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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Suffering From Malnutrion

I shouldn’t be writing this right now. I should be studying or reading, but in order to keep the masses happy, I will post!

I’ve been meaning to compose these thoughts for about a week now, but the last post had such a positive response (any response at this point would be positive); and I have been participating with the feedbackers. The subject that has been pressing upon me has not just recently sprung up in my mind. This has been weighing on me for some time now, and I would just like to voice my opinion about it. As many of you may already know, I don’t suffer from a lack of opinion on many things; I hope you all can agree with me on this concern, though. I also pray that if the Lord hasn’t already burdened you with this that He will after you ponder the following thoughts.

My concern is the well being of the church in America today. These concerns may well hold true in other countries, but I live in America which mean I only get to see firsthand the results of what I will suggest is the cause in this fine nation. As we notice the things on TV and on the bookshelves at Wal-mart or the local Christian bookstore being produced by televangelists and other mainstream “Christian” pastors (rather, motivational speakers), we may chuckle at the absurdity of the message that those popular authors/entertainers are propagating. I, myself, feel an uncontrollable sense of disgust and even a bit of anger. That anyone would take them seriously is rather absurd, but the fact of the matter is that the businessmen and women producing these materials are becoming very successful as they lead countless souls to hell. I hope we can all get a little angry over these things, but I think we must realize that this is only a result—the symptom of the real problem. Now I want to turn from this point to what I believe is the root of the problem.

I can’t speak for everyone that may be reading this, but I sure would like to be able to stand up in front of the entire population of the U.S. and proclaim the truth of God’s word over against the serious error that is plaguing so-called “Christianity” today. Where have we gone wrong? I know many people would claim that it is due to the masses of “seekers” with “itching ears,” and I would agree to a certain extent. Certainly there are millions of citizens of the United States who are looking for a feel good pill, and they get that prescription filled at the local church; and they also, I’m sure, get their sense of appeasing God done in the process. By the way, I think that apart from the Biblical evidence for elder rule church government the real life evidence is tremendously strong (maybe I’ll cover this in another post). These evidences being granted, I don’t believe that this is the real root problem here—even though I realize that these current events have been prophesied.

The prophecies of end times disaster within the church (which has been evident since the inception of the last days), I believe, are simply giving us an observation of the result of a lack of the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:11-16). Like I said, this is not simply a modern occurrence. Dissenters have been a thorn in the side of the church since the very beginning, BUT what are the local churches doing to secure their borders from them and send out troops? Since Paul was traveling this planet planting churches all over the known world false teachers have been pushing their own agendas (rather, Satan’s). And there have been those great heroes of the past who have stood up against them here and there, but what is the realistic solution to our problem? Should we sit back and watch the John MacArthur’s and James Whites of this country confront and refute the false teachers while we applaud the Lord for the work that they’re doing, or do we step up and do the work that we were called to do?

Whether we openly admit it or have even taken the time to think through it or not, we all can recognize the fact that if each pastor took the time to continue to learn in order to teach their sheep the deeper things of the faith we would be a much healthier church. Some pastors would say, “My people wouldn’t understand these things and it would just confuse them.” I say, “Maybe YOU’RE confused over these things, and if not, it’s YOU’RE job to make them UNconfused.” I’m pretty sure that, as a pastor, you are called to teach DOCTRINE, right? Here’s a good verse for the pastor: “He (the overseer/pastor/elder) must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Tit 1:9 ESV) We also read in Hebrews an admonition to progress beyond the elementary teachings of the faith in order that we may seek to know the deeper things of Christ (Heb. 6:1-2). These admonitions are given to those who have “their powers of discernment trained” (Heb. 5:14). “See!” the pastor says, “The deeper things are not for those without discernment!” But when we read the next part of the verse we are told that the one who has discernment obtains this “…by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” How do they practice this art? By having their minds transformed by the word. I don’t think I’ll have any disagreement there, will I?

