Monday, July 25, 2005

Wanted: A Few Good Men – Can You Handle the Truth?

The Pyromaniac has been posting a series on the state of the Evangelical church. The articles are right on target with defining the key problems in evangelicalism. Many of us have been bombarded with the latest trends and fads being thrust on us from the pulpit of many of our churches. I don’t know about everyone else, but I am getting quite fed up with the nonsense.

Evangelicalism is in urgent need of a return to biblical truth and biblical ministry. We desperately need a return to the truth of Scripture, but it will require men to take a firm stand and exercise discernment, employing sound wisdom and judgment guided by God’s truth. What we need are a few good men like the men of Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12, who had a keen understanding of the times in which they lived.

“32 of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command;” (1 Chronicles 12:32, NKJV™).

These were men who understood the times in which they lived and could provide Israel with sound judgment and guidance in order to win the battle at hand. This was not a case where they were trying to find ways to engage in pragmatism, attempting to blend Israel with the culture of their day. Not long ago, I herd someone imply this in a dire attempt to justify a pragmatic approach to ministry in reference to adapting to the postmodern culture. In fact, the preacher went so far as to say that the men of Issachar probably dressed in the “garb” of the day, with the implication that they were focused on trying to engage the culture. I thought to myself, “Well of course they dressed in the garb of the day, what else do you think they wore”. But I doubt that the men of Issachar were scoping out the culture to adopt the coolest fashion of that time to prove that they were as hip as everyone else. If you could imagine the men of Issachar cruising around the countryside, saying “Hey, gettin’ phat for God”! People in every generation dresses in the basic fashion of the day. Look at paintings of Jonathan Edwards or pictures of Charles Spurgeon. They all dressed in the “garb” of the day. I hate it when preachers really push the text of Scripture to try and make it support the latest fads, trends or gimmickry. Unfortunately, with the lack of discernment today, most people just sit back and think “Wow that was profound.” But the men of Issachar were not focused on fads or gimmickry. Their thoughts were centered on the battle at hand and were keenly aware of the challenges and dangers they faced. They knew how to guide Israel in troubled times as they prepared to engage in battle. Today, we too, should be focused on the battle for truth. I am not advocating that we should drop evangelism and the mission of making disciples in order to devote all of our time in constant battle over every minor issue at hand. But the type of error that exists today threatens the purity of the gospel message that people desperately need to hear. Furthermore, the church is threatened by “wolves” that are ready to devour the flock of God with their aberrant teaching. The issues are not minor, but critical. The church is faced with everything from liberalism, “seeker-sensitive” pragmatism, the Word-Faith debacle, and the latest, the Emerging Church movement that in many respects is nothing more than repackaged liberalism. More than ever before, we need to understand the times and be willing to battle for the faith.

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3, NKJV™)

The term “contend earnestly”, means to literally do battle. This is not exactly a pleasant thing to do and is often quite grueling. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was keenly aware of this since he fought vehemently against the errors that were creeping into the church in his day. He even experienced rejection from his own brother due to his stand for the truth.

“Controversy is never a very happy element for the child of God: he would far rather be in communion with his Lord than be engaged in defending the faith, or in attacking error. But the soldier of Christ knows no choice in his Master's commands. He may feel it to be better for him to lie upon the bed of rest than to stand covered with the sweat and dust of battle; but, as a soldier, he has learned to obey, and the rule of his obedience is not his personal comfort, but his Lord's absolute command. The servant of God must endeavour to maintain all the truth which his Master has revealed to him, because, as a Christian soldier, this is part of his duty. But while he does so, he accords to others the liberty which he himself enjoys.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Address at the Tabernacle, 1861

What we need today are more men of this caliber who are willing to engage in battle with discernment of the times and understand the strategy the church should take in light of the dangers being faced. There is nothing wrong with understanding the culture in which we live, in fact it can help us get an idea of the magnitude of the challenges that we face and how to navigate the dangerous waters. Understanding the culture can give us insight concerning the challenges of communicating with the people of this generation. I am not advocating totally ignoring the culture. This is indeed a part of “understanding the times”. But pursuing the challenge to communicate with the culture should never interfere with or alter the message, nor should it take preeminence over the proclamation of truth. For example, since people in our culture today do not like to be told they are wrong and do not seem to respond well to propositional truth, we are told that we should avoid those things when communicating with people of this generation. Scripture teaches that we are to do otherwise.

