By Benjamin H. Liles
I want you to know that the title of this article rolled around in my head this morning (rather, 11:30a) as I slowly woke up. I say slowly, and morning in a loose sense; with the fog of sleep starting to finally wear off. And yet, truthfully, I still feel dazed. So, that said, let me explain this play on words: for they aren't mine. How can I claim to be an eyewitness to the majesty known as the mystery of Christ Jesus? Was I somehow, perhaps there around A.D. 30-33? Did I behold something so life-transforming and then happen to come to 21st Century America, from let's say a Time Machine?
If I claimed that, some of you would be wise to say, "Wait a minute, either you're delusional at best, or you're crazy to think time travel exists!" I agree with you! So, who all would have been eyewitness, first-person jaw-breaking men who could claim they witnessed Jesus Christ, experienced Him, walked and talked with Him, listened to Him, dined with Him and shared in all things Christ, including watching Him be crucified on the cross, to have to bury Him, and then on top of that see Him risen from the grave?
We would at best call these men, "Crazy! Absurd! Illogical!" But they were there, and to top it all off so were women, the first two being called Mary who went to Jesus' tomb. In fact, John, the beloved disciple of Jesus Christ claims Jesus used these words, and I quote:
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples" (John 15:1-8, New King James, point made in use of bold).
There is a movement that looks and claims authentic in the sense of seeming valid, and it's creeping into our churches, slowly and surely. These so-called churches I can't even say are Christian, as they use that term "loosely," just as I used words loosely. There is this prevalent notion that "truth is relative; your truth isn't necessarily my truth." And yet these so-called "ministers," for that is what they claim to be are doing exactly what Jesus Christ said they would do in these "last days:"
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many" (Matthew 24:9-11).
Think about this a moment and ponder on it, and I mean be honest about it. Have you been exposed to authentic, Christ-like faith, to be obedient to Him, above all, to have so heard the Word spoken and you can no longer deny that He is calling you out of sin? If you can honestly say, "Yes," to this you know there's a fight going on for your soul, and so far to say, even your salvation! Christ goes on further to say this:
"And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:12-14).
If you notice the words there, you will see they say, "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold." Good, now I want you to pay attention here. Paul, in Romans says this:
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
"Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
"For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:18-32).
The men and women within the Emergent Church movement, as well as within the prosperity teaching circle, and the Church Growth movement are colluding all-together to produce this false gospel of hope and peace so much so that they are giving up the God-ordained covenant He set in place through the apostles of the New Testament. Think about that a moment and let that sink in! Paul used the words, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things." These people, Paul is saying, are trading the truth for a lie.
It is the same deceptive practice the serpent used in the Garden of Eden: "Has God said?" He inquires of Eve, so as to not only deceive her, but to get her to question the validity, and the ultimate authority of God so she can "be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5). Notice the subtlety and the subterfuge of something the Creator made was usurping His authority, to take His place as god!
And it is no wonder this is going on, for Jesus also said, "if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:23-24). I'm giving you this information as it is vital to our wherewithal to stand firm and to firmly stand our ground so we can be counted not simply as "faithful," by Christ Jesus on His return, but also as "righteous" as well.
Paul wrote, "Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12, Berean Study). In other words, study, study, and study even more. For Christ said, as well, "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you" (John 15:9-14, New King James).
The whole of the premise here laid out in this article is actually, not so much to start and maintain a dialogue with those in the emergent church, but for us to remain, to abide in Christ Jesus, to as Christ put it, "be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16) for He has sent us out among the wolves of this world. This world loves it's own and only cares for those who do not exchange that kingdom for a better and more heavenly kingdom, which is the kingdom of God.
More than that Jesus Christ tells us we can do nothing apart from Him, so it remains that if we try to engage those in this world, we are to do so in a loving, truthful, relying on the Bible sense. And here's the clincher on this part, the word for "witness" in the Greek is the same word for the word "martyr," and it is why Christ said to us within the text of Matthew, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). That word "witness" spoken of there is also rendered as "a testimony," the word martyrion, which has that root for Martyr.
So, when I say we contend for the faith of Christ, our Perfector and Finisher of our faith, I'm saying that we don't just run haphazardly into this lightly or without being properly armed and in service to the higher kingdom of God. He tells us we will eventually have to give an answer for the hope we have. I am doing so now in case something "should" happen to me. I'd rather these words be out here and now for all to see in order to equip and to edify those beyond me to another generation or so to stand up and take their faith all the way to the end. And again, we can do nothing without tour Lord and Savior helping us, guiding us, protecting us, and being our shield and buckler. I pray this helps and encourages you today to stand firm within your faith where ever you are. In the blessed name and hope of Jesus Christ, Amen.