Thoughts to Ponder

Whitewashed Tombs!

Matthew 23:27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness."

Jesus made that statement about the church leaders of His time, the scribes and Pharisees, but I believe it is an apt description of the state of the church today. They are beautiful on the outside but full of dead men's bones on the inside.

I am often asked for guidance from people on which church or denomination they should attend to get sound biblical teaching. Sadly, I have to tell them I don't know of any denominations today that have not lost sight of their first love. I take no pleasure in saying that, but just look around you. Churches are marrying homosexuals, they are ordaining homosexuals as pastors, they don't call anything sin anymore, it might upset someone.

Go to most large churches that have a separate area for their youth and often you will find a room or building that more resembles a bar than a church. The dress and the actions of many of the youth are more in keeping with a bar than a church too. Woe to you Whitewashed Tombs!

"Christian" bands look like drug infested secular bands. Oh, they may talk about Jesus, but would you know they serve Him if you just looked at their appearance and their life? Or for that matter just listened to the songs they sing?

12 Step programs meet in many churches; yet do the pastors realize that the higher power of the 12 Step program can be whatever the person wants it to be, including a tuna fish sandwich? The only higher power that is discouraged is Jesus Christ! Woe to you Whitewashed Tombs!

Pastors teach not from the Bible, but from some so called theologian's book, more often than not. They care more about making sure that the pews remain full week after week than preaching the unabashed truth!

I have said before that the churches are slaves to the government because of fear of losing their 501(c)(3) tax exemptions. They fear taking a biblical stand because it might get them in trouble with the government, yet they tell their congregations to pray for the underground church in China! The underground church in China only exists because people refuse to be slaves to what the government says instead of what God says! Woe to you Whitewashed Tombs! I hope the underground churches in China are praying for us!

The real shame is that the church is preaching a gospel that is another gospel.

Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!

The reason I say they are preaching another gospel is because they are not teaching people who Christ really is or who God the Father really is. God has been turned into a genie in the sky. If you rub His lamp just right He will be forced to do what you ask. How many churches promoted and taught from the "Prayer of Jabez"? Rub, rub, rub, this is the prayer God will answer! Woe to you Whitewashed Tombs!

I get e-mail from people all the time who say things that show they don't know who God is. They will tell me that they think God hates them. Now these are people who claim to be Christians! Hello, what are they taught in church? Oh, that's right, they are taught a feel good gospel; they must be rubbing the lamp wrong! How can God hate you when He loved you enough to forgive your sins, which cost Him and His Son dearly?

These people tell me that they think God hates them because of some trouble or another in their lives. After all, we all know that God will never give us more than we can handle! I guess the church is teaching that from one of those theologian's books, because it certainly isn't in the Bible and it certainly isn't biblical.

Don't believe me? Then believe God:

2 Cor. 1:8-11 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. [9] Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. [10] He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, [11] as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Does that sound like Paul believed that God would never give him more than he could handle? Of course not, Paul knew that God purposely did give him more than he could handle. Yet churches convince people that God loves them so much that He would never cause them to have more than they can handle if they just have faith. No, the truth is that God loves us enough that He is willing to make us suffer if that is what it takes to bring us closer to Him.

The problem is that the truth doesn't tickle ears, it scares people and scared people might not come back next Sunday! Woe to you Whitewashed Tombs!

Paul was not alone in having things given to him that were more than he could handle.

1 Kings 19:3-10 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, [4] while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, Lord," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." [5] Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.
    All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat." [6] He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
    [7] The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you." [8] So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. [9] There he went into a cave and spent the night.
    And the word of the Lord came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
    [10] He replied, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."

Elijah too had more than he could handle on his own. Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite book of the Bible is the book of Ezekiel; look at what happened to him:

Ezekiel 24:15-18 The word of the Lord came to me: [16] "Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. [17] Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners."
    [18] So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded.

It is obvious that Ezekiel loved his wife, and it is also obvious that God knew how much he loved his wife, and yet God didn't ask his permission to take her, He told him that with one blow He would take her and that Ezekiel was not to even mourn for her! If you think that wasn't too much for Ezekiel to handle on his own, then you must not love your spouse as much as I love mine, because it would destroy me, but I know that God will never give any of us more than He can handle if we allow Him to control our lives. But you don't hear that in church, and therefore when hard times come and it is more than the person can handle they lose their faith.

