The Church is in Great Need of Another Reformation – But of a Different Kind
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
We have written on this passage of Scripture before but are compelled to call your attention to it again.
Consider the present condition of the visible church as seen in many if not the majority of local churches at this very moment —
- Habitually wicked people are considered to be Christians.
- Pedophiles find easy sanctuary in the pews and even in the pulpits.
- Those oppressed by wolves in wool are further oppressed by church leaders and members when they seek help.
- Scandalous evil is regularly exposed in church leaders of “notoriety,” and this exposure is most often not effected by the formal church, but by secular agencies, and christian ‘watch-blogs’.
- False doctrine, the traditions invented by men, is paraded as the authoritative Word of God and by it many are enslaved to cruel bondage.
- The very existence and reality of evil is denied by those who profess Christ’s name, and when it is uncovered among them they typically strive to cover it up.
This sorry state of affairs in the visible household of God is an exact example of what Paul says is “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” And THAT is where a new and mighty reformation needs to begin: with the exposure and rebuke of men and women whose religion is not at all of Christ but which claims His name. For the religion which prevails in so much of the visible church is like what the Pharisees promoted: white and shiny on the outside, but rotten and dead and stinking in reality.
How do you deny the power of true godliness (Christianity)? Let me suggest to you that this denial is a denial of the necessity and nature of the new birth — the new birth that our Lord told Nicodemus about (John 3). It is a denial of the regenerating and indwelling work of the Spirit in the New Covenant. It is a religion that is nothing more than words engraved on stone like the Old Covenant, impossible to be performed by man, able only to condemn.
Oh sure, most any pastor or local church member talks all the time about the new birth, about getting saved, about needing to be born again. But the POWER of it all is, in practice, denied. In this corrupt and shallow religious ethos, anyone who says they believe in Jesus, no matter how ungodly their life may be in practice, is regarded as a Christian. In this ethos, folks who claim to be Christians are not expected to love the Lord, to love one another, to bear Christ’s fruit, to be able to hear Christ’s voice. Nor are they expected to be able to discern, and refuse to follow, false shepherds. All this is a denial of the power of godliness. It is an outward form of religion that has no Spirit in the heart.
And our churches are full of such people. Look for example (and there are many others) at the condition of one of the largest denominations in the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention. We know from firsthand and regular reports of abuse victims that SBC churches are havens for the wicked. Yes, there are exceptions here and there, but as a whole you must not expect to find the Spirit of Christ truly dwelling in an SBC church. Yes, yes, I can hear the loud protests now. “How dare you say such a thing!!” How dare we? We dare because it is true. And of course, the SBC is only one example of the denial of the power of godliness.
Might I suggest that the state of the Protestant/Evangelical church today is just as rotten as the condition of the “church” in Martin Luther’s time? Men exalt themselves to virtual papal power. Corrupt men, as we keep seeing over and over again. Voices of those who would call for reformation and repentance are shouted down (though with increasing ineffectiveness due to social media). Innocents who stand for Christ’s truth are ex-communicated. How is this really any different in spirit than in the 1500’s when Rome ruled?
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:11-17)
The treatment of domestic abuse victims in and by local churches today is pathetic and wicked. We all know that and we can prove it with myriads of witness testimonies. This in itself is enough proof to say that the professing Christian church of our day is an entity that has the form/appearance of godliness but in fact denies the power of godliness. It is a sham. It is a shiny temple full of demons in desperate need of a King to come who will take His whip and drive the evil out of His Father’s House.
And He is coming.
Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. (Psalms 98:8-9)
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