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Pastors in Prayer

Dear Pastors,

 

"Just when we thought the world was again becoming safe for preaching, headlines burned with a sad and startling story of a fallen brother," writes Joseph M. Stowell, President of Moody Bible Institute".

 

He confided, "I find myself asking, `Is there something within our system that tends to produce neatly packaged products looking for a place to fall?'" (p. 4, May 1988, Moody Monthly).

 

I am convinced that there is something "within our system" of faith and fellowship that "produces neatly packaged products looking for a place to fall." Look at what has happened to discipleship. Jesus commissioned His followers to go into all the world and make disciples. That includes baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that He commanded them (Matthew 28:18-20). Christians are rarely asked for such a commitment.

 

Sometimes an entire generation of God's people falls into unbelief and loses the integrity of their relationship with God. Integrity means to be wholehearted in your commitment to God and His requirements. Job is a good example.

 

The Lord Himself described Job as "a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil" (1:8). Satan questioned Job's sincerity and loyalty (vs. 9). He argued that if he suffered enough "he will surely curse You to Your face" (vs. 10-11). Job, however, clung to his integrity (2:3, 9; 27:5; 31:6). With his whole heart he cried, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (13:15).

 

However, some men of faith have slipped from complete integrity with God. Abraham did so when in unbelief he begat Ishmael by Hagar. God had to call him back to wholehearted trust in the Almighty (Genesis 17:1). Abraham recovered and his faith was finally made complete (James 2:21-22). Peter slipped when he quit eating with the Gentiles because he feared some legalistic Jews' disapproval more than he feared God (Galatians 2:1-13). He was not being "straightforward about the truth of the gospel" (vs. 14). Peter was restored and went on to finish his life triumphantly.

 

The generation of Israel that came out of Egypt did not wholly follow the Lord (Numbers 32:11). They lost their integrity by falling into unbelief. The seriousness of this fall came out as they plunged into an epidemic of immorality, open idolatry and, finally, outright rebellion against God!

 

The New Testament warns the church against losing its integrity. "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12). "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry (I Corinthians 10:14). Are these warnings falling on deaf ears in evangelical and fundamental churches today?

 

"So far as the visible Christian institutions of our day are concerned, discipleship is clearly optional."

 

"That, of course, is no secret. The best of current literature on discipleship either states outright or assumes that the Christian may not be a disciple at all--even after a lifetime as a church member" (Dallas Willard, Christianity Today/1980). How has this affected the church? A Gallup poll uncovered "a self-centered kind of faith" among Americans. This dethrones Christ in the church and plunges God's people into moral chaos as in the days when "everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).

 

Roy Knuteson in a book titled Calling the Church to Discipline shows just how far this can go. "What do you do with a church member you know is committing adultery?" a pastor asked a group of ministers. There was silence.

 

"You'd better leave him alone," an experienced minister finally warned. "If you make an issue of it, you'll split your church. Take my advice; leave him alone."

An incredible number of gospel churches today silently watch while their members separate and divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. When an exceptional church does speak with the voice of loving authority troubled marriages are often healed. Even if they are not restored, the rest of the flock feel secure and supported in marital faithfulness by a church that takes a stand.

 

In one church that speaks with loving authority a man seated next to his wife arose and asked for prayer for their marriage. He humbly acknowledged their need of help. He did not need to fear gossip. He counted on a loving church family living together under the authority of Christ to surround them with their prayers and faith. And they did.

 

Warren W. Wiersbe in a book titled The Integrity Crisis gets to the heart of the matter when he asks, "What's been missing in our local churches? Why have good people felt compelled to look for substitutes elsewhere?"

 

He answers, "Let's begin by noting a lack of spiritual authority in our churches. I mean by that, the absence of the lordship of Jesus Christ over His ministers and His congregations" (p. 117).

 

A study of the tabernacle reveals that when God was dishonored on His throne of mercy in the midst of His people, Israel fell into moral ruin and into bondage to the heathen (I Samuel 2:12-36; 4:1-11). When the people returned to the Lord with all their hearts and served Him only, God delivered them from bondage to the heathen (I Samuel 7:3). In I Samuel 2:30, God said, "those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed."

 

The tabernacle shows us how to gather around the cross of Christ and His almighty throne of grace. When we gather in real worship we submit ourselves to His supreme power and authority. Then grace and truth reign in the church producing amazing love and purity (Acts 4:23-5:11). Grace mightier than sin flows out into the world (Acts 19:17-27). Integrity is restored and revival comes.

 

By Rev. Oliver W. Price
All Rights Reserved

 

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