The Bible teaches Christians to be aware of falling into deception. The Great Deceiver tempted Adam and Eve in the garden. When he was told that God had forbid them eat of the fruit, Satan asked, “Did God really say that?” The message of Christ is no different today than it was 2,000 years ago. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the father except by me.” – (John 14:6) The Great Deceiver still asks the same question; “Did Jesus really say that?” The truth about America is that millions have embraced the deception that there are many paths to God.
Our lust for power and our lean toward pride prevent us from understanding the truth. History’s wisest man wrote these words to describe the dilemma of man: “There is a way that seemeth right unto man, but he end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) The truth about America is that there are many false prophets portraying themselves as angels of light when actually they are devils of darkness. The Apostle Paul was compelled to leave the Church at Ephesus and go to Jerusalem and this was his warning before he left. “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.” (Acts 20:29)
Why are there so many false prophets? Why do so many embrace lies rather than truth? Why is the modern American church becoming so powerless? I must ask a dreadful question. Has the glory departed? Truth and deception are like water and oil. They cannot coexist. Is the Spirit of God fleeing our culture because of the prevalence of deception and evil that exists, not only in our culture but also in our church?
Good beginnings are meaningless when followed by bad endings. This story repeats itself thousands of times all across this nation. A young man, Spirit-filled and enthusiastic, feels called of God to minister to others. He invites several couples into his home and shares the gospel. God blesses his efforts and his small gathering grows into a small church. He is gung-ho for God and the gospel and his church experiences tremendous growth, from twenty to two hundred to two thousand and before you know it the pastor has grown a mega-church.
He realizes he can no longer shepherd the flock, he must now drive the herd. He can’t manage the herd any longer without turning the church into a corporation. He hires others to do the counseling and to develop policies and programs. The people he has hired yearn to climb the corporate church ladder. They become competitive and loyal to their superiors and the institution becomes man-centered as they slowly and progressively forget God. Unwelcome and forgotten, the Spirit of God departs.
Will you consider 1 Samuel chapter 4 with me for a moment? May I paraphrase to save time? The Israelites and the Philistines battle one another and the Philistines win the contest. It was a day of great mourning for many mothers and wives and daughters. 4,000 Israelites are killed.
The leaders of Israel pondered this horrible defeat and decided they needed to bring the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh to protect them. They were ready to battle again under the deception that simply carrying the ark with them would assure defeat of the Philistines. So many today fail to experience outward victory because they’ve never realized inward change. They were smashed again by their enemy and lost 30,000 men.
During this tragic time, Israel is ruled by a great priest and judge, Eli. Eli waits to hear of the outcome of the battle. He sees a weary and dusty messenger in the distance approaching. Eli is 98 years old and he lifts his weakened voice to the runner. “What has happened, my son?” (1 Sam. 4:16) “Thousands are dead, your two sons have perished and the Ark of the Covenant is in the hands of the enemy.” The news was so shocking and overwhelming to Eli he passed out, fell backwards off his chair, broke his neck and died on the spot.
Eli’s daughter-in-law, wife of one of his sons, was pregnant at the time. When she heard her husband and her brother-in-law and her father-in-law were all dead she went into labor. The midwife was able to deliver a son before the mother died in labor. The midwife named the boy, Ichabod, which means, “The glory is departed.” The ark of God is captured, the Spirit of the Lord has departed, the presence of God no longer abides.
The truth about America is that we have done much to offend the living God. Our national sins are many. We have put out a “Do Not Disturb” and made clear that we don’t want to be bothered. We have clearly indicated we want our sin more than we want His grace. We no longer fear the Mighty God. We question his word and ask, “Did God really say that?” We question the existence of heaven and hell, his virgin birth, his death and resurrection. We question the very existence of God himself. We are driving him from our schools. We no longer welcome him in our courts and halls of government. There is no longer a hallowed place provided for God in our midst. Without the protective presence of God we have become dangerously vulnerable.
The truth about America is that we need desperately to repent of our sins and humbly seek the one and living God in all his grace and mercy.