“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”
We live in a day when carnality and apostasy, like a rapidly metastasizing, deadly cancer, is rampant in churches throughout America. This is true of mainstream churches of every denomination that are liberal doctrinally and in every other way, and proud of it. But it’s also true of increasing numbers of so called evangelical and fundamental churches; specifically where ” doctrine which is according to holiness” is concerned (1 Tim. 6:3).
I recently received a letter expressing the frustration shared by a great many Christian people today, especially pastors and others who regularly minister the Word of God. My correspondent said, “Do people want the truth? People are not listening … ” I want to address this question in some detail and at some length in this article and in a few articles to follow.
We are living in times now that unprecedentedly represent the times spoken of in 2 Tim. 4:3, 4: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
My experience during nearly half a century in full time Gospel ministry is that many, if not most, church members will endure sound doctrine, but only as long as they find it expedient and comfortable for them to do so. They have very little problem enduring the doctrine outlined in their church’s doctrinal statement – neither soteriological doctrine that pertains to salvation, ecclesiological doctrine that pertains to church origin, order and ordinances or eschatological doctrine that pertains to prophecy poses any problem to them.
But the average church member today does have a hard time enduring doctrinal teaching that pertains to holiness of life. In other words, they won’t “endure,” embrace or obey biblical teaching that calls for any change in their personal lifestyle. At best, they will attempt to wrest and revise scripture to fit their own lifestyle choices. When it comes to “doctrine according to holiness,” they simply and shamelessly make it up to suit themselves as they go. This has become more and more widespread and obvious over the last 60 to 70 years.
I’ve found too, that in the cases of many pastors, nothing is least appreciated, listened to or followed less, by many if not most in their congregations, than preaching and teaching that identifies and discourages worldliness and may call for a change in their lifestyle. No amount of years of hard work and sacrifice, consistently good and balanced pulpit ministry, maintaining of peace and order or church growth experienced – none of this –truly endears pastors to church members who are unappreciative of their efforts to advance personal holiness of lifestyle within the flock. For some, this kind of preaching and teaching represents the “dead flies in the ointment” (Ecc. 10:1) of everything else sweet and good that is taking place under their pastors' ministry.
The rank and file of preachers who fill the pulpits, and more so, the rank and file of the people who fill the pews in many (certainly not all) evangelical and fundamental, Bible believing, KJV,” etc., etc., etc. churches have apostatized to one degree or another from truth that pertains to practical, personal holiness. Some present a façade of holiness within the walls of their church building 2 or 3 times a week that is contradicted in real life outside the church house walls the rest of the week.
Too many church members will not endure truth that sets any standards for or makes any demands on how they live except, as it is comfortable and/or expedient for them to do so. And despite any number of faithful years and fruitful labor he may have among them as their spiritual shepherd, they will resist and to some degree or another resent a pastor who encourages practical, progressive, personal holiness in his ministry to the flock.
The tragedy in all this is, that the failure of church members to practically apply biblical teaching to every aspect of their lifestyle prevents all possibility of their being “the salt of the earth” or the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:13-16). And this gets right to the root of the reason why (to answer the question referred to at the beginning of this article), people in churches and out of them appear to not “want the truth” and why they “are not listening” to it.
“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”