“2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4, NKJV™)

The word “preach” is translated from the Greek word “kerusso”, which means to proclaim something openly, verbally, with authority, an urgent message that needs to be heeded and obeyed. This is to take place regardless of what the culture wants. Just focusing on engaging in a philosophy that seems to draw a crowd is deceiving. Numeric results marked with emotionalism and sentimentality is not a good indicator of success in reaching the culture. The real test is whether those who profess to be followers continue to walk with Christ, keeping His Word. (John 8:31)(1 John 2:24) The pursuit of pragmatism causes us to circumvent the truth of God. It only clouds the message of Scripture and weakens the church. It muddles the message of the gospel, so much that the world gets a distorted view of God. Certainly, some methods of delivering the message can change over time. For example, we are now utilizing the power of the internet in order to proclaim the truth of God’s Word. Television and radio have been used for many years. There is nothing wrong with utilizing new methods as long as those methods do not alter or distract from the proclamation of God’s truth. The methods must harmonize with the message, not detract from it.

We have been informed by the church growth experts for more than a decade that we need to treat people as consumers, being sensitive to their “felt” needs. The implication is that we can entertain and coax people into the Kingdom of God. But according to Barna research, while the population has only increased 15% since 1991, the number of the “unchurched” has increased by an astounding 92%! You would think that the church would learn that it just is not working. It is interesting that in Barna’s article, he admits that “Stirring worship music won’t attract them because worship isn’t even on their radar screen.” and “Church events cannot effectively compete with what the world has to offer.” But here is a statement made by Bill Easum of “21st Century Stategies”, claiming that we need to engage the “unchurched” in worship. This is from an article by Easum outlining his observation of the trends for the 21st Century church.

“focuses worship primarily on what a person experiences about God instead of what a person learns about God. This trend is confirmed by the growing unchurched, biblically illiterate, ethically void, population growing up outside of the influence of Christianity. Their basic need is to experience the presence (immanence) of God, not to be educated about God or the church. Emphasis is placed on stirring the heart and emotions, not educating the head.”

The Church of the 21st Century” by William M. Easum

But man in his unsaved state lacks any ability to worship God. The natural man is dead in his sins and trespasses, and cannot seek God or do anything to please God. (Romans 8:5-8; 1 Corinthians 2:14)

Because the church has so neglected the truth of God’s Word, people in the church lack discernment to ward off false teaching. The influx of false teaching can be likened to disease that enters the body due to the failure of the body’s immune system. When there is a total breakdown, the body is left vulnerable to any disease that may attack it. The condition is called AIDS. John MacArthur preached a two-part series some time ago entitled “Spiritual AIDS”, where he likened the spiritual condition of the church to the human malady called AIDS. It has been awhile since I listened to that message, but I recall him saying that as with the physical condition, when the body loses the ability to ward of disease, it is usually not AIDS itself that kills the person. It is usually the other diseases that the body cannot defend itself against that does it in. This is a good analogy of the condition that threatens the church today. Due to a shallow understanding of God's Truth, Christians today lack the level of discernment necessary to distinguish between truth and error. Consequently, the church is becoming plagued with various sorts of doctrinal "disease".

Paul instructed Timothy to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”(2 Timothy 2:15, NASB®). The way that we can be approved of God is by handling the Word of God with great care, striving to interpret it with precision and accuracy. Until leadership in today’s church takes this message to heart, the church will continue to falter. What the church needs today is for more men to step up to the plate who are willing to properly and accurately handle the Word of God and boldly proclaim it.


Chris P. said...

I can't add much more than, Amen.
I enjoy your posts as they are thorough, thoughtful, and Biblical.
Be encouraged in your work. This is much needed.

AuthenticTruth said...

Chris, Thanks for the encouraging comment,I certainly appreciate it.