For some reason, many people who consider themselves Christians believe they can live a carnal or secular life and still have God listen and respond to them. In our present culture there are numerous people who go to church and live far from God, yet expect His blessings. Who are these people? Given the nature of their church and of their beliefs, why in the world would they think that God looks favorably upon them?
This is a day of apostasy. Paul writing in 2 Timothy 3:1-9 makes this brutally clear:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
Many around us fit this description, but for now let’s talk about the church. What have we seen in recent years in so many mainline denominations, Protestant and Catholic, even now within evangelical circles? Churches have become gay and trans accepting. They worship at the altar of social justice and climate change. For these, what God through His Word says is irrelevant; it’s how they interpret Scripture to their preconceived biases and what they want it to say. The term for this is eisegesis, i.e. the reading into the Bible of one’s own ideas to make it fit his own presuppositions and agendas.
Over the years, these churches changed. People who weren’t born-again infiltrated them and made the churches reflect society and who these individuals were, i.e. what they believed. True believers were crowded out. Rather than the church and its doctrine, as followers of Jesus Christ, transforming these people, the Word was dismissed and they transformed the church. The change of the Holy Spirit of God is supposed to be from the inside out; rather these churches were changed from the outside in. They essentially told the Holy Spirit they didn’t need Him; they were fine with who they were because they saw sin differently from how the Bible describes it. Scripture tells us that we’re born into sin and all of us do it; no one can clean himself up and eradicate his own sin. It’s why we need a Savior.
The people who corrupted the churches believed that they were good on their own. It was society and culture around them that was sinful and needed changing. The system – not the individual – was the problem.
Jude 4 describes this process well:
For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
This is all in contrast to Biblical truth. When Jesus healed the blind man (on the Sabbath, of course!) and this man was confronted by the religious authorities, they couldn’t wrap their minds around Jesus being a man and also God Himself. The Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4 was probably a huge impediment in their thinking:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
In their understanding, Yahweh couldn’t become incarnate, essentially being present on the earth standing before them and also reigning in heaven. But they neglected their own Scriptures by looking through this narrow lens. There are many instances in the Tanakh – the Jewish Old Testament, with which all the Pharisees were intimately familiar – where the Lord shows up both in human form and in heaven simultaneously. The doctrine prior to the New Testament time was known as the Two Yahwehs, or the Two Powers in Heaven. An example of this among many is Psalm 110:1:
The Lord says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
The formerly blind man was bold because of his personal witness. His belief system had changed instantly when Jesus healed him. He knew enough Scripture – probably much less than the Pharisees; but he understood the power of God and what that meant.
You have to love this guy. The Pharisees questioned him a couple times and he got sassy with them. They wouldn’t believe that Jesus was from God despite this and other miraculous healings. So, the man taught them a theology lesson in John 9:30-31:
The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.
And that’s our lesson for today in regard to apostate churches. God doesn’t listen to sinners. Their prayers hit a brass ceiling. The only prayer that God hears from them is one of brokenness. Only when they reach the end of themselves and their misguided beliefs about God and sin, finally calling to Him in Spirit and truth, does He respond. Everything else they lift up to heaven is a waste.
In contrast, when someone does the will of God; in other words, he is obedient to the Word of God, then the Lord hears and responds. Obedience is pleasing to Him. Anyone following his own way and ignoring what God desires is living in such a manner that God will not act on his behalf.
Do you want the favor and blessings of God? Obey His commands. It’s as simple as that. Anything else, any other lifestyle that is contrary to what pleases God, earns His wrath. These churches far from Him, and the people in them? They are in apostasy and are earning God’s judgment. Oh, that they would realize their sin and turn in repentance!