By Jeannette Haley
“For there are certain men crept in unawares,
who were before of old ordained to this condemnation,
ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness,
and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Jude 1:4
We’re all familiar with the idiom, “There’s an elephant in the room,” meaning that in certain gatherings there can be an uncomfortable, embarrassing, or unresolved matter that everyone knows about, but refuses to talk about. This phrase developed in the 1950’s in America and has become part of our culture. It’s been my experience through the years that this “wonderful,” invisible, “elephant” can be felt in any particular get-together of two or more persons such as family, business, political, churches or school meetings for example, and it can definitely be evident in other venues as well.
Believe me, I love elephants, but I certainly don’t want one in my living room, whether real or not, and I definitely am not happy about all the elephants in the church today. In fact, what is taking place in the organized, institutionalized, secularized church causes great grief to my spirit; and, just as I’m prone to speak up to bring resolution to any “would-be elephant” that might present itself in a personal relationship situation, I believe if the Lord’s people are going to survive the devastating result of “elephants in the church” they are either going to have to take a stand and honestly face them, or come out and be separate. Why stay in a church where the “elephants” are present, and the Lord is not?
The way you can detect if there is an “elephant” in the church is to take note of what is missing. That means, which portions of Scripture, biblical truths, doctrines and precepts are consistently and deliberately avoided? Take the subject of sin for example. When was the last time you heard a heaven-inspired message on sin—what it is, how it works, and the effects and consequences of it? A. W. Tozer made a good point when he said, “We Christians must look sharp that our Christianity does not simply refine our sins without removing them.”
How does one go about “refining” sin rather than simply repenting of it? If it’s a sin of commission, the human imagination can kick in with a hundred reasons to explain (justify) why the sin took place. If it’s the sin of omission, the same thing holds true. In other words, since there are excuses and reasons for any sin under the sun, we can fall into self-pity, claim our ignorance and/or innocence, or place the blame on someone else, and then surely, because “God is love,” and “Jesus died for everybody,” He will automatically overlook it. Here are three applicable quotes by Oswald Chambers who said, “Am I becoming more and more in love with God as a holy God, or with the conception of an amiable Being who says, ‘Oh well, sin doesn’t matter much’”? “If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He doesn’t ask you to make it right; He only asks you to accept the light of truth, and then He will make it right. A child of the light will confess sin instantly and stand completely open before God. But a child of the darkness will say, ‘Oh, I can explain that.’” “The real attitude of sin in the heart towards God is that of being without God; it is pride, the worship of myself, that is the great atheistic fact in human life.”
Whole mega-churches are built on this false foundation of “refined sin” to the point that the word sin is avoided like the plague and never mentioned. For example, Joel Osteen’s Lakeland Church averages 52,000 attendees per week. The 16,800-seat Lakewood Church building is home to four English-language services and two Spanish-language services per week. Osteen’s televised sermons are seen by over 7 million viewers weekly and over 20 million people monthly in more than 100 countries. He is the author of ten books which have been ranked number one on The New York Times Best Seller list, and his net worth is 40 million dollars. “Pastor” Osteen and his “Co-Pastor” wife, Victoria, have made friends with the “elephant called sin” in his church because carefully avoiding any mention of sin, while wearing the banner of “Christian,” pays well. However, Jesus asked, “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” Mark 8:36?
What is both amazing and nauseating are all the different definitions of sin to be found in on-line dictionaries (except Webster’s). Definitions range from “mystery” to “whatever theologians say it is.” Of all people, God’s people should know the definition of sin! After all, He is the Judge, and His Word is truth. Therefore, His Word contains the definition of sin and when we fail to read it and believe it, we do so to our own peril. The Bible is clear: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” Ezekiel 18:20a. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” Romans 5:12. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” Romans 6:23. Sin is rebellion against God’s authority. 1 Samuel 15:23tells us “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”
A person has to wonder how many people would stop going to Osteen’s church if he preached what the Bible says about sin. We can point a finger at Osteen and rightfully accuse him, and others like him of being heretics and hireling shepherds, but whose fault is it? Perhaps we need to point to the millions of lost souls who support these wolves in sheep’s clothing because of their own itching ears. 2 Timothy 4:3 tells us, “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.”
