I will begin this morning by quoting William Tiptaft, a man used greatly of God and now gone to be with Him: I am, he said, quite sick of modern religion—it is such a mixture, such a medley, such a compromise. I find much, indeed, of this religion in my own heart, for it suits the flesh well—but I would not have it so, and grieve it should be sol The religion I want is that of the Holy Spirit.
I fully intended this morning to preach on the subject of the meaning, purpose, and timing of the Judgment Seat of Christ as mentioned by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5. Instead, I want to speak as plainly, lovingly, and clearly as I am able and share my real concerns for you and for this church this morning, and also address what our attitudes and concerns should be to those who live outside of our comfortable spiritual surroundings. This morning I want to speak to you on what I believe to be the most pressing needs not only of our church, but mainly so, but also to understand what our true purpose is as a New Testament church in the 21st. Century.
The great mystery in religion today is why people seem to be losing all interest in either staying in church or even in attending church. Most research done by organizations whose sole business it is to monitor either the growth or decline of “Christian” churches whether they be denominational or independent show an alarming trend of a rapidly declining membership. Everyone seems to have an idea as to why this is happening—a lack of relevance to today’s cultural mores; too much emphasis on entertainment rather than the dispensing of biblical views and values; not enough emphasis on the providing for the “felt” needs of people like overcoming addictions; solving marriage problems; single parenting solutions; staying out of debt; etc. etc. etc..
Many look upon Christians as hypocrites, legalists, factious, divisive, and many are turned off, I fear, by the behavior Christian leaders who have sinful affairs; who are abusive to children; or preachers who make more money than the President of the United States, or are just not interested in social problems, ignoring the hungry, the poor, the prisoner, or are interested only in promoting their own brand of religion upon a gullible society.
My concern is that, in the main, churches, and I include ours, must be careful to correctly interpret what our purpose is on this earth. My fear is that we have forgotten the teaching and examples of our Lord, his apostles, and the early church in general.
I believe that the most insistent and constant need of our church is that we correctly interpret Christian service and once having done so relearn how to attach the enormous driving power of Christianity to bring lost souls to Christ and the importance of releasing the love of God in us so that it can be “shed abroad” to even those who are “without,” that is to those who have not yet been brought to Christ or to those who will never come to Christ.
No one should be ignored. Christ ignored no need of people, physical, emotional, or spiritual. He segregated no people groups but included all in His ministry – the poor, the hungry, the naked, the thirsty, the infirmed, the prisoner, no one! Elect or not!
I want to give you seven things I feel we must do as a church if we are to be what Christ wants us to be as His Ambassadors representing Him in the world.
First, Micah 6:6-8 Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
We must express our moral energy and awaken our faith from a state of selfish dormancy and broaden our theological view of God. We need to understand that unless we see a fully completed God who not only is a doctrinal God, but a morally ethical and culturally relevant God as well. Oh, how we stutter when discussing “works.” We should not be so timid about speaking of what we are to DO as well as what we ought to BELIEVE. If we are to truly represent God to the public, then we must concentrate of our own “moral ethics” and “cultural relevance” in our dealings with others. God wants us to speak boldly about what we believe doctrinally and to live honestly in the world. This involves both “talk” and “walk.” True religion, according to James is found not only in knowing the word only but in doing the word as well. Someone has rightly said that “one of mankind’s greatest needs is to interpret Christianity in terms of service and how to attach the tremendous power of the Holy Spirit that is within us to the tasks of service.”
Second, Isaiah 1:11-17 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Here are people who are religious, but their religiousness that did not involve simple human goodness, justice, nor the understanding that true worship must by nature include interaction with other human beings.
We seem to have the uncanny ability to compartmentalize Christian relationships with only the “brethren,” while ignoring any contact with those who are “without.” We seem to have a different compartment into which we stick our humanitarian relationships. What we have to consider is that unless we reach out to the unsaved and “unwashed” people, so to speak, and show them the love and concern of Christ we have segregated ourselves from reality and live in a false fabricated religious environment.
One wonders how it is possible to believe with the religious part of one’s nature and believe that God is love while with the practical part of one’s nature one neglects, mistreats, and wrongly condemns others. Is it possible that while being the savor of life to some we are become the savor of death to others?
Illustration: David Livingston said, “Now, lad, (Livingston was a Scotchman) make religion the everyday business of your life, and not a thing of fits and starts.”
Thirdly, Amos 5:21-24 I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. 22 Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. 23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. 24 But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.
We must shed any preoccupying interest in the “things we ought to do,” to the exclusion of the “weightier matters ” that are equally if not more important. We must take our Christianity out of doors and forsake “petty rules” and not place our religious commitments in the giving of “mint and anise and cummin [Matthew 23:23ff], but of justice and mercy and faith. We should commit to a local church and be faithful in our commitment her. We ought to give freely of our resources to the work of the ministry. We must always be aware of how our behavior outside of these hallowed walls will affect others either pro or con to Christianity.
