Fumbling the Ball

by Mike Ratliff

32 Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ὁμολογήσει ἐν ἐμοὶ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὁμολογήσω κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς· 33 ὅστις δ’ ἂν ἀρνήσηταί με ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἀρνήσομαι κἀγὼ αὐτὸν ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς. (Matthew 10:32-33 NA28)

32 So everyone who confesses me before men I also will confess him before my Father who is in Heaven 33 and whoever denies me before men I will also deny him before my Father who is in Heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33 a personal translation from the NA28 Greek text)

What does it mean to confess Jesus before men? Is it what so many say in our time that it is a simple profession of faith that you are a “Jesus Follow?” Or as so many do in that they point to their religious affiliation? One thing is made clear in Sacred Scripture; if one does profess to be a Christian then that “faith” that is presented will be tested. The test will be along some line of demarcation that divides what is genuine faith from what is of the flesh or of this world. Of course, there are three results of these tests. Christians go through the fires of tribulation and stand firm and their faith is strengthened as the Holy Spirit works through that test to reveal the truth of their faith to them and also to those whom God intended to see it for his own purposes. However, genuine believers can also fall badly as their faith is tested as did Peter the night of our Lord’s trial in which he denied our Lord 3 times and also when Paul had to confront him about his hypocrisy when the Judiazers came to Antioch (Galatians 2:11-13). In both cases Peter failed the test because of “fear of men.” Did this make him an unbeliever? Of course not! No, these tests were used by God to reveal to him problems with his walk in which he needed to confess and repent. On the other hand, there is a third result in which disingenuous faith is revealed and these false believers immediately fall away as their faith is revealed to be not supernatural, but of the flesh or of the world. I covered this in this post back in 2006. 

The test or trial that comes to bear that reveals genuine faith from disingenuous faith is often in the area of “compromise.” Those applying pressure will make the threat in such a way that it is “okay” to be Christian, but when it comes to adhering to everything Jesus taught as Orthodox then to be “accepted” or to be “allowed” some benefit or to “not be threatened” or to “not to continue to be persecuted” then compromise is demanded. Here is what John MacArthur said about Matthew 10:32-33, which I placed at the top of this post, “The person who acknowledges Christ as Lord in life or in death, if necessary, is the one whom the Lord will acknowledge before God as his own.” The key here is that Christ as Lord in life or in death means Lord over all and that means if we proclaim Jesus as our Lord and Saviour then we cannot compromise anything that falls within what we call Christian Orthodoxy. However, I would like to offer you three examples that are somewhat troubling in our time.

The first one is that of Louie Giglio who was offered the role to pray at the latest Presidential Inaugural, but when some pro-homosexual rights activists vetted him and found that he had once preached a sermon that was theologically sound about the sin of homosexuality and how those mired in that sin must repent, they demanded he recant or be removed from the event. He had the opportunity to take a stand for the Gospel and Biblical Truth, but instead, he backed away and simply said that he had ceased to preach like that and instead, he now, “Made much of Jesus” as the focus of his ministry.

The second one is Neil Clark Warren, the founder of eHarmony. In an interview on the Christian Post he stated that, “he believes the same-sex marriage debate has “damaged his company,” and that he hopes America can “be more harmonious” on the issue.” What struck me about the content of the interview was how Warren seemed to buckle to the pressure, but described himself as a “”passionate follower of Jesus.” That sounded to me very similar to what Giglio said, but what did he actually end up doing about the persecution? Did he stand firm? Did he rely on the power of prayer and stand firm relying on God to take him through the fire? No, he compromised.

The final example is Tim Tebow. I like football. I played it until it became obvious that I wasn’t going to grow anymore and everyone else in my class was continuing to get much larger. I got tired of being told I was too small, et cetera. In any case, I still enjoy watching it and when Tebow graduated college and began playing in the NFL I liked watching him play and succeed even when “experts” said he couldn’t. I also liked his stance as a Christian, but I have learned over the years that celebrity Christians will always have their fleshly side revealed sooner or later. I thought it would come when he went to play for the NY Jets, but it actually was revealed in a much more concrete way that the world probably has no problem with, but those with discernment see it as his big fumble.

He was offered the opportunity to preach at First Baptist Church of Dallas. I am old enough to have been to the old brick structure in downtown Dallas to hear W.A. Criswell preach back in 1950’s when I was a little boy. In any case, Tim Tebow came under a great deal of pressure from the pro-homosexual rights activists to not preach there if he knew what was good for him. Why? You can read about that here. His response was quite sad.

