The Absence of Christ From the Church!

 

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

In the Old Testament, we find the prophet Jeremiah in a state of anguish and sorrow because of Israel’s apostasy and consequent banishment to exile (Lamentations 3:49-50). This disposition we find in both Testaments, among the faithful concerning a condition of apostasy. Our Lord Jesus for one (Luke 19:41). The apostle Paul concerning his fellow countrymen (Romans 9:1). Should this not be the disposition of the godly in our land in these days. Call us not the United Kingdom, let alone Great Britain, but rather Sodom and Gomorrah! Yet we appear to be like unconcerned spectators. Many in our churches are yet without Christ. To others, he is but a faint memory, someone who saved them many years since, now the first love, the zeal for his cause is in a state of desuetude. The church is in a state of apostasy, Christ is absent from us, yet it’s not felt, there are no tears, there is no anguish, no pain. It is also to our misery that we are so soon, so easily pleased with what is less than even a day of small things. It is an evil day.

We pray complaining but we stop long before the Lord of heaven looks down and sees. The godly in Jeremiah’s day exercised no small amount of lament as a result of their guilt and the resultant affliction v15, with unceasing tears. For they knew only the light of his countenance would restore their joy. This is the disposition of the godly when Christ is absent from his people (Luke 5:35; Genesis 22:26; Hosea 12:4; Matthew 15:22f). And here, “mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not; without any intermission, till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven” (Lamentation 3:49-50).

1. The Condition: v49f

Darkness has enveloped not just our nation, but the church also. There is a controversy between Christ and his church, we have an angry Jesus in our midst. The evidence of his displeasure? No holiness, no unity, no power, no forgiveness for our brethren, no love for them either (Galatians 5:14f). Christ’s back is turned towards us. If his favour is the sweetness of life, then his anger is the bitterness of death. This was Zion’s complaint (Isaiah 49:14f), yet he assured them he always remembers his elect. But it has been so, so long between his visits. So long that the godly fair think he’s forgotten them altogether, “mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not; without any intermission, till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven (Lamentation 3:49-50).

Hence, we have dissatisfied souls. It is his sovereignty that decrees the time when he will visit, and turn to us again. Meanwhile, our patience and faith are tried, it seems like an eternity to those who care. The word of God, yes, we still have it in abundance, Bible versions, sermons, but what real satisfaction’s gained from them, where’s the profit? The sacraments give us no pleasure (Psalm 6:6). I’ve just returned from a visit to the Ukraine, in an evangelical church there I witnessed a minister at the Lord’s Table and as he served, he had to continually wipe the tears from his eyes, I could hear members of the congregation weeping. When did you last witness such in this country of ours? Is it anything to you that Christ died for your sins?  An angel’s presence would not satisfy Moses (Exodus 33:15), nor stem the tears of Mary in the absence of her Lord. Is it anything to you that Christ is absent from the church today? Does not a wife live a solitary life when her husband’s away, all she can think of is when will he return? Yet Christ is absent, he hides his face from us, but there are no tears.

This desertion’s an awful hard pathway, though, it’s wearying. Our duties continue to some degree. Our praying, but it’s hard work is it not? Our evangelical prayer meetings are deplorable, mostly. Oh, there are some exceptions, doubtless. Then the study of God’s word, where are the Christian scholars amongst us, very few Christians today who know their Bibles, very few. The preaching of God’s word? What profit is there amongst us, where are the conversions? Can such insipid, benign lecturing that comes from our pulpits save a soul? I listened to a very gifted, able young preacher a few weeks ago. He waxed very eloquently about the Fatherhood of God, it was from the Bible, it was orthodox, but there was nothing of Christ, nothing of the cross! God is my Father because of Christ and his finished work on the cross, without that there is no Fatherhood of God. There were unconverted people in front of that young man, and there was nothing for them in his message. If that’s the route we’re going in the ministry of God’s word, then we are putting even further distance between us and Christ. God save us from what’s called preaching in the church today. Church attendance is hard work, I hear Pastors telling me how hard it is to get folk out twice on the Lord’s Day. Their families, the church, the nation perishes around them and they’re sitting in front of their televisions or the internet on the Sabbath evening. Then evangelism, is this not hard work also, we visit, leaflet, witness but it’s all mostly fruitless. Believers can’t get the victory over their corruptions and lusts, no success! It’s as though we stand alone, we’re no better than natural men really. How long will it be before daybreak? The darkness prevails, will the Sun ever shine again? “Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not; without any intermission, till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven (Lamentation 3:49-50).

2. The Reason: v49f

Who else can we go to? Necessity knows no law, hunger will break through a steel wall or leap over it. Love will endure anything but absence, loss? The true church knows, has seen Christ in his beauty, she can never rest without him, her eyes have been opened, she sees no happiness in any other. Hence, “mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not; without any intermission, till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven (Lamentation 3:49-50).

