"Replaced" -- February 2012
A friend was telling me about a conversation that she had overheard at a particular event. The lady that was speaking was the worship leader at her church. She was talking with another lady and commented to her that she never picked out songs to sing that were “gory” and “incestuous”. This got my friend’s attention, so she listened a little more closely. After all, who would dream of singing these types of songs in church, so she wanted to hear an explanation of what this worship leader meant. What she was referring to were songs that talked about “blood” and “touching”. WHAT? Granted, in certain contexts songs about both could be considered “gory” and “incestuous”, but in church? We don’t sing songs like that. When we sing songs about the blood, we are talking about Jesus’ blood that was shed at the cross for the remission of our sins. This worship leader was saying that they don’t sing songs like: Nothing But The Blood; Power In The Blood; He Touched Me; and so on.
How sad that this is how this “worship” leader defines the Blood of Jesus-- “gory”. I agree that there was nothing “pretty” about the cross. It was a place of blood shed, violent acts against our beloved Jesus, suffering and death. But through it, it brought life. It was a place where the love of God was demonstrated for mankind. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8- NIV) It was where the sins of the world were judged. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) It was a place of victory. It was through the blood that we have redemption. It took the price of blood to pay the ransom for our sins. It was gory. (If you saw the movie “The Passion of Christ” you saw that.) But you can’t separate Christianity and the blood. There is no Christianity without the Blood. Our whole faith, eternal assurance and relationship with God the Father is founded upon the fact that there was “a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath the flood lose all their guilty stain.” “... without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Hebrews (9:22b)
You have to wonder how anyone could “think” this way. But I have discovered that this “thinking” is becoming more and more prevalent in the church. She is not by herself. It is becoming very widespread. You hear it in the songs we sing, in the sermons that are preached and in the way we conduct business. There was a commercial produced by a well-known food chain years ago that asked the question, “Where’s the beef?”. Lately, we are asking ourselves, “Where’s the blood?” Where is the preaching about the blood in our churches? Where is the preaching about the cross? Where is the teaching about holiness, repentance and surrender to the Lordship of God? It is seldom heard any more. The reason? We don’t want to “offend” anyone or have anyone “turn away”.
The cross is an offense- it always has been and always will be. But without it, we would be eternally lost. But we aren’t suppose to preach that either. You can’t tell people that they could go to hell. You have to tell them how good they are. You can only tell them what they want to hear. You have to make them feel good and feel good about themselves. So let’s tell them only good things and make them feel comfortable so they will be “part of us” and we can have “mega churches” and become well-known preachers.
There is a part of me that feels I need to apologize because I know it sounds like I am “angry” and being “sarcastic”, and if that is how you are taking it, “I am sorry”. But on the other hand, the Bible tells us to speak the truth and contend for the faith. You may come back and correct me by saying that it actually says, “Speak the truth in love”. Yes, it does, and while it may not sound very “loving” in my “tone”, I can assure you that it is. While growing up, when my parents would discipline me, it sure didn’t feel very “loving” but I know that they were showing me more love through their correction than they were by just letting me continue on my way without a word. So while it may seem otherwise, it is more loving to point out the truth instead of allowing people to continue in the way they are going without saying anything. And on the other hand again, yes, I am angry at what I see happening in the church as a whole, but I am more sadden and grieved by it so I feel the need to address it.
There is a term that you may or may not be familiar with. It is called- Replacement Theology. The term actually deals with a teaching that replaces Israel with the church. It teaches that the Jewish people are no longer God's chosen people. Instead, the Christian church now makes up God's chosen people. True, the church is chosen by God, but we are the “grafted in” ones. Israel is still God’s chosen people and He has not forgotten His covenant with Abraham concerning his seed.
I want to talk about another form of “replacement” that does not deal with the subject of the church replacing Israel. (I didn’t want you to get the two confused.) It goes right along with what we have already been talking about. The dictionary defines the word replace as: to assume the former role, position, or function of; substitute for; to substitute a person or thing for (another which has ceased to fulfill its function).
If you look around the modern day church you can easily see that there has been, and continues to be, a “replacement” going on. Let’s look at some of those replacements; a few I have already addressed and some I haven’t.
