But Now Take Courage

Haggai 2:1-5 NASB

“On the twenty-first of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet saying, ‘Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people saying, “Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? But now take courage, Zerubbabel,” declares the Lord, “take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,” declares the Lord, “and work; for I am with you,” declares the Lord of hosts. “As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!”’”

The temple of God today is the church, the body of Christ, the people of God who have trusted in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives, who have been crucified with Christ in death to sin and raised with Christ to walk in newness of life in him, no longer as slaves to sin, but now as slaves to God and to his righteousness. So it is not a physical building but a spiritual building. And it is made of living stones, which are the believers in Jesus Christ, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone, and as its builder, too.

So, the temple of God, the church, the body of Christ, is not of a church denomination, and it is not incorporated under the state, and it is not a civic center, nor is it a social club, nor is it a place for good clean-cut family entertainment. But that is what it has been turned into in America in the majority of what is being called “church.” Yet, the true church does exist within these gatherings, but so many have compromised with the world so that it is barely distinguishable between the church and the world today.

So, when this passage of Scripture asks the question, “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory?,” I don’t really know the answer to that question today, for I am not sure at what point things really began to shift away from the biblical role model of what church is supposed to be to what it has become today. For I believe the shift has been slow in coming, and it has been very subtle on purpose so that most folks didn’t even realize when it was changing from what it used to be.

So, I can speak from my own experience. The church gathering I went to growing up was certainly not perfect, and it had its issues, but what I remember of it was that the truth of the gospel was taught. Holiness, godliness, repentance, and obedience to the Lord were stressed. And when we took communion, it was a very solemn and spiritual time of spiritual reflection and prayer. And some people sang out without anyone leading them, but as the Spirit led, and we had testimony times, too.

I learned there what it meant to walk with the Lord in holiness and in righteousness and in obedience to my Lord. And I knew the conviction of sin and I knew repentance and obedience to my Lord. And I took God and his word very seriously from early on. And we had Bible studies in people’s homes throughout the week where we continued to grow in our walks of faith and where we had wonderful times of true biblical Christian fellowship, and where we encouraged one another in the Lord.

But then, after I was married, and we had our second child, we moved away, and it has been an adventure ever since then living different places and attending various gatherings of “the church.” And there have been some good and positive experiences, but probably more experiences that were not so good. And eventually the Lord began to open my mind to see the shift that had taken place in evangelical Christianity. And that was 24 years ago I first began to see the change, and it has changed so much since then.

And what I was seeing when my eyes finally began to be open to what was happening to the church was that what is now called “church” really is not the body of Christ, although Christians are part of these “churches.” But what I realized is that most of what is called “church” are really businesses being marketed to the world. And so they are entertaining the world in order to draw in large crowds of people from the world into their gatherings, and so they ceased to be the church, the body of Christ, as a unit.

For now they were becoming places of entertainment and good clean fun and enjoyment and laughter and games and gimmicks and watered-down gospels and play time and acting and performing and jokes galore, etc. And the “worship” services were more like stage productions. And the biblical language was being altered in favor of words that were less offensive to human flesh. And so “sin” was replaced with “messed up,” and repentance and obedience were out, and being “seeker sensitive” was the key.

And the gospel became “Pray the prayer to invite Jesus into your heart and now you are saved, all your sins are forgiven, and now heaven is guaranteed you when you die, and nothing can take that away.” No repentance. No turning away from lifestyles of sin. Or if repentance is mentioned, it is diluted to a mere acknowledgment of sin. And no talk about walks of obedience to the Lord or the consequences of continuing in deliberate and habitual sin and of not obeying the Lord Jesus.

Now, this does not describe every gathering of “the church” here in America. But it does describe the majority, it appears. So many of them have gone the way of the world in order to draw the world into their gatherings. And so the gatherings are a conglomerate of people from the world, people making shallow professions of faith in Jesus without repentance or obedience, and some genuine followers of Jesus Christ who are continuing with these “churches” because it is the only means of “church” that they know.

But not all is lost! There is an encouragement here which I believe we can apply to our situation today based on the fact that the book of Revelation, in particular, speaks of people coming to faith in Jesus Christ during the tribulation. And that encouragement is that we need to remain strong in our faith, and keep on believing that people will come to genuine walks of faith in Jesus Christ, and that the body of Christ will grow to maturity in Christ so they will be ready for when the Lord returns.

We just have to keep obeying the Lord Jesus, and we must keep speaking the truth and exposing the fruitless deeds of darkness in hopes that people’s eyes will be opened to the truth and that they will forsake their sins to follow Jesus in obedience, and that they will now worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. So, even if all looks hopeless now, and even if we are largely ignored and/or opposed now, God can take the seed we are planting and he can use that in people’s lives even years after it is planted.

[Matt 7:21-23; Matt 24:9-14; Lu 9:23-26; Rom 1:18-32; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14,24; Rom 12:1-2; Rom 13:11; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; 1 Co 1:18; 1 Co 15:1-2; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 1:5; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 2:8-10; Eph 4:17-32; Eph 5:3-6; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-17; 1 Pet 2:24; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6,24-25; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Heb 3:6,14-15; Heb 10:23-31; Heb 12:1-2; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]

For Our Nation

An Original Work / September 11, 2012

Bombs are bursting. Night is falling.
Jesus Christ is gently calling
You to follow Him in all ways.
Trust Him with your life today.
Make Him your Lord and your Savior.
Turn from your sin. Follow Jesus.
He will forgive you of your sin;
Cleanse your heart, made new within.

Men betraying: Our trust fraying.
On our knees to God we’re praying,
Seeking God to give us answers
That are only found in Him.
God is sovereign over all things.
Nothing from His mind escaping.
He has all things under His command,
And will work all for good.

Jesus Christ is gently calling
You to follow Him in all ways.

Men deceiving: We’re believing
In our Lord, and interceding
For our nation and its people
To obey their God today.
He is our hope for our future.
For our wounds He offers suture.
He is all we need for this life.
Trust Him with your life today.

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