(November 26, 2017) Stuart Reynolds challenges the church about subtle ‘twilight talk’ …
‘The place is here, the time is now, and the journey into the shadows that we’re about to watch could be our journey….You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone….’
Many of us from more than a generation ago will recall these words from Rod Sterling, as he would introduce another episode of that cult classic TV show, The Twilight Zone, where there is no ‘up’ or ‘down’ or ‘out.’
The world without God has always lived in a Twilight Zone of darkness, desperation, destruction and death.
The burden of this article is over the increasing journey of retreat and regression the church has made back into that same zone of vagueness, uncertainty, and indistinctiveness, where …
- Less and less is clear, sound and sure.
- Commands have become suggestions.
- Truth is a matter of opinion and feeling, resulting in a muddled-morality.
- We have a mixed message that leaves us bereft of a truly ‘blessed assurance.’
- Christian fundamentals have been replaced and succeeded by subtle and dangerous baseless assumption!
God warns us through Isaiah: ‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter’ (Isaiah 5:20). For God’s people there are still and always will be:
The wise teacher counsels us, and more than once: ‘Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers’ (Proverbs 22:28). What was true in the divine provision of land in where people would live remains true for us in the divine allotment of life, in how, why, and for whom we live, in all places, for all people, at all times.
Do you hear any ‘Twilight-Talk’ coming from the pulpit, circulating round the study group, communicated through the airwaves of ‘Christian’ broadcasting, even concocted and confirmed by yourself? ‘Twilight-Talk’ such as:
1) ‘We’ve never done it that way before!’
This often heard statement has been described by many as ‘the seven last words of a dying church’!
It has been used as an argument against anyone or anything that questions the status-quo of how we do things, as justification for us forever remaining the way we are, and as an excuse for our not wanting to even try to look, think, consider and do what might turn out to be better.
Note: We’re not talking about truth here or even tradition, but of traditionalism. This writer can even speak of a church in his past which prided itself on ‘the tradition of having no traditions,’ but which in practice became a ‘tradition’ in itself that could never be challenged and thus probably will never be altered, leaving that church in a perpetual state of chaos and disorder.
The challenge of the church is not to manufacture something new nor mimic the world – the world will always ‘do’ the world better than the church ever will!
Rather the church’s responsibility is to remain sensitive to the moving and timing of the Spirit of God, to continue stretching and developing our God-given creativity, recognising that the eternal God in this world confines himself to ‘time’ and gives to us, and the world, seasons which we must recognise.
The church always seems to be better at starting than ending a project or activity or ministry opportunity because it has run its course and has completed its season.
How many churches are so well ‘run’ in what they have ‘always done’ that they will have church on Sunday whether God is there is not, even worse not knowing the difference?
Jesus said: ‘No one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins –and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins’ (Mark 2:22, ESV).
It’s the ‘wine’ that endures. Not only must our structures be subservient to the ‘wine’ Christ is, but our very self. The apostle Paul put it: ‘…we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us’ (2 Corinthians 4:7).
2) ‘What does this mean to you?’
As a pastor these are about the most frightening words you can hear within the life of the church. And yet more and more, teaching Bible studies have given way to discussional Bible studies.
Warren Wiersbe points to the dangers of such as often being forums where we sit in a circle exchanging our biblical ignorance. This is not to suggest that only the clergy are able to understand the truths of scripture but that we must allow the Bible to speak for itself and let it mean what it says for us. Not just in the final analysis, but on any level of analysis, my opinion about what a verse or passage means to me is irrelevant unless it’s really what the Bible is actually saying and means.
Dr John MacArthur rightly says that the question of scripture is never ‘What does this mean to you?’ but always ‘What does this mean?’
Making self the measure of biblical interpretation and application leads us to the terrible condition of self-delusion the wise teacher points out in Proverbs 30:12 of ‘those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth.’
3) ‘He still has his faith! She still believes!’
I recently heard of a professing Christ-one, away from the church, living with his girlfriend and yet being told there was no need to be concerned because ‘he still believes.’ Many, it seems, who cannot point to a crisis moment of conversion where they crossed from death to life (John 5:24, 1 Peter 2:9-10) and are evidencing no fruit of repentance in a changed life (Matthew 3:8; 2 Peter 1:3-11), nevertheless continue to hide behind their ‘faith’! The above is not good enough because it will never be able enough.
- To just talk about being ‘saved’ is not sufficient – what specific sins and their condemnation have we been saved from?
- To profess to have a ‘faith’ will not cut it – who or what is the object of our faith?
- To say we ‘believe’ on its own, without inspection, makes us no different from the demons of hell, which James tells us also ‘believe’! (James 2:19).
The Bible tells us: ‘Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular check-ups. You need first-hand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it’ (2 Corinthians 13:5 Message).
4) ‘God is not angry with you!’
In this world of political correctness gone mad where we now can be offended by anyone and everything, many in the church have become embarrassed by the mere suggestion of an ‘angry God’ and have sought to save us all – including God – from the fall-out of what that means.
The gospel is sabotaged. God’s word regarding sin and the need to repent and ask forgiveness through Jesus’ Calvary sacrifice is vital and must be clearly proclaimed – as is the need to repent if sinners are to be saved!
Psalm 7:11NLT declares that God is ‘… angry with the wicked every day.’ The Message says, ‘Nobody gets by with anything.’
But because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the Bible speaks warmly of ‘Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath’ (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
Sadly there exists today in much of both the church’s proclaimed and sung theology a fundamental misunderstanding of the cross of Jesus Christ – and the proof is in what is not being said.
Five solas from the past that matter today!
I leave an observation and a contention for consideration: At the root of every problem in the local church that is frequently harboured and how such is often handled – along with what is lacking in our own lives – is the fact that many Christians don’t know and believe our Bibles as we should!
Jesus drew attention to God’s word and its truth and prayed to his Father about his followers: ‘My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth’ (John 17:15-17).
Doctrine does matter and today we need the Reformation Solas – five phrases that summarised the Reformers’ theological convictions about the essentials of Christianity – as much as they were needed 500 years ago:
- Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
- Sola Fide (Faith alone): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
- Sola Gratia (Grace alone): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
- Solus Christus (Christ alone): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Saviour, and King.
- Soli Deo Gloria (To the glory of God alone): We live for the glory of God alone.
… Just some Truth-Talk from the Truth Zone for your consideration!
Stuart Reynolds, Ears 2 Hear Ministries, is UK based ministering as an itinerant preacher, teacher in evangelism and revivalism in the UK and USA. Links: firstname.lastname@example.org / mobile +44 (0) 7816 853 551 / http://sdhareynolds.wixsite.com/earstohearministries.
The Broken Pastor speaks candidly to the church regarding the reality that many pastors are hurting, even on the edge of quitting. Stuart Reynolds writes from the heart and pastoral experience encouraging broken pastors that they are not useless, that they can move on benefiting the kingdom despite churches not understanding the challenges they face.