Yesterday, I received notice that the building where my husband and I had first met, and where our relationship first began 47 years ago, had gone up in flames overnight. It had begun as a church building in 1885, but that church fellowship apparently sold it to the University of Akron in 1952 (1). That church congregation later moved their gatherings to another location across town.
The University, now the new owners, turned it into a Conservatory of Music, which is where I studied music from 1968 to 1971/72. And, that is where I met the man who I married in 1972. His name is Rick.
Reflecting on Parallels
As I was reflecting over the passage of scripture for today, which is John 10, the Lord brought this news article back to my mind, and he showed me the parallels between that news story and the history of the church here in America, but which also includes the history of the church, in general, too.
This also parallels over to my marriage to Rick, for we (our relationship) also began in that old church building, which had been converted to a music conservatory. And then, our marriage parallels, too, over to the relationship between Christ and some or much of his church, at least here in America.
That church which had the fire, which had also been a music conservatory, had two parts to it, the older section, dating back to 1885, and the newer portion, which opened in 1909. The older section was the original building, and the newer section was an add on several years later.
The Old Church
John 10:7, 9, 10b-11 ESV
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep… If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture… I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
The old church was described as a “compass point” for the people of Akron. A compass point is “the spatial relation between something and the course along which it points or moves” (thefreedictionary.com).
This compass point has to do with Jesus Christ, The Word, who is our compass, who points us in the direction we are to go, and it has to do with our relationship to him and the course we take as a result of that relationship, a course which he provided for us to travel, via his death and his resurrection, which is the path of righteousness.
The old church symbolizes the original church, the body of Christ. It is comprised of living stones, which are people, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone. It is a spiritual structure, not a physical one, not built by human hands, but by God. It is where we first met Jesus Christ and we began our relationship with him, if we truly do know him. We are members of this church as soon as, by faith, we trust in him to be our Lord.
The New Church
John 10:1 NASB, 10a, 12-13 ESV
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber.”
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy… He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”
The new church is an add-on to the old church, with a new gospel, too. But, it is not part of the old church. It is connected to the old church only by a wood-frame walkway between the two, i.e. by the framework of humans, of kingdoms of men. It has the appearance of being one church, but it isn’t.
It is physical, not spiritual. It is built with human hands, not by God. It is an organization, not a living organism. It is a business of men, not Christ’s body. And, its “bible” is oftentimes the beliefs of a particular church denomination, or it is books written by men, not God-breathed, or it is books on how to grow the “church” (their businesses) via marketing schemes.
Its gospel, as well, is not the gospel of Jesus Christ, but a diluted gospel of human origin which coddles people in their sin rather than directs them on the path to true freedom from slavery (addiction) to sin. It requires no death to sin, no submission to Christ, no obedience to His Word and no walk in the Spirit, denying the flesh, and removing oneself from a walk in the flesh. Instead, it pacifies the flesh, and it removes the Holy Spirit.
Substituting Darkness for Light
Isaiah 5:20 NASB
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
The true church, the body of Christ, has been superseded by a new church, which is an institution of human origin. It has forsaken the path of righteousness and the way of holiness to follow after the flesh of humans, and to appeal to that flesh, too, via the flesh.
The old church, though, the body of Christ, well at least some of its leaders left the windows of opportunity open for this new addition. They did not protect the body of Christ from thieves and robbers who came in to steal, kill and destroy, but, instead, in many cases they embraced them. They invited them right into the gatherings of the church with their deceitful scheming and they embraced their humanistic teachings, their diluted gospel, and their humanistic approach to building and growing “the church.”
Then, the Holy Spirit got kicked right out of most of these churches, for humans and their teachings and their marketing books were now the teacher instead of the Holy Spirit. The truth of the gospel was thrown out, too, and replaced by a new gospel which tells people what their itching ears want to hear. The truth is hidden and covered up with lies, which present the truth as though it was bad, unloving and unkind, while they embrace the lies as loving, kind and good.
John 10:27-30 ESV
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
The Old Church has been gutted (devastated, shattered, plundered) by these destructive forces of these humanistic institutions, philosophies, teachings and gospel, i.e. by these thieves and robbers who have entered into the sheepfold by another way other than the true way, which is Jesus Christ, the true Christ, and his true gospel, i.e. the way of righteousness.
The original stones are still standing, though, but the church is a shell of what it once was. It is like the church mentioned in Revelation which has the appearance of being alive but is mostly dead. The true church will never die, though, for it is Christ’s body, and he will preserve it through all storms and fires and every evil which Satan and his hordes can throw at her. And, he can revive and restore her back to her original condition.
But, “she” is not those who merely profess the name of Jesus, or who claim to be in relationship with him, but his true church, the old church, are his sheep who listen to him and who follow (obey) him. They are not perfect, and it is possible that they can, for a time, stray from their pure devotion to Christ, as is evidenced by the letters to the seven churches in Revelation. But, Jesus will not allow them to stray forever. If they do not repent on their own, he will discipline them in order to bring them back into fellowship with him, and I believe that discipline is just around the corner.
The call to the church, which has wandered from her pure devotion to Christ, and which has united herself with this false church and false gospel, is to return to the Lord and to being the old church, the body of Christ, as Jesus originally intended her to be.
Let Christ revive, restore and renew you in him to what he died that you might become, which is the righteousness of God. He died on that cross, not just to rescue you from hell, to forgive your sins, and to promise you heaven when you die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.
Please know this. If we walk according to the flesh, and we make sin our practice, we will die in our sins, not have eternal life with God. A mere confession of Christ as Savior of your life, or a mere acceptance of his blood sacrifice for your sins, if it is not accompanied by death to sin and living to righteousness, and a walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh, leaves you still in slavery to sin and bound for hell, not heaven. So, please take this to heart, for time is running out.
Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken
Henry F. Lyte / Mozart/ Arr. Hubert P. Main
Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition, all I’ve sought or hoped or known;
Yet how rich is my condition! God and heav’n are still mine own.
Let the world despise and leave me, they have left my Savior, too;
Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like them, untrue.
And while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me, show Thy face and all is bright.
Man may trouble and distress me, ’twill but drive me to Thy breast;
Life with trials hard may press me; heav’n will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ’tis not in grief to harm me, while Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me, were that joy unmixed with Thee.
Saturday, April 21, 2018, 5:48 a.m.