Article # six: Guidance Required
For every evangelical the real issue is not departing from, or remaining in, the evangelical system, but obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit. Submitting to the “Spirit of Jesus” is submitting to Jesus.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of being sensitive to the Spirit in all matters, the more serious the issue, greater the need for sensitivity. Relying on logic and reason alone is admission logic and reason are lord.
Two quite dissimilar worlds are determined by this spiritual fork-in-the-road, to leave or stay. You must get it right. The Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth, was sent to bring you to the knowledge of the will of Him who is pleased to be your King. It must be declared: Only the Holy Spirit knows. And: Jesus will only guide you by His Spirit if you choose to be guided.
Now let’s look at another issue momentarily. When you stand before Jesus at His judgment seat you will want to know you had finished your course, you had fulfilled the high calling of God on your life on earth. Nothing else will matter except hearing those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
You will not hear that commendation if you are not empowered by the Holy Spirit. And you will not be empowered if you are not relationally attached to Christ. To be attached to Christ you must be in a state of readiness to obey. “To obey is better than sacrifice.” His voice must be heeded over all voices.
There is only one reason for you to remain in the evangelical way – you believe it to be the will of Jesus for you to be there. There is likewise only one reason to depart.
And this, dear reader, is where this writer stumbles. I have written and rewritten this article, and here I am again. I have the notion my keyboard has compromised truth.
I began with this theme: Some would be wise to stay within the evangelical system, others should have left decades ago. From there to: Some should stay for a time, others should leave immediately. But I still had no peace. It seems I was compromising truths taught by the Holy Spirit years ago. Yes, this thirty-five year old christian should heed the words of the five-year old christian. Bear with me, brothers and sisters in the Lord, as I give you a sampling of that youngster in Christ:
L a r r y J o n e s : Traditionalism, like drinking and sexual immorality, is not an overwhelming temptation as long as occasions of temptation are avoided. Making a decision to enshroud oneself in tradition frequently leads to a decision to accept those traditions as master and god. (A Catholic No More)
L a r r y J o n e s : A Christian who dabbles in tradition can be compared to a child who happens upon a cave. The child can see that the mouth of the cave is almost as bright as it is outside in the direct sunlight. After he enters the cave his eyes begin to adjust to the dimmer light and soon he can see deeper into the cave. From this new perspective the cave doesn’t seem so dark after all because now he is relating to it from where he stands, not the sunlight outside. As he enters deeper his eyes continue to adjust to the darkness. Soon he is so deep in the cave he may never find his way out. (A Catholic No More)
L a r r y J o n e s : Compromise insults God. Compromise is a return ticket to the old yokes of slavery. Compromise may momentarily stop the lion from roaring but only long enough for him to have a real good laugh. Compromise is his weapon. Dabbling in compromise is fighting the enemy on his turf and eventually brings frightening results. (A Catholic No More)
L a r r y J o n e s : A believer has no one but himself to protect his freedom in Christ. He must guard it like the wary soldier Christ called him to be because there are many who would snatch it from him. There are many who would bind him to the same yoke to which they themselves have been captivated. There are many who would want to claim him as theirs, to be sovereign over him. A simple frown of disapproval from pastor or priest can activate much peer pressure to bring a young Christian to conformity. (A Catholic No More)
L a r r y J o n e s : It is difficult to remain free. It really is. There are many who would feel it an obligation to ‘protect’ you. Man has a tendency to try to gain sovereignty over man. Man will try to usher you into one of his programs, to impose his vision upon you, to make you dependent on him. In turn he will expect you to call him ‘pastor’, ‘reverend’, ‘doctor’, ‘teacher’, and give financial support to his programs. (A Catholic No More)
Having been reproved by myself, I present (what I believe to be) a more worthy perspective:
I am certain many, even most, should depart from the evangelical way. I am not equally sure that there are some who should remain, even a young believer, even for a short time. Yet I will not suggest a young christian leave the system unless he has a viable option.
Evangelicalism may have a symbolic Jesus as lord, but Jesus as savior is actual. Joe and Jill Average may have a blurred perspective regarding the lordship of Christ, but are not confused concerning their salvation; they depend on Christ alone to get them to heaven. Evangelicalism is rather proficient at keeping the saved saved. Leaving one’s church without a viable alternative could cause a person to return to “the way that leads to destruction.” (This is of little concern for those holding to the “once saved, always saved” concept of eternal security, but understandably scary for those who do not.)
Nor will I suggest he or she should stay. Years of association with evangelicalism has convinced me it is improbable most in this system will attain much “gold, silver, precious stones” to lay at the feet of Jesus. A young believer entering evangelicalism’s cave of tradition may never find her way out.
A word to those remaining in evangelicalism: It must be understood, a decision to stay in the system is not permission to compromise. The only alternative to obedience is disobedience. The standard for those remaining is the same as those departing – the Bible.
A determination to remain true to the Bible might upset the lives of those who stay. While one church may tolerate the one remaining in the perimeter of church society – benefiting from congregational praise and worship as well as pulpit ministry, but refusing to get “plugged in” to the system – the church down the street may coerce everyone to commit themselves to the assembly. They will not allow you to decide for yourself to tithe to them or not tithe. The pastor will insist you call him Pastor. You will be expected to parrot their understanding of Scripture. They insist you get their okay to do ministry outside church walls. You will be coerced to become a member. (Don’t ever become a member!!!)
A word to those longing to leave: You will be misunderstood and persecuted. Friends will leave you and then criticize you for being a loner. Though you proclaim your love for Christ, still your salvation will be held in doubt, your christianity in derision.
P a u l : All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2Tim. 3:12)
All includes you. Your leaving the system is an insult and threat to the majority. You are a bad example, and you will be pitied for your deception. But the rewards will far outweigh the cost. And you will make it easier for others to come out. You really do influence. Your life is a statement.
Parents who leave must find an alternative to sunday school or transport the kids. (The congregation would be healthier if all went downstairs to listen to the sunday school teacher tell the kids about Jesus. Upstairs the emphasis is rarely on Him.) Your children must be taught Christ. Parents are accountable.
Before closing, I emphasize again the importance of submitting the matter to Jesus Christ, and waiting on Him to direct and instruct. After all, He is the “head of the church.”
There is an alternative to the evangelical system, the subject of the next article.
C h a l l e n g e : Willingness to obey reaps rewards. Enthusiasm to obey reaps richer rewards. Negligence causes loss of rewards. Repentances changes meager into much. Meager or much, rewards are eternal. And so are losses.
P r a y e r : Lord Jesus, prepare reader and writer for that day of account. And empower this message, for it is most inadequate. (And hopefully the reader says, “Amen!”)