Times are changing around the world and Christians are being persecuted more now than at any time in history. Christianity is losing its influence in culture, education and politics. Recently while reading a book my wife bought by Erwin Lutzer The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent made me think on the waning influence of Christianity in the modern world and why this is so. No greater illustration of this than what has happened in Turkey. Turkey (Asia Minor) was at one time the epicenter of the explosion of Christianity with the Apostle Paul and the school of Tyrannus in Acts 19 where in the space of 2 years and three months every person in Asia Minor heard the word of the Lord Jesus and the Word of God grew mightily and prevailed.
Listen to the record of the power and influence of Christianity in which is now modern day Turkey:
Acts 19:8ff: And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.9 But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:12 So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.13 Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.17 And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.18 And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
“Prevailed” in the Greek means to exercise force, to wield power and to have the strength to overcome. The Word of God grew to the point it wielded power in the lives of the Christians, those that heard and even the culture. It had the power to overcome all the occult powers, evil spirits, religious arguments and physical ailments of the age. Look at the power of God over the forces of darkness. The Word of God first must grow and prevail in our lives before it can exercise power in our neighborhood, cities and nation. Is the Word of God prevailing today or has it been corrupted and water-downed. 2 Corinthians 2:17: For we are not, like so many, [like hucksters making a trade of] peddling God’s Word [shortchanging and adulterating the divine message]; but like [men] of sincerity and the purest motive, as [commissioned and sent] by God, we speak [His message] in Christ (the Messiah), in the [very] sight and presence of God. The word in the Greek for peddling means to be a retailer that would adulterate or water down their commodities to make a gain; to make money by selling anything and the merchandising of God’s Word for sordid gain. Have you ever turned on Christian television lately? Much of it is peddling the gospel to make a gain. Selling the Word of God to make money for luxurious mansions, cars, jewelry, jets and material gain. We have too many spiritual hucksters trying to sell the blessing of God for seed money. Doesn’t this sound like the indulgences of the Dark Ages when the Roman Catholic Church would sell salvation and other blessings for a price? This is a major reason that the Church is hurting and straying from its calling. We do not sell the Word of God like a commodity on the stock market. You cannot buy God or a blessing. Peter rebuked Simon the sorcerer for this and said “May your silver rot with you! Because you thought you obtain the gift of God by money.” Acts 8:20. The Word of God says such thinking is of those who are “depraved in mind and depraved of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” I Timothy 6:5. These “desires plunge people into ruin and destruction and cause people to wander from the faith.” I Timothy 6:9,10. Unfortunately many that preach these modern day indulgences are pastors and spiritual leaders in the Church and it is wreaking havoc on the witness of Christianity.
Not to get sidetracked: Paul and Barnabas also taught the gospel for a whole year in Antioch and the believers were first called Christians in Antioch which is in modern Turkey:
Acts 11:19ff: 19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Yet today Christianity is almost non-existent in Turkey as it is 99.8% Muslim and .2% Christian. What happened that Christianity has little influence in this region? Much of what we call the Islamic world today was once Christian. Islam is spreading rapidly in Western Europe with churches closing and being bought and turned into mosques and a rising anti-Christian sentiment in the public square and all walks of life. This is especially surprising given the violent nature of many in Islam and their increasing brutality and terrorism around the globe. Yet Christianity is becoming the hated “religion.”
Why do we not see the church in Acts in Christianity anymore? Where is the power? Where is the deliverance? Where is the passion? We have more passion for our football or basketball teams than we have for Jesus Christ. Where are the miracles? Where are the healings? This is supposed to be a daily occurrence in Christianity as God backs up His word and confirms it with signs, miracles and wonders. Do we just go through the motions but Christ is not a living reality in our hearts?
Mark 16:15-20 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
When the Lord works, there are signs, miracles and wonders. This type of power manifested did not go out with the Apostles of the First Century. It is available today and should be the norm in Christianity.
Look at the commission of Jesus’s own disciples:
Matthew 10:8: Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
Luke 10:17ff: The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
As Christians we have been given the authority of the name of Jesus Christ. We have full power of attorney rights. Satan is not falling like lightening because we are not walking in that authority. We are instead still in bondage to the Prince of the Power of the Air and the course of this world. We have been given power over the entire kingdom of darkness. Nothing can hurt us when we stand in that authority. Devil spirits will flee, sickness and infirmity will vanish and the power of God will explode on the scene by our faith in our Faithful God.