Why bring this up? What should we take from this? My brethren, these tests will come upon all who profess to be Christians in this lost and dying world, especially upon those that the seed of our enemy perceives that they have a way to apply leverage or pressure upon in order to “conform” them to the ways of the world. The world does not want to hear the truth. It hates the truth. We disobey God when we attempt to soften the truth. Sin is sin no matter who attempts to make it socially acceptable.

If President Obama’s limousine pulled up outside your house and all of his guards escorted you into his presence and you were either threatened in some way to compromise the truth or else or, probably more likely, if you were offered something that the world would really covet if you would only compromise…what would you do?

Soli Deo Gloria!

Greek Bible text from: Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th revised edition, Edited by Barbara Aland and others, © 2012 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.

22 thoughts on “Fumbling the Ball

  1. I would like to think I would be strong enough to stand for truth but in all honesty I compromise it everyday when I don’t confront co-workers with sin. Just tonight a girl lied to a customer and I just smiled at her and called her a liar. She smiled back. Instead of really saying something to her and talking about the Gospel I essentially presented a low view of sin with my glib gesture. I am going to ask for forgiveness and power over my flesh.

  2. That’s where it must start Keith. None of us are perfect, but always remember that the Blood of Christ for the remission of our sins covered them all. Our part is to do as you are doing, that is, walking in repentance.

  3. Fear of man creeps in when we least expect it. I am struggling with some doctrinal conclusions in the confession my church uses and want an elder to explain the biblical defense for it. We cannot hold to a confession without knowing how it defends or explains the Bible – if so, we are no better than the Roman Catholics with their Magisterium.

  4. Right Manfred, it’s the Word alone that has authority not any man-made confession. They are useful for doctrinal instruction and such and that is how we must use them.

  5. I pray that God would continue to give me the strength and courage to stand against the world, to be firmly planted on the solid Rock; I believe I will stand firm, speak up and out – - but only by His power, not mine.

    When celebrity ‘Christians’ make much of their supposed faith, it’s usually to try and convince others, and maybe even themselves what they have is genuine. An example of that was Whitney Houston, who spoke often of Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and yet, she lived in the world, loved the world, was disobedient to the word, and was obviously in bondage to much sin. Many can claim to know Christ when asked, but that isn’t the question is it?

    These troubled times require much prayer for one another; it’s easy to say we’d do this or that as we sit behind keyboards, but when the rubber meets the road, then what? We know what is coming and we must be ‘prayed up’, in constant continual prayer for boldness and strength. If the Apostle Paul needed prayer, we need it more…” and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.” – Eph. 6:19

    As always, good post Mike; may the Lord continue to bless and strengthen you brother

    Lyn

  6. That’s right Lyn, we obey, we repent only by His power, not ours. As we look at those God really used on the New Testament they were not “celebrity” Christians at all, but were instead persecuted and looked down on by nearly everyone. Yes, we must uphold each other in prayer for we all need it.

  7. Amen Mike. Thank you for this article! Dangerous times we are living in.

    I can only nod in agreement with the rest of the comments as well, and relate. I prayed that you all may be kept, but pray for us as in our work as well, that we may resist the big tsunami of compromise that is spreading like an epidemy these days, everywhere.

    Keep preaching Mike. :)

  8. Mke Ratliff they could killed me because I would never deny my lord Jesus Christ. The brethren in Nigeria are being slaughter as we speak. I pray for them everyday and all the persecute believer around the world.

  9. Michael, oh yes, there are definitely places in this world like Nigeria where being a Christian can cost you your life. However, I’m not so sure that the softness we have here in the West is not more of poison to our faith than actually having to live in those circumstances you shared. I am not saying it is right, but look at the phoniness of faith of so many of the Christians in the West. It is disgusting. I am convinced that this is also a judgment from God upon a Church that was given much, but turned its back on the truth in order to be more worldly and be acceptable by men. Thanks for sharing that Michael.

  10. Hi Mike,
    Thanks for this post. To me it is a reminder to not get too enamored with “celebrity christians” such as those mentioned in this post. I think of others not too long ago such as the Bakers?, Swaggart, etc. and Billy Graham who recently (according to youtube) is saying some strange things and of course all the big shot emergent/purpose driven group. Fame seems to be a very strong deceiver. Wasn’t fame one of the offerings that Satan gave to Christ in the wilderness?
    I am leery now of any big Christian Conference/gathering/event where some “great man of God” is the headliner. Give me a simple, humble, nobody who loves God with all his (her) heart and exudes that love to those around him /her.

