One of the greatest problems in the Church today is what I would call The Three Stooges. These are things that rise up and hit leaders and Christians right between the eyes and often destroy our witness for the Lord. Much like Moe would poke Curly in the eyes while Larry stood by and watched. It is time to stop standing by and watching like Larry did and step up – speak up for the Christian faith as once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).
The three of them are compromise, carnality, and character. I will blog about one at a time. Part One – Compromise.
In out attempt to be relevant and to “please people” and reach out and touch our cities and towns we are often tempted to tweak the truth to make it more acceptable. I don’t see Jesus ever doing that. I am reminded of Paul’s comment that we are to please God and not work at pleasing man – because you can’t do both at the same time. I think back to the time that I use to do that – and I’m embarrassed.
I once compromised the truth of scriptures – or didn’t preach the whole truth – so that I could build a big church. My mentor of over 30 years has a favourite saying: It is easy to draw a crowd or run a three-ring circus – but it is difficult to build a Church. He is right. As soon as you have to bring up the other part of the truth you were conveniently ignoring or avoiding or watering down – the people you attracted by being “people friendly” or “guest speaker-special event” centered – will simply leave declaring that you have become legalistic or controlling. When, in reality, you are simply “declaring the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God” even if for the first time.
We tend today to compromise the truth in three areas – sex, salvation, and scripture.
SEX – God clearly defines sex as being only for one man and one woman committed to oneness through marriage. Try that in a public arena and see how long it flies before it is shot down. In fact, I dare you – try that in your Church and see if it flies. Here where I minister most churches (and church leaders) either accept same sex marriages (it has been legal in my nation for a few years) – some officiating at them (or else risk being taken to court) – or simply ignoring the whole issue maybe hoping it will go away. Seldom will you hear a teaching on the topic because, I suspect, many of the couples in the church are sleeping together when not married, almost all have children before thinking of marriage, and others are into the gay lifestyle. Thus to not compromise on the topic of sex means we will upset many who give financially and thus we won’t have a large church (my own local church is relatively small but it does proclaim the truth without compromise).
In my nation – to speak against the homosexual lifestyle or gay marriages publicly – especially if you use scriptures to back up your teaching – you can be taken to the Human Rights Commission as you are reading “hate literature” and so can be convicted of a hate crime against humanity.
Our local paper had a follow-up article on a Marriage Commissioner who did refuse a gay mariage due to religious beliefs and lost the court case (blogged in May 2008) – his beliefs are not protected obviously under the the Saskatchewan Human Rights Codes (or the national one) while the rights of gays are (more on that in another blog this week – “Born Again Christians Are Not Humans”)
In many churches today there is a serious compromise regarding SALVATION. Ask most Christians and they have absolutely no idea how to be born again – their churches teach “another gospel and another Jesus” as Paul would say. In fact, I would say they don’t even know that they need to be born again or saved as they are taught that God, who is love, loves everyone and that everyone is going to Heaven (Universalism).
But worse still, ask most born again believers what is necessary or needed to be born again (you know, godly sorrow, repentance…) and you will get a blank look because they simply don’t know. They may be saved (and maybe not) but they are clueless how to explain the gospel of salvation to others or lead others to the Lord.
With the gospel according to Oprah and the gospel according to Dr. Phil making major inroads into the Christian faith we need to remind our people constantly that salvation is only through Jesus – and the real Jesus as seen in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – not the one being preached by the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses and those born again Christians who follow angels, dreams, and personal experiences that don’t line up with Bible teachings.
SCRIPTURE is also another area of compromise. We either believe the Bible is God’s Word or we don’t. As soon as we remove any part of the Word of God then we open the door to everyone and their uncle taking out whatever part they don’t like. So, it is either the inerrant and inspired Word of God or it is not.
Example – Adam and Eve were not real people but simply a cute way to explain to uneducated and superstitious people the beginnings of humankind – so we have two fairytales to choose from obviously – this Bible one or the one evolutionists proclaim as truth. However, once you remove Adam and Eve as real people with real sin isues – you don’t have original sin. So, then you don’t need a Saviour to save you from this sinful condition. That’s good because, we are told, Mary was not a classic ‘virgin’ as that word simply means “teenager”. So, now Jesus is not God incarnate but simply the child of an unwed mother – a great teacher and moral example (unless, of course, he is a homosexual). But, that’s okay because we don’t need a Saviour because there is no original sin thus no spiritual darkness to be rescued from. This quickly leads to – no such thing as a Devil and thus no Hell to be avoided and no Heaven to be gained. (In short form – the journey my original denomination went in less than 25 years).
Yesterday I preached on the reality of Hell – and a former United Church ordained minister (in the U.S.A. United methodist) came up and declared that when he was preaching in his denomination that he preached that Hell did not exist … and now that he is preaching as a born again, Spirit-filled believer he is ashamed of his past but preaching the biblical gospel… I rest my case!
We need to understand that scripture is our only source for faith and practice. That the Bible contains absolute truths (like the Ten Commandments or the Moral law) by which we are to live. These absolute truths are being challenged today – not by the world as they usually just ignore us – but by sincere believers as they attempt to relevantly reach out to a world that rejects God because of these tenents … or they are simply trying to excuse their own lack of Christian behaviour.
We need to stay faithful to the truth as contained in God’s Word – our Bible – as we adapt our methods – not our message – to the society and people we are trying to reach.
Well, that the first of three “stooges” …