Do you believe this promise?
John 14:12-14: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
We are to God in the authority and power of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him we are unstoppable, immovable, unconquerable and a force to be reckoned with in this world. God needs laborers to go forth into the harvest in the valley of human need and to be witnesses to Him in the power of the Spirit.
Matthew 28:18,19a: 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
Immeasurable power is released when we believe. All things are under our feet and we are filled with the fullness of Christ:
Ephesians 1:18ff: Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Acts 5:12ff: Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
This type of power is absent in the church today. Signs and wonders were the norm. Even Peter’s shadow falling on the sick would heal them. Today many churches do not even believe in healing or claim sickness is the will of God. Even though God’s name is Yahweh Rapha, the Lord who heals. All those afflicted with unclean spirits or sicknesses were healed. Why don’t we this in the church today?
There is no political solution to the problems of America or the world. There is no economic solution for the problems of America or the world. It is much deeper. It is spiritual. Jesus Christ is the solution to every problem and ill and malaise of this world. Anything else is built on sinking sand. It is not a Republic or Democrat solution, a Russian or USA solution, a liberal or conservative solution for if you think so you are being deceived. The Body of Christ is to represent Jesus Christ to the world. Yet most of us have manifested more of what Jesus is not than what he is in our lives. Why is this so?
In thinking about what has gone wrong with modern Christianity I am not an expert or claim to have all the answers. I am not pointing fingers but am humbling thinking about what can be done to reverse this disturbing trend. I am going to bring up a few points that God has laid on my heart, but ultimately it has to be a God solution, not a man solution. It has to be a Bible solution and not a human reasoning or self-focused solution. Here are some genuine things to think about to restore the majesty and impact of Christianity in our times.
- We have failed to shine as the lights of the world and failed to be the salt of the earth becoming bland like the world.
Matthew 5:14,15: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
You (humeis) is emphatic meaning “you yourselves”.
Genuine faith in Christ turns a man from darkness to marvelous light, and transforms him into “light in the Lord”; his aims and objects, his desires, his speech, his actions, become full of divine light, which illuminates all the chambers of his soul, and then pours forth from the windows so as to be seen of men.
Your light – If you are a believer you are a supernatural “light”. And you are responsible for letting your light shine forth.
Let…shine – Jesus does not make a suggestion but as discussed below issues a command “Since you are light, then shine!” Shining is not optional for believers.
Let…shine (lampo) means to radiate brilliantly or beam forth. Jesus gives His a command to do this right now and do it effectively (aorist imperative – conveys the idea of urgency). This is a permissive imperative which means to permit your light to shine. Don’t do anything that will cover it, hide it or snuff it out. To shine is not optional! If we fail to obey our Lord’s command we will fail to fulfill His purpose for us in His glorious plan.
What Jesus intends is for believers to live out the Christ life which is in them (Col 1:27), a way and quality of life that is so different from that of the world (including the religious world) and so distinctive that it shines light into the darkness. Let the character of Jesus shine forth. The Puritan writer Thomas Brooks wrote that…A Christian’s life should be nothing but a visible representation of Christ. Has anyone mistaken you for Jesus lately? Am I truly living a life different from unbelievers? Is there anything about my life which one might recognize as supernatural? Am I giving a proper opinion of my Father by the way I live? The logic is clear and direct – just as the function of a household lamp is to give light in the house, so too believers are to provide illumination to all they encounter in this spiritually dark world.
Philippians 2:13-16: For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
The word used for lights is the same as is used in the creation record of the lights (sun and moon) which God set in the dome of the heavens to give light upon the earth. Paul is saying the saints at Philippi and by way of application believers of all ages are to shine out in stark contrast to the darkness of this godless society shining forth as “heavenly bodies of light” (lights powered from heaven) stationed upon the earth enshrouded in the darkness of sin. We are now “light in the Lord” and are to reflect the glory of the Lord in the middle of this present darkness. The darker the night, the brighter the light appears. Christians are lights or light-bearers. They cannot create any light, but they can reflect the glory of the Lord so that others may see Jesus in them.
Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
We are supposed to be the salt of the Earth, as something that gives flavor to make a meal taste good. But when we are not attracting the lost, but rather repelling them, then our salt has lost its savor. What makes it even worse is that we are even repelling the saved.
I Peter 2:9 (NIV) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Ephesians 5:8-16 (NIV):For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
- We have forgotten about the gift of holy spirit received at the new birth and it lies dormant and ineffectual in our daily living.
Acts 1:8: But you will receive (lambano-into manifestation) power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Acts 2:38: And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
II Timothy 1:6: Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you.
I Corinthians 12:7: But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
A born again believer received the gift of holy spirit at the time of the new birth conversion. It is power, a comforter, a teacher, an enlightener and a fruit producer. God has given us none manifestations to operate in I Corinthians 12 and we must begin to walk by the Spirit, fanning into a flame that burns the chaff in our lives and sets our hearts on fire for God.
- We have failed to live sanctified from the world:
2 Timothy is Paul’s last book. All Asia had turned away from Him. Principal keys for the Christian, for leaders and for the church how not to fall into apostasy.
2 Timothy 2:20-22: But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
John 17:14-19: I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
What do you desire for your life as a Christian? Do you long for a heart that is aflame for God or extinguished by the world? Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to the passions of this world. We love Jesus being our Savior but hold back in making Him our Lord in everything. We still want to sit on the throne of our heart and run our own life. We want to get our ticket to heaven and return to living the way we were before. We will make no impact for the gospel of Jesus Christ with this thinking.
Skip Moen in Spiritual Restoration: Sanctification is not about becoming perfect. It is about becoming perfectly His. It is about giving more and more of my life over to God for His possession. When God met Moses at the burning bush, he took off his sandals to show he had no ownership of the ground he stood on. It belonged to God. That’s what we must do-transfer ownership to Him, give up our claims and consecrate ourselves to His purposes. God is not asking for the perfect life. He is asking to set aside the life we have entirely for Him.
- Oh Ye of Little Faith: We have so little faith as Christians today as there is a great need for a revival of faith in the church. Our entire culture is designed to build fear and unbelief in the promises of God and doubt as to God’s true character and His enduring faithfulness. We have more faith in the devil to afflict and oppress us than in the power of God to deliver us, change us, empower us, and demonstrate His mighty nature in and through us.
. We have made God too small; our vision of God is mundane and tiny; we do not see or understand the character of God and just who He is, and thus our faith is miniscule, weak and shipwrecked on the island of doubt, worry and fear. Faith must once again come alive with a holy vibrancy rooted in the unchangeable truth that our God cannot lie and the promises of His Word are awaiting to be ignited in our heart by our audacious faith that God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. True Faith has absolute confidence that our God is able and willing to bring about the impossible, the miraculous, the supernatural and the extraordinary in our lives. How many times did Jesus chide his disciples and followers saying “O ye of little faith!”? We must elevate our faith in Him to the mountaintop where it belongs and, if we are ever to live the audacious, vibrant, bold and world-changing Christian life, we must have faith that moves mountains.
Eric Ludy: Do we know the power and grandeur of God in our day? Does our generation comprehend that the God of the Bible is without “shadow of turning” and that He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” There is a vast shortage of believers who simply believe with childlike faith that God will do what He says He will do and is worthy of our trust and is always faithful to His Word. Romans 4:19-21 (KJV)- 19And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb:20He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
There’s nothing our world needs more desperately today – in individuals, families, businesses, churches, and communities – than God’s saving, supernatural acts. And he’s ready to act if we will be bold enough to ask, not just for a good day or a better life, but for the impossible. Then step forward to act in audacious faith.
Each of us is called to be a Joshua—each in our own way, in our own circumstances, with our own God-given personality. As you’ll see in the pages ahead, you and I are called not just to have faith, but also to regularly activate our faith by asking God for giant outcomes, taking giant steps. If we have the audacity to ask, God has the ability to perform. That’s how God turns His amazing promises into everyday reality in every generation—for Joshua’s and for ours.You and I may not see the same miracles Joshua did, but we serve the same God. His nature never changes. The same power that stopped the sun and raised Christ from the grave lives in every believer. God still demonstrates His power and supplies His provision in direct proportion to the faith of his children.
