Our Advent theme is a little different this year as our focus turns from the church doing the same thing over and over with no results to doing what the church has been called to do with power from on High. Last week we talked about getting off the hamster wheel of rituals. With Christmas fast approaching, everything will continue to be the same as last year unless there is a better program or event to go to, but then just as quick as Christmas comes it will be over and Easter will then be fast approaching, and repeat! The church today is dimly lit and powerless but seems content even though, Isaiah 59:1 “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. 9 we look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. 10 Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. 11 We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away.” Haggai 1:6 “You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” As we were told, disobedience brought this on. Deuteronomy 28:29 “At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you. 45 All these curses will come on you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you.” These verses describe the powerlessness of the church.
The word eradicate means to “destroy completely; put an end to.” Our focus for Advent is eradicating religion from Christianity, as Christianity is not a religion. Yes, for teaching purposes we are still using the terms Advent and these dates on the calendar. When God turns His face back to the church, every day will be Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. It won’t just be Sunday morning or special days on the calendar. Religion can be defined as “a particular system of belief in a god or gods and the activities that are connected with this system.” “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” According to the definition, Christianity as we know it would fit, but that is where the eradication comes into play as it is not supposed to fit and be like all the others. While there are many religions in the world, there is only one way, truth and life. One article listed twelve main religions of the world. “Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism.” This next statement shows just how far from the truth the church is; “Christianity is shrinking while others are growing.” Global news reported “Religiosity in Canada is at an all-time low, with recently released data from Statistics Canada showing only 68 per cent of Canadians 15 or older now report having a religious affiliation. It’s the first time that number has dipped below 70 per cent since StatCan began tracking the data in 1985. It’s important to note that this decline is not across the board; the number of Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Hindus is increasing, and StatCan predicts the number of Canadians reporting a non-Christian religious affiliation could double by the year 2036. Christianity, however, is in sharp decline.” Another had a similar list but interestingly there was one that was not included in the above twelve and that was irreligion (indifference or hostility to religion, or lack of religious belief) or as it is being called the nones (those unaffiliated with a religious organization). One writer said, “Religious nones”—those who say they have no religion—are the fastest growing “religious group” in Canada, along with many other modern Western nations.” When looking at Christianity today, yes you could add it to the list of religions but that is not how it is supposed to be. If the church was actually the church Jesus started, no religion could stand against the way, truth and life and the church would look nothing like it does today. If the church wants to wage war against evil, the church has to remove the evil from within before it can wage war on the evil of this world. Jesus made it clear when He said, John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That simply means there is only one way, not many. That means all religions are wrong but this eradication I am talking about today is not about fighting against the religions of the world like the Catholics did during the crusades with Muslims. That was wrong as the battle is spiritual warfare since the New Testament.
As I said, this is not about the eradication of other religions. Many who go to church are not the church, but are just religious as they adhere to the belief system / religion (Baptist Catholic, Pentecostal, Reformed, Methodist etc.) that they were taught. This is not about getting rid of the church but the church doing as the church was supposed to do in the first place. This is not atheism or apostacy which rejects God and religion but this is about adhering to the word of God and completely submitting to God and rejecting the manmade. There is an old song that sort of gets to the point of this. The song says, “Give me that old time religion, Give me that old time religion, Give me that old time religion, It's good enough for me. 1 It was good for Paul and Silas, It's good enough for me.” The problem is it is not an old-time religion that we want. It is the power of the gospel that we need. How many people singing this song actually repented and pleaded with God and waited for God to turn His face back to the church so that power that was present with Paul and Silas returned. Sadly, most were and are content with the powerless religion they adopted as their own. That is part of the delusion and deception of the church. Paul said 1 Corinthians 4:18 “Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. 20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” It appears that most in the church like the talk instead of the power. Acts 19:11 “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” Paul cast an evil spirit out of a servant girl and then the crowd turned against them and they were thrown in prison. Acts 16:25 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.” If they really wanted it, they wouldn’t have just sung the song. It is not an old-time religion we need to return to but a return to God’s living and enduring word so that He will turn His face to shine upon us once again and empower us to defeat our enemies with the same power we just read about. Paul’s prayer for enlightenment is still needed today. Ephesians 1:18 “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
Music must be a trigger to buy something at Christmas time as it seems to start earlier each season. I can’t imagine working at a radio station that plays Christmas music over and over until Christmas. This radio station does it early. “98.1 CHFI | CHFI Toronto, Ontario flips to Christmas music - 11/17/2023” Christmas basically turned into songs, shopping and gatherings instead of Isaiah 9:1 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Most of the emphasis in church services these days has become about worship music and people singing their praises to God, but is God really listening the way they think He is listening. Because His people have rebelled against His word, the answer is no, He is not listening. Amos 5:21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” I think that is hard for people to get their head around. The worship was inspiring, the preaching dynamic yet God says your assemblies are a stench to me. Isaiah 1:12 “When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. 14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! 16 Wash and make yourselves clean.” This is why we need to eradicate the religion out of the church. The church needs to stop going through the motions and thinking all is well. Isaiah goes on to say Isaiah 1:16 “Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. 17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. 18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; 20 but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
During these next few weeks, our focus will continue to be on eradicating religion from Christianity. The good news is there is hope and joy can return because of God’s promise to David but we must repent. Solomon said 1 Kings 8:46 “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to their enemies, who take them captive to their own lands, far away or near; 47 and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly’; 48 and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; 49 then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. 50 And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their captors to show them mercy; 51 for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace.” Ezekiel 6:8 “‘I will spare some, for some of you will escape the sword when you are scattered among the lands and nations. 9 Then in the nations where they have been carried captive, those who escape will remember me—how I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols. They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices. 10 And they will know that I am the Lord; I did not threaten in vain to bring this calamity on them.” Ezekiel 18:30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”