Sermon: The Great Hoax

                Last week we talked about the absolute absurdity of not believing that there is healing power available to the church today. No I’m not talking about going to the doctor or the hospital for healing but the healing power of Jesus Christ as described in the gospels. Here is a quick summary of the healing power of Jesus. 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.” Matthew 15:30 “Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.” Matthew 11:4 “Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” You should be asking yourself why we don’t have this healing power.
                I do realize that if most people in the church were honest with themselves, they would think God giving miraculous powers to those in the church to heal others in the church and outside the church, would be absurd. As I said most are okay with leaving the healing powers to God and if He so moves to heal, then that’s okay. They explain their unbelief by saying have you seen what the charismatics are doing, yet they set aside scripture and refuse to believe what is right before their eyes in scripture just as I read above. To give miraculous powers to the church so that the church will be able to go and do as Jesus did, that would be absurd, except that most won’t say it out loud. Even in charismatic circles the healing power as described in the gospels is not happening. Not only would healing be absurd, casting out demons would also be considered absurd yet this is the power Jesus gave to His disciples. Matthew 10:1 “Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” The disciples went out and Mark 16:20 “and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” Acts 5:2 “The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.” This power was to continue as we saw with Stephen and Philip. Acts 6:8 “Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.” Acts 8:5 “Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.” Are there no cities in our day that need this kind of joy? Yes you have heard these verses many times but it is good to be inundated with God’s word especially in this area of healing. You have to replace the empty ways given to us by men and woman with the powerful ways of God’s words. When we focus on Jesus, our perspective totally changes. Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
                This power Jesus had was to continue just as Jesus said, Matthew 28:18 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Just keep the underlined part in mind as we continue. Peter tells us in Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Then Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:4 “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 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.” John preached Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” While the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of hands, it was not the power of men that was being transferred. 2 Timothy 1:6 “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” This was not Paul’s power being transferred to Timothy but the Holy Spirit. Here we see an example with a warning. This was after Philip had arrived in Samaria. Acts 8:14 “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” We see the Holy Spirit was received by the laying on of hands and we also see those who have made the church about money. Too many in the church today are in it for the money and are selling God’s words for profit. 2 Corinthians 2:17 “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.”
                This power was supposed to continue in the church as God dwelled among us by us His Spirit. Ephesians 2:19 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 3:16 “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” So what happened? Paul gives us that answer when he said 1 Corinthians 15:2 “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” The church failed to follow the true gospel and went their own way, which always leads to disaster. Galatians 1:6 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” The church went after other gods / gospels and God turned His face from us leaving us powerless to defeat our enemies. The church Jeremiah 7:24 “did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.” Generation after generation has followed their own evil ways, getting further and further from the truth. As the church turned away, our enemy satan threw truth to the ground and set up the abomination that causes desolation in the church. Daniel 7:21 “As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.” Daniel 8:13 “Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?” 14 He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.” When you look at what is left of the church today, you see the results of the Lord’s people trampled underfoot. Our only hope, our only way out is to turn from our wicked ways. But who do we turn to? There is only one choice. John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
                Daniel tells us Daniel 7:3 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” Isaiah said Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means God with us).” Mary was told Luke 1:30 “But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Zechariah Luke 1:67 “was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David 70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— 72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham: 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” Jesus is the only way and our only hope of salvation.
                Even though Paul was a great man of God and wrote much of the New Testament, it is not Paul we seek. The idolization of men and woman is probably one of the greatest failures in the church. The seminary I went to loved their idols / statues and you knew their denominational distinctives just by looking at the idols. Paul tells us 1 Corinthians 3:1 “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?” He also said 1 Corinthians 1:10 “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” When we read the word of God, it is the word of God we read, not the words of men. The bible was written by the Spirit of God, not by men. The bible is not a book but the very words of God written down. John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 16:2 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” So even though the bible may appear to have the likeness of a book, it is not a book but the living word of God. If you deny His word, you deny God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Peter describes this when he says 2 Peter 1:19 “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Paul also describes this when he said 1 Thessalonians 2:13 “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus.”