This is the disposition of the godly. Vain professors, of course, are strangers to such a disposition. They have no awareness concerning his absence, don’t even notice it. There is no complaint from them of his distance from the church. They have never been touched by a vital work of the Holy Spirit. Some are described by the apostle as “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2Timothy 3:7). O they complain, but it’s not spiritual, their complaints like them are dead, heavy, inactive, some emotion, like a light shower which the wind soon dries and it’s gone. “Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not; without any intermission, till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven (Lamentation 3:49-50).

There are difficulties on the way to heaven, that their hearts don’t understand. They love gold but wouldn’t dig for it. They see heaven in the distance, but there’s a gulf fixed between them and it, they wouldn’t venture to swim across it. If heaven will not drop into their laps, they will not have it. So they sit back in their pews from the cradle to the grave and contrive ways to smooth their evil consciences. The world and its lusts have never dried up in their souls, they still fill their hearts. Christ doesn’t answer their prayers, no worries, they have other doors to knock on. The absence of Christ is not a problem to them. This, “mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not; without any intermission, till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven (Lamentation 3:49-50), they do not understand.

So dealing with his absence? We must seek him till he does look down. Take not the slightest modicum of comfort from the world, until we get it from him himself, through his pardoning blood. We must need be resolute till we get a healing and restoring look from heaven. Will God not justify his elect (Luke 18:7)? Here’s the question, do you miss him, does it matter to you that he is absent from the church? Does it concern you that there is no holiness, no power, no unity, no peace in the church? Does it matter to you that your nation is under the fierce and burning wrath of Almighty God? Do you know, understand that only Christ’s returning, firstly, to the church, will avert the awful judgment that’s due this nation of ours? Does it matter to you? “Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not; without any intermission, till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven (Lamentation 3:49-50).

The godly who have this disposition must give him no rest till he comes again in renewing grace and evangelical comfort. We are living in Sodom and Gomorrah, but Lot lived there and lived righteously, we can too. Faith is the victory gotten at Calvary, faith I say, not unbelief. I hear Christians who don’t believe in God’s six-day creative activity, in their cleverness they’ve succumbed to evolution. Then there are others for whom the Bible isn’t enough, they have added to it (yes, I mean the end-time delusion of Pentecostalism’s over-reached triumphalism), one extreme explains the Bible away and the other takes it to ridiculous extremes. The Bible isn’t enough for either of them. The Christian evolutionists lack the humility to bow before Holy Scripture. The madness of Pentecostalism says God’s word isn’t insufficient for them. The unbelief of the church needs nailing to the cross. To sit beneath the cross and weep and wait till he comes again. Until we know his presence, his power, until we know the unity of God’s people healing the brokenness of people caused by those who have sinfully left churches and hurt their brethren, until we love one another in obedience to Christ’s own commandment, until grace flows again, until we’re able to forgive one another from the heart. “Mmine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not; without any intermission, till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven (Lamentation 3:49-50).

For a long time now the church has looked to the world, taken its worldly music into her sanctuaries. Shifted the goal posts, lifted the barriers of God’s holy law to let a flood of unclean people into the house of God. All we’ve done is polluted what is meant to be holy. We have even altered the language of Zion, biblical language). And look where it’s got us? Christ is no longer amongst us, not in pleasure, not in power, not savingly, but in wrath. We have an angry Jesus amongst us. We have looked to the state, the government, we have prostrated ourselves before Queen, Prime Minister and Members of Parliament with our letters, pleading with them, “please save our country”, or, “please save our church from the onslaught of immorality.” We’ve pleaded and prostrated ourselves before unregenerate and ungodly men, who care nothing for either nation or church or marriage. What have we accomplished? What did it get us? Unlimited abortion, euthanasia’s already started, illegitimate  children cram our streets, and now the advent of Sodomite marriage by appointment of her Majesty the Queen, the Prime Minister and just about everyone else to do with government, all before whom we bowed the knee and pleaded with for help. Well, will we now see the light, that only as we call, with unceasing tears, upon the name of our sovereign Lord and Christ, and plead with him until he returns to us, will we ever see any change. Until then, Christ is absent from the church in our land today. “Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not; without any intermission, till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven (Lamentation 3:49-50).

Yes, we think the world will love us if we’ll only conform to its mores (Romans 12:1-3). But it won’t. It will only despise us the more. But that’s exactly what many evangelicals are already doing over moral issues we are faced with. They are conforming because they’re frightened of the world. “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD (Isaiah 43:10). Whatever the cost or consequence to ourselves. But as along as he, Christ, is absent, we will bend, conform to the mores of the world’s norms. Weep brethren, weep! Howl! Lament! “Mmine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not; without any intermission, till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven (Lamentation 3:49-50).

(© James R Hamilton, 31st December 2013)
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