The result of not listening to God’s word is powerlessness against our enemies which causes desolation and defeat. Instead of doing as God commanded, the church ignored the warnings from the Old Testament and did as they saw fit. 1 Corinthians 10:6 “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” Even though we were told, Acts 17:24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands,” the church decided to build God a temple and call it church. The church began building buildings almost right away following the early church. The church building became the church, and it was something you went to, not something you were. That has continued to this day. As Paul told us, the church has been following other gospels and a different Jesus even when Paul was still alive. Because the church rebelled against God’s word and followed their own way, God turned His face from the church and allowed the abomination that causes desolation to ravage the church. The deception from satan and the delusion brought on by God (2 Thessalonians 2) caused the church to continue down a powerless path. 

        Today, success in the church is judged by what human hands have made but that strength is no match for satan because our battle is not flesh and blood. As time went on the church became powerful and the Catholic church led and continues to lead millions astray. Then came the Reformation and the church splintered in many directions and got worse and still continues down the wrong path, all the while refusing to turn back to God and get on the right path. The church ended up desolate and powerless because most preferred man’s way instead of God’s. They preferred man’s power instead of God’s and have paid the price for rejecting God’s word. Scripture told us Psalm 146:3 “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” Psalm 118:8 “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” But the church did not listen and thought they were wise enough to follow their own ways and still defeat satan. Paul said 1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” As we already talked about, the church celebrates Easter but rejects the power that raised Jesus from the dead. 

        The church continued down the wrong path thinking that God was blessing them and became proud of what they had accomplished in their own strength. We were told Deuteronomy 8:10 “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. 19 If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20 Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.” 