                Sadly today many follow men and woman and remain powerless. Some follow MacArthur, Chan, Warren, Graham, Swindoll, Moore, Osteen, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, the Pope just to name a few. The church idolizes these men and woman and follows their empty ways and remains powerless because that is not where the power comes from. Today I have given this sermon the title; The Great Hoax! The premise is the church states that Jesus rose from the dead and is alive yet the church acts as if He is dead. The church looks nothing like the gospels of which are about the living Messiah. If Jesus is alive as the church states then the church would still be doing as Jesus did and as he empowered His disciples to do. The church operates as if Jesus is dead; therefore the church is a hoax. This is not how it should be but how it is, even though the gospels tell us all about the miracles Jesus did while alive and there’s more than even the bible tells us so. John 21:25 “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” Even though the disciples did miracles, it is not about them. We were supposed to carry on doing as Jesus did in the power and authority of His name. We too were supposed to be clothed with power and that power was to continue from generation to generation but the church decided long ago to go out in their own strength and in rebellion the truth was thrown to the ground. As you read through the gospels (did you read them?), you see the miracles of Jesus. You also saw that Jesus called others to carry on destroying the work of the devil, 1 John 3:8 “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” Jesus said in John 14:12 “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Jesus showed us what to do and then empowered His disciples to go out and do the same. Remember the underlined verse above. Jesus said he would be with us always. Matthew 9:35 “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
                But here is the great hoax; Jesus died like every other great leader and there is no power; the end. I’m just making a point but then I searched (great hoax, Jesus, resurrection) and sure enough there where lots of articles and no I did not read them but there were titles like Resurrection -Truth or Hoax; Hoax or History; Hoax, Joke or Myth and so on. People are confused because what you see in the church today looks nothing like what the bible talks about and just doesn’t make any sense. Today we have a book about Jesus, the Messiah and every Sunday groups of people read from it and men and woman study it, yet the church looks nothing like the accounts of the man Jesus who walked the earth. I guess then what we thought we knew wasn’t true. Maybe it is true that the disciples stole the body and claimed that Jesus rose from the dead or Jesus never really died, he just went away; just another false messiah. Maybe then after the so-called resurrection people hallucinated and thought they saw a man that looked like Jesus.
                Over the years millions of people have put their hope in a hoax and generation after generation follow some version of the stories about Jesus, all being different and with differing endings. How pitiful would it be for the church if that were actually true? Now obviously I do not believe that the bible is hoax as I stand firm on the word of God and will not move. No the great hoax is not about whether Jesus rose from the dead but about whether the church is actually the church Jesus intended it to be. As time seems to have accelerated and months go by like days, Easter will be upon us again. I am pretty sure Christmas was just a few days ago. Just a side note - the church is actually supposed to be a Christmas, Easter and Pentecost church every day, not just for one day on the calendar. But for illustration purposes Easter is coming up fast on April 4, 2021. Let’s just say for now there is not a pandemic taking place, so think back to when people gathered. The church puts a lot into this event and even people who don’t really attend will show up for Easter Sunday. Scriptures are read about the resurrection of our Lord like. Mark 16:6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.” 1 Corinthians 15:1 “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” Songs will be sung and there are many powerful songs to sing. Depending on what church you go to you may follow a liturgy of some sort. At some point the leader will say - “Alleluia. Christ is risen. And the congregation will respond - He is risen indeed. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.” Christmas and Easter are a big deal but how is that they have become so commercialized and lost their true meaning and most have no idea what Pentecost is all about, even with liturgy?
                Now it may appear that I am mocking Easter but I am not. I am just making a case that what we hold so dear is a hoax. No not the part about Jesus but the part where we are saying the church is something it is not. One definition describes a hoax as “a falsehood deliberately fabricated to masquerade as the truth.” Here is what I mean by this. The foundation of the church is the belief in the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. Paul says it this way. 1 Corinthians 15:12 “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.” What was the proof? Matthew 27:50 “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” The proof was that people rose from the dead just as they had when Jesus was preaching about the Kingdom of God. Then Jesus Himself rose from the dead. Mark 16:9 “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. 12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. 14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.” Acts 1:3 “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:6 “After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” Not only did He appear to Paul, Jesus empowered him to go out and preach the gospel. 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.” The proof of the resurrection is in the power.
