This series of 26 lessons was developed for classroom presentation from the book by David Miller that should be required reading for every preacher, elder, and Bible school teacher in the Lord’s church: “Piloting The Strait”.  This book is available from a variety of bookstores, Sain Publications at www.sainpublicans.com as well as from David Miller at www.apologeticspress.org.

 

CHANGES IN THE CHURCH

FUEL FOR CHANGE - OTHER PROBLEMS

 

BOWING TO CURRENT CULTURE:

 

Proverbs 16:25  “THERE IS A WAY THAT SEEMETH RIGHT UNTO A MAN, BUT THE END THEREOF are THE WAYS OF DEATH.”

 

            When “a culture itself generates it own way of life and principles…with no authority above it.  The folk mind takes the place of reason.”  Allan Bloom

            Another factor that is fueling the clamor for change in the church is the insistence that the church must adapt herself to our current culture.  In some ways this is true in that we should take advantage of such things as new means of communication to help us spread the gospel.  We welcome and use such things as freeways, computers, fax machines, fiber optics, CD’s, DVD’s, new body healing drugs and surgical techniques.  We deal with the shift from an industrial society to an information society, more frequent career changes, restructuring of our economy, modernity, mobility, high technology and look forward to a longer life span (on average).  But these changes are superficial and do NOT provide us reason or excuse to try to change God’s Word or God’s plan for redeeming mankind.

 

Malachi 3:5-6  AND I WILL COME NEAR TO YOU TO JUDGMENT; AND I WILL BE A SWIFT WITNESS AGAINST THE SORCERERS, AND AGAINST THE ADULTERERS, AND AGAINST FALSE SWEARERS, AND AGAINST THOSE THAT OPPRESS THE HIRELING IN his WAGES, THE WIDOW, AND THE FATHERLESS, AND THAT TURN ASIDE THE STRANGER from his right, AND FEAR NOT ME, SAITH THE LORD OF HOSTS.  FOR I am THE LORD, I CHANGE NOT; THEREFORE YE SONS OF JACOB ARE NOT CONSUMED.”

 

            The emphasis that people are placing upon superficial change creates the misimpression that the forms of religion and our worship to God must be changed also in order for our religion and worship to remain meaningful.  The stress on change creates the impression that we humans must help God by manipulating our acts of worship, restructuring our churches and our worship in order to make God more palatable to people.  But the basic nature and essence of humanity does not change, nor does God’s truth.

            Our friends who would change the church presume that our numerical decline is due to cultural change and that the church must change with in order to remain “revelant.”  God’s way of the human mind hearing His instruction and direction and then conforming and obeying is considered obsolete.  Rather these people would have man to set the agenda and fashion religion according to human inclination, appetite and desire.  The real reason for our numerical decline is not our failure to relate to our current culture but rather spiritual decline, human apostasy and the general increase in wickedness.

            One of our misguided brethren in one of his books tries to draw a parallel between what he wants to do in the church today and the rebellion of the Israelite nation against Moses in the wilderness.  He contends that Moses “moved too fast” for the Israelites in their journey to the promised land and that’s the reason that Israel was left to wander in the wilderness for forty years.  Apparently he has forgotten that God was in charge; directly in charge:

 

Exodus 3:16-17  “GO, AND GATHER THE ELDERS OF ISRAEL TOGETHER, AND SAY UNTO THEM, THE LORD GOD OF YOUR FATHERS, THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, OF ISAAC, AND OF JACOB, APPEARED UNTO ME, SAYING, I HAVE SURELY VISITED YOU, AND seen THAT WHICH IS DONE TO YOU IN EGYPT: AND I HAVE SAID, I WILL BRING YOU UP OUT OF THE AFFLICTION OF EGYPT UNTO THE LAND OF THE CANAANITES, AND THE HITTITES, AND THE AMORITES, AND THE PERIZZITES, AND THE HIVITES, AND THE JEBUSITES, UNTO A LAND FLOWING WITH MILK AND HONEY.”

 

Deuteronomy 1:6  THE LORD OUR GOD SPAKE UNTO US IN HOREB, SAYING, YE HAVE DWELT LONG ENOUGH IN THIS MOUNT:”

 

            The Israelites rebelled against God’s plan and God’s direction.  This person then, has the unmitigated gall to try to tell us that God did it wrong? People in our day are no different than those in Israel.  People are people and always will be.  Most do not want to hear that they too must suppress their passions and their tendency to murmur, complain and resist God’s restrictions.

