By James Brown Jr.
“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” –Proverbs 13:12
We live in a day where hopelessness abounds within the American Church. Because of the theological confusion and disobedience that is prominent among the average church, there is little doubt as to causes of this inherent hopelessness. When a hopeless soteriology, a hopeless ecclesiology and a hopeless eschatology are taught from the pulpit, hopeless saints will be the final product.
However, this is not the state in which Christians and the Church of Jesus Christ should exist. We serve a risen Prophet, Priest and King unto whom all power has been given in heaven and on earth. Why we live as if we serve a beggar is beyond comprehension.
Christ commissioned His Church to go forth and make disciples of all nations. While this is an impossible mission according to the flesh, Jesus said that He would never leave nor forsake His Church. He has given the Church the keys to the kingdom through His Word by the power of His Spirit. So why then is the Church full of sick hearts?
For over 150 years the Church in America has been sound forth its anthem “I Did It My Way” wondering while the Church is failing. We have sold our birthright and are paying a heavy price for it.
However, we must remember that tt the lowest point in the history of the New Covenant Church, the light of God’s Word illuminated the darkness that had covered the whole earth. The result of the Great Reformation was the world turned upside down for Christ.
A revival of Biblical truths, such as Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solo Christo and Soli Deo Gloria, reformed the family, Church and civil government back to the old paths of God. Yet, instead of holding fast the profession of our faith passed down from the Reformers, we have returned to the false gospel of the Dark Ages.
Now we sit bewildered in a crisis of faith. The Church is disrespected, powerless and has become a mockery to our society. Christians are full of doubt, disillusionment and depression as the American Church is disenfranchised and irrelevant. They largely believe they have been left behind as they confess this is the Devil’s world.
However, this is not a true presentation of Biblical doctrine or practice. Our message should be one of hope but since hope is not experienced there is no testimony of the hope of the gospel.
How can there be hope when the Church no longer believes in the transforming power of Christ. The Church is filled with fraud and fatalism.
In discovery of the profession of the faith taught in Scripture and passed down by the Church in its creeds and confession, the most glaring distinction between the ancient Church verses the modern American representation is the hope of the historical Church.
The Epistles speak much about hope. We are even commanded to rejoice in hope even while we are being patient in tribulation (Romans 12:12). The reason we are slothful in fulfilling our commission and lack fervency in our service is due to our lack of hope (Romans 12:11-12).
The very nature of hope is that which has not yet been realized. The team takes the field in the final quarter of the game in hope of a comeback not because it has happened but because they have faith or hope that it will. They believe in something that gives them hope.
The writer of Hebrews points out that the reason why the generation of Israelites who were delivered out of the bondage of Egypt did not enter the Promised Land was because of unbelief. The Israelites had their excuses but their hopelessness was self-inflicted. Jehovah promised that He would go before them, in other words, He would never leave them nor forsake them. Still yet, the Israelites refused to obey God because their enemies seemed to be too powerful.
The Israelites regarded themselves as grasshoppers in the sight of the giants in the land (Numbers 13:33). While this is true, what they failed to believe is that God “sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers” (Isa 40:22).
The problem was the people did not have faith. Faith produces hope.
The farmer that plows does so in hope and must be a partaker of hope if he is going to labor in the field (1 Corinthians 9:10). The lack of hope in putting forth the effort to produce a crop is actually due to laziness.
“The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.” –Proverbs 20:4
Therefore, Jesus told His disciples in John 4:35, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”
Our focus should not be upon the sweat, hardships, or tribulations but upon He who promised. We labor because we have hope in God.
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” –Psalm 43:5
There are four things associated with hope that has been lost by the modern Church. These characteristics no longer define the Church because we have exchanged a God-centered gospel for a man-centered one just like the Israelites. There will not be a restoration of these four things until we have faith and hope in God.
“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” –1 John 3:3
Without true faith, which produces hope, there will not be purity in the Church. Let’s be very clear from the start, we are not talking about asceticism.
By asceticism we are referring to the deletion of God’s Word and the insertion of man’s word. Jesus warned the religious leaders in Judea of this over and over.
Jesus told them their asceticism was akin to washing the outside of a cup when the inside was filthy (Matthew 23:25). He said this false kind of piety made the Word of God void through their obsession with the commandments and doctrines of men (Mark 7:7, 9).
This purity can only be defined by God’s Word and enabled by the Holy Spirit. It is not man’s attempt to create a standard of righteousness he can fulfil through the works of the flesh. Anyone can fulfil man’s ascetic view not to “drink, smoke or chew or run with those who do.” But sin is not what goes into man but what comes out of man.
Jesus said, “Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man (Matthew 15:17-20).
Sin is a transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4) and not prohibitions invented by man. The asceticism of man-made religion has not produced purity but has added sin unto sin.
We are plagued by sin in the Church due to our lack of hope and faith. Our hope is to be in God and His word. Yet, most in the conservative American Church do not trust God. Our lack of faith has caused us to add to or reduce His word to the opinions of men.
But what incentive is there without true hope in God? I submit there is none.
So, we are left where this is no real focus upon sanctification according to the Word of God. As a matter of fact, outside of man’s ascetic attempts of righteousness, the modern Church is not at all concerned with true sanctification because the gospel has been lost. We look for charms, snake oil and other fake remedies instead of the supernatural growth in grace and knowledge through the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God in the church.
Those who are regenerated are not born again into maturity. The Scriptures teach that our spiritual birth is based upon the same universal laws as physical birth.