    I have a younger sister whom I visit with briefly once or twice a year, who is in the grips of this homosexual sin. She lives in a distant city where I go to visit with my elderly mother. We talk about family and other polite things. I enjoy her company and her “friend’s” also, and I am in prayer the whole time asking my Father to open the door for His Words. Many years earlier I avoided her because of her lifestyle (Note: she dated the biggest losers prior to going down this path) but now I realize she is no worse than any other lost hellbound soul. When we first started to reconnect ~3 yrs. ago I was reluctant to enter her house but then I remembered that I belong to Jesus Christ who is greater than anyone or anything, that He has been placed “far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named.” Eph 1:21.

    I cannot condemn her. That is not my function. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. My job is present the Good News! I think of the discussion that Jesus had with the woman at the well who was living in an adulterous situation and he did not condemn her but even praised her for telling the truth. Jesus did not come to condemn but to save.

    In this growing evil day when evil is shoved into our faces whether it is homosexuality or any number of other evils and told it is good and acceptable, then as God’s chosen people we must stand firm against it.
    I agree 100 % with this ministry which calls “a spade – a spade” or sin or apostasy within the church, that which it is.

    My sister knows of my conversion from Catholicism to Christianity from many years ago when we were closer and I had an opportunity to share my faith in Jesus Christ. So just the fact that she invites me into her home now is a big step. As I write this I am being reminded (convicted?) that I need to do more to keep in touch with her… an email now and then at the least.

    May The Lord continue to guide you into His Truth, Mike, and give you the words to share with this fellowship.

    Glory to God in the highest!

  11. Mike – I really like the analogy you used regarding Christians in the west being “poisoned”. My family and I pray every evening for persecuted Christians in a variety of countries and the real hardships they face. We sometimes wonder if there is any persecution in the US. There is, but it is subtle, like poison.
    I too admit to a fear of men, but mainly those in leadership inside the churches; the pastors. I have no fear of sharing the gospel in and with the world. All of the spiritual warfare I have faced as an evangelist for the past 15 years has come from churches and pastors.
    I desperately want to help churches and pastors in any way possible to wake up and rise up, but every time I have offered any constructive criticism it has eventally led to my removal and a loss of fellowship. I am now at a new church where I try to set an example of going out and doing evangelism. The pastor is a good man who says he wants revival. I can see serious problems that should be addressed, but if I bring them up I fear they will not be taken in the right spirit; and so once again I remain silent and it nags at me. Unless a fellowship has transparency we will never have the true fellowship we desire and we will remain weak and ineffective.

  12. Lance,

    I can relate to your desire for wanting to help churches and pastors as I am sure that most of us at this site desire the same thing, namely to help the church. There are others here who much wiser than I who can help you, but for my 2 cents worth – You aren’t going to change anything unless the leadership trusts you. If as you say the pastor is a good man then I would think he wants what is good for his flock. So maybe you have to win his trust as a first step.

  13. Sorry I got distracted when I wrote the post. It should read: I have been concerned about Tim Tebow since I learned that was a model for Jockey underwear. Also in 2012 he announced that for Easter he announced that he was going to go Celebration Church in TX. http://espn.go.com/new-york/nfl/story/_/id/7788856/new-york-jets-tim-tebow-draws-thousands-texas-easter-event I look up the church it has word faith written all over it: http://celebrationchurchtx.com/

  14. Thanks Peter, but this is not a matter of Trust. This is spiritual warfare. I was the Associate Pastor/Elder at a church for 10 years. Plus I was the Evangelism coordinator for the local Association for 7 years, as well as other posts. When one attempts to even rock the boat slightly those with the power resist. The current church model of the pastor/CEO without accountablity is the norm in 99% of churches. I shouldn’t need to have the pastor’s trust to be able to tell him what I think. Paul got in Peter’s face in front of everyone; Galatians 2:11. I am not looking for help in my current situation. I know what I should do. I am lamenting the FACT that if I do it, it will not be received in the spirit that it is given, and that once again I will lose fellowship. This is a commentary on all churches, not just the one I am currently at. Satan does not want the church(s) to do evangelism. The warfare is intense and subtle. Prayer is the only answer.

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  17. We really need the Lord to hold us up in these times, and to pray for each other. May each of us, when we fumble, be restored, as Peter was.

    Mike, yours and Lance’s comments about the subtle poisoning of western Christians were spot on. We ARE being persecuted, all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus WILL be persecuted, but the persecution here as you said, is covert and in some ways more damaging.

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