by Mike Ratliff
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25 ESV)
“Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal?” (Jeremiah 23:23-27 ESV)
Man is a fallen creature. He is flawed. He is forgetful. He is self-focused. He is incapable of knowing God without His divine intervention.
But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” (Joshua 24:19-20 ESV)
There are only two groups of people. There are those who are known by God, are regenerate, have their sins covered by the blood of the Lamb, and are Holy unto the Lord. The other group are those not known by God. They are unregenerate and are in their sins. They are of the World. These two groups are totally separate from one another on the Spiritual plane, but intermingled with one another on the Temporal plane. The first group has received that divine intervention and are now able to serve the LORD. The best the second group can do is be religious and their works unto the Lord are as filthy rags.
The Cross is the most important event in history. It was the culmination of God’s plan to redeem His people from their sins through the sacrifice of His beloved Son as their propitiation. None deserve this redemption and none are able to claim it because all are dead in their trespasses and sins. No, God must intervene into the lives of those He saves and by His grace. He regenerates them, enabling their faith to believe the truth. These repent and believe, receiving Christ as Lord and Saviour.
On the other hand, the enemy of the Souls of Men is a counterfeiter. He is a deceiver and that is why our Lord called Him the Devil. From the very beginning of God intervening into the lives of His people, there has been convoluted confusion emanating from Satan and his seed. Remember, God is not the author of confusion amongst His people, but of succinct truth and light. Where there is doctrinal confusion within the visible Church, there is the fingerprint of our enemy.
Our enemy, the counterfeiter, cannot thwart the truth. God preserves His truth and Satan was defeated at the Cross of Christ. Satan is not omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, but God is all of that and infinitely more. In his defeat, Satan’s kingdom was overrun by God’s grace. He has no power to steal salvation from anyone whom God saves. However, he can and does attack the faith of believers. God uses this to test their faith. This testing strengthens genuine faith, but reveals disingenuous faith.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8 ESV)
We live in a time of ever increasing apostasy within the visible Church. The first and second Great Awakenings in Britain and the United States, times of remembering God, obeying God, and repentance, were both followed by forgetting God, disobeying God, and a moving from God focused service to man-focused religion. There were bright spots in the 19th Century in the ministries of men such as C.H. Spurgeon and John A. Broadus, but that century also saw the rise of Christian liberalism. Spurgeon decried it as the ‘Great Downgrade.’ This was a moving from God focused Gospel preaching to Man-focused compromise in which the Gospel was seen as something that could be manipulated by men instead of being totally within the Sovereign Grace of God. Those who engendered this movement attacked those who withstood them, seeing them as ‘backward’ and ‘old-fashioned.’ However, I wonder if they understood that their churches and ministries had been placed upon the path that led to the contamination of Biblical Higher Criticism and eventual death as the spiritual life was drained from them over the ensuing decades as their congregations became marked by apathy.
There was a backlash against this. It was Christian Fundamentalism. D.L Moody was part of this. However, the 20th Century, the most violent century of all time, became a time of increasing movement away from this Fundamentalism into man-focused religion. No one seemed to understand that they were simply repeating the error of those in the Great Downgrade Controversy and those who liberalized their churches following the Great Awakenings. However, this time something different happened. Those very compromising churches that were watering down the Gospel, created their own subculture by becoming involved in politics and thereby becoming the Religious Right. This caused a backlash with the arising of Neo-Evangelism and the Emergent movements. Their cry was, “Everything must change!” They pushed for a return to the primitive roots of Christianity on one hand while demanding cultural relevance within the Gospel on the other. The former is a very old path to error called Restorationism.
Restorationists teach that there will be a restoration of all things as they were before the fall; a perfect state. Virtually all Christians have thought that their approach to Christianity is the right one, but Restorationists believe that the true form or emphasis has been lost for a long time and they are being used by God to restore the original. They believe and teach that all they are contending with are wrong and they are right. The way Church has been done for the last 2000 years is wrong and God is leading them back to the correct way to worship and serve God. We must admit that the pull to this ‘message’ is very strong. Who doesn’t desire to serve God the way He wants and demands? Don’t we all deeply desire to worship God in Spirit and Truth?
As the numbers of Christian leaders increase who succumb to the pull of restorationism, most believers are confused. On one had they see their churches take on the burden of seeker-sensitivity then they begin to hear new teachings that question the veracity of sound Biblical doctrines. They hear that Hell and Satan are myths. They hear human reasoning that comes to the conclusion that all people will be saved in the end. They see their leaders standing on the same stage as the Dali Lama, mystics, muslims, and secular humanists all contending that there are multiple paths to God. The Social Gospel has replaced the Biblical Gospel.
However, God has not forgotten His children nor has He forsaken the truth. Even though we believe that things could not get much worse in Christendom, the Church has been under this sort of attack in every age. In these ages God has raised up men who contended for the truth even if it appeared to cost them everything. Men such as Athenasius, Augustine, Wycliffe, Luther, Tyndale, and Owen all stood against the encroaching darkness in their day. They contended with those who were attempting to return to a perceived former, more pure religion.
