Come Out From Among Them
“The early church was married to poverty, prisons and persecutions. Today, the church is married to prosperity, personality, and popularity.”
“The tragedy of this late hour is that we have too many dead men in the pulpits giving out too many dead sermons to too many dead people.”
“One thing and one thing alone keeps us from complete decay in this hour the church, the true Church.”
~ Quotes by Leonard Ravenhill
Leonard Ravenhill (1907 – 1994) was an English Christian that regularly preached and wrote about the differences between the life of the Church in the New Testament and what was called “church” in his day. Fast forward to today and we see that many professing Christians in the “Church” lack the fire, commitment, sacrifice, and obedience that characterizes the true saints of God. In many ways, true Christianity has been crowded out of the Institutional Church(es) by cold and rigid routines and a conformity to the world. Churches are systematic or businesslike establishments (a denomination of churches or even a single church) created by human organization. They take a business model approach to leadership, membership, finances, meetings, schedules, programs, and activities.
Many people who seek God have tired of the Institutional Church setting and the self-serving elements within it and have set out to pattern their beliefs and worship after the Christianity we read about in the Bible, as opposed to the “Churchianity” that generally characterizes church life today.
Holiness is the key to thriving churches. This does not mean they will be great in number, but it does mean they will shine as lights in a dark and wicked world. The greatest impact is made by those who surrender their lives to God, and become real Christians, and not Christians in name only. We cannot divide our allegiance between the Lord and the world and think we will be what we need to be, or that we will make a difference in the lives of the people around us. No half-hearted effort will do for the business pertaining to the Kingdom of God. Our Lord calls on us to deny ourselves and to carry our cross. We are to commune daily with God and separate ourselves unto the Lord. When holiness characterizes a person, or a group of people, the world takes notice. How it affects one person to the next is up to him, for the old adage rings true, that the same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay. Yet we are warned in the scriptures, that those who follow Christ in holiness will be hated just as he was hated. The life of the Christian rebukes sinners, thus sinners rise up in opposition and persecution of those who are walking in obedience to the Lord.
Where are the men and women that have been broken over their sins and have given their hearts and lives to Christ and are warning those around them of the second death? Instead, many professing Christians in churches are making excuses for their sins, continuing in their sins, and comforting others in their sins. The Bible says that without holiness, no man shall see the Lord. When do you hear this preached in pulpits? Instead, we hear, “God knows you cannot help but sin, but just accept his free gift of salvation, for how you live in relation to God does not matter.” The apostles of Christ would take issue with such a statement. They tell us through the Word that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God, that those who claim to know the Lord but do not obey him are liars, that obedience leads to eternal life and sin leads to eternal death.
Holiness and righteousness are declared to be the characteristics of those who are born of God. The Bible says that God sent the Lord Jesus to bless us, and that he blesses us by turning us from our iniquities, not by giving us an allowance for sin because he knows that is all we can do. The purpose of the Lord’s coming was to deliver us from the love of the world, servitude to the flesh, and the lies of the devil, that we may walk in the light by following him. If we claim that holiness is not possible, then we are denying the Word of God and the mission of Christ.
Though we learn and grow as Christians, this does not mean that we can be saved without submission to the Lord’s rule over our lives. The Bible speaks of “perfecting holiness” in the fear of God, not being saved and then maybe being holy. The Spirit influences us to forsake our sinful and self-ruled lives and to follow Christ as Lord. The Bible teaches us that those who sow to the flesh shall reap corruption, but those who sow to the Spirit will reap eternal life. We cannot serve two masters. We either serve sin, or we serve the Lord. Though the Christian is not immune to temptation, and he may sin, it is false to say it is inevitable that he will sin, and it is also false that he does not need to repent. Should he harden his heart toward God, he will one day find himself alongside others who will become partakers of the wrath of God.
Growing in Christ means that we are becoming more like Christ. A qualification for Christians is that they continue in the faith and submit to the Spirit’s molding of them into Christ-likeness. Without this growth in holiness, and the chastening of God when we temporarily resist, we have no proper claim to be children of God. The gospel of Christ is not for the purpose of excusing sinners in their sins, its purpose is making holy people out of unholy people. Is this what is happening in the churches today? Of course, it is true in some of the churches, but many, if not most, are giving the world a false impression of what Christianity is. Churches today have lots of resources, lots of programs, many activities, fancy buildings, and religious respectability in society, but are they holy? Money is sent in, and money is sent out, but are the people holy? Are the preachers holy men? Are the deacons holy men? Are the congregants holy people? Are they hungering and thirsting after righteousness? Are the men seeking to be holy protectors and providers that are skilled in leading their families by the Word of God? Are the women seeking to be holy, separating themselves from the world’s philosophies by being keepers at home?
Let’s face it. If the individuals in the churches are not advancing in prayerful holiness, all of their activities are doing more to prove the world’s opinions about their hypocrisy than anything else. The Lord Jesus said: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Paul told the Ephesians: “Be imitators of God.” But many professing Christians and churches are imitators of the world, not imitators of God. The images they set before their eyes on the television and the internet proves their lack of holiness. The music they listen to proves their lack of holiness. Their immodesty shows their lack of holiness. Many people think that the Christian religion is just an arrangement by which man can sin and escape the penalty, but that is not the gospel of Christ. It is the lie of the devil and the make-believe religion of lost professors of Christianity.
We do not climb to the height of holiness in and of ourselves, we advance in holiness as we follow Christ. The Bible does not teach (though some men have) that Christ’s righteousness is transferred to our account so that we are no longer obligated to obey God. The imputation of righteousness is being reckoned righteous on account of our faith, the faith that is righteousness, the faith that believes God, trusts God, and obeys God. The faith that works by love. At our conversion, righteousness is imputed to us, we are reckoned as righteous, even though that was not what we were before then. Simply put, our sins are forgiven. We are not deemed “not guilty”, we are guilty yet forgiven and cleansed. That is the love and mercy of God. Yet this is not a license to continue in sin. We must follow Christ in holiness and righteousness. Not to do so is to become one of those that Peter referred to when he said that it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to have known it but departed from it.
The man who has come into a living relationship with the Lord of holiness and righteousness can live the holy and righteous life. As we follow Christ, his way becomes our way. We are to study and obey the Word of God, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”
Some people claim that we cannot be holy, but we will be holy after we die. This shows that people think that death is able to accomplish something that the Lord cannot. “That ye may be blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish…” Sure, it will be so after we die they claim. But read the rest of the sentence: “…in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” Churches lack influence because they are inconsistent in their theology and unholy in their conduct. Christ is the author of eternal salvation for all those who obey him. Not everyone that says unto him “Lord, Lord” shall inherit the Kingdom of God. Only those who do the will of God will avoid perishing with the world. Christ not only saves us from the penalty of sin, he saves us from selfishly sinning by turning us from our iniquities.
Temptation is not sin, no matter how strong the temptation is. But giving in to temptation is sin. The next time you seek to excuse your sinning because you have heard we “all sin every day in thought, word, and deed”, remember that the Bible says: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” The truth is, it is not that you are unable to obey God, you are simply unwilling. If I declare that the life of holiness is impossible, then I am saying that Christ is not able to make me holy, and that is exactly what is taught by many churches today.
We need to bring our lives and our churches into line with the Word of God, rather than the teachings of men. If our examination of ourselves and our churches shames us, then so be it. That will be better for us, for the churches, the world, and the Kingdom of God.