A Lament for the PC USA Church

Zephaniah Sermon Series # 08

Zephaniah 3:1-8 Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city!

2   She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God.

3   Her officials within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave nothing till the morning.

4   Her prophets are fickle, treacherous men; her priests profane what is holy; they do violence to the law.

5   The Lord within her is righteous; he does no injustice; every morning he shows forth his justice; each dawn he does not fail; but the unjust knows no shame.

6   “I have cut off nations; their battlements are in ruins; I have laid waste their streets so that no one walks in them; their cities have been made desolate, without a man, without an inhabitant.

7   I said, ‘Surely you will fear me; you will accept correction. Then your dwelling would not be cut off according to all that I have appointed against you.’ But all the more they were eager to make all their deeds corrupt.

8   “Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord, “for the day when I rise up to seize the prey. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all my burning anger; for in the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed.[1]

On July 24th of 1960, we, the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker, helped daughter the Saint Andrews Presbyterian Church. We didn’t do it voluntarily. We experienced a church split, yet God doubled His outreach efforts by dividing us in half.

For a short period of time the new church met in the Tucker Elementary School, eventually relocating to 4882 Lavista Road.

Saint Andrews Church joined the largest Presbyterian denomination in our country at the time; the United Presbyterian Church USA.

This is the same denomination that J. Gresham Machen left a few years earlier when he formed the Orthodox Presbyterian Denomination. One of his churches is right down the road from us called Redeemer Orthodox Presbyterian on Chamblee Tucker Road.

The Presbyterian Church USA was not as orthodox as Machen wanted. So he left. This is still good advice.

Two years later the United Presbyterian Church USA joined with the United Presbyterian Church in America. In 1983 they joined with the PCUS to form today’s PCUSA.

Now, if you are visiting here today then you might be comforted to know that we never hear sermons in this place which excoriate other professing believers. And in fact, we will not be hearing a sermon today which speaks condescendingly of other believers.

We are speaking about the demise of a denomination. Denominations come and go. Religious groups and labels are not permanent. Even the ARP will one day be only a blip in the history books of bygone religious organizations.

We are not criticizing the good people in the PCUSA. We are speaking about the demise of the denomination.

But still, it’s always dangerous to criticize any portion of the Bride of Christ. No husband wants to hear someone speak condescending words about his wife. Jesus is no different.

We should love and pray for denominations in decline. We should not personally criticize the Church. We should let Presbytery and Synod speak difficult words if those words are necessary.

Sadly, we live in a time that require strong words about the PCUSA denomination. Our Synod has written those words in a formal rebuke which was delivered from the ARP to the PCUSA this last month (June 2011).

Th issues involved are not new. It’s like watching a bridge rust over time. At first there is just surface rust and no one is concerned while driving across the bridge.

Through the years the rust gets deeper, more ominous and more concerning. People begin to talk about the problems and their concerns, but they also keep using the bridge.

Then one day the whole bridge shifts or changes in a visible way. The yellow caution tape comes out and inspections begin. But if people have trusted the bridge to get them from point A to point B their whole life, then often they drive past the warning signs and keep using the bridge.

Finally, the day comes when the bridge collapses into a pile of twisted metal and concrete. Only the blind attempt to use the bridge to get from one side to the other.

We are living in an age where the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) has collapsed. The bridge is twisted and broken beyond repair. It no longer faithfully leads people from point A (Earth), to point B (Heaven).

And only the spiritually blind of this world still try to use the bridge.

What caused the final collapse?

In the opinion of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod, the final collapse happened when they began ordaining open-practicing homosexuals to the Gospel ministry.

And churches, like the Saint Andrews Presbyterian Church on Lavista, have no support from their denomination to depose their minister if he, or she, announces from the pulpit that they are divorcing their spouse and publicly embracing a gay lifestyle.

The church would have no denominational support to legally remove that minister, because the denomination has now taken the official position that living in a homosexual relationship is acceptable to a Holy God.

Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city!

Let me illustrate with a recent news event.

