The road to popularity is too often paved with deception and lined with vagueness. The sign posts on such a highway to acceptance are always indistinct. This has become an acceptable way of life for those on the way to the top of the ladder of success in the business of entertainment. The world thinks little of using improper maneuvers to gain their goal. A vast number in our beloved country have obviously determined that morality is no longer a needed asset in the political field. Even in the area of athletics participants are exempt from judgment by many regardless of their action on or off the playing area. Authority can not only be defied but blatantly resisted as millions of youth see their role model vent his/her hostility. Drugs and immoral lives are overlooked because of the popularity of the offender.
This may be the accepted conduct in and of the world but it will never be acceptable to the God of heaven. There are instances recorded in the Word of God when greed and gumption joined forces to achieve a fleshly goal only to be exposed. Serious judgment equal to the offense is sure to be imposed.
Remember Simon the sorcerer in Acts chapter eight? He was held in high esteem in verse eleven because he had kept the people fooled by his witchcraft. He desired to buy the power of the Holy Spirit to enhance his acceptance even further. However, Peter publicly pointed out the error of his way.
How about Ananias and Sapphira in Acts chapter five, members of the Jerusalem Church, who lied about the money received for land sold. They paved their road to acceptance with falsehood yet missed the sign that warned of a dead end ahead. They died on the spot alone and separately even though they planned their escapade together.
Then there is Diotrephes of the church in Gaius's house in Third John. What a grand man this was and with such acceptance of the majority of the brethren that he kept that old inspired apostle, John, from being received for a visit. The boldness of John revealed in verse ten is not only admirable but acceptable to God. Even as the warning of Peter to Simon the sorcerer and the two greedy members of the first church.
Pointing out error in action is not popular in many areas today but it is profitable to the soul that takes heed (2 Tim. 3:16,17). This is not isolated to New Testament days or even modern times. The Old Testament prophets were chosen of God to warn His people of the impending danger of wandering from the designed path that pleases God. It was no less painful for them to point out to their contemporaries the error of their ways than for the modern day proclaimer of God's Word to expose error today. The heart of the prophet could not be hidden as he spoke correction to the people he loved. God honors His message and His messenger when he delivers the warning along with the wealth of His Word. However, neither Balaam's search for popularity nor Demetrius' longing for preeminence has been laid to rest. Neither time, space, nor ability will allow this subject to be exhausted here. Yet notice some instances of the unpopularity of proclaiming the Word of God without diluting its message.
"Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!" (Isa. 31:1)
God's chosen people had reached a point of such ill repute that they had no other means of protection. This verse is chosen out of many warnings in Isaiah because it not only parallels the national action of America but also equals the spiritual decay of this hour. The leaders had fallen into a shameful state and the people had followed. Each in their own right were responsible for their degenerate state.
Although it was unpopular to do so Isaiah pointed out their error of neglecting God as well as their pursuit of help from Egypt. Egypt is known as a type of the world and is often used in this manner. For Israel to resort to Egypt for help because of their many horses and chariots equates the church today looking to the world for help to cure their declining attendance. God gave Israel direction for success as well as instruction for returning to God when they strayed. (Lev. 26:3,4) "If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit." If they failed or strayed from the directed path God made this provision: "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:14).
The Lord's church on earth today has the same reliable promises. Jesus has left His church the blu-print for success. The command to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature is the ever standing command of our Lord (Mark 16:15). Along with the making of disciples through the preaching of the gospel they were to teach them to observe all things the Lord taught His church (Matt. 28:19,20). Along with this command Jesus promised His divine presence. Why would the Lord's church need to call on Egypt (the world, even the religious world) to find out how they arrived at their success? It is the Lord Jesus that has all the power given to Him and His promised power is transferred to the church that will heed (Matt. 28:18; Acts 1:8).
