A church which lost its integrity as people of God
Reason for Reformation
Doxology Hymn 92: “Glory be to God the Father” (only verses 1, 4)
Call to worship
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. (Isaiah 55:1-2)
Prayer: Adoration, Invocation and Thanksgiving.
Worthy of praise from every mouth, of confession from every tongue, of worship from every creature, is your glorious name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who created the world by the word of your power, and in love wonderfully redeemed it. And so with angels, and archangels, and all the company of heaven, we adore and magnify your holy name, evermore praising you, and saying: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of Hosts, Heaven and earth are full of your glory: Glory be to you, O Lord, most High.”
Loving heavenly Father, your greatness is beyond improvement, your goodness is beyond description, your grace is beyond measure. We could no sooner count the grains of sand on the seashore as count your blessings toward us. We know only a fraction of your blessings, still that part exceeds our praise.
We acknowledge with grateful thanks your mercies towards us:
for the measure of health and strength we enjoy;
for soundness of mind and body;
for the comforts of house and home;
for the ample provision of food and clothing;
for the powers of intelligence, intuition and imagination;
for the mutual help and support of family and friends;
for the favour of domestic harmony and peace;
for the enjoyment of plants and animals, flowers and fruits;
for the pleasures of music and creative expression;
for the richness and diversity of cultures that make this country what it is;
for the freedom, peace, prosperity and stability we enjoy in our land;
for the fellowship and encouragement of your church;
for the comfort, assurance and hope of your Word; and for the certainty of faith.
The extent of your blessings becomes even more greatly magnified in light of our own unworthiness.
Father, please accept our prayer as a pleasing aroma of thanksgiving and praise in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hymn No 305: “We love the place, O God”
I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where your glory dwells. (Psalm 26:8)
Scripture Reading Ephesians 5:8-21
Tithes, offering and dedication
While the offering is taken up, remaining seated, all sing:
Hymn 611 “Come, you thankful people, come”
Isaiah 9:3: You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. (Isaiah 9:3)
Prayer of Confession of sin
Dear Heavenly Lord,
Upon reflection, in moments of complete openness and honesty before you, we realise what grief we cause you continually. Not a day goes by in which we do not sin, or act with ingratitude towards you. Not a day goes by in which we do not add to our guilt either in thought, word, or deed.
Father, we dare not deny our sins, we make no excuses for them, we humbly confess them before you, we repent of them and return to you for forgiveness and cleansing. This we do, knowing that you will not turn us away, for in Christ we are accepted. You will not condemn us, for Christ died in our place. You will remember our sins no more, for they are cast into the depths of the sea. Your grace covers all our sins. So we resolve to put sin to death. We commit ourselves to a life of grateful thanks for all your blessings and of humble obedience to your Word, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7-9)
Hymn No 397: “Out of my bondage, sorrow and night”
Prayer for others
· Bereaved: Edwards family, bomb victims
· Sick: Cassey Pickersgill;
· World leaders
That their conference will be a time of spiritual encouragement and strengthening; for protection over all our families, national and expatriate; for Wisdom and Discernment for our leadership team as they carry out their normal management duties as well as all the other Humbug that comes their way. (There is not such thing as normal in PNG!!!) That in everything we do and say, the Lord God will be glorified and be evident to the people we serve
· Christian education, RE Teachers, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders
· Congregational activities. Kwangho Song an his family.
Scripture Reading 2Chronicles 34:1-7
Sermon Unfaithful worship the root of lost integrity as people of God
; Road sign
; Road sign
; The picture of the ruins of Jerusalem.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
Someone once said: “Man’s problem rises from the fact that he has not only lost the way, but he has lost the address.”
Someone else added: “The only complete mistake is the mistake from which we learn nothing. When a winner makes a mistake, he says, ‘I was wrong.’ When a loser makes a mistake, he says, ‘It wasn’t my fault.’”
When does the church lose its integrity as the people of God? When does it begin to lose ground in the sight of God? The short answer is: when it begins to win the favour of the world. The Bible is clear, you are a friend of God and an enemy of the world; or you are a friend of the world and an enemy of God.
I want to share with you this morning an extract from a book by John Bright titled A history of Israel. It deal with the time in the history of Judah just before the reign of king Josiah, the portion from the Word of God we read this morning. Bright writes of a time of massive spiritual unfaithfulness, and I quote:
“It is, to be sure, probable that much of this [corruption of faithful worship] represented no conscious abandonment of the national religion. The [true] nature of primitive Yahwism (worship of God) had been so widely forgotten, and rites incompatible with it so long practiced, that in many minds the essential distinction between Yahweh and the pagan gods had been obscured. It was possible for such people to practice these rites alongside the cult of Yahweh without awareness that they were turning from the national faith in doing so. The situation was one of immense, and in some ways novel, danger to the religious integrity of Israel.” (Unquote)
In other words, the old was still there, but something else was added to it. The true nature of faithful worship as instituted by God had been forgotten. The people of God then started to worship Him with rituals borrowed from the pagans. These rites and practices were sugar-coated with good-sounding words of the so-called prophets, and the people swallowed it up for gospel – and the devastating fact is, they did not even notice that they have lost the way, but that they actually forgot the address as well. Their complete mistake is the mistake from which they learned nothing. They were the loser who makes a mistake, and then says, ‘It wasn’t my fault.’
; Serving other masters
Israel had lost its political independence to Assyria and had become its vassal, being subordinate to not only its kings, but also to its religion. Altars to Assyrian astral gods were erected right in the temple. Pagan cults flourished. Fertility religion and the ritual of sacred prostitution were tolerated even in the temple. Divination and magic became the fashionable thing to do in Jerusalem.