Therefore, when we hear of new and enticing ‘doctrines’ in our day about returning to a more pure form of Christianity by destroying or deconstructing what is considered Orthodox shouldn’t we ask God for wisdom and obey Him by searching the scriptures to see if what these people are saying is so? This is what the Bereans did when Paul preached the Gospel in their Synagogue. Instead of simply believing him or persecuting him they checked out what he said with the Word of God. My brethren, nothing has changed. This is still what God is calling for us to do.
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. (Acts 17:10-12 ESV)
In our day, there appears to be a mass exodus away from what we consider Orthodox, to pursue all sorts of new and exciting ‘doctrines’ that are all about pleasing and attracting men. Those who go after these things are forgetting God, His sovereignty, and the good work He has done for the Church. They no longer remember that genuine salvation is a gift from God that goes only to those who receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour on His terms, not theirs. Genuine Christianity is not a religion of convenience that only considers the Saviour when one is in trouble or need with Him totally out of mind the rest of the time. No, that is not what genuine Christians do.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26 ESV)
Genuine salvation is life changing. It begins at regeneration and continues for the rest of the Christians life. They prove their genuineness by their abiding in Christ to the end.
“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 does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:1-6 ESV)
Those who practice remembrance, that is, who live their lives in remembrance of Christ, are those who abide in Him. They are living sacrifices.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)
Those who abide in Christ are pruned so that they will bear more fruit. This is being a living sacrifice who is not conformed to this world, but is transformed (sanctified) by the renewal of their minds. They are tested, their faith is put to the test, so that they will grow in Christlikeness and their knowledge of God. These believers remember God and His promises and His works and live in them. On the other hand, many who profess Christ as Lord do not.
It seems then, that Christians may forget Christ! There could be no need for this loving exhortation, if there were not a fearful supposition that our memories might prove treacherous. Nor is this a bare supposition: it is, alas! too well confirmed in our experience, not as a possibility, but as a lamentable fact. It appears almost impossible that those who have been redeemed by the blood of the dying Lamb, and loved with an everlasting love by the eternal Son of God, should forget that gracious Saviour; but, if startling to the ear, it is, alas! too apparent to the eye to allow us to deny the crime. Forget Him who never forgot us! Forget Him who poured His blood forth for our sins! Forget Him who loved us even to the death! Can it be possible? Yes, it is not only possible, but conscience confesses that it is too sadly a fault with all of us, that we suffer Him to be as a wayfaring man tarrying but for a night. He whom we should make the abiding tenant of our memories is but a visitor therein.
The cross where one would think that memory would linger, and unmindfulness would be an unknown intruder, is desecrated by the feet of forgetfulness. Does not your conscience say that this is true? Do you not find yourselves forgetful of Jesus? Some creature steals away your heart, and you are unmindful of Him upon whom your affection ought to be set. Some earthly business engrosses your attention when you should fix your eye steadily upon the cross. It is the incessant turmoil of the world, the constant attraction of earthly things which takes away the soul from Christ. While memory too well preserves a poisonous weed, it suffereth the rose of Sharon to wither. Let us charge ourselves to bind a heavenly forget-me-not about our hearts for Jesus our Beloved, and, whatever else we let slip, let us hold fast to Him. – C.H. Spurgeon from Morning by Morning.
Christians who live as if the temporal is all there is, which is exactly what our enemy desires for us to do, forget that eternity is the real reality. These who forget this forget God and focus on their felt needs instead of God’s glory and preparing for eternity. It is these professing Christians who become the fodder of the those who come along preaching the new and exciting way to be a Christian. This new and exciting way puts absolutely no requirements on professing Christians to study the Word of God, to live obedient lives of repentance. No, they aren’t called to do anything except go to these ‘churches’ and ‘tithe.’ Those they go to hear, to tickle their ears, consider success in ministry to be numbers and money. It is as if eternity is an afterthought. The Jesus that is presented there is not the one we find in scripture who preached more about Hell than any other we find in the Bible. No, this Jesus is one who loves everyone just they way they are, so don’t bother repenting.
I pray that all reading this will examine themselves to see if they are really in the faith. We must all do this to see if we are depending upon our religion and decisions to save us or if we are depending entirely on Jesus Christ alone and His work on the Cross to save and hold us. There is a difference folks. Christ commanded that we commune with Him in order to remember Him and His work on our behalf. Why? It is through abiding in Him and His love this way that fights off the darkness and lies of the enemy that seek to derail our faith causing us to stumble into forgetfulness.
Some of you have had this happen and are being drawn back into the light by our merciful God. I pray that you will repent and get back into the race. Some of you have become angry because of what we have shared on this blog. I am truly sorry that you are angry, but could it be that you have become blind and deaf to the truth because you have partaken of idolatry instead of abiding in Christ? I pray that God will open your eyes and ears and that you will repent in sackcloth and ashes (figuratively) so that God can do His good work of healing in your heart. To those of you for whom God has already done this, I rejoice with you. We must abide in Christ together, in remembrance of Him, that we will not be ashamed when we stand before Him.
Soli Deo Gloria!