Mark 11:22-24 (NIV):
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
“Have the faith of God” (Young’s Literal Translation)
Do you have the faith of God? Or do you have the doubt of the world? Do you believe that God can move mountains through your faith? Or are you consumed with the avalanche of fear and anxiety and not confident that our God can and will move mountains with this God-inspired faith and child-like trust in Him and Him alone? Would you ask God for the sun to stand still? Or is that just too big and too impossible for your faith? God has not changed. He still loves and passionately desires to do the impossible. He is waiting for one person to energize His faith and move out with audacious faith that there is a God in heaven with unlimited power and ability who loves to move and rule in the affairs of men and women.
- We Love the World and the things of the world more than we love God.
Jesus life-changing question to Peter: “Do you love me more than these?”
I John 2:16,17: 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
2 Timothy 2:3,4: Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
James 4:1ff: (Voice): Where do you think your fighting and endless conflict come from? Don’t you think that they originate in the constant pursuit of gratification that rages inside each of you like an uncontrolled militia? 2 You crave something that you do not possess, so you murder to get it. You desire the things you cannot earn, so you sue others and fight for what you want. You do not have because you have chosen not to ask. 3 And when you do ask, you still do not get what you want because your motives are all wrong—because you continually focus on self-indulgence. 4 You are adulterers. Don’t you know that making friends with this corrupt world order is open aggression toward God? So anyone who aligns with this bogus world system is declaring war against the one true God. 5 Do you think it is empty rhetoric when the Scriptures say, “The spirit that lives in us is addicted to envy and jealousy”? 6 You may think that the situation is hopeless, but God gives us more grace when we turn away from our own interests. That’s why Scripture says, God opposes the proud, but He pours out grace on the humble.7 So submit yourselves to the one true God and fight against the devil and his schemes. If you do, he will run away in failure. 8 Come close to the one true God, and He will draw close to you. Wash your hands; you have dirtied them in sin. Cleanse your heart, because your mind is split down the middle, your love for God on one side and selfish pursuits on the other.
Quote from my upcoming book The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life:
The world will never love you like God loves you. He will never leave or forsake you, and He will always lead you in the path of true righteousness. Isn’t He worthy of owning ALL your heart and not just part of it? Why give away even the smallest part of your heart to the world? The world will never satisfy like God satisfies. It will only betray you in the long run like an unfaithful lover and lead you down a path of destruction.
Has your hearing become so dull, our eyes so blind, that you are giving leftovers of your heart to God? Francis Chan, in Crazy Love, says:
God wants our best, deserves our best, and demands our best. . . . [Yet] God gets a scrap or two only because we feel guilty for giving Him nothing. A mumbled three-minute prayer at the end of the day, when we are already half asleep. Two crumbled-up dollar bills thrown as an afterthought into the church’s fund for the poor. . . . We say to the Creator of all this magnitude and majesty, “Well, I’m not sure You are worth it. You see, I really like my car or my little sin habit or my money, and I am really not sure I want to give them up.” . . . How can we think for even a second that anything on this puny little earth compares to the Creator and Sustainer and Savior of it all?
This is the great deception of the kosmos, that God is not worthy of our best love, our first love, our greatest love. We give God only leftover scraps from the table of our hearts and forget His majesty and grandeur and how much how much our hearts need Him. Jesus declares to the church at Ephesus, “I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). Does God really satisfy you? Are you consumed with God? Is God your first love? Carter Conlan, in The 180 Degree Christian; Serving Jesus in a Culture of Excess, says:
What I believe grieves God most is we have robbed Him of our hearts. It is as if He would say to us, “You have robbed Me of the full heart of surrender that I was looking for that would have allowed Me to fill you from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet. If only you would have turned to Me! I would have caused you to live such a profound life that you would have stood out as a light shining in a darkened world.”