Back home we had an instance when a man who had attended our church for years wrote a book denying the deity of Christ and the veracity of Scripture tried to, and I believe he succeeded, turn people away from the faith. At this point, my dad (who is the pastor) preached a masterful sermon refuting the book, and many were more grounded in their faith as a result. I praise the Lord for that; and this is an example of something that is necessary, but I believe that the refutations and training in the Scriptures should be a constant--in every church. Some of you may be blessed to attend a church that does confirm the major doctrines of the faith and supplement them with Scriptural exposition demonstrating these truths on a regular basis which is outstanding, but in my experience that kind of teaching is scarce.

What are we afraid of? We should be afraid of answering to God for the shoddy job of shepherding that we’re doing. Why are some pastors not continuing their education? Why don’t we teach our people about the great heroes of the past and the errors and accomplishments that marked their lives? Why don’t we proclaim the truths that the Holy Spirit has taught the church over the years from His word? Why don’t we supply our people with responses to the cults when they come knocking? Why don’t we encourage our people to witness to them instead of slamming the door in their faces? Why are we living like practical atheists and not fearfully working out our salvation and being salt and light? Why are preachers fashioning sermons that are merely motivational speeches to encourage the people emotionally instead of equipping them spiritually for battle in this evil world?

The world is a very dangerous place for Christ’s sheep. The appointed shepherds of the flock must be toiling relentlessly to prepare and protect them from the opposition. We need not point the finger at anyone, and indeed we cannot until we take the beams out of our eyes and live up to the highest calling ever achievable in this life that has been given to us. One day we will all meet our gloriously wonderful and merciful Savior. Imagine the intense heart breaking anguish you will experience if He not only lacks to tell you “Well done,” but He shakes His head at you and tells you how disappointing it was to watch you pass over every opportunity to bless the people He left in your care.


SBC said...

There was once a band of brothers on a journey. The route they took was called, by some, "prayer path;" by others, "sanctification street;" by others, "righteousness road;" by others, "love lane;" and by others, "worship way." In reality, it was all of these things.

One day, somewhere around mile marker 1900, a segment of the group turned their backs on the others, and began to attack them. Out came the shovels, and the faithful began to dig a trench.

The warfare raged on for a long time. The entrenched group would not leave the trench, except on occasion to spy out the enemy, so that they could return and write articles for everybody else to say "Amen!" to.

After many years, some of the entrenched began to say that they would like to continue down "worship way" or "love lane" or whatever you like to call it. The older folks strictly warned them that, "That would be a dangerous thing to do, indeed! We're in the heat of battle, and all attention must be turned to the enemy, and 'love lane' could lead you in a dangerous direction!"

"But isn't that the journey we started on?" some asked. "Isn't making it down the road... the point?"
"We are too busy defending the road!" came the response.
One young man paused, then asked, "What is the point of defending the road, if that defense keeps us from ever traveling it?"

SBC said...

I do not want to be misunderstood. Everything you said was right on the money--absolutely correct.

...probably more helpful to some circles than others...

Some people desperately need to hear the call that you've sounded; others have heard that call so long that they can think of nothing else.

Michael.Gabriel said...

I think I just might be misunderstanding you, SBC. Do you mean to say that it is not necessary to focus on preaching Christ-centered messages from the word and informing people of the essential doctrines contained in these messages? Are we to simply love everyone by encouraging them from our people-centered messages instead of equipping them for battle. I was sure that I indicated that pastors should be equipping their people for offensive work and not just defensive.

Let me know if I'm misunderstanding something. I meant to issue a call (for the few that might read this) to our fellow siblings in Christ to get their people ready to go into the thick of the battle--not to hole up in their bunkers and wait for the rapture.

SBC said...

My real point is that battle, whether offensive or defensive, is not the supreme point. It's a necessary evil until Christ puts all things under His feet.

I'm not accusing you of this, but I've met people who I honestly believe would be unhappy in a world without battle. People whose Christianity consists in its defense or offense, more than in its Christ.

