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The Interceders Encourager No. 6

How Concerned Is The Church In Britain?

In the Interceders Encourager No. 3, I quoted the words of W.P.Nicholson; "Nothing is so alarming as the utter absence of alarm in our churches. Nothing is so awful in my mind as that sinners have no terror of sin or of the judgment." If that was a reality in the 1920`s, then how much more of a reality is it today after eighty years of retreat and compromise with the world? In spite of a huge drift away from the churches of millions of attenders, and a general repudiation of God and His ways during this period, resulting in massive increases in immorality, in crime and lawlessness, there is an amazing complacency in most of our churches, which just carry on as if there wasnít a dying world around us.

To see this illustrated, we have only to look at the Churchís reaction to the blatant breaking of all the Ten Commandments in our society.

Most people around us do not care about God, their Creator, and live in rebellion against Him.

Atheistic humanism and the denigration of Biblical Christianity are constantly promulgated in the media.

The Church should be incensed and full of divine jealousy at such behaviour, but it is not.

Our society idolises people, material things and pleasure. God does not get a look in, but we do not seem outraged or affronted.

Swearing, cursing and blasphemy are constantly uttered through our television and cinema screens, and in our streets, even by young children. The name of the Lord Jesus, the fairest among ten thousand, is used as a swear word, but our hearts are not broken over it.

The Lordís Day is increasingly dishonoured and disdained, but we show no anguish over it.

Fathers and mothers are not honoured by their offspring, often being shunted off into old peopleís homes. Children and young people disobey their parents on a prodigious scale, but we do not speak out against it.

Hatred and violence are spued out on our television and computer game screens, and are increasingly seen in real life. Cruelty to animals, Godís creation, especially through intensive farming and vivisection continues unchecked, but we seem unaffected.

Alcoholism, drunkenness and drug taking increase, resulting in horrific levels of crime, but it seems we "pass by on the other side."

Promiscuity, sex outside marriage, (resulting in a huge increase in sexually transmitted diseases), the number of couples living in sin outside marriage, have all risen to levels undreamt of in the 1920`s, but where is the alarm, where are the voices raised in protest? We hear a lot about homosexuality, but that is just the tip of the iceberg of the whole sexual revolution that is so abominable in the sight of God, but against which the Church seems silent.

Huge increases in adultery and divorces and family breakdowns, with their resultant lack of security for children, and the total breakdown of society, seemingly leave us unconcerned.

The proliferation of dishonesty, of lying and cheating and stealing, has reached epidemic proportions throughout the country, yet where is our sense of shame?

Greed, laziness and selfishness abound, injustice flourishes, witchcraft and occult practices are rife, Islam spreads at an alarming rate, but you would never know it by what goes on in most churches. Millions of souls are going to hell, but the Church does not seem to care. It carries on as if all these evils did not exist. We have, to all intents and purposes, refused to face the problems in our society.

We have chosen either to remain ignorant, or to pretend these things donít exist, or just to complain about them and hide from them, like Gideon threshing wheat in a winepress.

And all this does not mention a) the suffering of people all over the world caused by famine, wars and injustice; b) the suffering of animals, Godís creation, all over the world, which is almost completely neglected by the Church; and c) the pollution and destruction of the worldís resources by selfish people. This world is Godís creation, made in all its beauty and diversity and glory to point people to their Creator, but I do not see much concern in the Church today over its pollution and destruction. How we need to get back to the priorities of the Celtic Church, who honoured God as the Living Creator and Sustainer of all life, and knew that His creation was to be respected and loved, and never exploited, polluted or damaged. But todayís Church, especially in these days of extreme pollution and destruction which should be in the forefront of preserving and repairing Godís creation, is less concerned about it than many secular organisations.

When we come together, our services and meetings betray our failure to face reality.

Most of the songs we sing, whether old or new, are either shallow or irrelevant or selfish, pandering to peopleís pride, giving them a false sense of security. We have become like the people of Israel in the days of the prophet Amos. We have divorced justice and worship, and not sought righteousness. God would say to us, "I hate, I despise your celebrations. I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me gifts, I will not accept them. Away with the noise of your songs. I will not listen to the music of your instruments. But let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream." (Amos 5:21-24) Why should Almighty God accept our worship when people come before Him dressed scruffily, without respect, when they behave irreverently before the King of kings, when they live selfishly and unrighteously with no fear of God before their eyes?

Most of the sermons preached are either dry and intellectual, or are just informative or flattering, like the false prophets in Bible times, in contrast with the sermons preached in revival periods, which were relevant and challenging, concerned with the issues of life and death. As E.M.Bounds pointed out, "All forms of sin and wickedness flourish under preaching that never disturbs consciences nor awakens opposition."

