by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.
Summary: The American Church, in my estimate, is in a very unhealthy condition. I see in many believers, churches, and denominations an alarming trend — ignorance of God’s word by some, rejection of God’s word by others, and (at the most frightening level) an outright despising of the word of the Lord by a few. The results, as we will see, are catastrophic!
Amos 2:4, King James Version (KJV) ...they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments...
2 Chronicles 36:16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.
•• This is a sobering warning — to despise the word of the Lord is to incur His wrath. And that wrath is said to be not simply against the world at large, but "against his people" who were despising His words.
•• And yet this is broadly done in American Christianity.
• Thousand of church pastors openly deny that the Bible is the inspired word of God.
• I was astounded reading a comment on the jacket of an allegedly Christian theology book by an ordained minister. He said that the apostle Paul could never have written some of the things that he wrote if he had had the advantage of some of our modern-day Moral Theology classes! In that minister’s mind, man’s intellect today is superior to God’s inspired word as written by men like the apostle Paul. Incredible!
• Other pastors and believers acknowledge the Bible’s inspired status, but treat it as if it were merely nice thoughts to reflect upon, rather than God-given, God-commanded principles to obey and to live by.
• Many Christians who correctly believe that the Bible is the word of the Lord nevertheless by their actions despise it by deliberately embracing a lifestyle contrary to the Scriptures.
• Young couples living together without the benefit of marriage attend churches where the pastors ignore this open sin, declaring self-righteously that “it’s not our place to be judgmental”. Is it any wonder that marriage is held in such low esteem in American culture, when even churches fail to honor and exalt something that God instituted in the Garden of Eden? The word of God honors marriage; our culture regularly dishonors it. The results are seen in the tragic decline of the American family as a foundation to the health of our nation.
• TV and movies routinely portray boy-meets-girl ending up quickly in the bedroom. This is the “default” plot line of many movies. If someone speaks up and says that the bible commands: “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18), that person is likely to be mocked as “out of touch” and “old-fashioned”. Some of the tragic results of this despising of the word of the Lord are the widespread incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and catastrophic rates of unwed motherhood.
• We will look at more examples as we proceed. But do not lose sight of the message of our opening Scriptures above — that is, to despise the word of the Lord is to incur His "wrath ... against his people".
Jeremiah 6:10 To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.
•• The prophet Jeremiah reveals several tragic attitudes that people may hold with regards to God’s word:
1) They close their ears to its message.
2) They find the Bible’s content offensive to them.
3) They find no pleasure in it.
•• I’ve seen instances too numerous to mention where Christians know precisely what the bible says, but close their ears to those truths and follow their own desires instead.
• Believers divorce their spouses with no biblical justification, justifying their antibiblical conduct by such worldly platitudes as “God wants me to be happy”.
• To the great shame of the American Church, some researchers state that the Christian divorce rate is higher than that of the population as a whole! Christians by the millions are simply closing their ears to the bible’s teaching on the sanctity of marriage.
• Christians who know what the Bible says about drunkenness “find no pleasure” in God’s teachings about sobriety and choose to carouse around as if they expect God to just look the other way.
•• One TV personality once said, with great insight, that God didn’t give Moses the “Ten Suggestions”! And yet so many believers fulfill Jeremiah’s lament that “the word of the LORD is offensive to them.” So precepts and commands of Scripture are ignored or flouted, because they offend a person’s supposed Christian “liberty”.
• The apostle Peter dealt strongly with this self-centered view of our freedom in Christ. Peter wrote, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil" (1 Peter 2:16).
•• Preachers throughout America — and worldwide — read the Bible’s clear teachings about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and their validity throughout the Church Age. But because of personal or denominational prejudices, they find such teachings offensive and therefore close their ears to these empowering truths. That deprives both them and their churches of the “demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4) in confirmation of the Gospel.
•• Entire Christian denominations have rejected the bible’s clear teachings on the mighty baptism with the Holy Spirit. Yet it was Jesus Christ as the Author of both Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7) and Pentecost (Acts 2:32-33) that empowered the Church from the beginning. But because the baptism with the Holy Spirit has not been their own personal experience, thousands of pastors and theologians “find no pleasure” in this central bible truth and close their ears to its relevance and importance to New Testament Christianity. So Christians in these churches are left without the promised “power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
Jeremiah 8:9 The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?
•• God’s prophet dismissed the arrogant, self-styled “wisdom” of those who “reject the word of the Lord”.
• I see a pervasive error in modern society — an exalting of the alleged wisdom of man over the true wisdom of God. The apostle Paul put this into biblical perspective:
• Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:22, KJV).
• The wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight (1 Corinthians 3:19).
•• Scientists routinely reject God’s Creation account and teach evolution to gullible students. Yet the word of God clearly resolves this issue in the Bible’s first verse — “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). There should be no question in anyone’s mind that the Bible teaches a divine Creation. What happens is that man, in his intellectual arrogance, simply “rejects the word of the Lord” and declares that his own intellectual conclusions contradict and discredit the word of God.
•• Divine healing has been rejected by modern-day Sadducees in the pulpits of many American churches. The Savior who told the leper, “I am willing [to heal]” (Mark 1:41) is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus healed 2,000 years ago. He is “the same” Healer today! But despite the Bible’s numerous promises of divine healing, many in our day reject what the Bible teaches and place their faith entirely in medical professionals. Certainly our nation has many dedicated doctors and nurses, many of them sincere Christians, who help millions of people. But nowhere does the Scripture say that God has stepped aside from the healing ministry and turned it over to the medical profession.
