A Solemn Assembly
My sermon today entitled “A Solemn Assembly” is about the Church in mourning over its condition. Have you ever felt like crying over your condition? Have you ever considered yourself to be greatly out of step with your maker, and out of tune with the rest in your Church assembly? Sadly as I look at the Denominational Divisions, and the Sectarian Traditions around me in this part of the world, I can only conclude that the Church of Jesus Christ is not looking like she should right now – she is not looking like a beautiful and spotless “bride” preparing, and getting ready for her “groom”? In fact as I see her, she carries baggage and blemishes that spoil her beauty.
We read earlier in the Service from the Prophet Zephaniah, and in Chapter 3:18 – God says: “I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly who are of thee,
to whom the reproach of it was a burden. “
This is a dual prophecy by Zephaniah. It has to do with the children of Israel . . and also with spiritual Zion (which is the church of Jesus Christ of the last days). First of all, he was speaking to Jews – showing them that God was going to gather together the dispersed . . . but He was only going to bring back those who had a broken heart for the sad and deteriorating condition of Israel . . . He would remember all who carried the reproach. . . all of the horrible things that were going on in God’s House. Those who carried the burden of it, He said,
“I am going to gather you”.
This prophecy is also to the Church of Jesus Christ in these Last Days. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel were called to their festivals for seven days. On the eighth day – it was called
a Solemn Assembly. ( Lev 23:36, Num 29:35, & Deut 16:8,
to mention but a few of the references) That was when they met especially together – putting everything aside in focused worship and praise to the Heavenly Father. The scripture says, “On the eighth day you shall have a Solemn Assembly”. This Solemn Assembly is all throughout the Old Testament representing the congregation that is separated unto God, and needing to meet with the Lord. A time to reflect on their celebrations as to whether or not there was anything amiss, anything that might grieve the heart of God – anything done in error.
This is a picture of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Last Day; According to Zephaniah, the House of God in the Last Days is going to be under reproach. The Hebrew word used here (Kher-paw) means “shame and disgrace”. There is going to be shame and disgrace in the House of God. I am not talking now about the backslidden, liberal, modernistic church – rather about the blood bought fellowship of born again believers who it appears bear a shame? Is that your Church – is that you?
Do you grieve with me today over the fragmented state of the Church, over the divisions and sectarianism that exists amongst the Christian Community? I discovered during my 20 years in a Counselling ministry that most couples who came for marriage or relationship counselling, that most of these individuals thought that they were right while their partners were wrong. What they had failed to recognise is that we all think we are right, – and while we are right some of the time, we are not right all of the time.
Only when we embrace and accept this truth can there be hope for our marriages, and hope for our Churches. Your Denomination may be right some of the time, but try to get
your head around the concept that you are most certainly most assuredly not right all of the time.
Let me remind you today that if we don’t get it right and get it together before the Lord Jesus comes back, we will be left behind with the unbeliever and the unfaithful – a frightening thought – yet that’s what he says: While the foolish virgins were trying to sort out their problem with oil for their lamps, the bridegroom came and shut the door – they were not ready when he came, they were divided – five were wise and five were foolish. Matt 25:10 We must be looking out for each other – I don’t want a single one left behind. God loves the Catholics, God loves the Protestants, God loves the Muslims – God loves us all!
God is looking for a people who will sorrow and grieve over the shame that is being laid on the Church of Jesus Christ in these last days. I am talking about the Church that was born at Pentecost. I am talking about the Church that was born in the teaching of the Apostle Paul and the other Apostles. The Church born in the doctrine of the Godhead of Jesus Christ. That born-again Church is under attack. The Church is suffering now and will suffer even more reproach in the future.
It has been prophesied that in this day of reproach, shame and disgrace, God is going to raise up a holy remnant who are going to grieve and weep over this division and defilement of the Church. Thank God, He will have a remnant that will not sit idly by, while all of these things invade His Church. God is going to gather a people who grieve over division and sectarianism in every form. If you truly love the Lord and you love His Church, you cannot look honestly at what is happening today and ignore it – you must do something about it. If after you hear what I have to say about this reproach, you continue to sit back and say, “I just stand on Matthew 18 ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church’, I am not going to worry about it, God has everything under control”. That’s not good enough!
God uses people. God uses people to perform His work. He does not send angels. Angels may weep over us, but God does not use angels to accomplish His purposes for the Church. He uses men and women who are fully and wholeheartedly surrendered to his will and way – burdened, broken-hearted, weeping men and women. My dear friends, Judgment is at the door, and it must begin first at the House of God. Jesus is coming. The Day of the Lord is at hand. Wake up elders. Wake up pastors. Wake up you who call yourselves shepherds. Take a look at the Church. Grasp the burden for her and be prepared to Carry it until God delivers her.