                The church all around the world claims that Jesus is alive, even though He died. How do we know this truth? We know the truth because the bible tells us so. There is no other book like the bible. If you reject the bible, you reject God and eternal life. You either believe that in the beginning God created or you believe something exploded which is impossible without having the parts of the explosion already; therefore a particle is your god. Yes you can choose not to believe but that choice will lead to eternal damnation. Matthew 10:28 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Revelation 21:8 “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Luke 13:7 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ 28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.” This is why people don’t want to believe the bible. They think if they ignore what is written in the bible it will not apply to them but that is a lie as Romans 1:8 “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Look around at creation and see the glory of God. You are without excuse.
                Now here is the problem. If Jesus is alive then nothing should have changed just as scripture tells us. There still should be power available. Nowhere does the bible tell us power was to stop. The doctrine of cessationism is a doctrine of demons, a lie from satan! So if Jesus is alive, then where are all the wonders? Judges 6:1 “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 7 When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, 8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me. 11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” 13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” The church today should be asking this same question because the church isn’t listening either. The answer to the lack of power is not because Jesus did not rise from the dead but the churches failure to obey their risen savior. When Jesus was alive and walking this earth, power flowed from Him. Jesus is still alive therefore power is still available just as described here. Matthew 14:34 “When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.” Matthew 9:20 “Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed. 22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.”
                We are told that Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons when He was alive. Matthew 8:16 “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” With a word and in an instant the sick were healed. For most in the church healed at that moment with a word is absurd. The hoax is the church does not have the power of the resurrection yet say they are the church of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord. You have been deceived if you believe the church is where it should be. After Jesus left this earth, His power continued on in His disciples just as He said it would. Luke 24:48 “You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Then you see the power they were clothed with. Acts 4:33 “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.” The miracles are proof of the resurrection, which is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead still at work. The hoax is a group of people meeting in a building and worshipping a God they don’t know and proclaiming Jesus rose from the dead, yet remain powerless in their whitewashed sepulchers. The church operates as if we serve a dead king. Every Sunday the church reminisces about what a great king Jesus was. The church talks about these amazing stories where he fed thousands and cast out demons. Our favorite stories are talked about like that one story where he sent the demons into all the pigs? We still talk about how he healed all the sick. I still love to read about the woman who was bent over because satan had her bound for eighteen years. Oh how I love to tell the stories from long ago about all that Jesus did but he doesn’t do that any more because he is dead. We had hoped he was the one. That is the great hoax. The church operates as if Jesus did not rise from the dead and is now just a form of godliness and denied power.
                The two disciples walking away in disbelief from the greatest event ever to take place, gives a picture of the church today. Most do not believe the accounts about Jesus other than a story they were taught to believe in. For most they are confused about the relevancy of the bible for today. I was thinking about the church at this time during the pandemic not really being able to meet depending on where you live. Many have gone to church their whole lives yet still need to be bottle fed week after week as they still do not understand. Hebrews 5:12 “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” This would have been a perfect opportunity to use that solid food. These two disciples were confused by the events that just took place. Luke 24:14 “They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.”
                Notice these two walked away even after they heard the tomb was empty and angels said he was alive. Not only did Jesus rebuke these two disciples, he also rebuked the others who did not believe. When Jesus appeared among them He said, Luke 24:38 “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” Mark gives us this account. Mark 16:2 “Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. 14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.” Today there is a stubborn refusal to believe what is written before our very eyes. We have all the accounts from eyewitnesses yet most do not believe this power is available in the church today. There is a point and that point is here where the church must come to realize what it means that Jesus is alive and reigning as our King. The church must be desperate to be saved from our desolation and captivity. The church must come to understand what His kingdom looks like and how different the Kingdom is when compared to the church in its desolate state. Even though the kingdom of God is clearly laid out in scripture, most in the church refuse to believe in the available power Jesus is offering us. In both Luke and Mark the passages go to describe that available power. Luke 24:48 “You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Mark 16:15 “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” This is the available power to all who believe.
                Today’s church is in rebellion and continues following the empty ways of those who have gone before us. Yes there have been some very creative leaders along the way who tried to improve the worship experience and made the organization run like a Fortune 500 business. It appears on the surface that this is the church Jesus started but it is easy to see it is not because there is no power. Not only is the church a great hoax but the church has also been greatly deceived. Many leaders took up satan’s offer he gave to Jesus when he said, Luke 4:5 “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.” They did not answer as Jesus did when he said to satan 8 “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” These leaders love the power but it is not the power and authority Jesus gives us. Because the church has disobeyed we have lost the available power that was offered to all who believe. No Jesus is not a dead king even though it appears that way in the church. No Jesus is very much alive. Mark 16:19 “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.” So if Jesus is very much alive then that means His power is very much available.
