The Perpetual Ruins

Sunday, December 28, 2014, 8:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Trust Him.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 74:1-4 (NASB).

Remember Us

A Maskil of Asaph.

O God, why have You rejected us forever?
Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?
Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old,
Which You have redeemed to be the tribe of Your inheritance;
And this Mount Zion, where You have dwelt. ~ vv. 1-2

The people of God were under the hand of God’s judgment. God, in anger, had handed them over to the desire of their foe. So, the psalmist was appealing to God for mercy, based upon the covenant relationship God had with his people. He asked God to not forget his people, but to remember those whom he had purchased for his very own.

We don’t know exactly the circumstances surrounding the writing of this psalm other than the psalmist described what sounds like the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple there. In that case, God judged his people for their idolatry, their spiritual adultery, and their refusal to repent of their sin; for their refusal to heed God’s warnings and to listen to the words spoken by his prophets. The people of God had hardened their hearts against God, and they had turned away from him and had gone their own way. Time and time again God sent his prophets to warn them of judgment and to call them to repentance, but they didn’t listen. And, so God had to send upon them the judgment he had threatened. His goal, though, was to bring them to repentance so that he could renew them and restore them.

Yet, God doesn’t always discipline in anger. He often allows us to go through difficult times as a way of maturing us, strengthening us in our faith, teaching us endurance, and purifying our hearts. In these times of trouble we learn to put our dependence in God alone, and not in ourselves or in other humans. We are also humbled during these times of trial and testing so that we learn to be compassionate towards others who are suffering, and so we can offer them the same comfort we received from God. Jesus said that, as his followers, we will be hated and persecuted, mistreated and falsely accused, and arrested and even put to death for our faith in Jesus Christ and for our testimonies for him and for his gospel. So, suffering and persecution do not come our way only because of sin in our lives, but as part of God’s process of conforming us to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.

The Perpetual Ruins

Turn Your footsteps toward the perpetual ruins;
The enemy has damaged everything within the sanctuary.
Your adversaries have roared in the midst of Your meeting place;
They have set up their own standards for signs. ~ vv. 3-4

Rather than discuss the circumstances surrounding the psalmist’s words here, I believe God would have me look at how this passage of scripture is being realized today.

The temple of God today is the body of Christ, the church – the heavenly Jerusalem. It is not a physical building or an organization of humans, but it is a living organism comprised of believers in Jesus Christ throughout the world. The sanctuary of God is also not within a building built by human hands, so if someone tells you that walking into a building called “church” means you are entering the “house of God” or that when you enter the sanctuary (or worship center) that you are now entering into God’s presence, they are wrong. That is based off the Old Covenant relationship between God and his people. We are now God’s house, and his sanctuary is within our hearts. His presence dwells within us, not in a building. So, if we are believers in Jesus Christ, we are always in his presence.

So, with that in mind, I would like to look at some ways in which the true church today is in perpetual (continuous) ruins – where the sanctuary has been damaged, where our adversaries have roared in our midst, and where they have set up their own standards for signs.

The Sanctuary

Since the sanctuary of God is in our hearts, and thus it represents God’s abiding presence in our lives, because of God’s grace to us in saving us from our sins, how can the enemy do damage to that sanctuary? Well, the purpose of the sanctuary was a place where God’s people could go to meet with him, to find refuge in him and to worship him. The sanctuary thus represents our personal relationships with Jesus Christ, our communion with him, our walks of faith, and our times of fellowship with him in personal Bible study, worship, and prayer, and then followed up with obedience to what he taught us.

The enemy has done great damage to this sanctuary, because he has convinced those who profess the name of Jesus that being under grace is some kind of easy ride, and that since God has forgiven us for our sins, sin doesn’t really matter to God. He has convinced those who want to believe in Jesus that all they have to do is say some prayer and they have their escape from hell (if hell is even mentioned), their ticket into heaven, and that nothing can take that away from them no matter how they live their lives from that point on. In fact, they are taught that God is pleased with them no matter what they do and that he delights in them even when they are willfully sinning against him.

God is presented as a doting grandfather in the sky there to grant their every wish. They are not taught the fear of the Lord, for that might offend people or drive them away. They are not taught that they have to die to their sins, for that might be considered too harsh or judgmental. They are instead taught this happy-happy version of the gospel that requires nothing of the sinner turned saint at all other than to “believe” - whatever that means. And, so they don’t take God and his word seriously, they live just like the world, and they participate in many (or all) of the same sinful activities as does the world. They are idolatrous and are living in spiritual adultery, if they even know Christ. And, they are taught a me-centered version of Christianity rather than the God-centered true gospel.

