.Judgment Begins at God’s House
As American Christians, we are confronted by a grim, undeniable fact: our nation has come
under the judgment of God. For this there are many reasons, but they can be summed up in one
simple statement: We have committed the sin for which Esau was rejected—we have despised our
birthright (Heb. 12:15–17).
God judges us according to the measure of light we have received. Jesus told the Jews of His
day that their judgment would be much more severe than that of Sodom and Gomorrah, because
they had received a much greater revelation of the truth (Matt. 11:20–24).
The same applies to America in this century. No other nation has had the same access to the
Word of God that has been granted to the American people. Through culture and tradition,
through churches and evangelists, through radio and television, and through the printed word,
America has been blessed above all other nations with the knowledge of God’s truth. Our
judgment for rejecting it will be correspondingly severe.
Many Christians do not realize that God’s judgment does not begin with the people of the
world, but with the people of God. Peter told the Christians of his day, “For the time has come
for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of
those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17). These words apply equally to the
church in America today.
Of all the sins that could be charged against the contemporary church, it is sufficient to
focus on two: materialism and compromise.
In Luke 17:26–30 Jesus predicted that the period before His return would be like the days of
Noah and Lot. He mentioned specifically eight activities characteristic of those days: eating,
drinking, marrying, giving in marriage, buying, selling, building, planting. Yet there is nothing
specifically sinful in any of these activities. What, then, was the problem?
The problem was materialism. The people of those days had become so engrossed in these
materialistic activities that they were unaware of the impending judgment of God on their
carnal lifestyle. When judgment came, they were totally unprepared.
The same is true today of most professing Christians in America. If the final judgments of
God should suddenly usher in the return of Christ, they would be totally unprepared.
Like materialism, the sin of compromise often goes unrecognized. About two years ago,
while praying, I had a mental picture of the interior of a typical church building with rows of
pews, a platform, a pulpit, a piano and so on. But the whole building was permeated with some
kind of fog. The outlines of objects could be discerned, but nothing was sharply defined. While
I was wondering what the fog represented, God gave me one clear word: compromise.
In the contemporary church, most of the main moral and doctrinal truths, so clearly
enunciated in the New Testament, have become blurred and ineffective. In 1 Corinthians 6:9–
10 Paul wrote: “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor
homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor
extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” Yet the church today is full of people who commit
these sins, but remain totally unconcerned. In fact, they often boast of such sins.
A church member lay in a hospital, dying of AIDS, which he had contracted through
homosexuality. Then he received Christ and was given a New Testament. After reading some
way in the New Testament, he sent an urgent message to the person who had led him to Christ:
“Come and pray for me. I need deliverance. I never knew there was anything wrong with my
About seven years ago, at the Christmas season, our staff had committed Ruth and me to
appear on two television presentations of PTL. Since we do not watch television, we had no
idea what to expect. I was supposed to be the “main speaker.” Out of the first hour, I was given
ten minutes, and out of the second hour, twenty minutes. Most of the time was given to appealing
for money and selling Tammy dolls. As far as I can recall, Ruth and I were the only people who
even mentioned Jesus.
Shortly afterwards there was a public exposure of the scandals that have now become
notorious. But for me personally the most shocking thing was not any sexual or financial misdoing,
grievous as that was. What shocked me then, and still shocks me today, is the realization that
millions of Americans were being continually confronted with a totally false picture of
Christianity—one that had no room for the cross, with its demands for humility, for holiness
and for sacrificial living. How terrible to realize that people who have been seduced by such a
presentation may never hear the real truth of the gospel!
The PTL scandal is now history, but it has left us with a question we need to answer: was it
simply an isolated phenomenon, or was it a symptom of a disease that affects the Body of Christ
Yet within the church there is still a remnant of sincere, devoted followers of Jesus. If we are
among that number, how does God require us to respond to the present crises?
One clear answer is given in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If My people who are called by My name
will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I
will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” The phrase, “My people
who are called by My name,” applies to all Christians who take the name of Christ upon
For at least 30 years I have been teaching on this Scripture, but recently I was confronted by
a shocking realization! God’s people in our day have never fulfilled the first condition. We have
never truly humbled ourselves. Our pride—both religious and racial—remains as a barrier that
holds back the answer to our prayers for ourselves and for our nation.
Through the severe dealings of God in my own life, I have learned the most effective way for
us to humble ourselves. Very simply, it is by confessing our sins. If we regularly and sincerely
confess our sins to God, it is impossible to approach Him with an attitude of pride.
Furthermore, I have seen that God has only committed Himself to forgive the sins we confess.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all
unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Unconfessed sins are unforgiven sins. Thus the barrier of pride
builds up a second barrier of unforgiven sin.
The Bible exhorts us to confess our sins not merely to God, but also to one another. “Confess
your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
Confessing our sins to God deals with vertical pride; confessing to one another deals with
horizontal pride. We can hardly maintain an attitude of pride towards someone to whom we
have just confessed our personal sins.
This applies especially to the relationship between husbands and wives. Those who regularly
confess their sins to one another are not kept apart by a barrier of pride.
Furthermore, confession of sin is an essential prerequisite to effective intercession. Daniel
was one of the most righteous characters in the Bible, but when he set out to intercede for his
people Israel, he began by acknowledging his own share in their sin (Dan. 9:3–13).
I believe that God is waiting for us as American Christians to humble ourselves before Him
and one another by confessing our sins. Only after we have done that, can we move on to claim
the healing of our land.
But I must add a word of warning. Do not begin to indulge in morbid introspection! The
Holy Spirit is “the finger of God” (Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20). Ask God to place His finger on the
sins you need to confess. He will do it with unerring accuracy, probably bringing to light sins
which you never recognized!
I have confined this analysis to the situation in the United States. Much of what I have said,
however, applies to other nations who are heirs to the Judeo-Christian inheritance and to the
church worldwide. May God help each of us to accept our personal responsibility!
Yours in the Master’s service,
Reproduction for free distribution is permitted.
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