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Monday, September 1st 2014

11:43 AM

"The Passionless Church"

(Transcript of Sermon delivered by Pastor Bruce Sikes at St. Louis, Missouri, USA)

 “Lord we ask you to bless the reading of your word, enlighten us, convict us, renew us and use us. Amen”

 Let’s start with John 2: 13-17.

 “When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!"  His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me."”

 I am going to be speaking this morning about the passion of the Church and/or the lack thereof today.  Now, when I say passion, I don’t mean excitement. I don’t mean joy. Passion is much more than those things.  Passion is a burning desire. It is a determination of the mind and the heart. Passion is motivated and it is never satisfied with the status quo.  It has a physical response. It is what drives the individual to reach their goal. It is a longing. It is a zeal that consumes them. When a person is passionate about something it is obvious to everyone. No one has to point it out. We hear people say, “He is passionate about this…” or “She has a passion for that.” whatever it may be. We may even say things like, “That’s his favorite thing.” or “She loves that”. But passion is more than simply loving something or someone. It is a relentless pursuing after that love.

 So, my question is, “What is the Church passionate about today?” By the way, when I say the “Church” I don’t mean just us here in this sanctuary, I mean the Church worldwide and especially here in America. 

What is our passion? 

Oh, I see a passion for excitement, a passion for activities, a passion for more ministries and more conferences and more books and more buildings and more things, and of course, there’s the passion to receive more and more blessings and more healings.  

 So what’s wrong with blessings and healings? Nothing, but being passionate about blessings and healings is not the same as having a passion for God. It’s about having a passion to receive things from God. 

 Where’s our passion for the word of God, our passion to pray, that burning desire to get our work done for the day so we can spend time with God in prayer and Bible study? 

 A person who is passionate about something is thinking and talking about that all the time, while he or she is at work, at home, at the store, at school, wherever. It’s what motivates them. It’s what they’re about. It’s “who they are”.  Who are we? What are we about? What drives us? What’s our passion? 

We might want to ask the Christians in Syria & Iraq what they are passionate about. They are being persecuted and murdered as we speak and a church leader in Iraq recently said that they are on the “verge of extermination”.  We don’t hear much about that on the main stream media, do we? What do you think those believers are passionate about?

 It’s terrible what’s going on, but we don’t have to worry about that here, do we? That can never happen here, can it? Our country has the largest and most powerful army that the world has ever seen.  They will protect us.

 Of course, I’m sure that’s what the Iraqi Christians thought at one point not too long ago when the American army arrived with hundreds of thousands of troops. They’ll never let the Jihadists persecute us they said, because America is a Christian country. They’re here to protect us. 

By the way, I wonder what the abortion rate is in Iraq right now?   How many Gay pride parades have they had recently? Maybe this Christian nation of America can send our army back there and give them freedom so they can have those things too? While we’re at it, we can give them the freedom to have a multibillion dollar pornographic industry just like we have here.  God has blessed this country with freedom and how do we use it? Oh I know it’s not us doing those things, but God has placed us here in our country for a reason. What are we doing? Voting? Is that how souls are saved, by voting? I don’t care if the founding America was based on Christian principles or not. I want to know what it is based on now.  

Wow, am I being too hard on us, maybe? Actually, I’m just getting started.  This is still my intro. I wonder what the prophet Isaiah or Jeremiah or Ezekiel would say to us if one of them were standing up here right now. 

You know when that bishop in Iraq pleaded for help, he also reported that the doors of their homes are being marked with red paint identifying them as Christians. 

I wonder what it would be like if the government started going door to door marking the homes of Christians here in our own country. I wonder how many doors would actually be marked.  I mean, if some men knocked on the door and said:

“Hi, we’re from the government. Are you a Christian?”  Then the homeowner says, “Well yeah it depends, do you have a government check for me?”

“No, we’re here to mark the homes of Christian believers.” Do you go to church?”

“Well, yes I go the big mega church down the street every Sunday, they have a really big youth program and an awesome praise band.”

So you go every Sunday?”

“Well yes,  unless there’s a ballgame or we need to stay home and rest or something like that.”

“I see, do you read your bible every day?”

“Uh, no. I want to , I try to,  but I’m pretty busy with work and I need my down time, to spend time with my family, got to watch my shows and  stuff. But I do read it at church sometimes; when they put it up on the big projector screen.”

