I am reminded of a couple of stories Dr. W.A. Criswell preached in a sermon entitled, “Christ and the City Church.” He cited the spiritual condition of the church down through history, and the need for revival in the church today. There were seasons of revival, and seasons of decline.

One night, a fire had broken out in the historic old church in the village. Years and years of history, and memories were going up in smoke. The few parishioners gathered around, weeping, broken-hearted, watching as their sacred place of worship was dissolving into an ash heap.

The old drunk, who at one time, had been a respectable citizen of the community, and had slipped into the services many years earlier was asked, “What are you doing standing here watching the church burn?”

The drunk replied, “Well, this is the first time I’ve seen the church on fire.”

Another story involved an organ grinder in a small village, who played his tunes on the streets, while his trained monkey took a tin cup and collected coins from those who gathered to listen. Late one evening, in frigid weather, the monkey spotted an open door to a building and decided to go in and search for a warm place.

The organ grinder became alarmed and summoned several to spread out in an effort to find the monkey. Finally, someone found him, literally frozen to death, trying to warm himself in front of what he thought was a fire in a fireplace. But it was a painted fire on a painted screen.

This illustrates the condition of apostate churches today. There is form, and dignity and perhaps beautiful music in the church. Yet it is spiritually dead. For many, it has been ages since they heard the gospel being preached and felt the Spirit of God reigned. People sometimes come to church to try to find spiritual warmth, but the apostasy and cold formalism spiritually froze them.

The sad reality is, many are attending church today, looking for warmth, and looking for a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, and His people. But they walk away, realizing that they were just sitting before a painted fire on a painted screen.

May we pray as the psalmist prayed, “Wilt thou not revive us again that thy people may rejoice in thee?”

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Paul Gauntt currently serves as the pastor of First Baptist Church of Palmer.