        The church forgot very quickly and began to build, and they became very proud of what their hands had made. The gurus came up with plans and others wanted desperately to be like them, but there was no power to do as Jesus did. I have not kept up with the gurus but the ones I remember everyone wanted to be like was Saddleback and Willow Creek. The problem was there was no power. Yes, they were successful from a human perspective, and everyone wanted to be like them, but in God’s eyes they were not successful. You can look it up, but Bill Hybels’s sin became very public, yes, the one everyone wanted to be like. You always hear the gurus say God gave them the plan or the vision for their church, yet there is no power, so it is not God’s plan. God’s plan is already laid out in scripture, and He did not forget to include the building plans as so many think. Zechariah 4:6 “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” The church continued to build and became a building you went to. Going to church on Sunday, or once a week was now set in stone. It was something you would do every week or like some, Christmas and Easter. People were very committed to the church they chose and would tithe to keep the ship afloat. Someone or a team would be paid to service those who had chosen their church to go to. It especially helped when the speaker was easy to listen too, a good worship team for an uplifting time of worship and programs for the kids. Most churches after Sunday would then sit empty except for maybe a few events. 
        In the small town I live, they are building a new fire station, and it looks like it will be very nice compared to the old one. Our fire department is made up of volunteer fire fighters. We have had fires on our street, and it doesn’t take long for them to respond. But picture this new fire station and all its volunteers gathered together listening to the fire chief and enjoying fellowship together, meanwhile throughout the town there are fires burning and they do not respond but just continue to admire their new building and the cleanliness of their trucks. The town would be furious, and the fire chief would be fired, and the volunteers would be replaced. Years ago, I knew I guy who was an atheist. He made a very profound point about a church we passed. He said, would anyone notice if that church was removed? The answer was no. His point was valid, and I wish I could have that conversation with him again. I agree totally with him but not for the reason he was thinking since he did not believe in God. The church really is a poor representation of God as it looks nothing like scripture. The church was supposed to be God dwelling among us and His power flowing from us. Joshua was told Joshua 1:3 “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” No enemy could defeat them, and no wall could keep them out unless they rebelled against God. The church cannot stand against its enemies. Deuteronomy 32:28 “They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them. 29 If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be! 30 How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the Lord had given them up?” Deuteronomy 28:25 “The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth.” Leviticus 26:36 “As for those of you who are left, I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall, even though no one is pursuing them. 37 They will stumble over one another as though fleeing from the sword, even though no one is pursuing them. So you will not be able to stand before your enemies. 38 You will perish among the nations; the land of your enemies will devour you. 39 Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their ancestors’ sins they will waste away.” That is not how it was supposed to be. Deuteronomy 28:7 “The Lord will cause the enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you. They will march out against you in one direction but flee from you in seven.” Leviticus 26:7 “You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you. 8 Five of you will pursue a hundred, and a hundred of you will pursue ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.”
        When I was in seminary, I came across this story that really describes how the church lost its purpose. “On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was a once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, they went out day or night tirelessly searching for the lost. Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding areas, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews were trained. The little life-saving station grew. Some of the new members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and so poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in an enlarged building. Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they re-decorated it beautifully and furnished it as a sort of club. Less of the members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired life boat crews to do this work. The mission of life-saving was still given lip-service but most were too busy or lacked the necessary commitment to take part in the life-saving activities personally. About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick, and some of them had black skin, and some spoke a strange language, and the beautiful new club was considerably messed up. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside. At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club's life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal life pattern of the club. But some members insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the life of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. They did. As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. They evolved into a club and yet another life-saving station was founded. If you visit the seacoast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, only now most of the people drown.” 
        The church today has become a club and is nowhere near the church God intended it to be. There is no power because other gospels are being taught and a different Jesus followed. Zechariah 7:11 “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. 13 “‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. 14 ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land they left behind them was so desolate that no one traveled through it. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.’” Isaiah also describes the condition of the church. Isaiah 64:10 “Your sacred cities have become a wasteland; even Zion is a wasteland, Jerusalem a desolation. 11 Our holy and glorious temple, where our ancestors praised you, has been burned with fire, and all that we treasured lies in ruins.” Fires are burning everywhere. Sickness and disease, both physical and mental, have ravaged the land and satan 2 Thessalonians 2:4 “oppose(s) and will exalt(s) himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” Yet the church gathers together and says Jeremiah 5:2 “As surely as the Lord lives,’ still they are swearing falsely.” As Jesus said, Matthew 24:22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” The successful church, the one most want to be, is not successful. The reality is most have successfully rebelled against God’s word but do not fear God enough to even worry about it. They believe their own doctrines over the word of God and think all is well with their soul. The fires still burn, the sick are dying, people are not being turned from darkness to light, nor are they being freed from the power of satan, and souls are not being saved.
        Church became this feeding station where people came to eat but never went out to do as Jesus did. When they do not like the food, they go somewhere else. But at the same time, they rejected God’s word. Yes, Jesus is the bread of life. John 6:35 “Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” But which Jesus are you following? Which gospel have you been taught? Don’t forget we are in a sever famine of hearing the word of the Lord. (Amos 8:11) There is a hymn called Guide Me thou O Great Jehovah. One of the verses says, “Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.” I understand what the writer was getting at, but I first wondered why you would not want more and then my thought turned to the desert when the Israelites were complaining and wanted meat to eat instead of mana. Numbers 11:18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19  You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” 31 Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It scattered them up to two cubits b deep all around the camp, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. 32 All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out all around the camp. 33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. 34 Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food.”
        Most people do not crave the word of God, nor do they know His word other than what they are told. Jeremiah 5:2 “Although they say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ still they are swearing falsely.” 3 Lord, do not your eyes look for truth? You struck them, but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction. They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent. 4 I thought, “These are only the poor; they are foolish, for they do not know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God. 30 “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: 31 The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” Most in the church have been filled with false teaching and have no idea they need to repent. They continue to be deceived because they do not test the spirits.
        We are supposed to be a lifesaving station. We are supposed to do as Jesus did and preach the good news, heal the sick and cast out demons. Picture 1 Corinthians 12 as it was intended for the church. 7 “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” Think about the power the church would have just as God intended to continue doing as Jesus did. The church would then go out and do as Jesus did. Matthew 4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” 
        When that happens, you would then know that the church is missing just as you would know that the fire department was gone. Jude 1:17 “Dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit (not charismatic tongues), 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” Hosea 14:3 “Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount warhorses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.”