We are born as babies that must grow into maturity. Therefore, we must constantly be purified through the washing of the Word and the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:26-27). It is a process that those who have this hope of Christ will continue in.
Yet, it is hope that instigates purity and without hope we can never expect a purified Church.
“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.” –Philippians 1:20
While it is impossible to have hope without faith and purity without hope, it is also impossible to have boldness without purity. Until we become a people of good works we will never possess the high ground necessary for boldness.
Expectation of the promises being fulfilled in Christ produces boldness. If we do not have confidence in the message we preach who will speak with boldness?
While boldness does not authenticate the message, it does authenticate the sincerity of the messenger. It is therefore possible for a messenger to proclaim a false message in complete confidence whereas a true message may be proclaimed by a timid and apathetic unbeliever.
Boldness does not identify true doctrine, just true believers. Yet, the lack of boldness in the modern Church is a sign of faithlessness.
Plainness of Speech
“Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:” –2 Corinthians 3:12
Paul explains his great plainness of speech as a natural conclusion to the hope within him. Today the Church is identified by a lack of clarity.
Whether it is wishy-washy statements of faith, weak sermons or books full of psycho-babble, the lack of clarity reveals the true nature of the Church. While the world has been speaking their doctrines of darkness with fervor and clarity, the modern Church has been lost in a futile illusion.
This delusion comes in both a conservative and liberal version.
The liberal version seeks relevance but does so through conformity to the philosophy of the world. There is an embarrassment of God’s Word because of the conviction it brings in their lives. They are vile and wicked and instead of seeking redemption liberals would rather justify sin by denying the reality of sinfulness.
While they seek to reach out to sinners they fail to preach against sin to bring conviction upon them. It is impossible to get to grace without the acknowledgement of the true need of grace and the intent of grace.
We need God’s grace because we are wicked without any hope of righteousness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
The grace of God is for the purpose of establishing righteousness in those who seek it. God’s grace is not a band aid to make us feel better but a regenerating power to transform us into a new man created in righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24).
The conservative version is reactionary against the liberal desire of relevance. The problem within this worldview is it becomes oblivious to the reality of sin. Their fantasy world ignores the power of sin and the only true remedy through Jesus Christ.
In evading the mire and muck of sin many conservatives become irrelevant. They are unwilling to get their hands dirty to rescue those in bondage to the darkness. Instead of shining light into the dark corners of sinful hearts and society they simply shut their eyes choosing to escape reality in their ascetic induced hallucinations.
Although they claim plainness of speech in their man-made piety, it is not the plainness of God’s revelation but the Pharisaical delusions of self-righteousness. The members of their church exist in a mirage of righteousness, yet, as Christ declared, they “are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).
With this reality there can never be true plainness of speech. Without true purity there can never be boldness and plainness of speech because of their trust in man rather than God.
This lack of clarity is revealed in ignoring the power of sin and the need of continual grace in the life of the believer. The power of God’s grace in the perseverance of the saints has been replaced with a “once saved always saved” illusion of antinomianism.
It is no wonder Christians are lost in an illusion of righteousness. Scripture-based liturgy has been replaced with birthdays, stories, anecdotes, philosophy and man’s inventions in order to suppress the righteousness of God (Romans 1:18).
The Church has forsaken true sanctification in confession, repentance and discipleship. Without the plainness of God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit the Church will never be effective in reaching this sin cursed world.
“That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast...” –Hebrews 6:18-19
Obviously, no rational person would ever be committed to any cause without hope. To speak boldly is to believe in what is being spoken. If all one has ever experienced is failure, how can there be confidence?
The Church is not seeing lives transformed. Those within and without understand the Church is nothing but a game of hypocrisy. The lack of power leads to shattered faith.
As a result we have disillusioned believers making excuses and admitting defeat. It is a sad spectacle to think we are the descendants of the martyrs, the Reformers, and the Apostles.
Confidence will lead one to declare, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death” (Philippians 1:20).
Those who are not committed are not confident but are only hoping to cover all angles just in case. Most of modern Christianity is “just in case” Christianity. Confidence is total commitment. There is nothing a true believer will not sacrifice or do for a cause in which they believe.
The reason why we have a lack of confidence within the Church is due to unbelief. Our churches are full of sick hearts because hope deferred makes the heart sick.
The good news is God is calling a remnant to shake off the shackles of pointless Christianity and return to the ancient faith that Jesus is both Christ and Lord.
Because we believe that all power in heaven and on earth has been granted unto Jesus Christ, we go forth believing that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.
We seek to be sanctified by the Word of God and not the doctrines and commandments of men. Therefore, we desire only to preach the Word faithfully in spite of its popularity or lack thereof.
We have great confidence because we are sinners who are being saved by God’s grace. We have not attained but we see God’s Word at work in us because it is not of man but of God.
“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” –Philippians 2:13
While we are not what we should be, we know we are not what we used to be. We understand that God is still working on us in sanctifying us until one day we shall be glorified in Him.
Though we have been justified by the will of God through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we understand we have not yet attained. Therefore, we continue to seek God’s grace in our lives through the Word and Sacraments.
Reformed Church of the Holy Trinity is focused on a Scripture-based liturgy through the Regulative Principle because our hope is in God and not man. Because of our hope in the ways of God, we are not concerned with the inventions of men designed to draw man through emotional manipulation.
Therefore, we seek to draw near to God in true righteousness, boldly preach the Word of God, clearly confess our faith and confidently attack the darkness of this world.
“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” –Romans 15:13