ELEPHANTS IN THE CHURCH
By Jeannette Haley
“Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken,
let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service
with reverence and awe.” – Hebrews 12:28
So far in this series we’ve looked at the three “elephants” in the church of sin, hell, and heaven, and how each has been ignored, avoided or redefined. This article dives into the missing element of reverence, notably in the non-liturgical churches. However, concerning the “reverential” liturgy and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church, they are anchored and held in place by “roots” that originated with Constantine (the first pope) and were later carried out in some degree with certain other denominations that outwardly disassociated with the RCC. Since true reverence is an attitude of the heart, only God knows who is truly reverent towards Him and who is not in those churches where people have been conditioned (through guilt and fear) into a habitual reverential pose. People are good at adopting and copying certain modes of behavior that give an outward appearance, but such conformity to a set of rules and standards is not what pleases the Lord who looks at the heart.
A King James Dictionary defines “reverence” as: In the Old Testament, “reverence” occurs as the translation of two Hebrew words, yare’ and shachah. The root idea of the former is “fear.” It is used to express the attitude toward God Himself, as in Psalms 89:7 the King James Version; or toward His sanctuary, as in Leviticus 19:30; 26:2. So the group of ideas there would be “fear,” “awe,” “reverence.” The root idea of the second is “falling down,” as prostration of the body. It is used to express the bearing toward another who is considered superior, as in 2 Samuel 9:6 the King James Version; 1 Kings 1:31 the King James Version; Esther 3:2,5. The group of ideas here, therefore, is “honor,” “obeisance,” “reverence.”
In the New Testament “reverence” occurs as the translation of three Greek words, aidos, phobeomai, and entrepomai. In the first, the idea is “modesty” (Hebrews 12:28; compare 1 Timothy 2:9). In the second, “fear” (Ephesians 5:33 the King James Version), though here it is used to set forth the attitude of proper subjection on the part of a wife toward her husband (compare 1 Peter 3:2,5). In the third, the idea is that of the “self-valuation of inferiority,” and so sets forth an attitude toward another of doing him honor (Matthew 21:37; Mark 12:6; Luke 20:13; Hebrews 12:9).
When the sanctuary of the visible church ceased to be called “the sanctuary” and became “the auditorium,” sanctity and the accompanying atmosphere of peace and holiness disappeared, and gave way to the mindless, insensitive, self-focused, noisy theatrics of the world. What was once known as a house of worship and prayer changed into a man-centered community social center where respect for “God’s house” dimmed. Instead of an atmosphere of standing “on holy ground” the air is filled with the roar of boisterous chatter and the screeches of undisciplined children echoing throughout the building. Instead of people coming to seek and sense the presence of God in order to reverently worship Him in Spirit and in truth, they come looking for excitement, entertainment, “foolish jesting,” humor, comradery, and a short motivational pep talk after an exhausting hour of jumping up and down to ear-splitting music out of the pit of hell. Instead of hungering for the meat of the Word that challenges and changes souls, the post-modern “Christians” love being bottle-fed the “sugar water” of positive thinking, self-love, and all the other “selfisms.” Truly, we are living in the days foretold by the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:3, 4 which states, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
Jesus summed up what the church was to be in the world: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” Matthew 5:13. Where else but to the church can the desperate souls of lost men and women, wandering in the darkness of sin in this present world, turn if not to the church? How can the present-day, unbelieving, post-modern, seeker-friendly, “relational,” irreverent “fun” church be considered the “salt” and the “light” of the world? The visible, organized, contemporary “church,” for the most part, no longer stands separate and distinct from the world and Satan’s systems. It tries to bolster up sin sick souls starving for the “way, the truth, and the life” by feeding their flesh with the irreverent fodder of the world.
The deplorable state of our nation today can be traced back to the fact that the church has failed to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3), and remain standing true to Christ who “loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” Ephesians 5:25b-27. When darkness is perceived to be light by multitudes of lost people it is because the contrast between the world (darkness) and the true church (light) has been lost.
Here is a lengthy, but pertinent quote, (by Allan Turner, which is based on Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people”)taken from The Preceptor: “When the drafters of the Declaration of Independence wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” they were writing of the kind of phaneros en autois (“evident in themselves”) truths the apostle Paul was writing of in Romans 1:19. As a matter of fact, in Romans 1:20, the words tois poiemasin nooumena kathoratai (“by means of things that are made, are understood, being clearly seen”) are the exact equivalent to “self-evident.” Paul uses both of these phrases in the context of what men know naturally by natural revelation, apart from the special revelation revealed in God’s Word. According to Paul, what can be known about God apart from the Bible is known by all men, because He causes them to know it. Therefore, all men are without excuse. But, although men know the truth, the Bible tells us they are bent on suppressing it in unrighteousness (cf. Romans 1:18). In other words, we can’t expect our opponents to be honest. If they have to lie about this nation being founded upon the principle that there is a “law above the law” (i.e., God’s law above man’s law), then they will lie. For example, during the bicentennial celebration of the U.S. Constitution in 1987, I was appalled when, watching the proceedings on television, I heard the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance with “under God” left out.
