CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Our Woeful Churches

Oct 18, 2018

Anyone who says Jesus was only about preaching a message soaked in happy, uplifting and positive vibes has clearly not read the four gospels. Everywhere in them we find Jesus speaking about hell and judgment to come more than anyone else; warning about hardships and persecution for his followers; and condemning in the harshest of terms so many of the religious leaders of his day.

For example, instead of trying to just be nice and please everybody, Jesus pronounced woe after woe on the church leaders. Just look at Matthew 23 for example. There we have an entire chapter of woes pronounced on the Scribes and Pharisees.

And we need to bear in mind just how woeful a woe was. The term was commonly used by the Old Testament prophets, and the woes were a blend of anger and lament at coming judgment. They are strong words indeed, and no one should want to be on the receiving end of them.

But plenty of other times we read about the anger of our Lord at the people – both leaders and common folks. Just this morning in my daily reading I came upon another example of this as found in Mark 3:5: “And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart”.

In this case he had just entered a synagogue. He seemed to have a habit of getting upset with the religious establishment of the day. Forming a whip and using it while overturning tables in the temple is another pretty good example of this. But I think we need to relate this to our own time and place.

Why do I suspect that if Jesus entered many of our churches today, we would find the same thing: “And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart”? So many of our churches are so compromised, so carnal, and so corrupt that I am sure he would flip over a few tables in them as well.

While Jesus may not be here to do this today, we do have at least some godly prophetic voices around who are saying similar sorts of things. Some of these mighty men of God who were on the scene until just recently would include champions like Tozer, Ravenhill and Wilkerson.

Thankfully some are still with us. One of them is American preacher Paul Washer. If you do not know of him, a quick google will do the trick. He has many of his powerful and hard-hitting sermons on video that are well worth listening to. One two-hour sermon he gave in 2008 is one such example of this. It is called “Ten Indictments”. You can view/listen to it here:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7wzfvYkCW0

However, some of you might prefer reading instead of watching or listening. Well, now you can, as the sermon has just recently been released in book form: Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church (Reformation Heritage Books, 2018).

If Jesus pronounced his 7 woes, here we have Washer’s 10 indictments. Sure, he is not inspired or perfect or sinless as Jesus is. And he admits to that early on in his sermon, that he is a frail and weak individual. But God has clearly placed this word on his heart, and he dares not hold back on it.

So he looks at ten areas where the modern church has been so very lacking and deficient in. They are:
1. A denial of the sufficiency of Scripture
2. An ignorance of God
3. A failure to address man’s malady
4. An ignorance of the gospel of Jesus Christ
5. An unbiblical gospel presentation
6. An ignorance regarding the nature of the church
7. A lack of loving church discipline
8. A silence on separation
9. A replacement of the Scriptures regarding the family
10. Pastors malnourished in the Word of God

Let me offer some dynamic and inspiring quotes from the book version of the sermon:

“We are not to send out questionnaires to carnal people to discover what kind of church they would attend! A church ought to be friendly to genuine seekers, but the church ought to recognize there is only one Seeker. His name is God! If you want to be friendly to someone, if you want to accommodate someone, accommodate Him and His glory, even if it is rejected by everyone else. We are not called to build empires. We are not called to be accepted by men. We are called to glorify God.”

“I submit to you that America and other Western countries are not gospel hardened. They are actually gospel ignorant because so are most of their preachers. And let me repeat this. The malady in our countries is not liberal politicians, the root of socialism, Hollywood, or anything else. It is the so-called evangelical pastor, preacher, or evangelist of our day. That is where the malady is to be found. We do not know the gospel.”

“Now do you know why that little gospel you preach has no power? Because it is no gospel! Get to the gospel. Spend your life on your knees. Get away from the teachings of unscriptural men. Study the cross!”

“I want you to know, my friends, salvation is by faith alone. It is a work of God. It is a grace upon grace upon grace. But the evidence of conversion is not just your examination of your sincerity at the moment of your conversion. It is the ongoing fruit in your life. Look what we have done! Is a tree not known by its fruit? Today 60 or 70 percent of Americans think they are converted, born again. But we kill thousands of babies a day! And we are hated around the world for our immorality. Yet we think we are Christian. And I lay the blame for this squarely at the feet of the preachers.”

