In recent months, and years – now decades, we have watched different parts of The Church Universal struggle with sin, institutionally. What do I mean by “institutionally”? By this I mean that individual sin has accumulated in the core of the membership, and in the leadership and training systems of the different churches, so that, in The Church Universal, sin has transcended righteousness, God’s standards have been replaced by man’s standards. To be sure, some in the churches and in the churches’ leaderships still hold up the banner of God’s standards in the face of man’s sin and man’s standards. But the record is clear that those brave souls are standing against the tide, and have been and are being overwhelmed by the current of sin, and are embedded in defense, instead of on the offense to bring in a new generational harvest of believers around this world.
In America, particularly, we have observed the Catholic Church struggle with celibacy and pedophilia. We have watched the Episcopal Church struggle with loving the sinner and hating the sinner – manifested most conspicuously in the doctrinal embracement of gay conduct and the gay lifestyle. We have everywhere seen churches – and popular TV ministries – led by Deborahs in the absence of ordained male leadership. We have become aware of the abandonment by the churches everywhere of the principle of family, and embracement of the principle of governmental, control, of children’s education. We have become aware of the Church’s complicity in the transfer of the power of charity to the government which uses that power, now polluted, to buy votes, bringing fully to bear the warnings of God set out in I Samuel 8: 10-17 against man’s government instead of God’s government.
And what are the effects: The Church Universal has fallen for everything and stands for nothing. So, marriage is no less sacred in the Church than out of it. Neither the adults nor the children, generally, in the Church, are knowledgeable about the principles and things of God. Church membership is falling all around the Globe – e.g., only a tiny percentage of people in U. K. now define themselves as of the Christian Faith. The Church’s failure in the struggle with sin has revealed a hypocrisy that unbelievers cannot and will not stand, and in which many Christians and churches are double-minded and, therefore, complicit. Double-mindedness induces complicitness and always requires compromise, which is always treason in the Kingdom of God!
Now we must ask the question: Have we, has The Church Universal, received the grace of God in vain? After all, we say we believe that God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to actually be sin for us, so that we might, through his atonement, become the righteousness of God in Jesus, our sin-bearer, right? (II Corinthians 5:17.) But where is that righteousness when our result, our fruit, as The Church Universal, is so polluted and corrupt? Where is the good fruit? We are reminded of Jesus’ concerns about this, expressed by John the Apostle, in his Gospel, John 15: 1-8, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have given to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” And, in Luke 6: 43-45, we find, in the words of Jesus, clarification of this fruit principle: “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” In the King James version, the “bad” in “bad fruit” is translated as “corrupt”, while in the New King James version, we find the word translated as “bad”. So, where we see corrupt fruit, as we are seeing so much in The Church Universal, we see bad fruit.
Now, what is Jesus saying to His disciples, to us, to the Church Universal who would be, and purport to want to add to, His disciples?
First, that the bearing of good fruit comes only by abiding in Jesus, and He is us.
Second, because of the Word of Jesus, given to us and received by us, we have been made clean, in that, II Corinthians 5: 21, as Jesus became sin for us, we became the righteousness of God.
Third, that there are, and have been, and will be, branches of The Church Universal, and individuals who were part of the vine (Jews) or who were grafted into the vine (Gentiles who professed belief in Jesus), those who had become the righteousness of God in Jesus, which/who do not bear fruit, or at least who bear bad fruit.
Fourth, God will remove the branches which do not bear fruit, and those which bear corrupt and bad fruit.
Fifth, even where God finds fruit being born, He will prune (trim away the unproductive and the less-productive) , so that more good fruit will be born by the branches.
Sixth, However, if one ceases to abide in Jesus, God will cut him off and cast him into the fire to be burned.
Seventh, our fruit is determined by what, in our hearts, we treasure.
Eighth, God is glorified by our good fruit, and God is vilified by our corrupt and bad fruit, or by our “no fruit”.
So, do we not see that throughout The Church Universal, at leadership levels and at individual levels, there is much corrupt and bad fruit? It is time for a major pruning even where good fruit is being born. And God is due for a major cutting back where corrupt and bad fruit is being born. The Church Universal is in serious trouble and it, we, should expect that God is coming along to do something about it, soon: it is His Church, not ours.
We, The Church Universal, have gotten into this trap with government and social compromise before. God has foreseen the traps of compromise with man’s ideas of government: I Samuel 8: 18, where the Jews wanted a king over them, a man, like all the other nations (I Samuel 8: 5, 20) to be their judge and defender, which led to King Saul, and in response God explained, in verses 10-17 what would be the behavior of such leadership and government, and then in verse 18, told the Jews they would have buyer’s remorse: “And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”
Today, we must ask ourselves, as in the verse following that of our Call to Worship today, II Corinthians 6: 1, did we, The Church Universal, and its leadership and membership, “. . . receive the grace of God in vain”?
Today, we ask this question because we see, as II Corinthians 6 goes on to explain, contextually, that we receive God’s grace in vain if we become unequally yoked with unbelievers (II Corinthians 6: 14-7:1): “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’ Therefore, ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’ ‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’ Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Indeed, in II Corinthians, Paul was speaking to a church, the church in Corinth, and he had addressed their issues of compromise with the world, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, and here in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul was trying to show them how to get cleaned up and stay that way, without compromise with the world, and his plea to the church in Corinth was in his capacity as “workers together with Him (Jesus)”, and Paul’s plea was they the church in Corinth not receive the grace of God in vain – rather, that having received the grace of God, in Jesus, and having become the righteousness of God, in Jesus, that the church in Corinth keep the grace of God.
Today, that is our prayer for The Church Universal, and for every church, every leader, every member, every believer, that, having received the grace of God they would keep it and not suffer that special and painful gift to have been in vain.
Today, God is crying out, Revelation 18: 4, for His true church to come out of the false church, He is saying, “Come out of her my people”. Today, we in the true church are crying out for revival, for restoration, for the end of double-mindedness and compromise and corruption in the church, and for separation of the righteous from the unrighteous, and for the healing of our land, so it does not (Leviticus 2); 22-24) vomit out its inhabitants. We are asking God, in spite of I Samuel 8:18, to hear us, because we believe, James 5: 16b, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”