WHAT SHOULD BE THE ATTITUDE OF THE CHRISTIAN
IN A DECLINING CHURCH?
IN A DECLINING CHURCH?
By Michael Hobbis,
CW Committee Member
2 Timothy 3 – 4: 5
Since this is a message for Christians, we may now pass briefly over some preliminaries, as it is assumed that certain truths are self-evident.
- That we live in an age of unparalleled wickedness in its extent and blatant ungodliness – I say unparalleled – since the speed of modern day communications means that sin in all its horrid forms, is now global and highly contagious.
- That the professing Church is in a state of decline – no honest man, Christian or non-Christian, can deny. I recall at the inception of the Anglican Archbishop, Justin Welby, a columnist in a secular newspaper wrote to the effect – somewhat facetiously – that it was a relief that we now had one who actually believed in God.
The false religion of New Evangelicalism has pervaded most, if not all, of local churches in one form or another. Even some reformed believers now have a very relaxed view of the Christian Lord’s Day (the N.T. Sabbath) and the moral law of God, as expressed in the Ten Commandments. They speak of liberty and doing whatever they wish on this day of holy rest, while they themselves prove by disobedience that they are the servants of corruption.
In my attendance at the Christian Resources Exhibition, while representing Christian Watch, to walk among the stands is akin to a walk in Pilgrim’s Vanity Fair, such is the worldliness and abounding impiety of the corrupt forms of Christianity displayed, with no sense of irony, or any fear of God before the eyes of most.
Horrific accounts of sinful acts in the world and in the professing Church are now so common, as to have almost lost their ability to shock.
What are we to do?
We live in dangerous times, troubling times, yet in times in which all true believers are required by God to be faithful, and even excel (Dan. 11:32). But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overcome you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness (1 Thess. 5:4/5). However, to walk in the light, we must have a right attitude in response towards these times in which Divine providence has placed us.
We may find what this attitude is to be, always and only, in the Holy Oracles of God.
Firstly, we may say fundamentally, it is to recognise with sadness and self-loathing our own part in these things. We each bear our own responsibility in Adam as our representative, and the sad Biblical history of the human race declares that in rebellion against God and in our departing from Him, we have not only brought upon ourselves misery and judgement, but have sinned against infinite Goodness. If we are true Christians, we also have the aggravated sense of sorrow in that we crucified the Lord of Glory by our sin, and were complicit in His death.
Many today are like the proverbial ‘disgusted lady of Tunbridge Wells’, declaring loudly against homosexuality, abortion and the sexualisation of children. So too, many often quote that Scripture from Ezekiel 9:4 that the Lord has an especial regard for those who sigh and cry for the abomination of the times. However, this is surely not to be a crying and sighing at the abominations in our midst, but rather as the Scripture says: for these things. They have been done in our day, and if we are the sons of Adam, we share in the responsibility for them.
Consequently, we are to be much in prayer, for prayer and true repentance go together. We repent unto God, and not like Judas, unto ourselves. As Hezekiah, we should spread these things before the Lord.
Our Lord Jesus told us to watch and pray, particularly in these end times (Mark 13:33). To watch without praying is presumption; to pray without watching is laziness. Therefore, the second attitude to cultivate is watchfulness. Repentance joins with prayer, and prayer to watching. Indeed the exhortation to Timothy in our text (2 Timothy 4:5) is to watch. This exhortation follows the many warnings given in the preceding chapter concerning the last days: of perilous times; a false form of godliness; of evil men and seducers becoming worse and worse in each succeeding generation; a turning away from sound doctrine. Such times are dangerous times and we are to be watchful.
The contagion of sin
As John Owen remarked in his treatise ‘Perilous Times’ – sin is infectious. You and I may be infected, yet oblivious to our danger. We know that some diseases like Creutzfeldt – Jakob disease (similar to BSE) have long and hidden incubation periods. Consider how the plague of sin in the world may have infected you, yet you know it not. Jesus told us that the last days would be declining days in the Church, because iniquity would abound in the world (Matt. 24:12). Therefore, in declining times particularly, it is better to be far removed from the fashions of this world as is consistent with true godliness.
The New Evangelicals, who would have all the pleasures of this life, together with the security of forgiveness and Heaven, consider not that the weight of their worldliness alone will sink them beneath the waves as they try to cross Jordan to the Celestial City.
The next advice to Timothy in 4:5 is to endure. The children of Issachar were blessed with the strength to endure the burden of the day (Gen. 49:14); and true Christians, to whom all the promises belong in Christ Jesus, shall receive from Him strength to endure equal to the day.
They are also called here to be active and make full proof of their calling in Christ. Some may have more opportunities than others, but the parable of the talents applies not just to Timothy, but to all the Lord’s people. How tender that precious saying of Jesus – She hath done what she could (Mark 14:8).
To stand firm in times of the declining Church is a miracle of God’s grace, and our prayer with the Psalmist should be: O let me not wander from thy commandments (Ps.119:10).
It is the words of the Saviour that we are told to hold fast unto; so that our house may rest upon solid foundations and withstand the flood-tide of sin and iniquity that is increasingly coming upon the face of the earth. What else are we to hold fast to? That which is good (1 Thess. 5:21) – to a form of sound words (2 Tim 1:13) – our profession (Heb. 10:23) – and whatever light and attainments we have been given (Rev. 2:25 and Rev. 3:11).
The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable
Finally, brethren; whatsoever things are true – honest – just – pure – lovely – of good report – virtuous – praiseworthy – think on these things (see Phil.4:8).
Why do I mention this last? Because we are to be pure and holy in thought. There are those believers and organisations today who are very concerned for the moral degradation, which is found in homosexuality, child sexualisation and other abuses. Consequently, they feel it incumbent upon themselves to display graphic images and descriptions on websites and in emails of homosexual acts, and other sexual perversions; all in the cause of righteousness!
When Paul the Apostle declared in his day by the Holy Ghost that it was a shame even to speak of such practices (Eph. 5:12); he meant exactly that. Do not speak of them.
Christians should have a God-given sense of propriety and they know what is acceptable, and what is not (Prov. 10:32). So let us always cultivate that attitude which hates sin and loves holiness, and be like those who wait with one eye upon the horizon for His coming, and so purify themselves, even as He is pure, by this fervent hope. For we shall be like Him when we see Him as He is (1 John 3:2 /3).