by Mike Ratliff
29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29 ESV)
The original title for this post was “Obedience,” but as I researched it there was a nagging voice telling me that I already had a post on my blog titled Obedience. So, I went back and found the original. I then thought about simply posting it again here, but then I became convicted that the research and prayer for this post was unique and not a copy of the earlier piece.
As many of you know, my wife and I left our old church in May of 2006 and have been pretty much without a church home since then. We have visited several churches. I liked most of them very much. The Sovereign Grace church in Overland Park that we have been visiting was probably the one I felt closest to during this time. However, none of them were “home.”
We left our old church because the leadership there was in about step 2 or 3 of their Purpose Driven Church implementation. For several weeks our pastor sermons were all about his new “vision” for the church. In April he gave the deacon body the Purpose Drive Church book to read. I didn’t read it. I already knew all about it thanks to the wonderful information found on Slice of Laodicea at that time from Pastor Ken Silva and others. In fact, Pastor Ken and his church prayed for my wife and I one Sunday that we would know whether to leave that church or stay and fight it out.
I was asked by our old pastor to give an account of how we should implement the PDC model. I did a lot of research and put together a 7 page document that laid out the theological fallacies and outright heretical aspects of its approach to doing church. I prayed a lot about giving it to my pastor. As I said earlier, Pastor Ken and his church were praying for me as well as many other readers of Slice. I gave the paper to my pastor along with his Purpose Driven Church book before church on the last Sunday in April. Several of my fellow Deacons quit talking to me that day. Others approached me wanting more information.
The next Sunday, my wife and I were out of town. That was the weekend the decision would be made by the leadership of the church whether to pursue the PDC model further or not. I got back in town late Sunday evening. No one from the church contacted us during the week. I prepared for my class as normal. On Sunday we went to church and I asked my closest friend on the Deacon board how the meeting went. He told me that it was decided to not implement the whole PDC model. They decided to modernize things instead with a more relaxed worship style, etc. I was a little disappointed, but I went ahead and worshipped there that Sunday and taught my class.
I went to the next Deacon’s meeting the following Saturday morning. I was stunned as the pastor and the Chairman of the Deacons kept talking about the changes they were going to start making over the Summer. They were going full tilt into the PDC model, no holds barred. I asked a few questions and I could tell that I was being excluded. That evening, I prepared for my class as normal, but I could not get my heart around the lesson. That was the first time that that had ever happened to me. We went to church the next morning and found that they had dissolved my class. We worshipped then left and went home after “church” that day. I could feel the eyes of the pastor boring into me as we walked out the front door. That was the last time either of us have been in that building.
Since then I have heard from some of our friends from my class. Some left the church right after we did while others stayed and went through the 40 Days of Purpose. I wept over that and prayed for those deceived people to have their eyes opened.
This morning, my wife and I visited a church in our home town that meets in a school just up the road from our house. As we were settling in to our seats I saw one of our friends from our old church in the row right behind ours. She and my wife are great friends. The worship service was wonderful. It was all based in and through the Sovereignty of God and the what Jesus had done for His people on the cross. We had Communion and my heart was soaring. That church is a like a large, very close family. We later had lunch with our friend from our former church who had been going to this church since October of last year.
She told us that she had gone back to our old church just before she had started going to the church we visited this morning. She said that it was more like a party than a church now. All of her friends there were gone. She recognized very few of the people there. She left and has not been back. She is a member of the church we visited today and she loves it. The sermons are both convicting and edifying. God is glorified and Man’s sin against the Law of God is preached. The church is growing and I am pretty sure that God is behind us being there today.
Now, how do we make decisions like this? Were my wife and I obedient to God in leaving that church? Were we obedient in waiting to join the “right” church? How do we know what God’s will is in these circumstances? The following passage from Acts describes how Paul and Silas made the decision to take the Gospel to Macedonia rather than going back East.
6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:6-10 ESV)
Well, I have never had a vision like Paul had, however, I have made decisions prayerfully in which I knew I was being obedient to God. How did this missionary team know not to speak the word in Asia or Bithynia? How do we know when to move and when to stop and when to stay put? Isn’t it by responding to the Providence of God as He “provides” or not as we pray fervently for direction? There have been times when I had my heart set on writing a post about something and just could not do it. All of my research into that subject was deadended. The more I sought the Lord’s face about doing it the more deadends I hit. I find this difficult to explain, but it is very hard for me to write these posts without a sense of following the Lord’s lead FROM HIS WORD. Of course I could just throw these together without praying and seeking the Lord’s will, but then all that you would read here would be totally outside of God’s grace and would not be edifying and would, in fact, be based in an through what I think and say instead of what God wants you to hear and learn. I pray that I will never do that.
We must be obedient to God. To be obedient we must know what the will of God is. How do we know it? We must get into His Word. We must learn it. Our consciences must become bound to it. We must learn orthodox doctrine. Yes, I’m sorry, but if we leave that one out then we will be in great danger of Christianity ala’ carte. There are some “churches” today who say that we can “Have it our way,” but that is having Jesus on our own terms. I can promise you that we are saved and we serve Him on HIS TERMS, not ours. We must also pray and seek His guidance. Do you think that God will tell us that we must obey Him and then not give us guidance and the information that we need in order to obey?
Those church leaders who have lead their flocks into the PDC and its imitators are not obeying God. They have led their flocks into a Humanistic form of Christianity that reverses everything. It puts people and their needs to the fore and makes God the vending machine who wants only to make the people happy. However, God is Sovereign. The end of all things is His glory not the happiness of Man. How could those men make this decision? Could it be that God has given them what they were idolizing? They want to have large growing churches that are accepted in society instead of being obedient to God in caring for their flocks by discipling them unto Christlikeness. Since their heart’s desire was nothing more than the idol of church growth, God has given it to them. They will now reap what they have sown. We must pray for God’s true sheep in those churches to come to themselves then come out of the apostasy. At the same time, my brethren, we must be constantly on the alert so that we will not follow after our enemy’s version of the gospel, or his way of doing church, or his way of living this Christian life. Instead, we must prayerfully “listen” as the Lord providentially leads us through this life of obedience and service.
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