“This is made even more appalling when one considers that Thomas Jefferson, who a secularist would proudly call his own, is reported to have said: “The God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” Doesn’t this sound like Jefferson thought the nation he was instrumental in founding ought to be a nation under God?
“Furthermore, as recently as 1952, in Zorach v. Clauson, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote, “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.” If an extremely liberal Supreme Court justice can understand this, then why is it becoming so difficult for people to understand that ours is a nation that was founded by our forefathers to be under God? In truth, it would not be difficult at all if it were not for those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
“In Psalm 11:3, the question is asked, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Of course, when the foundations are destroyed, the righteous are made a prey of the wicked. Consequently, the very purpose of government is the protection of the righteous or law abiding. In other words, Government is ordained by God as a mechanical remedy against evil (cf. Romans 13:1-7). Thomas Jefferson clearly understood this principle, and so must we if we are to keep the “unalienable rights” endowed us by “our Creator.” Jesus Christ is sovereign of the universe. Consequently, His law is above all laws and all men everywhere are subject to His authority. Many earthly authorities have not understood this. Consequently, they have not heeded the wise counsel of the psalmist, who said: “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way” (Psalm 2:11,12).
“Currently, the political walls of atheistic communism seem to be crumbling. Perhaps we are privileged to be observing His divine providence at work in these matters. But, even if we are not, let the men and women of all nations soberly reflect upon the eminent advice of Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”
“The reproach (i.e., disgrace and shame) openly being manifested in America today is indicative of the fact that we are quickly becoming a nation without God. Frankly, what this means is that the continued existence of this country is at stake. It may be that God usually judges individuals at the end of time, but the Bible clearly teaches that He judges nations in time. In Romans 1, the apostle Paul gives the four-step decline in the history of the nation that forgets God: 1. A nation rejects God, 2. it turns to false religion, 3. it becomes bogged down in immorality and violence, 4. and then God judges it. Consequently, a nation without God is a nation in serious trouble. As a people (I’m speaking now of God’s people), let us be actively engaged in doing justice and righteousness, and let us be praying that there is still enough salt left to preserve the blessings of God upon this nation.”
The frightening reality is, when we go back through history and trace the rise and fall of empires and nations, we get a vivid picture of what the future of America holds if God’s people fail to fear God and “come out and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing.” Richard F. Ames in his excellent article on the rise and fall of nations said, “Why do nations decline and fall? History has proved, time and again, that a nation’s moral condition and its character are key to its endurance. God’s moral law applies to nations as well as individuals. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Individuals and nations that sow immorality, violence and oppression will not long endure.”
Note these sobering words by former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett: “National prosperity, as it happens, is largely dependent on lots of good private character. If lying, manipulation, sloth, lack of discipline, and personal irresponsibility become commonplace, the national economy grinds down. A society that produces street predators and white-collar criminals has to pay for prison cells. A society in which drug use is rampant must pay for drug treatment centers. The breaking up of families means many more foster homes and lower high school graduation rates. A society that is parsimonious in its personal charity (in terms of both time and money) will require more government welfare. Just as there are enormous financial benefits to moral health, there are enormous financial costs to moral collapse” (The Death of Outrage, pp. 35–36).
We are living in the time of the greatest battle America has ever fought. This war is not the same as any of her other battles and wars, for this battle is for the very heart and soul of this nation, and that involves the Church. The bottom line is, what makes a nation great and keeps it great is reverence for God above all else. Thomas Jefferson said, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever…” Is this what the churches are teaching today, or have they compromised away the truth of God’s justice and replaced it with “cheap grace” and the “politically correct” gospel?
John Quincy Adams expressed his hope and vision when he said, “The hope of a Christian is inseparable from his faith. Whoever believes in the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures must hope that the religion of Jesus shall prevail throughout the earth. Never since the foundation of the world have the prospects of mankind been more encouraging to that hope than they appear to be at the present time. And may the associated distribution of the Bible proceed and prosper till the Lord shall have made ‘bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God’ (Isaiah 52:10).” Patrick Henry of Virginia, Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution, said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” “The Bible … is a book worth more than all the other books that were ever printed.”
