Recently I have been inundated with a flux of materials whose common theme is the imminent demise of the church. Let me just use the words of Mark Twain here who, upon hearing that the New York Times had published his obituary, said, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."
To those who are in alarm over the current condition of the church, let me remind you that the Lord of the Church said, "I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18 KJV).
With that said, I have to quickly admit that the church in general is sick. The late country preacher Vance Havner observed, "This is a day of anarchy in the world, apostasy in the professing church, and apathy in the true church." I think he's right.
The reason so many today do not believe the message of the church, is because the church, it seems, does not believe her own message. We have people claiming to be Christians while supporting all sorts of immoral lifestyles, denying the truth of the Scriptures they claim to believe, and living like those who do not even profess to believe.
Havner said, "Are we entering upon the last days and God is sifting His people?"
There is beginning right now a separation between the great crowd of Sunday morning churchgoers and those who really mean business with God.
On the one hand, we have the mass of nominal Christians who belong to the church because the family does or because it is the nice thing to do, who draw nigh to God with their mouths and honor Him with their lips while their hearts are far from Him.
These will soon be shown up in their true colors; they will trim their sails to catch the breeze and end up in one great apostate aggregation in league with the powers that be, the world, the flesh, and the devil.
On the other hand, is the faithful remnant who fear the Lord and speak often one to another, saints from all the church bodies, drawn together by a common love for Christ. These will be melded together in fires of testing and a comradeship like that of the early Christians in the catacombs of Rome.
For although saints now living will not go through the final Great Tribulation, if our Lord tarries, many of them may see great tribulation. Judgment is beginning today at the house of God and we shall see who is who in the days ahead.
As we begin 2012, let me challenge those of you who call yourselves church members. We talk about church loyalty but it seems that we have to beg and coax and almost bribe church members to come to church.
Here is what I know: People go where they want to go. Where their hearts are their heels will follow.
But far deeper than church loyalty we must have a loyalty to Christ loyalty, that grows out of love to Christ. A lot of people talk about loving Christ while at the same time they are living for the devil.
Jesus makes it simple, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15 NIV).
It's not rocket science. The true follower of Christ will indeed follow Him.
Again, Jesus put it this way, "Not all who sound religious are really godly people. They may refer to me as 'Lord,' but still won't get to heaven. For the decisive question is whether they obey my Father in heaven. At the Judgment many will tell me, 'Lord, Lord, we told others about you and used your name to cast out demons and to do many other great miracles.' But I will reply, 'You have never been mine. Go away, for your deeds are evil.'
"All who listen to my instructions and follow them are wise, like a man who builds his house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents, and the floods rise and the storm winds beat against his house, it won't collapse, for it is built on rock.
"But those who hear my instructions and ignore them are foolish, like a man who builds his house on sand. For when the rains and floods come, and storm winds beat against his house, it will fall with a mighty crash." (Matthew 7:21-27 TLB).
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington, GA.. For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.