                This power though cannot be accessed without the church turning from its wicked ways. Just as Israel did not want to hear this, the church does not either. Most people think the way they are following is the right way, even if it does not line up with scripture. This is how deception works. There will be enough truth to deceive people into believe it is the whole truth. As you have seen in the last months, truth doesn’t really seem to need any facts or proof any more. Sadly this is also seen in the church. Here is the disastrous part of this. Deuteronomy 29:19 “When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry.” Jeremiah 5:31 “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?” Proverbs 21:2 “A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.” Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” You do not want to find out when it is to late that you have been led down a path that leads to death. There are two voices calling out as we see in Proverbs 9. One will lead to life and one will lead to death. You do not want to die and hear Jesus say I don’t know you. Luke 13:23 “Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ 28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.”
                We are told in 2 Chronicles 7:13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” If we want healing to return, then we must return to God. God goes on to tell Solomon 17 “As for you, if you walk before me faithfully as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe my decrees and laws, 18 I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor to rule over Israel.’ 19 “But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 21 This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ 22 People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why he brought all this disaster on them.” Just like Solomon the church did not listen either and has lost the kingdom. 1 Kings 11:9 “The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. 11 So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. 12 Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”
                We are only alive because God gave David a promise that there will always be a remnant. If you think about it that means out of all the people that could be serving God only a few have remained faithful. That is the down side of there just being a remnant. This is the condition of the church today. Yes I have heard people say their churches or group is the remnant and you are supposed to follow their ways. Don’t do that, as we are to follow God’s ways. It is easy to see that some of these groups who claim this have gone off in their own direction just by comparing them to scripture. In Solomon’s prayer he said
    1 Kings 8:25 “Now Lord, the God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father the promises you made to him when you said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your descendants are careful in all they do to walk before me faithfully as you have done.’ 26 And now, God of Israel, let your word that you promised your servant David my father come true.” God did keep His promise but Solomon failed to keep his.
                We do not deserve the grace and compassion God gives us. Ezra prayed Ezra 9:8 “But now, for a brief moment, the Lord our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. 9 Though we are slaves, our God has not forsaken us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem. 13 “What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved and have given us a remnant like this.” Daniel prayed Daniel 9:4 “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him. 17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
                Today the church lies desolate and powerless but is blind and deaf to our captivity. This pandemic has exposed the powerless church but instead of turning back to God many have adapted while others fight the government to stay open. Instead of standing on the word of God, they have made their stand on the constitution. In the United States “The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In Canada we also have something similar in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms called the freedom of religion. Under section 2 of the Charter, Canadians are free to follow the religion of their choice. In addition, they are guaranteed freedom of thought, belief and expression.” This pandemic has caused churches to fight for their freedoms in the courts while disobeying God’s word as seen in Romans 13:1 “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” Churches are rebelling against authority and gathering, saying it is their right to disobey. Not only do most of these who are gathering disobey the assembly size, they don’t wear masks or social distance and think the pandemic is merely the flu. The point I am trying to make is based on the word religion. Religion does not mean Christianity. By saying this, it was a promotion of all the world religions so basically they gave approval to all religions therefore our countries are obviously not Christian because there is only one way. Unfortunately the church has become a religion amongst many.  An article from 2017 stated, “Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion - and not just in Muslim majority nations: 10% of all Europeans are projected to be members of the Muslim faith by 2050, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. The study estimates that from 2010 to 2050, Muslims will have increased across the world by 73%, followed by Christians who are projected to grow by 35% during the same time period, and Hindus at 34%. That means that Islam – currently the world’s second-largest religion – will surpass Christianity as the world’s biggest religion by the end of the century, the study projects.” I have heard many in the United States upset about the rise if Islam yet their own constitution promotes it. I hope you get my point.
