Know Your Bible

VOL. 13                                                                                                                         December 27, 2015                                                                                                                            NO. 41



(Foreword by Wayne S. Walker: Today we are hearing the claim that "the church's stance" against so-called same-sex marriage, homosexuality in general, and other "cultural" issues plainly taught in the Bible, is driving people away. With this in mind, consider the following. )

As we write in newspapers, bulletins, religious journals, and preach from time to time in different places, we are often met with individuals, both within and without the body of Christ, who disagree with our teaching, do not appreciate the way we present the Scriptures, and say, "You are not winning people to the Lord. You are driving people away." With all seriousness, this accusation needs careful contemplation. Let's consider a couple of questions.

First, was the Lord driving people away? If you had lived during the time of Christ, would you have charged the Lord with driving people away? Was the Lord driving people away when He said, "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34)? When the Lord accused men of transgressing the commandment of God, making the commandment of God of none effect, called them hypocrites, and charged them with vain worship, was He driving them away (Matthew 15:1-9)? When the disciples came to Him and said, "Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?" (Matthew 15:12), do you think the Lord should have been concerned about driving them away? Jesus answered, "Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind" (Matthew 15:14).

Second, was Peter driving people away? If you had been present on the day of Pentecost as the first recorded gospel sermon was being preached by Peter, would you have accused him of driving people away? When Peter charged his audience with the guilt of crucifying the Son of God (Acts 2:23, 36), would you have said, "You had better tone it down, Peter. You need to find a kinder, gentler, smoother way of presenting the gospel to these people, Peter. You are going to drive them away"? Peter's proclamation of the gospel of Christ was of such a nature that it made people aware of their sin, that they needed to do something to get rid of the sin in their lives, and what it was they needed to do (Acts 2:37-38), and "they that gladly received his word were baptized … And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:41, 47).

There are those who gladly receive the word, and there are those who madly receive it. The reaction of men and women to the preaching of the truth is not based so much upon the presentation of the preacher as it is the reception of the hearer. When we "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15), we are not driving people away from the truth. It is their own rebellious heart that keeps them from coming to the truth! I wonder, are you concerned about driving us away when you accuse us of driving others away? 

—John Isaac Edwards

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When I was younger, I had awesome dreams. In my “awakening” (a deeper sense of awareness I came to some years after I became a Christian), when I faced my first opportunities as a fledgling preacher, it seemed I had the world at my feet – no, not due to any sense of accomplishment or ability on my part, but because I believed the message I was bringing was “The” power – the walls of evil would crumble before it if I just stayed out of the way and gave folks the unvarnished truth. I was literally amazed that anyone who heard it was able to resist it – or, even worse, would reject it and act contrary to it. As time (and my own experience) went on, I came to see that it was not only possible, it was likely! It took me some years, but I finally came down to earth.

Rather than an optimist, I became a realist – and one reason was that it became obvious that the gospel was not the only ingredient in the mix of life, or even in the kingdom. Practically, it only has a positive result in the hearts and lives of the willing – and far too often, for far too many reasons, men and women are not willing! Instead of envisioning instant growth, and a visibly deepening spirituality (which was my mindset in the first five or six moves I made from place to place), I learned to expect apathy, procrastination, complacency, cowardice and compromise wherever I went (I do not claim to be any better, because these are personal demons I also have to struggle with, and am no more satisfied with my own level of discipleship than that of others) – and to a lesser or greater extent, it was always the case. It was never true of all saints, and there were always some who were strong in the faith. “Normal” circumstances would find a congregation where the majority were largely bystanders, a part were willing to share in the worship and teaching aspects, and still fewer still actually so committed as to make the sacrifices and priority choices that fruitful discipleship produced. Usually such a mindset was so entrenched that efforts to stimulate enthusiasm and devotion collectively could be compared to turning a battleship around —any positive indicators were slow and incremental.

But, brethren, in spite of the steady stream of sputtering efforts (and facing up to the fact that I was not always as much help as I should have been) – I still have dreams! Today, I believe they are more realistic and likely, because they have a foundation of fact. The facts are:

1. There is no long range hope for the world – both reason and Scripture points to an end, and if current trends are significant, sooner rather than later.

2. God’s will is served by both acceptance and rejection – He has as much interest (and has devoted significant time and planning) in determining who is not suited to heaven as He has in determining who will be.

3. His ultimate goal is achieving the destiny of individuals, not churches –by its nature, the gospel is exclusive, and will eliminate the shallow, the indulgent, and the unmotivated, who seem to include an increasing part of the human population.

So, my dreams now are small. I wish to, and have tried to serve God faithfully in order to, contribute to those goals, but it basically is up to each one of us. For me, my dream is: “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.” -  2 Corinthians 5:9 

In the end, Paul’s main hope was for his personal future, and for others only insofar as they shared with him a common love of Christ “and His appearing”. (2 Tim 4)

My “main” prayer to God is, “Thy will be done.

—Aubrey C. Belue

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