Is there a thrill in battle? Sure. Is it awesome to think of Christ as conquering King, whose wisdom trumps the foolishness of this world? Absolutely. But remember, the world as God originally designed it was not battle torn-- the Kingship of God was unchallenged, and people were happier than they've ever been since, or ever will be until we see Christ.

Battle is not the point. It is a necessary evil which we enter into as is necessary along our journey down "prayer path," "love lane," "worship way," etc.

You asked, Are we to simply love everyone by encouraging them from our people-centered messages instead of equipping them for battle?

People-centered messages are not loving, because they distract people from what will make them supremely happy--Jesus.
"Equipping them for battle" is necessary in a fallen world, and pastors must do it. But while engaging in battle, set your affections on the world to come, in which there will be no battle, but only Christ, Who is all in all.

Michael.Gabriel said...

I think that I have failed to include the fact that I believe it is evident that we are witnessing people-centered messages from our pulpits that are masked as Christ-centered messages. Do you understand what I'm trying to say? The message will be based on a particular Bible verse, yet there is no depth. We can pick out sporadic verses from about ten different Bible books that are covering the same basic topic, but our focus is not Christ; our focus is the felt need of a particular family or church member that we understand is going through some hard times. Obviously, we should take part in our peoples' lives, but from the pulpit we should be focusing on our Savior and knowing Him. This is what will keep us comforted in times of need, right? If we know the character of our God, we are never in need. We can rely on Him. Yes, we need friendship and fellowship, but I think you know what I mean.

In my next post I'll try to cover what I believe is a specific outcome of the meager rations of the word that we're getting from our pulpits today. I hope to clear up some loose ends from this article. I actually didn't go into the depth that I planned because I thought we could hash it out in the responses, but it's probably necessary to elaborate further on this subject.

By the way, I don't think that I personally am dissatisfied without a battle to fight, but I have a hard time walking away from a situation in which I see a problem without suggesting a solution. I've heard that this is the way that men are wired, but I may suffer from some other unnamed complex.

SBC said...

Haha, of course you suffer from some unnamed complex... we've all known that for as long as we've know you!

I'm just kidding with you.

Yes, it is inherent in men to fix problems and embrace battle.

Btw, God sovereignly planned battle into His story. It is glorious, because His glory is uniquely displayed in His triumph over His enemies.

All I'm saying is that battle is no more than a part of our faith, a necessary evil in a fallen world, a way (among other ways) to glorify God, and completely pointless if not fueled by a passion for the supremacy of Christ in all things.

Those who make battle their true love, and sum total of their faith, are in the wrong.
But so are those cowards who shy away from battle because they're more passionate about their reputation than Christ's reputation; investing more in their convenience than in Christ's cause.

Michael.Gabriel said...

SBC, what do you make of Ephesians 6:13-20?

Michael.Gabriel said...

6:11-20, that is...

SBC said...

Good passage.

We should battle.

We should love Jesus more than we love battle.

We should battle out of love for Jesus, and for the glory of Jesus.

Our love for Jesus, and intent to glorify Jesus, should also express themselves ways other than battle, too.

Michael.Gabriel said...

I never said that that shouldn't be our driving force. This topic just happens to be focused on one particular aspect that is just as necessary as the others.

Remember when you reminded me that the body of Christ is made up of different members? Same basic idea. Don't shy away from the uncomfortable topics. They have just as much validity as the others.

I will admit that I tend to be focused on this particular aspect, but I can't ignore the crimes that are occurring in the church today. Do you not agree that we need to stay on top of our responsibilities? I think that it is pretty evident that when we neglect to stay diligent in the area of doctrine the church is taken in a direction that no follower of Christ who realizes the weight of son and the grace and power of Jesus Christ can let go by the wayside in the form of watered down preaching. Take a look at history. Some pretty massive mistakes have been made, and we're committing some pretty heinous acts if we let this go on any further in silence.

SBC said...

You're right. I over-reacted.

I think that we both believe what the other is saying, we're just emphasizing different things...

But yes, I should not react to your call to battle. It is important.

Dramatized Exegesis