                The church can only stand on the word of God and depend on His power. Yes you may win in court or you may loose but you will always loose when you disobey God. The strange part during this pandemic is that churches have only been required not to assemble, they have not been ordered to stop preaching the gospel. You can still preach all day long and every day to the world via the Internet. Anyways this really isn’t about the pandemic other than to say the pandemic revealed the powerless church. The religious church gathers Sunday after Sunday but the Christian church goes into the entire world clothed with power seven days a week. Just as Jesus sent His disciples out, today’s disciples should also be going out in power not just going out on our own or just sitting in a building calling themselves the church. Luke 9:1 “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”
                The church today should be focusing on itself, not on the government. I keep hearing churches blaming the government for the failures in the land and the evil that occurs yet what exactly is the church doing about? Why will they not focus on their own failure as a church? We do not live in Christian countries. If the church would repent of their wicked ways, the church would once again have power and then the world would be reached and the kingdom would come near. As we just read in Luke 9, there would be power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases. At this point you have to ask what are people being saved into? Jeremiah gives us the answer to that question. Jeremiah 2:11 “Has a nation ever changed its gods? Yet they are not gods at all. But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols (false gospels). 12 Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the Lord. 13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” The answer is they are not saved. This is why there is only a remnant of the church left but there is hope. Jeremiah 33:19 “The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 20 “This is what the Lord says: ‘If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, 21 then my covenant with David my servant—and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne.” The moon and the sun continue to do as they were designed so we still have hope.
                Judah’s King Hezekiah was the only one left standing as Assyria had destroyed everyone else, even Israel. They were now surrounded. Isaiah 36:13 “Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! 14 This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you! 15 Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. 18 “Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Have the gods of any nations ever delivered their lands from the hand of the king of Assyria?” Isaiah 37:1 “When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord. 2 He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. 3 They told him, “This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them. 4 It may be that the Lord your God will hear the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the Lord your God has heard. Therefore pray for the remnant that still survives.”  
                The remnant of the church still has hope and needs to pray this same prayer for the defeat of our enemies. We have the same hope Isaiah gave to Hezekiah. Isaiah 37:31 “Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. 32 For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. 35 “I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!” It is also important to understand that eventually the remnant as it is with the church now, went into captivity because of their disobedience. God had to turn His face because of their disobedience. It is also important to understand that even some of the remnant perished because of their disobedience. Near the end before Jerusalem was destroyed, a group of survivors came to Jeremiah 42:2 “Jeremiah the prophet and said to him, “Please hear our petition and pray to the Lord your God for this entire remnant. For as you now see, though we were once many, now only a few are left.” They said they would listen but they didn’t and went to Egypt, which was against the instruction God had given them through Jeremiah. They were all destroyed. Zedekiah would be the last king of Judah. The people were taken captive and the temple was destroyed. The church today has been taken captive and is in desolation. People are dying without knowing the truth, only to find out when it is too late that they have missed eternal life. False gospels are everywhere as are their teachers yet the church continues to go backward and pretend all is well.
                All is not well but because Jesus lives, we have hope. The church does not have to be a hoax, pretending to be something it isn’t. The kingdom isn’t coming near so there is no power. In order for the church to be the true church once again and have God turn His face to us, we must return to Him and obey His word. This isn’t just about being faithful church goers; this is about believing there is power and authority available to cast out demons, heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom of God. It is not the gospel if that is not happening. Our eyes need to be opened to see the desolation around us and we need to be desperate for God to dwell among us once again. Ask yourself why the church is so desperate to believe power is not available and why the church is so content not having it. Most do not ponder this at all. We need to examine ourselves because God is a merciful God. Lamentations 3:22 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, or his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Hosea 14:1 “Return, (church) Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! 2 Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. 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.” 4 “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. 9 Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”
    Jeremiah 50:20 “In those days, at that time,” declares the Lord, “search will be made for Israel’s guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare.” 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!”
                We do not want to continue in our desolation but to have God return to us as we return to Him. We are to told, if we seek Him we will find Him and once again the power of God will flow as He dwells among us. As Jeremiah cried out we join with him. Lamentations 5:19 “You, Lord, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation. 20 Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? 21 Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old 22 unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.” Habakkuk 3:2 “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.”
                Jesus has risen and is alive. This is no hoax. Ask God to open your eyes to see all that He has for us who believe and wait to be clothed with power. Luke 24:30 “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.”- “Alleluia. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!