•• The word of the Lord commands “women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety” (1 Timothy 2:9). But in many Christian churches you will find ladies wearing tight-fitting and revealing clothing. The worldly wisdom of looking “stylish” has invaded the Church. God’s command concerning modesty is rejected in favor of following the cultural standards of our modern society. My wife and I have been aghast at the flagrantly immodest clothing worn to church services by some young women who seem otherwise to genuinely love the Lord. There seems to be an illogical spiritual “disconnect” in their minds — an overall intention to follow the Lord, but a specific decision to follow the shameful dress codes of the world — that simply rejects the Lord’s command “to dress modestly” (1 Timothy 2:9) in favor of embracing the world’s standards of what is stylish, hip, and “with it”.
Jeremiah 9:12c-14a Why has the land been ruined and laid waste like a desert that no one can cross?  The LORD said, “It is because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them; they have not obeyed me or followed my law.  Instead, they have followed the stubbornness of their hearts.
•• God’s people get into spiritual “deserts” because they forsake His word out of the “stubbornness of their hearts”.
•• Stubbornness against God’s word can lead to devastating consequences. A Christian brother I once knew resisted the Bible’s teaching on the dangers of drinking alcohol. He chose to become one of the “sipping saints”. His life ended tragically when he fell to his death in a drunken stupor.
•• Those who reject the Bible’s teachings on such important issues as prayer, reading God’s Word, and being a regular part of a local church often end up in prolonged spiritual “droughts”. “I’m free,” they assert, “and can just worship God wherever I am and however I want.” The problem with this is that they often don’t. There is no substitute for ongoing fellowship with God (in prayer, worship, and His word) and with fellow believers. The Bible commands us to “not forsak[e] the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). But many Christians reject this part of God’s word and find themselves on the fast track to a spiritual “desert”.
Hosea 4:5-6 You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you...  my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.
•• Ignorance of God's word —> “lack of knowledge” —> destroyed.
•• Lack of knowledge ... biblical ignorance (passive or active) ... these things, said the prophet, “destroy” God’s people. Two major recent developments in America illustrate the destructive power of not knowing God’s word, or of knowing it and ignoring it.
(1) The American family fell into serious disrepair in the latter part of the 20th century. The causes are widely debated and beyond the scope of this brief study. However, I can certainly pin down one major factor in the decline of the family, and that is the growing rejection of the headship of the husband in the marriage and family context. The bible clearly teaches that “the husband is the head of the wife” (Ephesians 5:23; see also 1 Peter 3:1). Under pressure from the Feminist movement, our culture has rejected biblical order in the home, to the detriment of the family. A recent headline in our local newspaper said that “women rule the roost” in America. This sad condition comes from either lack of knowledge of God’s word on this, or from outright rejection of that knowledge.
(2) The Church in America has moved increasingly to the antibiblical practice of ordaining women and having them lead and teach men in the churches. And this despite clear Scriptures like: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:11, written in the context of the local church [3:15]). The modern mantra about “liberating” women has, sadly, led them into roles for which God did not intend them. I am well aware that this topic stimulates strong reactions pro and con. I have written on this elsewhere at Male Headship in the Home and the Church. I have no “agenda” to push. My sole intent is to attempt to be biblical in all that I teach and practice. I don’t want to see God’s “people ... destroyed from lack of [biblical] knowledge”.
Mark 7:9, 13a And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!... [13a] Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.
•• Man substitutes his own ideas for God’s word.
• God sent a mighty baptism with the Holy Spirit. Man turned it into an empty, powerless rite of “confirmation”.
• The New Testament universally teaches believers’ water baptism by immersion. Man has set aside God’s command and substituted the antibiblical practice of infant baptism.
• The word of the Lord declares, “...by grace are ye saved through faith ... not of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV). Man has substituted all kinds of salvation offers — for example, by “faith and works” — that reject God’s clear offer of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The “one way to God” revealed in the Bible has been discarded by many in favor of the erroneous, man-made belief that “all roads lead to God”.
• The Scriptures declare that “homosexual offenders ... will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9). In flagrant contradiction to God’s word, some American churches not only approve of homosexuality, but have even ordained homosexual clergy.
•• Pages and pages of further examples could be given. But let’s refocus on the main issue in our study today — that is, to despise, reject, or ignore the word of God is to incur His wrath (Amos 2:4 with 2 Chronicles 36:16). Far from keeping us in captivity, God’s word liberates people. “[His] word is truth” (John 17:17). Our responsibility is to study and to “know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
•• That’s where we are today — many, if not most, Christians will “not put up with sound doctrine”. I see most Christians coming to church without their Bibles. I see a growing biblical illiteracy in the body of Christ.
•• Many “want to hear” ear-tingling stuff — phony revivals, cultural relevance, and so forth — rather than the clear, straightforward word of God that challenges our lives to change. The faulty motive of many is “to suit their own desires”, so they seek out preachers, teachers, and churches that will pander to those desires rather than sound the clear trumpet of God’s word.
•• I believe that the prophesied time has come. “Sound doctrine”, solid biblical teaching, is absent from most pulpits of our land. Rarely on Sunday mornings does one hear systematic instruction on holiness, purity, the biblical family, the Cross of Christ, the Deity of Jesus Christ, the mighty power of Pentecost, prayer, winning souls to Christ, and many other mainline Scriptural topics.
• Instead, services have become “user-friendly” and “seeker-sensitive”, but empty of the power of the Cross and the power of Pentecost.
•• May God bring to our land a mighty revival, a turning back to the Cross, an honoring of “Jesus Christ [as] Lord of all”, a seeking after the glory of God as a consuming passion. May God’s word, the Bible, once more come to the front-and-center of every Christian’s life. And may we never, never come under the indictment of having despised the holy word of God.
©2009, James H. Feeney. Copyright statement.