In a recent survey by the Pew Research Center they determined that the United States was 70.6% Christian. That is quite an astounding number. Since Christ is the only one who knows exactly who the Father has given Him I tend to think that number is actually somewhat lower. The term Christian in contemporary usage can mean anyone who is not Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or maybe even Druid. It may denote anyone who identifies because they live in a “Christian” nation. Maybe it is someone who wants to indicate that they do not want to be seen as an atheist.
Both the Pew Research Center and many of the people they surveyed apparently are somewhat confused as to what a Christian actually is. Scripture tells us we are chosen “in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Ephesians 1:4). Christians are “God’s chosen ones,” and as such will show the fruits of His Spirit and be “holy and beloved, [with] compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience….” (Colossian 3:12). We are Christians “because God chose [us] as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). We ourselves do not choose to be Christians because it is God who calls us to to Him. It is very apparent that God did not audit the Pew survey.
A sign of a healthy church is their adherence to the Word of God. The Word of God is the foundation and starting point for every aspect of the Christian life. The apostles’ teaching has been preserved for us in the New Testament so that we have God’s instruction. One can hardly over-emphasize the importance of sound, biblical teaching. The teaching of the Apostles had already circulated to the seven churches of Revelation including the church at Ephesus. So that church was well aware of the inspired Word of God.
The church of Ephesus was the first and most prominent of the seven churches that Christ addresses in Revelation 2 and 3. It was the mother church out of whose ministry the other six were founded and the church that Paul would address his letter to four decades before Christ addresses them here in Revelation.
False teachers posed and still pose a constant danger to the church. Jesus had warned His church of false teachers and the Ephesian church was discerning enough to understand. Jesus had warned. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15). In 2 John verse 7 it is written “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.” The Ephesians knew all this. In Revelation Jesus warns this church “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5).
With the sound teaching put forth in the New Testament, which these churches knew of, it is important to note that only decades after these teachings were circulated, only two of the Seven Churches did not get a stern rebuke. Pergumum was the church where ‘Satan’s seat’ or ‘throne’ is; it needed to repent of allowing false teachers. (Revelation 2:12-17). Thyatira was the church known for its charity, whose “latter works are greater than the former;” but held to the teachings of a false prophetess who is “teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” (Revelation 2:18-29). To Sardis Christ warned “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.” (Revelation 3:1-6). And to Laodicea He warned “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-22).
The state of the many 21st century churches is, sadly, one of abandoning the love they first had and they look more and more Ephesian as time passes. Yet it is not only abandoning their first love, many are following the path taken by Pergumum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea. Some mainline denominations, in fact, very much resemble the five Jesus called out. I say this fully aware that many local churches within these denominations still resemble the churches of Philadelphia and Smyrna.
When my family came to America from Scotland we sought out the Presbyterian church closest to our home. It was first formed on May 27, 1675. The first five pastors were non-conformists who fled Scotland because they would not conform to the English Anglican Church and accept the King as head of the Church. These pastors would only accept one king as head of the Church and that was the King of Kings. The last of these non-conformist pastors was the Reverend Archibald Riddell. Before he came from Scotland he was imprisoned at Edinburgh for, they say, preaching in the open air which was against the law. He was therefore a Covenanter who was preaching contrary to the articles of the Church of England. Many Coventanters would lay down their lives in defense of the Headship of Christ.
That particular Presbyterian church has come a long way from the days of John Knox and the Covenanters. My family left it in the early 1970s because of both a liberal theology and their emphasis on the social liberalism of the times. The Gospel just was not taught any longer. I believe that John Knox would be sadly distressed at the state of the Presbyterian Church USA. If they continue down this path and do not repent Christ has promised them that He will come and remove their lampstand!
Don’t get me wrong, I certainly understand that Christ knows all that the Father has given to Him. I know that there are many, many sealed professing believers in the pews of many diverse denominations. One of the most liberal churches theologically is the United Church of Christ. My wife grew up in this church. The United Church of Christ has supported “reproductive justice issues” since the 1960’s. They have a representative on the board of National Abortion Rights Action League and openly stand with Planned Parenthood. We found and still find their stand on Biblical truths to be appalling. When visiting her father’s local UCC church we were pleasantly surprised. The Pastor unabashedly preached the Gospel message. We much appreciated his service to this church. There are many local churches where the Gospel message is preached even in the most wayward of denominations. Below I link to numerous news articles that show the direction of many of the mainline churches today.
“The Presbyterian Church, USA, is raising eyebrows after lifting up prayers to Allah at its General Assembly meeting last week.”
“Allah bless us and bless our families and bless our Lord. Lead us on the straight path—the path of all prophets: Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad.” Please read further….
” After the Supreme Court decision in 1972, Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the U.S., the UCC has joined with other faith groups to protect women’s equal and fair access to abortion and family planning which have been under attack consistently. The strategies of those seeking to overturn Roe have shifted to state legislation.” For more information and additional reading….
Karen Oliveto, David Meredith and Frank Wulf were all nominated during the meetings of the Western and North Central jurisdictions last month, with their nomination being publicly announced earlier this week by Reconciling Ministries, a homosexual advocacy group that professes to be Christian.
Executive Director Matt Berryman asserted that their nomination of the three was led by the Holy Spirit.” Please read further….
“The Scottish Episcopal Church has paved the way towards allowing gay marriage, raising the prospect of a clash with the Church of England.
The Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC), in effect the autonomous Scottish arm of the Anglican church, voted in its synod on 10 June to put on the agenda of its synod next year a vote to change its canon ‘law’ to permit same sex religious marriage.” For additional reading….
“Stances on abortion vary considerably among Christian denominations. The United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist Association, and Metropolitan Community Church hold the most accepting views on abortion, while several other denominations take pro-choice stances accompanied by certain provisos.” Please read on….