A gospel is being preached today that is withering everything that is in sight. Everything that is Green and Godly and Good is being withered. The seed is rotten, and there is a famine of the hearing of the pure unadulterated Word of the Lord – there is no pasture. Something that Milton the poet once wrote revolutionized my ministry and my motives – he said “the hungry sheep look up and are not fed”. I prayed God forbid it should happen on my watch! But the flocks are desolate and hungry today. The rivers are drying up. A strange fire is devouring the pastors. Ezekiel says that Shepherds are trampling down the good pasture and eating the best for themselves.
Ezekiel 34:8 reads …”The Shepherds fed themselves and fed not the flock, therefore O you Shepherds, hear the Word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I am against the Shepherds and I will require my flock at their hand and cause them to cease from feeding the flock. Neither shall the Shepherds feed themselves any more, for I will deliver my flock from their mouth that they may not be meat for them anymore”.
I am going to deliver my listeners from the teeth of these so called Church leaders who would grab your cash and run – all some are interested in is money and wealth. Now please don‘t misunderstand, God wants us to prosper, he wants his children to be blessed and not to beg, he loves it when we can catch his generous giving spirit and “spend and be spent” for the souls of men. You will never hear me appeal for your money and it may surprise many of you to learn that I have been preaching every Sunday for seven years now at this radio microphone without being paid a penny for it. But let me assure you that God looks after His employees – and I should know.
Its not about money, its about souls. Be very wary of those Clerics, those Shepherds of the flock who talk all the time about money. I can take no money from this life into the next, but I can take souls; and I made a pact with the Lord some time ago, that if he would help me, enable me, anoint me for it, then I would see Ireland SAVED for Christ in my lifetime! That’s the goal I’m aiming at. May God help me. Remember that the Heart of God is a Giving heart, not a Grabbing Heart – and if you cannot find it in your heart to give and give and give again, then you have not yet discovered the heart of the Father in Heaven. What is it that you are giving away today, and will there be any sacrifice in it? We must never give to get, but if we do give we shall get – make no mistake about it!
What grieves me even more is that these Shepherds of Gods flock are often guilty of the misrepresentation of the blessed Holy Spirit. This is the worst reproach. It should make us fall on our faces in tears – the way and the manner in which the Holy Spirit is being sold short to the whole world.
Some reckon that the Holy Spirit is a non essential to church life and ministry – they consider him a “cling on,” an optional extra – something that was necessary in Old Testament days when battles had to be fought and Pharaoh’s conquered and the heathen tamed! But the Church has matured and we don’t need him so much now – we have the Bible, we have the Church and we have the Love – lets move forward in love.
Some of the new Church fellowships have become “love-traps” . You will hear this: “We love everybody. It doesn’t matter what you preach. It doesn’t matter what your gospel is – or anything else. God is love. Let us all just get together and embrace one another.” Yet – How can two walk together unless they be agreed? Amos 3:3 How can you walk with folk, when you don’t agree with their unscriptural practices, you cannot. That is a love trap. They say, “Don’t condemn anybody. Don’t judge anybody.” But that is not what the Bible says. It says that we are to “judge with righteous judgement. Reprove and rebuke with all longsuffering“.
I am not standing on a soapbox, I am standing on a Rock. God is trying to get you to see the rock – which is Christ Jesus; and what are the riches of God in Christ Jesus? The peace of God, the wisdom of God, the nearness of Christ, all that is in Christ is yours. When Jesus left us, He promised that He would return in the person and power of the Holy Spirit, – this is a continual Emanuel “God with us”. Unless God is with us, we will grope around in the darkness of our own misunderstanding and the Church will fall apart under the leadership and rule of misguided men. This is what is happening right now. All kinds of weird and wonderful practices are being introduced into our Sanctuaries that purport to be of God when in reality they are anti Christ. They have a form of godliness but deny the power of God. They have no power!
Few of us, are walking in the Holy Spirit, prompted by the Holy Spirit, Moved by the Holy Spirit, and Functioning in heavens power and authority. Instead, what I see is prayerless, powerless and pitiless ministry where like that first wedding in Cana of Galilee, we are drawing water when the people need wine? We are supplying what man can draw up, instead of what God can send down. God help us!
The day of the Lord is at hand; and wickedness abounds. The Bible says “Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” Joel 2:17 Jesus is about to come. The masses are unreached. Souls are dying by
the thousands, what are we doing about it? The Gospel of the Kingdom has to work everywhere on the face of the earth. You have to be able to take it into the most vile and wicked places. You have to take it into poverty stricken nations. You have to take it to the dregs of humanity and it has to work there. It can’t work just in the prosperous west. It has to work everywhere on the face of the planet.
