Signs of the Times
Many years ago, Evangelist John Carrera came to our church for a series of meetings and we enjoyed his ministry as well as our personal conversations. In one of those conversations, he was asked what he observed as the most serious problem among fundamental churches at that time. He barely hesitated to answer, "the sin of self-satisfaction." Over the decades that have transpired since that conversation, that is the one issue that has persisted despite the many other changes that have come and gone throughout our churches.
It is not the spirit of contentment, such as we find in our confidence in Christ. Scripture teaches us that the combination of godliness and contentment is great gain (I Timothy 6:6), but that pertains to the sufficiencies we find in the Person and Work of Christ, as well as the settled confidence in the truth and trustworthiness of God's Word. Nowhere do we find any contentment or self-sufficiency in connection with our progressive Sanctification, but rather, we are challenged to be perpetually growing in the things of the Lord (II Peter 3:18). The problem of spiritually immaturity, however, is compounded by those who think they have arrived at a comfortable level of spiritual life, that leaves room for a generous measure of worldliness, in stark contrast to a spirituality barely past the most basic beliefs and salvation. It is a dangerous deficiency that leaves far too many vulnerable to the ill winds of perverted doctrine and apostasy, with the resulting weaker local church testimonies and ministries. The problem is the bitter fruit of failures and weaknesses to be found on both sides of the pastor-people relationship.
First, the failure on the pastoral side of the equations flows from the failure to teach and preach the doctrines of the Word and such subjects as: the doctrine of the Church and the role of its Membership, the principles udergirding Unworldliness and Separation, the doctrine of the Great Commission and bearing witness of Christ to others, etcetera. One could deeply wish that some of the current pandering to Reformed Theology spreading among us might suffer a sudden chill, if we took the opportunity to tell our people how our Baptist forbears suffered terribly at the hands of the Reformers no less than that under the Romanists. Were some of the heroes of Reformed Theology alive today, exercising as much power now as they did a few centuries ago, we might find ourselves burning at the stake as heretics. If our people slavishly persist in spiritual ignorance, let it not be the result of our failure to teach and preach the whole counsel of God.
On the other side of the equation, the people in the congregation bear an equal weight of responsibility to seek after and learn the doctrines of the faith, as well as their spiritual heritage as Baptists, so that their lives might be more shaped by the things of God than by the things of the world. The Apostle Paul addresses that very issue in his opening verses in Romans 12:1,2. It is a calling to believers that completely defies the understanding of the world. It is an absolute contradiction in principle to everything our people are exposed to, from the world's media. Nevertheless, it is a call evey one of our people who profess faith in Christ need to hear, if they would live above the broken world around them, to the glory of their Savior.
A contentment with less than the best the Lord has to offer stifles spiritual growth motivates many to search for poor imitation of real contentment from sources other than God's Word. Carrera's observation of the sin of self-satisfaction has also bred other sins of self-sophistication and self-possession. We have how the internet is flooded daily with the wisdom of men elevated above the wisdom of God, as we find it recorded in His Word. Likewise, there are others who persistently demonstrate that the Gnostic presumption of a superior knowledge of the mysteries of Scripture has not lapsed into obscurity. For example, the science of Mathematics misapplied to the Scripture has once again failed to bring the world to its predicted certain extinction yet again. Nevertheless, how many false prophets continue to ply their trade to the harm of their followers and the mockery of Christianity? How many others, in how many other ways, have fared no better in their scholarly analyses of the Word to produce some new contrarian doctrine that has done more to sell books and garner platform time than to tell the truth of God? For example, how many have failed God's people by teaching error regarding such doctrines as the Blood of Christ, the eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ or Lordship Salvation, who having subsequently withdrawn from their errors, are no less in demand today, whether in person or by book? How many more have risen up among us in hope of sharing some of their limelight in the hallowed halls of higher education, with the expectation of their words filtering down to the pulpits of ill-fed congregations? The cult-like devotion to a personality above Biblical principle can be seen abundantly across our nation, in the absence of a healthy skepticism of persons, rather than a worthwhile understanding of Biblical truth. Let's be clear that the sins of Sophistication and Self-Possession have never served to advance the cause of Christ, because their objectives have always been the advancement of the self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction of Man. When we become little more than a mutual admiration society, we have abandoned the very reason for the existence of our churches and institutions and deserve extinguishment no less than the Laodiceans.
Dr. Charles L. Dear
Editor, THE REVIEW