When they need God the most, they think He must hate them; not because He does, but because they have never been taught the truth! Woe to you Whitewashed Tombs!

In the same way they preach a different gospel by not teaching people that following Christ means more than having one moment of faith in His death and resurrection. Again if they would just teach people God's word they would spare the hearers and themselves many wounds.

Acts 11:18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life."

Repentance unto life... don't you think that means that without repentance there is no life? Yet do you hear that from the pulpit these days? Or do you hear how much God loves you just the way you are? Often those Christians who write me, who think God hates them, tell me that they are a good person, they have never done anything wrong.

If a person is never convicted of the sin in their life, how would they ever come to repentance? Not one of us is pure or righteous, we are all sinners in need of a savior. If you don't believe you are a sinner to start with how can you have salvation? Woe to you Whitewashed Tombs!

Acts 26:20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.

Prove their repentance by their deeds... but churches preach that no deeds are needed. Now I would agree that no deeds are necessary for salvation, there is nothing we can do to add to what Jesus has already done for us, however, if you don't tell people that once they are saved their lives will change and they WILL bear fruit, then you are misleading them.

Matthew 3:8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? [15] Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. [16] If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? [17] In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Neither passage is teaching a works salvation, but they are both saying that if you truly do repent and are saved, you can't help but produce good works/fruits. Jesus said it this way:

Matthew 7:16-20 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? [17] Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. [18] A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. [19] Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. [20] Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Why doesn't the church teach this today? Woe to you Whitewashed Tombs!

That passage from James also condemns the church on another level. James tells us that if we wish a person in need well and do nothing then we have done them no good at all. I would also say that if we only pray for those in need we do them no good either. Not that they don't need prayer, not that God needs us to do His work, but because God works through His people. Look at what Jesus said:

Luke 18:29-30 "I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God [30] will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life."

Notice that Jesus says in this age and in the age to come. What He is speaking about is that when the church is functioning properly a person who loses his job or his family or his home because of his Christian stand should have many times as many, jobs, family members and homes waiting for him. See if a church is functioning correctly there should not be a person who has no job for months on end and is in danger of losing his home. We are to be one body, we are to love each other as we love ourselves. If a person loses their job in a functioning church, there should be offers from those who have the ability to provide jobs. If a person loses their home and needs a place to stay there should be as many offers as there are homes in the congregation. If a person loses their family, the church should be their family.

Sadly all too often what happens is that the church prays for God to provide for the person or family in need. God has already provided for them, by having a church, but it is not functioning correctly. Woe to you Whitewashed Tombs!

Too many churches fail their congregations in another area. When a person hits tough times and needs spiritual help, they are often sent to "Christian counselors" for help. These Christian counselors who are certified by the state to provide secular godless counseling will often provide this help on a sliding pay scale. The church feels good, the counselor feels good too, because they are helping the person in need. The problem is that they are providing man's counsel not God's counsel.  Even those counselors who are licensed through some Christian group are providing man's counsel not God's. There is no such thing as Christian psychology, there is only godless secular psychology dressed up in Christian terms. Here is what God has to say about it:

Jeremiah 17:5-9 Thus says the Lord,
"Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the Lord.
[6] "For he will be like a bush in the desert
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A land of salt without inhabitant.
[7] "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
[8] "For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.
 
[9] "The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?

Man has no answers unless those answers come from God's word.

Psalm 19:7-14 The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
[8] The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
[9] The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
[10] They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
[11] Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
[12] Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
[13] Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
[14] Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

Why won't the church teach God's word? Why won't the church repent and bear fruit in keeping with that repentance? They have lost their first love. Woe to you Whitewashed Tombs!

Every Christian is a counselor if they know God's word. A person who is hurting spiritually or emotionally should not have to pay for any help, nor should they receive godless advice, what they need is to know that God will never leave them or forsake them. Even in their darkest hour He cares and He is there. But like the examples above that doesn't mean they won't have troubles, it doesn't mean that God will take all their cares away, but He loves them and will help them deal with those problems if they will just lean on Him and trust Him.

If your church is a Whitewashed Tomb, get out of it, before you die spiritually too. If your church isn't a Whitewashed Tomb, then praise God and pray for your church so that it never becomes one.

E-Mail Ralph

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July 2008