Quill and writing

The Contemporary Church is I – Incorrigible

What makes this project a little difficult is seeing the array of indictments laid out alphabetically in front of me and, a bit like the mosquito in the nudist colony, pondering which one to address next!  We might well wonder how we got to such a situation.  In my own personal pilgrimage over forty years I can readily identify with Moses in the wilderness and/or the Israelites wandering through the dessert before entering Canaan.  What happened over those years?  Just this: I read carefully my Bible, listened to gifted teachers, read significant books and pursued God’s truth wherever it led me.  If today I possess any facility for recognising error it is only because I have diligently sought to discern that principled form of Christianity which God lays out for us in His Word.  Any bank worker will tell you that it is through a careful examination of real tender (notes & coins) that false currency can be detected.  But the analogy must now be extended.  Today, it is as if most of the currency in circulation is false while people continue using it anyway not caring that the contents of their wallets have never been ‘minted.’  But no, it’s worse.  When I sit down to examine their money with them, pointing out the flaws in the ink, the missing digits etc., they mount a robust defense and ridicule my analysis!  God’s people, like those Peter indicts, have become ‘wilfully ignorant’ (2Pet 3:5).  They are like naughty school children who will not learn their lesson.  Why don’t they perceive my motivation? (see Pr 27:5,6)

Does God’s Word address this situation?  Yes indeed!  Most loudly and clearly in the opening chapters of Jeremiah.  Let’s consider some of the similarities of that situation with ours today.  Please turn to Jeremiah Chapters 1à8 and notice:

  • Israel/Judah were being besieged by a foreign tyrant (Nebuchadnezzar) who would overturn their religious heritage and reduce them to slaves in exile; the glory which Queen of Sheba witnessed on her visit to Solomon was all but departed.  Likewise, any evangelical familiar with English history spanning the victories of Alfred the Great, John Wycliffe or Oliver Cromwell, in these days of evangelical irrelevancy (another letter ‘I’ to indict!) must surely recognise that ‘the glory has departed’ (1Sam 4:21).
  • The camp of Israel was resistant to Jeremiah’s correction. Their faces became angry at the sound of criticism (see 1:8,17); they turned hostile towards God’s messenger (see 1:19); they resisted the plain instruction of God’s law, preferring to determine for themselves right and wrong (see 2:31), not being willing to countenance divine judgement (see 2:35); they plugged their ears from the sound of God’s correction (see 3:7); they were unwilling to perceive the providence of God in judgement upon them (see 5:3); even their leaders were unwilling to perceive God’s disapproval (see 5:5,12); as a result their own hearts became hostile to the Word of God and they became unwilling to embrace Scripture as the only standard for living out every detail of their lives (see 6:10,15-17); finally, they settled for a worldview of human autonomy in which their own fickle thoughts had precedence over the authoritative Word of God in determining how they should live (see 7:24,26-28).

In conclusion, I wish I had £10 for every Christian friend/acquaintance whose resisted the sound of my alarm. Have I been occasionally a bit abrupt or at times over-generalised?  Have I been at times impatient?  Maybe, but except in recent years, I have dutifully attended their services and absorbed their messages, etc. Universally, my reflections have met with disdain or disregard from all but a tiny handful of those (generally) on the fringes.  There seems to prevail no appetite among the masses of ‘evangelicals’ to take serious stock of their present status quo and do the honourable thing – walk away from their ‘Church’ and find a more principled constituency of godly folk genuinely seeking first the kingdom of God (Matt 6:33). 

Now, let’s ask this question: Are there Scriptures that specifically warns the people of God (Christ’s Church) against its refusal to hear God’s voice? Are we anywhere warned against disobedience of the divine commandment en-masse? Yes, and its application to the NT Church is evident!  Historically, the Church was delivered from Egyptian slavery and led out into the dessert to become, through sanctification and various trials, a mighty army competent to enter Canaan and establish there a light for all nations (Deut 4).  They were to learn, under God’s tutelage, the practical blessings of obedience & the curses of disobedience to God’s holy covenant.  The Book of Joshua relates the conquest of Canaan by which the ancient Church ‘entered into God’s rest’ (Ps 95) – i.e. the promised land.  All of this is figurative.  It signifies how the Church now, ‘come of age’, is to prosecute the Great Commission (Matt 28) making all Gentile cultures and kingdoms subject to Jesus Christ as ‘ruler of the kings of the Earth’ (Rev 1:5). What does the NT say about this project? First, notice that St Paul recognised the relevance of Israel’s wilderness wanderings for his own day – and by implication for ours:

‘Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted…. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come’ (1Cor 10vs 1-4; 11).

Finally, consider how many, of the hundreds of thousands that marched out of Egypt, actually entered God’s rest (Canaan).  That’s right: just Joshua & Caleb!! The writer of Hebrews tells us, for our sober contemplation, quoting Ps 95, ‘For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey?’ (3:16-18). Therefore, to the incorrigible Christian Church today, God says, ‘Today, if you will hear His voice do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they saw My work. For forty years I was grieved with that generation and said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest’ (Heb 2:9-11).

In conclusion, ‘let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience (Heb 4:11). Which is to say, ‘Don’t be incorrigible!’