Some pastors have made peace with the “elephant” in their church by preaching a watered-down, “happy half gospel” that won’t offend anybody and is sure to please the politically correct crowd. They talk about the “good news” of Jesus dying on the cross for us because we’re “worthy” and because there’s some “good in everyone.” Therefore, it’s assumed that if a person truly believes this “good news,” then they will be blessed if they “accept” Jesus “as they understand Him”, and do their best to live a good life so that when they die, they’ll simply go to heaven. The truth is, however, preaching that identifies Jesus as God incarnate who was born of a virgin, while presenting the reason He died on the cross, the work that was accomplished on the cross, and the importance of that work, if referred to at all, is vague at best. The fact that our sin put Him there, and that there must be conviction and brokenness of our sin, and true repentance on our part might upset the sensitivities of some folks who have allowed themselves to be programmed to only receive the “positive.” After all, the mere mention of man’s depravity in any way might cause such people to feel “uncomfortable” and that usually means loss of filthy lucre (money).
The truth is, preaching about the cross should cause people to be uncomfortable. In fact, it should make them so downright miserable that they will be compelled to either turn their back on God altogether, or fall before Him in true repentance. Jesus said to the Laodicean church, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would that ye were cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” Revelation 3:15, 16. This trend to neglect our great salvation and merely give lip service to God while going through the motions of being a Christian is not new; however, what we are witnessing today should be no surprise to us because it was foretold 2,000 years ago. Think about this list that describes wicked traits in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and compare each description to our present world: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” If all of these sins, or, I darsay, even if one of them was the subject of a sermon preached by a Holy Ghost-anointed preacher in a church such as Joel Osteen’s it could very well cause either a revolt or a revival. Charles Spurgeon said, “That very church which the world likes best is sure to be that which God abhors.”
On the other hand, if a true Christian somehow found him or herself in the midst of such a church as Lakeland, or Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, or Mars Hill, Bethel Church of Redding, CA, etc., he or she would flee. Consider what Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” John 10:27. What is chilling is that millions who claim to be Christians do not know the voice of the Shepherd! “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” John 10:1-5. [Emphasis added.]
If the “positive preachers” and their adoring fans continue to ignore the “elephant” of sin in the church they will do so to their own eternal destruction. Failure to acknowledge one’s sin and repent of it is disobedience to God and His Word. A person cannot “have his cake and eat it too.” You cannot have Jesus Christ as your Savior, but remain Lord of your own life, calling the shots, and living, looking, talking and acting like the world! You cannot claim to belong to Christ when everything that you think, say and do is of the world and the flesh, but not the Spirit. You cannot have Jesus and serve Satan at the same time by hating life, loving death and tinkering with the occult and the supernatural! You cannot claim to be saved when you are wallowing in the pigpen of fornication, adultery, pornography, drug addiction, filthy language and unmentionable, forbidden perversions of evil deeds and abominations that God hates committed under cover of darkness that poison and eternally damn your own soul. 2 Corinthians 6:15 says, “And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” 1 Peter 1:15-17 tells us, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear”.
A.W. Tozer said, “I must be frank in my feeling that a notable heresy has come into being throughout our evangelical Christian circles — the widely accepted concept that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need Him as Saviour and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to Him as Lord as long as we want to… The truth is that salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred scripture… Apart from obedience, there can be no salvation, for salvation without obedience is a self-contradictory impossibility. He also said, “It is my opinion that tens of thousands have been brought into some kind of religiousexperience by accepting Christ and they have not been saved”.
Consider what Bible teacher Lynette Hughes stated on her Facebook page: “Once Saved, Always Saved is the ‘original lie’ that the Serpent spoke to Eve in the Garden of Eden: “You will surely not die.” [Genesis 3:4] Similarly, today the OSAS [Once Saved Always Saved] preachers are telling their congregation they have a license to sin with a guarantee of salvation. Their doctrine is built upon the same lie the devil deceived Eve with. Satan has simply repacked his old lie with theological terminology and is sending untold millions to eternal damnation.” She also wrote, “The deadly doctrine of Once Saved, Always Saved has weakened an entire generation of Christians. It is a doctrinal counterfeit invention, a spiritual gangrene, that has spread throughout the apostate church evidencing their ignorance of the true God. It is Satan’s Masterpiece of deception designed to give false security to those who are in willful, unrepentant sin.”
Way back when I was young and busily pursuing my self-serving priorities rather than my goal of serving God, I ended up in an unbiblical situation. Afterwards, a true friend slapped me hard with a reality check when she bluntly stated, “Jeannette, if you had died in that situation, you would’ve gone to hell.” Thank God for the wake-up call that overrode the unbiblical OSAS doctrine of the churches I had attended! That experience led to a very deep, never-to-be-forgotten genuine repentance on my part. Thank God for His grace and mercy!