Here enters the unpopularity of preaching that points out error. The desire for the church to establish an hierarchy even as many other religions have today is nothing short of relinquishing the promised power of God. It was the Lord who promised His church that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. It is not for the Demetrius' of the church to figure out how to retain this power. It is so simple to let th>
When Israel lost land it was the result of leaving their Leader. When the church loses ground it is because they have left their Lord's instructions and sought out inventions of men (Eccl. 7:29). All of Egypt's horses and chariots of inventions to promote successful church planting or growth is little more than denying that the precious Head of the Church has power any longer.
God has power over men and nations. He is the One who builds as well as tears down. (Jer. 18:9,10) "And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them." In the following verses God sends His sobbing servant to the inhabitants of Jerusalem with an unpopular message. The message had a repent or perish theme along with the manner whereby they could be preserved. Multitudes had already left their camp against their will and the few left behind were in a self-proclaimed state of defeat. What a heartbreak it must have been to hear them say: "There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart" (Jer. 18:12).
It is even more disarming today to hear "if something is not done we will no longer exist." The Lord poses this question in Luke 18:8; "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" "Faith" in this verse is moral conviction or creed. At the return of Christ will the Lord's church have doctrinal purity? I am thankful this is not left up to the inventions of men. Israel was given this encouragement: (Jer. 29:11,12) "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you." Likewise the Lord said to His church: (John 16:24) "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."
Not only did the Lord remember His church as He prayed in John chapter seventeen, He is still in the business of intercession today. (Heb 7:25) "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them."
Nothing is more evident than the spiritual loss incurred in the days of Malachi. They had lost the joy of worship. They had profaned the table of the Lord and cried, "Behold, what a weariness it is," (Mal. 1:11-13). As a result of their distorted view of service to the Lord God they brought less than the best to offer God. They brought the lame and the sick expecting their religious effort to be acceptable to God. This reeks of failure on the part of previous generations to emphasize the importance of heeding God's Word. What a sad state of affairs the Lord's people get themselves into when they underestimate the seri ousness of proper service. It is again unpopular to preach returning to the old paths and observing the old landmarks. Landmarks were placed at strategic locations to identify the property as well as the owner. God placed a curse upon any person or people that dared to remove the boundary indicators (Deut. 27:17).
Every Baptist group I know of claim the Bible as the only source for establishing the boundaries of their operation. It would be well to examine the possibility that some of the precious markers have been altered for convenience sake. It was much less complicated in Malachi's day to catch the lame and sick than to go to the trouble of examining each lamb to make sure it was unblemished.
Much is said in the political arena concerning the economical state in which we will leave our nation to future generations. This does need to be addressed. But the spiritual condition this generation of pastors, preachers, and people leave the church in is of far greater consequence. These are eternal things and retaining or reclaiming the proper attitude, atmosphere, and action in the Lord's church should be high on our list of priorities. Repetitious words of praise in song or sermon mean nothing apart from a reclaimed heart. The religious Pharisees were long on repetition but short on repentance. "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking" (Matt. 6:7). "Pray" in this verse not only means supplication but also an act of worship.
The system of the world of religion today is no more the answer to falling attendance and mediocrity in worship than Egypt's horses and chariots were the answer for Israel's weakness. When God's people think they need the help of the religious world to worship they have either lost confidence in the Lord's power and provision or have lost sight of the purpose of true worship. The Lord always gives His church the talent needed to honor Him in each local congregation. It is a dishonor to God given talent in the church to use recorded performers. They know nothing of the need of the local church or of the spiritual atmosphere there. The reason the church comes together should be to worship in song together not to be entertained. The church comes together to be involved in the worship service and to exhort one another. Anything less than that is robbing the church of a blessing. Anything more than that is suggesting that the Lord does not understand today's congregation and their need.
I pray the Lord's true churches will reclaim any lost land of spiritual worship that brings revival.
John the Baptist came on the scene a clear-cut fulfillment of God's prophecy. (Isa. 40:3) "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." Here was the authoritative voice of a man sent from God whose name was John (John 1:6). His voice was indicative of the message of true prophets. It also generated a setting for the Lamb of God being introduced on the scene of society. John's message was concise and succinct as he pointed lost sinners to the strait gate and narrow way later spoken of so clearly by our Lord. Toleration of hypocrisy in the ministry of John was zero. John was to be present on the scene, present the coming scenario, and pass from the stage of life with one purpose in God's scheme of salvation for sinners. John came to introduce the Savior of the world.
