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Lost In Church?

We have often heard that the people in the world are lost without Christ. But these days, many of us Christians are ourselves lost ~ lost in church. Lost in our journeys with the Lord, wandering in our own wildernesses and religious circles. The world at large is lost, and so is the church! This may seem highly impossible, but this is exactly what Jesus said would happen in Matthew 7:21-23:

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,'
shall enter the kingdom of heaven,
but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
Many will say to Me in that day,
'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name,
cast out demons in Your name,
and done many wonders in Your name?'
And then I will declare to them,
'I never knew you; depart from Me,
you who practice lawlessness!'

Looking closely at these verses, we will find that many of these "lost" people are not just ordinary church members sitting in the church pews every week but they are the leaders and the ministers in the church! They are not just a small isolated few individuals, but a large group of people! Jesus said many would be involved! If many of these Christian leaders are lost and going astray, many of their members and followers will be lost too. The apostle Peter revealed this lost condition of the church in 2 Peter 2:1-2:

But there were also false prophets among the people,
even as there will be false teachers among you,
who will secretly bring in destructive heresies,
even denying the Lord Who bought them,
and bring on themselves swift destruction.
And many will follow their destructive ways,
because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.

Many of them will deny the Lord, and will be denied by the Lord Himself! They may think that they have the spiritual gifts such as prophesying, casting out demons and working miracles, done even in the name of Jesus, but they are lawless in the sight of God, practicing lawlessness! What is lawlessness? It is summed up in just one word "unloving" - not loving God and others! Jesus again said in Matthew 24:12:

And because lawlessness will abound,
the love of many will grow cold.

The love of many Christians will grow cold. And many will be indifferent or lukewarm towards God and others. Many will lose their zeal and passion to seek God and to do His will! How does our love for God or others grow cold? The moment we embrace things of the world more than the things of God! The moment we esteem ourselves and our interests above those of others! The moment we start worshipping money instead of God! The moment we stop seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness!

But know this, that in the last days
perilous times will come:
For men will be lovers of themselves,
lovers of money, boasters, proud,
blasphemers, disobedient to parents,
unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving,
slanderers, without self-control, brutal,
despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
having a form of godliness but denying its power.
And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

We are living in very difficult times. The world climate may be in terrible crisis and condition but much worse is the condition and crisis of human hearts. For people will love only themselves, and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will not consider what is holy and what is not. They will be unloving and unforgiving. They will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their own friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasures rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Many Christians do not have close friends. If they do, their friends would be those they can exploit, take advantage of, use or misuse. And people like these are numerous among us! And we may be one of them.

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this:
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14)

Without obeying this one law, we become lawless, and practice lawlessness! Many Christians working inside the church and outside the church are lawless in God's eyes! We don't have agape love. God is not impressed with our sermons, our signs and wonders, our prophecies etc. Others look at the outside, God looks at the inside - the heart factor!

"Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature,
because I have refused him.
For the LORD does not see as man sees;
for man looks at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)

God looks at the heart, but man always chooses to look somewhere else. In fact, man still chooses to look at the outward appearances. Hollywood and Bollywood have entered the church arenas. Many churches have become show business! Many pastors and preachers have become entertainers and guru stars themselves. Most music in the churches today no longer draws men to God and God to men. The worship teams are performers, and the congregations have become the audiences, enjoying or not enjoying what they see, hear or feel! It is now all about how we feel and not how God will feel! Our preferences of likes and dislikes will determine how the church services will be conducted. In praise and worship, biblically speaking, God is the Audience of One, and we are the worshippers! And God desires true worshippers! Our utmost desire is to please Him and not ourselves!

Today, many people do not wish to listen to sound and wholesome teachings. They will follow their own desires, looking for preachers and teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth of God, chasing after myths and false teachings, and compromising with the standards and values of the world.

For the time will come
when men will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires,
they will gather around them
a great number of teachers to say
what their itching ears want to hear.
They will turn their ears away from the truth
and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

People love to look at other people either to admire, compare or criticize! And Christians are no exceptions! We love the visuals, the sounds and the razzle-dazzles! Sometimes, we secretly "worship" eloquent preachers and inspirational teachers, admiring them for their spiritual giftings and pulpit showmanship. We are called to worship the invisible God! But we choose to worship the visible! We love doing church, and going through the religious motions and activities! That's why Jesus would say that He does not know many of us. Many of us are known in our churches and congregations, but we may be unknown nobodies in God's eyes!

The Lord says:
"These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor Me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from Me.
Their worship of Me
is made up only of rules taught by men.
Therefore once more I will astound these people
with wonder upon wonder;
the wisdom of the wise will perish,
the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish." (Isaiah 29:13-14)

Many of us are far away from God! Many of us have lost the joy of our salvation, lost our faith in God, lost our trust in God and in man, lost our pursuit of holiness, lost our desires to do good, lost our passions to win souls, lost our love for God and others, and eventually we lost ourselves! Remember the story of the Israelites! They are God's chosen people, yet many of them strayed away from God even though God was with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week!

And the LORD went before them
by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way,
and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light,
so as to go by day and night. (Exodus 13:21)

God called His people stiff-necked, rebellious! They were like sheep who have gone astray, each turning to his own way! In fact, all of the Israelites died in the wilderness, and not one of them was left except Caleb and Joshua. Only their children and children's children entered into the Promised Land! That's why we must remain refreshed and renewed in our relationship with God. God is our Father, and we are His children! We cannot afford to be dull of hearing, having hardened hearts!

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

'Go to this people and say:
"Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them."' (Acts 28:26-27)

Judas Iscariot was with Jesus for 3½ years. He was the perfect example of one who is lost in church! He was personally chosen by Jesus Himself to be one of His 12 apostles! Very privileged and honored. He was in the same company with Jesus. He ate, slept, worked and journeyed with the Lord! He was the Lord's treasurer! Jesus entrusted him with all His finances! Judas had heard the best sermons spoken directly out of the mouth of Jesus! He saw the miracles, signs and wonders that Jesus did! He witnessed and experienced divine love as Jesus reached out and touched the multitudes! Judas also tasted the goodness of the Lord as Jesus washed his feet. He knew what true servanthood was! But in the end, he chose otherwise. He traded the life of a beloved Friend for 30 pieces of silver! He betrayed Christ! That's the saddest part of the gospel story when Judas committed suicide after all the damages were done! I believe Jesus had forgiven him. On the cross, Christ prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." I believe the pronoun "them" includes Judas. Though Jesus had forgiven him, but Judas just couldn't forgive himself! Like Judas, will we betray the Lord? or will we deny Him like Peter? or will we run away from knowing Him like the other apostles?

Peter denied knowing the Lord thrice but he came to his senses and repented. The Lord forgave him, and reaffirmed him! Like Peter, we must know our own hearts and spiritual conditions. The worst thing we can do is to pretend that we are alright when we are not. The sick must see a doctor, and the lost must find the way home! We cannot afford to go on doing the same things week in and week out! We must turn back and return to God! Like the prodigal son who was lost, we must realize our own wretchedness and go back to the Father in repentance! Before God the Father, we must be transparent. God sees and knows all things! He will forgive, He will restore! Never let our pride and ego prevent us from approaching God! And we may taste His amazing grace again!

Amazing grace!
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

Written on:
11 July 2007