6: We don’t want to give up our idols:
Kyle Idleman in Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart says:
Idolatry is the number one issue in the Bible…Idolatry comes into every book…What if I told you that every sin you are struggling with, every discouragement you are dealing with, even the lack of purpose you’re living with are because of idolatry?…Idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather it’s the one great sin that all others come from. So if you start scratching at whatever struggle you’re dealing with, eventually you’ll find that underneath it is a false god. Until that god is dethroned, and the Lord God takes His rightful place, you will not have victory. Idolatry isn’t an issue; it is the issue. All roads lead to the dusty, overlooked concept of false gods. Deal with life on the glossy outer layers and you might never see it; scratch a little beneath the surface, and you will begin to see that it is always there, under some coat of paint. There are a hundred million different symptoms, but the issue is always idolatry.
I John 5:21: Little children, keep yourselves from idols. I Corinthians 10:14: Flee from idolatry.
An idol is anything that is more valued, loved, sought after, desired and honored than God. An idol is worshipped in place of God and becomes the obsession, passion and craving of the heart above all else. Timothy Keller in, Counterfeit Gods, says:
What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God. It is anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought. It can be family and children, or career and making money, or achievement and critical acclaim, or saving “face” and social standing. It can be romantic relationship; peer approval, competence and skill, secure and comfortable circumstances, your beauty or your brain, a great political or social cause, your morality or virtue, or even success in the Christian ministry…An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure”…If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol.
Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2010), 5.
Do you have an idol that has captured your heart? What are you most devoted to? What occupies almost all your time? What commands your attention? What do you think about constantly? What makes you happy above all other things? What gives your life value and meaning? What absorbs you on a daily basis and controls your life? What consumes you? What can you not live without? What drives you on a daily basis? These questions are a litmus test to determine what idols you may have in your heart. These are mountaintop questions meant to reveal what has climbed to the peak of your heart. Martin Luther said, “Whatever your heart clings to and relies upon is your God; trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and idol.”
At the root of all idolatry is a misplaced trust in some person, object, idea or image above God. We trust the idol to make us whole and give us value. We have faith in the idol to fulfill its promises. We believe the idol more than we believe God. We lean on our idol in times of trouble. The idol has captured the gaze of our eyes. The idol becomes the voice we listen to. The idol energizes us to action.
We must tear down the altars to other idols in our hearts and worship the on true God always.
7: Christians have failed miserably to walk in unity but instead criticize, judge and destroy one another with their words, attitudes and actions.
Can you imagine that there are 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations? Are we missing something? Isn’t this another reason why Christianity has lost its effectiveness? Look at church history and it is not a pretty picture. Wars, inquisitions, bitter strife and schisms, persecutions, killings and hatred. How can the Body of Christ accomplish anything on earth when all of its members are warring against each other and pointing the finger of judgment? Nothing makes a mockery of Christianity more than disunity among believers. The Devil does everything in his power to keep the church divided as disunity has become a major obstacle in reaching the world with a life-changing gospel.
Look at the example of the First Century Church:
Acts 4:32-34a: Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them…
Acts 2:42-47: The community continually committed themselves to learning what the apostles taught them, gathering for fellowship, breaking bread, and praying.43 Everyone felt a sense of awe because the apostles were doing many signs and wonders among them. 44 There was an intense sense of togetherness among all who believed; they shared all their material possessions in need. 45 They sold any possessions and goods that did not benefit the community and used the money to help everyone in need. They were unified as they worshiped at the temple day after day. In homes, they broke bread and shared meals with glad and generous hearts. 47 The new disciples praised God, and they enjoyed the goodwill of all the people of the city. Day after day the Lord added to their number everyone who was experiencing liberation.
It takes humility, gentleness, patience and love to walk in unity as Christians. Are you eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace or eager to cause division and strife in the church by your judgmental attitude and critical words?
Ephesians 4:1-7: I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
There are to be NO divisions in the church but we are supposed to be united in the same mind and judgment. But instead we say oh I follow Calvin, oh I follow Luther, oh I follow the Pope, oh I follow the prosperity gospel and on and on and on. We quarrel over everything and bring mockery to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have emptied the cross of Christ of its power in modern day Christianity by our divisive actions.
I Corinthians 1:10ff: I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
We remain infants in Christ, never growing into maturity because there is jealousy, strife and division among us as we walk according to the flesh and not the spirit.
I Corinthians 3:1ff: But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
Colossians sets for the standard, the measuring rod for every Christian.
