|Volume 18 Number 11 November 2016||
T. Pierce Brown (deceased)
This morning as I was walking, with the temperature about 20 degrees, the cold wind hit my face and I looked down. I saw a dime, which I picked up and put in my pocket. For a few minutes I continued to look down until I suddenly thought of a story I heard about a man who found a dime, and for the next 20 years he went around with his head down. He acquired 12,000 bottle caps, five pennies, one nickel, various assorted items, a crooked neck, a humped back and a soured, disappointed outlook on life.
Then, I thought of Psalm 5:3, “In the morning I will direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Also Psalm 121:1 came to mind, “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.” Since I needed a lesson on looking up, I decided to share some thoughts with you.
Many times I have felt like Elijah who thought he was the only one left who was serving God. When I see the Lord’s church being led into apostasy on every hand, and almost every false doctrine one can imagine being introduced, I write articles and preach sermons against those things. Then, I realize that one can look down so much that he may almost lose the power to look up. It still bothers me very much to hear preachers who advocate positive preaching so much that they never preach against anything except those who preach against something. It also bothers me when I get bulletins and hear preachers who can never seem to find anything about which to write or speak except those who have “forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars and slain thy prophets with the sword” while they alone are left.
My point today is not to advocate that we close our eyes to the dangers or false doctrines that beset us, surround us, confront us, confound us or confuse us. Nor is it to suggest that we follow the advice of Gamaliel and leave all these things alone, hoping they will go away. It is to advise that we follow the admonition of David and look up.
We need to look up in thanksgiving for the good things that we have, and for the many who are contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. We need to look up in humble awareness of our own failures, sins and shortcomings, and praise God for His gracious forgiveness and patience with us. We need to look up in gratitude and wonder to praise God for allowing us the honor of sharing with Him in the most glorious task of which the human or divine mind can conceive – the redemption of mankind.
When my children were small, I would say, “Clean your room before you go out and play.” Then, I would check to see if they had done it properly. Seldom had they done it to my satisfaction. Instead of looking up and praising them for the good they did, then suggesting that in the future they could do better in some specific way, I often would simply say, “You did not put up your baseball glove” or whatever was wrong. I am ashamed of that, for I have often given counsel to others to look up and praise what was praiseworthy. However, I have often failed to do it when I should have.
Even in our prayers, it is possible that the focus is downward on our needs without first looking up and putting the focus on God. You will note in what we call the Lord’s Prayer, He started by looking up. “Our Father who art in heaven; hallowed be Thy name.” Then, we may properly look down on our needs and the needs of others.
So, although it is not wrong or improper to look down when walking, for one may not only find a dime, but he may avoid potholes and breaks in the sidewalk. Yet, we need to realize that if we go through life with the primary focus on things at our feet, we may miss the sunrise or the beauty of the mountains. We see a lot of dirt, but if we fail to lift up our eyes to the hills from whence cometh our help, we may miss some of the most important things in life. Look up!
“I Could Care Less”
While in a conversation with a brother in Christ, we discussed the subject of pioneer Gospel preachers. This brother was hypercritical of a detailed study of the lives of such men as Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, John Smith and others. This brother exclaimed, “I could care less what Raccoon John Smith did.” To that I replied, “You probably don’t care for the history of the Restoration Movement.” He agreed with my assertion.
Since the time of our discussion, I have pondered over the statement “I could care less” with reference to our rich heritage, religiously speaking. In making such a statement, this brother exemplified an attitude that is so prevalent among many members of the church today.
First of all, there is a lack of gratitude for those who have gone before us. Even in secular history, we have learned to appreciate such men as George Washington, Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln and scores of others who were instrumental in the forming of our nation. Should we think less of our forefathers who sacrificed for the cause of Christ? Certainly, we should be thankful for our laws that provide for us liberties and freedoms in our great country. More than these, we should be eager to learn of those men and women who gave of themselves in order that we might learn of the freedom that is in Christ Jesus. Such awareness of the pioneer preachers can motivate us to be more faithful to our Lord.
Second, such a negative attitude as “I could care less” implies a willingness to remain ignorant of the search for the ancient order of New Testament Christianity by generations past. We need so much to possess an attitude of love for the truth and honesty of heart that permeated those disciples of the nineteenth century. It should thrill our very souls to read of men and women who willingly cast away doctrinal errors upon learning additional truths. We can learn so much from their efforts in diligently seeking the Gospel of Christ, free from the teachings of men.
Third, the attitude manifested by the statement “I could care less” implies indifference as to from where we have come with all of our successes and failures. History has a way of repeating itself. Those brethren who are grounded in knowledge of the Restoration Movement are most apt not to make the same mistakes as did our forefathers. Such lessons as what constitutes authority in religious matters, the nature of the church, the need to worship God acceptably, etc. are needed in the body of Christ today. The early disciples of Christ in this country had to study their way out of denominational dogmas in order to learn the truth with reference to these and other subjects. We can profit from their sincere efforts.
Also, we can learn of the many groups that have turned aside from the main body of believers into splinter groups such as is found in those brethren who bind laws where God has not bound. We can learn of the early efforts to practice open membership and the creeping in of modernism and liberalism within our ranks. There is an effort to rewrite and reinterpret the history of this momentous movement by diligent seekers of the truth.
There is also a concerted effort by many leaders in the church to discredit the argument we use against innovations by respecting the silence of the Scriptures. One influential brother wrote relative to the difference between the church of Christ and the Christian Church:
What I think we’re going to find is that there are some big differences between the two groups, but not the ones we imagined. In other words, I don’t think instrumental music will prove to be a major issue in the discussions. Fewer and fewer members of the Churches of Christ buy into the hermeneutics of the 1950 (that argument from silence). Many of us are thankful for the blessing and strengths of a cappella music, but not opposed to instrumental music.” (Mike Cope’s blog, Friday, February 10, 2006)
Knowledgeable brethren concerning these and other matters will not be easily moved by the digressive elements among us but will hold fast to sound doctrine.
Brethren, we are warming by fires that we have not built. A host of Christians today are ready always to receive but are unwilling to give in return. Each generation needs to study minutely our rich history of efforts to restore New Testament Christianity. It is a sad day in the Lord’s church when the attitude of “I could care less” about the Restoration Movement fills the minds of many of our brethren.