What has the church in America done with the freedoms and great privilege God has granted unto her to send His Word into all the world? Tragically, much of the church has become derailed through the entrance of the social gospel which has spread throughout the institutional churches like fungus on dead wood. The definition of the Social Gospel’s origins according to Wikipedia: A “religious movement in North American Protestantism. The Social Gospel was a movement in Protestantism that applied Christian ethics to social problems, especially issues of social justice such as economic inequality, poverty, alcoholism, crime, racial tensions, slums, unclean environment, child labour, inadequate labour unions, poor schools, and the danger of war. It was most prominent in the early-20th-century United States and Canada. Theologically, the Social Gospellers sought to put into practice the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. They typically were postmillennialist; that is, they believed the Second Coming could not happen until humankind rid itself of social evils by human effort. The Social Gospel was more popular among clergy than laity. Its leaders were predominantly associated with the liberal wing of the progressive movement, and most were theologically liberal, although a few were also conservative when it came to their views on social issues. Important leaders included Richard T. Ely, Josiah Strong, Washington Gladden, and Walter Rauschenbusch.” As you may already know, the Social Gospel is the perfect “beast” for the devil’s “religion” of Communism to ride in on to deceive, divide, and conquer both the compromising, liberal church and the nation.
T. A. McMahon, in an excellent article on the Social Gospel, wrote, “The history of the social gospel is, in nearly every case, a sincere attempt by Christians to do those things that they believe will honor God and benefit humanity. In every case, however, the practical working out of “benefiting humanity” has compromised biblical faith and dishonored God. Why is that? God’s Word gives no commission to the church to fix the problems of the world. Those who attempt to do so are starting out under a false premise, “…a way which seemeth right unto a man,” not God’s way. So where can it go from there? “The end thereof are the ways of death,” i.e., destruction (Proverbs:14:12). Furthermore, the problems of the world are all symptoms. The root cause is sin.”
I might add that those socially-minded, do-good pseudo “Christians” who are caught up with the Social Gospel are deluded by their own emotional “highs,” self-exalting pride, and fake humility, especially when they point out the hypocrisy of “other” Christians who aren’t living up to their humanistic expectations. The test for any professing “Social Gospel” advocate is, 1) What is their testimony of salvation through Jesus Christ? 2) What does their fruit say about them? 3) Are they truly humbled by their unworthiness, or do they have a high opinion of themselves? 4) Do all of their “good works” somehow negate what pride, sin, unbelief and rebellion they have in their lives? 5) Are they teachable from the full counsel of the Word of God, or do they maintain a “know-it-all” attitude? 6) Are they rooted and grounded in the Jesus of the Bible, and His Word? 7) Is their goal to see souls saved, or is it to impress the needy with their acceptance of them in the lost spiritual state they’re currently in?
The question is, what are we, as concerned Christians for the apostate churches in America and for America herself, to do? How can we, as individual believers in Christ and His Word make an impact on churches who have lost reverence for God? The answer to that is a timeless one, and one that the Bible lays out before us in the many lessons recorded there from history, in individual believers, the prophets, and our Lord Himself. As with Abraham, who interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah, we must intercede for those who are caught up in the great tide of apostasy that is sweeping through the land. Pray that our gracious Lord God would call those who are heirs of salvation to Himself, that He would awaken those who have been lulled to sleep by Satan’s seductive and lying lullaby’s. Pray that God would raise up, in this final hour, men and women, and even the youth and children whom His Spirit would prepare through humility, faith and wisdom to carry the light into the darkness of spiritual ruin. Pray that God would stir up a real hunger for the Word of God in the churches and across this land. Pray for wisdom to know, each and every day, how to touch other lives in such a way that they, too, will throw off the robes of irreverence and fall before the pierced feet of the Lord Jesus Christ in brokenness, godly fear and love.
In closing, here is a pertinent quote from the late A. W. Tozer, the prophet to America concerning reverence. “Many persons who have been raised in our churches no longer think in terms of reverence, which seems to indicate that they doubt God’s presence is there. Much of the blame must be placed on the growing acceptance of a worldly secularism that seems much more appealing than any real desire for the spiritual life that is pleasing to God. We secularize God; we secularize the gospel of Christ and we secularize worship. No great and spiritually minded men of God are going to come out of such churches, nor any great spiritual movement of believing prayer and revival. If God is to be honored and revered and truly worshiped, He may have to sweep us away and start somewhere else. Let us confess that there is a necessity for true worship among us. If God is who He says He is and if we are the believing people of God we claim to be, we must worship Him! In my own assessment, for men and women to lose the awareness of God in our midst is a loss too terrible ever to be appraised!”
In the next issue of this series we will tackle the subject of music and true worship. May the Holy Spirit find our hearts open and receptive to all that He desires to reveal to us. Amen.