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I got back to my reading of The Path to True Happiness by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones this afternoon.  He was talking about when Jesus cleansed the Temple in John 2.  He used this to address the church’s relationship to the state.  When this becomes confused, the church loses its real power and the whole nation suffers.

“The church is not here to tell statesmen what to do.  She has a much bigger, a much deeper, calling …  Nor is it the preacher’s task to appeal to world leaders to make peace and banish war.”

Interesting words as much of America, including our President, celebrated the visit of the Pope.  Popes seem to know how to do little else but speak to world leaders.  Sorry, but hugging a sexual abuse victim when the Church of Rome has allowed this sin to fester unhindered for decades is ample evidence of what church’s should not do.  The point: churches lose their moral authority to speak to society if they are not addressing the sin in their own communities first and foremost.

Lloyd-Jones had watched the church in England forfeit its voice for decades.  He was frustrated with a holy frustration.

For it is the tragedy of the hour that the church is telling the world what to do when the question is: Is the church in a fit condition to do so?  I suggest that it is not surprising that the world does not listen.

In tracing this idea through biblical history the Doctor notes:

But the moment there was a declension in the temple worship, deterioration invariably followed in the life of the people: like priests, like people. … Take another verse: ‘Righteousness exalts a nation (Proverbs 14:34).  Not possessions, not wealth, not material power, but ‘righteousness.’ … When things go wrong in the Temple they will go wrong everywhere.  The key to everything is our relationship to God.

The Doctor is not blaming “those damned heathens” for the moral ills of his society, and neither should we.  He blamed the church because she had not lived up to her calling which opens the door to rebellion based on hypocrisy.  A vibrant church, which is pursuing righteousness, will change the shape of a nation far more than preaching against the ills of that nation.

Well so often in Israel the first thing that went wrong when they lost the living Spirit was that they turned the temple worship into something formal and external.  … The formalizing and externalizing of religion is a great curse.

We know some of this here in America.  Our churches have been infiltrated by materialism and consumerism (the whore of Babylon).  We pursue success and access, not righteousness.  We condemn non-Christians instead of applying the gospel to our own wicked hearts.  Often our churches are used by the political parties to further their agenda (this happens on both sides of the aisle, folks).  The problem is not the political parties, but the pastors and denominational leaders that bow down to them and fail to protect the flock.

The need is not for something to happen in the state, but for something to happen in the church.  Why are the statesmen ignoring the church?  Because the church has no power (he means spiritual power). … if you and I are genuinely concerned about the world and its state, our first duty is to pray for revival in the church.  It is not to say things to the world, but to seek this power which will enable us to speak to the world in such a manner that it will tremble as it listens to us.

The business of the church is to bring men and women to God and to keep them in communion with him.  The church should be filled with such power from God that everybody, in a sense, will be forced to listen. … The first prayer is to plead with him to come into his Temple, to manifest his glory, to show us something of the might of his power and to fill us with that power.

May King Jesus do just that, manifesting His glory in a people being transformed by grace.  As His church becomes healthier and exhibits spiritual power more will be converted and transformed, thus changing the character of cities, counties, states, regions and a nation.

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