I Am Not A Judge, but......
I am not a judge nor do I want to be one. However, being a judge (making a judgment) and being judgmental (legalistic) are two different things. Jesus said that the fruit of a tree indicates what sort of tree it is and one observes the fruit to determine the kind of tree it is. That is making a judgment.
Fruit of repentance that includes turning from sin and worldliness TO righteousness and holy living is a 'symptom' of true conversion to God. Fruit of sin needs no description or elaboration. But the space between sin and repentance is troublesome.
According to Jesus' words, we are supposed to be fruit inspectors. With the many confusing gray areas that exist in the spectrum of what is called Christianity, it is difficult to distinguish one from the other.
In today's world, it is very easy to be converted, if, in fact, that is what really happens for many. Few tears seem to be shed about sin anymore, though Paul's account of repentance in II Corinthians begs to differ with them. A short prayer repeated after the preacher and folks are told they're saved. So easy! And yet so real?
I recall attending an evangelical church with my cousins when I was in middle school to hear an evangelist. As I came from a mainline denomination, a lot of what he said about salvation was foreign to me. During the Sunday School hour the evangelist spoke specifically to the youth and gave an altar call. I immediately went forward to pray. I wanted to be saved. The evangelist had us kneel at chairs in an ancillary room, repeat a prayer after him (which was probably appropriate to do for kids), then had us look up at him. He glanced at his watch, announced the time, and said, "You can say that at 11:15 you were born again."
I remember how confused and disappointed I was. I had felt nothing, wasn't any different, and yet he said I was born again. Of course, it wasn't real and nothing was there to last in my heart. I knew I wasn't saved!
Yet, the evangelist and the church could and probably did claim to have had so many conversions that Sunday, and I would have been among that quoted statistic! How wrong they were about me!
A few years later at a Youth for Christ conference at Winona Lake, I was soundly saved! i knew it! I repented at the altar and came home a changed girl in my teens. However, down the road I had words with my mother about something. When the Holy Spirit told me I needed to apologize, I absolutely refused and felt the Spirit ebb from my heart.
My stubborn, prideful disobedience caused all my joy and newfound life to die. Contrary to what the Calvinistic church I was then attending taught about 'once in grace, always in grace,' I knew without a doubt that if I died right then I would go to hell in that current state of heart. I was conscious of my lostness. But, had I died and the preacher held my funeral, he would have celebrated my entry to heaven!
Which now poses the question: Of what kinds of Christians is the true Church composed? Folks who claim all the tenets of the faith without a real change of heart, those who are really converted but then allow life and other stuff to consume their interest and activity, those who willfully disobey the Holy Spirit, those who have a fire in their hearts and a desire to live for God and do so or most of the above?
When Jesus told John about the seven churches in Asia and their varied spiritual health, in all but two He pointed out their shortcomings and said if they didn't repent, He would remove their candlestick. Does that mean that persons in those churches who died without repenting would go to heaven anyway because Jesus hadn't yet taken away their candlestick? Or, would they be lost eternally?
With the church at Laodicea in mind, today's church largely reflects the same sort of lukewarmness, having neither a genuine heat and fervor or a frozen coldness toward the things of God. How does that apply to people who belong to churches, are faithful at what they do on Sunday mornings, but are equally apathetic about spiritual matters and living during the rest of the week? If they are destined for hell, how do we wake them up to their real condition when they are so satisfied with going through the motions? What will shake them out of their lethargy to face the reality of their spiritual danger? Or is it necessary to try to rouse them if, in fact, they will go to heaven anyway? Why pray for revival?
Ancient Israel maintained a semblance of her spiritual roots. The people observed going to the Temple, made sacrifices, and so on. At the same time they worshipped idols like the pagan nations around them. Idolatry is why they finally went into captivity to Babylon. Malachi, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel pointed out their duplicity, but Israel would not return to the pure worship of God alone.
In chapter 33 Ezekiel details the status of a righteous person who sins and loses his/her righteousness and perishes due to sin. He then describes the wicked sinner who forsakes sin and does the works of righteousness; his sins would not be remembered against him. The latter scenario is easily embraced by the church: moving from sin to righteousness. However, not much is said in our modern age about the subtle forsaking of righteousness to living for idolatry and the resulting lostness of soul..or are they really lost?
What is holiness? Is it not living righteously? Hebrews 12:14 says without holiness no one will see God. But how holy must one be? Are there degrees of being holy? Is a little holiness enough to make it or must a person be very holy to enter heaven? Can someone who professes to be a Christian make it to heaven even though his/her works burn like wood, hay and stubble? Is that level of righteousness what most professing Christians are depending on for their salvation and are they correct in assuming it is so?
I John 1 states that "if we walk in the light as He is in the light.." Certainly a believer who walks in all the light he has had revealed to him by the Holy Spirit is considered righteous because he lives with openness to obedience, and no known disobedience exists between him and God.
So, there is a difference between immaturity/maturity in spiritual life while striving to be more like Jesus all the time, contrasted with letting spiritual life slip, not cherishing and feeding the regenerated life imparted by the Spirit, and, instead being part of the world.
II Chronicles 7:14 calls on those who are 'called by God's name' to repent. Repent of what? Sin. What sin? Idolatry? God stipulates that His hearing their prayers is based on their repentance and turning from their wicked ways to God. But what if the Church fails to believe she has wicked ways or doesn't think that God isn't hearing her?
Why, when reading this verse, does the Church pin the need for repentance on unbelievers around her, when, in fact, the verse was/is addressed to 'those who are called by God's name?'
Why does she overlook the word 'humble?' 'Humble' implies that pride exists, and isn't pride what caused satan's downfall? Those who call themselves Christians are too proud to come to God and admit their pride, as well as their other shortcomings.
The next phrase says 'and pray.' Merely repeating words that sound like a prayer is not praying. True prayer comes from the heart and is sincere in seeking to commune with God.
'And seek My face.' Seeking God's face is to worship Him..adore Him..lift Him up as supreme, the only God, the source of life and all it contains. A proud man does not worship God, for he worships himself and/or other gods.
'And turn from his wicked ways..' So, God identifies the crux of the issue. Sin, idolatry, is at the heart of a professing but lukewarm Christian and must be identified and rejected, called what it is, and hated. Then it is that God will hear from Heaven, forgive their sin and heal the land.
Farther down the chapter in verse 22, God continues and elaborates on what 7:14 means:
"Because they forsook the LORD God of their fathers which brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath he brought all this evil upon them."
- They forsook God--forgot their history and the truths God had shown and done for and to them. They literally forgot their source of LIFE..turned their backs toward Him.
- Laid hold on other gods--other things became uppermost and important and became ends in themselves. Rather than being different from the pagan nations around them, they adopted pagan ways and looked like their neighbors.
- And worshipped them--soon they were beholden to those gods (idols) and allowed them to dominate their lives. And those idols were not merely images made with hands--they were inhabited by demons: Israel worshipped demons, God's declared enemies!
- And served them--they gave all their strength and allegiance to false gods and bowed down to them in subservient slavery.
What are today's gods? The three things that caused Eve to fall: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life (I John 2:16)--good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and to make one wise. Translated, it is those things that appeal to the senses and appetites, esthetics, and self-elevation.
What effect do they have on God's people? Jeremiah 6:26-30 encapsulates how people change. God says they are 'grievous revolters, walking with slander; they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters.' God calls them 'reprobate silver.'
What will it take for the Church to follow God's admonition? What will it take for her to bear the peaceable fruit of righteousness? God is coming back for a purified Bride. If judgment begins at the house of God, what depths of judgment will it take to waken her?