Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles, which begins with the days of the reign of Solomon king of Israel and the kingdom as a whole, and continues through to the days of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and the kings which sat upon the thrones therein. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters sixteen through twenty of this Old Testament book. Before I get into the words which are at hand before us in Scripture, I feel compelled to engage in something that is quite alarming and disturbing during this particular time and season in which we are living. I woke up this morning reviewing the alerts and notifications on my phone, and one of the notifications truly gripped and captivated my heart, my spirit and my undivided attention. As I looked down upon the alerts and notifications that were on my phone I read a headline from one of the local news stations concerning a pastor of a church here in the state of Massachusetts. The headline of the notification and alert described how a particular pastor of a church here in the state of Massachusetts is planning on raising up a lawsuit against the governor and state of Massachusetts, and plans on suing the entire state for violation and infringement upon their constitutional rights. I have to admit that as I read the words which were written in the article—not only did my heart break within me, but there also a spirit and sense of indignation that rose up within my heart and soul. The more I read the article, and the more I considered the magnitude of what was going to take place within this state, the more I couldn’t help but immediately be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first epistle which he wrote and sent to the Corinthian saints concerning their desire and attempt to bring to court and engage in lawsuits against their brethren in the midst of Gentile courts. In order to truly set the stage for what I believe the Spirit is speaking in this hour—specifically to Evangelical, charismatic, Pentecostal, Protestant, Catholic, Baptist, Episcopal churches and the like—I feel it incredibly important to present you with the words which the apostle Paul did in fact write in the sixth chapter of the first epistle that was written unto the Corinthian saints. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded in this particular chapter beginning with the first verse of the chapter:
“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers? Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. Know ye not that the unrighteousness shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revivers, not extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the LORD Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:1-11).
While these words alone are absolutely and incredibly powerful and speak a great deal to the body of Christ and to the church throughout the centuries, I am absolutely and completely convinced that it is only part of the picture. In order to truly and properly understand the words which are written and recorded within the seventh chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthians it is absolutely necessary that you also take a look at and consider the words which our Lord Jesus spoke in His famous Sermon on the Mount. If and as you read the words which are found within this Sermon you will very quickly encounter Jesus’ words concerning—not only actually being wronged by another, but I would even dare say that He addressed the feeling of being wronged by another. I do not feel, nor do I believe for one moment that the words which Jesus Christ our Lord spoke applied only to those who were and those who have actually been wronged. I firmly believe with all my heart that when Jesus spoke the words which are written and recorded for us in chapters five through seven of the New Testament gospel written by Matthew, they directly apply to those who have indeed and have in fact been wronged, and those who perceive, those who think, and those who feel as though they have been wronged. Building upon what the apostle Paul wrote in the first epistle which was written and sent unto the saints which were at Corinth I feel it necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are presented before and unto us in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative as written by the apostle Matthew. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Matthew wrote and recorded in the fifth chapter of his gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ beginning to read with and from the thirty-eighth verse:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue that at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? DO not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).
It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we keep those words in mind when you consider the article that was published by Boston 25 News, for the headline of this most recent article is simply this: “Mass. Church plans to sue governor as doors remain closed.” Upon reading the article you will find that a Westfield pastor plans to sue Governor Charlie Baker as churches remain closed due to the state of emergency order issued amid the coronavirus pandemic. The article goes on to reveal that the pastor of this particular church told Boston 25 News on Wednesday that he is working with attorneys and speaking with other pastors about filing a class action lawsuit against Baker. The reason why this particular pastor—as well as perhaps pastors of other churches—are doing so is because they believe that their constitutional rights to worship have been violated. It’s worth noting that this particular outrage within the heart and mind of this pastor was sparked by the governor of Massachusetts—Charlie Baker—presenting and proposing a four phase plan to reopen the state of Massachusetts. It is unmistakable and undeniable that this particular pastor read up and considered this four phase approach of the governor of the state of Massachusetts, for he would be quoted as saying and speaking the following words: “This open-ended, We’re just going to get to you when we get to you, does not comply with the constitutional rights that I feel are being violated. So the lawsuit will be filed very shortly.” The article goes on to highlight that the emergency order issued by Governor Charlie Baker, which requires businesses and organizations deemed non-essential to close their physical workplaces, is set to expire Monday, when the first stage of the four-phase plan of the governor is scheduled to begin. It’s important that we recognize and understand that the exact types of businesses which will be permitted to reopen during this first phase is absolutely unclean, and even the governor himself has stated that he isn’t even sure if the stay-at-home order which expires on Monday can and will be extended. The pastor of this particular church would go on to declare—and I would perhaps say quite emphatically and boldly—that “If liquor stores can be open, and Home Depot can be open at forty percent, and you’re opening golf courses and florist shops…It’s not just another business. This is people’s faith, this is people’s anchor, it’s people’s hope…I just feel like we’re front line helpers. We’re just as important as colors and nurses in their spiritual, mental, and physical health.”
