What are you willing to die for? Is there any "cause" that you would give your life to defend, to promote, to stand up for? Having just spent the last week in Washington D.C., I was struck again with the courage and resolve of those who were willing to die for freedom. These men stood firm against the tyranny of those who would enslave them and founded a nation built upon the foundation of God's Word and the truth that "all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights." Not all of them were Christians and not all were concerned about the cause of Christ and the proclamation of the true Gospel, but they WERE committed to what they were doing in founding a new nation devoted to the cause of liberty for all.
It was that resolve that reminded me of the apostles and the first Christians who were willing to give their lives for the cause of Jesus Christ. When brought before the Jewish court to answer for their preaching about Jesus they were commanded to stop teaching in Jesus' name upon fear of death. Their answer: "We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead - whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior, that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him" (Acts 5:29-32).
By His Word and Spirit God established the Church, the "called-out ones," and sent all who believe into the world to proclaim the one message that has the power to save those who are dead in sin and worthy of God's eternal judgment in hell. Over the history of the Church there have been times when men must again choose whether they will obey those who have proposed man-made rules above the very Word of God. When called to account for his words and writings that challenged the authority of the Pope and the false teaching of the church of Rome in the 16th century, Martin Luther answered: "Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me! Amen!!"
He could have lost his life, but God protected him and he went on to be one of the men who began the Reformation, calling the Church back to the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God. The battle against God's Word has continued for the past five centuries, since Luther and others stood for truth. The heritage of the Reformation is a call to obey God rather than men, and it is no less important today than it was then. Men are still dying for proclaiming the truth of God's Word. And men are still being called to stand upon the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All over the world, evil works to dilute the message and to remove the offense of the cross. People are being told that it is easy to be a Christian, that the most important thing is just to "love" everybody and to believe in "god" ... (the small "g" means you can make GOD to be whoever or whatever you want "him/her/it" to be). It is NOT easy to be a Christian in this world today. It never has been and it never will be. I've read John's Revelation and it's going to get even harder!!
Some of my brothers have confused devotion to a human institution with devotion to Christ and to His Church. They continue to struggle with what is going on in a denomination that has lost its way and squandered its heritage. They do not understand that in order to be faithful to CHRIST they must take a stand that will cause them to lose earthly things. John writes of "Babylon" in Revelation 17-18. "Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the Earth" is what we see forming around us today through the efforts of organizations like the World Council of Churches and the Church of Rome and the religious arm of the Alliance of Civilizations of the United Nations. These want to gather all religions together in order to bring peace on earth. They emphasize doing good and caring for the physical needs of the world's hungry and helpless and oppressed. But while some of their efforts may be beneficial to a small part of the population of planet earth, their agenda is contrary to the advancement of God's kingdom and the reign of Jesus Christ over all things. They have turned away from the Gospel and are proclaiming another gospel that is really no gospel at all! (Galatians 1:8).
God's command: "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven and God has remembered her crimes" (Revelation 18:4-5). A false religious system is being promoted within the church today that boasts of its importance while ignoring the simple truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It speaks of repentance only when convenient to quiet those who would protest its over-reaching power. It condemns boldness as improper for followers of Christ, while approving of sin by its silence and refusal to exercise Biblical discipline in love. Men who claim to be leaders in religious institutions profane the Word of God and some of my brothers do not have the courage to stand up and say, "ENOUGH! We must obey GOD rather than men!"
To these and others who are distraught over the failure of a human institution to speak clearly and to stand upon God's truth God says, "Come out of her!" By doing so you are NOT leaving your heritage behind; nor are you causing division within the Church. When I and the congregation I serve left the denomination of which we were a part more than a year ago, I was asked how I could speak of unity and at the same time break the covenant I had made with others in the denomination. The answer was simple: I didn't break the covenant we had before God, you did! When you refuse to live by the truth of God's Word and to declare that there is one standard by which ALL things are judged and measured, you have broken covenant with GOD. When there is no accountability for those who reject God's Word and when evil is allowed to grow within the body, action must be taken to protect the flock. When an organization, a denomination, or any other human entity thus breaks covenant with God, God says, "Come out of her!" And in so doing, you MAINTAIN the unity of the Spirit which is the only true unity there is for the true Church, the body of Christ.
The covenant that binds God's people together is written in the blood of Christ shed on the cross. It is THAT unity that we are to make every effort to maintain, for "there is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (who believe), who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:3-6). Foolish men claim that there is a higher covenant that binds (enslaves) people to remain in a denomination or affiliation with those who no longer hold to the truth of God's Word. Allegiance to Christ demands that those who are part of the body of Christ, the one true Church, be united in the truth. LOVE demands accountability to the Head of the Church and thus to His Word. The Spirit knows of no unity without truth and love without truth is hate. Our covenantal bond is found in our commitment to Christ and to His Church. THAT is our heritage!!
As I toured our nation's capital and witnessed the resolve that motivated our founding fathers to stand firm despite the forces that threatened their union, I thought of the Church and the forces that stand against us. God has not promised that the United States of America will endure, but He HAS promised that His Church will endure until Jesus comes. Many are falling away ... they were never of us in the first place (I John 2:19). Many WILL fall away ... God has said it will be so (Matthew 24:9-13; II Thessalonians 2:3). These, too, were never truly part of Christ's body. Making covenant with those who are "religious" is futile and will bear no fruit for Christ and His kingdom. We are called to enter into covenant with the living God through His Son Jesus Christ and with all those who stand firm on the Word of God. His Spirit is our Teacher and His Word is our standard. No other document must bind our heart or our conscience. Any other confession, and other statement of faith, must be judged by its faithfulness to this one unchanging truth.
What are you willing to die for? Is there any "cause" that you would give your life to defend, to promote, to stand up for? It has been said that if you have nothing you would die for, you have nothing worth living for. Those who founded our nation were put here by God for that time ... THIS is OUR time!! We must be students of the Word of God and we must be witnesses of God's grace and truth, loving those who are part of the Church and offering God's love to those who are lost and in need of a Shepherd. And when challenged to turn aside from the truth, to change the message so no one is offended, to repent for our boldness to stand firm, to take back what we have said for the glory of God, we must respond once again as Luther and others did five hundred years ago:
"Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me! Amen!!"
In humility and love I call my brothers to maintain and promote THIS unity. I urge leaders in congregations to faithfully shepherd the flocks over which Christ has placed them as overseers. False teachers are nothing new, but what IS new is their "success" in deceiving so many. Not knowing what God's Word says, the sheep are vulnerable to deception. Faithful men are still being called by God to rightly divide the Word of truth. May God raise up such men in our day who are willing to face criticism and condemnation, knowing that "if our God is with us, who can stand against us?!" (Romans 8:31). He will never leave or forsake us, and in the end ... JESUS WINS!