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What is the State of the Christian

By Martin Murphy

Christians must examine themselves in light of the word of God. “I wish Mr. (or Mrs.) X could have heard that sermon. It’s just what he needed,” said Mr. Y as he shook my hand after the worship service. The state of the Christian is sad when Christians avoid self-examination. Christian, examine yourself, not your neighbor, the church, or the world. Examine your real self, your inward self, not the outward appearance. Examine yourself at the present time, not the past, nor what you expect to be in the future. Examine yourself according to the word of God, the whole counsel of God, not according to some spoof text to defend your views and not according to your own subjective feelings.

The popular concept today is culture comparison. How well are Christians keeping up with the culture around them? To bad that so many have on glasses so dark they can’t see reality. As in the days of the apostle Paul, Christians live “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Philippians 2:15). Christians should be aware that the culture looks at the Christian with critical eyes. When they look at the church, what do they see? Do our unbelieving friends see grumbling, complaining, and divisive church members? Visit most any TV sit-com and you may see some startling resemblance to the modern evangelical church.

The apostle Paul gave the Philippian Christians explicit instructions for living in the culture that despised Christianity. Paul described the condition of the culture during the first century as “a crooked and perverse generation.” The word “crooked” referred to people who were bent out of shape. It literally means they were disfigured. The word perverted means that they had turned aside from that which was considered to be right or good. The culture was full of violence and uncontrollable immoral sexual lust. It was a culture that embraced irrationalism and anti-intellectualism. Sounds like the world we live in today. Even though God saves His people from the crooked and depraved culture, God’s people still live in the crooked and depraved culture. There is a perennial question that all Christians have to ask. How are Christians supposed to live in this non-Christian world?

“Shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life” so says the apostle Paul. Holding forth the word of life is certain to provoke the crooked and perverse generation. It must be remembered that the “word of life” is not a pie-in-the-sky promise. The word of life is the absolute truth. It comes from God. You must have the truth if you expect to be actively engaged in the culture.

The question that plagues every religious sector, every philosophical proposition, and every cultural milieu is “what is truth?” Enlightenment relativity is said to be the enemy of truth in the modern world. The blame does not properly belong to any one philosophical discipline, or the concepts of modernity or post modernity. The blame lies in the doctrine of sin. The effect of sin on the intellect is the reason for all the conflict over truth. Not only the intellect, but the will represents the mutability that accompanies the confused sinful mind. Truth is neither easy nor convenient. It requires hard work. But not even hard work will solve all truth propositions. The search for truth depends on the source of truth revealing that truth. To put it another way, the knowledge of truth is not possible without divine illumination. The cultural elite’s have successfully deceived several generations into believing that truth is so abstract that it becomes practically useless. Mental assent is sufficient for most and for the rest if truth really surfaces, it is to be put on a shelf so it will not divide the ranks.

So where does this leave the state of the Christian? It leaves the Christian standing on the edge of a cliff about to fall into a neo dark age. It is for that reason that God’s people need to wake up before it is too late. Turn your back on the darkness and “shine as light” so says the apostle Paul.

Don’t pretend to be Christian. If you’re not a Christian admit it and seek the Lord while He may be found. Abandon subjectivity as a way of life. Hate ungodly living. Debate and defend the truth as God illumines your mind. The great statesman, Henry Clay, was about to introduce a certain bill in Congress when a friend said, “If you do, Clay, it will kill your chance for the presidency.” “But is the measure right” Clay said, and being assured it was right he said, “I would rather be right than president.”

Where are the Henry Clay’s? Where is the culture that once believed that truth counts? As a pastor and teacher, I’ve encountered deep resistance to biblical truth from many professing Christians. I’ve known and encountered professing Christians who are experts at making a proposition sound like truth and take pride in it. For instance, someone could say there is a squirrel in the living room. If that was taken out of context that might mean that a squirrel was in my living room, when in reality (truth) there was no squirrel in my living room. I had one man tell me once that “I take the ninth commandment too seriously.” As a sinner, just like you, I might break the ninth commandment, but how could a Christian say that someone took the ninth commandment too seriously? A statement like that is easy to understand, if you understand that the state of the Christian is more inclined to pietism than to the whole counsel of God. This is not the time for pietism or timidity. The church is standing on a crumbling culture that may very well plunge headlong into a neo-dark age.

The solution is simple and complex at the same time, but not in the same relationship. The word of God tells us that it is God who began a good work in us and it is God who “will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.” If a professing Christian is not really a Christian then the culture is more comforting than the truth. If a professing Christian is a Christian the truth will be more important than the culture.

The way to make sure you “hold forth the word of truth” is to consult the ultimate authority for faith and life. The word of God must be your delight, your confidence, your love, and the light to your path. Christians must conclude as the Psalmist did to “esteem right all Thy precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:128).