“My dear friend, everybody in their right mind wants to go to some kind of heaven, but they do not want God to be there when they get there! The question is not then, ‘Do you want to go to heaven?’ The question must be this: ‘Do you want God? Have you stopped being a hater of God? Has Christ become precious to you? Do you desire him?’”

“This idea of the carnal Christian has destroyed more lives and sent more people to hell than you can imagine! Do Christians struggle with sin? Yes. Can a Christian fall into sin? Absolutely. Can a Christian live in a continuous state of carnality all the days of his life, not bearing fruit, and truly be Christian? Absolutely not, or every promise in the Old Testament regarding the New Testament covenant of preservation has failed, and everything God said about discipline in Hebrews is a lie. A tree is known by its fruit.”

“Today, because of the lack of biblical preaching, the so called Church is filled with carnal, wicked people identified with Christianity. And then, because of all the goats in the midst of the lambs, the lambs are blamed for all the things the goats are doing. And then the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of us.”

“What you actually have in so many congregations today is a bunch of goats among the sheep, the sowing of tares among the wheat (Matt. 25:31-46; 13:24-30). Because very little biblical, compassionate church discipline is practiced, goats live among the sheep and wolves feed on and destroy the sheep. And those of you who are leaders in such churches are going to pay a high penalty when you stand before the One who loves them, because you did not have enough courage to stand up and confront the wicked.”

“Because the preaching of the gospel is so low, the majority of the church consists of carnal lost people. Then, because the church is run as a democracy, the unconverted people, by and large, govern the direction of the church. Because the pastor does not want to lose the greatest number of the people, and because he has wrong ideas regarding evangelism and true conversion, he caters to the wicked in his church. So his little group of true sheep, who truly belong to Jesus Christ, are sitting there in the midst of all the theater, worldliness, and multimedia.”

“Now we ought to disciple people, but that is not why they are leaving. ‘They went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us’ (1 John 2:19). And they hardly got a chance to be ‘of us’ because they never heard a true gospel – no one ever dealt with their souls. So we spend a fortune discipling goats, hoping they will become sheep. You can’t teach a goat to become a sheep. A goat becomes a sheep by the supernatural working of the Spirit of almighty God.”

“If God truly converts a man, He will continue working in that man, through teaching, blessing, admonition, and discipline. He will see to it that the work He has begun will be finished. And that is why the writer says that without holiness, ‘no man shall see the Lord.’ Why? Because if there is no growth in holiness, God is not working in your life. And if He is not working in your life, it is because you are not His child!”

“I do love the Puritans. One of the reasons why I love them is because I believe they honestly made an attempt to bring everything in their lives under the lordship of Jesus Christ. Everything, such as their minds! They wrote eight-hundred-page books on what we should think about according to the Scriptures.”

“You say, ‘I want the power of God on my life.’ Do you? Then something has got to go. ‘I want to know him,’ you say. Then some separation from the world has to occur! Everyone else is running around in all their little retreats, getting together with group hugs and singing ‘Kumbaya’ or whatever it may be. Perhaps you need to get alone in the wilderness with God, fasting for seven days on your knees and studying the book of Psalms. You need to be alone with God, belonging to him. To be a man of God there must be times when even your wife – who is of your own flesh, one with you – looks you in the eye and she knows she cannot go with you into that hidden place with God into which you go.”

“All this emergent church stuff, much of the church growth stuff, all of the cultural sensitivity that throws biblical sensitivity out the window – it is just a bunch of little boys wanting to play church without the power of God in their life. It is David trying to fit himself into Saul’s armor. To the wind with it! The more you trust in the arm of flesh, the less you are going to see the power of God.”

“Discipline yourself to prayer. Discipline yourself to the systematic reading of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation over and over and over and over again. Discipline yourself in your speech. Discipline yourself in the company you keep. Discipline yourself in when you go to bed, and when you rise up. This is a war. Discipline yourself!”