Illustration: Quintin Hogg boldly declared: “I do not care a rush what denomination you belong to, I do not very much care what special creed you profess, but I do care beyond all expression that the result of that creed in your daily life should be to make you a power for God amongst your fellowman…Christ set before us a life, as though to teach us that whereas theology was a science which could be argued about, religion was a life and could only be lived.”
Fourthly, Hosea 6:4-6 O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away. 5 Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth. 6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
Another example of the Christian life that has divorced itself from any practical goodness and practical daily usefulness is the life that segregates itself from life outside the church, living as though God wants us to hide ourselves in some temple instead of when outside we do not want to breath the same air as other humans breath.
We should let God be God not only when with us in corporate assembly but then segregating Him from using us to deal with the struggles of the rest of humanity who are outside of the assembly.
Jesus ate with the unclean and helped folks even on the “Sabbath.” He was demeaned as an enemy of God but quoted to them from Hosea,”Go ye and learn what this meaneth, I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”
Illustration: Henry Ward Beecher said, Religion means work. Religion means work in a dirty world. Religion means peril; blows given, but blows taken as well. Religion means transformation. The world is to be cleansed by somebody and you are not called of God if you are ashamed to scour and scrub.
Fifth, Jeremiah 7:3-11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. 4 Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these. 5 For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; 6 If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: 7 Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. 8 Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. 9 Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; 10 And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? 11 Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD.
Here the Spirit is talking about religious people who were zealous in their religious life and who loved hearing their own words saying, The Temple of the Lord, The Temple of the Lord, but who were abject failures when it came to living outside of the Temple of the Lord.
Illustration: One missionary who served on the Labrador coast said, Whether we, our neighbor, or God is the judge, absolutely the only value of our ‘religious’ life to ourselves or to anyone is what it fits us for and enables us to do.
We harbor defective ideas and forget or are ignorant of what is morally and religiously right. How, one wonders, while assembling together it possible for Christians to be kind, loving, fair-minded, seemingly forgiving, speaking not out against another Christian but then, upon leaving the holiness of the church environment, do, act, and say just the opposite?
Sixth, Ezekiel 33:30-32 Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD. 31 And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. 32 And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.
Here we see unmoral religion in a common form. The spirit of the people were amiable, they practiced good religious manners and religious sounding words and were eager and responsive to the principles of good behavior while gathered together with everyone loving to hear the world of God, especially concerning His will, but then fail to do His will upon leaving the assembled environment.
Illustration: If you’ve ever been to Colorado or Arizona when the Aspen trees were in full glory you marveled at the way the leaves when blown by the breeze looked like pure gold. They moved continuously but they moved nowhere.
Some outwardly and seemingly “religious” people receive an emotional uplifted responsiveness to the word of God, but do not reveal any activity of a practical nature. They delight in hearing the Word of God but lack any delight in living it.
We are aware of a “politically correct” behavior and all too ready to maintain a polite behavior among the brethren while in practice upon departing, being so religiously incorrect.
We love to hear the Word of God and are intent on learning the will of God for “our” lives and we emotionally respond to preaching of the gospel of grace but fail to practice to others the grace of the gospel. We love to hear lists of ways that our lives can be more full, more joyful, more complete, but in practice we are more interested in “diction” and less in “action.”
Seventh: Matthew 23:15-19,23-24 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. 16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! 17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? 18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. 19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
The holy men of old, solemnly preached against the immorality and the unmoral religious practice of the people of their day. Our Lord hated such things and spoke in flash, fire and thunder in ways the prophets could not do.
He hated the religious zeal without knowledge evidenced by the Pharisees and held them in to be in scorn. He spoke harshly against their pettiness, quibbling, bigotry, lack of love, dishonesty, ignorance of the true purpose of the Law and so on. Their brand of religious made them worse not better. What should have made them large only served to make them little. What should have made them generous made them stingy. What should have made them loving made themselves unlovable, What they taught they did not practice. What they demanded of others them themselves could only fail to do. Their religion made them worse and not better. They would have been better off without it.
What doth the Lord expect of us? Here are His own words for us to hear: Matthew 5:40-48…if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
I opened with a quote from Wm. Tiptaft. I close with another: This (kind of) religion is what I am seeking after—no other will satisfy or content me. May we not make this our prayer today! Prayer: O Lord, grant to us to love Thee more honestly, with all our hearts, our minds, our souls, and to love our neighbors all for your sake, glory, and honor. To love Thee more so that thy grace and charity and brotherly love dwell in us.
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