When Atlanta school administrators lied about the test scores of their students, those teachers removed the help that would have come to those students. The lie kept these students in failing schools with a false sense of security. The students assumed a bright future awaited them because the school awarded them high marks. But that was a lie. In truth, their low test scores set them on a path toward failure, misery and poverty.

When the church lies about the clear commandments and standards of God, then the church gives their members a false sense of eternal security. People breaking God’s commands may be led to think that they have a bright future awaiting them because the church gave their life high marks. But if that was a lie, then the wrath of a Holy God awaits them.

Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city! Sin oppresses and destroys. If the Church does not speak the truth about God’s commands, then sinful lives are never called to hope through repentance, faith and resurrection power.

God will severely judge anyone that endorses an open homosexual lifestyle. (This is not a sermon to address how someone becomes gay. That can be debated. The Bible is very clear about homosexual activity. God’s opinion about homosexual activity is not open to debate.)

And the PCUSA church has given high marks, good grades, for the people who embrace a gay lifestyle. The PCUSA is now setting openly gay men and women as the pastors of their congregations. This marks the collapse of that denomination.

Many other denominations and organizations have been calling the PCUSA to repentance. The bridge has been creaking and shifting for years, but the Church has been unwilling to change.

Verse 2, She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God.

In 1965 a group of concerned people within the PCUSA church organized a magazine called the Layman to confront the rust of false doctrine that was eating away at their church. They were not able to stop the rust.

Almost every year, to no avail, a group of ministers or ruling elders have very publicly stood up within the denomination to call her to repentance.

And a month ago our ARP Synod wrote our final appeal for repentance. This is the letter we sent:

WHEREAS the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America PC(USA) has taken action at its 220th General Assembly to ratify Amendment 10-A,

And WHEREAS Amendment 10-A removes the constitutional requirement that all ministers, elders and deacons live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.”

And WHEREAS this action will allow the ordination of persons such as practicing homosexuals who do not live according to Biblical standards of sexual morality,

And WHEREAS by doing so the PC(USA) has blatantly usurped God’s authority given in His Holy Scriptures,

And WHEREAS the PCUSA is propagating to its congregants the lie that homosexuality is acceptable in God’s sight, defying the truth of the Scriptures, which condemns homosexuality as sin,

THEREFORE in humble acknowledgement of her own shortcomings, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, at its 207th Synod meeting, condemns the action taken by the PC(USA) and implores the PC(USA) to confession, repentance and recantation over this recent action for the sake of the unity, peace, purity and prosperity of the Church of Jesus Christ Universal and Militant.

Verse 4 of our passage. her priests profane what is holy; they do violence to the law. God does not look with indifference at religious leaders who violently bend the laws of God so as not to offend a world in hostility toward God.

This is our last call for repentance as we have now officially removed all connections between our denominations and severed our fraternal communications with the PCUSA.

All of our military Chaplains are officially removed from the PCUSA endorsing board and have been transferred into the RPCNA.

We no longer recognize the PCUSA as a collection of believers being led by Christ. The PCUSA Church is being led by another spirit which is not the Holy Spirit.

We no longer believe that Jesus is the head of that denomination. We are calling on the faithful Christians left in that denomination to leave it.

This is a great lament and sadness. It feels as though a loved one has died. We feel the loss of their fellowship to evangelize the world and be salt and light to the corruption within our city.

The PCUSA denomination has now become our mission field.

Fortunately, our hope was not in a religious denomination.

The book of Revelation says that there is a man, who appears like a God, who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. And He speaks eternal words of peace, mercy and judgment. He can gently fan the flickering light of a broken church into a flame of revival, or by His sovereign will remove a candlestick (church) which becomes corrupt.

Verse 5 of Zephaniah, The Lord within her is righteous; he does no injustice; every morning he shows forth his justice; each dawn he does not fail.

Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus is in the midst of the Church to lead us to holiness and righteousness. Even when church denominations fail, Jesus never fails.

We must keep our eyes on the Son of God, the light of the morning, who lights our feet on the path of true righteousness.

Only by following Jesus will we keep the ARP denomination useful for the Kingdom of God. Only by speaking His truth will we continue to be a light for others.

May we pray that God will grant us all mercy through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Service of the Lord’s Supper followed . . .

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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