Monday, January 5, 2015

Missing Notes in the Modern Church by Vance Havner (Part 2)

In the second place, the New Testament Church was not only intolerant, narrow, exclusive. IT WAS A REPELLENT CHURCH. Instead of attracting everybody, it repelled. In the fourth chapter of Acts the church was really going places for God. It was a great hour but dangerous. Could the church stand success? There is a turn in the story with the fifth chapter. It begins "But . . . " Ananias and Sapphira appear, trouble has arisen in the midst. There were plenty of liars in Jerusalem but these were in the church! But by the grace of God the church rose to the occasion and cleaned house. Ananias and Sapphira were carried out dead and the church rolled on. We read, "And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; and they were all with one accord on Solomon's porch." Here is the church in the full bloom of her power: a Spirit-filled church, a wonder-working (not a wondering!) church; a church that stirred up the devil. 

Then we read that there were three reactions: 

Even though people admired them a lot, outsiders were wary about joining them. On the other hand, those who put their trust in the Master were added right and left, men and women both. 

People didn't join this church carelessly. They were afraid to. There was a holy awe that kept Tom, Dick, and Harry at a distance. People didn't rush into this fellowship just because it was the nice thing to do. It meant something to unite with this crowd. There was a holy repulsion, and I know of nothing that the church needs more today. It is the last thing we think we need. We are always trying to attract. Our programs, prizes, picnics, and pulpit pyrotechnics are aimed at drawing the people in. Here was a church that made people stand back! We have catered to the world, we have let the world slap the church on the back in coarse familiarity. Here was a church that prospered by repelling! 

You will observe that all this followed on the heels of the death of Ananias and Sapphira. If the church took a stand today on sins within; if we thundered out, as Peter did here, against lying to the Holy Spirit, it would make the world stand at a respectful distance, and the fear of God would fall on a generation that laughs at the church. What was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira? They pretended to make a full consecration which was not real. And are not our churches filled with men and women who sing, "I surrender all," when they have not surrendered anything? The church is cluttered with people who should never have joined. She already has too many of the kind she has. We need a holy repulsion. You don't have to be different to be a church-member now. There is little about the average church to make men stand back in reverence. In other days we at least had church discipline. I can recall the old Saturday church meetings, when Ananias and Sapphira were dealt with. Some mistakes were made but there was a healthy regard for the sanctity of the church. When the church takes a stand, it repels careless "joiners." 

But someone asks, "What would people think if we took such a stand?" Let us see what happened here: "But the people magnified them." The church had favor with all the people (Acts 2:47). The church that stands in the power of the Spirit wins the respect of the people. We have driven them away in trying to attract them. We have lost favor in trying to win favor. The world is sick and disgusted with the church making a clown of itself, trying to talk the slang of this age, running third-rate amusement parlors, playing bingo and putting on rummage sales. The church, it has been said, is not running a show-boat but a life-boat, and we make ourselves ridiculous in trying to compete with the world. The preacher and church that stand for God and righteousness will be magnified. 

When judgment fell on Ananias and Sapphira the world sat up and took notice. Today we coddle and excuse our sins, call weakness what God calls wickedness. We shelter sin in the Church, and when a preacher would cry out against it he is advised, "Don't be too hard, nobody is perfect," and is given a dressing-down from the text, "Judge not that you be not judged." We have let down the bars until anybody can get into a church and nobody ever gets out. If we raised the New Testament standard it would stop the rush of superficial disciples and win respect where now there is ridicule. 

"But nobody would ever join!" do we hear? Let us see what happened here: "And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women." While outsiders dared not join, the Lord added more and more to Himself. The church that repels as this church repelled will attract as this church attracted. It will be the attraction of the Holy Spirit, and He will draw out those who really believe. All that is necessary is just to be New Testament Christians and a New Testament Church, and we will both repel and attract. It is a law of nature. The rose has its thorns, it both repels and attracts. Everywhere you look in the world of nature, you observe this double law at work. It is a law of the spiritual world too. 

What is this repulsion? There is a false repulsion. Often we drive people away by our indifference, criticism, lack of love and zeal. We ought to be ashamed of it, confess that we are ugly and unattractive Christians, repent of our bigotry, coldness and hardness, and let the Lord make us winsome with the loveliness of Christ. 

But there is a repulsion that goes with being a Christian. Here is a fine Christian girl, beautiful and charming in face, in mind, in spirit. When she comes into a gathering she is attractive. But there is something about her which makes it out of the question to use profanity in her presence, something which makes the rudely familiar keep at a distance. She doesn't have to say, "I will allow no foul language, no improper advances." People just don't curse and otherwise misbehave in the presence of such people. She repels while she attracts. 

There ought to be that about every Christian when he walks into a gathering, that makes the unholy and profane subdued and respectful. There ought to be that about a church that would make the world never dream of rudely rushing into its fellowship. And Jesus Himself both attracts and repels. He is the Great Divider. He has attracted more people and driven more people away than any other character in all time. Once, when He had preached a crowd away, He asked the disciples: "Will you also go away?" All through His ministry men were being drawn and repelled. The young ruler was first drawn; then when the terms of discipleship were made known, he was repelled. 

God help us, as Christians and churches, to recover the power of God among us until a holy awe shall rest upon us. God help us to deal with sin until men shall be afraid to lie to the Holy Spirit. When we do, outsiders will not dare to join us; the people will magnify us; believers will be added to the Lord. 

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