One of God’s faithful prophets , Zephaniah, proclaimed the Word of God:
I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all who live in Jerusalem. I will cut off from this place every remnant of Baal, the names of the pagan and the idolatrous priests— those who bow down on the roofs to worship the starry host, those who bow down and swear by the Lord and who also swear by Molech, those who turn back from following the Lord and neither seek the Lord nor inquire of him. (Zephaniah 1:4-6)
Another prophet of the time, Jeremiah, in this time in Judah, preached against the false prophets, exposing their hollow worship and wayward worship of God. On command of the Lord, Jeremiah took a clay jar to the Potsherd Gate, opposite Hinnom Valley. He had to take elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests with him. He took the clay jar and broke it, saying:
‘Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and people of Jerusalem. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Listen! I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned sacrifices in it to gods that neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. They have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind. (Jeremiah 19:3-5)
For this message from God the chief governor of the house of the Lord, struck Jeremiah, had him received punishment, and then had him locked up in stocks in the high Gate of Benjamin. Now this is significant, because this place was usually reserved for those who might defile the area by uncleanness or deviant behaviour. In other words, by preaching the true word of God, the prophet Jeremiah was looked upon as someone who is defiled.
As Jeremiah had these people gathered at the Potsherd Gate opposite the valley of Himmon he wanted to point out another abomination in the eyes of the Lord: this valley was filled with the remains of children sacrificed to the god Molech.
It is so that God commanded that all firstborn belonged to Him, but He also ordained a way that the firstborn son must be redeemed. With this God claimed all national life of Israel for Him as their God. But when the message of the Word of God became corrupted, people could not make a difference in worshipping God his way, or worshipping the gods their way. Now they sacrificed their children to the gods – physically!
The cruelest of dramas would play itself out in this valley: mothers wept in desperateness and fathers through themselves on the ground beyond hope as they saw their own children give a last breath on the altar of the dumb god, never to see them again. Why would people do such things?
It was maybe there, in the holding place for the unclean, that Jeremiah cried it out:
My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and his holy words. The land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land lies parched and the pastures in the desert are withered. The prophets follow an evil course and use their power unjustly. (Jeremiah 23:9-10)
William Barclay tells of an old man who, as he lay near death, was obviously troubled. When asked what was disturbing him, replied, “One day when I was young I was playing with some other boys at a crossroads. We reversed a sign post so that its arms were pointing in the wrong direction, and I’ve never ceased to wonder how many people were sent in the wrong direction by what we did.” How many prophets, priests ad ministers of the Word can say the same: How many people are put on their way to eternal hell and destruction because of bad, unbiblical teaching!
Geographically the wrath of God moved south after the exile of the northern tribes of Israel. Almost year after year the enemy, as instruments in the hand of God, descended upon his people to wipe out one city after the other. And yet, the people were blind and could not work out what was happening.
; The Bible got lost
Again we ask: what caused all of this to happen? How is it that God’s people could become morally so corrupt, ethically so distorted and religiously so bewildered?
Of course it did not happen all at once.
In amongst all the political unrest and instability, the moral corruption, and the ethical decay something the Word of God got lost. There was still a temple, but in the Most Holy there was also an enormous amount of rubble and dust. People still worshipped and sacrificed, they still paid their temple tax, but it became ritual. People still prayed, but there was no power in it. There were still priests and prophets about, but there was no oracle from God. All just became ritual.
No one actually realised that they did not hear the Word of God preached anymore. The Bible was missing. And worship was no worship anymore.
; What about us?
The Bible sits on your bedside table. You read it, but it means nothing. You pray, but your heart is not in it. You come to church, but the message leaves you cold. When the minister becomes a bit too personal, you start looking out for another church. Or when he starts preaching a foreign Gospel, you don’t even recognize it. You listen to the radio, and you swallow as Gospel what they say. You actually start questioning the Bible because of the so-called discoveries of science, which now begins to become more interesting and powerful than the Bible. When fears and anxieties come your way, you find shelter in the help of doctors and drugs only, because you have lost your confidence in the help of God. When disaster like tsunamis, terrorist attacks and earthquakes strike, you think as the world thinks, ascribing everything to the forces of nature. God is not part of your thinking anymore, and yet you can’t stop coming to church.
You send your children to Sunday school because you recon it is good for them, but more than that you don’t understand. So when they are old enough to drop out, they do so. And you think it is their right. This all happened because we worship a modern day Molech. Never would we allow our children to be slaughtered and sacrificed to an idol. But for some reason we don’t understand that we can so easily put their souls on the same altar: they watch whatever they want on TV, they read whatever they want, they watch whatever movies they want, and when they are exposed to evolutionistic and humanistic teaching one day after another, year in and year out, teaching them explicitly that there is no God and no Jesus Christ and no Holy Spirit and that the church is a place for stupid and dumb hillbilly Bible bashers, we tolerate such teaching in the name of education.
Why? How is it possible? It happens when we lose our integrity as a church by disregarding the Word of God. And then we lose God, and then we have lost everything!
; And when this happens, its time for reformation. It’s time for repentance. It’s time to fall down in confession of sins and remorse before the Word Who became flesh, Jesus Christ. Its time to ask, “O Lord, reform my life, my family, my church, my people, my country!”
Be with us, Lord God, as we go back into the world to love and serve you. May the lips that have sung your praises always speak the truth in love. May the ears that have heard your Word be shut to what is evil. May the feet that brought us to this house of prayer always walk in your ways. Grant, O Lord, that we may live in your fear, die in your favour, rest in your peace, rise in your power, reign in your glory; for your own beloved Son’s sake, Who taught us to pray, saying “Our Father …”
Hymn No 296: “Church of God, elect and glorious” (4 Verses – Tune: 637)
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ (Numbers 6:24-26)