Since the state of the Christian reflects the state of the church, it is necessary to admit to the truth of the state of the church. The church has fallen on hard times. Ministers are no longer respected as honorable men called to speak for the dignity and glory of God. There was a time in this country when the pastor had a profound influence on the life of the church as well as the community.

The orthodox doctrines of the Christian religion once held in high esteem, are more often than not, and considered a hindrance to the growth of the church. Michael Horton makes the point that “when evangelicals gave up Calvinistic orthodoxy, they abandoned an intellectual system which provided families, churches, communities, cities, schools and trades with a way of looking at the world – a biblical way of doing so” (Made in America).

Godly pastors are needed for reformation. Pastors seeking biblical reformation in the modern church are very likely to find resistance from well intentioned Christians. There are people in the church who have what are often referred to as good intentions, although they are unbiblical intentions. They want to preserve some tradition or promote some good program that may merit attention in another situation. The list of their “good intentions” are too numerous to mention, but good intentions must stand the test of Holy Scripture. If you seek biblical reformation, do not be surprised when the enemy, maybe within, maybe without, attacks you with every poisonous dart he can find. Your source of strength must come from the Holy Spirit of God, because godly pastors seeking biblical reformation are not very popular.

The apostle Paul experienced a similar problem. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he encouraged the Philippian Church to continue the reformation. Paul was not present with the Philippian Christians and he wanted to send Timothy to the church. The historical indicative that follows is a sad commentary on the church during Paul’s ministry. Paul said, “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:20-21). It is a sad day when so few have an interest in Christ Jesus.

What made Timothy stand out as the only one who was like minded with Paul? Obviously Paul knew that Timothy was an eager student of Holy Scripture. Paul had already instructed Timothy to “continue in the things you have learned” (2 Timothy 3:14) and to “retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me” (2 Timothy 1:13). The truth from God’s word was the standard for Paul and it was the standard for Timothy. It must be the standard for anyone seeking biblical reformation.

It is godly pastors like Timothy who have a spiritual interest in others rather than self interest. “For they all seek the things of themselves, not the things of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:21). They are the kind of men who will be the instruments of reformation. Who are these self seekers mentioned by the apostle Paul? I think they are mentioned earlier in Paul’s letter. Paul did not speak very well of these self-seekers in the church at Philippi. Paul said, “Most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. Some to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment” (Philippians1:14-17).

The evil of self-seeking is a destructive force in the church, as it always has been. Many professing Christians seem more interested in themselves and what they can have and who can see them and how much authority they can exert over others. Jesus speaking to the Pharisees said, “but they do all their deeds to be noticed by men, they love the place of honor at banquets and being called by men Rabbi” (Matthew 23:5). The Pharisees were the religious leaders in Israel, the covenant people of God. Today the church has professing Christians who smile outwardly, but inwardly there is a little voice that says “notice me and see how important I am.” The Old Testament Church was filled with corruption and perversion because the church leaders were in sin. New Testament churches have the same problem.

Paul had confidence that Timothy was not a self-seeker, but on the contrary was like minded with Paul and would make a good candidate for continuing the good work of reformation in Philippi.

Another reason Paul wanted to send Timothy was that Timothy was pleased in seeking Christ. The opposite of self-seeking is Christ seeking. In the absence of Paul’s best disciple, what did the apostle do? Paul said “I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus.” Maybe Epaphroditus was not gifted like Paul and Timothy, but Paul forgets the difference and speaks of Epaphroditus as Paul’s equal. Paul does not contradict himself, nor does he compare Timothy to Epaphroditus. Paul could speak of Timothy the way he did because Timothy had been a very close companion of Paul through out his ministry, but Paul probably had little contact with Epaphroditus during the ten years since Paul had planted the church at Philippi.

Notice how Paul spoke of Epaphroditus and how it is evident that he had the marks of a pastor interested in the biblical reformation of the church. Paul calls Epaphroditus a necessary brother. He was interested in the care of other Christians. Epaphroditus was a necessary fellow worker and a necessary fellow soldier. He was engaged in spiritual warfare like the apostle Paul.

We find the example of these three godly pastors who set the example for pastors in the church today. Paul was a pastor with a passion for teaching other men, but never forgetting his personal responsibility. Timothy and Epaphroditus are examples of godly pastors who were biblical reformers. I ask you, did these men stand for something more than a comfortable pastorate? The answer is yes! They were willing to sacrifice.

The state of the church has not changed much through the centuries. There are new names, cultures have changed, technology has increased, but the report is much the same. We stand at the edge of the precipice. The culture is always ready to consume us or throw us off the cliff.

If we are afraid of what is before us, then we are sure to take the plunge individually, but God will always preserve His church. If we are willing to accept the responsibility to stand for the truth then we might suffer and according to the word of God will suffer. Even so the state of the church will be semper reformanda (always reforming).

Martin Murphy, B.A. Bible, M.Div.


Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.comCHRISTIAN WRITERSMAKE A WEBSITE

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