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 of Scripture, among the faithful concerning a condition of apostasy. Our Lord Jesus Christ for one, “and when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it” (Luke 19:41). The apostle Paul concerning his fellow countrymen, “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost. That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:1). Should this not be the disposition of the godly in our own 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 having heard the gospel many times over for many years, are yet without Christ. To others, he is but a faint memory to them, Christ is someone who saved them many years since, but now the first love, the zeal for his cause has dissipated. The church is in a state of utter 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 (Lamentation 3:15), 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: (Lamentations 3:49-50)

The 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. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Galatians 5:14-15). 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, “But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Isaiah 49:14-15), 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 has 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, 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 is gained from them, where is the profit? The sacraments give us no pleasure (Psalm 6:6). I’ve just returned from a visit to Ukraine, in eastern Europe, 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, “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence” (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, when will he return! Yet Christ is absent, he hides his face from us, but there are no tears, no tears.

This desertion is an awful hard pathway though, it is so wearying. Our duties continue to some degree. Our praying, but it is hard work is it not? Our evangelical prayer meetings are deplorable, mostly. O there are some exceptions, doubtless. Then study of God’s word, where are the Christian scholars amongst us, very few Christians today who know their Bibles, so 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, nothing! 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. Such preaching tells Christ we don’t need you, we don’t want you, we can do the job ourselves, with our own cleverness. 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 to their televisions or the internet on the Sabbath evening. Then evangelism, is this not hard work also, we visit, leaflet, witness but it is all mostly fruitless. Believers can’t get the victory over their corruptions and temptations, no success! It’s as though we stand alone, we are no better than natural men really. How long will it be till 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: (Lamentations 3:49-50)

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, they 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 but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.” O they complain, but it’s not spiritual, their complaints like them are dead, heavy, inactive, perhaps 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 carnal 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 needs 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 is 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, 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 is 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, the healing of 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. “mine 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 worship. 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, I mean 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 us from Sodomy.” We’ve pleaded and prostrated ourselves before unregenerate and ungodly men, who care nothing for either nation, church, or marriage. What have we accomplished? What did it get us? Unlimited abortion, euthanasia’s already started, bastard children cram our streets, and now the enshrining of Sodomite marriage in law by appointment of her Majesty the Queen, the Prime Minister and just about every one else to do with government before who we have 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).

For a long time the church has looked like the world, taken its attitudes on board. The attitudes of the church are laid out in the beatitudes, (the sermon on the mount Matthew 5). We’ll love you as long as you conform outwardly to our mores. If you dress as we do, we will love you. If you sing the same stuff as us, we will love you. If you use the same Bible version as we do, we will love you. If we speak in tongues, we will love you. If you don’t we won’t love you.  And on and on it goes, you can probably add your own shibboleths to the list. I was told recently of the testimony of a man who had left the Jehovah’s Witnesses. No, he hadn’t yet come to Christ, but this was his complaint to them when he was disfellowshipped, as they call it. He said to them you will love me as long as I conform to your outward code, but if not, I’m dead meat. That sounds like an awful lot of evangelical cults I know of. If I don’t conform to their outward mores, then I’m dead meat too, they won’t love me either, they’ll despise me, ostracize me, make me feel judged, like I’m some kind of leper. Whatever ever happened to freedom in the church? It left when Christ left, because without him, there is no freedom, he is our freedom. Yes, even the world will love us, if we will only conform to its mores (Romans 12:1-3). And that is exactly what many “evangelicals” are already doing over the sodomite issue, conforming, compromising a serious biblical moral issue, because they are frightened to death of the world. “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD” (Isaiah 43:10). That is our calling, whatever the cost or consequence to ourselves. But as along as he is absent, we will bend, conform to the mores of cultish religion and to the world’s norms. Weep brethren, weep! Howl! Lament! “mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission. Till the LORD look down, and behold from heaven” (Lamentation 3:49-50).

“It is of the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore I will hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD” (Lamentations 3:22-26).

(James R Hamilton, 3rd, April, 2014)

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