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" Which Church? "
    "Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered...and on this Rock [cliff, ledge, crag; Christ, the Son of God; that which Peter had just confessed] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against It." (Mt16:16,18)

    "having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF BEING THE CHIEF CORNER STONE, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." (Eph2:20-22)

    "...just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish." (Eph5:25-27)

One morning in January I was sitting to my morning bowl of cereal while also reading an editorial by Elwood McQuaid in the current "Israel My Glory" magazine. A bit later when I turned on the computer at work and checked the e-mail, there were some comments by David Cloud in his Friday FBIS mailing. One talked about the duty of "christians" to stand up and make a noise about all the worldwide "persecuted christians"; the other about the world's view that the "church" is full of hypocrites, but that it is no reason to "neglect" (that?) "church".

According to Cloud:

    "A survey by LifeWay Research found that 44% of non-church-goers agree with the statement "Christians get on my nerves" and a whopping 72% said the churches are "full of hypocrites." The survey of 1,402 people was taken last year and involved people who did not attend a religious service at any time in the previous six months. More than 85% of these said one can have a good relationship with God without belonging to a church."
And then he begins his own commentary:
    "No doubt there are plenty of hypocrites in churches today and that is a sad and wretched matter, but it is no excuse not to go to church. There are hypocrites at football and basketball games, but I have never heard of anyone who refused to attend sporting events because of hypocrites. Of course, the survey makes no distinction between Bible-believing churches and heretical ones or between spiritual churches and carnal ones."
And ends with:
    "It is true that many churches do not follow God's Word, and we do not recommend unscriptural churches; but the church as an institution is still God's program for this age, and God's Word commands, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is" (Heb10:25). There is widespread rebellion against the church today, and there are all sorts of excuses for this rebellion, but I am convinced from Scripture that there is no good excuse and I refuse to join the rebellion. The church is God's program, and it should not be neglected. And a few believers meeting together from time to time is not a proper New Testament church (Titus 1:5)"
What is "hypocrisy"? Best defined by the dictionary as: "The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness."

Is this not the very definition of which Jesus warned:

    "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them from their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven.... Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many works of power in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who work out lawlessness!" (Mt7:15-16,22-23)
And Jesus preceded these comments with:
    "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are -MANY- entering in through it. Because narrow is the gate and distressing is the way which leads unto life, and there are -FEW- who find it." (vs13-14)
What the world sees, and labels as hypocrisy, is a group of people "making claims" (-for- "Jesus"); but living just as dishonestly, adulterously, greedily and sensuously as the world. Jesus said that the false prophets (and their followers) would be known "from their fruits". The world sees so-called "christian" fruits, and those fruits are no different from the world. The world (correctly) labels them as "hypocrites". They -profess- beliefs which they DO NOT POSSESS. If they truly possessed them, they would live differently. But by their lives they show forth that they are not in possession of the Promise of Eternal Life. (1Jn2:25)

The unchurched world is more truthfully astute to the condition of the so-called "church" than those self-deluded church members and leaders!

Cloud says, essentially, that: Just because there's hypocrites in the church is no reason not to attend. He does allow for the permission to not attend (?) an "unscriptural church". But claims that the "institution" is God-ordained; and quotes the standard mantra about "not forsaking the assembling".

But what is the "rebellion"? Is it against "the church"? To make such a statement begins to sound perilously similar to Babylon of Rome that seeks to bring everybody into the fold of "mother church"; which defines "sins" as infractions against the -traditions- of "the church". In so-doing, sin might just as well be defined as transgression against -man-, and his institutions.

But even though David had sinned against several people: Uriah in murder, Bathsheba in adultery, and Joab as his forced 'accomplice' in murder, when he seeks forgiveness he prays to God,

    "Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done evil in Your sight" (Ps51:4)
Now... if a congregation (church) is characterized by hypocrisy, and a Believer attends the meetings of such a group, is the Believer obeying God?

