The following is a message I preached at the Cornerstone Gateway Church in Port Moresby on Sunday 24th August 2008.
The church of Jesus Christ is not moving as it should. Christians are living in defeat. Worldliness is creeping into the church. The high standards of God have been lowered, watered down and even trampled upon. The fear and awe of God has left Pastors, leaders and Christians. Many people now no longer love God as they used to do. They have lost their ‘first love’ for Him. Even the ‘joy of salvation’ has left most Christians. The body of Christ has ‘a form of godliness’ but the power is absent (2 Timothy 3:5). There is alot of commotion, activity and noise in the church but no fire nor power.
Prayer meetings are unattended, unless the pastor pleads with the people and begs them to come. There is a high in church attendance on Sundays, but a low in spirituality during the week.
Giving is plummeting, as people go after more and more, using even that which the Lord has decreed is holy unto Him. Jesus said ‘wherever 2 or 3 are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them’ (Matthew 18:20), but people are living in sin and come to church without any fear: some even sing and preach arrogantly on the platform. There is a lot of pretension and play-acting. People living in sin are justifying their lifestyle and putting on a big show of godliness.
Too many pastors play politics these days. Many men in Bible times attempted to avoid leadership positions – like Moses, Gideon, Saul, David, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos. But pastors today campaign to get into leadership positions. There is a lot of pushing and shoving, competition, jealousy, gossiping, among pastors.
The Bible says that pastors' lips should preserve knowledge (Malachi 2:7), but they spew out a lot of wrong and destructive stuff, even though James said a fountain cannot send forth both sweet and bitter water (James 3:11,12). The Bible says that the devil goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour (1 Peter 5:8), but as Paul told the Christians in Galatia (Galatians 5:15), there is a lot of biting and devouring going on among pastors and leaders. People are devouring each other verbally.
The kingdom of God is a theocracy (I have called you; I set you apart in your mothers’ womb – Jeremiah 1:5), but pastors are too busy politicking. Their justification is, “We live in a democratic country”, forgetting that they are not of this world! (John 17:16).
Many pastors no longer fast, pray and seek God for fresh manna like they used to do. They preach too many out-of-date and out-of-time sermons which leave people feeling comfortable and complacent. They have lost the ‘fire and brimstone’ kind of preaching which was a norm in the early days. We don’t hear much about turning away from sin and turning to God these days. We preach sermons which the peoples’ itching ears want to hear, not what they need to hear: the “if you do not repent you will go to hell” kind of preaching.
God told Jeremiah, “Who has stood in the council of the LORD, and has perceived and heard His word? Who has marked his word and heard it? But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings” (Jeremiah 23:18,22) He might be asking the same question today.
We have become too familiar with God and the things of God, that we hold Him in contempt. There is no clear distinction between the holy and the common. There are a lot of grey areas in peoples’ lives – not clear black or white. We have too many lukewarm Christians – not too cold, nor too hot (Revelation 3:15,16). Too many people are confused as to what belongs to God and what belongs to Caesar (Matthew 22:21).
The glory has departed in many churches today. They may have their names and signboards, but over them is the word “Ichabod” – the ‘shekinah’ glory has departed.
Too many of us Christians seek after the things God said He would add unto us (Matthew 6:33). We are majoring on the minors.
Last Sunday Pastor Watinga preached on the ‘highway of holiness’ (Isaiah 35:8) and the ‘king’s highway’ (Numbers 20:17). Most of us have left that highway; we have either deliberately or inadvertently left the ‘ancient paths’ (Jeremiah 6:16) and gone our own ways. We like living in the bushes, the pot holed paths, the drains and the miry marshes, and get bogged down. We are too scared or ashamed to live on the highway.
Many churches today are places of entertainment, showmanship, socializing and merchandising, than places of real heart-felt worship. If Jesus were to visit many of our churches today, he would whip people, starting from the pulpit (pastors, musicians and singers) first then down the aisles, as He did as recorded in Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45,46 and John 2:16.
Do you know why Jesus did not do many miracles in Nazareth among his own family and relatives? (Mark 6:1-6; Matthew 13:53-58). It was because of their unbelief. Why didn’t they believe Him? Because they were too familiar with Him. They were so familiar with Him, thinking they knew Him, that they held Him in contempt in their hearts, which gave rise to unbelief. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him, but to them that did receive Him and believed in Him, He gave them power to become the sons of God (John 1:11,12).
The Bible actually says that Jesus marveled at their unbelief (Mark 6:6). There were two instances when Jesus marveled. One was this. The other was when he met the Roman centurion (Matthew 8:10). When he went to Galilee, Canna, Jerusalem, Samaria, Jordan, miracles flowed. But not Nazareth.