The Meeting Place

The “meeting place” can represent our personal times of fellowship and worship of our Lord and/or it can mean our times when we gather with the body of Christ for worship, prayer, the teaching of the Word and fellowship.

If the enemy roars in the midst of our meeting place, what picture comes to mind? To “roar” can mean to rumble, thunder, grumble, or sneer. This can mean to create some kind of disturbance, persecution, threat, or distraction. Oh, he is great at doing that when we sit down with our Bibles and we begin to pray and to study God’s word. He may come against us with an accusing tongue, or he may get our minds off on tangents, or he may introduce fear or worry into our minds, or he might get us thinking about all the things we have to get done that day. Or, he could make us sleepy or whatever might work that would get us to be unproductive in spending time with the Lord in prayer and in his word.

He will also lie to us and convince us that God is happy with us spending just 5 minutes a day with him, and he is ok with us having days go by when we don’t spend time with him at all. He understands. Of course, these same folks have plenty of time for Facebook, the Internet, TV, and games, etc. We make the time to do what is most important to us, don’t we?

And, then in the fellowship of the Body of Christ in their meetings the enemy has convinced believers that they need to invite the world into their meetings, that they need to focus the attention of the meetings around reaching out to the world, that they need to make things light, fun and happy and make sure we have a really good band that will draw in large crowds of people, etc. He has convinced the church that they need to entertain everyone so that people will want to come back, and that they need to not be judgmental or get on people’s case about sin, and that they need to avoid such subjects as sin, repentance and obedience, because that is legalistic, and they are “free” from all that. So, what we have here are often theatre productions in public meetings involving both Christians and non-Christians, and then we call that “worship” of God and Christian fellowship.

Their Own Standards

Basically what this means is that the enemy has skillfully and subtly exchanged God’s standards for his own standards. He has convinced church leadership, across multiple denominations to follow books written by mere men who then teach church leaders how to grow their churches. This is where they are taught to dilute the gospel in order to make it more appealing and acceptable to the world, where they are taught to use human marketing schemes for how to draw in large crowds of people to their meetings, and where they are taught to discourage participation from people who hold to the foundational truths of the gospel and to target the people of the world or those who have little Biblical knowledge so that they can mold them according to their pattern.

This has been going on for a very long time. The enemy is very patient. He takes his time slowly and carefully introducing changes into the church which are more in line with his plans for the church than they are in line with God’s plans for his church. The church has thus been on a gradual decline for many years. I have become aware of this only about 16 years now, and I have watched how the enemy has lied to church leaders and congregations and how they have bought into his lies and how little by little he has gotten them to compromise truth and to accept different standards and a different gospel from the ones taught by Christ and by his apostles. And, it breaks my heart!

The psalmist cried out to God in desperation. He appealed to God’s mercy. He listed off to God all the things the enemies of God had done to his temple, to his sanctuary and to his holy city. He also mentioned that the prophets of God also appeared to be no more. Then, he inquired of God as to how long this must go on. When would God intervene on the behalf of his people? He asked that God not forget his afflicted forever. He asked God to plead his own cause.

And, I empathize with him, because I pray to God regularly for him to bring revival to his church here in America. Yet, I believe revival will only come through God’s hand of judgment (discipline), and that will come only when God’s timing is right. Yet, I am not looking forward to that time as far as what I believe this nation will have to suffer, but oh how my heart aches to see the church revived and no longer believing the lies of the enemy, but following God wholeheartedly. So, I wait on the Lord, and I trust him. He will work out all for good in the life of his church, and she will return to HIM. Amen!

Trust Him / An Original Work / August 15, 2012

Based off Psalm 27:14

Wait for the Lord; be of courage;
Be strong and take heart today.
Do not fear when foes attack you.
Trust in God always.
He will rescue you in times
Of trouble and distress,
He’ll comfort you in all ways
As you trust Him with your life today.
Trust in Him always.

God is with you; He’ll not leave you.
You can always count on Him.
He will fulfill all He promised
Before you began.
His word teaches you
All that you need for this life.
Let Him lead you. Open your heart;
Let his truth envelope you today.
Listen and obey.

Love your Lord God; follow Jesus.
Repent of your sins today.
Make Him your Lord and your master;
Trust Him and obey.
Follow Him where’er He leads you
In His service; be His witness,
Telling others about Jesus’
Price that He did pay
For your sins always.