by Mike Ratliff
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV)
To be honest, I never thought that I would ever end up in the part of the battle that I have found myself. For the first 19 or so years after my salvation, I was just your typical church member who “occasionally” found my faith peeking through into my work week. As I matured, I became a Bible teacher and a Deacon. I did participate in Evangelism Explosion training and used that training as a counselor on Sunday mornings at the altar. However, the rest of the time I was not exactly giving God much of my time. That changed in 2004.
For the first 8 months of 2004, God drew me closer and closer to Him. By August I was in the Bible or in prayer or in theological study or worship nearly all day every day. I just could not get enough of my Lord. Still, being in the battle that Paul describes in Ephesians 6 was not on my radar. However, I began to experience some “push back” later that year. I was at a Deacon’s meeting one Saturday morning. My Pastor was depressed and despondent because several of our small church’s long time members had left our fellowship. They had not moved away. They had moved to other churches. I listened as he lamented.
Some of the Deacons gave him advice on changing how “church was done.” I listened for awhile and just couldn’t take it anymore. I asked, “Where is your faith?” He looked at me with eyes wide open. I then told him that his job was not to build a big church or even a growing church. His job was to be obedient to his calling. He was to preach the Word and pastor his flock. God would bless that.
I overheard him telling one of our other Deacons as we left that day that he could tell that I had been spending a great deal of time in prayer. I began to think that God was going to use me to help our Pastor and our church as He led. However, that was not what happened at all. The more I worked at changing the focus of our men from “doing church” to “obeying God” by being with Him in prayer and Bible Study as much as possible, the more resistance was “pushed backed.”
About that time my first book came out. If I were to rewrite my two books, I would change a great deal because I have learned so much since then, however, it was through the experience of being published and then dealing with people who knew me well that I no longer felt that I was welcome in that church. I had two good friends in that church that ministered to me during this time as I ministered to them. Both “got it.” However, it soon became apparent that the Purpose Driven Church model was going to come in and I had to stand against it. Only a few of our friends in that body of believers saw it for what it was and left when we did.
Just because God has called us to walk closer with Him and that our lives must become living sacrifices in everything we do, say, and think does not mean that other believers will be on the same page. In fact, those on this path have learned that the cruelest darts are those from our brothers and sisters in Christ who believe that their denomination, or Pastor, or favorite preacher, or favorite writer, or their church’s way of understanding the Bible, which is their personal religiosity, outweighs the clear meaning of Sacred Scripture.
As I studied for those posts on spiritual warfare and persecution, a lot of my experiences from that period in 2004-2006 came back into my mind. What I experienced then was quite mild compared to what those Christians in other parts of the world deal with even to the point of being martyred. However, it opened my eyes to how spiritually blind most professing believers are. Some do not want to “give up” their favorite sin so they resent calls to repentance and obedience. Others are deceived by wolves in sheep’s clothing like Rick Warren.
When I stood against that I became a pariah very quickly. Why? They had fallen for the lie that to stand against the Purpose Driven Church is to stand against evangelism. No one wanted to hear how Rick Warren had watered-down the Gospel, removing the cross and why it is necessary in any preaching of it. There is no dependance on simply preaching the Word and the genuine Gospel that God will save people who repent and believe as He gives them faith to do so by His Grace. Instead, they gear church to be popular with unbelievers by NOT preaching about the Fall of man and his hopelessness before our Holy God to save themselves from His wrath. Instead, church becomes a constant push to be a fun place to be on Sunday mornings hoping that those unbelievers will feel at home and join their fellowship.
Those who believe this way are focused on just “doing church” instead of serving God according to His will. So far I have not encountered anyone who thinks this way who really knows their Bibles very well. When our former church went through this, those who left were those who were serious Bible students. When my wife and I began attending another church near where we live, we found that some who left before us had preceded us there. In any case, those who resisted what I was “teaching” at my former church could not refute what I was saying from scripture. On the other hand I used scripture to show how corrupt the Purpose Driven Church model was in relation to what the Bible teaches. That period was one of the most painful times I have ever gone through.
This piece is not one against local churches. Some are wonderful, like the one my wife I attend now. However, when they devolve into what we have described above in being geared to the world and the flesh instead of being focused totally on serving our Holy God, worshiping Him, and hearing His Word preached and taught, then they have ceased being Biblical churches.
God is sovereign. He is immutable, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. When we serve Him we must rely on His grace to do so. We must walk and serve by faith. Our role is not to build His Kingdom. He is doing that and it will come in fulfillment according to His will in His timing as He works through us. We must seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness not build our own kingdoms by our own righteousness and efforts.
The emergent movement, the seeker-sensitive movement, and the New Perspective on Paul, for example, have one thing in common. They all seek to nullify what God’s Word clearly teaches about the Gospel. In the small skirmishes I have had in this battle I have found that their usage of scripture to make their points is out of context and, therefore, not based in God’s truth. Their attacks against orthodoxy cannot be based from scripture because genuine orthodoxy is based entirely in it. The deeper we dig into the Word of God the more we see the truth and the more we see it the closer to orthodoxy we become because God’s Word changes the hearts of His people. Therefore, the attacks against orthodoxy take the form of Straw Man attacks. These battles can be quite heated and painful and I have learned that there are some that are not worth taking on.
The mindset that says that God’s desire for His people is that they be religious, just “doing church,” without any emphasis on discipleship and spiritual growth, is hypocritical and spiritually blind. People are naturally religious so the trends and tendencies within us all to believe that we earn our salvation by being religious are hard to break. However, God is able to shatter our hard hearts, circumcising them and changing them radically. Those whose hearts are growing more and more tender towards God can never be satisfied with man-made religion. They seek first the Kingdom and God’s Righteousness so they will always be at odds with the simply religious. However, the spiritually blind hypocrites love their religiosity because it puts them in control. Those with circumcised, tender hearts know that they are in control of nothing, but are in good hands. Their spiritual sails are constantly being filled by the wind of the Holy Spirit as He controls and guides them into obedience.
Soli Deo Gloria!