Colossians 3:12ff: Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
There are to be no divisions by race, culture, geography, gender or denomination.
Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
I Corinthians 12:12ff: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
We must stop the hatred, the division, the slander and the finger pointing among different Christian groups and denominations. Everyone thinks they are right and the other group is wrong. Remember we are all members of the Body of Christ and are supposed to be one in Christ Jesus. We will never be effective in the gospel until we put aside our petty squabbles and begin to walk in unity and love among each other. Romans 12 says in honor we are to prefer one another above ourselves. It is sad commentary in my over 40 years as a Christian when I have been persecuted, put down, criticized, slander and hated, 99% of the time it is coming from other Christians. Christians trying to destroy other Christians’ lives and ministries is far too common in modern day Christianity. The Devil is called the accuser of God’s brethren (Revelation 12:10) Why should we become his evangelists and spokepersons when we slander and judge our very own Christian brothers and sisters. The Bible says in Ephesians that NO corrupt communication is to come our mouths about anyone or anything but our words are to edify and minister grace to the hearers (Ephesians 4:29. What a change that would be. The Bible says we are to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32). Where has the kindness and forgiveness gone in churches today. Why do we backbite and gossip and judge so much? Maybe we have forgotten what we were forgiven for. At every opportunity, we are to do good to everyone especially those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Do you know much impact a kind word has, a tender touch and a helping has? Or are we like the priest and Levite who walk to the other side of the street when they see someone in need? Where is the compassion? Where is the love? Where is the empathy? We are supposed to walk and think Jesus Christ! (Philippians 2:5, I John 2:6, I Peter 2:24). How we have fallen short! We must watch out as Galatians wars that we do not bite and devour and are consumed by one another instead of spreading the gospel in word and deed (Galatians 5:15).
Let us heed Jesus’s prayer: John 17:20-23: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
8: Failure to Love: Waxed cold on love and waxed hot on gossiping, tearing down, criticism and judgment.
The Bible speaks eloquently to these issues. Now is the time to hear and obey it.
Matthew 24:12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will wax cold.
John 2:3-11: And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because[a] the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him[b] there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
John 13:35: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Ephesians 5:2a: And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…
Colossians 3:12ff: Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
- Not Rendering Sin Unemployed:
Romans 6:4-6.11-13 (Amplified):
We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, so we too might habitually live and behave in newness of life. For if we have become one with Him by sharing a death like His, we shall also be one with Him in sharing His resurrection by a new life lived for God. We know that our old unrenewed self was nailed to the cross with Him in order that our body which is the instrument of sin might be made ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might no longer be the slaves of sin. Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God, living in unbroken fellowship with Him, in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore rule as king in your mortal, short-lived, perishable bodies, to make you yield to its cravings and be subject to its lusts and evil passions. Do not continue offering or yielding your bodily members and faculties to sin as instruments tools of wickedness. But offer and yield yourselves to God as though you have been raised from the dead to perpetual life, and your bodily members and faculties to God, presenting them as implements of righteousness. For sin shall not any longer exert dominion over you, since now you are not under Law as slaves, but under grace as subjects of God’s favor and mercy.
Colossians 3:5(a) Amplified:
So kill, deaden, deprive of power the evil desire (lust) lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]…
Galatians 5:24, 25 (KJV):
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for.
If our lives are centered in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit.
We yield our hands, feet, mouth, eyes, ears and heart as tools of righteousness to our God, and never allow our body to be an instrument of sin.
- Silenced as to the gospel. Most Christians are ashamed to speak the gospel of Christ in the public arena. We have become passive in witnessing and sharing of the truths of God’s Word. We fear man more than we fear God. We are fearful of what people may think, fearful of being labeled a religious nut, fearful of rejection and ridicule, fearful of not being accepted and liked by our friends, neighbors and culture that we are silenced. We refuse to open our mouths and witness to the greatest message ever in the history of the world. We forget that Jesus was despised and rejected of men, hated by the religious established, mocked by the winds of culture. Romans 10:8-17: But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
You have been sent to preach this word of faith, the gospel, to every living person. No one can believe unless they hear and no one can hear without a preacher, someone holding it forth to them. We are all commissioned preachers of the gospel. We preach in two ways: By our words and by our lives. We are living epistles known and read of all people. (2 Corinthians 3:2). Our lives are preaching 24 hours a day which may turn many off from our words of sharing the truth of God’s Word. If we preach love, but judge, gossip and hate others our message has lost its power. If we preach Lordship but are sold out to the lusts of our flesh and our own selfishness than our message has little impact. If we preach compassion but refuse to give to meet the needs of others than our message becomes hypocritical. Our love must not be hypocritical or two-faced as Romans 12:9 declares. We cannot play the part when it comes to love. We do not become an actor when it comes to loving others. Putting on a show but really not caring much.