Now, it is those final comments which I just presented to you that truly have me worried, for as a Bible-believing, Spirit-filled Christian and follower of Jesus Christ, I have to say that in absolutely no way do I feel as though our rights are being violated by any state, local or federal government. I do not believe for one moment that our constitutional rights have been violated in the slightest bit, and that in all reality, what we are witnessing here is not necessarily a genuine and authentic concern for parishioners and congregants, but something much deeper. It’s worth noting that in no way have state, local and/or federal government(s) stated that churches aren’t essential. In no way have the various branches of government stated that liquor stores, grocery stores, coffee shops, and stores such as Walmart, Home Depot and even Target are somehow more important and necessary than churches. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand it’s that when you think about churches you must recognize that in most churches congregants and parishioners sit much closer to each other, and interact with each other more closely than you would in the grocery store, or in any other store which might be opened during this time such as CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, and yes, even Home Depot. In all reality, I am absolutely convinced that the argument that this particular pastor is seeking to make is actually focusing on the wrong thing, and is focusing on the church building as a structure rather than what the church was originally intended on being. It’s absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand that the church and the body of Christ has been around long before America became a nation, long before the Constitution was drafted, and long before Amendments came into existence. The church and body of Christ has been around since the early days after the ascension of Jesus the Christ, as not more than ten days after His ascension the Holy Spirit was poured out on the one-hundred and twenty in the upper room. It would be on the Day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit would in fact be poured out upon all those in the upper room as the sound of a mighty rushing wind filled the place, and cloven tongues of fire rested upon each of them. As you read the New Testament book of Acts you will find in the final verses of the second chapter that when the early church and body of Christ was first formed, there was no building, there was no structure, there was no four walls that served as a central location. Of course we know that the Temple would still be in existence, and that even Peter and John would go up to the Temple in the very next chapter within the book of Acts, however, the Temple itself—that which was made with and by human hands—would be destroyed less than fifty years later when the Roman army would invade Judaea and Jerusalem and would burn it to the ground. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded in the second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts beginning to read with and from the thirty-eighth verse:
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possession and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the LORD added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:38-47).
As I invite you to consider the words which were written by the beloved physician Luke in the second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts, I must also invite you to continue reading even further in this New Testament book, and specifically within the fourth chapter of the book. It is when you come to the fourth chapter of this New Testament book, and specifically beginning to read with and from the thirty-second verse of the chapter you will find this reality of the body of Christ continuing on during the days after the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as the days after the ascension of Jesus Christ and the Day of Pentecost. I invite you to now turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the fourth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts beginning to read with and from the thirty-second verse of the chapter:
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the LORD Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37).
The reason I mention and include these passages which are found in the New Testament book of Acts is because there is not a doubt in my mind that during this time there are a number of pastors, ministers, leaders, and even congregants themselves who are allowing themselves to get caught up on church buildings. There are countless pastors, ministers and leaders who are taking this to the extreme and declaring and proclaiming that somehow their rights are being violated during this time because the doors of the churches are being shut. There are some pastors who are outraged because they are perceiving churches as somehow being non-essential during this time. A lot of pastors, ministers and leaders cannot understand how or even why their churches can be closed, while liquor stores, coffee shops, certain retail stores, and the like are allowed to re-open. I find it absolutely necessary within my own heart and mind to emphatically and boldly proclaim that we have allowed ourselves to get caught up and hung up on the four walls of our buildings, the pews and chairs in our churches and houses of worship, and the fact that we are gathering together. If pastors, ministers and leaders are outraged because the doors of churches are somehow shut during this time—I would strongly invite and encourage them to think about the underground church in the Middle East, as well as certain Asian countries that cannot meet in the comfort and convenience of four walls and have to meet in people’s homes, or have to meet underground. I have to invite you to not only remember that during the days of the early church they broke bread from house to house and met in people’s homes, but how even during the days of the Roman Empire the Christians and followers of Jesus Christ even met in the catacombs and underground so as to continue meeting secretly and privately. Can I be bold to say that there is nothing more dangerous than an entitled Christian with rights who feels as though they are being violated. There is nothing more appalling to the name of Jesus Christ than Christians and followers of the Way who get caught up in their so-called rights, and will fight tooth and nail to preserve and protect those rights. What if I told you that your life is not your own and that as a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ you have no rights? What if I told you that even as a Christian in America, meeting in buildings is a privilege, a comfort, a convenience, and yes, perhaps even a luxury? What if I told you that as a Christian you gave up all your rights, and all those rights you think you should have within this life? Oh, I am absolutely and completely convinced that one of the greatest dangers to the church and body of Christ right now are churches, are pastors, are ministers, and leaders who are not only entitled, but also opinionated, and who have rights as an American, and will go to great lengths and measures to defend those rights.
Ask any true disciple and follower of Jesus Christ during the days of the early church whether or not they had any rights, and I guarantee you they would all tell you and emphatically declare that they gave up their rights when they made the decision to walk with and follow Jesus the Christ. There is not a doubt in my mind that if you were to speak with any of the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, and if you were to speak to any of the disciples and followers of the Way you will find that they never bragged, nor did they ever boast about any rights they felt or believed themselves to have. I am absolutely and completely convinced that all those believers who followed and walked with Jesus Christ during the days of the early church, and even throughout the history of the church as a whole would emphatically and whole-heartedly declare that their lives weren’t their own, that they had no rights, that they had absolutely no right to any entitlement or expectation, and that Jesus Christ was indeed supreme, sovereign and Lord over all. Listen to me very carefully—either we trust that Jesus is supreme and sovereign, or we don’t. Either we believe that Jesus Christ is greater than our rights, and greater than our selfish self-entitlement, or we do not. We cannot be a true disciple of Jesus Christ without denying ourselves, without taking up our cross, and without following after Jesus with everything we have within us. Jesus went so far as to say that if you did not deny yourself, if you did not take up your cross, and if you did not follow after Him, you were not worthy of being His disciple. Please don’t miss this because denying yourself and taking up your cross means you lay down your rights, means you lay down your desires, means you lay down your privileges, means you lay down your right to be right, and means you lay down your entitlements and what you think and feel others owe to you. Listen, the world owes you absolutely nothing, and you dare not and ought not expect them to give you anything. Jesus never prepared us to be loved by the world, and to be loved by those around us, and to instead be hated, and to instead be persecuted. With that being said, however, I feel it absolutely necessary to declare that in no way do I believe that the federal government is somehow persecuting churches, nor are state and local governments persecuting the church and Christians. I do not believe for a single moment that what we are witnessing is any degree and measure of persecution against us as Christians, and it is a sad and tragic day when our “rights” cloud our judgment and our perception and lead us down the deceptive path of thinking we are being persecuted by the government. In all reality, I would dare say that many of us here in the United States of America wouldn’t even know what persecution was like—even if it stared us straight in the eyes and stood before us right now.
With all of that being said, I am grieved by the words of this particular pastor in somehow thinking and believing because the doors of the churches are shut that it is somehow a declaration and message that the church—and quite frankly the body of CHrist as a whole—is somehow non-essential. I have to say to you who might follow this line of thinking that if you somehow need a church building to feel essentially, or to even be essential during this time, or even outside of times of a global pandemic, there is something drastically wrong with your faith and with your perception. When Jesus Christ called His twelve disciples, He didn’t send them out into church buildings, He didn’t send them into the synagogues, He didn’t send them into brick and mortar locations, nor stone buildings. When Jesus sent out His twelve disciples, He didn’t send them into the pews of the church, but rather into the world. I fear that we have somehow grown comfortable and complacent in the pew, and somehow feel as though our only way of being essential, our only way of being necessary, and our only way of ministering in this generation is within the four walls of the church. I have to say that if someone needs to enter into the four walls of a church building in order to find and experience Jesus—there is something drastically wrong. Please note that I am in no way stating that there isn’t a place for the church building, nor that men and women don’t enter into the doors of our churches, experience worship, hear a message, and experience a dramatic transformation within their lives. I wholeheartedly believe that it is possible for churches and houses of worship to be places where men and women who are hurting, broken, desperate and in need can come to find strength, healing, encouragement, salvation, hope, and the like. With that being said, when Jesus sent out the twelve disciples, He didn’t send them into the pews of the church, nor did He even send them into the court of the Temple. What’s more, is that when Jesus emphatically declared that upon this rock He would build His church, He wasn’t speaking of four walls and a building that was made by human hands of stone, of brick, of wood, and the like. Jesus never said that He would build His church building, but rather, He emphatically stated that He would build His church—a church without four walls. Have we forgotten that Jesus declared of Himself that foxes have holes and yet the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head? Moreover, have we forgotten how Jesus sent the seventy out before His face into the cities, towns and villages He would enter in order to prepare the way and make ready those places for Him? Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke when He sent out the twelve disciples, as well as the words which He spoke when He sent out the seventy before His face:
“And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; the first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, And Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily. I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciples is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of yours head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. Fort I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her moth, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loveth his life for my sake shall find it. He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciples, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matthew 10:1-42).
“After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the LORD of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs above wolves. Carry neither pause, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be into this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before your: and heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come night unto you. But into whatsoever city ye enter and they received you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city” (Luke 10:1-12).
CITY! STREETS! HOUSE! Pay close attention to the words which are found within these particular passages of Scripture, for when Jesus sent out the twelve disciples and apostles, and we sent out the seventy whom He also appointed, it must be noted that He never sent them out into the Temple, nor did He ever send them into the synagogue. In fact, Jesus would speak unto His disciples, and when declaring unto them that they would be sent out as sheep among wolves, He declared that it would actually be in the synagogues where they would experience the greatest persecution. In fact, if you read the narrative of the history of the early church—being with the book of the Acts—you will find that persecution against the Church and against the followers of Jesus Christ and the Way did not originate within the state, but within the synagogues and within the Sanhedrin, which was the religious council during those days. Consider the words which Jesus spoke, for Jesus declared that it would be men that would deliver them up to councils, and that they would be scourged in their synagogues. Now He does go on to declare that they would be brought before governors and kings for His name’s sake, however, persecution against the Church and against the followers of Jesus would not begin with the government, but would begin within the religious system itself. As you read the words which are written and recorded within the New Testament gospel narrative of Matthew, as well as the gospel narrative of Luke, you will find that when Jesus sent His disciples, and when He sent the seventy out before His face, He sent them into three specific places—the streets, the cities, and into houses. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for when we think about the mission and assignment we have been given, we must recognize that we weren’t called into the four walls of the church, nor were we called to find our worth, our value, our necessity, nor even our feeling of being essential within the four walls of a church building. These pastors, these ministers and these leaders that are crying out against what they believe is a declaration that they are somehow not essentially, and that the church is not essential are forgetting that the church was never created as a building with four walls, but rather it is a Temple made without human hands to house the glory and presence of the living God. The church was never meant to be confined to the four walls of a building no more than the glory of the living God was meant to be confined to the four walls of the Temple, and even the Holy of Holies. Dare we forget that when Jesus gave up the ghost and died the veil in the Temple which separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place was rent in two from top to bottom, thus signifying that access to the Father had been made, and that the glory would flow forth out of the Temple. There is not a doubt in my mind that just as the glory of the living God was never meant to be relegated and confined to the Tabernacle and Temple, and just as the Holy Spirit was never meant to be confined to a building made up of four walls, neither was the church of Jesus Christ intended on remaining and being confined to the four walls of a building.
It’s absolutely remarkable and astounding to read the words which are found in these two passages of Scripture in the New Testament gospel narratives written by Matthew and Luke, for what we find is Jesus sending the disciples—those twelve whom He had specifically called and chosen according to the divine will of the Father—into the streets and into houses in the midst of the nation of Israel. Notice that Jesus instructed the disciples to preach and declare that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and then instructed them to heal the sick, to cleanse the lepers, to raise the dead, and to cast out devils. Moreover, you will find Jesus speaking unto the disciples and declaring unto them that into whatsoever city or town they would enter, they were to inquire who in it is worthy, and there should abide until they would go froth from that place. What’s more, is that when speaking unto the disciples you will find Jesus emphatically declaring unto the disciples and when they came into a house they were to salute it, and if the house be found worthy, their peace would come upon it. If, however, the house would not be found worthy, then they were to let their peace come upon it. What’s more, is that Jesus would even speak about His disciples departing from a city or a house if they weren’t worthy, and taking their peace with them. How absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that Jesus sent His disciples into the streets, into the cities, and into houses, and then declared how they would be scourged in the synagogues. Pause and think about this reality for a moment, for it was entirely and altogether possible to preach and minister in the streets and to find yourself being scourged in the synagogues and in the religious establishments which were present during those times. We must recognize and come face to face with the absolutely incredible thought and reality that the disciples weren’t sent into synagogues, nor were they sent into the Temple, nor were they sent into religious establishments during those days. What we find—not only with the disciples, but also with the seventy whom Jesus appointed—is that Jesus would send them into the streets and into the cities, as well as into houses where they would preach the kingdom of heaven and would engage in the ministry of the kingdom. It is quite astounding to think about the fact that the preaching of the kingdom and the ministry of the kingdom was always intended to be manifested in the midst of the streets, in the midst of the cities, and even in the midst of houses and homes in order that men and women might experience the power, the presence and the person of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit who would abide with them. This is something that we desperately need to recognize and understand, for it is so incredibly easy to allow ourselves to be caught up in the four walls of the building, and to allow ourselves to be caught up in finding our worth and our value in the church building, and yet completely miss out and lose sight of the fact we don’t go to church, but we are the church.
There is not a doubt in my mind that what we find and what we read within these passages of Scripture is an incredibly powerful picture of the the disciples who weren’t sent into the pews of churches, but were sent to build and increase the church that was created on the Day of Pentecost. What we find through this sense of entitlement this pastor—as well as many other pastors and leaders—is that they have been caught up in the delusion and the deception that they can only be essential if they are sitting in the pews of the churches, or if they are preaching from behind the pulpit. Here’s a question I can’t help but wonder—what if even when the churches are opened again, and what if when members and congregants are able to enter into the house of worship once more it isn’t what we expected or what we anticipated? What if in our attempt to fight for churches to be opened once more we find that it isn’t at all what we expect as men and women would rather be the church in homes, and would rather participate within their homes? I sit here today and I can’t help but wonder if God didn’t cause the churches to be shut down in an attempt to bring us back to the place where we meet in houses and homes once more. The truth of the matter is that although church buildings have been shut down we have still been able to be the church—albeit through technology. What if during this time the Holy Spirit is calling us back to the days of the early church when they broke bread from house to house and had all things in common? When we think about the churches which the apostle Paul established in Asia, we must recognize that he didn’t establish churches as we know and understand it with four walls, pews, a steeple at the top, and a platform and pulpit. It would be very easy to get caught up in the fact that the apostle Paul established and founded churches according to our western idea and model of church, and yet Scripture and history point to the exact opposite being true. It was and it is true the apostle Paul set up and established churches in Asia, however, those churches were established in the homes and houses of real people and real families and not always in one central location. In fact, if you read the opening verses of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Galatians you will find the apostle Paul writing unto “the churches in Galatia.” What do you do with the fact that the apostle Paul was writing unto churches rather than to a single church? What’s more, is that it’s interesting that the epistle which was written unto the Galatians was one that centered upon a break from legalism and hypocrisy, and a break from attempting to finish in the flesh what was begun in the Spirit. The question I can’t help but ask myself when sitting here today is what if what these individuals are doing is nothing more than attempting to accomplish in the flesh what can only be accomplished in the Spirit? It would be very easy to think about and consider the fact that the church is all about four walls and pews in the midst of it, and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply isn’t and shouldn’t be the case.
In the Old Testament book of First Samuel you will find in the sixteenth chapter the prophet Samuel weeping and mourning over Saul because the LORD had rejected Saul. It’s worth noting that the LORD spoke unto the prophet Samuel and asked him how long he would mourn over Saul since He had rejected him from being king. I have previously written that during this time I couldn’t help but think about and believe that the living and eternal God is rejecting certain things we trusted on and relied upon. I found myself wondering if it wasn’t possible that the living God is rejecting our churches during this time, and is raising up something completely different during these times. Please note that I didn’t say the LORD was rejecting the Church, but rather that the LORD might very well be rejecting the four walls and buildings of our churches. What’s more, is that if let’s say what we are experiencing is in fact a dry run for persecution in the midst of this country—what if what we are doing in our homes is actually preparation for true persecution if and/or when it arrives? What if our meeting in homes is not only the original design and plan of the living God, but is also where the Spirit of the Sovereign LORD desires to bring us to during these days? What if our meeting in homes is actually the LORD rejecting our buildings much like He rejected His house at Shiloh, much like He rejected the Temple and sanctuary during the days of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon? Scripture clearly indicates that the LORD can indeed and can in fact His sanctuary and His house, and He even warned Moses, He even warned David and Solomon that it was possible that He could reject the Tabernacle and the Temple. Even when the LORD spoke unto Solomon and declared unto Him that His eyes and ears would be] attentive unto the sanctuary and the cries that would be raised up therein, He would also declare unto Solomon that if he turned away from and turned his back on the living God, and if the people of Israel would turn their backs on the living God and go whoring after other gods, then He would in fact reject the Temple and that place where He chose to place His name and place His glory. It’s quite interesting that the seventy years of captivity would be marked by the LORD rejecting His house and rejecting His temple, and even thrusting His people forth from the midst of the land. Though He would not reject the land forever, and though he would not cast His people out of the land forever, there would be a period of seventy years when the people themselves would be removed from the land. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which are written and recorded within the seventh chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah concerning the LORD calling the people of Jerusalem and Judah—through the prophet Jeremiah—to look back upon His house in Shiloh and see what He did there and to that house. Consider if you will the following words which are written and recorded within this particular chapter:
“The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The Temple of the LORD, The Temple of the LORD, The Temple of the LORD are these. For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD. But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works saith the LORD, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not; therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the palce which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee. Sets thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. Do they provoke me to anger? Saith the LORD: Do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces? Therefore thus saith the LORD God; Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched” (Jeremiah 7:1-20)
THE CHURCH OF GOD! THE CHURCH OF GOD! THE CHURCH OF GOD! Within this particular portion of Scripture we find the people trusting in the house of the LORD, and even in the presence of the Temple of the LORD among them in their midst, and they viewed it as somehow a safeguard that would shield them from the wrath and judgment of the living God. The people in Jerusalem and Judah bragged and boasted in the Temple of the LORD, and yet the LORD warned them that He would reject the Temple of the LORD which they themselves had put their trust and their confidence in. I can’t help think about and wonder to myself if we might not be trying to hold on to something the living God might very well be rejecting and might be casting off. I can’t help but wonder if our attempt to hold on to church buildings is not a great offense and a great grievance in the sight of the living God as we are trying to hold on to that which the living God is rejecting. IN all reality, I am absolutely convinced that we cannot continue doing what we have been doing, and what we have been considering as “normal” is in fact not normal for the living God. I can’t help but be reminded of the narrative of Samuel as he was not only instructed to stop mourning over what once was, and also to not anoint that which the LORD had refused. Within the sixteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel—not only do you encounter the LORD rejecting Saul (that which once was), but you will also find the LORD refusing Jesse’s other sons (that which could be). Thank God Samuel possessed discernment and was a man who heard the voice of the living God, for he abstained from anointing one of Jesse’s other sons, and doing so based solely on the outward appearance. I can’t help but wonder if we are not only trying to hold on to that which the LORD has rejected based on outward appearances, but we also run the risk of anointing something brand new based on the same parameters. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this reality, for we might very well find ourselves resisting the LORD—even in our attempt to hold on to our church buildings, our pews, our pulpits, our stages, our platforms, our chairs, and the like. The more I think about this pastor who would dare sue the government because he somehow feels as though his rights are being violated, for this is one who has lost the sight of what truly matters in the sight of the living God.
