by Mike Ratliff
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV)
At 3pm today I had my hair cut. The fellow who cuts my hair was a Marine in the Vietnam War. His was tank gunner. As he cut my hair we talked about Christmas and faith and many other things. He was in a depressed mood. I asked him why. He told me that Christmas has lost all of its significance. Here we are supposedly celebrating the birth of our Saviour and now it is not politically correct to use the word “Christmas” when referring to the Holiday. It is all about commercialism and political correctness.
As I drove home through the icy and snow packed roads I contemplated what we had discussed. The political correctness that we were talking about is just a symptom of something that runs much deeper. From the moment the Gospel was first preached, it has been under attack. Impostors have come along pretending to be genuine Christians or preachers or teachers and they have led many to destruction. As I planned this post I did some research into The Down-Grade Controversy that Charles Spurgeon was engaged in for many years until his death. Then I noticed a few hits on my blog from this link. I then did some research into the Restoration Movement that Chris Lyons and Tim Reed are part of.
My grandfather was a Baptist evangelist. He was born in 1877 and died in 1963. He preached in churches and brush arbors and tents from late in the 19th Century until the 1950’s. I was very young when he retired due to illness. However, my mother told me that one of his greatest battles was against those who wanted peace within the Body of Christ at all costs. To him there could be no compromise. It was the Restoration Movement and what remained of it in my grandfather’s time that he stood against. This movement sought to unite all Christians on only minor issues while overlooking divisive doctrinal issues.
The Down-Grade Controversy is closely related to the Restoration Movement. How can this be so? It is so because both attacked the very same thing, doctrines and creeds. I mentioned in my last post that my wife gave me a Geneva Bible for Christmas. It is a facsimile of the 1560 Edition. It is a product of the Protestant Reformation. I have only begun to delve into this Bible, but so far I have been blessed tremendously in reading the adamant sureness with which those who produced this Bible held to the truth from God’s Word. They were in a war for the truth and knew that they could be captured and killed by the enemies of it. What is our role in this battle? We are to be stewards of God’s Grace.
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.” (1Peter 4:1-6 ESV)
The Christian answer to the Great Down-Grade controversy and its many children such as the Restoration Movement is to be willing to suffer in the flesh for Christ’s sake and in light of His own suffering for us. What? How can that be the answer? Peter tells us in this passage that this willingness actually arms us in the battle against the flesh’s dominance of our lives. Those who deny that we need doctrine and creeds and such are those who are enslaved to the flesh and do not want to hear the condemnation against their sinful lifestyles coming from those doctrines and creeds. What they are overlooking though is that those doctrines and creeds are totally biblical. They are based entirely within the Bible and in no way take away from it or add to it.
God, through His Word, calls all of us to cease from sin and live in the flesh no longer. We must become free from human passions and learn to live for the will of God alone. To live according to the flesh is a mark of an unbeliever. Christians are New Creations. (2 Corinthians 5:17) That means they now have the ability to obey God, hear God, and know Gods truth. The unsaved are spiritually dead and have no ability to do those things.
How does living this way help us fight the good fight against false teaching and apostasy? The ability to stand in the gap and not fall away in the thick of the battle requires warriors who are wearing their armor and know how to use their weapons. If sin is working within a Christian then he or she is being undercut by it. The Conscience should be condemning them for holding onto their sin, but their hearts have become hard through their deliberate disobedience and now they can more easily ignore the Conscience. However, when they are called to stand and fight they are weak and ineffective because without a dynamic relationship with the Conscience they cannot stand the attacks that come through spiritual warfare because they will have a weak assurance.
Also, believers who are walking in victory with their hearts turned toward God will be in a constant state of repentance. This will be seen in their relationships with everyone around them. There will be no chinks in their armor because they are praying continually, loving the brethren, being patient in trouble, taking care of the poor, and counseling others to walk upright before the face of God, their Coram Deo. This is the Spirit-filled walk that is being moved and directed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We cannot be solid Christian soldiers who obediently suffer for Righteousness sake unless we first become mature believers, Spirit-filled, and focused on eternity. If our treasure is of earthly substance then we will have divided hearts that are useless in the battle. However, if our treasure is in Heaven then what happens in the temporal is insignificant because eternity is the genuine reality.