Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Obeying God rather than men ...

Most people know the quote from the book of Esther where Mordecai is trying to convince Esther to intercede on behalf of the Jews because the wicked official in the king's court, Haman, is trying to have all the Jews exterminated.  Mordecai tells Esther that God may have put her in the position she is in as queen "for such a time as this."  Certainly, our God is wise enough and powerful enough to do such a thing; to orchestrate events in such a way that His will is accomplished through the lives of ordinary people - people just like you and me.

Throughout human history, indeed, since the Garden of Eden, there have been significant moments when God has raised up men and women to take a stand for Him, for His kingdom, for His truth, that has been unpopular and that has resulted in persecution of various kinds.  Since the days of the Reformation in the 1500's and 1600's, the battle against God's truth has raged on and many have lost their foothold, turning away from God's Word to follow cleverly devised alternatives that sound good to the human ear, but that have no power to transform the human heart or save the human soul from the just judgment of a holy God.

The same is true in our day.  We have witnessed attacks on the Bible and the truths contained therein before.  Those from other religions have sought relentlessly to disprove the claims of those who declare that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and man, that He is God in the flesh, that He paid the penalty for sin on the cross, that He died and rose again and ascended into heaven where He rules over all things until He comes again as Judge.  Yet, today there is another wave of attacks on the authority and truthfulness of God's Word and it is coming from within the visible church, from those who claim to be part of the true body of Christ.

This should not surprise us, but many are being caught off guard and are giving in to the pressure to conform to the spirit of the day:  tolerance.  Differing views on Scripture and what the Bible really says are said to be equally true and valid.  After all, we are told, who are we to decide what God intended to say through the writers?  Everyone is entitled to their own interpretation.  This attack on truth comes from the very pit of hell, from the enemy of our souls, from Satan, the father of lies.  "Oh, but these are brothers in Christ," we are assured.  We would do well to heed the warning of the apostle, Paul, as he wrote to the Corinthians in II Corinthians 11.  In chapter 10 Paul goes into a rather lengthy defense of his ministry.  He was being criticized for his boldness in his writings and for being timid when face-to-face.  Paul's answer was that it was his goal to preach the Gospel, nothing more.  It was not about him, but about Jesus Christ.

In this context Paul speaks a firm word about those who criticized him for standing on the truth of the Gospel and declaring that anyone who was preaching anything else was wrong!  "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.  It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.  Their end will be what their actions deserve"  (II Corinthians 11:13-15).  These men talked about all the "right" things and they tolerated other teachings.  In fact, they tolerated any other teaching BUT the true Gospel that called people to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness.  Such teaching was too "narrow," too confining, too rigid, too un-loving.  But Paul knew from experience that the Gospel, while it convicts people of sin, is the only message that is able to set people free from the guilt and judgment that our sin deserves, through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross.

Brothers and sisters, we are in a battle for truth today.  The steady slide away from the authority of the Word of God on the part of so many within the visible church makes this a crucial time in the history of the world and of God's plan of salvation.  The time has come that we read about in II Timothy 4, when people IN the church are turning their ears away from the truth and are turning aside to different "interpretations" of God's Word.  We are being told that we must understand and accept these alternate interpretations and promote a unity based on some generic love that is powerless to save, for it allows people to remain in bondage to sin and self-centered thinking and living.  It pleases man rather than God.

That's why the following words from the Puritans, written somewhere around 1629, seemed to me to speak so clearly to our present-day situation.  I trust they will speak to you as well.

"There comes a time in every man’s life when he must make a decision.  I’m not talking about the kind of decision that determines the outcome of his day, or his year, or even his life.  I’m talking about the kind of decision that goes far beyond his personal interest, far beyond his own life - a decision that will set in motion the destiny of the world for generations to come.

The time has come for us to make such a decision.

The choice that confronts us is not complicated.  Simply put, it is this:  Will we observe the laws of God, or will we conform to the desires of men?  Shall we obey the Bible, or shall we obey the dictates of a London bishop?

The question before us is simple; so must our answer be simple.

Borrowing Peter’s words our response should be:  “We ought rather to obey God than men,” Acts chapter 5, verse 29.

As Christians of conscience, how can we decide otherwise without denying our faith?  The Bible alone is God’s perfect statement of how we are to live.  The Lord God, determining to set before our eyes a perfect plan, is both able to do it and hath done it.

It is natural that God should be so explicit in the instructions regarding His people, since it is the virtue of a good law to leave as little undetermined as possible.  The explicitness of God’s moral and judicial law is a clear indication of God’s mind.  And His law is permanent.  It cannot be repealed by any earthly king, any earthly council, or any earthly bishop.

Either the Bible is God’s perfect Word, or it is not.  Either we will choose to obey Him, or we will not.  The choice before us is a simple one.  Making our decision is not difficult; living according to our decision will require great courage and faith.  These are perilous times.  Who knows the full measure of the price we will yet pay?  However, the choices we make, we make not only for ourselves, but for our children and our children’s children.  Whatever the price, it will be worth it.

This is not the time for the weak of heart.  Nor is it the time to turn the other cheek, for we have not been insulted.  We have been deceived.  It is time for godly men and women of England to choose their future.

I, for one, choose God.  I would rather fail attempting to obey God, that to succeed in any attempt to please men."

In the past two weeks nearly all those who are active confessing members of Lighthouse Community Church Non-Denominational have signed your names and declared your commitment to standing on God's Word, being willing to leave the building we have been using to do ministry in order to follow God's call to be faithful to Him and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the authority of His Word.  God knows what He has planned for us and what He desires to accomplish in us and through us.  It is a joy and a privilege to walk alongside you on this journey.  May God help us to stand firm, giving thanks to Him for His grace to us in Christ Jesus, and declaring with all the strength He supplies the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ ... "until the whole world hears!"

In the service of the King!

Pastor Steve

1 comment:

  1. Those words from 1629 are as true today as they were then. Excellent post!