Do you know why miracles flow in Benny Hinn’s crusades than in our churches? Does God favour and respect Benny Hinn? Why does God move in Dr. Yonggi Cho’s church every Sunday? Is God a Korean? Does He love the Koreans more than the Papua New Guineans? Do you know why Rev. Dalaka sees miracles, signs and wonders when he goes out for ministry than here at Cornerstone Gateway?
I am convinced that many congregations become too familiar with the men of God in the midst of them. If Benny Hinn were to come preach here, you would come here very early (in fact most of you would sleep overnight); you would also bring your sick relatives to church. And you would come believing and expecting something to happen. But because it is old Rev. Dalaka or Watinga, you don’t expect anything to happen. You know the usual schedule. You know how they preach. You even know some of their weaknesses. You see them, not the God who has sent them.
Every Sunday is ‘just another Sunday.’ You don’t get excited about coming to church. There is no joy. The psalmist said, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go up to the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122:1 “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for our of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3) But not many of us. We just drag our bodies here halfheartedly while our minds, hearts and affections are elsewhere.
We come expecting nothing, and that is exactly what we get. We come expecting to return home the same way we came, and that is exactly what happens. As we believe, so it happens. According to our faith, so it is (Matthew 15:28).
Do you know why Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli were killed in one day? Because they messed with God’s offerings and sacrifices (1 Samuel 2:12-17; 29-31). The Bible says they kicked at the sacrifices (verse 29), abhorred the offerings (verse 17), and despised the Lord (verse 30). For them, serving in the house of God was a bread and butter thing, not a service to God. They were sons of the priest, performing their professional duties. They may have felt that they were being underpaid, so they demanded and got a pay rise by force. They also turned the house of God into a brothel (verse 22). The fear of God had departed from their lives.
Do you know why the Israelites loathed or hated the manna? Because they became too familiar with it, that it became contemptible. They took it for granted. When God first rained it down, they met it with excitement, interest and amazement. They began asking, “What is this?” That is what ‘manna’ means – What is it? (Exodus 16:15).
It was a mysterious thing God was doing. Some collected too much, some too little; but when they took it home and measured it, it was just sufficient for every one in the family. When they left some for the next day, it rotted overnight and had maggots in it. Twice as much fell on Fridays. They collected twice as much as their daily supply; when they left some for the Sabbath, it was still fresh. Amazing. Wonderous. Awesome.
But soon they became too used to it, that they held it in contempt (Numbers 11:6). They wished they were back in Egypt where they had fish, melons, ginger, onion, garlic and cucumber to their heart’s content. Then in Numbers 21:5, the Bible says they hated it. So they went from interest and excitement to contempt to hatred, even though God called it ‘the corn of heaven’ (Psalms 78:24); ‘angel’s food’ (Psalms 78:25) and ‘the bread of heaven’ (Psalm 105:40).
The people went for the taste; God went for nutrition, health and life. Manna was like coriander seed; it tasted like wafers made with honey (Exodus 16:31) and fresh oil (Numbers 11:7,8). The seeds were already oiled and marinated with honey! With the quail, God supplied them a balanced meal and fresh water gushing out from rocks for 40 years, such that there was none weak or sick among them. Neither did their feet swell. Even the clothing grew on their bodies! (Deuteronomy 8:3,4; 29:5; Psalm 105:37) Sounds like heaven, yet they rebelled.
There are 7 “I ams” of Jesus: I am the light of the world; I am the good shepherd; I am the way, the truth and the life; I am the door; I am the resurrection and the life; I am the true vine. One of them is, “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35,48). The manna which God fed the Israelites was a shadow of the real bread, which is Christ. By eating or making ourselves one with Him, we have eternal life (verses 49-51).
We must not lose our taste of the bread of heaven and the bread of life. Sadly, too many Christians have lost their delight for this bread, and are hungering after other breads – money, material things, position, men, women, knowledge, prestige, etc etc.
Don’t become too familiar with God. Delight in Him, and He will grant you the desires of your heart (Psalm 34:7). Be teachable and pliable. If you feel you have lost your fire, make a decision today to go back to God. Ask Him to forgive you and restore unto you the joy of salvation. Restore the kind of love you had fro Him when you first accepted Jesus into your heart and life.
Pray the prayer David prayed in Psalm 51 after he had strayed from God.
Create in me a clean heart, O God
And renew the right spirit within me
Cast me not away from your presence
Take not thy Holy Spirit from me
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation
For thou desirest not sacrifice, or else I would give it
Thou delightest not in burnt offerings
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit
A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise
Amen and Amen!