Contending for the Faith
These are testing times for Christians. The spiritual declension in our land has been so great over the last few generations that by now most people know very little of the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ. We see government and the media giving false religions an equal place with the Christian faith, secularists working to completely remove Christianity from our national life and atheists attempting to undermine all belief in God.
Turning to the church we also see a change for the worse. It is not just the falling attendances or the many divisions, regrettable though these things are. They are but the symptoms of something far more serious.
I believe it is true to say that in recent decades there has been a marked decline in reverence for the things of God on the part of professing Christians. We have all been guilty of this to some degree – letting things slip in our lives. At the same time spiritual discernment has waned. The two things are connected of course for we read in the Bible, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psa.111:10): where there is no real awe of God there will be no obedience to His Word or appreciation of His ways.
The result has been a flood of worldliness and compromise coming into the church. Doctrine has been diluted so that no-one is offended, with salvation made out to be an easy matter resting in our own hands. Worship has become a creature of fashion, more of a man-pleasing entertainment than a solemn adoration of the Most High. Discipline has been all but abandoned and sin is overlooked, forgetting the fact that we all need correction at times to keep us in the narrow way which leads unto life.
What are we to do? These words of Scripture are for us today: “Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isa.8:13). As ever the problem lies within our own hearts: it is there that the drift takes place and there that the recovery must begin. Do we really believe God’s Word? Do we do everything we can to avoid grieving the Holy Spirit? Do we truly love the Lord Jesus Christ? If we attend humbly and prayerfully to these things then we will be sure to have a greater zeal for God’s honour and be more willing to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3).
Standing for truth and righteousness is never easy. The world demands that we accept such immoral things as homosexuality, accusing us of ‘discrimination’ and ‘bigotry’ if we do not, but our conscience tells us that we cannot condone what is sinful and that we must speak up against it. Even more ought this to be the case when these issues are found within the church, as they are in the Church of Scotland at present.
In such situations conflict is not only advisable but essential. It is the duty of all God’s people, not only ministers and elders, to stand up for the faith. How did things go so badly wrong in the church and in the nation? Because believers first tolerated a little error, then accepted gross error until finally they became indifferent to error altogether.
We must be willing to follow Jesus wherever He leads us by His Spirit as He speaks to us through His infallible word. This sometimes means going forth to Him “without the camp, bearing his reproach” (Heb.13:13). Yet it is surely better to be among the few that are with Christ than among the many that are without Him. May God give us all the strength we need to be faithful to our Lord and Saviour, whatever the cost.