Delivered By
C.C. Risenhoover
Delivered On
May 15, 2016
Central Passage
Jude 1:17-23

May 15, 2016


“…remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.  They said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.’  These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.  But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith, and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.  Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 1:17-23).

A few weeks ago…in the wee hours of the morning…the lyrics of that old song by the Platters titled The Great Pretender came to mind.  I don’t know why…just as I don’t know why I sometimes begin singing a Christmas song in the heat of summer.

All I know is that when a certain song or Scripture comes to mind…I don’t spend a lot of time questioning why.  I take it as a sign that the Holy Spirit is attempting to communicate something to me.  At least, I try to be open to that possibility.  So when The Great Pretender song came to mind…I thought about some verses in Jude.

I thought about other verses, too…but in the weeks leading up to this song coming to mind…I had been so focused on Jude that it’s probably only natural my thoughts would go to his short but spiritually deep letter.  I had also been reading a great deal of John McArthur’s work…especially his contention that a major problem with America’s churches is lack of spiritual discernment.

The millennials among us may not have any knowledge of the Platters or The Great Pretender song.  Following are some…not all of the lyrics: “Oh, oh, yes I’m the great pretender, pretending that I’m doing well, my need is such I pretend too much, I’m lonely but no one can tell.  Oh, oh, yes I’m the great pretender, adrift in a world of my own, I’ve played the game but to my great shame, you’ve left me to grieve all alone.  Too real is this feeling of make believe, too real when I feel what my heart can’t conceal.  Yes I’m the great pretender, just laughing and gay like a clown, I seem to be what I’m not, you see, I’m wearing my heart like a crown, pretending that you’re still around.”

This song reminds me of people who do a good job of pretending to know God…but about whom Jude says, “They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind.”

If you pretend to know God when you don’t…well, the penalty for that makes every other form of punishment man can come up with seem like a walk in the park.  We’re talking about swimming in a lake of fire forever…never experiencing the peace that only death can bring when undergoing unimaginable torture.  Hell is a 24/7 unimaginable torture that never ends.

Of course, some preachers have watered down hell to the point where it’s thought of as nothing more than a sauna…or maybe a short vacation on a tropical island.  But, if you believe the earth is millions of years old…just know that a pretend Christian is going to be in Satan’s company for more than trillions of years. We’re talking eternity, which has no end.

The Great Pretender was never meant to be a theological song…and I’m not saying that it is…but I will say that there’s absolutely nothing that you can do in life to escape theology.  For example, one line of the song’s lyrics is “Adrift in a world of my own.”

While we know what’s meant here…there’s only one world that we know about…and it’s owned by God.  Scripture also tells us that Satan roams the earth like a roaring lion…seeking someone to devour.

And, has it ever occurred to you that Christians think about God less than anyone else in the entire universe?  Satan, for example, thinks about God 24/7.  He’s obsessed with God.  He can’t get God out of his mind…nor can the demons that he controls.

Atheists can’t get Him out of their minds either…because by pretending that He exists…they’re actually acknowledging Him more than most Christians do.

So that song Willie Nelson sings with the lyrics “You are always on my mind” is theological…in the sense that Satan, his minions, atheists…and people trying to destroy Christianity and the church…can’t get the Lord Jesus Christ off their minds.  They’re more obsessed with Jesus than Christians are.  And, that’s a major problem that we face.

We must become more obsessed with loving God…and with loving each other…much more so than those who hate God.  Right now they care more about their hatred of God than most Christians do about loving Him…and in their efforts to destroy Christianity and the church they’re motivated to do more in sharing that hate with others than most of us are willing to do to share the love of Christ with others.

I can give you some pretty good examples of that.  A satanic ideology can convince a Muslim man to strap a bomb on himself…walk into a crowd and detonate it while praising Allah…but most churchgoers won’t even bother to simply invite another person to the church they’re attending.

Americans are good at pretending…and they’re encouraged to do so by our government.  We can pretend that Islam is a peaceful religion…that it’s not a political ideology committed to wiping Christians and Jews off the face of the earth.

Americans can pretend that life doesn’t begin at conception…because to believe what God says about life will offend a lot of people.

Americans can pretend that homosexuals are just like heterosexuals…that they were made that way and it’s only a bunch of narrow-minded and bigoted Christians who think of homosexuality as sexual perversion.

Americans can pretend that the government knows what’s best for the populace…and that God’s Word is outdated and even irrational in today’s world.

And, that’s where we are in America today…a place where 85 percent of millennials don’t attend church…and where a majority of people who do attend spend more time piddling with their cell phones than they do in thinking about God.  Satan seems to have a lot more dedicated followers than Jesus does…which means we’re in a world of hurt and don’t seem to know it.

Many churches think they can generate interest in God with an event…or a series of events…and an event may, indeed, cause people to think about God briefly.  Or, maybe they’re just thinking about the event.  I don’t really know.

What I do know is that we’ve gotten away from our roots…and I’m not talking about family genealogies here.  I’m talking about the roots of the church that came directly from Jesus Christ.  He spoke into existence a simple church…and man just couldn’t wait to complicate it.

