Alright so I was thinking about what obstacles will face the local church in the upcoming years and being relevant to people and I got a great idea! I asked a few pastor friends to weigh in on the subject for you all.
Our first guest writer has been in ministry for many years and is currently the Director of Missions for the Lake county Baptist Association, Rev. Don Miller. He sees what the world calls “tolerance” as one of the major obstacles the church faces today in its growth and in becoming like Christ.I hope you enjoy his article as much as I did.
– Rev. Joe Kramer
More Tolerant Than God
By: Rev. Don Miller, Director of Missions
Lake County Baptist Association Tavares, FL
Distractions can be tough! AND dangerous. Just ask any police officer about texting and driving; and suppose you went to the doctor for a pain in your knee and he decided to run some tests. After the tests, he comes in and says, “We’re pretty sure you have cancer. We’re not sure what to do about that. But you have a bone spur in that knee. We know what to do about that, so let’s fix that knee, and then we’ll look at that cancer.” I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sure what I’d do. I’d get a second opinion! As soon as the doctor said the big “C” word, my knee probably would not hurt anymore! I know some of you have dealt with or are dealing with cancer, and I am sure ever since that diagnosis, it has become your highest health priority. I am not an expert, but I do know there are many kinds of cancer, some less dangerous than others, but all dangerous.
I believe we are facing cancer in the church that is just as dangerous and deadly as anything we have ever faced.
Prov. 13:24 says in the Holman Christian Standard, “The one who will not use the rod hates his son, but the one who loves him disciplines him diligently.” The KJV says, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”
But on the way to work Monday morning I heard a report on the news that said scientists had linked physical punishment with mental disorders as an adult. They have already claimed that physical punishment makes a child more violent and it doesn’t work. As I looked deeper into the study, I was reminded of a comment of my professor when I studied statistics. He said you can prove anything by studies and statistics if that is what you want to prove. In other words, it’s pretty easy to prove something you have already decided is true. You can always find “facts” that support your “truth”.
The lady that was leading the study is part of a group from the UN (United Nations) that has outlawed corporal punishment in over 30 countries and is working to make it illegal to spank your child in the US and Canada. Mmmm…wonder if she was impartial when she started this study or not?? These kinds of studies are always reported with a qualifier, “MAY” lead to mental disorders etc.
What if the Bible said, “The one who does not use the rod (may) hate his son…”. But it does not say that. “The one who does not use the rod hates his son…” In today’s world if you stand for what the Bible has to say about almost anything, you will face ridicule, being called ignorant, being called intolerant, or possibly face being arrested.
Just recently the Community Church in Howey In The Hills split from the Presbyterian Church USA over the decision to ordain and elect openly homosexual leaders in the church. Most of the church in Howey, able to read the Bible, knew what the Bible said about homosexuality and chose the Bible over the ruling of the Presbyterian Church. They asked to be allowed to withdraw from the Presbyterian Church, but instead were told that the property belongs to the Presbyterian Church. The pastor is now leading most of the members as they meet in another place, and is no longer Presbyterian. The building in Howey is being occupied by a few members and a leader sent by the Presbyterian Church.
The church (in general), even Baptist churches, are being attacked by a cancer called Tolerance. We are supposed to tolerate anything the world says is “OK”. We are supposed to accept the word of the world over the Word of God! The funny thing about this is we think of it as a new tactic of Satan, but we find the same thing in the Bible.
Not long ago, Pastor Mark Driscoll put a message online from his church called, “The Church at Thyatira, More Tolerant Than God”. That caught my attention, and I listened to the message. I’m not taking his message, but it got me thinking in this line.
Look at Rev. 2:18-29. As most of you know, this is part of the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation. The part of Revelation most people are able to understand, but we still miss a lot if we’re not careful.
Rev. 2:18-29. (HCSV)
18 “Write to the angel of the church in Thyatira:
“The Son of God, the One whose eyes are like a fiery flame and whose feet are like fine bronze,says:
19 I know your works—your love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. Your last works are greater than the first.
20 But I have this against you: You tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and deceives My slaves to commit sexual immorality and to eat meat sacrificed to idols.
21 I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to repent of her sexual immorality.
22 Look! I will throw her into a sickbed and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her practices.
23 I will kill her children with the plague. Then all the churches will know that I am the One who examines minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you according to your works.
24 I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who haven’t known the deep things of Satan—as they say—I do not put any other burden on you.
25 But hold on to what you have until I come.
26 The one who is victorious and keeps My works to the end: I will give him authority over the nations—
27 and he will shepherd them with an iron scepter;
he will shatter them like pottery —
just as I have received this from My Father.
28 I will also give him the morning star.
29 “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Verse 19 is words any church would love to hear from Jesus. “I know your works- your love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. Your last works are greater than the first.” Wow! What a commendation! Jesus point out their Love, faithfulness, service and endurance which is growing in every way. That’s the church I want to be part of!!
