WHERE ARE WE HEADED?
September 1, 1986 Issue
by Paul O. Nichols
The question under consideration may not be of much concern to a lot of the nominal members of the church. But it certainly should be of interest and concern to all Christians who are really trying to do the will of God.
The Way Of Least Resistance
It is natural for things and people to take the way of least resistance. Water always runs downhill, and people degenerate who are not willing to put forth an effort to do otherwise. In spiritual things Jude says, "Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints" (Ju 3). And Paul says, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph 5:11). Again he says, "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life" (1 Tim 6:12). Such scriptures show that Christians are to resist error and sin, and fight for that which is right. Paul writes to Timothy, "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Tim 2:3).
Standards Are Lowered
In congregations where brethren seek peace at any cost, and are afraid to teach, or allow preachers to speak on certain Bible subjects, you will find the standard of Christianity going down. Individuals and churches are "rooted and grounded in the faith" though firm doctrinal teaching. "Contending for the faith" is the only way to maintain the Bible standard.
"The Truth Shall Make You Free"
Jesus our Lord said, "If ye continue in may word, then are you my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and truth shall make you free" (Jno 8:31, 31). But Paul predicted, "...The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine but after their own lust shall they heap unto themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Tim 4:3,4). The word "fable" is from "muthos" (Gr) which carries with it the idea of fiction or myth. The time would come when some would rather listen to stories than to hear God's word preached. Fun and games are more interesting to many than sound doctrine or truth. In some places more want to be entertained than to hear the word of God. Paul calls it, "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God." He says, "they will not endure sound doctrine" and "they shall turn away their ears from the truth." The apostle says such people would heap those up to satisfy their fancies, or in other words, give them what they want. Popularity is hard to resist; it is only natural for one to want to be accepted or liked and especially when his likelihood depends on it. One of our own preachers said sometime ago, "I used to give them what they need. Now I give them what they want." (He is no longer with us, but had gone off with error.) But the attitude to some members in the brotherhood encourage this.
The Standard For Selecting Preachers
In the early days of the church men who preached the gospel put their lives "on the line." The apostle Paul said the Holy Spirit informed him that in every city "bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:23,24). Listen to him again, "But as we are allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts" (1 Thes 2:4).
Paul was a preacher with a purpose. His mission after accepting Jesus as the Savior was to save souls. He said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom 1:16). Again, "Christ sent me...to preach the gospel" (I Cor 1:17). Also, "Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor 4:1,2).
I am convinced that there are some congregations in this day and time that would not call the apostle Paul, if he were alive, to come and work with them, or even ask him to hold them a meeting, because he would keep back nothing that was profitable to them, nor would he shun to declare all the counsel of God (Acts 20:26, 27). The reason Paul would not be welcome is because of the standard some churches have set for themselves. "We will get so and so. He won't preach on this or that (long hair, sin, worldliness, racial prejudice, cup question, Sunday School question, immodest apparel, divorce and remarriage, denominationalism, recreation in the church, innovations in religion, church discipline, ad nauseam)." One preacher before going to preach on the west coast is reported to have said, "I am not getting on anything that will get me in trouble in California." (Paul would preach on anything that would help prepare people to meet the Lord in judgment.) With this attitude, where are we headed?
Then there are some congregations who listen to gossip and slander against preachers with whom they are not even acquainted. And without investigation to see if what they have heard is the truth, make the decision that they will never have this or that preacher come to hold them a meeting or work with them. What is told may stem from some personal difference, or the basis may be professional jealousy or envy, which uncontrolled, are wrong in themselves. Brethren, don't partake of other men's sins by believing just anything you hear about preachers. You may be depriving yourselves and the congregations where you are of the ability and knowledge of faithful men who could really benefit the cause of Christ where you live, were it not for the prejudice you have.
When you do get a preacher to come hold a meeting or to work with you for a longer period of time, why not demand the high standard of preaching that the Lord does, and that they not shun to declare all the counsel of God? If this were done, don't you know that we preachers would be more careful to be like the apostle Paul and keep back nothing that is profitable to the hearers. Preachers would not specialize in certain subjects to the exclusion of others. We would be more inclined to preach all the will of God without fear or favor. And instead of churches and brethren looking for preachers who will not preach on certain things, start seeking only for those who are not afraid to preach on anything that is needed regardless of attitude and feelings. When this happens, then the church will be strong and the standard raised and maintained where it ought to be, and where it was when Christ first gave it, and where it was when the apostles were still alive.
If attitudes don't change, I wonder where we are headed.
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