The exhortation about "not forsaking the assembling" is in the context where the group is, by definition, the Church of Jesus Christ. Their hearts have been "sprinkled from an evil conscience" and they "hold fast the confession" (Heb10:22-23) They have beliefs, and they also hold and possess them. They are not, by definiton, hypocrites.

But a group of hypocrites, by definition, is NOT SAVED. They are not the -true- Church of Jesus Christ. They "say they are Jews and are not, but lie" (Rev3:9) What did Jesus say about the "scribes and pharisees, HYPOCRITES" (Mt23) of His day? Were they not Unbelievers?

    "Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into the ditch." (Mt15:14)
Furthermore... if a Believer is fellowshiping with idolatrous unbelievers (hypocrites), they are in rebellion against God to:
    "Therefore, Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you." (2Co6:17)
So... what about that little saying:
    "If you're looking for a perfect church and should happen to find one, don't join it; it will cease to be perfect."
Such a clever little quip is then intended to disarm the person into a puddle of jelly in submission and acceptance of prevailing hypocrisy... the hypocrisy of claims to -being- a "Church", when in truth they are not part of Christ's True Church of True Believers. The clever quip, by its cleverness, is alleged to not have any possible answer to refute its cleverness; because after all: Who would be so brash (and 'proud') as to suggest they are right, and those with the clever quip are wrong. Are we not told to NOT JUDGE anything "before the time" (1Co4:5)

But we are told to "judge righteous judgment" and to not believe all prophets, because there are many "wolves in sheep's clothing"

    "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment." (Jn7:24)
They have the "appearance" of righteousness. They get dressed up, go sit reverentially/piously in the meeting, paste on smiles and shake a lot of hands with roudy "Howdy do!" But inside they are "full of extortion and self-indulgence...dead men's bones and all uncleanness" (Mt23:25,27)

When a (true) Believer refuses to partake in such fellowship, the only rebellion they are practicing is against satan's counterfeit. But regarding Jesus Christ, the "Head" of the Church, their "Husband", they are being in faithful submissive obedience.

But what about all the "persecution" around the world? Hundreds and thousands of "christians" are being tortured and slaughtered around the world, from Arab countries, to many in Africa, and those in SE Asia, etc. Why doesn't the organized church (the "institution") stand up, gain access to the media, raise a stink, lobby the congress in Washington, send e-mails pleading the president....to DO SOMETHING! as McQuaid, and several others in the Jan/Feb,2008 issue of "Israel My Glory" were saying?

First of all... Is Islam persecuting the true Church of Jesus Christ? Who knows for sure what goes on in the mind of a Jihadist! Those who would punish a perceived moral infraction by perpetrating gang rape upon the accused; punishing evil with further lust-filled evil? Besides being, just, wrong; it doesn't even make 'sense'! Those purporting to 'punish' the wrong, by such behavior, are stooping into the same gutter which they pretend to condemn. So... who follows up by punishing the punishers for their depravity?

Jihad perpetrates violence against -anything- that is not Muslim; -because- it is not Muslim. They do seem to take special delight in persecuting both Christians and Jews. But they do not seem to make any distinction whether they are -true- Believers or not. Merely the -label- Christian or Jew will do. Thus, the persecution is against the "-NAME- of Christ"

Jesus said the hatred would be, "because of My name" (Mt24:9)

But how many of those with the label "Christian" or "Jew" actually have "believed on the Lord Jesus Christ" for Salvation? (Ac16:31) How many of those being killed are True Believers? In how many of the cases is it true Martyrdom -for- Jesus Christ and their Faith in Him?

If there were truly as many True Believers as are being slaughtered, should not the world have been "turned upside down" for Christ by now? (Ac17:6) The fact that they are in such relative obscurity, and their plight is relatively unnoticed...should that not say something about their true fruits? A lot of times the term "christian" will include everything: Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Orthodox, etc. And for some reason these otherwise "Christian" publications don't make a distinction between them, even quoting and embracing the comments of catholics like Charles Colson, etc..

