“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” – Galatians 5:1 (NKJV)
I attended a Fourth of July celebration at church this morning. I wore red and white – not for the flag but for the cross. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18, NKJV).
I came for the choir, not the special music. The former group worships in spirit and in truth. The latter group delights in pomp. They sing about the Spirit (among other things), but they don’t know him. What I witnessed this morning reflected my previous judgment of these two groups.
Yet I didn’t expect to hear lavish praise bestowed on unworthy people. I didn’t expect to see followers blinded by leaders’ success. I didn’t expect to see the maestro lead the congregation in “silent prayer” for a pastor recuperating from surgery. [What a stupid concept!] His opening prayer last year was beautiful and heart-felt. This year, the maestro didn’t pray at all. Later the special music group leader said, “Let’s give God a moment.” Why not the whole service?
I’ve known for months now that this congregation does not know how to worship. They don’t know the fullness or baptism of the Holy Spirit. They’re like the rattling bones in Ezekiel 37:7-8 – a lot of noise but no living breath. Yet I didn’t understand why until today. I supposedly live in “the city with spirit.” But the Holy Spirit cannot flow where idols and sin reside.
True freedom in worship requires no bondage. This church does not freely worship the God of the cross because of idolatry. They worship the god of country instead. [The special music group and the university it represents worship the god of self!] I’m not alone in this observation. Read blog posts by Relevant Magazine and Red Letter Christians.
“History shows us how easy it is for Christians to forget that the Kingdom Jesus came to establish is “not of this world” (John 18:36, TNIV). And it’s to His Kingdom we are to pledge our sole allegiance. Throughout history we find Christians buying the age-old pagan lie that God uniquely favors their country, and their national enemies are God’s enemies. Believing that lie, patriotic Christians have tragically followed the orders of earthly rulers and marched into battle “for God and country,” rather than following the example of Jesus—who gave His life for the people who persecuted Him.” – Greg Boyd (RM)
“When acts celebrating America are treated as aspects of worshipping and serving God, Christian identity, the nature of the church and the character of God are misrepresented. All this negatively impacts discipleship and undermines Christian unity in a divided world, thereby hindering the church in its ministry of reconciliation.” – Craig Watts (RLC)
During songs on physical freedom like “I’m Proud to be an American,” they stand and clap. During songs on spiritual freedom like Rita Springer’s “This Blood,” they stoically sit. Only near the end do they bother to stand. Even then they don’t sing or raise their hands. Jesus Christ deserves more praise than that.
Idolatry is a funny thing. First spiritually, then emotionally, and finally physically people become less than human. They become deaf, dumb, blind, and motionless like the idols they worship. What I witnessed in church were statues, not human beings. The same thing is happening in churches across America. They’ve forgotten that their true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 1:27). All earthly kingdoms will pass away, but God’s kingdom is eternal (Matthew 24:35).
Here’s the worst part. The church this morning was asleep. She didn’t hear the alarms – the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA, homosexual and atheistic education in the military and in public schools, the 40th “anniversary” of Roe v. Wade resulting in the deaths of millions of unborn babies, or the 51st “anniversary” of removing school prayer resulting in the deaths of millions of children’s souls. Instead, the church hit the snooze button and conducted business as usual: laughing instead of weeping in repentance, standing instead of kneeling in humble prayer.
Is any citizenry in the world today as patriotic as Americans? Is any nation less deserving? We had spiritual freedom once. Day after day, month after month, and year after year we are losing it. America is no longer a Christian nation. She said “no” to freedom in Christ a long time ago. Therefore, she has been “entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).
Yet the church won’t acknowledge this truth. She won’t open her eyes to the reality of spiritual bondage. The church today is asleep and nothing wakes her up. It’s 11:59pm spiritually in America, but sounding the alarm is useless as long as the church hits the snooze button! Instead, she conducts business as usual: cancelling Sunday evening services, having pool parties, and making movies – anything but prayer vigils.
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets sounded the alarm to Israel c. 586 BC. God told his people to break up the sin parties and repent (Joel 1:13-14, 2:1, 2:12-17). But the idolatrous nation and its spiritual leaders didn’t listen. They hit the snooze and conducted business as usual. So God let King Nebuchadnezzar destroy Jerusalem and kill its citizens. Those obedient to God were taken captive to Babylon, there to be made witnesses and purified for the promised return (Jeremiah 29-33). The disobedient fled to Egypt (a symbol of sin and backsliding) and were destroyed.
Jesus Christ sounded the alarm to Israel c. AD 30. With John the Baptist as forerunner, Jesus and his disciples toured the countryside, preaching the gospel of the kingdom and telling people to repent (Matthew 3:2, 4:17, 10:7). Some citizens and spiritual leaders listened. Others hit the snooze and conducted business as usual. Jesus wept over them in response (Matthew 23:37-39, Luke 19:41-44). Then in AD 70 he let Rome destroy Jerusalem and kill its citizens. Because they did not know the time of their visitation, not one stone was left upon another (Luke 19:44, 21:6). Israel could have avoided Masada if she had embraced her Messiah.
One day very soon – next year, next month, next week, or tomorrow – the church in America will not be free to ignore the alarm. She will not be free to worship both the flag and the cross. The church will have to choose. God will allow this fiery trial to purify his people. Only then will the government know where our true allegiance lies. Only then will we ourselves know.
Let us as a church stop hitting the snooze button. Let us stop conducting business as usual every week. Let us humble ourselves and repent. Let us forsake the idols of nation and self and embrace the cross. Even then, God will not heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14). What he will bring is the final test, leading to rapture or doom. The end is near. Let us sound the alarm!
“Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand. … “Now, therefore,” says the LORD, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. … Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room. Let the priests, who minister to the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar; let them say, “Spare Your people, O LORD, and do not give Your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'”
– Joel 2:1, 12-13, 15-17 (NKJV)