The church today started with a glory no other generation had seen. The church as we know it today began with repentance. When Peter preached the Cross at Pentecost, thousands came to Christ. This new church was made up of one body, consisting of all races, filled with love for one another. Its corporate life was marked by evangelism, a spirit of sacrifice, even martyrdom.
This wonderful beginning reflects God’s words to Jeremiah: “I planted you a noble vine, wholly a right seed” (Jeremiah 2:21). Yet the Lord’s next words describe what often happens to such works: “How then have you turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine to me?” (2:21). God was saying, “I planted you right. You were mine, bearing my name and nature. But now you’ve turned degenerate.”
What caused this degeneration in the church? It always has been, and will continue to be, idolatry. God is speaking of idolatry when he says to Jeremiah, “My people have changed their glory for that which does not profit” (2:11). Idolatry desolated Shiloh, it desolated the temple, and it has defiled the church of today. It is always the root cause behind God leaving an old thing to begin a new one.
The church is note-rich and application-poor today.
In Ezekiel 14, certain elders came to the prophet to inquire of the Lord. They wanted to know, “What is God saying to his people today?” But the Lord told Ezekiel, “These men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?” (Ezekiel 14:3). He was saying, in other words: “They’ve come here as if they’re truly seeking me. But they’re hiding wicked idols in their hearts. Why should I answer them?”
Most Christian teaching today identifies an idol as anything that comes between God’s people and himself. It’s that which draws us away from him. Yet that’s only a partial description of idolatry. After all, the elders who approached Ezekiel weren’t kept away by their idols.
Idolatry has to do with a much deeper heart issue. The truth is, idolatry can run rampant in God’s house but remain totally unseen. That’s what the Lord meant when he said these elders had a “stumbling block of their iniquity before their face” (Ezekiel 14:3). The stumbling block is any doctrine that justifies an idol. And it blinds God’s people to their sin.
That’s exactly what has happened in the church today. The number-one idol among God’s people isn’t adultery, pornography or alcohol. It’s a much more powerful lust. What is this idol? It’s a driving ambition for success. And it even has a doctrine to justify it.
The idolatry of being successful describes many in God’s house today. These people are upright, morally clean, full of good works. But they’ve set up an idol of ambition in their hearts, and they can’t be shaken from it. And because of that, they can’t see God and His activity in the world as they once could.
More ramblings tomorrow…:)