I suspect that 'some' of those being killed likely truly do know the Lord. But is it in the same numbers as those being killed?

And supposing, for the sake of argument, that they 'all' -are- True Believers...what should other Believers be doing? Raising up earthly pickets on their behalf? What did Jesus exhort to do?

    "But when they persecute you in this city, flee to another." (Mt10:23)
And when the early Church was persecuted in that manner, what did they do?
    "Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word." (Ac8:4)
Now, you will notice that I am not presenting any 'alternative' passages here, to present the "other side" of the issue. I don't know of any such exhortations to rise up and 'demonstrate' -against- persecution. When Jesus was on trial, He didn't even answer in defense, to deliver Himself. And furthemore, to Pilate He says,
    "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." (Jn18:36)
And just as Jesus was...
    "A servant is not greater than his master; nor is the messenger greater than the one sending him... Remember the Word that I said to you, A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My Word, they will keep yours also." (Jn13:16, 15:20)
Jesus was led away as a "lamb to slaughter"
    "He has been oppressed, and He was afflicted; yet He opens not His mouth. He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before its shearers is mute, so He opens not His mouth." (Is53:7)

    "...who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but gave Himself over to Him who judges righteously;" (1Pt2:23)

So, how come some of these leaders are trying to stir up demonstrations on behalf of the "persecuted church"? That's the opposite of what Paul was...
    "I now rejoice in my sufferings on your behalf, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, on behalf of His body, which is the church," (Col1:24)
That is a different spirit. It is not how Jesus exhorted, nor behaved. A "Christian" is one, originally, who was a "disciple" of Jesus Christ. (Ac11:26) A disciple is one who follows in the footsteps of the Master, both in Doctrine and Behavior.
    "Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare judgment to the Gentiles. He will not strive nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth judgment to victory; and in His name the Gentiles will hope." (Mt12:18-21)
Yes... I know it probably looks like we are talking about two different subjects: fellowship and persecution. But it is really one.

There are those who wish for True Believers to fellowship, even with hypocrites (unbelievers), contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture. Others from that same "institution" wish for world-like outrage against persecution, as though it were some worldly "social cause".

But in both cases it is a mixing-up of terms. Just because it is called "christian", does not mean it is [C]hristian. Just because something has the label "church" does not mean it is a place for a True Believer to fellowship.

The world looks at the "church" as some -visible- entity: a building, denomination, ordination, ritual, sacrament, liturgy, title, hierarchy, laity, pastor, deacon, etc. And sadly many, who likely are True Believers, have been so used to the hypocrisy that they do not see it for what it is.

The Church of Jesus Christ is not the "institution". Never has been. Yes, individual congregations will Scripturally have pastors and leaders; that's what the two Timothys and Titus are about. But there was never a "denominational" or "corporate" style of component to the NT Church. Such a concept is a result of the traditions from Babylon of Rome. Paul specifically condemns such practices in 1Co1:10-13 And Jesus said...

    "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, See here; or, See there; for behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst. And He said to the disciples, The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, Look here; or, Look there. Do not go away nor follow. For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under the heavens, shines to the other part under the heavens, so also the Son of Man will be in His day." (Lk17:20-24)
Yes, that passage speaks of the specific physical presence of Jesus; but are we not, today, in the "days" when the True Believer seeks others of "like precious faith" (2Pt1:1), that we might see the true fruits of the "days of the Son of Man", but we don't see it.

If you, dear reader, consider yourself to be of the Church of Jesus Christ... consider carefully: of -which- church are you? The visible, or the In-Visible... the one that is "in the Spirit"?

Just for clarity:
The Invisible (spiritual) Church has been

    "washed from our sins in His blood" (Rev1:5)

Related topic: Racial Church?

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