Devotional Message Presented Monday Morning, July 6, 2015
I have to thank the Holy Spirit of our God who impressed those on the worship committee to allow me to share a word from the Lord to His church at a time when we are encroaching on the borders of Canaan; a time when our journey is all but over, and our pilgrimage is coming to an end; a time when the signs foretold in the sun and moon, in earth and sea and sky, aloud proclaim to all humankind that the coming of the Master draweth nigh.
This gathering of God’s faithful people may very well be the last of such meetings. Whether or not, it will surely be the last for somebody in this gathering. And since that is so, allow me to share a word with you as we get ready for the end.
Matthew 19:16-20 records a story that is worthy of examination by end-time people.
Someone came to Jesus with eternal life on his mind (verse 16). We don’t know his name. Matthew says he was young; Luke says that he was a ruler and that he was rich. He had heaven on his mind, but he wasn’t too sure about his readiness. Something was bothering his conscience. But as he examined himself, he could not come up with the answer. When he checked himself, he was doing well. He scored high on the church membership chart. He was complicit with church guidelines and policies. He was a faithful, commandment-keeping church member. But he was taking no chance; he heard Jesus was in town, and he went to Him to get a second opinion, an independent evaluation of his spiritual condition.
As the church of the living God, with heaven on our mind, we cannot trust our own evaluation of ourselves. We must place ourselves under the microscopic eyes of an all-seeing God and ask Him to search us and “see if there be some wicked way in me; cleanse me from every sin and set me free.”
If left to himself, the rich young ruler would qualify himself to take a front-row seat in the kingdom. When Jesus answered, “Go, keep the commandments,” he was not impressed, for if that was all the test necessary to make it, he was already home. He must have felt that too easy a test:
Lord, check again. Run another test. Something tells me that even though I’m a member of my church in good and regular standing, I’m not ready. Something tells me that even though I hold high offices in the church, my soul is not ready. Something tells me that even though I have served for 40 years, I’m still not ready. Something tells me that even though I study my Sabbath school lesson, return faithfully my tithe and offerings, stick to a vegetarian diet, sing in the choir, I am not ready.
What do I still lack? This is a question members of the last-day church ought to be asking Jesus. Make no mistake, the profile of the waiting church befits the rich young ruler: the church is young, rich, and excels in keeping all God’s commandments. As part of the preparation plan, the last-day church needs to make the same enquiry as this young ruler. And what would be the answer from the Lord if we were to ask that very question?
The Lord sent an e-mail to the last-day church with His answer to the very same question. He gives an evaluation of what the church lacks, and makes recommendations to address the condition. I must warn you before you open it: it is not good reading; it is not a pass mark. If the church at Laodicea represents God’s last-day church since 1844,
1 then we have the same problem the rich young ruler had.
Like the rich young ruler, the church did its self-evaluation and could not find any fault (Rev. 3:14-17). In its own eyes the church is doing exceptionally well; it is ready for the kingdom. But when the second opinion comes in, when God does His own independent evaluation of the church’s spiritual condition, He is troubled. The verdict: preparation is woefully lacking; there is a shortage in church. The young ruler lacked one thing, but the last-day church lacks three.
1. God found a shortage of refined gold: This gold that is short in the church is the symbol of godly faith, a symbol of trust in the living God. Faith that caused Daniel and three Hebrews to survive is lacking. Faith that caused prison doors to fly open and chains to fall from the hands of Peter and John is lacking. Faith that caused Peter and John to say, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have I give thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6, KJV) is lacking. There is a shortage of this faith that our forebears had. Without this faith Hebrews says it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).
2. God found a shortage of white raiment, the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The last-day church lacks the garment of Christ’s righteousness, though the church thinks it’s well clothed. Heaven-bound children of God need that garment to cover our filthiness. Our righteous living is nothing more than filthy rags. We must have the Savior living out His life within us, covering us with His life that is whiter than snow. Members who lack this garment will not make it. Jesus tells a parable of a man who did not have on his wedding garment and was cast out of the banquet hall (Matt. 22:11-14). The servant of the Lord in the book Christ’s Object Lessons says the man without the wedding garment did not think he needed it.2 But if the church is going to be ready, we have to be clothed in Christ’s righteousness.
3. God found a shortage of eye-salve, the working and presence of the Holy Spirit. There is shortage of the power of the Spirit of God in the last-day church. When the Spirit is lacking, then power is short: power to witness; power to ignite a revival of godliness; power to live right; power to unite and face the foe. When the Spirit is lacking, we find ourselves compromising on the edges of the truth rather than standing on the sure Word of God. If there is a time when the church needs its eyes wide open, it is now.
These are the three fundamental necessities that the church lacks in the last days: faith in God, Christ’s righteousness, and the Holy Spirit.
Tragically, the church is not aware that it lacks these things. Rather, it has been functioning under the assumption that it is doing well; that it is in need of nothing. How can our evaluation of ourselves be so strikingly different from how God perceives us, and we still don’t know? How can we be so far out of sync with God and we don’t know? Evidently the last-day church suffers from a false sense of security. We think we are spiritually OK when we are not.
It is the identical problem that caused half of the bridesmaids (another symbol of the waiting church) to be locked out. They went to sleep thinking they had oil, thinking they were OK. They did not know that their soul salvation was lacking (Matt. 25:1-13). It is the identical problem that caused a nation to reject Christ. They saw no need for a Savior, thinking they had Abraham as their father (Matt. 3:9).
A false sense of security is the greatest threat to the preparation plan of the last-day church. It causes us to depend less on Jesus and more on our training; less on the Holy Spirit and more on our intellect; less on the power of the living God and more on our collective wisdom. The church of God has to get back to Jesus, leaning on His everlasting arms.
The good thing about this e-mail is that God does not leave the church in the destructive condition He finds it in. He offers some recommendations as He did with the rich young ruler. End-time living necessitates implementing His recommendations. Jesus says our case is not hopeless.
He says, “I have the things you lack, things you do not have that are necessary to save your soul: I have them in abundance. I have them on sale. Come and buy from Me. A sale is going on. Isaiah says you need no money. God advertises the sale (Isa. 55:1-3, 6, 7) and says come before He closes the door.
The five foolish bridesmaids were too late for the sale. The shop was closed. But Jesus says, “Come now, let’s negotiate a transaction” (see Isa. 1:18).
As part of the preparation we will be chastened: Jesus said, “Those I love, I correct and discipline. So be earnest, repent and change your ways” (Rev 3:19, Clear Word).3 God is calling for a change in the way we do things. Repentance for abandoning Him. “Be prepared,” He says, “for some correction and some discipline, for I have to bring you back in line.”
Listen for the knocking on your door. “I, God, am making personal visits to each of you. I am knocking. Anyone who opens the door and lets Me in, I will come in. I am taking the initiative to come to you one by one, not to the church door but to the heart door of everyone. I’m giving you one more chance: If you open, I will come in.
God refuses to give up on His church. He has paid too much for it. He bought it with His own blood, and for it He died. I can tell you one thing: When it is all over, God is taking somebody home. Will it be you and me? Someone will enter the pearly gates: Will you? Will I?
This morning we can turn away miserable, like the rich young ruler. Or we can say, “Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.”
We can say, like Felix, “Not now, Lord—a more convenient time” (see Acts 24:25). Or we can say, “Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bid’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”