When "the gospel" is preached, it is usually a watered down "easy believism", that doesnít convict of sin, or make people mad, as Wesley insisted it should. The hearers are told just to raise a hand, or signify acceptance in a way that costs as little as possible, and then assured they will now be all right, whereas what God demands is true repentance, a change of heart, holiness, righteousness and obedience, i.e. a radical change in peopleís priorities and lifestyle.

But the most glaring omission in our church services today is in the realm of intercessory prayer.

In most churches, the intercessory prayers are either too formal or too general and vague, or even non - existent. Where the prayers are specific, they are normally concerned with physical and material things, in direct contradiction to the teaching of Jesus, who assured us that if we seek first the kingdom of God, our material needs will be taken care of by our Heavenly Father. I have rarely been to a church where the prayers were concerned with eternal issues, such as dealing with the scandal of sin in the Church, confronting the evils in the world, or saving people from going to hell.

Worst of all, there are too many churches that have no intercessory prayers at all in their services. Such churches are a disgrace to Christianity, and should not be called Christian at all, as they are totally wrapped up in themselves and their own concerns. Every time the people of God meet together, they should show their concern for others, for the visitors who are attending, for the area in which they are placed, for the lack of righteousness in this land and in the whole of Godís world, for the weak and endangered state of the churches in this country, and for the persecuted Church of Jesus Christ worldwide. The Church is being persecuted in more places and more fiercely than at any other time in its history, but you would never know it from the prayers in most churches in this land, who show abysmal ignorance and little concern. I have never been to any church in Britain where a particular need in the Suffering Church was prayed for with earnestness and conviction. The churches in this land are in a terrible state, spiritually, and my soul is heavy with the burden of a God dishonouring, uncaring Church, so the Fatherís heart must be broken beyond belief at the complacency and selfishness of the people called by His name.

What makes all this far worse, (as W.P.Nicholson noted so long ago), is the acceptance of the worldís standards by the Church. All around us, couples are living in sin outside marriage, single people commit fornication outside marriage, married people commit adultery and get divorced, people of the same gender commit sexual acts together, all of which God hates, but it appears that such practices are now accepted as normal by Christians, with the lame excuse that "everybody seems to do it today"! If the first century Christians had adopted such an attitude, Christianity wouldnít have survived the first generation! It was only because the moral standards of the Christians were far higher than their contemporaries, that they not only survived, but outthought, outlived and won over the pagans. If we carry on as we are doing, Christianity will soon be extinguished in this country. But that is why we are praying that God will move and turn things upside down.

Not only are many of the sins of the world accepted as normal, they are even allowed into the Church, and not spoken against. Churches today have become like the church at Corinth. They have allowed sin and immorality to come in, and not spoken against them, and not been grieved about them, and not exercised church discipline, and not put offenders outside the fellowship, as they should have done. (1Cor.5:1-7,13) How we need men like the apostle Paul, who will confront Godís people with the seriousness of their sin, so that, as at Corinth, those responsible are put out of the church, in order to bring them to repentance. If any sin is not rebuked and put out, the rottenness spreads through the church. The wickedness has to be purged out. (1Cor.5:6-8&13)

When the church at Corinth had their weakness and compromise pointed out, they were alarmed and indignant at their blindness and stupidity. They were truly repentant for what they had allowed, and were concerned to see everything put right. (2Cor.7:11) They realized they had gone away from Godís standards, and had not condemned the sin in their midst. They became truly alarmed and frightened of the consequences, so they dealt with the problem as they were instructed by the apostle.

Today, where are the leaders and the pastors who will confront the churches with their sin, so that, together with the ministry of the Holy Spirit, those who have sinned and those who have excused the sin are brought to a sense of alarm and indignation at the sin and the acceptance of the sin that has come into the church, the evils are repented of, those responsible are put out of the church, and the church is purged.

Another area where the worldís standards have come into the Church, and where the Church seemingly shows no concern, is that concerning the behaviour of children and young people. The erosion of Biblical standards in this area has been going on for so long that we have almost forgotten what the norm is. Godís standard, which we see in the Bible and at times of revival, is that children are obedient to their parents, and are respectful to their elders. They are disciplined and punished when they are disobedient, so that they learn through what they suffer. There are beautiful stories from times of revival of children sitting quietly under the ministry of the Word, taking in the truths of the gospel. They become convicted of sin like adults, they truly repent of their sins, and are wonderfully converted. They then pray earnestly with tears for other children to be saved, because they are passionately concerned that their friends donít go to hell. I have seen such things in another country. but when did you see such things in Britain last? We are only too well aware that all around us children and young people show little or no respect to their elders, and are openly disobedient The double tragedy is that this disobedience and lack of respect is now accepted in "Christian" families and even on church premises. Parents are not taught how to discipline their children properly, according to the Bible teaching. Children are not made to sit quietly. receive instruction and be instantly obedient. On the contrary, evangelical Christian churches have the invidious reputation of pandering to children, and allowing them to behave in an even more undisciplined way than the world would allow! I have had personal experience of this many times, including one unfortunate occasion when we took some children of non Christian parents, who had never been to a Sunday School before, to the Sunday School of an evangelical Church. The children we took were so amazed at the bad behaviour of the children of so called "Christian" parents that they soon decided they didnít want to go there anymore. God is not pleased at such things, and we should be ashamed at the way the Church has lowered its standards, disobeyed Godís Word, and lost its way with regard to the upbringing, teaching and disciplining of children.