He did not hesitate to reveal the thin veneer of religious hypocrisy of the Pharisees. From the drift of his words these super-religious performers, along with the Sadducees, were not made aware of the peril that awaited lost sinners (Matt. 3:7). To say this was only unpopular preaching would be minimizing the impact of John's message.
John called the act of adultery sin. Although it struck sharply in high places it needed to be said and at the time John seemed to be the only one willing to risk the outcome. Not only had Herod taken his brother's wife, Herodias, to his own bedroom he had permitted her to rule the country from there (Matt. 14:3-11). Although it is recorded that Herod was sorry for promises made as he lusted after the beautiful, dancing body of his step-daughter his backbone was weak as a cotton string. His oath to man was more binding to him than obedience to the Master in repentance. Our Lord said of this unpopular preacher of repentance, "There is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist," (Luke 7:28).
The declaration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not without cost. Counting the cost is of essence if the proclamation of God's Word is to be preached without compromise. Those who preach the whole council of God will receive much more condemnation than commendation; more denunciation than decoration. Although we should not try to be offensive in preaching every preacher must be careful of all praise and its source. Jesus leaves us with this bit of advice: "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets," (Luke 6:26).
Even though it is not popular to preach as passionately as John, tearfully as Jeremiah, frankly as Malachi, it is always profitable. Woe to the pastor that lays his "pound" up in a napkin (Luke 19:20). Trying to explain negligence to the charge left to preachers when Lord returns will be as futile as trying to catch a snowflake in a skillet. Beware, be wise, or be without at the judgment seat of Christ.
Jesus leaves no doubt concerning the qualification for discipleship. When Jesus said to Peter, "Lovest thou me more than these," He encompassed more than the casual reader can see (John 21:15). Every heart should be strongly affected by the slightest suggestion from God's Word and the Holy Spirit concerning our priorities. The strong preaching of our Lord angered the religious leaders (Luke 4:28,29). On one occasion some of his disciples followed Him no longer because of the line of demarcation drawn by Jesus (John 6:66).
Jesus is the revealed Christ and has given the rules of discipleship. Priorities must be evaluated based on those lines of demarcation given by our Lord. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me," (Luke 9:23). This is only among the first considerations that must be made. The saying, "Cannot be my disciple," underwrites several conditions that must be met if any person is to be Jesus' disciple (Luke 14:26-33). Any preacher who con siders anything but the call to the ministry and its mission cannot be His disciple. To place money before ministry is loathsome at best. For any decision in service to our Lord to be affected from a monetary standpoint is disgraceful. It is a sad truth that preachers have been known to stay or leave a church governed by salary rather than guided by the Spirit. Sadly missionaries are often classed good, fair, or bad based on the external. If Adroniam Judson's tenure in Burma was graded on those basis no Mission Board known to religion would send him abroad again.
The sad commentary on too much of church work today is that it is based on the underlying principle that big is better and much is mightier. Consequently too many pastors find it much simpler to drop doctrinal principles to enhance their standing. Leaders in organized religion for some unknown reason feel jeopardized when other groups are multiplying and their group is declining. As a result all sorts of "foreign aid" from other unlike sources are utilized. Everything is tried from dropping the name Baptist in order to be accepted to employing the services of other religious systems that have no doctrinal boundaries. At least none that would honor the name of the Lamb's Bride.
It is indeed unpopular preaching to bring up the subject matter of this article. However, as I have stated earlier, if the Lord's people do not heed the warning signs on the way of service there is sure to be a decline in spiritual stewardship. Preaching the Old Book and the new birth has never been popular but it will always be profitable. It is the only book that is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness". If any person is to be "throughly furnished unto all good works" it will be found in the Word of God.
May our Lord lift our hearts as Baptist to purity and separation; to praise and spirituality; to properness in doctrinal practice and strictness in undertakings. In Jesus Holy Name. Amen!
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