Too Narrow, too Broad, or Just Right?

I love my new church. Unfortunately like most churches we tend to keep a narrow focus on resources of learning and exhortation. Keeping close to the Bible is what we should do. And honestly, that is all we really need. Fortunately, God has kept and preserved His church since its inception. Since then, many Christians who hold closely to the whole counsel of God that fall outside our local church or our denomination have written some valuable gems. Keeping in perspective, most denominations did not even exist until the reformation of the 16th century. Most pre-reformation writings were destroyed due the the attempted destruction of the God’s church by the Roman Catholic system. Fortunately, with the freedoms that came with the founding of our country, God’s church is free to express her understanding without systematic persecution. There is just so much good exposition and preaching that has been cast upon the bride’s ears that we cannot know it all. Oh, what joy we will find in heaven when God reveals to us his Glory and truth!

The excerpt below was prophetic for the church today. The writer was most likely talking those who completely fall away from the God’s guidance. Unfortunately this falling away has found a new home. It has crept back into the church in the form of new evangelicalism, emergent philosophies, and other fleshly works that are revealed in our church behaviors, appearances, communication, and daily activities. I believe this excerpt accurately depicts the modern church today in how we choose to define what we want from a church rather than have the church kept from these worldly ways.

“A King’s Penknife, Or, Why I Am Opposed To Modernism,” 1929, I. M. Haldeman,
“The only thing recognized in matters of morals, the only standard for the definition and measure of God and things divine will be personal experience. Those who attempt to bind the conscience, direct the soul, and set before it a definite concept of God and a fixed line of conduct in respect to Him and to one another will be looked upon, not only as narrow
bigots, but as intolerable tyrants, as criminal hinderers to all true knowledge . . . The new generation is intoxicated with the rallying cry of ‘self-expression.’ The new generation is letting itself go. If it has any standard, it is the standard of exalted personalism and self-pleasing at any cost to old law and old custom or old manners . . . With the weakening down of law and self-restraint, there is the over-leaping race for material pleasures. This is the inspiration of the ‘get-rich-quick
movement’; get money that may be spent on pleasure and more pleasure . . . No one has time; all are pressed, life is too short to stop and think . . . ’On with the song’ and ‘on with the dance,’ these are the cries, and the music goes faster and more furious, the very sounds of the music are barbaric, appealing to the animal, to the brute sense within, stirring the blood,
adding fuel to the fire till passion is at white heat . . . The life that now is’ forms the horizon of the vast army of young men and women coming out of school and college. All their instruction, all their equipment is for this world . . . Let modernism continue its work of near pantheism, its agnostic attitude concerning the soul and the other side of death, and in a few hurrying years the moral and spiritual ruin of the coming generation cannot be imagined . . . To talk against Modernism and then hob-knob and picnic with Modernists, is not merely individually contemptible, but actual betrayal of the truth . . . There ought to be neither fellowship nor friendship with Modernists . . . How can you be the friend of a man who denies that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, will come again to this world, and that He will come visibly…? How can you be a friend of the
man who cuts your Bible to pieces…? If you would be loyal to Him and steadfast for the faith committed to you, you can have no toleration for those who under the title of modernist and the disguise of progressive and liberal Christianity betray the Son of God in the house of His friends…’For he that biddeth him God speed is a partaker of his evil deeds.’ (2 John 10, 11). Such an attitude will raise the cry of ‘bigotry’ and ‘bigot.’ The crowd takes that word out to the stone pile and would stone it to death and endless silence. But that same word ‘bigot’ is a very good word . . . This is the meaning of it: ‘By God.’ . . .The men who have achieved most for God, the men whose work has abided, have been men who have been the men who said, ‘by God,’ and knew no other standard . . . ’By God’ is only another way of saying, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ Another word flung cheaply at those who stand for the integrity of the Bible, not only as a rule of faith, but practice, is the easy epithet: ‘Narrow.’ There are
Christians, even in the pulpit, good enough and wanting to be faithful to their calling, who shiver whenever the word is uttered in their neighborhood . . . But as I recall the preaching of the Son of God, I find it was along the line of a NARROW positivism: It was he who said: ‘Narrow is the way that leadeth unto life.’ . . . To raise a hue and cry against this as ‘divisive;’ to appeal to compromise for the sake of ‘brotherhood’ and ‘Christian charity’ and to talk about LOVE BEING MORE IMPORTANT IN THE CHURCH THAN CORRECTNESS OF DOCTRINE, is emotional weakness and fallacious folly . . . The word ‘toleration’ must be cut out of the church vocabulary. You cannot find it in the Bible. It is not a nice word. It is not to be found in good company. It is a word much used by middle-of-the-road men. It has in it, no matter how much dissimulated, the crawling, creeping movement of surrender . . . Why should the Church tolerate men who no longer tolerate the Bible as God gave it to us…?”

We may not get it ‘just right’ but we can try

We really need to stop shaping the church around our culture in order to bring in ‘unchurched’. Because when we do, we fail to allow the essentials of doctrine to fully transform lives. Love should never trump doctrine. Rather, we should show our love through the doctrines of Christ (Matthew 5:19, 15:9, John 15:10, 1 Corinthians 14:37, 1 Thessalonians 4:2, 1 John 2:3, 5:2, 3) There is no doctrine in the New Testament that is nonessential. The only area we have true liberty in are areas the New Testament are silent in teaching and in those we are to follow Godly principles. Two of these areas are expounded on in Romans 14, food and holy days. All the rest of the teaching of the New Testament we are to follow as commandments from the Lord. We are not given the option of choosing what we like and ignoring what we don’t. One simple, clear, (and easy) example is the teaching of Paul that Christian men should have short hair and women should have long (I Corinthians 11:14, 15). And yes, there are many biblical reasons for this. This is such an easy outward expression of obedience not unlike baptism although different in nature. I am afraid if we as a church cannot be obedient in easy doctrines such as this, how can we allow God to transform and purify His bride in the more meaty ones?

Let us press on seeking obedience in all things Christ. It is one thing to have liberty and be a babe in Christ. It is completely different thing to continue to live that way. We as a church have been chastised for this in the NT by Paul many times (1 Corinthians 3, Hebrews 5:13) for example. Let us not abuse growing in His grace and love as He seeks to shape us, living stones, in the image of Him (1 Peter 2). To do this, we must learn to give up our fleshly desires, allow him to shape our goals, distinguish between our perceived and real needs, and submit everything to Him according to His will.

We have a lot at our disposal to try to get it just right.