“While you are a young man, while there is strength in you, labor with all your might. Take those stupid video games of yours and crush them under your feet. Throw the TV out the window. You were made for greater things than these. If you are a child of the King, nothing on this earth can satisfy you – nothing!”

Wow. I could keep adding such quotes, but hopefully you get the drift. I implore you to set aside two hours of your busy life and listen to this powerful and anointed sermon. As I say, some folks may prefer to just read the sermon. Of course you get a much more powerful presentation of the material when you hear and see him preaching the sermon on the video.

But the best option in my view is to get the book and read it along with the video. That makes the most impact. And be prepared to stop the video and reading often, as God starts to speak to you and convict you. And doing all this on your knees may be the best place to make it happen.

God bless you as you let God do a mighty work in your life.

(Australians can find the book at Koorong: www.koorong.com/search/product/ten-indictments-against-the-modern-church-paul-washer/9781601786272.jhtml )

[2095 words]

14 Responses to Our Woeful Churches

  • Hi Bill
    I would like to mention some verses from the Holy Bible

    Romans 3
    7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. THEIR CONDEMNATION IS JUST.

    Romans 6
    1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
    2 GOD FORBID. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

    14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
    15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? GOD FORBID.

    ACTS 26:20
    and ( I ) declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, AND DO WORKS BEFITTING REPENTANCE.

    Blessings to all

  • Thank you, Bill, for another great article. Thank you, Greg Simpson, for the related scriptures you have shared.

  • Hi Bill, what a great article! Having read through Paul Washer’s message (I’ll get the book), I’m reminded of Jonathan Edwards’ great sermon from 1741; “Sinners in the Hands of an angry God”. 300 years have almost past since Edwards penned his message. Obviously nothing has changed, in fact it’s getting worse. Amos also prophesied against the social ills he saw in Israel & Judah. Exile followed within 40 years of Amos writing his book. I wonder how much time Australia has before God says “enough is enough”. Thanks again Bill, please keep up the Good Fight, blessings, Kel.

  • That touchy, feely, group hug, “Kumbaya” kind of stuff is constant fare at so many churches. I get that your article isn’t about music, Bill, but I think a church’s music is an important indicator of how serious they are or are not about the Gospel…whether they do or do not revere God and grasp His holiness, whether or not they have a high view of Scripture and are Biblically literate.

    If you walk into a church and they start by singing a bunch of self-absorbant, self-aggrandizing, mediocre Pablem about themselves…”I’ve just come to praise the Lord…Let your glory fall on US…Father Abraham had many sons, blah, blah, and I’m one of them and so are you…” well, that’s about all you need to know about that church. You may as well leave right then and there because clearly, the pastor doesn’t care if his ‘worship leader’ sings really dumb songs that don’t even acknowledge the glory of God, His sacrifice, His salvation by grace toward undeserving man, etc. Or even worse, he himself is clueless, or apathetic, biding his time just to collect a weekly paycheck. I’ve even known some pastors who could care less about what the congregation sang as long as it “got people in the mood.” The Puritans would probably go apoplectic if they attended some of these modern-day services.

  • Once again, a powerful and piercing message. My wife and I will definitely lock in time to for this message to study. We were made for better things than watching people run around a field chasing a leather ball or going round and round a track. Now, I am not saying we should not watch or enjoy sport altogether, but merely contrast this to giving quality time to God in order to be edified with such sermons. Would it be safe to say that an acceptable idol is to spend more time studying God’s word? Thank you Bill for the time that you take making these articles, and sharing with the world. You have inspired many, including me personally, to draw closer to Jesus, and to develop a stronger and more solid grasp of God’s word, locked in!