“Alright sir, just a couple more questions, “How much time to you spend in prayer each day?”

“Well, I try to say the ‘now I lay me down to sleep’  prayer every night before I go to bed.”

“Do you cuss?”

“Well a little sometimes, but heck doesn’t everybody. We’re only human. God forgives us. He understands”

“How do you feel about abortion rights and gay marriage?”

“Well, I don’t judge people. We live in a free country. God loves everybody!”

“Thank you sir for your time, that’s all the questions we have for now.  You’re a great Citizen!”

 And as they walk away the one government man turns to the other and asks, “Hey! Aren’t we going to put a red mark on that guy’s door? He said he was a Christian.”  “No” the other one says, “He’s one of those  good Christians. He’s no treat to anyone. No point in wasting paint!’ 

Amen! God bless our country! 

You know actually, if I were the devil and wanted to destroy the church in this country or in most countries really, the last thing I would do is go door to door.  I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d keep doing what I was doing…For example, if I were the devil I wouldn’t take our money away. I may even give us more money.  On the other hand, if I were God, I might take the church’s money away.  That’s something to think about, isn’t it!? What’s more, if I were the Evil One I’d let the church continue to build bigger and bigger church buildings and campuses. I’d encourage them to hold more feel good conferences and cutting edge Christian concerts for themselves.  I’d let them entertain themselves as much as they wanted to. I recently heard about a very large church not too far away from here that was putting on a major production of a secular musical, you know something like Oklahoma, or Little mermaid etc… Not a Christianized version of it, but just the regular secular production. It sounded like they had a couple hundred people in the production and they spent weeks preparing and practicing. Now, I’m sure someone thought, “Hey what a great non-threatening way to bring people into our church”, non-threatening for who, the devil? Yeah! I don’t think the devil is too threatened by the “little mermaid” are you? I’m sure they probably could have gotten government funding for their production if they wanted it. 

 Well, now wait just a minute! If just one person becomes a convert it’s all been worth it. Has it? Has it really? What does Jesus have to say about spending time and effort on things like this? 

(Matthew 23:15)

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”

 Wow, and you thought I was being tough! Imagine what Jesus would say about some of the things  churches are doing these days.  But then again, Jesus was talking to those bad old Pharisees and evil legalistic Jewish teachers from long, long ago and so that doesn’t apply to us in our day. 

You know, there’s an attitude and theological philosophy, if you will, in our churches today that we are somehow better than those poor ignorant Bible people who went before us. That we are somehow kinder, gentler, more sensitive, more intelligent, more understanding, and dare I say more Christ-like than those previous generation of believers. Why? Because we have had the benefit of thousands of years of theological study and church practice to perfect our faith. Our Christianity today is cutting edge they believe!   

Some people will actually go further and say that if Christ were to come and walk the Earth today, that He would treat us differently; He would speak to us differently than He did to those mean old Pharisees. Why? Because, we think we have changed, and so therefore Christ must also change and adapt to our new 21st century sensibilities. 

If we follow this so called reasoning, then being Christ-like today would be different than being Christ-like 2000 years ago. This thinking has crept into much of the contemporary Church and led to the creation of a new streamlined politically correct Jesus; a Savoir that looks good on camera and delivers nice sound bites. You know the type; smiles all the time, never raises his voice or says a bad thing about anybody, a Jesus who doesn’t preach to us, but instead “shares” with us some guiding principles to make our lives better. This is one of the modern myths about being Christ-Like today. 

The passion has been removed from Christ. 

I don’t mean the passion of the crucifixion; I mean the heartfelt God given emotions Jesus possessed, His seriousness, steadfast determination, grieving, disappointment, distress, troubled thoughts, and righteous anger. Yes, the Bible says He had all those! We are made in the image of God and even more so was Christ! To minimize or even deny the passion of Jesus is to say that He was not fully human. And if He were not fully human, the power of Satan and Hell could not have been broken by His death on the cross and His resurrection. 

Often today the Remnant of God, meaning those believers who proclaim repentance and revival for the Church and evangelism to the lost, have been and will continue to be accused of acting too emotional, too zealous, too passionate. In our current passive church environment anyone who speaks passionately about those things is always accused of being angry, and “mean-spirited”. Yet, Jesus was a very passionate man. He was an emotion filled fully human being who did not sin in anything He did or said. He spoke right to the hearts of people destroying whatever intellectual arguments that were set against the things of God. He cut right through any pretense of sensibilities and what we now call political correctness. 

