February 1, 1991 Issue
by Johnny Elmore

With increasing frequency, there comes yet another report of a disciple who has left the Lord and the church. Often the excuse given is some disillusionment, some discouragement, some blight (real or imagined), or some attraction of the world. The kingdom of God is not counted of greater value than some momentary pleasure, some honor of men, or some worldly gain. The sadness felt in the hearts of those left behind to forge ahead must he exceeded only by the pain in the heart of the dear Son of God, who watched the rich young ruler depart in the tong ago and remarked, "Children, how hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God" (Mark 11:24). The demand that Jesus made of the rich young ruler seems excessive to many today. He said, "Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and comer follow me" (Lk 18:22)., The apostles had already made that decision. Peter said, in response to Jesus' teaching, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?" (Matt 19:27).

That's a legitimate question, isn't it? Jesus assured Peter that the apostles would "sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt 19:28). I understand that to be a metaphorical reference to the apostles' prerogative to speak to all questions of faith and practice in the kingdom. Jesus continued to say that "everyone" who had forsaken material things for his sake would receive "an hundredfold" (Matt 19:29), "in this present time" (Luke 18:30). Can't you and I honestly say that we have gained far more than we have ever lost for Christ? Do we not have more relatives in Christ (brothers and sisters) than we have ever had to forsake? But even if that were not true, Jesus then mentions the greatest prospect: "And in the world to come life everlasting" (Luke 18:30). What a glorious hope!


It is not uncommon to find plenty of critics who are ready to charge the church and its members with failure. They charge that the church is full of hypocrites and pretenders; that there is a lack of love; that the preachers dominate the churches and the people love to have it so; that there is not enough zeal, or emotion, etc. Has Christianity failed?

No, many pretenses at Christianity have failed, but it is not right to judge all Christians and all preachers by a few anomalies we may have met. It would not be fair to select a scrawny little nubbin from a corn farmer's crop and show it to all his neighbors and say, 'This is the kind of corn he raises." It would not be right to judge all bankers by one embezzler that you have heard of, or all physicians by one "quack" that you know. Neither is it fair to judge all Christians by one hypocrite, all congregations by one weak group, or all preachers by one unscrupulous charlatan. I personally know many saints who have lived victorious Christian lives. I personally know many congregations that diligently serve God and still have not accepted the innovations that many feel are so necessary. I personally know many preachers who have lived lives of sacrifice --men who have loved Jesus so much that they have turned their backs on fortune and have never looked back I do not deny that there may have been pretenders along the way in all three categories, but that only proves that there is a genuine article somewhere.

Among the recent criticisms I have read is one that says that the church is declining numerically at a time that it should be growing because of the baby boom. The critic says that if the members of the church were more earnest, exhibited more love, were more broad-minded (especially), would rely upon grace more, and that if the preachers were not so dogmatic, did not insist upon church attendance and following the pattern so much -- then what? The church would grow? Too bad the critic wasn't around to instruct Jesus when He demanded that his disciples eat his flesh and drink his blood (John 6:53,54). After all, that hard, dogmatic preaching drove his crowd away. John records, "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." (John 6:66). That's right! They left and never came back.

The price for being a Christian is high, but it costs much more to be a sinner. Jesus set the price for discipleship at a level above the dearest things of earth. He said, "If any man came to see me, and hate not (love not less) his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). To walk with Jesus is not easy, if viewed from the perspective of the world, but to walk away from Jesus is more difficult. Solomon said: "The way of transgressors is hard" (Prov 13:15).


In making sacrifices for Jesus, nothing of real value is lost because they are only those things that would eventually be lost anyway. How tragic and needless to see the treasures of earth slip from our grasp and have nothing whatever in store to take their place. If the teaching of Jesus will cause one person to be saved, then his mission was not a failure, because that which would save one soul would save every soul if the same conditions were met. There was no doubt in Paul's mind when he spoke of the "crown of righteousness" laid up for him, but available to all who "love his appearing" II Tim 4:7,8). Paul counted as worthless all the things he renounced to preach Christ.

In the year ahead, bright with prospect, let us not be dismayed by the trials and disappointments of life nor confused by the critics and their jangling religious theories. Those who have determined to "walk by faith and not by sight" (II Cor 5:7), are living testimonies that a life with Jesus pays dividends greater by far than the sacrifice required.

Other OPA Article Links:

The Church
Falling Away

Johnny Elmore
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