2 Corinthians 5:17-20: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
We have the ministry of reconciling men, women and children back to God and the word of reconciliation to accomplish this as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are an ambassador of Jesus Christ! Are you a silent ambassador with the ministry of reconciliation closing its doors in your life? Are people not hearing the gospel because you have chosen to remain silent?
We should hold forth the Word of life with boldness mixed with tenderness, grace, mercy and love in the power of the Holy Spirit. We should be like Stephen that people could not resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking (Acts 6:10).
Colossians 3:5,6: Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
11. Lack of Devotion to Pray and Study and Meditation of the Word
O how we have underestimated the power of prayer!!God has provided us a defense and power that will enable us to stand against the schemes and flaming arrows of our enemy-the Prayer of faith. Eric Ludy-Prayer is not some bb gun that God has given us to try to shoo away raccoons in the night. Prayer is nuclear power, world renovating in its epic strength. When used according to the pattern of Scripture, prayer alters history, alters the natural world, and alters the human soul. The Sword of the Spirit is too heavy for a mere man to carry, but prayer enables us to lift it, swing it, and transform the world around us with it. Prayer is the catalyst behind everything Godly taking place in the earth.
A. W. Tozer portrayed a praying Christian as a constant threat to the stability of Satan’s government writing that…
The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God. Since prayer is detrimental to the evil one’s purposes, Satan and his minions do their utmost to interfere when we pray especially opposing us when we try to take time for prayer because the enemy knows better than most Christian’s the power of persistent prayer! In any posture, in any attire, at any time, in any place, and under any circumstance prayer is appropriate. Prayer is to be a total way of life, an open and constant communion with God.
Bona fide, heaven-inspired prayer-the kind that moves mountains and calms storms-is not something the modern church is use to. Prayer in our modern day has been diminished, and as a direct result, the power of the church of Jesus Christ has seemingly vanished. We are not a triumphant lot anymore, but rather a weak, sin-stained, defeated one. We lost our strength, our confidence, our absolute assurance that God is with us in battle. So many amongst our ranks are literally scared to fight because they honestly don’t know if they are going to win if they do. Lion-hearted prayer warriors are rare these days. Men and women with wild and holy abandon are so few nowadays as to be confused with being non-existent. Could it be you are the stuff of prayer legends and God is saying to you right now, “Its time my son or daughter. Rise up and live this life like you mean it!!” Will you be a part of a legendary generation of prayer heroes? Do you want a greater cause, a greater purpose, a greater destiny to fill your life? Then become a lionhearted prayer warrior for God.
EM Bounds- Our praying needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied and a courage that never fails.
Colossians 4:2 (NASB)-Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; I Thessalonians 5:17 (NASB)-Pray without ceasing. Phillips-Never stop praying. Romans 12:12 (NIV) Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
AW Tozer-The man who would know God must spend time with Him. True prayer demands more of our lives than most are willing to give and therefore few ever taste of its power and delights. You need to be radical in your prayer life.
2 Timothy 2:15: Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
John 5:39a; Search the Scriptures
Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.In all that he does, he prospers.
We should be spending at least an hour a day in prayer and the Scriptures. We must make time for God in our busy lives. He must be number one priority. We must train our minds to think about Scripture during the day and meditate upon God’s promises. There is nothing better to think about. One hour a day can transform you, your family and the church in amazing ways. You will begin to reflect the image of Christ more and think like Jeus instead of like the world.
These 11 points are not a comprehensive list by any means but they will help the Body of Christ get back on track as shine as a bright light in this crooked world.
Goodness of God Ministries http://www.thegoodnessofgod.net