Nevertheless, many modern Christians are afraid to follow His example. They are afraid say anything because it might upset someone. They try to avoid the difficult issues. And when it does get serious, they laugh it off and try to make a joke about it. Or, they will share some trite generic “feel good” statement about God in general, statements that would please even an atheist. This contemporary church generation is more worried about what the world thinks of us than what God thinks of us.  

In the Gospel of Mark, we see that Jesus was not only caring and compassionate, but He was also firm and direct whenever needed. He didn’t beat around the bush like so many of us do. He didn’t waste time. Lord, how much time we waste! Jesus did not seek to avoid confrontation; on the contrary, He was often accused of creating it! You know Jesus would never have been killed if He just kept his mouth shut. They didn’t kill him because he was feeding the poor and healing people. They killed Him because of what He was saying. The “trouble” Jesus caused was not only with the religious leaders, as some would have you believe, but also with His own followers and even those seeking God. His purpose was to get to their hearts where their emotions lie. That’s where the Bible says in Romans 10:10 “It is with your heart that you believe and are justified”  and so be saved. This is the nut God seeks to crack - the shell surrounding the heart. 

Too much modern preaching and teaching we hear today tries to appeal to the head, to the intellect, to reason. Appeals to the heart are regarded as manipulation, as mere emotion. If we follow the reasoning, that only knowing with your brain that Jesus Christ is Lord, then Satan himself would have to be regarded as being saved! 

Jesus cared more about giving people the truth, than He cared about quote/unquote “hurting their feelings”. His goal was not to convince people to “like” Him and to think He was a “nice guy’. His desire was that people should confess their sins, repent, turn to follow and obey God. That is the passion of Jesus!  

 The truth is, the more we embrace the passion of Christ that dwells in us, the more we will find ourselves in opposition to the world, to phony Christians, to compromising churches and false leaders. We will find ourselves being attacked at times by people for no reason other than being too Christ-like. Oh, you can be Christ-like up to a certain point, but when you become passionate about it, that’s when the trouble starts. When people see that you have become serious about your faith, that you are not just a Sunday morning Christian, then you can expect to be challenged.  

 In John 15:19 Jesus says:

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

 Does the world hate you, or, does the world love you? Yes? No? Does the world even know you are around? What did Jesus say in that scripture? “I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world doesn’t know you that you are around?” It doesn’t say that does it?  Let me ask you, “Can Christ choose you out of this world and make you one of His own and the world not know it?” It may cost you some friends. It may cost you some business, it has me. You might not get invited to many parties, but if the world doesn’t know that you belong to Jesus Christ, then it’s past time to let them know.

 Jesus said in Mark 8:38,

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." 

Let people know, let the world know as the apostle Paul states in Romans 1:16;

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes:…!” 

Let that passion consume you. Let the world know you are here and that Christ lives in you, not tomorrow, not next week, but today! Not just in here, but out there! How will you know if it’s working? 

The more Christ-like you become, the more that Evil will recognize Christ dwelling in you and the more you will be challenged. So, are you being challenged? Does Evil recognize you? 

Did you know that it was Evil, a demon, which first recognized and challenged Christ in the Gospels? Jesus was attacked without doing anything provocative other than speaking the truth in a house of worship. (Which proved to be quite enough to cause trouble!) So, what did Jesus do? Mark’s Gospel says; (Mark 1:23-26) 

“Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"."Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.” 

Jesus dealt with the conflict directly. He spoke sternly and gave the man what he needed, in the way he needed it, and when he needed it.  Now, no doubt, our modern politically-correct Jesus would have apologized to the man, gave him a hug, and referred him to a counselor for help. 

Jesus also got into trouble by doing “unauthorized ministry“ that is teaching, preaching and being obedient to God, and in this case - healing. We see that in the Gospel of Mark 3:4-5; 

“Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they (the religious leaders) remained silent. HE looked around at them in anger and was deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts…”

Then, what did he do? He healed a man. 

