ADOSS blog: Defending the Glad Tidings – The Gospel is under Attack

I have only recently come to realise how much the glad tidings are under attack.  In the past few weeks several things forced themselves on me. I had drafted a blog on the subject: Know about God or Know God.  I may come back to this later – but this is more urgent.

Four things:

 

The Church Leader

For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come (Heb 13:14).

But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep (John 10:12-13).

We went to an ‘open garden’ at the residence of a senior clergyman.  The weather was perfect, and the gardens, specially the roses, were beautiful. We had the obligatory tea and cakes – very tasty.  As we left, the curate himself was standing at the entrance shaking hands.  I said to him, ‘You’ve created a paradise on earth; you won’t want to leave.’  He smiled and demurred, but really accepted what I said.  I said, ‘Are you trying to make things better here’. To which he replied, ‘Of course!’  My retort:  ‘Jesus died for my sins, and He is coming soon.  I don’t want to stay here; I want to be with Him.’ He was at a loss what to say – my wife was flabbergasted.  ‘Not even a recognition of the Lord.’

I looked at one of his recent sermons.  He was arguing for hope for the vulnerable, admitting that they would have hope if Jesus had turned their lives around.  Did our friend himself have hope?.  He needs our prayers.

 

The Charismatic Church

 

 Neither . . . foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. . . .Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.(Eph 5:4-7)

I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30)

A brother was talking to me about his daughter who belonged to an apostolic charismatic church which insisted on the overriding words of its leaders. Earlier he had been attended the church too.  One of the sect’s leaders told him, ‘You obey your house group leader rather than the bible’. That finished him.

He had seen other churches like that – attractive in many ways, re-baptising more and more members especially amongst the young who liked the happy, uninhibited atmosphere and the music.  It was satisfying to the flesh, but not to God.  They say, ‘You need Jesus as your friend’. Little mention is made of sin, repentance, and the precious blood, though they do mention the risen Saviour.  Money is important.  I understand a leader said in his sermon, ‘If any of you have not signed a covenant for £X to be given to this church each week, you cannot be members and need to check you are believers’.   What part of scripture does that idea come from?  Oh yes! ‘I am not like other men; I tithe everything I gain!’ (Luke 18:12).

I am reminded of the recent sermon by Bishop Michael Curry at the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  On one side it was a positive message of the love of God.  But behind that is the suggestion of ‘All you need is love’ – a theme popularised in the 1960’s by John Lennon and the Hindu seeking Beetles.  There may have been an acknowledgment that Jesus died, but not of repentance and faith in the blood.

They talk of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Is it really of the Spirit, and is it baptised to the death of the Lord?

 

Formalism and Legality

 

Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they (Acts 15:10-11).

 

Rules of the Church! (Canon Law)

This is something that has dogged the church from its earliest days.  The early believers were almost entirely Jewish: they were brought up under the law of Moses and took it into Christianity, and insisted that Gentiles kept the law too.  Peter, a previously devout Jew, whom Paul had once to withstand, was clear to them in the above account of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15.

The flesh is content when there are boundaries, with liberty to do what we like within them.  A child is brought up that way.  Are we to remain children?  Paul’s most severe condemnation was on those who would bring persons back under bondage (see the whole book of Galatians).

The Roman Catholic Church is, of course, the clearest example of legalism – and with that formalism, where so many features of the Jewish system migrated into a new quasi-Christian form of worship – priests, altars, vestments etc. Persons are kept unsure of salvation, and the fear of purgatory holds them in bondage.  If only they knew the scriptures; if only they knew the Saviour!

But we see it closer to home.  What started in the early 1800’s as a simple movement of believers under the Spirit of God, gathering separately to the Lord’s name forsaking formalism and legality appear to have split into several groups with some of this legalistic line of thinking.  Why is it that as soon as liberty comes in, dear believers want (with the best of intentions) to mount a rear-guard action as to ‘standards slipping’.  No one would doubt that the flesh wants licence – but let us present Christ.  Be like Him; keep near Him.  If the state amongst Christians is to be raised, present Jesus.

 

Liberalism and Political Correctness

They glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.  Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen (Romans 1:21-25).

Much has been written about this.  Militant secularists and humanists, supported by the media and many politicians have put acceptance of moral corruption and unholy relationships above God’s law.  Confronting this can result in prosecution.  Cases have been numerous.

Conclusion

Frederick Raven wrote ‘The gospel is very little understood by many believers. The defect is in preaching the benefitsof Christ’s death instead of CHRIST Himself. If anyone asked me what the gospel was, I should say, ‘CHRIST’ (Address on ‘The Gospel’ – FER’s Ministry Vol 14 page 157)

J B Stoney wrote in a letter, ‘I am more and more convinced that the real check to our spiritual growth is from some defect in infancy — an imperfect apprehension of the gospel. The death of Christ and all involved in it must be entered into before the value and greatness of the resurrection can be estimated.’ ( Discipline of the Servant No. 4 Letters vol. 1 page 190)

But let’s be thankful wherever the gospel is preached – God can use anything:  Paul wrote, ‘I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. . . .But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; so that. . . [I am] much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife, and some also of good will; the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds; but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice (Phil 1:7-18).

 

What do you think?  As always I value your comment either by email or by, better still, by leaving a comment on http://www.adayofsmallthings.com

 

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In grace, your brother

Sosthenes Hoadelphos

 

June 2018

 

PS – My previous letter on ‘Eternal Punishment’ attracted much less comment than usual.  Whilst we don’t preach judgment, is it a subject we are shy about?  Think about it, how many of those in churches marked by the above, eternally lost?  Comments?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 comments

  1. Hello
    There were several points that I was puzzled by in your latest post and thought it might be constructive to share them with you.

    I am puzzled by your remarks about the church leader — not the comment about being with the Lord but rather the sudden retort and conclusions. Was there more to the conversation with the curate when departing other than what you’ve written? If his mind was primarily on the context of the garden, and your mind was on the context of the Lord’s coming having priority over the garden, then it seems unfair to judge him so quickly on his response.

    If your conversation was broader, and it gave him time to understand your intent and priorities, might his response have been different? Was his reply actually representative of his faith and desires? If earthly things are not to be our focus, as you are implying in your post, why would you visit the curate’s garden in the first place? You obviously both enjoyed the garden and the tasty tea. If your intent in going is primarily to test one’s spirituality by their comments, particularly such a momentary one in response to a single question, is that a fair judgement on your part? We need to be careful and sensitive when we judge others by what we see as normal in our own lives. Perhaps, his faith and recognition of the Lord is actually deeper than you have judged, but in this instance his response did not meet your expectations?

    What impression of Christ will your indignant comments have left with the curate — helpful and encouraging or judgmental? Was your reaction and that of your wife fair or too quick? What will he be saying to his wife or others after your encounter, as I suspect his experience was quite different from yours? Perhaps he actually is earthly minded, or, perhaps his yearning for the Lord’s return might be expressed a little differently than yours given more time or context?

    My main concern is that you appear to be making a judgement of the curate’s spirituality based on a momentary exchange and then using that survey of one to imply a broad judgmental statement about church leaders as a whole, which you then broadcast to your readers. I’m not sure that that is equitable. Nor am I sure this experience adequately represents an attack on the gospel.

    Given the current chaos amongst the fellowship, if we chose a brief exchange with a brethren brother or sister right now, and used that sample to represent the whole would that be an equitable representation of that individual’s and the group’s spirituality?

    I think as brethren we have been taught to have a predisposed skepticism of clergy in general, which can be dangerous. There is the expression “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” which might apply in this instance.

    Another aspect that is challenging is that we can be quick to compare and judge, but what do we do about it? We had a local brother here who was quite vocal and critical about the Billy Graham organization coming to the city for a series of preachings, and the error or lack of “the truth” in their beliefs. But why did he not go and speak to Franklin Graham and like “Aquila and Priscilla, having heard him, took him to [them] and unfolded to him the way of God more exactly.” Likewise, what better understanding of the curate, and he the two of you and the opportunity to share what was in common, if there had been a longer conversation(s)?
    ____________________________

    In a recent post, you had quite a bit of criticism over churches that have websites. That very weekend, I learned of a woman from Toronto who had attended a faith- and biblically-based church in Toronto and was new to Calgary. In her desire to fellowship with other like-minded Christians she explored the web and found such a gathering through their website as it outlined their beliefs clearly. Through the website and her search, she enjoyed the fellowship in her visit to the city. My point is that a church website can be a very helpful tool for spiritually minded believers.

    Of course the web has many pitfalls and dangers we need to be wary of or refuse, but so do other media that are quite “acceptable” in the view of “brethren”. You yourself (as an individual and not a locality) are using social media to reach out to believers and appeal to unbelievers with the gospel.

    Not many enjoy the close-knit a familiar knowledge of one another found amongst brethren. But, how does the average person know about brethren gatherings if not by word of mouth or by passing the meeting room? While brethren are not required to adopt things just because they are popular in the world’s view, social media can be an effective form of communication, particularly in today’s world where everyone lives on their cell phone.

    Of course God can work sovereignly in directing persons, but can there be an expectation on our part that a sentence or two on a mtg room noticeboard, or our “public testimony” is enough to earn the trust of people on the street, or their curiosity, and overcome the reputation of what is perceived as “religious” (by it’s prevailing negative reputation or it’s lack) in the public eye?

    ______________________________

    This is very feebly done, but with the honest intent of sharing my impressions with you and encouraging you to look to what is of Christ and what God is doing in persons lives. Be equitable when using personal experience or observations to justify a point or criticism. That’s not easy, and there is definitely what’s erroneous and Satan is behind all that of course. I have been very impressed at what Nathan did to David. He could have gone on and on and on about David’s wickedness with Bathsheba and beyond, but instead what he said in his allegory was relative, contextual and convicting! I wish I could be more like that, to be more like the spirit of Christ in what I do.

    Just wondering.
    Love, Andrew

  2. Dear Andrew

    It was good to hear from you.

    I think you can see somebody’s reaction right away to the mention of the Lord. Do they brighten up to a Person who they love – or are they dealing with a dead religion. One reason did not mention his name, is that I was not in a position to judge him. But unfortunately the reaction is not untypical. (Thank God there are exceptions) –

    I take on board what you say as to a quick reaction. But do you not agree, that if there is a living link with the Lord on the part of both, the response is mutual and immediate. I would like to think that I was wrong as to our friend.

    I did a note about Billy Graham – and read Franklin’s newsletters. I also saw the video of the funeral. Many years ago I went to one of his crusades. Here it is:

    PS We heard today of the home-going of the renowned evangelist Billy Graham. Some may have criticised his methods, but we can be thankful for the thousands who have come to know the Lord through his ministry. Let’s not forget to do the work of an evangelist.

    I have a minor hang-up about a church website. The church’s prime function is a vessel of praise and its testimony is to angels – the church is a heavenly vessel, so the testimony is heavenward – not earthward – see Eph 3:10.. The church does not preach or teach – Christians do, the Hoy Spirit does, scripture does – but this is a technicality. I think it is very sad when one church has a snazzy website advertising the appeal to being comfortable and happy, and why you should go to that church rather than another in the town. There should not be competition.

    That said, I like reading church websites. Whilst most evangelical churches will use a standard confession of faith about which none would have a controversy, whet else, including transcripts or recordings of sermons says a lot. God can use these, of course, but it must be by prayer and deep exercise before God as to where to go. Sadly you hear one day ‘I feel comfortable there, they are devout Christians – a few weeks later you hear ‘I left because the pastor taught error’.

    Sites that I feel more comfortable with are either by individuals, or if it is for a specific cause an association of Christian individuals outside of anything sectarian – I am free to support the latter’s activities financially. An example of the is Christian Concern which exits to take on the cases of those who are losing their jobs etc for being Christians.

    The last thing I would do now is to encourage persons to ‘join the brethren’. I seek to present the truth, and if somebody asks the application I seek t give it – if they then use it in the gathering they attend, I can thank God. If they are making further enquiries I put them in touch with somebody in their area who can help. In much of the USA this is Bill Chellberg.

    May we all know what it is to go on in grace. Yesterday we were reading Ex 28, and afterwards a brother handed round a leaflet on golden bells and pomegranates (published by KBT) – we like to have the bells – making a noise of what we stand for – but lack the pomegranates mutuality in grace which considers for one another. That hit me!

    May you be encouraged
    Love in our Lord

  3. One of my big bug-bears with ‘the brethren’ over the years has been what has been informally defined as ‘church-bashing’, which refers to criticising the so-called ‘established church’. In the recent past I have over and over witnessed occasions where accusations and criticisms are made against ‘the church’ that add little or no value to the discussion. I understand that there are aspects of certain churches which are less than helpful, but the same could be said about us. I feel that as the church makes up the vast majority of the body of Christ, to deride it is to deride the body; when we do this we are effectively inflicting wounds upon ourselves or our greater family, if you like. It just feels unfruitful to me, not suited to the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5.

    I hope to be part of a company that seeks to build things up, to encourage one another and to grow in unity as our Lord had so earnestly on his heart prior to the crucifixion (John 17).

    Yours in Him,
    JW

  4. Dear JW
    I must admit to seeing red so often when reading stuff put out by certain ecclesiastical establishments . The trouble is that ALL such establishments are of MAN – and that includes brethren establishments .

    When Darby and his friends gathered they parted company from such things – from what is institutional to gather in simplicity recognising the Head in heaven. What is here is HIs wife maintaining a place for Him – the testimony is not primarily man-ward. It is a difficult concept, because it runs against all human thought, but as I have been taught the assembly’s testimony in heavenward – so t heavenly beings i.e the angels. in order that now to the principalities and authorities in the heavenlies might be made known through the assembly the all-various wisdom of God, (Eph 3:10).

    As to sects – ‘Come out from among them…

    In Christ
    Sosthenes

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