How sad it is that the trend today is for people to seek out a pastor, preacher or priest who makes them feel good about feeling dirty. As long as people have a conscience, they will not have peace within themselves about themselves; but to repent means to humble oneself; but with all that people are being taught that builds their pride, the less likely they are to deny themselves and crucify their form of pride on the cross. However, their restless souls, the nagging guilt and interruptive doubts spurs them on to seek out a “church” where they will “fit in” and be given a placebo instead of the true Words of Life that bring conviction that leads to repentance and salvation through the shed blood of Christ.
Ah! Those wonderful Sunday “pep rallies” with dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of others just can’t be wrong, can it? Never mind that the “elephant” is silently positioned in the midst of it all. Besides, the euphoric experience is scintillating, exalting, thrilling, and everything else that goes into a “fix” of the “warm fuzzies.” The problem is, like any drug high, the ecstasy is short-lived. Thus, the poor souls emotionally and mentally scramble to keep their wits intact and their delusion afloat during the week, counting the days with great expectancy until the next Sunday’s ear-tickling, brain-numbing, emotional jolt of energy holds them spellbound from the “actor” on the “stage.”
But the “elephant” is still in the church, the people’s conscience continues to be troubled, and their souls are still dirty, blotched and blackened by unrepented sin. Oh! That they would only receive a love for the truth, and cry out with the Apostle Paul, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” Romans 7:24, 25. In Romans 8:1 we read, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” [Underlining added.] People love to quote the first half of this verse while ignoring the second half. But the Bible is clear “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” Romans 8:4.
If we are to gain entrance into heaven and be presented to the Bridegroom as a chaste bride, we must be clothed in the proper “wedding garment” which is the righteousness of Christ. We cannot enter in clothed in our old filthy and fleshly rags of unrighteousness and expect to be received into the kingdom of God. In Matthew 22:1-14 we read the parable of the marriage of the king’s son and of the man who was present “which had not on a wedding garment.” The king said, “Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen” verses 12-14. In Revelation 3:18 Jesus said, “I counsel of thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich: and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” Think about this verse: “And to her [His wife, the bride] was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” Revelation 19:8
Thus, the “elephant” remains a very present reality among us, and even though it is invisible, it is clearly defined by the calculated dismissal of the very tenets of the faith that have been the supporting pillars of Christianity for centuries. We are now living on the edge of a terrorizing abyss of spiritually cataclysmic eruptions the likes of which the world has not seen since the days of Noah. If we fail to prepare ourselves through the Word and prayer for this descent into the cauldron of world turbulence engineered by Satan (yet controlled by our Sovereign God) we will find ourselves being flung into the outer dimensions of reality, and sanity. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit who is our Teacher and who shows us things to come will we be able to “endure to the end.” This is not a time for fun and games. It is not a time to run around the “elephant” called sin in the church. No, it is a time to stand up and demand that God’s Word be revered, studied, meditated upon (according to Scripture and not New Age “meditation” techniques), and obeyed. It is time to become soldiers of the cross, armed for battle with the full armor of God.
This is not a time for silly fun and games, entertainment, and lightness. Now is the time to seek the Lord “while He may be found,” and gird up the loins of our minds, guarding our hearts, sharpening our swords (the Word of God), and marching as to war. We need to sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” once again with conviction and purpose. We need to hold our banner high, and trust our Commander in Chief who commands the Hosts of the Lord to lead us into the battle that He has already won through His shed blood on the cross.
This is not the time to placate the “elephant” in the church, nor to be afraid of it. You cannot be politically correct and truthful at the same time. We cannot allow ourselves to be bullied or bought, shackled and silenced, cast down and carried away by fear. The enemy is on the move, and his tentacles are tightening their grip on this world. We must “cast all our care upon Him, for He careth for us” and “set our affections on things above, and not on things of the earth,” lest we faint in the way and look back to our undoing.
The “elephants” in the church are many. This article deals with just one of them, and next month we will look at the second “elephant” in the church. Let us continue to seek the face of the Lord, draw nigh to Him, and He will draw nigh to us. Nothing is impossible with God, and we have nothing to fear when we are on the Lord’s side. We know that in eternity the battle is already won. It is our daily duty to be about the Lord’s business, follow where He leads, do what our hands find to do, stand and resist the enemy, and always worship and exalt the Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts.