In his book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Thom Rainer says that as many as 100,000 churches in America are showing signs of decline towards death. He says,
Between 6,000 and 10,000 churches in the U.S. are dying each year. That means around 100-200 churches will close this week. The pace will accelerate unless our congregations make some dramatic changes.- Thom Rainer
I have always desired that reGeneration would be a church that would be filled with people who are authentically seeking after Jesus letting God continually fill them with Spirit, working in and through them to change them from the inside out to who He has always wanted them to be. This past Sunday we talked from Ezekiel 36 and looked at what it would be like for God to regenerate us. I wanted to give a reminder of what we talked about, so we could try to make this a mindset, our lifestyle both separately and together.
We need to understand that God loves us; REALLY, TRULY, DEEPLY, SACRIFICIALLY loves us. He wants us to be with Him so much that it makes Him jealous for our attention. We need to live with an awareness of this. I said Sunday,
“IN the Old Testament, the second part of the Bible, a couple of times in Exodus and once In Deuteronomy, it says God is a jealous God. This means He loves us and wants us to be in a relationship with Him. He wants us all or nothing. In James 4 it says,
You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?- James 4:4-5
He considers it like we are cheating on Him when we turn away and even slightly “flirt” with the world. The Israleites had been doing more than “flirting.” They had been cheating on Him. So, because of their unfaithfulness, God allowed them to be taken out of the land of Israel and taken captive in other countries. God wanted them to know that not only were their actions bad, but their actions made Him look bad. Verse 20 of Ezekiel 36,
And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, 'These are the LORD's people, and yet they had to leave his land.'
I wonder, if we as Christ followers, completely understand what we do to the “reputation” of God when we say one thing but live something else. When we don’t authentically and faithfully seek after Him, we actually blur the picture of Who God desires to be with people. They can’t truly see Him and what He’s done for them through Jesus. The nations around the Israelites couldn’t see God as the One and True God because of this, and it concerned God. Verse 21 of Ezekiel 36,
I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone. 22 "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone.
The way the Israelites were living was giving the impression that they didn’t believe in the God they said they followed and called Lord God. This God, the Creator of all Things, the Faithful, Protector, Savior wasn’t reflected in their actions and lives. Because they were scattered in other lands among other people, this God of theirs must not be able to protect to them. If He couldn’t be relied on then why should these other nations trust in Him? I think the same can be said of us. When the people around us can’t see Him at work in and through us; when they can’t see a difference in the way we live as we trust Him through both the highs and lows, then they won’t see a need for Him. If we’re not living set apart, striving to be holy, relying on Jesus, we’re not really going to able to fulfill our mission. We may convert people to the church, but not to Jesus. Because the Israelites were profaning His name, God couldn’t rely on them, so He decided to do something; and again He revealed Himself for Who He really is. Verse 23 of Ezekiel 36,
I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD , declares the Sovereign LORD , when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.
So, what does He do? God is faithful and just.He loved the Israelites so much, that He would bring them back to their land, and more importantly, back into relationship with Him again. Which is where He always wanted them, and us, to be.”
I pray that we will always strive to put Jesus first so we can experience His jealous love for us so we can in turn share it with those who need to be loved by Him.
Let’s pray for each other so we can stay faithful to our loving Father and grow to be who He has always desired for us to be…