|Vol. 14 No. 3 March 2012||
J.C. Choate (deceased)
Sometimes, in business or any endeavor, it is advisable to assess matters to see how things are going. It may even be better to stop what one is doing and to go in another direction. The wise do this. The foolish never seem to learn.
Spiritually, it is always thrilling when anyone in sin decides to obey the Gospel to be saved. We are equally thankful to God when an erring Christian makes up his mind that he is going to return to the Lord. In both cases, the individuals were headed in the wrong direction. They, therefore, were lost for all eternity. It was only when they changed directions to follow Christ that they were forgiven of their sins. The direction in which one is going makes all the difference.
The Scriptures tell us that Christ is the one and only way. That way is clearly set forth in God’s Word. One does not make a mistake when he reads and studies the things that are revealed there.
How do we know there is a Creator, that Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world? How do we know about the Gospel and what one must do to be saved? How do we know about the Lord’s church, Who established it, who is its Head, who is the Savior, that there is but one, that it wears the Lord’s name, and that when the Lord saves us, He adds us to that church? How do we know about worship, what is acceptable and what is unacceptable? How do we know the kind of life the Lord wants us to live, of the hope of heaven and of the warning of hell?
We know all of these things when we read and study God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is so simple and easy to understand, to believe and to obey in order that we may be saved and live the Christian life. When we do follow that path, we are following Christ, and we are heading in the direction of heaven. No, we cannot save ourselves, but neither can we be saved unless we comply with the Lord’s will and keep heading in the direction of heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Looking at the current situation with the church, we must all admit that we are living in perilous times. Paul could see in his day that the factors were there for a falling away from the truth (2 Timothy 3:1). Any number of things could have caused the apostasy. The Christians were living in hard times with persecution running rampant. The setting was right for elders to join forces — even sincerely trying to understand better the truth, but in the process, to lead groups of brethren away from the Lord’s way. History has a tendency to repeat itself again and again. Isn’t this same thing happening today? Aren’t we in the middle of another apostasy?
Brethren are getting too involved in the world, with emphasis on materialism. Husbands and wives are working long hours, with no time for spiritual matters, no time to study God’s Word, no time for the family. We have a weak pulpit in the churches and no time for evangelism. Too many Christians and leaders in the church are reading and listening to denominational men, getting too involved with the religious world, and now instead of following the Lord’s way — believing that His way is the only way, that He has but one Gospel, one church, one way to worship, one way to live — some brethren are deciding to compromise and to join the denominations in their concepts of the church, unity and worship. These brethren are changing directions. They have decided to follow the lead of the religious world in general, turning away from the biblical truths that they once espoused and defended.
Yet, if the Lord’s way leads to heaven, where will these brethren go? If they had been following the Lord, but have now changed directions, where will this new way take them? Not to heaven, you can be sure.
All of this reminds us again of the many statements in the Scriptures warning that we are not to love the world (1 John 2:l5-17), that we are not to be deceived (Galatians 6:7-8; 1 John 3, 7-8), that we are to take heed lest we fall (l Corinthians 10:12), that we must seek first the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 6:33), that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4), that we must do the will of the Lord (Matthew 7:21), and we must be faithful unto death to receive a crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
Some may say that this change that is taking place is simply a reaction to brethren who have been too negative about the religious world, that there are too many hypocrites in the church, that we do not have enough love. “Change” advocates go on and point out that our religious friends love the Lord too, that they may not be right on every point but that neither are we, that the grace of God will cover the sins of sincere people, that surely the Lord will not damn all of the religious world.
It is true that none of us can be saved without the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), and that even after we do all the Lord asks of us, it will still require the grace of God to see us through. However, at the same time, we must keep in mind that all of God’s grace cannot take us to heaven if we refuse or fail to comply with His will to be what He wants us to be.
Regardless of all of this logic, the fact still remains that the Lord has a way, He has revealed that way, and we cannot follow His way and man’s way at the same time. Neither are we helping matters to join the enemy. It was religious people who crucified the Lord, it is religious people today who are causing all of the division, who refuse to obey the Lord when they seek to put their way before His way.
Now, are these the kind of people we want to join? Do we want to wear their manmade names and titles, worship with them and believe and practice the things they teach that are in opposition to what the Lord has said? If so, we have changed directions, and our new direction is not in the way of the Lord and heaven, but it is taking us away from Him, sending us in the direction of eternal destruction (Proverbs 14:12).
My brothers and sisters in Christ, I can tell you the direction I am going. It is the same direction I have been taking for all of the years of my spiritual life. I believe in the Lord and His way, and I am not ashamed of it. Christ died that I might be saved, and that is good news. When I obeyed the Lord, He saved me and added me to His church. Christ loved the church, and I love the church — my brothers and sisters in Christ. How can I love the Lord and His way, how can I follow Christ, how can I be saved, and how can I go to heaven if I refuse to do and be what the Lord wants and if I join His enemies, if I have fellowship with manmade churches, and if I worship with those who meet in the names of men and do things that are contrary to the Lord’s will? My brothers and sisters in Christ, I cannot be acceptable to the Lord unless I do His will and remain faithful to Him, and neither can you.
You can change directions if you want to, but I intend to stay with the Lord and His way. I am saddened to see both old and young, and even whole congregations, deciding to go in another direction, away from the Lord, and to cease to be faithful to Him. Yet, that does not mean that I have to join them, and neither do you have to become a part of their error. Numbers — even large numbers — do not make something right. Wrong is never right. Christ says that the majority is on the broad way and only a few are on the narrow way (Matthew 7:l3-14). That was true in the Lord’s day, in the day of Paul and the other apostles, and it is true now.
The Lord’s “strait” and narrow way is the one and only way that leads to heaven. That is the way I am going. If you have left that way, I hope you will change your mind and return to it before it is too late. If you do not, I am sorry, but I will not be seeing you in that new heaven and new earth because where I will be, you cannot come.