by Mike Ratliff
I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. (1 Corinthians 4:14-16 ESV)
The visible church is flesh driven. Evangelicalism is corrupt because of the very same thing. I visit both large and small churches. It seems that in many cases, the larger the church, the more geared the leadership is there to appealing to the flesh to attract and keep the crowds large and entertained. When I enter the physical buildings of these large churches I look around and take a visible inventory of the clues given of how focused the leadership there is to being “in tune” with culture in how church is done, how the music is done, how convicting the message from the Word of God is in all of this and how central that is to the life of that local body of believers. Forget those that have their own television networks or shows or whatever. They have sold out a long time ago to contextualization of the truth in order to keep the money coming in.
In John Bunyan’s book The Pilgrim’s Progress, after Christian has made it through the Wicket Gate and been set on the narrow path, he is told that his next destination is the house of The Interpreter and from there he will be sent to the place of deliverance where his burden (his guilt of sin) will be taken away. However, he must first learn some important things from The Interpreter. After arriving and being let in at the house of The Interpreter the tour begins:
Then said the Interpreter, Come in; I will shew thee that which will be profitable to thee. So he commanded his man to light the Candle, and bid Christian follow him: so he had him into a private room, an bid his man open a door; the which when he had one, Christian saw the picture of a very grave Person hang up against the wall; and this was the fashion of it, It had eyes lifted up to Heaven, the best of Books in his hand, the Law of Truth was written upon his lips, the World was behind his back; it stood as if it pleaded with men, and a Crown of Gold did hang over its head.
Then said Christian, What means this?
The man whose picture this is, is one of a thousand; he can beget children, travail in birth with children, and nurse them himself when they are born. And whereas thou seest him with eyes lift up to Heaven, the best of Books in his hand, and the Law of Truth writ on his lips; it is to shew thee, that his work is to know and unfold dark things to Sinners; even as also thou seest him stand as if he pleaded with men; and whereas thou seest the World as cast behind him, and that a Crown hangs over his head; that is to shew thee, that slighting and despising the things that are present, for the love that the hath to his Master’s service, he is sure in the World that comes next to have Glory for his reward. Now, said the Interpreter, I have shewed thee this picture first, because the man whose picture this is, is the only man whom the Lord of the place whither thou art going, hath authorized to be thy Guide in all difficult places thou may’st meet with in the Way: Wherefore take good heed to what I have shewed thee, and bear well in thy mind what thou hast seen; lest in thy Journey thou meet with some that pretend to lead thee right, but their way goes down to death.
This simple exchange opens up Christian’s time in the house of The Interpreter which Bunyan uses to show us how God teaches those He saves the truth and prepares them to walk the narrow path before actually sending them to do so. The first time I read The Pilgrim’s Progress, I was amazed how well Bunyan addressed this issue and how succinctly it explains many of the issues we are witnessing in our own time. Why is there such corruption and apostasy in the visible church in our time? There are multitudes of those “that pretend to lead thee right, but their way goes down to death,” but there are few calling them out and showing the Body of Christ that this is so. To do this is to call down the wrath of nearly everyone. It is to be called mean-spirited or whatever to tell the truth that a wolf in sheep’s clothing is leading people astray. The charge is that there are multiple ways or multiple streams, who is to say that one way is more right or more wrong than another? Ah, but you see Bunyan knew and His Very Grave Person knew the absolute truth and preached and taught only it. How did he know?
He cared nothing for the ways and or things of this World or this present age. That is imperative. The Gospel was everything to him. Next, his focus was not here, but on heaven where Christ is. His treasure is where Christ is. His reward is in the age to come, not here and now. He is willing to spend himself totally for this, but not as men call it, not for a man’s opinion of what the mission of the Church should be, but what the true mission of the Church is and that is:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 ESV)
This is not a command to go and redeem the world or culture. It is a command to go and make disciples from every part of the world teaching them to observe all the things that Christ taught. Christ is the author of all doctrine, not men. He is our teacher, not men. He is our all. Without Him we can do nothing, but as we obey Him, we can do this as His very grave disciples.
Soli Deo Gloria!