I pray you will take a moment to read this.  Here is another sign that our Lord's return is very soon:   The lukewarm, Laodicean Church (Rev 3).  This may be offensive to some.  Why?  There are many so-called believers who are in a state of rebellion.  Rebellion to what?  First, some startling statistics:  
Jesus himself noted that a segment of end-times Church (that is, all of Christendom) would become wealthy and lukewarm, leading to a wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked state (Rev. 14-17).  This has taken place exactly as Jesus said.  Some scholars suggest the large number of Christian denominations worldwide (30,000+) is the primary reason for this spiritually bankrupt generation.  With so many denominations, people are disillusioned as they see churches like competing institutions, apostate and morally corrupt.  Sadly, this is generally true, as many denominations have liberalized themselves and have rejected the commandments written by God.  Church attendance in wealthy western nations (North America, Europe, Australia, etc) has been declining rapidly since the 1980s, while agnosticism, atheism, occultism and secularism have grown significantly.  If you want to be where the Church is growing, then visit India, Asia or Africa.
While there appears to be a major increase in interest in spirituality among North Americans, this has not translated into greater church involvement.  In the U.S., from 1992 to 2003, average church attendance dropped by 13% whereas the population increased by 9%.  If this trend continues at the present rate of change, most Americans will be non-Christians by the year 2035.  Europe is a vivid example of the Church's decline.  Though 53% of Americans consider religion to be very important in their lives, compare that with 16% in Britain, 14% in France, 13% in Germany, and 11% in the Czech Republic.

While the Church in Europe seems non-existent, the Church in North America is like one big marketing campaign.  The likes of Benny Hinn and Paul Crouch (TBN) teach doctrines of "God wants you to be rich and healthy" (what I like to call charismania); big mega-churches offer impersonal concert-style worship and feel-good self-esteem sermons (watch Joel Osteen sometime), and more recently, churches have become obsessed with growth, paying thousands of dollars for intensive marketing fix-it programs (google church marketing sometime—shocking).  This is mostly unique to North America.
The result has been a growing rebellion amongst U.S. Christians.  Many believers refuse to attend an organized church (of any denomination), having left their congregations and formed house churches (small groups meeting in homes or public places).  This rebellion against institutional churches is a very clever trick of Satan.  There are still many Bible-centered, sound churches that offer a place to worship and receive instruction.  We are commanded to meet together regularly (Hebrews 10:19-25; 3:12-14), or in other words, go to church!   Don't agree?  Then you aren't disagreeing with me only, but the Word of God.  This "meeting together" command is for the purpose of worship, praise and instruction (and financial giving for the support of the Church, 1 Cor. 16:1-2).  As well, belonging to a church body keeps us accountable, is a place to take our burdens (Gal 6:1-2), and where we can participate in well organized missions (locally and globally).  There are many other scriptural reasons for Christians to attend a local church, including God's promise of blessings and protection, a place to pray with others, reach out to the community, discipleship and evangelism, and to fulfill our need to hear the preaching of the Word
If believers do not attend a Bible-based church that has sound teaching (yes, again, there are still many out there) then guess what happens?  Lack of spiritual discernment, self-directed doctrines and eventual apostasy.  This apostasy includes accepting other religious teachings as compatible or equal with the Bible, and in some cases, incorporating Christian doctrines with new-age teachings (very popular today).  In fact, it isn't uncommon for believers to acknowledge an interest in necromancy (black magic or divination), witchcraft (white or black), or universalism (all religions lead to the same place). 

Many Christian households regularly accept these doctrines in direct opposition to Scripture.  Guardianship of God's truth in doctrine is one of the most important instructions for the Church, and it is brutal warfare.  We are told to constantly and diligently guard against doctrines of demons (I Tim. 4:1), false teachers whose heresy spreads like "cancer" (II Tim. 2:17), wolves in sheep's clothing (Matt. 7:15), all ungodly men who teach "strange doctrines" (I Tim. 1:3), and not to be yoked together with these people, either friends or spouses (2 Cor. 6:14).  Too often unsaved friends or spouses can be the source of heretical doctrines.  Believers who aren't going to church where sound doctrine is taught easily succumb to false doctrines.  Without realizing it, believers can get trapped in the beginnings of a cult.  Defined theologically, a cult is a "religious group with a doctrine heretical according to traditional Christianity." 

The Bible sternly warns of these doctrines.  If a believer chooses to water down what he or she teaches, or avoids teaching things like sin and repentance, regardless of his or her sincerity or motivation, it is called "tickling the ears" and is evil (2 Tim. 4:3).  It would be far better for a believer to attend a small church where a humble pastor knows everyone's name and their spiritual gifts while making it a priority to nurture each individual's spiritual growth and formation.  This is exactly what happens at the church I attend.  It's amazing how many people I've seen find a sense of belonging and move toward a mature relationship with Christ.  If you are not attending a Bible-based church regularly, then get going!

Pray for those you know who are not attending a local church.  The Church in these end-times is experiencing significant spiritual warfare, and confusion abounds.  The signs before us!

Keep looking up,

Tim Osterholm


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