“THERE was no breath in them.” There was everything except breath. They were perfectly articulated bodies, but they were devoid of inspiration. The organized bones were as impotent as when they lay scattered over the desolate fields, organization had accomplished nothing. Their lack was a vital one. There was a complete absence of life.
And this, I believe, is the symbol of a common course in the lives of men and the movements of men. Movements always stop short of inspiration; because organizations have no life, and no soul. Our Lord did not come and suffer to found an organization; He came to give life to a whole new organism: the bride of Almighty God. Organizations formed by men, owe their allegiance to men, and those who rule men; they may produce noise and there might even be shaking, but there is no quickening wind from God. There is communication, but no communion. Bone comes to bone, and there are sinews and skin, but there is no breath, no enlivening power from the heart of God.
We may find an illustration of the prophet’s symbolism in the domain of words. A dictionary can easily be thought of as a valley of dry bones. It is a mass of dismembered words scattered like dislocated bones, every word isolated from every other word, lying there bleached and dry. Along comes a fool who thinks himself to be a poet, and he comes to the dictionary, and he begins to gather the words together, bone to his bone. He joins them together, as seems proper; he organizes them in metrical rhymes. Every law of grammar and metre and melody is used and honored. The association is sweet and soft and orderly and-- and quite dead! It is a beautiful corpse, but there is no breath in it; it jingles, but it has no life of the imagination or the spirit; it is not poetry; it is simply an assembledge of dry bones.
This, my friends is the real condition of all state approved churches across this land; and, as a matter of fact, throughout the world. In this church that bears the name of Christ they have everything but the essential thing. They have order and decency and reverence, and the appearance of fraternity. Bone has come to bone, and there may be the sinews and even the flesh and skin, and yet there is no pervading breath, no wondrous and unifying life. They have a congregation, but no fellowship with the Living Redeemer; They have an assembly, but are not of the Body; they have a fellowship roll to call and a mailing list compiled, but few, if any of those whom they count as alive, are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. They are just a crowd, and not the family of the living God.
From this verbal valley of dry bones, they delve repeatedly to gather its words together to construct sermons, and creeds. The words are most carefully shaped and fitted together with exquisite; even holy associations. Word is joined to word in precise succession, and sentence linked to sentence in an exact logical arrangement. It is strengthened with the sinews of philosophy and music, furnished with the flesh of fancy special effects, and covered with the skin of reverant emotion; yet it is only a noise, for there is no life, no inspiration, no aspiration, and no confession of trust -- for there is no breath in them. They say their prayers, but they do not pray -- they marshall and organise their words, but there is no communion. They present before the Lord a corpse in place of the living, breathing Body of Christ.
Inside these assemblies you will find prayers, but no prayer; petitions, but no intercession; posture and homage, but no supplication. They have exquisite ritual, but no holy worship. They have what men call a complete service, and yet it contains nothing of the vital Living Spirit of our faith -- you will see benevolences, but no sacrifice, and the appearance of life, but no shedding of blood. This modern church is quite simply, a well organized corpse.
You might ask, my friends, as many others do, and have done; how did this come about? The Apostle Paul gives us the answer: The god of this world hath blinded their minds. Here is evil influence personified in the tempter, the fallen angel, Satan. And all of his immoral energy and contagious infamy is clearly shown to be an active, aggressive, personal force, which deliberately seeks to dwarf, and bruise, lame, and destroy the souls of men. He is elsewhere depicted as of a princely line, with imposing retinues and armies, moving stealthily amid human affairs, and inciting men to rebellion against the holy sovereignty of God. He is represented as “the prince of the powers of the air,” subtle and persuasive as an lullabye, insinuating himself into the most sacred privacies and invading even the most holy place. He is “the god of this world,” receiving homage and worship from all organizations, powers, and governments of men, however well intentioned, or well endowed. He is the god to whom countless thousands offer their ceaseless sacrifices, while the Lord of all grace and glory is neglected or defied.; and His true lambs are shunned and persecuted, for the Truth that their lives reveal. This ruthless and seductive evil has corrupted our holiest treasure, the house of God; and he blunts and spoils all the higher aspirations of the souls trapped within.
However, my friends, it is much more than a mere entrappment; those within the walls of these churches are, in reality, souls on the open spiritual market; consigned by their spiritual leaders, to another master. They worship, face to face, with the supreme enemy of men's souls. He creates within the assembly, the atmosphere of the market. He proposes a transaction in the nature of an exchange. He suggests a bargain and makes an offer. What are the terms? What does he offer? “The kingdoms of the world and the glory of them.” What does he ask in return? The worship and service of the soul. “If Thou wilt fall down and worship me.” That is to say, he offers a temporality and demands a spiritual eternity. He offers a reputation and demands your character. He offers a great “spread,” but insists upon a stooping and degraded soul. He offers a show of liberty, but his terms are spiritual servitude. He offers possessions, but the price is degradation. He proposes a profitable exchange, and for the treasures of the soul, he offers the treasures of the world. Make him supreme monarch in the empire of the soul, and he will make us kings in material domains. That is the essential bargain.
This, my friends, is the path that these pastors and leaders have chosen for you; you have been marketed, packaged, and delivered. While you thought you were serving and seeking the Living God, you were in fact given over to another master by those you have trusted to guide you. Those of you who hear my words; if you are tied up in one of these congregations, all I can say is to run for your very spiritual lives. They seek your very soul, my friends, as the price for their abundance. If any of the light of God remains in you it is only because they have not gotten to you yet, or they are only slowly feeding as of now. Flee their unholy alliance now, do not stop to pass go and collect your $200, grab the get out of jail card now and run; simply run, that you be not counted among those in Matthew 7, whom the Lord spoke of:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
For these, my friends are among the most forlorn words in all of Scripture, describing the most forsaken group in all creation, those who thought that they knew God, only to find that all their efforts were given over to the prince of the power of the air; and their doom, is therein made complete.