Friday, August 17, 2018
Had Facebook existed 2,000 years ago, Jesus and His apostle’s would have received very few “Likes”, as Jesus and nearly all His apostles were murdered for their preaching. Yet, many of today’s culture-pleasing churches are in worldliness governed by “Likes”, avoiding at all costs, “Unlikes”. In that process, however, many are falsely led to believe they are the body of Christ.
God’s Spirit warned the first century Church saying, “Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul’, or ‘I am of Apollos’, or ‘I am of Cephas’, or ‘I am of Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:12–13).
Many years ago God opened my eyes to the grave divisions in the Church. I discovered that what the Spirit warned of in the above passage, was again true today. It was a bittersweet moment that resulted from a painful and difficult trial in my life. But praise God, in His faithfulness, He used this difficult but enlightening time for my good as whole truth prevailed!
Unfortunately, affliction is often required to shake one free of the mediocrity and conformity of false doctrines and traditions; things we were told to believe without question. Exhibit A is when bold Christian men said to Roman Catholicism’s evil traditions, “Enough!”, and the 16th century Reformation was born. And there resulted a much-needed revolt against, and mass exodus from “the great harlot who sits on many waters…The woman [who] was arrayed in purple and scarlet” (Rev. 17:1, 4). But a return to her wicked idolatries now threatens the evangelical Church.
When the Reformation occurred, those who led it were not prepared for the devil’s onslaught of division. Pride in the reformers led to great divisions. Ultimately, that division “According to the Dictionary of Christianity in America [Protestant] (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1990): “As of 1980 David B. Barrett identified 20,800 Christian denominations worldwide . . .” (“Denominationalism,” page 351).”
That was 38 years ago! Today with the increasingly popular non-denominational churches that break from their denominational roots, that number is far beyond the 20,800. These truths should motivate every Bible believing Christian to examine why he or she attends/believes an organized church that’s so divided against another while claiming to follow the same Bible and its Christ.
The Church is largely without unity today because men (and women) desiring power and control want to build their empires. This leads to the watering-down of the gospel and a smorgasbord of beliefs according to human desires. It creates mega-churches. But the true Christian who desires to follow Christ and His unchanging truth, who desires to see Christ exalted rather than man, must swim upstream against the flow of division to make some difficult decisions.
Divisions in the church today speak loudly, that, “This or that church is of Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Farel, Knox, Tyndale, Simons”, while more modern names include “Darby, Scofield, Kenyon and Hagen” just to mention a few. Here, we must ask ourselves, “Why and how have we, the body of Christ, been so duped as to participate in such division? In the Words of the Holy Spirit, “Is Christ divided?” Certainly not! There is no division in Christ.
Yet, while many church leaders and pastors speak of unity and their tolerance for nothing less, their own denominational doctrines and traditions create divisions that divide people! And were one to cite the testimony of Jesus and His Spirit that exposes false traditions in the Church, he is labeled as “divisive” or a “troublemaker” by leadership. But the Scribes and Pharisee’s labeled Christ the same way. Therefore, exposing false traditions puts one in very good Company.
These are serious spiritual issues that you and I as Christians must discern by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. If one’s tradition does not accord to the contextual testimony of Jesus Christ, reject it! Eternal life depends on making right decisions, bringing one’s will subject to the Words and teachings of Christ and His Spirit. And you have free will, so exercise it in Christ!
With the end of this age in sight aren’t you tired of men (and women) telling you what to believe according to their doctrines and traditions? You should be. One should not be content to be told what to believe. Otherwise one has a serious problem with authority because the Holy Spirit said “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29 NIV). What part of that command do so many Christians not understand? Again, ask yourself, “Is Christ divided?” Certainly not!
Paul said by the Holy Spirit, “But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us – by me…was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Cor. 1:18–20). In the gospel there is no room for the glory of man!
In fact, God said, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. [The affliction or tribulation that’s so often required for us humans to see the truth] For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another” (Isa. 48:11); including all who seek social media “Likes”.
Consider, of whom are you: “Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Farel, Knox, Tyndale, Simons, Darby, Scofield, Kenyon and Hagen”, or any of the other 20,800+ denominations, or are you of Christ, and Christ alone? The true Church is not Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Catholic, Anglican, Quaker, Mennonite, Assemblies of God, Puritan, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Reformed, Holiness, or any of thousands of names. The true Church is “the remnant” (Rev. 12:17 KJV), the believing, the faithful, the set apart, the uncompromised, who take God at His Word.
Webster’s Dictionary says a “remnant” is “1, a; a small part, member, or trace remaining; b; a small surviving group”. Applying this to the redeemed of the Lord, it fully accords with Jesus’ teaching, that, “narrow is the gate and difficult is the path which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:14); and that, “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14).
As end-time events escalate, it is vital that each Christian closely examine his or her doctrine and traditions of belief outside the influence of organized churches, and allow the testimony of Jesus and His Spirit to dictate what one believes. Otherwise it will be easy to be like one of the five foolish virgins of Matt. 25:1–13. But God wants us to be like the five wise virgins, prepared to endure the long, difficult night of tribulation, to greet the Bridegroom when He finally arrives.
Marlin J. Yoder