  • Slightly off topic but you might want to ask people to sign the petition after Twitter locked the Lifesite organization out of their Twitter account for mentioning some scientifically supported information about homosexuality, which is actually true and therefor love based and not hate based as is so often characterized by those overcome by sin.

    https://lifepetitions.com/petition/petition-tell-twitter-to-un-block-lifesite-s-account?utm_source=LifeSiteNews.com&utm_campaign=50d5ce8f33-EMAIL_2018_02_20_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_12387f0e3e-50d5ce8f33-402369533

  • Good one Bill,

    God loves His church and he will not abandon His people now or ever as he is about the business of raising a people of His very own still! Yesterday at KYB we began studying Paul’s letter to the Galatians where it is clear that the same troubles that are plaguing the Church of Christ now are nothing new. Knowledge of God came to Paul through the Gospel of Christ by the grace and mercy of God and his life was turned around very dramatically, we read that the apostle was set apart as an ambassador with a message from the one who sent him, who gave him authority to preach the word of God. One wonders whether or not preachers today who bring the good news of salvation; by grace alone, through faith alone; in Christ alone, of Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone, are really set apart or whether or not these men have really met Jesus and been transformed by the renewing of their minds, by not being conformed to this world. (Romans 12:2) God’s amazing grace is peculiar and comes to us through hearing His word preached by men like Paul from the pulpit in church, whether for selfish reasons or not on the part of the preacher, I thought. On such occasions is when we may experience the power of the Holy Spirit as is recorded in the Belgic Confession as well as the writings of Theologians like Craig L. Blomberg. A video message may be helpful for the continual infilling of the Holy Spirit that Christians need each we week but not useful at all when one desires to experience the power of the Holy Spirit working in their lives or desires others in the church to experience the same and would not recommend the that this occur or reoccur ever! Who doesn’t want to be rescued from this evil age, from a world which is perishing? Unregenerate souls do not know they need rescuing until they hear the Gospel of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead preached and nobody is going to hear this by practicing dead religions like Catholicism for instance with it’s pope who thinks he’s above God’s Holy inerrant Word; the worship of the dead Jesus, the immortality of the soul, or the veneration of Mary before the resurrection of our Saviour from the grave, which is the Gospel message Christians are here to proclaim. The Gospel is good news, in Galatians Paul describes a different gospel as really no gospel at all and also in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4. To rebels like us when we receive the true Gospel like Paul and others who have sat at Jesus’ feet, truly desiring to know him as well as the great sacrifice God made of himself, which He made for those whom He loves, which no one merits on their own at all, may be the only time that God bestows His saving grace. We are really not that different to Christians in first century church except maybe the fact that we are not literally made into martyrs of the faith by willingly being thrown to the lions. (The Didache) May all come to a saving knowledge of Jesus and may all make our calling and election sure, serve our sovereign God sacrificially, what we know not Lord teach us, what we have not give us. May we humbly serve our Lord, let us not think of ourselves more highly than we ought, using our gifts well exercising them without pride, confessing our sin truly repenting of our sin remembering that we are sinners not because of our sin but we are sin because we are sinners, forgiven by the grace, mercy and love of God our Father in Heaven.

    God bless you and everyone

  • On a different note, I was reading your articles yesterday using the wifi from Brisbane sky gate, the first article went alright then it stopped, it said you had cancelled or closed your channel. But when I stopped wifi and went on my own data there you were? what is going on do you know?

  • I think the problems may have been on your end Bernard.

  • O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
    Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
    O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
    Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.
    … Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
    Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
    Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell;
    My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.
    Thought to be written by Arnulf of Leuven (a Cistercian monk c. 1250)

  • Thanks for this Bill,
    this is a subject that is near to my own heart as I see the opportunities that have been lost (in our own church for example) over this last decade or so.
    It seems that we have good people, good intentions, good programs etc, but as to our role as a collective in society, we have no real vision.
    I don’t blame our church leadership as such, I think we are just caught up in a 21st century system where we, and I believe most churches, need to lift our vision much, much higher, than just focussing on our own little patch barricaded in from what’s happening out there in the rest of the world.

  • Sadly, I find that Pentecostals are among the most spiritually illiterate, and I can understand why a more Calvinistic evangelicalism is attractive for advancing Christians. However, that does not need to be so. There is such a thing, as rare as it seems, of a Word and Spirit Christianity which emphasizes conforming to God’s standards.

  • As easily as a finger can be pointed at one denomination for one thing, the person pointing the finger can condemn the denomination he most identifies with for another thing.

    At some point every individual within the realm of Christendom can have a look at themselves and say I don’t have it all together and nobody knows it all.

    But are we walking individually in the light that we have?

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