What if, because we no longer resembled his church, God’s Spirit departed? Do you think that we would notice? Would we recognize that the Spirit of God has left our church in judgment?
Let’s not be fooled that just because worship services are still going on Sunday after Sunday, ministries are functioning, that the Spirit of God is still present.
A man named Samson comes to mind. Samson was an Israelite and a warrior with God-given strength to defeat his enemy, the Philistines, but because he gave in to the seduction of a woman, Delilah, and revealed his source of strength, he lost it. The tragic thing is that he did not realize it until he tried to execute his strength as before, and it was gone.
“The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.Judges 6:20b
Would we know that God has left us? Samson went about as he always had, but this time his strength was gone.
Reading through the Old Testament, one will discover that God judged his people, the Israelites a lot. In fact, right after God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, they created a golden calf to worship as god. God told Moses that they would continue their journey to the Promised Land, but it would be without him. Exodus 33:3
The Israelites would go on to experience famine, pestilence, defeats in battles designed to bring them to repentance. These judgments were always a result of their sins, and their failure to listen to the prophets warnings.
Malachi was a prophet of God sent to warn God’s people about their failure to maintain their promise to keep their covenant with God, and because they would not hear, Malachi speaks:
But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.
Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.Malachi 3:2-3,5
That was then, but what about the church today? Is God still watching over the church and our conduct? Are we exhibiting that we are the light of the world, and the salt of the earth? Are we willing to suffer for the sake of the kingdom? Has love been our marker in the world? Jesus said that we will be known that we are his disciples by our love. (John 13:35)
Is sin challenged in our churches? Is there church discipline? Matthew 18:15-17
Do we still fear God, or do we believe because it appears that he’s allowed us to go on without repercussions that Jesus is alright with us?
The Apostle Peter states that it is time for judgment to begin with us in 1 Peter 4:17. The Apostle Paul tells us if we judge ourselves, we will not be judged in 1 Corinthians 11:31, but goes on to say:
But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.1 Corinthians 11:32
There is one clear illustration in the Bible of God’s judgment beginning with the church. It is found in the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was also a prophet of God. In the eighth chapter of Ezekiel, Ezekiel is brought in by an angel to see the abominations that were happening in God’s sanctuary by God’s chosen people, the Israelites. The angel said to Ezekiel:
Son of man, do you see what they are doing….to drive me far from my sanctuary?Ezekiel 8:6a,6C
When Ezekiel is brought into the inner court of the temple of the LORD, he sees twenty-five elders with their backs to the temple, and facing the sun and worshiping it. God tells Ezekiel that he will respond in wrath and won’t spare or have pity.
The leaders of the church were openly committing idolatry. Isn’t that God’s first commandment? “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3
In Ezekiel, Chapter 9, God calls for the executioners. With the executioners with their weapons came a man dressed with a writing case at his waist. God tells the man with the writing case at his waist:
“Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” And to the others, he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house.Ezekiel 9:4a-6
The elders who were in God’s temple worshiping the sun in chapter 8 were the first to be executed. If Ezekiel or another prophet from God were to peek into our churches, what would they see?
God is still a holy and a jealous God. Though God’s judgment tarries, it is meant for us to recognize our sins and repent. It is meant for us to ensure that we are walking in alignment with God’s word, walking in the Spirit, not by the flesh or the dictates of the culture.
We must not be complacent, but sober minded. God is still on the throne. His power has not diminished one iota. He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8
Are we sighing and groaning over the state of the visible church? The Apostle Paul in his rebuke of the church in Corinth regarding one member having his father’s wife, that no one calls out, he tells them to address that matter because a little leaven, leavens the whole lump. In other words, an unaddressed known sin is a stain on the whole church. He later states:
For what have I do with outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”1 Corinthians 5:12
Remember, as the Apostle Paul stated, if we judge ourselves, then God will not judge us.
I admit that I don’t know what God’s judgment would be, but to me the greatest judgment would be the absence of God’s presence and we not know it.