Posts Tagged ‘The early Church’

Since the beginning of time humankind has fought against God’s ways and stubbornly insisted on doing things their own way. We can read in The Bible how many times God’s people rejected His laws and later suffered for it. But God had always reserved a remnant of His people who remained faithful to Him and prayed for spiritual awakening and renewal. Then the people cried out to God, repented, and God showed them mercy and rescued them from their troubles. Many today have criticized the Israelites for their actions, but are we really any different today?  

Many of the early colonists had come to the new world to escape the persecution from the king of England and to own their own land and enjoy the fruit of their labors. But as the land became tamed and prosperous they no longer relied on God for their daily bread. Wealth brought complacency toward God. As a result, church membership dropped. 

The Industrial Revolution was also a determent to revival. The transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the United States in the period from about 1760 to the 1800s. Almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. In particular, the average income began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth. Some economists say that the major effect of the Industrial Revolution was that the standard of living for the general population in the western world began to increase consistently for the first time in history. 

During that time many people in the U.S. no longer regularly attended church services. This occurred because people had become too consumed with earning a living to have time to worship God—That His rules no longer applied to their every day lives. 

Wishing to make it easier to increase church attendance, the religious leaders decided to allow membership without a public testimony of conversion. The churches were now attended largely by people who lacked a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Sadly, even many of the ministers were not saved themselves. 

But the faith and prayers of a few righteous leaders were the foundation of the First and second Great Awakenings. People like George Whitefield, William Booth and Charles Finney would spend hours—and sometimes all night—covering an event in prayer. Through the many prayers and ministry of these men of God, the hearts of the people were changed. It was the young people who responded first and experienced the regeneration of becoming new creations. They, in turn, spread the message to their elders. Thus began the first sparks of revival.    

Charles Finney,  lawyer, theologian and college president, became the most famous revivalist of the Second Great Awakening. He did not just merely lead revivals; he actively marketed and promoted them. During many of his revival meetings, saloons and factories would close for the day. There were even instances where Finney would pass by a person only to have them fall to their knees in tears and repentance without him saying a word to them! 

The Jesus Movement of the 70s and 80s

The hippies who plunged into the Pacific Ocean to be baptized during that summer of 1970 didn’t know they were in a revival. They didn’t even know what a revival was.  All they knew was that for the first time in their lives they felt forgiven and truly close to their Creator. The revivals of the 70s and 80s not only affected church growth, but it affected the music industry as well. Songwriters were changed and new Christian songs sprung up on Christian radio stations across America. They even influenced secular artists— from the Rolling Stones version of “You got To Move” to The Doobie Brothers’ “Jesus Is Just Alright” to Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky”.

The 70s revival also birthed many Christian artist such as Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Barry McGuire, Steve Camp and Keith Green. Many of these talented artists not only performed their songs, but incorporated preaching of the gospel into their concerts. As a result many people became saved at their concerts. Churches even began to use some of their songs in their worship services. 

Unfortunately, this revival had its own problems too. Because of man’s insatiable appetite to control others, many unbiblical teachings entered some of the churches that continue to this day: 

  • Name it and claim it teaching
  • The health and prosperity gospel
  • Exorcisms and demon possession 
  • Absolute submission of women to men

Many churches during that time scheduled “revival services” with powerful evangelists and “prophets” from out of town that promised to bring God’s “holy fire” with them. They would be scheduled from such and such date to such and such date. But a true spiritual revival from God is not something that can be scheduled in a day planner! It only comes through prayer and fasting, and more prayer and fasting. In my article, “Where are the men of God?” I mentioned Sam Shoemaker, Leonard Ravenhill, David Wilkerson and Keith Green. These were all men of God who were concerned with people’s souls and the sins within the Church. They all preached boldly on the subject of repentance and revival in the Church. (See https://word-from-the-street.com/2020/07/13/where-are-the-men-of-god/) The one thing they all had in common is the hours they all spent weeping and praying for the Church to repent. Charles Spurgeon once said,  “The ministry is a matter which wears the brain and strains the heart, and drains out the life of a man if he attends to it as he should.” Sadly, we don’t teach that in the churches anymore. It is no wonder that so many have left the church today. 