What we’re praying for here is that we’ll be able to go back to that simple church concept that came straight from Jesus.  Just prior to His ascension Jesus didn’t give his followers a big list of things to do.  It was, in fact, a short list.  He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

The Jews had 613 commandments…or laws…that they allegedly adhered to during Jesus’ time on earth…but when He was asked which was the greatest He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).  He also added that it would be a good idea to “Love your neighbor as yourself”…because that in these two commandments one could find all that the Law and the Prophets were about.

Jesus made it simple.  He didn’t complicate what He expected of His followers.  We’ve been able to that all by our lonesome.

On this ideal of a simple church…some of our folks came up with the words “Love God, love others, reach, teach and send”…which is an excellent mission statement…because it’s exactly what Jesus told us to do.  But, the entire concept of which we speak is one that demands clarity, movement, alignment and focus…none of which can be achieved without the most important thing.

And, that most important thing is unity.  Prior to the Holy Spirit descending like tongues of fire on Jesus’ disciples in the Upper Room…there was a qualifying statement.  That statement was: “They were in one accord.”  And, that statement doesn’t refer to them being packed in a Honda automobile.

If we’re going to do what God expects of us…we have to get ourselves in one accord.  A true revival of Christianity can’t begin in this country until love for God by our church membership…and I’m talking about this specific church…surpasses everything else that vies for our attention.  And, when God becomes a constant in our hearts and minds…love for others will be the natural outflow of that spiritual experience.

And, we don’t have to wait for a national revival to begin somewhere else…or with someone else.  For example, on a Saturday in August in the year 1806…five students from Williams College met under a grove of trees to pray for missions.  Their prayer meeting was interrupted by a thunderstorm…so they took cover under a haystack and continued praying.  Their prayers resulted in an outpouring of the Spirit that triggered a national Christian movement that took the Gospel to places in the world where it had never been preached before.

The five students involved in what is now referred to as “The Haystack Prayer Meeting” couldn’t have foretold what would happen as a result of their meeting on that Saturday afternoon…but they were in one accord…prayed believing…and God did the rest.  That’s what we have to do.  We have to pray in one accord…believe…and trust God to take it from there.

That’s simple church at its best…doing what God asks of us and truly accepting and understanding that He will respond in a way that best serves His Kingdom here on earth.  And, we can’t develop that acceptance and understanding by pretending to be what we’re not.

What we’re not is a church in one accord.  Unfortunately, we’re like every other church in today’s world…and like those written about in the New Testament.  We’re beset by petty grievances that for the most part don’t amount to a hill of beans…but they keep us from being all that we can be.

So while we need to be simple…we also need to be bold in our proclamation of the Gospel.  We need to get rid of our self-focused pride…wanting everybody to be like us…and rid ourselves of the fear failure…the fear of being hurt…and the fear of being unpopular.  We have to comprehend that teaching biblical truth is an act of faith…and we have to understand that following Christ has always been a rough row to hoe…and also understand that it’s not going to get any easier in the days to come.

An agenda that calls for loving God, loving others, reaching, teaching and sending out Christian disciples…is never going to be as popular with the world as the agendas of hate supported by those who are anti-God.  Satan has more followers on earth that Jesus does because it’s easier to sell hate than it is to practice and dispense love.  And, unfortunately, those with anti-God agendas seem to be much bolder and more motivated to push their ideas than most Christians are to share the Gospel.

In this age of apostasy we must also think in terms of restoration.  Many have left the church for various reasons…but I happen to believe that most defections are not because people have been asked to do too much…but because they have been asked to do too little.  People need to be challenged…and far too many churches have fallen into a routine of come, sit, sing, give, listen and go to lunch.  It’s a tiresome routine where nothing is happening…and nothing is expected to happen.

It’s pretend worship.  A line from The Great Pretender song is “Pretending that you’re still around.”  Have you ever thought that we might be pretending that Jesus is involved in what we’re doing…but that He’s actually not around…that He’s still knocking at the door and trying to get in?

I know a lot about this because I’ve done a lot of pretending in my spiritual life.  The Holy Spirit always convicts me when I’m doing it…and I repent…but lo and behold…it’s not long until I find myself doing it again.

What I’m trying to get across here is that I’m certainly not qualified to throw the first stone…and don’t know anyone who is.  So if someone has taken a sabbatical from serving the church and wants to return…we should welcome them with open arms.  And, even if they show no inclination to return…we should never cease inviting them.

We can pretend that everything is OK…and even ignore the signs that God is providing…but we’re told in 1 Timothy 4:1-2: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.  Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.”

We can pretend we’re not in the last days…but 1 John 2:18-19 tells us: “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.  This is how we know it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.  For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”

We can pretend, fantasize and actually believe the prosperity preachers who say God wants to give us a lot of stuff…or we can believe Jesus who said:  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.  Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:34-38).

Pretense will not get the job done.  We must love God above all else…we must love others as we love ourselves…we must reach out to all people and bring them into our fellowship…we must teach the Scriptures…and we must send disciples out to share the Gospel.

If we’re going to commit to a stated purpose of simple church…the pastor and elders must be unified and establish Christ-centered and focused goals…and the Spearhead Class, deacons and chaplains must align and mobilize the entire church to move in unison to attain those goals.

This is not a game of pretend.  It is the most serious thing you have ever been called on to do.  The future of America…and the future of Christianity in America…is in the hands of churches just like this small fellowship.  If we fail to bring about a revival…it will be because we have not followed Jesus’ teaching of what a church ought to be and do. 


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