Israel, in their war against the Philistines, suffered a great loss at the hands of their enemy. What was their solution? Bring out the ARK! Yes, that's it... the Ark of the Covenant of God remained behind in Shiloh and was brought up to the battlefield in order to defeat the Philistines.
However, there was just one problem (okay... there were many problems, but this one in particular), the Ark of God was not a talisman to be used as a means of some "magical" support from God. Here's what it said in 1 Samuel 4:3, "Why did the LORD bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the Ark of the LORD's Covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies."
So that "IT" may save us? Really? It? Not "So that God may save us?" No, not that, we just need the Ark, we just need the talisman, we just need to look the part and then it all will happen automatically! What comes next is devastating. If they thought the battle had gone bad before, now it goes horrendously wrong.
But, my friends, don't we do the same today? Don't we simply bring out the functions of worship and the perfunctory expressions of devotion to God without any desire to seek the LORD? How many churches are missing the power of God in their great battles? How far down has our society declined in morality and virtue and the church seems powerless to change it? When was the last time someone said they had a great experience in the worship service and what they meant was a deep conviction of sin and a desperate desire to bring their lives into conformity with God and His word?
So, what do we do? We ramp up the volume and sing songs that drive the emotions so that people will have a great experience in church. We hype up the VBS and the children's programs so that it's more exciting for the kiddos and preach sermons that are more agreeable to the masses. We “bring out the ARK” and hide behind the talisman of religious expressionism, behind the bouncy-houses and baubles, the trinkets and tricks, and never truly seek the face of God. Let's face it - the prayer meeting is dull compared to the great performances happening on many Sunday mornings! But the power of God may just be found waiting for us in the prayer meeting.
While our sermons are preached and music is sung our communities fall prey to the steady encroachment of the enemy. Instead of the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ being the power of God for the salvation of all who believe (Romans 1:16) we now must make sure we are seen as "culturally relevant" despite the fact that the culture is lost and without hope in a wicked and depraved world. Evangelism becomes more about demographic research and market analysis rather than the proclamation and presentation of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Even as Spurgeon said, “That very church which the world likes best is sure to be that which God abhors the most.”
Isn't it time that we begin to ask: "What does GOD want us to do?" Are we prepared to become so completely consecrated to the Lord Jesus that the very steps we take are ordered by the LORD?
There is an answer - and it took Israel 20 years to get to it. 1 Samuel 7:2-4 speaks to this turn-around. In verse 3 we read, "And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, 'If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve Him only, and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.'"
The continual strengthening of the enemies of God in our culture and our communities comes from the willingness of God's people to put aside God's ways for worldly methods. But think about it this way: If imitation is the highest form of flattery, how long will churches across our land continue to flatter the world? We imitate the culture when we need to influence it. We entertain when we must entreat. We participate in programs and plans that have no touch of the direction of God because that's what we always do - we bring out the Ark - and hope that somehow God will be motivated to respond to our expectations.
The solution has already been given above. Return to the LORD with all your hearts and divest ourselves of all worldliness and religiosity that has no mark of the direction of God. I hope and pray it will not take another 20 years for us to get there.
©2015 Michael Duncan