With the advent of the internet and the technology revolution many Christians today have again relied more on their own intellect than on God’s word. Many people in the U.S. again no longer regularly attend church services—And people have become so consumed with the next new technology that they have no use for God. The world has told them that God’s rules no longer apply to their every day lives. 

And the result?

Selfishness, hatred, racism and unrestrained violence. But today there’s also a growing sense that history has run its cycle again and we’re back in ’60s mode. Like the hippies of the 70s and 80s, millennials—people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s—say they are hungry for authenticity, a sense of community, and real care for people who are needy and marginalized. And just like the hippies of their parents’ generation, young people today are a bit cynical about big business, big institutions, or organized religion. Bombarded by competing content online for most of their lives, they are beginning to shy away from advertising, causes, or techniques that they feel are superficially targeted toward a specific group of people, and instead gravitate toward content that feels real and honest. They are looking for truth. They are looking for integrity. That’s why so many of them have lost faith in politicians, government and the Christian church.

Keith Green once said, “This generation of Christians are responsible for this generation of souls.” What will we do with that responsibility? There are millions of millennials and generation X and Zs who are searching for the truth. And we as Christians have that truth already in God’s word. We just need to show them that we believe it and live it. That’s what integrity is.

I have noticed how when a young Christian gets saved and begins to study God’s word, they just don’t believe what they reads true, they know what they read is true—and they go out and do what the apostles and early Church did: Share the gospel, feed the poor and heal the sick. We older, more “mature” Christians would do well to follow their lead. Maybe then we will experience a true revival of God in the churches and in our country. 

Let us take a lesson from what God said to king Solomon: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land…But if youturn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’ (2 Chronicles 7:13-22 ESV) 

It is time for us Christians to repent of our wickedness, seek God’s face and obey His word. Only then will God heal our land. 

The early Church in the Book of Acts were making people angry by preaching the truth. Some of them were martyred, willing to die for the cause of Christ. After hearing the gospel message many who had been involved with the occult brought their “curious arts” and burned them in a bonfire. (Acts 19:19) The worth of the books and items were 50,000 pieces of silver. (hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s value) The local idol makers were so enraged at Paul, that the other believers had to keep him from the angry mob waiting to tear him to pieces. (Acts 19:30)

This is what happens when people begin to live according to the truth of the Bible. Because it reduces the profits of beer companies and taverns, drug dealers, godless Hollywood film makers, strip clubs, pornography and prostitution. It causes women to keep their babies instead of murdering them and therefore decreases the profits of the abortion clinics and its providers. Praise God, when Jesus returns he will put all these evil people out of business for good!

Please notice that the early believers didn’t just preach a salvation message. They also spent much time speaking against sin and warning of being deceived by it. (James 4:17, Romans 6:23, 1 John 1:8-10, 1 John 3:4, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

But most preachers today only preach a “feel good” salvation message. They don’t preach against sexual immorality, idolatry, drunkards, or swindlers. They don’t expose the corruption and lies of the world and rarely preach about spiritual zeal and fervor. Most of what is taught in churches today is an “I’m okay, you’re okay, because we’re covered in the blood of Jesus gospel”.

I remember soon after I was saved, going to renew my driver’s license. It took me several minutes to convince the woman at the DMV that the photo on my old license was really me. You see, my countenance had completely changed so much that my “old self” didn’t even resemble who I had become! I was literally a new person!

And yet many Christians today are taught that they are “just sinners saved by grace”. But is that what the early Church taught?

A scripture that would appear to agree on this point is from the Apostle Paul: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16)

Because of Paul’s present tense use of the phrase, “worst of sinners” he makes it sound as if it were applicable to him at the time he wrote it. But if we look at this anomaly more closely, I’m sure you’ll see that the unusual use of verbs is Paul’s writing style and is/was a common Hebrew way of writing.

In the Preface to Youngs Literal Translation of the Holy Bible, the translator tells us of two principles to understand about Hebrew writers. (even though they may be writing in the Greek language)

  1. That the Hebrews were in the habit of using the past tense to express the certainty of an action taking place, even though the action might not really be performed for some time.
  2. That the Hebrews, in referring to events which might be either past or future were accustomed to act on the principle of transferring themselves mentally to the period and place of the events themselves, and were not content with coldly viewing them as those of a bygone or still coming time; hence the very frequent use of the present tense.

Apparently, that is what Paul did. He placed himself in the past as though it were the present. Similar to what Daniel did as he confessed his sins and the sins of his country to God in Daniel chapter nine.

Are Christians Called Sinners In Scripture? 

The first scripture that comes to mind is Romans 5:6, 8:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us. (All emphasis added is mine and is not in Scripture)

First please note that Christ died for the ungodly (vs. 6) and then Christ died for sinners. (vs. 8) Paul equates the ungodly with sinners. Christians are never characterized as ungodly. Next note that the past tense is used  while we were still sinners. That clearly implies a change of status. While we were still sinners is a prior status of being sinners, different from what the recipients of the letter were as Paul wrote to them. Who were the recipients of the letter? Paul described them: To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints. (Romans 1:7) Paul did not address his letter to sinners saved by grace, but to those called to be saints!

There are 28 uses of the word sinners and 13 of the word sinner in the New Testament Scripture. None refer to people who have come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus.

Jesus also made a distinction between sinners and the righteous:

Jesus revealed that the purpose of his coming was to save sinners:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17 — See also Luke 15:7,10 and Matthew 9:12-13)

Many are taught that we all sin hundreds of times every day, and all we have to do is confess our sins and God is faithful and just to forgive us. But if we read 1 John we discover what the Apostle said about the relationship to God and the people who continue in sin:

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:6) “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.” (1 John 5:18)

According to the Apostle John, if someone is sinning hundreds of times each day he is not living in Christ Jesus and does not have a true saving faith. Twice John says Christians do NOT continue to sin.

The writer to the Hebrews addressed the issue of deliberately continuing in sin. His warning is frightening:

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Hebrews 10:26)

It would appear that those who have received the knowledge of the truth but thereafter deliberately continue in sin are in a terrible position. They are called enemies of God.

But in our 21st century, it is politically correct to have a tolerant attitude toward almost everything. That seems to include sin. There is not an abhorrence of sin, of seeing it through Gods eyes, nor a recognition that continuing in sin will prevent a person from inheriting the kingdom of God. Not concerned about being politically correct, Paul wrote:

“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

Paul warns that a person who continues to habitually sin (a sinner) but who calls himself a Christian brother, is dangerous to the health of the body and should be shunned. From Johns’ writings we know that such a person is not a true believer even though he may profess to be a Christian.

None of us who are Christians with a saving faith should ever call ourselves a sinner. It is not appropriate to try to claim common ground with unbelievers by saying that you also are a sinner. Scripture says otherwise. Christians are not sinners. If you are a sinner, one who habitually sins, you are not a true believer. In that case you can properly call yourself a sinner. Please note the distinction: Christians do occasionally sin. A sinner habitually sins. The Christian (should) immediately repent and seek Gods forgiveness. The sinner does not.

A Christian can properly say, I was a sinner, but I have been saved by grace.

Sinners hate to have their sin exposed. It was true in the days of the early Church and is still true today. When you tell someone who likes to party and get drunk that what they are doing is a sin, they will become angry and belligerent. If you try to explain why abortion is a sin to someone who supports a woman’s right to an abortion, they may become combative toward you. And if you point out the sin of homosexuality, people will accuse you of hate speech and may even physically attack you. (Which has happened often lately) So much for tolerance.

But this is how it has always been. And we are warned that as our days in this world are numbered, it will only get worse.

“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 )

Until Christ returns, we are responsible to stand against the evils of our day. (Psalm 94:16) The truth will make some people angry. But the truth will cause others to come to God in repentance. The truth is emotional. The truth demands an answer. The truth cannot be ignored forever. The truth is the truth!

Why am I so adamant about standing against sin? Because Jesus was beaten, humiliated and crucified because of sin! God hates sin. And so I too must hate sin. (Psalms 5:4, Psalms 45:6, Hebrews 1:8)

I know that there are many who wish that I would just tone down my rhetoric. That I would talk more about the good things. I don’t like to talk about bad things, but people need to know the truth. So I must speak the truth!

But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:9)

So I will not go quietly into the night, I will continue to fight the good fight until my life is done or until Jesus returns.