What if the living God has caused the doors of our churches—not only to get us into the streets, but also to get us back into the house and houses once more? What if the doors of the churches have been shut and closed because the living God wants to move us beyond and outside the four walls of the churches in order that we might start being the church rather than going to church. It’s truly something remarkable to think about and consider what is taking place among us in our midst, for I firmly believe that the living God is calling us forth from the pews and calling us forth from the chairs within our four walls and our fancy buildings, and is calling us into the streets and the cities in order that we might take church and take the church to the need. TAKING THE CHURCH TO THE NEED(S)! BEING THE CHURCH IN THE MIDST OF THE NEED(S)! I wholeheartedly believe that the living God might not only be choosing to close and shut down our churches—not because He is somehow allowing our rights to be violated, abused, neglected, mistreated, or even trampled upon, but rather because He is wanting to teach us something. The apostle Peter emphatically declared that judgment must begin in the house of the LORD, and what if this judgment isn’t beginning through this COVID-19 pandemic as the LORD is shutting the doors of our churches. What if the LORD hasn’t caused the doors of our churches to be shut down in order that He might bring the Church into the streets, to bring the Church into homes, and to bring the Church into the cities of our nation, and even into the cities of our world? What’s more, is what if the LORD is causing our churches to be shut because He could no longer tolerate, nor stomach much of what went on in the midst of them? We would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand the words which were written—not only in the first and opening chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah, as well as the opening halter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Malachi:
“Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? Saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain of actions; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and the sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appoints feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many preachers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Isaiah 1:10-20).
“A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: If then I be a father, where is mine honour? And if I be a master, where is my fear? Saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? Saith the LORD of hosts. And now, I pray you, beseech God that He will be gracious unto us: This hath been by your means: Will he regard your persons? Saith the LORD of hosts. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? Neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! And ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lane, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: Should I accept this of your hand? Saith the LORD. Built cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the LORD a corrupt thing: For I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen” (Malachi 1:6-14).
OFFER IT NOW UNTO THY GOVERNOR! WHO IS THERE EVEN AMONG YOU THAT WOULD SHUT THE DOORS FOR NOUGHT! I find it absolutely incredible that within this particular passage—not only do we find the word “governor” mentioned, but we also find in the same passage of Scripture the reference to the doors of the Temple being shut. Now, please note that I do not for one minute think or feel that these words were prophesied to our current situation, and are somehow a prophetic portent of what is going on. What I find to be incredibly interesting is when you think about and consider the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find the living God asking His people to take their lame, their blind, their maimed sacrifices and present them unto their governor and see if he would accept it at their hand. What’s more, is that within this passage we find it written concerning the doors of the Temple being shut because of that which was being offered upon the altar. I can’t help but get the strong sense that the living God might not have forced the doors of churches to be shut down and closed because of that which was being presented upon His altar. Within this passage of Scripture we find the prophet Malachi speaking of the people of Israel offering that which was blind for sacrifice, and even the lame and the sick as offerings unto the LORD, and how the LORD even asked who would shut the doors of the Temple to prevent the continuation of such sacrifices being offered upon the altar of the LORD. I sit here today and write these words and I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that while the doors of our churches are closed during this time—is it possible that the living and eternal God has allowed them to be shut to not only get the Church out of the “church,” but also because of that which the “church” was offering upon His altar and presenting unto Him? Is it possible that the LORD has rejected many of our buildings—and not only many of our buildings, but also many of our sacrifices and offerings which we have thought were pleasing and acceptable in His sight? Is it possible that during this time the LORD has allowed the doors of our churches to be closed in order that He might purify His holy altar, and that acceptable sacrifices and offerings which actually please Him are offered upon the altar? We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely astonishing reality, for I would dare say that the LORD has deliberately and intentionally allowed the doors of the churches to be closed in order that He might put an end to vain sacrifices and offerings that never pleased Him, and which He never delighted in.
