pastors, false teachers, false prophets. It's like flies to honey. Or Beelzebub to the unwary.

Destructive heresies are a disease. (2 Timothy 2:17). Once infected, we find we like these false teachings (2 Tim 4:3) and so we will clamor for more. Because the people clamor for more, the pastors give us more- poison which tastes good ("Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" Isaiah 5:20). Pretty soon, the parasitic nature of false teachings by the pastor and the carnal acceptance of them by the sheep meld us into this dance of death, and we happily all step onto the broad path. "For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." (Matthew 7:13b).

You can't have a failing church if you have aware sheep, or a vigilant pastor who feeds them good food. One or the other, or both, must be missing.

Because we believe prophecy completely, we know that this will happen and is even happening now. But we can ask ourselves, why does love grow cold among believers? That is the premise of this series: to explore the why and to identify if the why has come to your church...

For there to be a solid Christian, one must believe the bible is the only authority, it is inerrant and that it is sufficient. It is my contention that the problems in the church today, particularly 'love growing cold', is because of the believer's rampant lack of belief in the bible's sufficiency.

It is a mirror that is hard to look into. We must examine ourselves, look at each of our own actions to determine if we are the cause of the problem or if we are bystanding and letting the problem grow without doing anything about it.

What then does it mean that Scripture is sufficient? This definition of Scripture’s sufficiency from James Boice’s book “Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace” explains that "sufficiency means that the Bible is sufficient for the church’s life and work. It is able to draw unbelievers to Christ, to enable me to grow in godliness, to provide direction to my life and to go beyond myself and beyond the church to transform and revitalize all of society." Boice says, "It is possible to believe that the bible is the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and yet to neglect it and to effectually repudiate it just because we think that it is not sufficient for today's tasks and that other things need to be brought in to accomplish what is needed. That is exactly what many evangelicals and evangelical churches today are doing."

I agree completely. In the next few blog entries, I'll look into this relationship of growing belief of insufficiency and love growing cold.

My hope is to highlight the practical conditions that fellow believers may see or experience. What does it really feel like, look like, when love grows cold? What are the effects of destructive heresies? I want to lift our eyes from our individual lives looking outward at prophesies that affect unbelievers, to the prophesies that affect believers. Us. Hopefully through the next few entries we can ask ourselves, me included, have we left our first love? And is that leaving because we no longer believe the bible is sufficient for all good things?

After all, that is one of the charges Jesus made against the church at Ephesus, "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love." (Revelation 2:4). Let it not be so! But if it is, how do we spot it? Stay tuned.

Part 2: Are you tending your anchor?
Part 3: The numbers aren't good
Part 4: Carnal Carnival, & the greatest sin pastors commit
Part 5a: When carnality leads to spiritual abuse
Part 5b: Is your church spiritually abusive?

10 comments:

  1. Elizabeth
    I way appreciate your insights and have been thinking about this same issue so I'm looking forward to this series!
    Lois

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  2. Very interesting, I really appreciate this. Thank you.

    What if for some people who say they are Christian, it doesn't seem to be a matter of their love growing cold, just a matter of their love being selective?

    And what do you make of those who believe they are doing what is called "tough love"? People who believe a person is guilty of certain sins, and that in order to help them, they just show them "tough love", which consists of ceasing all help, all communication, having absolutely nothing to do with that person anymore. I know in most instances of tough love, the intention is it will lead to people stopping bad behaviors, to changing, for the better, and when the person appears to have changed for the better, the shunning stops, and they are welcomed back with open arms, and shown I don't know regular love again? It just all seems so foolish to me.

    Some, like myself, are just so harshly judged, by other supposed believers, deemed evil even, that in the minds of the ones who've so harshly judged, shunning is the only answer, that we deserve to be shunned. They believe that the person is either insane, demon possessed, or a wolf in sheep's clothing, and as such, not someone they can, nor should help, nor associate with, so they cast the person out, from the family, from the church, some have even been cast out of the town/city they were living in. They shun the person in all ways, believing scripture backs it up, so therefor it's justified, and righteous even. They have the attitude of "it's a shame, oh well, hate the sin, love the sinner, love them from afar, pray for them, but have absolutely nothing to do with them, just let Jesus deal with them, and eventually, either they'll get healed from their insanity; the demons will be cast out of them; or they'll get truly saved and made righteous, if not, if they don't, oh well, not your problem, not your fault. There's nothing you can do for them other than pray, so just turn away from them, wash your hands of them. "
    These people have no proof the person is insane, and yet, made no attempts to help in anyway. They also have no proof the person is demon possessed, yet, again they did nothing to help. They also have no proof the person is a wolf in sheep's clothing. In fact, evidence proves them wrong on all counts, yet, they continue to shun. They ignore all olive branches, all peacemaking attempts. They reject apologies, reject pleas for mercy, reject reconciliation. All while claiming to love, yet, standing firm in their decision to shun.
    I don't think it's just a matter of love growing cold, I think some are choosing to not love certain people at all.

    J.L.