“The Blood”. The blood has been replaced with a “neat, nice” gospel- nothing “gory” will do. We have replaced it with the gospel of “good works”. That gospel tells us to just be “good enough” and we will be all right. Our good works will make us righteous and accepted by God. We don’t need that “messy, bloody” gospel, all we need is to try to do the best we can and God will let us in- after all, He knows we aren’t perfect, but if we are trying that will be good enough. When I was in the ninth grade, I took Algebra 1. I cannot tell you how I struggled with that subject. I just could not get it no matter how hard I tried- and I did try. I made more failing grades on the tests than I did passing ones. But you know what? I passed the subject that year. How? My teacher told me that because I had made an effort, tried and worked so hard, he decided to pass me. I worked hard so he passed me. I want to set the record straight-- God is not like my teacher was. He is not going to “pass you” just because you “worked hard”. He is not going to “let you slide” or “enter in” just because you did “good things” during your life or was not a “bad person”. We are sinners! “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Romans 3:23; 5:12) We are not righteous. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10) All our righteousness is like filthy rags. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6). We will never be “good” enough (just ask the rich young ruler). As a matter of fact, if we could be good enough, how would we ever know if we were? By what standard would we measure it? How good is good enough? Our best works and efforts will never be good enough to save us. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5) To replace the blood with our own good works as the means of righteousness and salvation is a serious matter. The Bible tells us that there will be a punishment for doing so. “Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us.” (Hebrews 10:29- New Living Translation) You can choose not to sing about the blood if you want but as far as God is concerned it is still the standard by which we must be saved.
“The Cross”. There is a movement going on to get crosses taken out of the churches. This movement is not being headed up by the government, atheists or nonbelievers, but by Christian pastors/leaders. The cross was the altar where Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, was sacrificed. “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) The cross represents Christ’s sacrificial death. Jesus’ followers are called to take up their cross- die to self- and follow Him. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) When the cross is removed from the gospel, you have to replace it with something else. It is replaced with self-help messages. This is closely related to the message of “good works”, but it deals more with “self-improvement”. None of us can “improve” ourselves, or make ourselves better. We think we can “learn” enough to “change” ourselves. The cross shows us that we needed someone, or something, bigger than ourselves, we can’t do it on our own. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
“Holiness”. The message of holiness hasn’t changed. Yet we have replaced it with the demand for our “rights”. We tell people that God wants us “happy”. He did come that we might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) And He does bless us and give us joy. But God isn’t looking for a “happy” people, but a “holy” people. Holiness will often interfere with your “happiness”. Doing the right thing- the godly thing- won’t always make us happy. It will often make us “unhappy” because it brings death to self-will more times than not. Holiness removes your “right” to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, and how you want to do it. Jesus called us to live a holy life. That means that you don’t have the “right” to get what you want at the expense of inflicting pain on someone else. It means you don’t have the “right” to hold on to bitterness, unforgiveness or take revenge just because someone has done you wrong. Holiness is a separation and dedication to God. The “holy” life means that you have turned your rights over to the Lord in order to walk in a way that is pleasing to Him and presents a true representation of who He is. Holiness cannot be replaced in the life of a believer because it is what separates us from the world and shows that we are separated to God. “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16) “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
“Repentance”. This is another one that has been replaced. Why talk about repentance when we are all “good people”? We don’t talk about repentance because we don’t talk about sin. (Without sin there is no need for repentance.) We don’t talk about sin because that sounds too “harsh” and “judgmental”. We much prefer to call it “mistakes”. It is not as “serious” when it is only a mistake; and a mistake is something that we can easily correct by ourselves without God’s help. The truth is-- it was not for our mistakes that Jesus died! It was for our sins! “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.” (1 John 3:5) There was a reason why Jesus’ first public message was-- “Repent”. (If He taught it, shouldn’t we?) “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) The fact remains that as long as there is sin in the world, there will always be the need for repentance. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)