But wait a minute! Jesus looked at someone in anger? Jesus gave someone an angry look? Is that what is says? Is that being Christ-like? Sadly there are those who would actually bend over backwards trying to say that those actions and words of Jesus do not apply to us, that they were for Jesus alone and we are not to follow his example in this situation. People nowadays are different, times have changed they say. These days we are not to show “angry” emotion, only polite concern at best. This is the passive neutered Christianity that being taught and preached today in many of our churches. Who do we think we are? I’m afraid it isn’t our human passions we are seeking to suppress, but the passion of Christ that is welling up inside of us. We are afraid to get that serious about the things of God. 

Jesus’ emotions were the result of his passion for God. We should all have such passion! His righteous anger was the result of their failure to obey God and His deep distress, that’s “deep-distress!“ Jesus felt, was out of His concern for their eternal souls.  We should all have such deep heartfelt concern for the lost. It should bother us that our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members are lost! 

Does it bother you? Jesus felt deep distress over it. Somehow today if we say that we are distressed over the condition of the world and lost souls, we are told that we aren’t being spiritual enough. We aren’t trust God enough. Let them tell that to Jesus. 

What about these two little verses from Mark 7:17-18 

“After He (Jesus) had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples asked Him about the parable( he had just spoken). "Are you so dull?" He (Jesus) replied.” 

What did He say? That wasn’t very nice! They were just asking Him a question and He answers like that!? Sure, it was perhaps the millionth time He told them, but still, calling them dull? The dictionary defines the word dull as meaning “intellectually weak, obtuse, lacking responsiveness and stupid.” 

Wow! That’s pretty hard isn‘t it?  Why did Jesus respond that way? You know, once again, our modern sensitive Jesus would have handled that much better. I’m sure he would have realized they simply had some difficulty comprehending the teaching so He would have pause to reevaluate the situation and then taken a more long term approach by creating an environment which was more conducive to free and open learning. 

Seriously, why did Jesus answer them in that way?  Jesus was not angry here. He wanted to say something to them to get their attention, to make them think, to provoke a response from them. They should have know more by then and been able to understand the parable for themselves. He answered in a way that He knew would snap them back into reality. He realized this would “upset them”. He counted on it! 

The reality is, plainly speaking Jesus offended and insulted people. The Bible says so directly. However, once again we are constantly being told today that if we offend someone we have done something wrong. We must have said things in the wrong way or had the wrong attitude and, of course, that can happen. However, for many of us in the Church it has become an excuse to avoid conflict at all costs, even at the cost of speaking the truth. As the old saying goes, the truth is, the truth hurts, sometimes. 

Let’s take a quick look at a couple of short verses which will help illustrate this;

(John 6:61)  Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this (about something he said), Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you?” 

If you take time later on to read this chapter, you’ll realize that Jesus knew that He was offending them. He didn’t apologize for it, because He was challenging them as to their right to be offended. 

Also, let’s not forget the famous “Woe to you” section of Luke’s Gospel. In Luke 11:45; 

“One of the experts in the law answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also." 

Jesus didn’t say, “Oh no I didn’t, you just think I insulted you.” 

Actually if you read further His response to them was essentially, “If you think that’s bad, wait till what else I have to tell you!” 

You know if Jesus were walking the earth preaching and teaching today there would be a lot of Christians apologizing for His behavior. “Yeah… you know…., it’s not so much that I disagree with what He said…, I just would have said it in a different nicer, kinder, gentler way!” You see it’s all about us today and how we want to be perceived by people. 

Jesus was the master of telling people what they needed to hear and at the exact time they needed to hear it. He didn’t back off or shy away right at the critical moment when tough Words of God were needed. How many times have we walked away from someone and thought, “Gee, I should have said something.”  Instead our first gut reaction was to give them our feelings and thoughts rather than pausing, praying and responding as The Lord would have us do. That needs to change now. 

Talking to people about sin, about repentance, and about Jesus Christ means having to say some hard things from time to time, more often than we might like to think. It means speaking to someone in a way that will really reach into them, into their hearts and help them the most, rather than saying what’s easy and safe for us to do so. It means not being afraid of uncomfortable situations. Something most Christians today avoid like the plague. We can share some very hard truths with people at times, without anger, without condemnation, but just in matter of fact way, with sincerity and love – when can do this we let the passion of Jesus control our hearts and minds. 

If you are a believer then Christ lives in you, and so you are able to be Christ like in all things regardless of the consequences and in all ways, not just the easy soft things of God. 

