We who hold to the Biblical principles of worship (i.e., worshiping God in the manner He has prescribed and not worshiping Him in the manner He has not prescribed) need to view the fields of battle around us. It is time that we Christians, as watchmen, earnestly contend for the Faith (Jude 4).
We are in a crucial time in history. While the Reformed faith is experiencing a revival on one hand, the enemy has come in like a flood on the other (Isa. 59:15). The time for waging war is upon the church. There is no time to waste. We are in a battle for the purity of worship. We are at a gigantic pivotal point in history. It is not just a slight difference in traditional vs. contemporary methods, it is a crucial battle with the forces of darkness. While Christians are examining themselves to see if they really have any objections to guitar picking and ragged denim in worship, the avalanche is hastening downward toward the mountainous cliffs. The most important activity of our lives is under assault. The enemy is at the door, even in the sanctuary. The children of God have presented themselves before the Lord and Satan is among them. It is time to awaken those who sleep, openly withstanding error. It is time to put away subtle sermons and persevere in direct truth. It is time to sound the alarm.
Another gospel is being preached. A "Johnny-come-lately," innovative originality has taken over the worship of God. Mega churches are springing up to meet a shopping mall glut of sensuous consumer entertainment. The grace of God is being turned into lewdness, while God's reverent name is being openly taken in vain. Something for everyone is being offered, except for those who love the historical standards of the church, the doctrines of the faith, and God's explicit directives of how He is to be worshipped.
Orthodoxy is being replaced by a "Daddy-o" familiarity with a god of the imagination. Throughout Christendom antinomianism, meaning "anti-law" prevails. God's law is neither the rule for faith and practice, nor its doctrines necessary for the propagation of the church, or the auditorium, should we say. The stadium air of praise has replaced reverential worship, while the revered attributes of God seem to be confined to the perversion of His grace and love.
It is an antinomian perversion of God's grace, as if there were no law, and anything is okay because grace covers everything. What we see is a subjective approach, "You're okay, God I'm okay too." It is a furthering of individualized Christianity that robs the sheep of the understanding of the Everlasting Covenant, its nurture and fruition. Sacraments are observed as opportunities for cheapened novelty, diminishing their Scriptural meaning. Doctrine is exchanged for moralistic preaching. The lack of doctrinal teaching is used as the "drawing card" for effective marketing to newcomers. Aggressive alternatives are not only pursued in tolerant sweetness, but the traditional, doctrinal, "church-dressed" church is scowled at in overt rebellion.
The wealth of information, available to the church from God's Word and Christian saints, who have bled and died for the expanse of Christ's kingdom, is not being refuted, it is being overtly ignored. It is as if everything the church has held sacred for thousands of years is now trampled under foot for a new beginning. While it is new, its divisiveness is as old as Christendom.
How has it happened that an unattended blaze of another gospel has spread, by so vigorous an inflamed wind? As in all sin, it can be traced back to the Garden and Satan's antinomian question to Eve, "Yea, hath God said" (Gen. 3:1). We see such a corruption of the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:4), though this new gospel would have us believe that the world needs worship that is simpler, freer, spontaneous, and non-restricting. Well, it is that for sure. It annihilates God's scriptural directive for worship and implements a creative, inventive flame of strange fire (Lev. 10:1).
It is disturbing that many come preaching another Jesus, Whom the apostles did not preach, boasting of another spirit, newly received (2 Cor. 11:3, 4). Centuries of doctrines and teachings are being eroded of the simplicity and purity of the Scriptures. What is holy and true is vehemently cast out for what is entertaining and palatable and in agreement with the flesh (Gal. 3:3). The mystery made known to us through the grace of Christ is flung to the wind in exchange for another gospel that is irreverent and familiar. If the mystery is removed, where is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27)? The manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10) is hidden in the perversions within the church.
The sheep are being offered alternatives to God's directives, a come-to-church as-you-are disorder, an overthrow of tradition for the world's entertainment. The lavish choices excite lustful interests. The way of salvation has become more relaxed and not as complex as it used to be. The narrow path has widened to include everyone even remotely interested in becoming churched. While crowds throng the passageways, the hearts of the seekers are led to sway in love and enjoyment of God's grace. While they are soothed in their experience of emotional subjectivism, for the purpose of pleasurable indulgence, the last stanza of each little "ditty" is repeatedly sung again and again.
What we see is the age-old work of the Enemy revolving in fashion. This very same apostasy used to be called "Full Gospel," with emphasis on tongue-speaking, being anointed by the Holy Spirit, and receiving extra revelation. It began small and almost secretive. It readily jumped denominational lines. Experiencing another "Pentecost" was instant completeness in sanctification. The "second blessing" was rite of passage for superiority over feeble Christians who had not yet been anointed. Women intimately exchanged "dove" jewelry, as tokens of approval between friends, who had attained a higher, more complete "spiritual" experience. God's name was taken in vain, as if any use of His holy name were permissible. The entire divisiveness waived heavily on emotional pride and short on scriptural scholarship.
Now this same divisiveness, with added tentacles, continues today to serve up extensive delicacies that further Satan's purposes, which then and now could not be further from inclusion of the fullness of God's law, including the gospel.
