After seven days the Lord gave me a message. He said, "Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. If I warn the wicked, saying, "You are under the penalty of death,' but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me. -- Ezekiel 3: 16-19 (NLT)
"One of the greatest distinguishing marks of false prophet is that he will always tell you what you want to hear, he will never rain on your parade; he will get you clapping, he will get you jumping, he will make you dizzy, he will keep you entertained, and he will present a Christianity to you that will make your church look like a six flags over Jesus." -- Paul Washer
The modern day church in this country has become a business. Maybe it always has been to a lesser degree in previous ages but today, it is a full scale effort in carnal merchandizing. There is a product to sell, marketing schemes to push it, leadership plans to develop it, and worldly metrics to measure the success. The problems are many, intricate and varied. For starters, the product has been altered. Originally, the product offered by Christianity was salvation. A way of making oneself right before God and the promise of eternal life. Somewhere along the path of recent decades, human wisdom decided that the discussion of true salvation; which requires an admission of sin, a repentance from sin and a Lordship of Jesus Christ; wasn't marketable. No one wants to truly admit they are a sinner before a holy God. Society continues to erode the lines of morality to the point that was unfathomable just 50 years ago is fodder for sitcom television today. No one wants to be told they must turn from that sin if they are to obtain eternal life. Instead society embraces the ecumenical thoughts of all roads lead to heaven. No one wants to have to consider giving their lives over for someone else, Christ, to be Lord. No, instead it tickles the ears much more to become our own little god. To set the bar so low for eternal life that anyone can reach it. The problem with all of this of course is that the real God does not play by the rules we set up.
But the mega-church mentality does not care. It cares about how many people attend every week and tithe. So the product has been altered from pursuing the unsaved to pursuing the unchurched, a term popularized by Rick Warren, who advises the majority of pastors in this country today. The problem with this new term is that it shifts what we are trying to do. Instead of trying to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to bring someone to the cross for salvation, we are presenting them another gospel designed to bring them back to the church building.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God's curse! Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. -- Galatians 1: 6-10 (NIV)
But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. -- 2Corinthians 11: 3-4 (NLT)
There is nothing new under the sun beloved. The Apostle Paul experienced such problems with the churches at Corinth and Galatia as outlined here. The harsher words seem to be for Corinth where the people happily put up with what anyone told them. A different jesus? No problem! A different spirit? No worries! A different gospel? Bring it on! The problem of course is that a different jesus has not defeated Satan and the grave! A different spirit by definition is from the devil. A different gospel has no power to save. We have become seeker friendly but it has not brought us people seeking God. It has brought us people desiring to believe they are ok with God, while not having to give up their relationship with the devil. We have become purpose driven but the purpose is to build the church building, not the Kingdom of God. The cold harsh reality is that our pure and undivided devotion to Christ has become corrupted. We are not only deceived but we are willingly deceived. David Wilkerson once said, " Multitudes of blind, misled Christians are singing and praising the Lord in churches, enslaved by false doctrine. Thousands are sitting under teachers who are pouring out the doctrine of demons--and they come away saying, "Wasn't that wonderful?"
And Wilkerson said this decades ago. It has come true and then some. He was a true watchman on the wall. In one of his sermons I listened to recently, he said that he is like a dog protecting his owner's home, and we simply do not have enough preachers willing to bark in the house of the Lord. There has been an incursion into the Bride of Christ and we stand idly by for fear of being labeled a legalist or a divider. The first weapon used by false teachers is to scream legalism at anyone who disagrees with them. The second weapon is to claim that unity trumps doctrinal purity. They may not say it that way, but when boiled down that is what they are professing. Because in their model, they have consumers that need to be convinced, not sheep that need to be cared for. I have had people ask me why the focus on discernment in my ministry. Why the focus on false teaching and the modern theories of church growth. The answer is simple. Grace alone will not save you. Seeker friendly and purpose driven will not save you. A church that insists on tickling your ears will not save you. Because while the church has become a carnal business enterprise, the Gospel of Jesus Christ remains serious business. All one needs to do is review the key Scriptures for today to see how serious.
God is speaking to His spokesman, Ezekiel. When we start to examine the key verses we see that God states unequivocally that He has set Ezekiel as a watchman for Israel. As Israel was for the Old Testament, the church is for today. The first argument that needs to be dispelled is that this was only for Ezekiel and thus only for Israel. This has become a popular tactic when people do not want to adhere to principles God has laid out in His Word. But remember, the Bible always confirms itself:
And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. -- Acts 20: 25-27 (ESV)
This is the Apostle Paul saying goodbye to the leaders at the church at Ephesus. Ironically, he goes on to warn them that vicious wolves will arise from within their group and not spare the flock, such as we see throughout the land today. The point for this devotional however is the reference to blood. Just as God warns Ezekiel that the blood of the people he is supposed to speak to is on his hands if he does not deliver the message correctly, Paul acknowledges as well that his hands are innocent of the Ephesians blood for he did not hesitate in proclaiming the entire Gospel. The correlation is clear. Had Paul shirked his duty to proclaim all that God had given him, their blood would have been on his hands.
So who are the watchmen for the church? Who has been given the responsibilities Ezekiel had? Certainly not the "prophets" of today, who are mostly nothing more than fortune tellers without a divine calling. No, the people charged with delivering the Word of God to the people are the preachers that stand in the pulpits across this country today; or those who take pen to paper to share the Living Word. There are three important points for us to consider today. The first is the condition of the hearer. They are under the penalty of death. Do we truly understand this anymore in modern Christendom?
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. -- Romans 6: 23 (NLT)
I know we "know" this verse but do we truly appreciate the implications? When we look out amongst a congregation, how many are still under the penalty of death? How many if their life was required of them that evening would be convicted and given this penalty? Eternal separation from God. Hell, for all eternity? And the seeker friendly mentality is to NOT discuss their condition? The purpose driven mindset is to speak about something "practical" such as societal significance or how to improve your marriage? Seriously? Do we remember what it was like before Christ? The shackles around our ankles. The cold harsh realities of life. Addictions and pain. Fear and anxiety. Depression and loneliness. Most importantly, a death penalty hanging around our neck! And we want to sell them the notion that the grace of God costs them nothing? When it cost God everything? We want to sell them our product so bad that we think saying a two sentence prayer "welcomes them to the family of God?" Wilkerson once said that the sinner's prayer has sent more people to hell than all the bars in this land combined. We talk to them about inviting Jesus into their heart but only the sanitized Jesus. Only the Jesus wearing the crown of glory. Beloved, you do not get to the crown of glory except through the crown of thorns!