The Greatest Command: Part 2
How has the Love the Lord impacted the church?
Looking back to the first-century church we find people dedicated to the teaching of the Word, fellowship, breaking of bread which included the Lord’s Supper and prayer. The believers loved God so much that it overflowed in the way they loved one another. Their church meetings reflected this love in their obedience to the inspired instructions of the apostles and the order they followed.
The apostles faced threats from governments and religious leaders. They were given strict orders to not teach in the name of Jesus Christ. However, even though they could face imprisonment and death they defied these orders and flooded Jerusalem with the teachings of Jesus for they “must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42) and was of one mind, unified in biblical doctrine and practices. Their lives were completely given over to Christ. Their love was driven by the knowledge of God, Christ's fulfillment of the Old Testament, and the miraculous work of salvation. They were a people bought with a price, transformed and led by the Holy Spirit. The church craved the Word of God, confirmed that the teaching was from Him, and desired to put the teachings into practice. They did not want to be told what they wanted to hear, which tickles the ear and is easy to digest, they wanted to hear the Word of God explained. Regardless of the risks, whether in the temple or a house, they hungered for truth.
The elders of the church did not need to concern themselves with attracting a crowd. The people heard the gospel, God performed the miracle of regeneration giving them the gift of faith to believe, and thousands were baptized. The only methodology that was utilized is that which is taught in the Scriptures, they preached the gospel. They did not need to utilize gimmicks, music, games, or even eloquent speech to draw a crowd. They did not manipulate emotions, ask people to walk to the altar, or repeat the sinner's prayer. Their love for God was greater than their love for man. Their priority was to bring God glory and not cater to culture or the sentiments of humanity.
After the first century, we see hundreds of years of Christians defending the purity of the gospel, standing up against man-made religiosity and heresy. They loved God with all of their hearts that they were willing to die for the truth of His Word as Tertullian of Carthage stated, “We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed.” When our love is authentic an emotion based on the truth that leads to action the Christian will pursue holiness, stand up for the gospel, defend the sufficiency of the Scriptures and face death to reform the church.
Although there are many faithful churches and moments in the history of the modern church which is still being written we want to examine how our love for God has effected our obedience to Him in the life of the church and the individual believer. Throughout history, ideologies have tried to enter the church. Whether it be the enlightenment, post-modernism, and every opinion birthed within these worldviews. Christ is building His church and nothing will destroy it, however, the god of this world certainly is attacking the church with all of his old tricks and sadly there are methodologies and philosophies that “have crept in unnoticed” (Jude 1:4). Paul warned us of this by saying “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Tim. 4:3). Throughout history, the church has faced these unbiblical onslaughts from the enemy and has prevailed. However, there has been no greater attack against Christ’s church than now in this modern age.
The post-modern view says that we can not know the truth, therefore everyone has their opinion or their version of the truth. This opened the door for feminism taking a worthy cause, in the sense of improving the treatment of women, and began to blur the lines between roles, the family structure and thus opened the door for other movements such as the LGBTQ. They say if no one can know for sure the truth, then we must be tolerant of all opinions and personal truths. Liberalism entered the church disguised as love. The view that mankind is basically good, with a natural ability to do good and seek their truth, and as long as their version of truth makes them happy who are we to judge them. This began a slippery slope of compromises within the modern church.
Today, we find the vast majority of churches following a model of man-pleasing doctrine and practices. To appeal to the emotions they offer a non-judgmental environment, with a come as you are billboard, freshly roasted coffee, hip music, and topical preaching without mention of sin or holiness.
One does not structure the church to meet the felt needs and desires of the tares. The purpose of corporate assembly, which has its roots in the Old Testament, is for the people of God to come together corporately to offer their sacrifices of praise and worship to God. So the first rule of worship is that it be designed for believers to worship God in a way that pleases God.
The modern church adapted worldviews and surrendered to culture in the name of relevance, likeability, and size. If you can draw a crowd by making the experience as pleasing as possible not only will they be able to keep their business but they will tell their friends. The modern church has followed the culture and has developed a business model to grow their company by pleasing their customers and making them feel comfortable. In the process the church has removed true discipleship, doctrinal teaching, worship that is for God rather than the audience, minimalized the sacraments, and removed church discipline, allowing sin to flourish.