Let me tell you who is laughing at the Church. The world. The ungodly, the heathen. Christianity has become a spectacle. In a time so close to the coming of the Lord, when the Church of Jesus Christ ought to be shut away in a secret closet of prayer; where it ought to be weeping for the lost. Where it ought to have the desire to forsake all and follow Jesus… A Blindness persists! I don’t care what anybody thinks of me any more. I don’t care if people drop off my mailing list. I care for their souls and the fact that many are into this blindness.
I have a duty before God to stand before this listening congregation that He has called me to minister to and warn you and tell you that many of these politically correct and contemporary practices should drive us to a Solemn Assembly and the Bible says that we are to be sorrowful about it. Sorry that we have allowed the world to dictate to the Church of Jesus Christ – shame on us all! The elders are to be sorrowful. The congregation, the Pastors, the Ministers, the Evangelists, We should be praying down these satanic strongholds.
What breaks my heart most is the present downloading of depravity in the Church. The Bible warns “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil – that put darkness for light and light for darkness. They put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter“. Jer. 23:15. I’ve seen in these Prophets a horrible thing. “They commit adultery, they walk in lies, they strengthen also the hands of evil doer and none returns from his wickedness.”
30 years ago when I set up “Foundation Ministries” in Armagh, City – a Crisis Counselling Ministry, I did so, because even back then there were Clergy amongst us who saw no SIN in many of the evil pastimes which grip and control the weak willed.
Some see nothing wrong in the abuse of alcohol, the web of pornography, the gambling and lottery traps and the falling standards of morality amongst believers. If a man or woman in leadership ignore the Bibles wise counsel, where will they find help for the helpless and hope for the hopeless. Gods word is the manufacturers handbook, it has the answers to the questions on the human heart, and the pressures on the human soul. Its time to get back to the Bible. Let us leave the sports pages and the magazine articles out of the pulpit and carry the word of God
to the people as we ought.
This is exactly what Jeremiah meant, “the pastors strengthen the hands of evildoers that none doth return from his wickedness.” He explains why they have downloaded depravity in their congregation and why they are calling evil good and good evil and bitter sweet and sweet bitter. He said, “The prophets have committed adultery and are walking in lies.” Its common sense that any man that has sin in his own life is not going to get up and talk about sin in the camp. Such a one is convicted by his own adultery, and his own sin and his own evil mind.
I am not painting every minister in the country with this brush.
Multitudes of ministers feel just like I feel today and they are looking and waiting for voices to expose that which is evil and stand up for the good. The Lord says: “If they had stood in my council and had caused my people to hear my words. If they were speaking what I really have in my heart. If they were speaking the mind of God, they should have turned the people away from their evil ways and from the evil of their doings.” Jeremiah 23:22 Until you know how to deal with the flesh and the lusts thereof, in the power of the Holy Ghost, then stay away from it. Jeremiah said, “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is Mighty. He will save you…”
My dear friends, Beware! Beware of a coming pseudo discipleship! An apostasy which is about to engulf the true Church. Are you ready to take on the burden of the Lord for those things that are just and true, holy and honest? Are you prepared to be ridiculed – bad-mouthed by your Brothers and Sisters, … its all coming, its all in the plan and its all at the door.
You will never survive, and remain standing in your own flesh. We need God. – Get alone with God he will give you his heart for his Church – a Solemn burden to bring her back from the dereliction into which she has fallen! Its time to weep its time for tears and prayers beloved.
NOW THIS FINAL WORD.
A while ago God gave me a dream which moved me to the core of my being. In that dream I found myself in a garden. The gates were rusted shut, the paths were overgrown, the flowers had lost their fragrance and were being choked by weeds, The trees bore no fruit and their leaves were dry. The hedges were so high that they were shutting out the sunlight, and the fountains had dried up and were blocked by dirt, moss and trailing ivy, The summer seats were broken and there was no place to rest. It was a dead garden, loveless, lifeless, and apparently hopeless. There was no Gardner and no one to put it back to rights.
When I awoke from my dream – God said: This is my Church, You must save her, restore her to the beauty she had at the beginning, and prepare her for my coming. My Dear Friends, this is my assignment, but I cannot do it alone – we need to be doing it together – all one in Christ Jesus. Its time to set aside our denominational differences, and time to lay hold of the tools and get into that garden to put wrongs right and give back beauty for ashes, Can God count on you?
God Bless you … Amen