Such lowering of standards in these and other areas is hardly surprising as the majority of church members do not take God and His Word seriously. They do not put Him first in their lives. They do not keep His day holy. Most of them do not even bother to go to morning and evening services on a Sunday, much less go to a prayer meeting during the week. Most of them do not read their Bibles nor pray for others every day. They do not share the concerns in the heart of God. They are in the world and of it. They are supposed to be followers of Jesus, but they do not practice self denial, which is the first requirement of a follower, according to the Master. (Lk.9:23). They do not even fast twice a week, as the Pharisees did, (Lk.18:12), so their righteousness does not exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees , so according to Jesus they will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt.5:20) I am well aware that we are saved by the grace of God, but if we are disciples of Jesus, we will want to do His will, and Jesus said if we love Him, we will do what He says. In the Western Church today, there is a real danger of antinomianism. We need to get back to the teaching of Jesus and the great revival preachers. So many of todayís "Christians" have not died to sin, but make excuses for it, showing that they are still under its dominion. (Rom.6:8-14) They do not seek after holiness. Consequently, they are weak, and do not get the victory when trial or temptation or bereavement come. They show the same trivial concerns as do those who do not profess to be Christians. And yet they regard themselves as good Christians. They think they are rich and lack nothing, but in Godís sight they are like the church at Laodicea; poor and wretched, pitiful, blind and naked. It is not surprising that, like the Laodicean church, the Lord has withdrawn His manifest presence, and like that church, they are not even aware of it.

I am saying all this, not to condemn the churches of this land, but:

a) so we can see the churches of this land more as God sees them.

b) so we can truly apologize to the Lord on behalf of the Church called by His name, and which He purchased with His own blood, to be pure and spotless before Him.

c) so we can confess its sins to God, as Daniel and Nehemiah and Ezra did on behalf of Godís people in their time. We need not only to confess the sins of others, but to confess for ourselves as well, for any way that we have compromised with the world, and not stood for God and His truth, for every way in which we have not been concerned enough, and not acted as we should have done.

d) so we can pray more earnestly for God to have mercy on His Church, and bring it to repentance.

God is both saddened and angry at the people who bear His name, because of their polluted lives.

The Church today can be likened to the people of Israel in Ezekiel`s day who profaned the name of the Lord. (Ez.36:22-23) The Churchís name and Godís name are despised because of our pollutions and our idols. We need to feel ashamed, confess our sins and the sins of the Church, and ask God to intervene.

For, just as in Ezekiel`s day, only God can deal with the situation. Only He can cleanse His people from all their impurities and idols, and put a new spirit in them. (Ez.36:25-32).

We do not know how God will deal with the Church. Perhaps He will pour out His Spirit on the existing churches, convict, bring to repentance, and give new life, like the valley of dry bones, as He has done in the past, or perhaps He will raise up new fellowships in tune with His will, as He did in the 18th Century. What is important for us is to be willing to do whatever He says; to truly confess the sins of His people; to seek an outpouring of His Spirit; to ask Him to raise up Spirit filled leaders and preachers like the apostle Paul and the prophet Micah, who will "declare to Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin."(Mic.3:8), so that Godís people are brought to where He wants them to be, His manifest presence is restored to us, and His glory dwells in our land.

Keep before you a picture of what your church and all churches should be like. Ask yourself these questions: (adapted from questions by David Wilkerson) :

Is the greatness, the glory and the holiness of God acknowledged and experienced in the services? Is everyone present aware of his or her unworthiness before Him, and aware of the amazing grace of God in Christ? Do people respond to someone being born again of the Spirit by praising God because He has remembered the dust of the ground? (Rom.11:32-36, 1Pet.5:6, 1Pet.2:9, Gen.2:7, Ps.103:14)

Is the tangible, piercing manifest presence of Jesus evident in the services and meetings? Do the people melt before Him, weeping over their sins, and rejoicing in the awesome forgiveness and peace He brings? Do they go to their knees in all consuming adoration of Him? (Eph.3:17-19, 1Pet.1:8)