"Wait," you might say! "Isn't it great that more people are attending church today than ever before?" It would truly be great if those attending were hearing God's Word preached and not a perversion thereof. It would be absolutely marvelous if God's entire Word were loved and obeyed, and people everywhere wanted to flow into the sacred sanctuary of our Sovereign God to worship Him and Him alone. It would be great if those who sought worship would do so in the clear and pure manner God ordained and not in the imagination of their darkened, deceived hearts.
This new gospel has such an "attendance/growth" focus, as if numbers were the goal and whatever it takes to attract folks, and their pocket books, in order to pay the bank note for the enormous buildings, is okay. Is the goal to enhance church growth or is it one of the deceiver's hidden methods to lead the sheep astray?
"Many strangers have now come into the house of God" (Jer. 51:51). What are the goals of the "Johnny-come-lately's"? Is it church growth or membership among the elect body of Christ? Is it worship according to God's Word or pagan rituals of entertainment? What is gained, if all of society is churched with disregard to God's law? Have we glorified and honored God, or glorified and honored another gospel? If congregated people are not true to the teachings of the Scriptures in preaching, sacraments, and discipline, there can be no true church. If a congregation is not a true church, Christ will not put His name there and there will be no lasting and true nourishment for the perfecting of the saints. What will most certainly be present will be a propagation of strong delusion that the lies may be believed and the pleasure in unrighteousness may be continued (2 Thes. 2:11, 12).
"Isn't it clear that those who have gone out from us prove they were really never with us?" Yes, in some instances that may be true. But how long can that rationale be implemented to soothe the conscience and settle the dust aroused in the mass exiting of hundreds of used-to-be faithful members of the church? Whatever happened to searching for the lost sheep? Going out into the highways and hedges and compelling those with needs to come in to the place of truth, rest, and restoration in the worship of God? Whatever happened to fasting and praying that God would convict those who are separated from His principles of worship to seek forgiveness and restoration?
I don't believe we can say that all those who have gone out from Biblical churches are eternally lost. Many are our brothers and sisters in Christ. The sheep need not be blamed because the stones they were served, in holy piety, were indigestible. Many of them have been hungry for a long time and have needed nourishing food and refreshing waters. Many have young of their own. The sheep have needed more than empty platitudes in helping to raise their little ones. They have situations that cannot be pacified with the metrical pattern of the Psalms and empty religious speculations. They are wanting. They are scattered. They are searching. Emphasis on God's grace and love, without the fullness of His Word, may suffice, but only for a while. When the real issues come along, their faith in their faith, apart from God's Word, will prove to be empty and inapplicable. Faith must have an object and that object is the Word of God. What God says in His Word is what we are to believe. This is the Christian's only object, only root, for dependence. The answers to hard questions require faithful study of God's Word. If God's basic doctrines are abhorred, there will be no foundation upon which the sheep can nourish their lives or the lives of their lambs.
God exhorts us to be watchmen for the purpose of sounding out the warning (Ez. 3:17). The watchman is to be knowledgeable of the church's danger, recognizing and identifying it when it appears, and sound the alarm of warning (Ez. 33:6). As watchman, we are to contend for the Faith earnestly and seriously. If God contends with those who contend with us (Isa. 49:25), should we do less to contend with those who plunder His sanctuaries? We need not be discouraged in well doing. The skirmishes of the church should be met with opposition, in the Spirit of Christ, standing and withstanding, doing battle for the King of Kings, holding to the reins, following the righteous standard. Let us throw off timidity and be distinct instruments of righteousness, vessels of God's reconciling work in subduing and conquering all His and our enemies.
Our responsibility is to aggressively feed our families and ourselves, lest we be undiscerning in recognizing the enormity of false teachings and the deceptive working of another gospel. We are called to be salt and light ourselves, in the church and outside the church. We are to be examples, ministering powerfully with the actions of our lives. We are admonished to pray for the unction of the Holy Spirit to speak through us to others, lovingly warning and praying for the return of the wandering sheep to God's applicable Word.
God empowers the shepherds to impart His wisdom which confounds the wise (1 Cor. 1:27). He promises His presence in teaching everything He has commanded (Mt. 28:18-20). Let us be bold in praying that God would strengthened us inwardly, in might by His Spirit, in the inner man (Eph. 3:16). Whether or not the sheep appear to be following, we are to keep your eyes upon Christ and do what is right. If we hold to God's truths He will bless us.
It is our responsibility to understand and identify antinomianism and to faithfully uphold the Biblical directive of following all of God's law as our only standard for life and practice. This is critical. The time is now. May we be faithful to encourage our brothers and sisters, our children and grandchildren, to ask for the old paths, that are good, that they, and we with them, may walk therein and find continual rest to our souls (Jer. 6:16).
- Ina Manly Painter
Ina Manly Painter has a Master of Science Degree in Educational/Counseling Psychology. She and her husband, Harrison, live in Knoxville , TN , where they have been affiliated with Re/Max Preferred Properties as REALTORS, for many years. They have four children, Paige, and wife Christa, Laura, Jared, and Amanda and one grandson, Caleb. They can be contacted by email at [email protected].