            The mad rush to bow to a culture fatally infected with the disease of humanism is tragic, heart-rending, and most unfortunate.  This wholesale sellout by our society today to secular humanism is functioning as fuel by which the church is being changed for the worse.  Our brethren are forgetting:

 

James 4:4  YE ADULTERERS AND ADULTERESSES, KNOW YE NOT THAT THE FRIENDSHIP OF THE WORLD IS ENMITY WITH GOD?  WHOSOEVER THEREFORE WILL BE A FRIEND OF THE WORLD IS THE ENEMY OF GOD.”

 

And James wasn’t speaking here of physical adultery but spiritual adultery, wedded to God but sleeping with the devil.

 

Galatians 1:10  FOR DO I NOW PERSUADE MEN, OR GOD? OR DO I SEEK TO PLEASE MEN? FOR IT YET PLEASED MEN, I SHOULD NOT BE THE SERVANT OF CHRIST.”

 

Paul says; do I work to please men or God?  If he was working to please men then he wouldn’t even be there writing to the Galatian brethren.  He would still be back in Jerusalem trying to destroy those that followed Christ.

 

Romans 12:2  AND BE NOT CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD: BUT BE YE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND, THAT YE MAY PROVE WHAT is THAT GOOD, AND ACCEPTABLE, AND PERFECT, WILL OF GOD.”

 

ALLEGED LEGALISM:

 

            Another factor fueling the cry for change in the church are the voices which ridicule and condemn brethren who insist upon understanding and following precisely that which is God’s truth.  These voices have gradually become louder and more numerous.  They brand as “legalistic” and “fundamentalist” those who refuse to copy and accept their lax and open attitude toward what Jesus called the “strait way.”

            “Legalism” in its negative classical usage, entails trusting one’s own goodness, like the Pharisees of Jesus time.  Remember the one Jesus tells us about in Luke 18:10ff who prayed in the temple? 

 

Luke 18:9-14  AND HE SPAKE THIS PARABLE UNTO CERTAIN WHICH TRUSTED IN THEMSELVES THAT THEY WERE RIGHTEOUS AND DESPISED OTHERS:  TWO MEN WENT UP INTO THE TEMPLE TO PRAY; THE ONE A PHARISEE, AND THE OTHER A PUBLICAN.  THE PHARISEE STOOD AND PRAYED THUS WITH HIMSELF, GOD, I THANK THEE, THAT I AM NOT AS OTHER MEN are, EXTORTIONERS, UNJUST, ADULTERERS, OR EVEN AS THIS PUBLICAN.  I FAST TWICE IN THE WEEK, I GIVE TITHES OF ALL THAT I POSSESS.   AND THE PUBLICAN, STAND AFAR OFF, WOULD NOT LIFT UP SO MUCH AS his EYES UNTO HEAVEN, BUT SMOTE UPON HIS BREAST, SAYING, GOD BE MERCIFUL TO ME A SINNER.  I TELL YOU, THIS MAN WENT DOWN TO HIS HOUSE JUSTIFIED rather THAN THE OTHER: FOR EVERY ONE THAT EXALTETH HIMSELF SHALL BE ABASED; AND HE THAT HUMBLETH HIMSELF SHALL BE EXALTED.”

 

            God has always condemned the person who is proud of his obedient actions and who expects to receive God’s grace only on the basis of those actions.  But He has also always commended the person who maintains absolute obedience to the specifics of His commands:

 

John 14:15  IF YE LOVE ME, KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS.”

 

Hebrews 5:8-9  “THOUGH HE WERE A SON, YET LEARNED HE OBEDIENCE BY THE THINGS WHICH HE SUFFERED; AND BEING MADE PERFECT, HE BECAME THE AUTHOR OF ETERNAL SALVATION UNTO ALL THEM THAT OBEY HIM;”

 

Proverbs 21:2-3  EVERY WAY OF A MAN is RIGHT IN HIS OWN EYES: BUT THE LORD PONDERETH THE HEARTS. TO DO JUSTICE AND JUDGMENT is MORE ACCEPTABLE TO THE LORD THAN SACRIFICE.”

 

            The difference between the plight of the Pharisee and the dedicated follower of God is attitude.  One thought himself better than the other, thought that his exterior show of righteousness was all that was sufficient for his approval by God.   But the true believer knows that God examines the heart and the mind; knowing our every thought, passion and desire.  He knows what our attitude is.

Faithfulness is by definition; obedient trust or loyal compliance with the requirements and instructions in God’s word.

 

James 2:17-19  EVEN SO FAITH, IF IT HATH NOT WORKS, IS DEAD, BEING ALONE.  YEA, A MAN MAY SAY, THOU HAST FAITH, AND I HAVE WORKS: SHOW ME THY FAITH WITHOUT THY WORKS, AND I WILL SHOW THEE MY FAITH BY MY WORKS.  THOU BELIEVEST THAT THERE IS ONE GOD; THOU DOEST WELL: THE DEVILS ALSO BELIEVE, AND TREMBLE.”

 

            Righteousness is by definition right doing:

 

I John 3:7  LITTLE CHILDREN, LET NO MAN DECEIVE YOU: HE THAT DOETH RIGHTEOUSNESS IS RIGHTEOUS, EVEN AS HE IS RIGHTEOUS.”

 

            Abraham understood this - Genesis 26:5, Hebrews 11:8

            Moses understood this - Deuteronomy 4:2, 6:17, 11:8, etc.

            Joshua understood this - Joshua 6:6, 11; 24:14-15

            Paul understood this - Romans 6:16

 

            Sure we must avoid legalism and there are legalists in the church today.  They’re the brethren who like the Pharisees of old try to bind their elder’s traditions, notions and hobbies on those who would be children of God.  We can readily identify most of them and we call them our “anti” brethren, while they prefer to be called “non-institutional” brethren.  But who would have imagined that the day would come when God’s demand for unquestioned obedience would be mocked, bypassed and called legalism by those who claim to be his faithful children?

 

ACADEMICS AND HIGHER EDUCATION:

 

            In our society today and the church is no different, considerable emphasis is placed on going to school and getting a college education.  I myself and several of you came from the dirt and poverty of a sharecropper’s farm to jobs of some responsibility in business and industry as a result of achieving a good secular education.  In the church over the last thirty years, pressure has been brought to bear upon young people to broaden their education.

            The admonition was especially directed toward young men who aspired to be preachers.  They were encouraged to go to one of our Christian colleges, major in Bible, and then continue their education on the Masters level and beyond.  After all, education is good, and the more the better, isn’t it?

            Over time we have seen that this contention has contributed to a large number of our problems.  Thirty or forty years ago most of our Christian colleges were two year colleges; sound, solid and great places for training preachers; similar to most of the schools of preaching today.  But something happened.

            In order for our young preachers to get their degrees; they had to go to a secular state university or to a denominational seminary.  Even when our colleges became four years schools and could administer bachelor degrees we immediately shipped many of our best and brightest off to the denominational seminaries to get advanced degrees so they could come back to our Christian colleges and teach advanced courses and these colleges could in turn become the universities that we have today.

            Now the circle is complete.  The liberal trends and subverted brand of Christianity that exists out in the world has been, to one degree or another over the past 20 years, injected into the minds of countless thousands of Christian college students.  This sad state of affairs continues and grows worse as each day goes by.  So many unsuspecting parents, who graduated from a Christian college in the 1940’s, 1950’s or even in the 1960’s sent their own children to their old alma mater and wonder how these children became infected with false doctrine and practices.  Or because they didn’t have the opportunity to attend a Christian school they send their children to what was once a good Christian school and again wonder why the kids come home with a different doctrine and a new attitude toward God’s truth.

            One of the ironic tragedies of this period of church history is the fact that the very institutions that were founded and funded to shield young people from the subversive influence of false religion and secular society have become the very source of much of the false teachings and practices found in our churches today.

And history repeats itself - we went through the same kind of problems and troubles in the late 1800’s - the Christian Church and Disciples of Christ denominations are the result.

Another problem that comes along with the drive for higher education is an attitude of elitism.  The so called “scholars” among us manifest a smug sense of superiority against those who insist on staying closely with the Scriptures, or demand that we provide ourselves and our children with translations of the scriptures that are true and reliable.  These so called “scholarly minded” people will even tell us that until they came along we couldn’t even properly understand the Bible.

Again history repeats itself; especially for those who never learn its lessons.  The same attitude problems existed during the late 1800’s and aided that apostasy.

 

Conclusion – Fuels for Change:

 

            We live in an age of rebellion.

            In worship many people have shifted from homage to God to emotion and what makes them feel good.

            Some will deny that the church of Christ today can be restored and be the same God ordained organization that existed in the first century.

            Some have sold their souls for numerical growth.

            Too many have fallen into the trap of trying to adapt God’s way to the wants of the current culture.

            Those who would hold fast to God’s truth are ridiculed as “legalists” and compared to the old Pharisees that Jesus lambasted on a regular basis.

            And we just can’t understand the Bible unless we’ve been educated at one of our institutions of higher learning.  Most of which today should remove the word Christian from their titles - it’s no longer a true description of what they teach or stand for.