Could "Ichabod" be written over the door of your church? "The glory has departed." It was true once in God's denominated church and history is repeating itself. In fact, the glory had so far departed that the church that God raised up, crucified His Son. My oh my truly ... That's glory departed.
How do you know? The church in Christ day believed they were the enlightened ones. They thought they had the favor of God. But they merely relied on the culture of their religion, not God. They replaced true substance--Christ In Me--changing me to be like Him, with form and ceremony. Is that your church, form and ceremony? Just going through the motions? Intellectual assent while the power is absent? Power for daily righteous living! Power for an, "In Love," marriage. Power that enables the members to reach out to those that are less acceptable. Power to raise up a well ordered, well disciplined, Christ centered family. The power that centers your focus in the lost sheep rather than the ninety and nine that are in the fold. Is that power evident in your church and your life?
There are three evident and essential characteristics of a non-Ichabod church that signifies they are true worshipers. Does your church stand the test or is it a replacement for the authentic? Ordinary religion simply is not enough.
So let's take a peek at the three characteristics.
- They hold to the truth in righteousness! My father came home from his appointment with Dr. Bill madder than all get out. Dr. Bill had given him the lowdown on his emphysema. Either quit smoking or you're dead. Dad came into the house spewing over with disgust. "Dr. Bill is a hypocrite, I saw the pack of cigarettes under his white coat in his shirt pocket and he has the gall to tell me I need to quit, what about him?" Romans 1:18 talks about, " Holding the truth in unrighteousness," - is that you? Is that your church? It was the Jewish church! It was the Jewish leaders and consequently the majority of its members. Knowing the truth isn't enough! Going to the church with the right logo isn't enough! We must possess the truth as it is in Jesus. We must demonstrate in our lives the truth we profess.
- There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are IN Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." Romans 8:1 The non-Ichabod Church teaches their adherents that it's not enough to merely have the truth but they must also worship their Lord in the Spirit. "The True worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth." John 4:23, 24 These adherents are taught to be so sensitive to the Spirit that the lightest whisperer will move their soul. The truth is their foundation and the Spirit aids them daily in the carrying out all that truth. This is not the action of a Pharisee carrying out merely human unaided activity. No, this is sensitivity to the Spirits whisperings to our conscience. Every day, multiple times throughout our day, God whispers to us - but do we listen and follow? "My sheep hear My voice and follow Me." John 10: 27 God has advanced knowledge and wants to relay insightful suggestions to us. But are we willing to filter all through Him? The church that instructs its adherents to such a life moves them beyond mere nominal Christianity and aids them in a life in subjection to the Spirit and the Truth. Such was the life of Jesus and so the True Followers as well. When Jesus good friend Lazarus was taken ill, Mary and Martha bade Jesus to come lest he should die. They knew He had the power to heal Lazarus, they knew He loved him. But Jesus did not come. No He let Lazarus die. What would you have done? Jesus always filtered everything through his Father first. "I can of myself do nothing." John 5:30 Is that you? Does your church teach you life in the Spirit or just let you live that life In Self? If not you are merely being prepped as foolish virgins -scary!
- "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you have love one to another." John 13:35 This selfless love that Christians display towards one another witnesses to the world that they are True Disciples. So does your church teach you to display God's kind of love to those of another church, or another faith? The Scripture doesn't say you have to agree with them, but you do have to practically love those you disagree with! How about those in your own local church, do you love only a special few or does the power of the indwelling Christ go beyond your little clique? I remember meeting a Presbyterian pastor and he invited Sally and I to his church service. After words he invited us over to his home for a meal along with his head elder and wife. The elder sat next to me at the table and began inquiring of me what I believed on various topics. He was astounded at how much we had in common until we got to his favorite doctrine, divine election or what's better known as predestination. When I shared with him my honest thoughts and they differed from his own, he cut me off, closed down not only the conversation but the relationship as well. His love was a shallow, hollow self-interested love. He could only love if there was total agreement. What if God only had that kind of surface love - there would have been no hope for humanity. What does your church exemplify? What does your life testify to? The true or the counterfeit?
Lucifer so opposes the above characteristics that he raises up churches to just carry out a shallow culture of religion in order to keep us from finding the authentic.
In my 30 years in ministry I've had the privilege of speaking in hundreds of churches in over 20 different countries. Sad to say, from my experience, only a few would meet the above criteria! I know I won't be popular for being so forthright. Few Christians seem to know what an authentic church should consist of. Paul admonishes us to, "Examine yourselves whether you be in the faith." 2 Corinthians 13:5 So does your church possess merely the "culture of religion" or do they teach the Authentic Experience? Could Ichabod be said of it?
Examining the faith,
Jim & Sally