Each day our world mirrors Laodicea a bit more. Sometimes a LOT more. Foundations once built firm and strong crumble out of neglect, apathy, lack of discernment, allowing the world to infiltrate the church.
What happened to once thriving, bible preaching and teaching churches?
The landmarks moved.
I'm sure you are familiar with what a landmark is. For some it's the Arches at St. Louis. For some, the Golden Gate Bridge. For others, maybe an old scarred tree marking a turn. It's something that marks a location on the route to where you're going. It's something familiar, something that doesn't move easily.
For the Christian church, it is the preaching of the whole Gospel, scriptural baptism, separation, a scriptural Pastor, discipline, orderliness, and other "marks" mentioned throughout the New Testament.
Landmarks were well known throughout the Old Testament. When the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea, did not they stop and put stones at the place they landed on the other side? Landmarks were used also in marking inheritance via land. If you inherited a piece of land from dad, it was marked by stones for your borders. Now, if you had an unscrupulous neighbor, that neighbor could slowly move those stones, reducing your land and increasing his, until you have nothing and he's got it all.
The landmarks have moved. They didn't move on their own.
According to The Compact Bible Dictionary (1967, Zondervan), a landmark is defined as: an object (stone or post) used to mark the boundary of a field. Removal of landmarks was prohibited by the Mosaic law. (Deut. 19:14; 27:17). Hebrew piety denounced the act (Prov. 22:28; 23:10) and it was considered equal to theft. (Job. 24:2)
Let's look at these verses.
Deuteronomy 19:14 (KJV): Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which though shalt inherit in the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it.
Deuteronomy 27:17 (KJV): Cursed be he that removeth his neighbor's landmark and all the people shall say, Amen.
Proverbs 22:28 (KJV): Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.
Proverbs 23:10 (KJV): Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless.
Job 24:2 (KJV): Some remove the landmarks; they violently take away the flocks, and feed thereof.
God doesn't speak too kindly of those who move landmarks, does He?
The landmarks of a church do not move on their own as well. More often than not they move subtly, slowly. Gradual. Of course there are instances where they move rapidly, where the congregation finds themselves in a whole new church that they don't recognize. Once good, solid bible preaching, hymn singing, Jesus proclaiming churches turn away from the landmark and crumble on the foundation that was left to fall in neglect.
The major landmark of a true church is preaching of the gospel unashamedly. Another landmark is separation--keeping the worship upward to God instead of bringing in the world to make it an entertainment occasion. Music falls in the landmarks, as music was used back as far as Moses' time in worship. Scriptural baptism is another landmark. Promoting and following out the Great Commission is a landmark. Church discipline according to I Corinthians and other New Testament examples follow among the landmarks. Having a Pastor that lines up with the I Timothy model is a landmark.
I'll be honest, no church is perfect. If it were, we'd not be allowed in it. Churches are made up of people with the fleshly desire for sin. That's human nature. Irregardless of our desire for sin, God put in His Word a design for His church. Oh, it doesn't get into the color of the curtains or the size of building or anything that minute, but it DOES get into the major pillars. When those pillars move, it takes down the structure. Think of it like an old porch, when the columns holding up the roof of the porch give way, the roof falls in and destroys the structure. When the pillars of the church fall for rotting and lack of upkeep or intentional movement, the church falls in on itself.
This series may step on toes. It has stepped on mine as I've been researching and writing. Some things I've gotten comfortable with myself over the past few years that weren't exactly in line with a true bible model, and our family has changed to go back to the solid foundation that we'd slowly left behind. Our own journey away from the foundations was a gradual one, we didn't even really notice it much until the past probably 3 to 6 months, when it started becoming much more glaring to us as we asked the Lord to open eyes. Boy did He!
I'm grateful for the eye opener, for the reminder that we needed to get back in line with the Bible and not our fleshly desires. I hope that while this series opens eyes, that it works to help you find the foundations that Bible presents.
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