The size of the crowd rather than the depth of the heart determined success. If the crowd was large then surely God was blessing the ministry. Churches were built by demographic studies, professional strategists, marketing research, meeting “felt needs” and sermons consistent with these techniques. We were told that preaching was out, relevance was in. Doctrine didn’t matter nearly as much as innovation. If it wasn’t “cutting edge” and consumer-friendly it was doomed. The mention of sin, salvation, and sanctification was taboo and replaced by Starbucks, strategy, and sensitivity.
Regardless of the intent of these modern churches, they have failed to truly love the Lord. By not following the Bible they have created churches that appear to love God and others when in fact they dishonor God, creating a breeding ground for lukewarm professing Christians. In reality, they are unloving, defaming Christ’s church, and permitting sin to go unchecked in the lives of their members tainting the purity of the bride of Christ and leaving people within the church so comfortable they don’t realize their conversion is an illusion.
Contemporary Christian literature is awash with the notion that, in order to be effective and successful, we must respond to market forces. In earlier generations, such an approach was unheard of. The tactic employed by Paul in Corinth was far closer to the model of the day. “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” That was his message. Even though the Corinthians demanding miracles and wisdom, Paul did not give them what they wanted. Indeed, he continued to supply the one thing they clearly did not want – preaching. He rejected the style and content that was most acceptable in his day… It is not possible to give people what they want to hear and proclaim the message of the Cross at the same time.
Of course, there are faithful churches who have biblical eldership, worship that is God-centered, and practices that edify the body and bring glory to God. Apostate churches will do what they do best, they will conform their church to liberal doctrine, submit to culture, and open their arms of tolerance to sinners who seek an experience without abandoning their sin. These liberal or progressive churches have no love for the true God, and therefore they disobey His will for the church. There are well-meaning churches who have fallen into this trap. They truly want to win the lost, for they desire to see no man spend eternity in hell. However, this is part of the problem they are trying to win people. Our job as Christians is not to win people, to attract people so that they will say “I like what I see, I think I will join them”. Out of complete love and devotion to God and His Word, we preach Christ crucified. We understand the deprave nature of humanity and therefore preach to the spiritually dead, trusting in the power of God alone to bring them to life, regenerating hearts, making them born again.
The modern church, even those with good intentions, has a high view of man, they have lost the doctrine of total depravity and God's sovereignty in salvation, resulting in turning to unbiblical methods to appeal to the spiritually dead. They create a comfortable environment, emotional music, and feel-good sermons. They say repeat this prayer after me and declare them saved. There is no repentance, no work of the Holy Spirit, and no fruits. They essentially have placed Christian clothing, make-up, and perfume on the spiritually dead to cover up the stench of hypocrisy. The result is that not only is the individual deceived and on their way to hell, but the unrepentant sin within the church produces spiritual malnutrition which will ultimately kill that local church. Steve Lawson said regarding the state of the modern church “tragically, exposition is being replaced with entertainment, doctrine with drama, theology with theatrics, and preaching with performances”. If these well-meaning churches truly love the Lord their God with all of their heart, soul, and mind then they must be obedient to the Word of God, their priority must be to bring God glory in all they do and their goal in reaching the lost must be faithfulness to the preaching of the Word, discipleship, and discipline to ensure the purity of Christ’s church. Christians who truly love the Lord will desire to obey God’s Word, hate their sin, will pursue holiness and this will not be burdensome for them, their love for God drives their action. As Christians we understand our unworthiness of grace, we were on the deserved path to hell, but Christ bought our freedom at a high price. In knowing this we humbly submit to Christ and the will of the Father in thought, word, and deed.
There is no question that obedience to God’s commands prompted by fear or merit-seeking is not true obedience. The only obedience acceptable to God is constrained and impelled by love, because “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). God’s law as revealed in His Word prescribes our duty, but love provides the correct motive for obedience. We obey God’s law, not to be loved, but because we are loved in Christ.
 Sproul, R.C. Good Intentions Gone Bad, Tabletalk, October 2007, p. 6. Used by Permission of Ligonier Ministries.  Burney, Bob. A Shocking “Confession” from Willow Creek Community Church, "Bob Burney Live," WRFD Columbus, Ohio.  Begg, Alistar. Made For His Pleasure, Moody Press, 1996, p. 178-179.  Bridges, Jerry. Transforming Grace, NavPress, 1991, p. 92.