Knowing the times is vital for any Christian in any age, including our own. These are days of spiritual controversy and controversy among those who claim to be brethren. There are great differences of opinion on what are important matters of faith and practice. For example: while many Christians would never drink alcohol or use tobacco there are others who openly espouse reformed theology while boasting of their liberty to drink beer and smoke cigars. Furthermore while some Christians strongly reject contemporary Christian music, others who seem clear on the cardinal themes of the gospel permit styles of worship that startle and shock. And while most Christians would be careful with their speech and shun the coarse and crude language of the world, there are preachers who have made it their trade mark and include it in their pulpit ministry. So how should a Christian approach these or similar situations? How should he react in the maelstrom of present day religion? Let me suggest a number of guidelines. (This is not to be taken as an exhaustive list and I will return to deal with specifics at a later time).
The Christian must always maintain Scripture as his sole rule of his faith and practice. The word of God must ever be our chart and compass. There must be a constant referral to the scriptures and a willingness to determine, ‘What saith the Lord?’ The opinions of well-known preachers should not be elevated to a position above the Scriptures. We must search the Scriptures and seek the mind and will of God. Personalities, however well known, must not replace the Word of God. (Isaiah 8:20)
The Christian must have a greater fear of God than he has of man. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom, while the fear of man brings a snare. Our desire to honour God must be greater than our readiness to yield to or please men. (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10) Our chief end is to glorify God and it is always going to be profitable for the believer to ask, “Will this bring glory to God? Does this music, this behaviour, this association, this doctrine, this ministry honour God?” If the answer is no, then these things must be rejected.
The Christian must be ready to take a separated position when God’s word demands it. While there are times when separation is schismatic, there are other times when it is essential. He must have no part with an apostate or with those who support and strengthen an apostate. Heresy must be avoided and sinful compromise must be guarded against. Biblical separation is a vital necessity in this age of deep and dark confusion. (Romans 16:17, 18)
The Christian must realise that there are some issues that are issues of conscience and personal conviction.
There are certain absolutes in the Christian life – clear commands and directives from God. We may speak of them as ‘back and white’ issues. And many issues fall into that category but not all do, some are matters of conscience. Believers are permitted to differ on these, with each giving due respect to his brethren. I must not attempt to bind another’s conscience, for God alone in the lord of the conscience (James 4:12).
The important thing to remember in the ecclesiastical maze is to honour God before men and strive to order our steps in accordance with the word of God.
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