Know Your Bible

VOL. 7                           February 3, 2008                           NO. 2

Five Dangers Confronting The Church 

    When we think of all the issues we face as individual Christians, and congregationally, as the church, it is a daunting task to narrowly focus five subjects on a broad topic entitled "Five Dangers Confronting The Church." However, when we consider the principles of righteousness that should frame our thinking five things rise to the top 1) Suffering an identity crisis as Christians, 2) ingratitude -- our moral conscience becoming desensitized, 3) a lack of true love, 4) altering the invitation to our Lord Jesus, and 5) the "I" of the storm is ignorance and indifference. The greatest danger facing each of us is failing to accept personal responsibility as we seek to walk by faith.

    1) The church of Christ, suffering an identity crisis. Many churches are contemplating changing the sign that identifies the building erected for the purpose of assembling for worship. The plan is to remove the name of "Christ" from the identity of the congregation. Many are opting for simply, "The Church." How sad that a group professing faith in Christ would feel compelled to remove the name of Christ from their identity. While there are several designations given local groups in Scripture, when Paul referenced a multiplicity of groups in Rom. 16:16 he referred to them as "churches of Christ." Unfortunately, we sometimes allow denominationalism to cloud the way we think about the church.

    We must remember that our identity is determined by God Who adds us to His church, and not by a world that has adopted denominational theology. I fear that much of our thinking is being conformed by the world (rf. Acts 2:47; Rom.12:2). The designation "church of Christ" identifies that we are those who have been "called out" of darkness, and have been added to the church. As members of that body, we assemble with those of like faith. If we assemble in the name of Christ, as a church, our identity is the church of Christ.

    2) The second danger I consider confronting the church is that of ingratitude. According to Rom. 1, ingratitude leads to moral depravation. Those who do not glorify God as God, nor are thankful, will find themselves numbered among the vilest of sinners. Rom. 1:20-28 speaks of those who approve of those who practice immoral activities as condemned. We live in a time in which we are bombarded with wickedness and sexual immorality. Our conscience can become desensitized to this immoral behavior, and as it infiltrates our thinking, we lose our sense of truth and righteousness.

    The tragic end to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah serve as a reminder of the judgment against the morally depraved. How-ever, God will deliver the righteous. 2 Pet. 2:7 explains that Lot's righteous soul was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked. Though Lot lived in a society given to immorality he never altered his view of ungodliness. We face a great danger if we allow the ways of the world to define our standard of acceptable behavior.

    3) The third danger confronting the church is directed toward the heart of each member. It is a lack of true love. While we use the term love in many different ways, the Bible defines love as the motive by which we serve God and others Both terms in Scripture that define love, Agape and Phileo, carry the idea of one's intellectual decision accompanied by affection and compassion. Agape carries the idea of brotherly compassion. The danger confronting us is that we can begin to go through the motions of religious piety while losing our hear of purpose. Paul warns that we can give all that we have to feed the poor, but in the absence of love it profits nothing. When we love the Lord with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves, our behavior will be defined by proper thought and action (1 Cor. 13:1-8). Love never compromises principles of righteousness, but always seeks to bring one into fellowship with the truth, and into the body of Christ. Love keeps our motives pure! And, if we truly love God we will keep His commandments, and abide in His love (Jn. 14:23; 15:10).

    The other integral aspect of love is the expression of mercy. A great danger we face is when we refuse to extend to others what God has given to us. At the heart of love is mercy. In the absence of this kind of love our relationship with others, and in our relationship with God will be void (Lk. 6:38).

    4) The fourth danger we face is something I've labeled as "altering the invitation." Today, when various church groups make an appeal to the community in which they live to come to Christ, they often cloak the invitation in an assortment of physical amenities. The "potluck" in the multipurpose room has been super-sized into commercial kitchen, or a decorated cafe. Sadly, the gymnasium, basketball program, and various activities are the check list utilized to determine the attractiveness of a congregation.

    The invitation is no longer the simplicity of the gospel of Christ, but the "stuff" one may find to entertain or satisfy the social appetite. A quote from Newsweek magazine observes many who are looking for a church (inspect congregations as if they were restaurants and leave if they find nothing to their taste." The same article revealed, "...If a church or synagogue is to attract its share of the Baby-boomer market, it's not the name on the door but the programs inside."

    When Jesus encountered the woman at the well He plainly taught that "God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth" (Jn. 4:23,24). John McArthur, Jr., in his book Ashamed Of The Gospel: When The Church Becomes Like The World, fitly observes, "...using entertainment as a tool for church growth...was subverting the churches priorities. He feared that frivolous diversions and carnal amusements in the church would eventually destroy the people' appetite for real worship and preaching of God's Word." Jesus taught, "the flesh profits nothing, the words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life."

    Indeed, our religious society has altered the invitation. The Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (Jn. 16:8). What is being presented to many today is an accommodative doctrine that leaves men in their sin rather than delivering them from it.

    5) At the eye of the "I" of the storm we find the most destructive force of all dangers that confront us -- ignorance and indifference. When we comprehend that one who is ignorant or indifferent cannot receive God's grace or walk by faith we can begin to see the severity of the danger. Grace not only brings salvation, but teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:10,11). Additionally, faith embraces the substance of hope, and lives with conviction. The prophets foretold of the dangers of ignorance. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children."

    At the heart of the danger confronting the church is our failure to accept personal responsibility in our service to God. "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (Jas. 1:27). Many of the congregational benevolent activities are paraded about before others. Much of the religion practiced today is individuals placing a few dollars into a collection plate. Then the church sends a few dollars to a needy individual in institutional care. This is not God's design, but man's accommodative innovation to subvert conviction and God's call to service. Adam Clark comments on Jas. 1:27, states that true religion does not merely give something for the relief of the distressed, but it visits them, it takes the oversight of them, it takes them under its care, so (VISIT) means. It goes to their houses, and speaks to their hearts; it relieves their wants, sympathizes with them in their distresses, instructs them in Divine things and recommends them to God.

    When we consider that Paul taught individuals who had needy familial widows to refuse to allow the church to pay for their needs, it is incredulous to think men will charge the church for social suppers, places to play basketball, and a myriad of recreational activities.

    May we confront the dangers facing the church with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And, let us firmly stand, identifying ourselves as the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth, being united as the body of Christ, preaching Christ and Him crucified, and accepting personal responsibility as we practice pure and undefiled religion.

--- Dennis Carrow in What Is Truth, Nov. 2007, via The Sower, Vol. 53, No. 1, Jan/Feb 2008

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