Article # four: Truth
Truth is good. But truth can hurt. Truth sets free. But truth can bring trouble. Truth enriches. And truth costs.
Truth camouflaged is not truth. Nor truth distorted. Less than truth isn’t truth. It just isn’t. Truth avoided brings penalties. And truth embraced brings penalties. To run from truth is self-defeating. To embrace truth is to embrace adventures, not all pleasant.
Truth is for all, not some. Truth should be presented, not imposed. Truth is not only to be heard, but spoken. Truth is a weapon and a healing balm.
Everyone contains the amount of truth desired, not more, not less. To love God is to love truth. Truth rejected is Christ rejected. To abide, fully, in Christ one must abide, fully, in truth (that is, be accepting of truth as it comes).
Most do not love God supremely and most do not love truth supremely. If truth doesn’t reign, neither does Jesus. Idols displacing truth are idols displacing the Truth, and fathers sorrow in abundance.
Should I leave or stay? The very question is gutsy hopefully inspired by a love for truth. To refuse to determine a conclusion or even discuss the question, to hide in denial, even somewhat, is less than wise and less than courageous and less than loyalty to the Lord Jesus. Truth about evangelicalism cannot be ignored because it may hurt. Everything should be brought under Scripture’s light. That’s how we prove the faithfulness to Jesus we claim to have.
L a r r y J o n e s : An assayer from the city came to our door and asked my wife if he could come in and check the addition to our house we had just built, and she obliged. After entering he gently chastised my wife, saying she should have asked for identification before allowing him entrance. How did she know he really was the authorized person he claimed to be? It was very good advise, and my wife acknowledged that it certainly is her responsibility to check for authorization. Likewise it is the Christian’s responsibility to check for authorization regarding spiritual matters. (The Way It Is)
Evangelicalism should be fully measured, inspected and weighed, its fruit, good and bad, scrutinized. Wisdom calls for daring appraisal of its effect on those under its influence. Truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. No denial, no exaggeration, no partial truth. Just truth – the good, the bad, and the ugly. This will require much courage from those leaning on, trusting in, and adhering to the evangelical way.
Having said all that, let’s peer into evangelicalism:
The truth about the evangelical system will pain most in the evangelical system. Yet the obvious, or what should be obvious, must be said, even declared: The simple truth is, evangelicalism is not true. It just isn’t.
Yes, it contains some truth, and within evangelicalism are honest people, and often truth is preached from its pulpits. But evangelicalism as we know it, as one would define it, is itself very far from truth. We know that because it is far from New Testament writings, its rudiments cannot be found in its pages. Simply said, if the New Testament is true, evangelicalism isn’t.
Evangelicalism is thought by some to be a healthy progression of the New Testament. However such an assertion is acknowledgment that evangelicalism is not New Testament. (A progression from Scripture is not Scripture.)
We can understand complex evangelicalism by understanding the evangelical.
The evangelical contains a degree of truth, speaks some truth and has “the Spirit of truth” within. But he or she is not truth. She cannot be leaned on. He cannot be trusted for guidance. Put many evangelicals together, let them hire a professional evangelical to give leadership, purchase a building and embellish it with a cross, appoint elders and deacons, create a sunday school program, hand out bulletins and mark Pastor’s Parking on the stall closest to the door, and evangelicalism will be no more true than any singular evangelical. Contain more truth, possibly. But it is no more true. The local church and the denomination it represents is no more true than a home Bible-study/prayer-group, though much more complex.
A home group can be healthy. People gather to share their understanding of the Bible, encourage one another, point each other to (more of) Jesus. Or it could evolve into something nasty.
A gifted leader snatches the confidence of the group. Becomes the chief spokesperson. Organizes. Calls others to account. Usurps the Holy Spirit. Insists on commitment. This able director becomes a recognized official, a mediator of sorts between God and man, wrestling a degree of dependence from Jesus.
Evangelicalism must have begun in the home as a simple gathering of saints not long after Jesus returned to His Father. It was good at first, but soon evolved into what we have today and what it has been for centuries…. a highly structured and controlling organization under the lordship of man. When, at what specific moment in church history, did evangelicalism become true? If one cannot visualize such a moment perhaps it is a safe assumption there never was such a moment, and evangelicalism is no more true today than at its ancestral beginnings. And millions considering it to be true doesn’t make it true.
L a r r y J o n e s : If this spiritual veil could be lifted, if one could somehow see with spiritual eyesight into the world of the ministerial, would we see God? Would He be sitting in a recliner, perhaps at denominational headquarters, smiling a benevolent smile, giving directives, ruling the evangelical assemblies, blessing the multitudes on the other side of the veil through evangelical clergy? (The Way It Is)
Since God never created evangelicalism, and since it is not true, it cannot be considered holy though it rules the lives of millions. Never will God endorse it. Permit it, yes. Tolerate it, yes. Endorse it, never. The evangelical is holy, made holy by a creative act of God at the moment of spiritual birth, and fully endorsed. But evangelicalism isn’t holy and isn’t endorsed and must never be considered to be so.
L a r r y J o n e s : Suppose you had a servant, and you told that servant to deliver instructions to the bank manager to disperse certain funds in a certain manner. You can see that you are the authority, not the servant. You can see that the servant has no authority to add, alternate or remove any of your directives. Send this servant to university, give him a degree, dress him in a suit, and still he will not have the authority to change one word of your instructions. Now suppose you had a thousand servants, would they collectively have the authority to make changes? You can see they would not. (The Way It Is)
Evangelicalism is sand and the house built upon it shall not stand. (Let it be understood, attending an evangelical church is not necessarily building upon evangelicalism, even though most who do, it seems, do.) It is a false vine unable to nourish the millions of attached branches. (Attached branches, most thankfully, are also attached to the true vine, the Lord Jesus. It is this connection that is responsible for what fruit there is.)
In this series discrepancies between evangelicalism and the Bible will be revealed. But is that in itself reason to depart from the system? Your friends are not perfect, far from it (and neither are theirs), but should you forsake your friends? Well…. sometimes.
There should be a benefit to a friendship, if not mutual at least one party should be advantaged. Friendships take time and energy, and they should be fruit-bearing. Earthly time is precious because there is so little of it, and spending time on unproductive relationships is wasteful.
Some friendships are less than useless; they are harmful. One wants to control the other, to steer the other’s life. Such friendship should be abandoned but often are not. Controllers know how to control inconspicuously, to capture the other’s loyalty with compliments and smiles and approval and coercion. In christianity a controller replaces the lordship of Christ with himself.
If a friendship is drawing one relationally closer to Jesus Christ it should be preserved and enhanced. If a friendship is drawing one relationally away from Jesus Christ it should be abandoned. Now. Similarly, if the local church is drawing one relationally closer to Jesus one might be wise to stay. If one is being controlled, drawn from dependence on Christ alone, one should leave. Now.
Faithfulness, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, can be misplaced. Jesus does not smile upon the one faithful to friends or to church if that faithfulness devalues one’s relationship with Him.
C h a l l e n g e : The question is not, Should I leave or stay? The question is, Does Jesus want me to leave or stay?
P r a y e r : Guide us by Your Holy Spirit, Father, in this most crucial matter. And anoint these words in accordance to their wisdom. In Jesus’ precious and matchless name. (And hopefully the reader says, “Amen!”)