We need to challenge ourselves and begin speaking up for God. In reality, it just involves taking ourselves out of the way; our personal thoughts, reactions, desires, and fears, and letting Christ who dwells in us speak through us. We need to let the passion of Christ out! 

Let Him use you. When you do, you’ll be amazed sometimes to hear the Godly words coming out of your own mouth with power and authority. As you speak, you’ll be think, “Wow! Did I just say that?” The answer will be “No”, it wasn’t you it was God speaking through you, and when He’s done speaking, shut up. Don’t add to it, do apologize for it. Let the awkward moment stand, if there is one. That is the moment the Holy Spirit is working on that person’s soul. Pray.   

If there’s ever been a greater need than at this time in history, if there's ever been a greater need than in our own country for Christians to stop playing church and to start being passionate about Christ 24/7, then I don’t know when. 

There are over 41 wars and armed conflicts going on in this world right now. The Russians, the Chinese, World leaders, political, corporate, military from every nation and even religious leaders are conniving and conspiring to unite us in the most unholy one world alliance. It’s happening right before our eyes. It’s coming fast. The “increase in wickedness” of Matthew Chapter 24 that Jesus foretold would happen before His return is in full swing. The moral fiber of this country has been shredded. Immorality is now the legalized norm. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s Godly - that we should compromise and accept it. Violence is over running our borders and cities, for example a dozen people are murdered every weekend in Chicago alone. We have the most corrupt government in our history starting with the leader at the very top and all the way down, and we’ve had some bad ones. I just call it like I see it. I’m not going to start blaming political parties, if I were going to blame anyone I might start with blaming the church! During our watch, there has arisen another generation, like the one we see in the Second book of Judges: 

Judges 2:10 It says that:

“{when} that generation were gathered unto their fathers: there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor the works which he had done…” 

I work a lot with college aged students and most of them don’t have a clue about the God we know and could care less about church. The moral right and wrongs that we have taken for granted since we were born, or at least I was born, are up for grabs. It’s all relative to them. I’ve lived long enough now to see generations of church youth grow up, go to college and then turn their backs on God embracing homosexuality, living together and championing every unGodly cause. And what does the church tell them? God loves you, and we leave it at that. There’s never a word about repentance, sin, and the awful reality of hell. So, why should they change? We directly or indirectly say God loves them just the way they are. No, He doesn’t. God hates them the way they are. He sent His Son to die a horrible death on the cross to save them because of the way they are.  Tragically many Christians today are more passionate about saving the environment than about saving souls. God help us.    

The challenge before us is overwhelming. The question is, “Are we just going to sit around and take it and wait to be raptured, or, will we set free the passion of Christ in our hearts and allow Him to use us now!     

We must not be afraid or embarrassed to tell others about Jesus and all of His words, even and especially the hard things. This is what Jesus Himself says,

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38) 

You may worry that you will say the wrong thing when testifying about Christ. God would rather, I think, have you try and learn from your mistakes, than do nothing at all. As has been said, “God can use anything you say, the only thing He can’t use is your silence.” 

Some of you may think you are not ready. Other people may think you are not ready. The truth is, humanly speaking we will never be 100% ready. We are always going to be weak in many areas. So much the better, because we must rely on God to tell us what to say and do! 

The Lord says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) 

So if today you think you are a weak Christian, then you are in the best position possible for God to use you. Surrender to His passion. Pray in the Spirit and stay in His word. Let God use you to speak to others, with boldness, with power, and with words of wisdom Christ Himself has promised to give you. 

Don’t let those men we spoke about earlier, pass by the door of your house without marking it. Run after them and shout, “Hey you forgot to mark my house!” and grab the bucket of red paint out of their hands and put a bold cross on the front of your house and say, “As for me and my house we stand for the Lord!” Then invite them in and tell them the way to be saved whether they listen or not.   

Let’s pray…

Lord we thank you for your word. We thank you for your passion. We pray that you humble us, empty us of our own personal desires, thoughts, and words, cleanse us of our sins, fill us with your passion, a passion for the lost. Let us speak boldly in your Name, unafraid of what man may think  without or even within your church. Lord, use us as how you see fit in these dark times. Take us, change us, change our priorities, let us have only one priority and that is to surrender to your passion and serve you.  Amen"

For Christ and His Remnant,

Pastor Bruce Sikes

 

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