Does the fear of the Lord dominate every thought, every desire and every word? Is all sin and idolatry rebuked? Are Godís standards held up for all to see? (Acts 5:11)

Is the Bible preached with power and authority as the Word of God? When the Bible is read or preached, is it like a sharp two-edged sword, revealing to everyone their innermost thoughts and desires, so that no-one is able to hide from God? (Heb.4:12-13)

Do visitors sense the presence of Jesus in your services? Does the aroma of His holiness permeate the atmosphere? Are there tears of intercession for those who have not bowed the knee to Jesus? Are there cries of brokenness, with a sincere desire to put all things right? Are the believers broken with the sins of their friends and neighbours and relatives going to hell? And are they rejoicing over sinners brought out of darkness into His marvellous light, every day? (Acts2:37, 2Cor,5:13&20, Rom.9:1-3, 1Pet.2:9)

Are people being changed from one degree of glory to another, as they see the glory of God? (2Cor.3:18)

Are there prayers for God to pour out His Spirit and transform the whole area, so that places of drinking, gambling and amusement close down, as peopleís minds, mouths and bodies are cleaned up by the Holy Spirit? Are there prayers that the Lord and His house and His Day will be honoured as they should be? (Acts 17:16, Jn.16:8, Acts19:18-19, 1Cor.5:9-11, Tit.2:11-14)

Are miracles of healing and salvation being seen? (Acts 2:43)

Is Jesus really Lord in His church? Is He exalted over all, and obeyed? (Phil.2:9-11, Jn.14:15, Jn.15:5)

Is the Holy Spirit honoured? Is He changing the lives of everyone present? Is the mind of the Spirit sought for all decisions and His power for witness? Are there times of quietness set apart for prayer and fasting, to hear what the Spirit says to the church? (Rev.3:22, Acts 13:2)

Are the Lordís concerns made the concern of every worshipper? Are there prayers at every service for the Suffering Church and for particular individuals in those churches? (Heb.13:3) Are there prayers at every service for Godís suffering world, that the cruelty to people and animals, and the despoiling of His creation will stop? (Rom.8:19&22, 1Tim.2:1-4).

Is everybody in the service, from the youngest to the oldest, aware of, and in touch with the reality of Almighty God? Do all the children and young people listen attentively and take part fully in the service, knowing that they need the salvation of Christ as much as anyone else? (Rom.3:21-24, 5:12)

Do all the people love to have the Word of God taught to them, as it is always fresh and life giving? (Acts.2:42, Jn.6:63)

Does the love of Christ so dominate peopleís hearts and lives, that they generously give and share all that they can? (Acts 2:44-45, 2Cor. 8:1-5)

Do people willingly commit themselves to work for the Lord, to spend and to be spent, no matter what the cost? (Ps.110:3)

Does everybody go out from the service changed by their experience, knowing they have been in the Lord's presence, and not wanting to leave? (Ps.16:11, Acts 2:46-47)

Are people drawn to the services and meetings like a magnet, knowing that God is there? (Acts 2:6, 1Cor.14:24-25)

This is not an impossible dream. All things are possible to those who have faith. No matter how bad the situation may appear to be, remember Samuel. Samuel was born in very dark times, with lawlessness and idolatry rampant. When he was young, it was said that the glory of God had departed from Israel. But Samuel did not despair. He trusted God and prayed. He was humble and teachable. He had an open ear to God. In Samuel, God found someone simple enough and humble enough to listen to Him, trust Him and do what He said. God is still looking for such people. Samuel was exposed to a huge amount of evil and corruption, but remained untouched by it. That was a miracle for a boy and a man to be kept pure under such circumstances and in that atmosphere, but God did it, and He longs to do it again in our lives. In the work of intercession, we need God to work miracles in us, and give us a humble and a pure spirit in the midst of a corrupt and idolatrous world. Ask God to do it for you.

Samuel was a man dedicated to prayer. (1Sam.12:23) He continued to pray for Godís people even though they were ignorant, idolatrous and rebellious, and in the end, the glory did return to Israel. A man after Godís own heart became the shepherd of Israel, and his son built a beautiful house for God, which pleased God so much that when it was dedicated, His glory filled the place, so that the priests could not enter the building, and all the people knelt down, with their faces to the ground, and worshipped and gave thanks to the Lord. (2Chron.7:1-3).

So now is the time to pray like Samuel, when the glory seems to have departed from the Church. Let us commit ourselves afresh not to sin against Godís people by ceasing to pray for them, but to pray the more earnestly, that Godís glory is seen again in the Church and in its services and meetings, so that, like the priests at the dedication of the temple, we cannot even stand to minister or pray, because His glory fills the place, and He alone is exalted on that day. (Is.2:11)