Until… you get to verse 20. “But…” Then Jesus tells them the problem. He gives her a name, Jezebel. Now that name may have been a real name, or a nickname given to her because she had so many of the endearing characteristics of Jezebel in the OT. She had self designated her position as prophetess. We have that danger today. That is, people who believe earned or made up credentials make you a leader.
Now let me say right up front that I believe in education, even higher education. But I heard an interesting comment the other day from someone who trained churches in finding leadership. He was talking about pastors and leaders with a doctorate. Some doctorates are earned with hard work from an accredited seminary or school. Some doctorates are given because a person has given much to the school, money, time etc. At one time you could order a religious doctorate from ads in a magazine. I know this and I have always told committees to look at the doctorate as one of many parts of the person’s qualifications. But this person went a step further. He said, “Sometimes people go back to school because it is easier to earn a passing grade than to successfully pastor a church.”
Jezebel gave herself a title and became a teacher in the church. She deceived many in the church. Those who followed her ended up committing sexual immorality and as it says, “Eating meat sacrificed to idols.” Let me deal with both of those separately.
Sexual immorality was closely tied to many of the false religions of this area. You could visit the temple, pay your offering, visit the temple prostitutes, and go home with a venereal disease, all in one day! I am sure that Jezebel had taken the natural loving expression of a husband and wife, twisted it, and supported it with many scientific studies. She had followers who thought those who followed the Word of God as they had it were either stupid, uninformed, or prejudiced and intolerant. They knew better. They had their own leader, and she knew better. They were the superior people in their own eyes.
Did you hear another study found that people who bought “whole” foods, free range chicken, etc; had a superior attitude when they were asked about people who do not. They looked down on those who did not embrace their “food style”. So I felt proud of my humble attitude when I lined up at McDonald’s, especially when I saw that skinny guy riding the bike in the hot sun!
You know sin does not raise its ugly head all at once. In our nation we have moved from strict limits on what could be said or shown in public to an almost anything goes attitude today. Once bad language could get you removed from the TV or radio. Today it seems to be almost a requirement. Sex between a man and a woman has been so publicized and done so often, that now almost every TV show has to have a gay or lesbian actor; and homosexuality has moved from a secret to a protected part of society. Being anti-homosexual has been defined as the “New Racism”. To top it off the other day the Supreme Court of the United States decided you have a constitutional right, as part of your free speech, to lie! God’s punishment is the sickbed and plague. I am sure anyone with those diseases never thought their new sexual freedom would lead to that!
But we also read that they were eating meat sacrificed to idols. We might think this is a strange charge to make, but you have to look a little deeper.
I Cor. 8 (HCSV)
“About food offered to idols. We know that “we all have knowledge.” Knowledge inflates with pride,but love builds up.
2 If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know it as he ought to know it.
3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.
4 About eating food offered to idols, then, we know that “an idol is nothing in the world,” and that “there is no God but one.”
5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth—as there are many “gods” and many “lords”—
6 yet for us there is one God, the Father.
All things are from Him,
and we exist for Him.
And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.
All things are through Him,
and we exist through Him.
7 However, not everyone has this knowledge. In fact, some have been so used to idolatry up until now that when they eat food offered to an idol, their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
8 Food will not make us acceptable to God. We are not inferior if we don’t eat, and we are not better if we do eat.
9 But be careful that this right of yours in no way becomes a stumbling block to the weak.
10 For if someone sees you, the one who has this knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, won’t his weak conscience be encouraged to eat food offered to idols?
11 Then the weak person, the brother for whom Christ died, is ruined by your knowledge.
12 Now when you sin like this against the brothers and wound their weak conscience, you are sinning against Christ.
13 Therefore, if food causes my brother to fall, I will never again eat meat, so that I won’t cause my brother to fall.”
Did you catch Paul’s heart here? He knew that the idols were nothing and there was nothing wrong with the food, but if it became a stumbling block to a new believer, he would refuse it. Concern for the other person was more important than his rights.
When we lived overseas, I had a friend who had grown up Muslim and had converted to Christianity. He had always been taught that eating pork was a sin. When he became a Christian, he learned about Peter and calling what God made unclean. But he still had problems with eating pork. He said that it was alright for us, and he didn’t try to tell us it was wrong, but he still could not get over his life-long training. Do you think after him telling me that, I was going to say, “Oh that’s silly, have a BLT and that’ll change your mind!” No, I tried to be careful of his needs, and I never ate pork around him.
Those following Jezebel in Thyatira were so confident of their “right-ness” that they looked down on anyone who did not agree with them.
Let me wind this up. The cancer attacking the church today is from a world shouting “Tolerance” and accusing us of being intolerant. Yet these same people have become so committed to their belief, they will not tolerate anyone who disagrees!
Thyatira was obviously a great church and had some great Christians in it, but the world demanded that they become more tolerant than God. That is the demand of the world today to any church that has the audacity to stand on the Word of God. When the church becomes just like the world, evangelism dies because we have nothing to offer them.
The key is always the same. Do you believe what God says, or what the world says? Your source of authority makes all the difference in your response. The words of Joshua still ring out today “Choose you this day whom ye will serve…”