Please note that when I write such words, I do firmly believe that there were Spirit-filled congregations where true worship before the throne of God took place, and where intercession and prayer which moved the heart and hand of the Father within this nation. I do believe there were churches that were offering pure and holy sacrifices in the sight of the living God, and offered unto Him that which was pleasing and acceptable in His sight. With that being said, however, we must recognize and acknowledge the fact that the living and eternal God could have very easily allowed the doors of His sanctuary to be shut for a period of time in order that He might bring an end to that which He rejected—not only the rejection of offerings that were presented to Him, but also of ministries, of programs, of false teaching, of false doctrine, of hypocrisy, of legalism, and the like. Perhaps one of the greatest realities I can’t help but think about when writing these words is that there are actually ministers who would dare stand up and resist the government, and yet not only do they not realize they are resisting the authority which the living God has set up, but they also don’t realize that the living God might very well (and perhaps very well did) allow the doors of His churches to be shut and closed. These pastors and ministers that want to chalk this up as a violation of their rights, and who want to sue governments and government leaders are completely and utterly out of touch with what the living and eternal God is doing during this time, and in all reality, they might very well be setting themselves up for a confrontation—not with state and local government, but with the living and eternal God who allowed this to take place. We dare not miss and lose sight of the fact that the living and eternal God shut down His house where He had placed His name at first because of the iniquity, idolatry and transgression of His people, and He even allowed the Temple which Solomon built to be destroyed. Note that during the seventy years of captivity the LORD could have preserved and protected His holy sanctuary and kept it from being destroyed. The living and eternal God could have merely caused the sanctuary to lie at rest and to remain fallow as the land itself did, however, He deliberately and intentionally allowed it to be destroyed. Why and how on earth could we even think and believe for a single moment that the God who allowed His Temple to be destroyed—not once, but twice—could allow the doors of the churches to be shut down? This being especially being true when through the prophet Malachi the LORD God of Israel even spoke of those who would shut the doors of the Temple that His people and the priests might no longer offer vain sacrifices and offerings before and unto Him upon His holy altar.
It’s truly something to think about the fact that the same God who allowed His holy Temple which stood upon the Temple Mount to be destroyed—not once, but twice, and not only by one foreign enemy and adversary, but by a second foreign enemy and adversary. The Temple of the LORD which stood in the midst of the city of Jerusalem was destroyed first by the Babylonians when they entered into and invaded the land of Judah and captured the city of Jerusalem, and the Roman army would destroy the second Jewish Temple and burnt it to the ground during the days of Nero emperor of Rome. Why and how on earth would and could we even think or believe for a moment that the living God would and could not allow the doors of churches to be shut and closed down? There is not a doubt in my mind that the same God which allowed His sanctuary to be destroyed twice over could very well allow the doors of churches to be shut and churches themselves to be closed in order that He might not only reveal that which He has rejected, but also that He might actually put and bring an end to those things which took place in His house and upon His altar which neither pleased Him, nor delighted His heart. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that during this time the living and eternal God deliberately and intentionally allowed the doors of the churches to be shut in order to accomplish His divine plan and purposes. It would be very easy to simply look at this from an entitlement and rights issues, and yet completely miss the spiritual application that is directly linked and connected. I fully realize that this was a long treatise and writing pertaining to this single article, and yet what we must recognize and understand is that in no way are the doors of the churches being shut an infringement upon the rights of men and women during this time. What’s more, is that we must also recognize and understand that in no way is this state, local and even federal government persecuting the church and persecuting Christians. Even more than this, we must understand that not only might the living God doing away with what we perceived as being normal and rejecting that which we thought was normal, but the living God might also be bringing us back to the days and times of the early church in which men and women actually moved in community with each other, and when men and women actually met in houses and homes. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this reality during this time, for I absolutely fear that there are a number of ministers, leaders, pastors and the like who are walking in a tremendous place of deception and delusion, and as a result of this they might end up doing more damage than God. During this time it is absolutely necessary that we be men and women of discernment and men and women who truly hear from the LORD and who walk with Him. Oh that we would not lose sight of and miss that which the living is doing simply because we cannot get over our own entitlements and our own rights which are a privilege and luxury in this nation.