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25 May, 2010 / theexpositor

Compromising Truth and Practice

by Walter Chantry

Just before Jesus was taken up into heaven He told His disciples: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Witnessing about who Jesus is and what He taught was to be cross-cultural. As His disciples faced new social and cultural changes, they were expected to hold fast to truth and righteousness so as to be bright lights of witnessing all over the world.

Today, rapid changes are taking place throughout the world in which we are to carry out the great commission. The world continues to be marked by men who are “lovers of themselves,” “lovers of money,” or “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3). Yet these tendencies of fallen human nature constantly discover new ways to manifest themselves in each society of the earth. There remains a critical need for Jesus’ witnesses to be counter-cultural where sin abounds.

So rapid are societal changes in America that few are even aware of the radical pressures brought to bear on Christians and their churches. In the last fifty years, even the sense of belonging to a community has largely disappeared. The attractiveness of rural areas draws Christians to want to raise their families where lovely homes can be built near fields and streams, but jobs are to be found in places sometimes hours away from such homes. At the same time, a “satisfactory” church may be found that is an hour or more of commuting in a different direction from the workplace.

Since there has often been inadequate planning ahead for the consequences, there are far fewer believers who can attend the worship services of the church on a regular basis. To do so would simply demand more hours on the road than there would be in the assembly of the saints. Churches cancel prayer meetings because today it is impractical for most to attend. Thus, instead of two or three sessions of being taught the Word of God, the number is reduced to once per week. This is at a time when we stand in need of more preaching, not less. All the while, children are being trained by experience and parental example that to see the church for an hour or so per week is normal.

Some will supplement their spiritual diets by listening to favorite preacher(s) on CDs, iPods, or online. Their exchange of ideas with other believers is frequently on blogs or via other faceless computerized contacts. These habits are replacing the “not neglecting to meet together” (Heb. 10:25) as Scripture commands. Electronic transmissions cannot duplicate the Holy Spirit’s presence in a congregation of saints. Additionally, there is still a withdrawal from important aspects of pastoral care and exhortation. Such isolation and lack of witness in one’s community was not commonplace fifty years ago. It is more difficult to be witnesses with a life spent in a home that is little more than a bedroom and a computer room with perhaps a one-family school room while at the same time spending countless hours along the highway commuting here and there.

Another change, of which many are unaware while it presses in upon us, is the immense variety of teachings within evangelical circles. Because various doctrines are taught by Christians, it is often thought that it is of little consequence which set of doctrines we believe. Desiring unity among the shrinking number of Christians in our nation, we do not wish to discuss conflicting teachings among “us.” It is too satisfying to swell our numbers by being inclusive. With this laissez-faire attitude, often the very doctrines we have claimed to hold precious have been quickly given up.

The churches are not only losing their witness by adapting to newer trends among “evangelicals.” They are also morphing into conformity with the world.

There is constant change within and around the churches. Huge shifts occurred between the years 1875 and 1930, as liberalism swallowed large sections of once Reformed churches. From 1950 to the present time came a revived teaching of Scripture alone, Christ alone, faith alone, grace alone, and the glory of God alone. Will this remain our stand? Already concessions are being made.

What will the future hold? Will you be witnesses? How much of Jesus’ person, work, and teaching is vital to you — to your church?

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18–19). And sometimes the churches too despise your stand.

From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: Email: Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.