Summary: What is the greatest problem facing the church? It is money, politics, morals, or false teaching? In this message, Pastor Steve accesses our greatest need.
For the past two Wednesday evenings we have looked at the subject of unity in the church. Such unity, as I said, can never come at the expense of the truth. Gordan Clark wrote, “Since God is truth, a contempt for the truth is equally a contempt for God.” He’s right! An attack on the truth is an attack on God! Clark’s statement does not suggest that unity or love is unimportant. We must be loving and we must seek unity. We must reflect the long-suffering of God and the meekness of our Savior. But all of that must be built on a foundation of non-negotiable truth.
I have been following a story this week regarding the reaction by the Muslim community to a statement that the Pope made regard jihad (holy war). And as I have been reading various news articles, it struck me that opposing views are not tolerated by Muslims. They can disagree with your conviction but you cannot disagree with their’s. This response reminded me of our culture. You can say just about anything as long as it is not spiritual, moral or ethical. Yet what we hear much of in the media is either against Republicans, President Bush, or Christians but not against Muslims. When I think about this problem, immediately I think about the church. Because the greatest problem facing the church today is its lack of discernment. It lacks the ability to discern between what is right and what is wrong.
John MacArthur, illustrates this in his book, Reckless Faith, when he says that one of the reasons for a “low level of discernment in the church today is the reluctance to take a definitive stand on any issue. Those with any convictions at all are supposed to hold those beliefs with as much slack as possible. Dogmatism is not permitted. To pronounce anything true and call its antithesis error is to challenge society’s only remaining dogma. Refuse to equivocate on any point of principle or doctrine, and you will be labeled too narrow. Zeal for the truth has become politically incorrect.
In the secular world it is often thought uncouth to voice any opinion at all on spiritual, moral, or ethical matters. A plethora of Phil Donahue-style talk shows exist to remind us of this fact, and they do so by parading in front of us the most bizarre and extreme advocates of every radical "alternative lifestyle" imaginable. We are not supposed to condemn these people; the whole point is to broaden our minds and raise our level of tolerance. Anyone who responds negatively is viewed with the same contempt that used to be reserved for bigots and religious hypocrites.
The other day one of these programs broadcast a show featuring bearded lesbians. A petite woman was seated on the stage sporting a thick black beard and full moustache. All her other physical attributes, her voice, and her clothing were fully feminine. She declared that she was proud of the beard and really didn’t care what anyone else thought of it. Besides, her lesbian lover found facial hair attractive. She said she was actually taking hormones to make her beard grow even thicker.
A teenage girl in the audience timidly stated that she thought it was unfortunate that the bearded woman was purposely alienating herself from mainstream society. She suggested that the woman might really be happier if she stopped the hormone treatments and underwent electrolysis instead.
At that the studio audience turned disagreeable. Several people booed the teenage girl. Another woman from the audience, her voice choked with emotion, scolded the teenager: "How dare you criticize this beautiful creature! Who are you to tell her how she should look? Society shouldn’t impose arbitrary standards on people. Everyone should be free to be whatever they want to be."
The audience responded with sustained applause. The bearded woman grinned triumphantly. And the teenage girl sat down in shame.
The culture around us has declared war on all standards, and the church is unwittingly following suit. It has become quite popular among Christians to assert that almost nothing is really black and white. Virtually all issues of right and wrong, true and false, good and bad are painted in shades of gray. Many Christians assume this is the proper way of understanding truth” (46-47).
The church cannot afford to lose its discernment but it has. And this has become the greatest problem facing the church. “It is obvious that not every issue is cast in black and white. There are many questions to which Scripture does not explicitly speak. For example, should Christians watch television? Nothing in Scripture forbids it. But clearly television poses certain dangers for the Christian. And there are principles in Scripture that can help us discern what kinds of things we should watch and how we should interact with what we see. But there is no express rule given to govern how much or how little television we should watch. It is a gray area. But many of the issues being compromised among Christians today are not questionable. They are not gray areas. There is no room for compromise here. Scripture speaks very clearly against homosexuality, for example. The Christian position on adultery is not at all vague. The question of whether a believer ought to marry an unbeliever is spelled out with perfect clarity. Scripture quite plainly forbids any Christian to take another Christian to court. Selfishness and pride are explicitly identified as sins. [Yet those areas are] treated as gray areas on Christian radio, on Christian television, and in Christian literature. People want all such matters to be negotiable. And too many Christian leaders willingly oblige. The line of distinction between truth and error, wisdom and foolishness, and church and world are being obliterated. The truth is that far more things are black-and-white issues than most people realize. Most of the truths of God’s Word are explicitly contrasted with opposing ideas.