In my series on the church, I have briefly talked about what the church is, answered the question, “Is it important?”, and discussed the purity of the church. Now I want to think through the importance of why the church needs to know and live on God’s word, the Bible.
Since its conception, the church has been called by Jesus to stand upon His word as its foundation for belief and life. And, ever since its conception, the church has had to face spiritual battles as it is confronted by an ever-changing culture. As culture changes, the church has had to decide if it will move away from God’s word, embrace the theology of the culture, and compromise what Jesus said, or will she stand firm in believing the sufficiency of God’s word. Many times in history, the church moved away from God’s word. Thankfully, God has preserved His church through out history by rising up brave men and women who called the faithful back to the original foundation.
I want to make two historical illustrations that I thought about this morning, and then bring it to modern day. Back in the 11th, 12th, & 13th century, the church as a whole approved the crusades; religious military campaigns designed to retake Jerusalem, and other important cities and regions, from the Muslims. Thousands of people died. Often the church blessed these efforts. During that time, the church (the people of God) were face with a decision. Would they fight, or not. As the pressure built for expanding the church’s reign, they moved away from God’s word, and embraced religious wars in order to “advance” the “kingdom of God”. While these efforts were blessed by popes, they were not by God and His word. It was a very dark time in the life of the church.
Another illustration hits more home for me. In the early 1800s, in the southern part of the U.S. (where I am originally from) most in the church approved, practiced, and promoted slavery. The only way they could do this was to ignore what God’s word says about treating other people. They would mistreat and abuse those in their possession, and then scamper off to church service on Sunday to sing to God and hear His word preached (probably not on that subject). Again, they had let the culture of the South determine their truth rather than God’s word. Unfortunately, pockets of racism still exist there. It’s sad. It’s wrong. It’s an abomination.
Now all Christians do this to some degree. I mean, we need not forget that we are all sinners, so we never have been, nor will we ever be perfect this side of heaven. So, a huge applause for GRACE!!! But, that still does not mean we simply brush off things like the crusades and slavery. No, it means that we should be even more aware of out tendency to not get it right, humble ourselves, and ask God to direct us by His word every day.
But, in saying all this, does this mean we should just give up on trying to figure truth out? Certainly not! It should propel us to a greater desire and passion for seeking the Lord and His truth. “Why?” You might say. Because while it is impossible to know everything about God, it IS possible to know many things about God. Jesus prayed for His church in John 17. He asked the Father to sanctify His people in truth, which is His word. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Another passage, written by Paul says, “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15) The church is to be a pillar of truth, so when the culture wants to know what truth is, they can look to the church to find it.
Unfortunately, many in the church have strayed from God’s word and are giving our culture false and twisted versions of “truth” which are not true. Joel Osteen is a perfect example. In the recent past he has said, in a TV interview, that Mormons are Christians. While this is bad, because it is untrue, these kinds of things are happening all the time. Many people in the church still think we came from monkeys, that God will save all people no matter what, that Jesus is one way but there are others, the Bible is not reliable, etc. etc. etc. While all these false ideas and beliefs can not hold water, they still find there way into the church because culture demands they need to be accepted.
So what are we to do? What should we stand on? Do we, like the church during the crusades, just give in, and endorse such things? Certainly not! Do we, like the church in the southern U.S. in the 1800s, just not teach and preach on such things, ignoring God’s word like I do with the mystery meat at a Chinese buffet? Certainly not! The culture will try to convince us the battle is practically over. The church, God, and the Bible have lost. But the problem with their diagnoses is that they have made their argument without considering history. This is a crusade and slavery that must be avoided at all costs. Consider this…
During the crusades it seemed truth was lost, the church was lost, and God was unable to turn it around. But, because God is all-powerful, all-knowing, always in control, He preserved His people by leading them, once again, to trust, stand upon, and rely upon His word. Things did change, and truth prevailed.
During the slavery period of the U.S. it seemed for a time that the departure from God’s word was irreversible. But, God, by His grace, amazing grace, used people like John Newton, William Wilberforce, and others in England, and others like them in the U.S. to stand for truth (God’s word), and things began to change.Slavery was abolished. God’s word was honored once again.
So, for those who see our world, and even some in the church, turn to immorality, false beliefs, compromise, and mockery of Christ, and it seems out of control and hopeless, remember history and the power of Jesus. At the most hopeless time in history (time between crucifixion and resurrection) all hope was lost. But, that Sunday morning everything changed. He is alive! He is in control! He is all-powerful! He is all-knowing! He always has been, and He always will be. So, do not lose heart. Do not give in! Stand upon His word. It is truth! All what seems to be truth to our culture will pass away like a flower in the scorching heat. Our victory comes not from bowing to the demands of our culture. It comes from that Sunday morning when several women went to a tomb to tend to a dead body, and when they got there, the body was not there. He is risen!