For the last couple of weeks, we have been talking about Matthew 24 to see what Jesus had to say about signs that signal we are nearing the end of time. We have been looking at things that Jesus said would happen in or through those who call themselves believers – things that signal the end in nearing.
Last week, we talked about one of the signs Jesus said would happen that would be easily recognizable to believers and that was the decline in the popularity of Christianity. It doesn’t take a “rocket scientist” to figure out that we are right in the middle of a move to discredit the teachings of the Bible. This movement uses as its tools the labeling of Christians as intolerant, ignorant, out of touch, and hateful. The push is to get biblical teachings about sin labeled “hate speech” to effectively silence the church’s voice in the community and to slow down or stop the evangelization of the lost.
Another sign of the approach of the end which Jesus said would be seen in the church and believing community is the rise of offense and betrayal among those who call themselves “Christians.”
Ever since early church history, separation over doctrine, church practices, and worship has plagued the church. This has led, not just to the forming of denominations but even worse; to the demonization of those different from “us” in the Body of Christ. Even churches of similar belief can have competitive attitudes toward one another in an attempt to garner followers and “prove” who is most spiritually superior!
The devil has a method behind this madness. He seeks to destroy our testimony among the lost and to keep us from the spiritual outpouring that God promised due to the disunity of His people.
John 17:20-21: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”
Psalm 133:1-3: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. For there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forevermore.”
The apostle Paul rebuked the divisions in the Corinthian church in:
1 Corinthians 3:1-3: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?”
These divisions are signs that our adherence to pure doctrine is failing in the light of personal promotion and personal gain.
While this type of division is still rampant in the church world, I see offense and betrayal working at another level, not using as its tool a difference in doctrine but attacking the very framework of our relationship with God through attacking our relationships with one another.
If someone were to ask me what I see as the greatest challenges facing the American church today, I would list these:
- Our confusion regarding what defines our “success.”
- Our focus on “my kingdom” instead of God’s kingdom.
- The amount of division caused by unresolved offense
God has saved us as individuals to live in community. He has given us specific directions in His Word as to how we should handle the challenges that try to destroy community. We all get on each other’s nerves and hurt one another, whether unknowingly or on purpose. We don’t always agree on how we should live out life as a community in small things as well as large.
God uses these situations to lead us to obedience, humility, trust, and spiritual growth. We forfeit much spiritual growth by refusing to do the hard work of forgiving, trusting, humbling, etc.
Through the rise of offense, I see a church not prepared for the day that Jesus spoke of when the pressure against Christians will be so strong that we will actually betray one another to death and punishment to save our own skins. Our relationships need to be forged in the fire of trust in God and forbearance for one another so that we will be ready to face a day that requires us to die rather than give up members of the body of Christ to torture and death.
God’s word calls us a body. Operating as such requires spiritual maturity: knowing how to forgive, knowing how to trust God with others, not taking responsibility for another’s calling.
We have more church choices today than ever before and less power and affect on our community. It’s not the amount of churches that scares Satan – it’s their effectiveness to preach a balanced gospel and to walk in the Spirit!
We must put personal agendas aside in order to promote the kingdom of God! Personal recognition comes in eternity. If we can’t put the Kingdom first now, what are we going to do to one another in the “Matthew 24” days that lie just ahead?