Sunday, October 30, 2016

Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.”             Revelation 3:14-19  NKJV

Sometime this past week the thought occurred to me that I have never actually put together a list of my personal “top ten” reasons to believe we are living in the end times.  I still haven’t but I will admit that I am thinking more and more about doing so because while it may or may not be the same as others, comparing notes on the subject can be very revealing.  One sign that I am sure, however, would make most peoples’ list is the current state of the Church.  Now this is a subject I have discussed before, and without a doubt will continue to cover as it would certainly rate very high on my own list of signs, as well as being one that Jesus told us specifically to watch for by virtue of His description of the Church at Laodicea.

Although the church at Laodicea believed it was rich and in need of nothing, it was in reality poor because the “riches” they were so confident in were of their own efforts, and not from God.  Rich in the eyes of the world, they were poor in the eyes of God as a result of the absence of the Holy Spirit in their lives and in their church.  The error of the Laodicean theology is that your eternal security can be assured by simply being a “follower” of Christ.  While this belief was obviously very popular by the size and success of the Laodicean church, unfortunately it is in direct opposition to the Word of God which states plainly that we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to receive eternal life.  The end result of this mistaken teaching is an entertaining and apparently successful church full of followers, but no true believers.

As I studied and researched this subject anew this week, I happened to stumble across one of the most accurate and revealing commentaries on the current state of the Church that I have read in quite a long time.  The most surprising facet of this commentary was not the content itself, but rather the fact that it was written over one hundred years ago by one of the most influential preachers of his, and our own time.  I thought I would let you read his words on this subject today, and decide for yourself if it seems to be an accurate description of what we see in all too many of our own churches today.

Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?
by Charles Haddon Spurgeon  1834-1892

   “ An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it during the past few years. It has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.

    From speaking out as the Puritans did, the church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.

    My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church.  If it is a Christian work, why did not Christ speak of it?  "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15)  That is clear enough  So it would have been if He had added,  "and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel." No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to him.

    Then again, "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers ... for the work of the ministry" (Eph. 4:11-12). Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll.

    Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all his apostles. What was the attitude of the church to the world? Ye are the salt" (Matt. 5:13), not the sugar candy---something the world will spit out not swallow. He was in awful earnestness.

    Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into his mission, he would have been more popular when they went back, because of the searching nature of His teaching. I do not hear him say, "Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick Peter, we must get the people somehow." Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them.

    In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of this gospel of amusement! Their message is, "Come out, keep out...!" Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon.

    After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the church had a prayer meeting but they did not pray, "Lord grant unto thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are."

    If they ceased not from preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). That is the only difference! Lord, clear the church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to the Bible.

    Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the church met them halfway, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment has been God's link in the chain of the conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today's ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.”

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”      Revelation 3:20-21  NKJV

I learned this verse as a child in Sunday School, and like many of you, have never forgotten it.  It has long been used as a tool in witnessing and sharing the good news with those who have not yet accepted the gift of eternal life, and presents a beautiful picture of the love that Jesus has for all of His children.  Yet it was quite a long time before I personally understood the context of this verse, and exactly how Jesus was using it to send a message to a church empty of true believers.  Although seemingly unaware of their need, Jesus stands at the door knocking to come in and anyone who hears and invites Him in will receive the free gift of salvation.

Have you opened the door of your heart and invited Jesus to come in?  If not, you can do that right now wherever you are.  Simply pray a prayer like this and begin a new life with Jesus, and know you will spend eternity with Him.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen.

Keep watching.