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  3. I look forward everyday for your insight into the Bible. I post it to my facebook page and hardly anyone reads it. Most of my Friends on fb are Christians but don't openly talk about Jesus as I do. I preach John 3:16 to whoever I cross paths with on fb. GBU and your family.

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    Replies
    1. Deirdre AltenburgerJuly 23, 2012 at 6:08 AM

      "I post it to my facebook page and hardly anyone reads it. Most of my Friends on fb are Christians but don't openly talk about Jesus as I do."

      Hey Hog Ron, the same thing happens to me :(

      No worries, you and I will be friends in heaven soon :D

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  4. Thanks for reading HogRon, and for putting it on your facebook page. Once recently I mentioned on the blog that the weird posts always get a lot of views but the ones about Jesus don't so much. It looks to me that people always want to know why things are happening (quakes, sinkholes, ufos) but don't ant to know that Jesus is Lord of everything. Their interest dissipates almost immediately...sad about that.

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  5. J.L.,

    I understand where you are coming from. I agree completely when you say that some are "choosing to not love certain people at all." I can say that without knowing your whole background, even aside from your background, because love is a choice. We choose to love, it isn't a feeling, it is a decision.

    There is no such thing as selective love. If someone isn't loved because of their shabby clothing or poor demeanor then they are discriminating (James 2:1-5).

    Now, there are two reasons for shunning, one true and one false. If someone has been shunned it may be because they are sinning. As Paul said in Romans some cause divisions by constant harping on what is not Gospel. (Romans 16:17-19)

    2 Thess 3:14 says to shun a brother who is a lazy taker and not a giver. This was a problem in the early church. Remember they pooled their resources and helped each other? Some took advantage. Paul's instruction was to put them out so they would feel ashamed and then later be hungry enough to go get some work.

    Matthew 18:15-19 shows us the process of dealing with a sinning brother.

    Those and other scriptures deal with sinning congregants and how and when legitimate biblical shunning is recommended

    If a person feels shunned at several churches in a row, or also home and/or work, in other words, receiving this treatment from people in different segments of a person's life, then it behooves the brother/sister to look into him or herself and pray for the Spirit to reveal a critical attitude or the root of their permanent discontent.

    However, there is a false reason people are marginalized, selectively loved, or shunned. And that goes to spiritual abuse, and it is very real and alive in the church. It is also known as authoritarinaism, where a pastor has gained extra-biblical influence over his flock and causes them by fear or intimidation to shun the person unrightly. Shunning is a common technique in these churches used to quell concern, discussion, or any thing contrary to what the pastor wants. I'll write about it tomorrow and the next day. Meanwhile here are some links if you want to read more before then:

    http://www.founders.org/journal/fj15/article3.html

    http://pureprovender.blogspot.com/

    http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/blogs/the-plumb-line-by-jennifer-leclaire/32186--spiritual-abuse-christian-cults-and-controlling-ministries-

    I don't know which category you fall in, and I can't judge that, but I recommend prayer and study of the Word to see if biblical precepts were followed that are designed to sincerely help a sinning brother, and I recommend research into the topic of "authoritarianism", "church abuse" (google those terms) to see if perhaps it was that.

    Remember, if you are truly saved and regenerated in Christ's image, then that means you are holy and sanctified like all believers. You are precious little sheep in Jesus' eyes equal to them all, and He will not lose one of us, not me, not you. He has His eye on you and He will wipe every tear from our eyes when we get there. Hang on, dear sister/brother!!

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  6. J.L, thank you for sharing your story. It is a hard go, when someone is treated like that. Personally, when being treated SO harshly, if it is possible to ignore them, I do. If it is possible to get away from them, do. Even if having to have interactions because of your son, I'd keep them short and say little.

    The bible shows us what to do when extending Christlike Gospel love to people who continually stomp on Jesus in word and deed, shake the dust off your feet and move on down the road, (Mt 10:14), and stop giving pearls to swine. (Mt 7:6)

    Choosing to continue to engage with them will only harm you. Separate, pray, and love from afar, if I may be bold to offer advice (usually an unwise thing to do!)

    "I have been burned and hurt by the church in the past. How can I overcome this and renew a passion for church and a desire to attend church?"
    http://www.gotquestions.org/hurt-by-church.html

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  7. Speaking of wide and narrow, here is a great video with heart striking humor. Its called the middle road, and the speakers,Francis Chan, has other great messages and even great children book. Hope it encourages...
    Hector
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7MdYV8gRws

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  8. Hello Hector, That clip was pretty funny!! Thanks for sharing it. Happy New Year to you :)

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  9. Thank you for your blog. There has been much discussion in our home recently regarding much of what you are writing about...mainly because we had to leave our church recently for the very reasons you cite here--sheep who are blind and a lack of good food from our leader. It is quite disheartening, to say the least. We were there for 25 years. And we find ourselves still asking the question --how can they not SEE? I, too, am using my blog to try to encourage Christians to think beyond status quo...or even to THINK. It seems like that has become a lost art among unbelievers and believers alike. Thanks again for your blog. I look forward to visiting again.

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