“Hell”. We don’t preach about hell any more. Why scare people? It isn’t real. How could a loving God send any one to a place of supposed torment forever just because they made a “mistake”? That’s becoming the common mindset in the church because we have replaced the teaching and warnings about hell with the false idea that hell is the term we use for the problems and trials that one experiences here while on earth. In His teachings Jesus never equated the tribulation and suffering of this life with the eternal place of torment. Instead, He warned that hell was a literal place and if you go there that would be when the real suffering would begin. “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” (Luke 16:22,23) You are right a loving God does not send people to hell, but not because it doesn’t exist. People go to hell because they refuse to take the way of escape that this loving God has so graciously provided for them. Jesus is that Way. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9) “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.” (Hebrews 2:3) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:16-18)
“Sacrifice”. When we come to Christ as Savior and Lord, we enter into a life of sacrifice, service and obedience. It is no longer about “ME”. It is about Him. Our life is no longer our own. It belongs to the One who loved us and gave Himself for us. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) We don’t want to hear that we are to sacrifice time, money, talents, our life for the advancement of God’s Kingdom. We have replaced the message of sacrifice with a “prosperity” gospel. One that says it is all about you having all the things you want. It teaches us that God wants us to have everything our hearts desire. It teaches us that God wants us to have more and more riches and wealth. After all, the more material things you have it’s an indication that you are more spiritual and holy. We equate holiness with material wealth. Do we have it backwards! “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” (James 2:5) There is nothing wrong with having some things, but do those things have you? Are you willing to sacrifice them if called upon to do so? Are you lusting and coveting after material possessions? When God, who is the One who gives us the power to get wealth, blesses us, it is so that we can be a blessing. Not so that we can get richer and richer, fatter and fatter. “But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth.” (Deuteronomy 8:18a) “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” (Proverbs 30:8,9)
“Altar”. The altar has been removed in most churches. The altars represent prayer. We have taken prayer out of the church and replaced it with “fellowship”, or more accurately “socializing”. The early church had fellowship, so am I saying we shouldn’t? They had fellowship but that fellowship was centered around prayer. We are just simply “prayer less”. This is why we are powerless. God’s word clearly says to call on Him and He would answer us. Seek and we would find. If we aren’t calling, and we aren’t seeking, then He is not answering. If He is not answering we don’t know what to do. So we have done nothing- except maybe try to work up some sort of “power” from within our own self. Which is no power at all. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6b)
“Anointed preaching”. We have replaced anointed, Spirit-led, Spirit-breathed preaching with motivational speeches. Where is, “Thus Saith the Lord”? What happened to men and women of God staying on their faces before the Lord seeking a fresh word in season from His throne? The majority of what is preached now is the latest fad and techniques. Well, I guess that is all that is left to preach when you remove the blood, the cross, sin, repentance, eternity, etc. It has become a gimmick to try to entice people to come into the church. Which brings me to the next point because the next couple go hand in hand with this one.
“Holy Spirit”. Jesus is the head of the church and He governs it through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the one who inspires, who convicts, who gives revelation, who draws, who speaks to the church. He is the One who adds to the church those who are to be saved. He is the anointing. He should always have liberty without reservation within the church and the body of Christ individually. But He has been replaced by humanistic wisdom and education. We have become too educated to need the Holy Spirit. We have our Bible colleges, our seminars, our church growth experts, our technology, our new and improved methods of preaching the gospel and reaching people. In our “pop culture” society preaching the word is old-school. It is outdated, it is not relevant to the times and culture of today. We are a “sight and sound” generation. The Bible can’t measure up. We have to have new and inventive ways to reach the masses. I am not talking about putting God in a “box”. He can use whatever means He so chooses to reach people. As a matter of fact, He uses weak and foolish things. But if you remove the teachings of the Bible, you will never win them... at least not to Christ. You might win them to something- your church, your program, your movement- but then what hope does that give them for eternity.
“The Word”. The last one I want to address is the replacement of God’s word. We have replaced it with our own opinions, with foolish jesting, illustrations, dramas, musicals and personal experiences. Don’t misunderstand, some of these have a place- like I said earlier, we can’t put God in a box. But these cannot replace the preaching of the Word- the rightly divided Word of God. It is the Word that has the anointing. It is the Word that has the power to convict and change lives. It is the Word that God watches over and it doesn’t return empty to Him. It is the Word where we find real life. It is the Word that illuminates our path. It is the Word that brings wholeness to our spirit, soul and body. And it is the Word that is eternal. For thousands of years the preaching of the Word of God was enough. I believe it is time we start replacing the methods that we think are right in our own eyes, with doing things the way God has chosen for us to do them. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:21)