THE TEST OF FAITH
By Paul Proctor
July 12, 2005
One of the questions I am regularly asked by readers of this column about the church growth movement and its �new spirituality� is: How could my friend, my family member, my pastor, my church (you fill in the blank) have fallen for this new age nonsense? Of course I usually respond by reminding them of the spiritual blindness that almost always accompanies disobedience to God�s Word; but after having lived through this growing apostasy for several years now, I believe, by His mercy and grace, I am able to identify more succinctly what has so captivated and deceived the church at large and is leading it with little or no hesitation, reservation or opposition into the coming one world religion.
Probably the greatest challenge to those of us that regularly address this topic is trying to break it all down to a more understandable and communicable level; making, if you will, the complex, simple for those who know something is wrong at church but can�t quite put their finger on what it is or why it is only getting worse.
There are so many overlapping layers, aspects and intricacies to this apostasy that holding anyone�s attention long enough to sufficiently explain it can often be a rather daunting task. It�s much easier to get and keep Christians interested once they�ve been victimized or traumatized by it than it is if they are just another slaphappy working part of it. But then, it is also much easier to lead someone to salvation in Jesus Christ who has been beaten up by the world than a person who feels like they�re on top of it.
Oh, we could talk about the influence of transformational Marxism, the use of the Hegelian Dialectic, all the peer pressure, positivism, pragmatism, entertainment, emotionalism, deception, distortions, distractions, evasions, sensory stimulation, semantics, syncretism, psychology, Maslow�s hierarchy of needs, the gradual transitioning and transformation of Christians, churches and society in general through small groups and people groups into a religious humanism; and the way the gullible masses of well-meaning do-gooders who, looking for purpose in their lives, are manipulated into a secular-led social serfdom, fraudulently implemented to fight the war on hunger, poverty, illiteracy, oppression, depression, drugs, debt, disease and what have you; not to mention the countless self-esteem building programs that are diabolically designed and marketed to save us from ourselves and into the blissful brotherhood of passionate narcissism; but after five years of researching, writing and personally struggling through this 21st century phenomena that seems to have as many labels as it does leaders, I have come to the conclusion that there are basically two things that drive it all; and believe it or not, they are the same two things that brought about the very fall of man back in the Garden of Eden. I call them �The Two R�s.�
I�ve touched on them individually in past articles; but realized that because of their importance and because of some things I have recently read, witnessed and experienced, they needed to be addressed again and together so that those wishing to better grasp and/or explain the fallacy of this �falling away� might have a more biblical starting point with which to launch and develop their discussions with others.
This life we lead outside of Paradise; this carnal prison we endure day after day, waiting for our Lord�s return or departure to Him, whichever may come first, is, in my estimation, more than just a well-deserved punishment, more than the natural consequences of sin and more than a mere experiential education into what is good and evil; it is the test of faith. Five years ago I called the church growth movement �a sifting of the saints� referring, of course, to Jesus warning Simon that Satan had requested permission to �sift him as wheat.� (Luke 22:31)
You see, Eve took from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because she wanted Results, thereby setting aside the Word of God for her own desires. Adam, on the other hand, who, the Bible says, "was not deceived," KNEW what Eve had done and the coming consequences of her disobedience. So, being tested by the awful circumstances that lay before him; the terrible dilemma of having to choose between the woman he loved and the God he worshipped, Adam unfortunately chose to follow Eve in his desire for Relationship rather than obeying God�s Word and trusting Him for a solution.
By attempting to save the life he loved, (his life with Eve) he lost it. His worship and service had turned from the vertical to the horizontal; and ever since that fateful day the Lord has been teaching and testing those of us who claim Him, both individually and collectively, to see if we REALLY BELIEVE HIM and are willing to take Him at His Word, even when it costs us Results and Relationships.
�So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.� � John 21:15
You see, here Jesus was telling Peter: If you love Me, you�ll give them the Truth, the whole Truth � My Word � �the Bread of Life,� even when it is difficult, disturbing, divisive and damaging to your Results and your Relationships; implying that if you love them only or love them more than me you�ll withhold the Truth, some of it or all of it, for the sake of Relationship.
�If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.� � Luke 14:26
Aside from the spiritual, what is this life but a conglomerate of people and things that constantly stimulate our senses, emotions and appetites? And, what does the natural man do from the moment he arrives here on Earth until the time he is buried beneath it; but endeavor to acquire as much of both as he possibly can?
There�s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying Results and Relationships. They are wonderful gifts from God. It is when we give them priority over His Word; diminishing or withholding the Whole Counsel of God, so as to increase, enhance, preserve or protect them, thereby allowing otherwise good things to come between Him and us. That is when Results and Relationships become wicked obstacles and a curse to the Christian and the Body of Christ.
�But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.� � Matthew 6:33
Abraham chose to obey God by agreeing to sacrifice Isaac even though it was, by all appearances, going to cost him what he had so long desired, been promised and given in his old age by the Lord Himself: descendants (Results) and the treasured Relationship of a beloved son.
Job also suffered an enormous loss of Results (God's blessing of health, wealth and prosperity) and Relationships; (family and friends) but to the end, remained faithful to the Lord in spite of all that had been taken away from him. And, after 120 years of faithfully warning a sordid and mocking generation that judgment was coming, Noah saw no Results for all his efforts and relinquished a world of Relationships in his faithful service and obedience to God.
�And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will have eternal life.� � Matthew 19:29
Today, one can easily assess the validity and faithfulness of any Christian, pastor, minister, preacher, teacher, evangelist, group, church, organization or movement by simply observing what is most important to them. If they are more concerned with Results and Relationships than proclaiming and obeying the Word of God, they are clearly failing the test of faith we all must take; and are running after the very things (good things, mind you) that separated us from the Lord in the beginning; which is why I believe Jesus left us with this warning:
�For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.� � Matthew 16:25
So, the next time you are encouraged by some Christian celebrity to �think relationally� and �do whatever it takes� to get and keep Results and Relationships, remember these words:
�For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?� � Matthew 16:26a
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Paul Proctor, a rural resident of the Volunteer state and seasoned veteran of the country music industry, retired from showbiz in the late 1990's to dedicate himself to addressing important social issues from a distinctly biblical perspective. As a freelance writer and regular columnist for NewsWithViews.com, he extols the wisdom and truths of scripture through commentary and insight on cultural trends and current events. His articles appear regularly on a variety of news and opinion sites across the internet and in print.
E-Mail: [email protected]�
...after five years of researching, writing and personally struggling through this 21st century phenomena that seems to have as many labels as it does leaders, I have come to the conclusion that there are basically two things that drive it all; and believe it or not, they are the same two things that brought about the very fall of man back in the Garden of Eden. I call them �The Two R�s.