For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels, Mark 8:38.
Aren't you just a little embarrassed when, at the intermission of a play or symphony performance, the discussion turns to those who actually believe in Intelligent Design or Creationism, and you are ashamed to admit that you are one of them? Aren't you a little uncomfortable when the conversation at the dinner party moves to mocking the church down the street (which, by the way, is your church) that does not have a woman pastor and which does not allow women to serve as church leaders?
As the secularization of our culture continues, seemingly unabated; as the evangelical consensus is clearly behind us in the west; and as we fall further into the ravages of a post-Christian America-it seems that many pastors and leaders (Teaching and Ruling Elders) are embarrassed by our doctrine. More and more churches are leaving the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and similar denominations for those which ordain women to the pastoral office or as Ruling Elders. We now have churches which allow women to serve the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. And while the PCA a number of years ago made way for an ancient earth view which is accepted in the denomination, I cannot help but think this is also an accommodation to the culture. When reading Reformed preachers and theologians prior to the Enlightenment, one will find they simply assumed a young earth, literal six day view of creation. If they were such good exegetes of Scripture (and I certainly think they were), then why did they miss a poetic interpretation of Genesis 1-11? Is it possible that post Enlightenment exegetes have been "tainted" by modernism? And now we have theistic evolution becoming a hot button topic in Reformed churches, and this is leading some to question the historicity of Adam and Eve. And our opposition to same sex marriage and calling homosexuality an abomination now seems quaint and outdated. I am told that many college students who were nurtured in our churches now accept same sex marriage as a viable option for those who desire it. And abortion continues to be one of those issues that many of our higher profile preachers simply will not address from the pulpit.
Why this loss of nerve? Could it be that we are embarrassed by our doctrine? Okay, picture yourself as a pastor in an Ivy League town who wants genuinely to reach the intelligentsia of his community. You know readily that the intellectual elite there are not buying heterosexual marriage as the only option, nor six day creationism, nor the wrath of God, nor the doctrine of eternal punishment. You know they think a young earth view is preposterous, that it is on par with the Ptolemaic geocentric belief that the sun revolves around the earth. And you know the cultured and educated people of your town mock the fundamental doctrines of Biblical Christianity-the sufficiency of Scripture, the virgin birth and sinless life of Jesus of Nazareth, His penal, substitutionary atonement, His resurrection, and the exclusivity of Jesus as the only means of eternal salvation. They deem these doctrines as completely untenable in today's world. So, what will you say to win them to Christ? How will you massage the message? The very question, if you are asking it, makes clear that you do not truly believe in the utter and total inability of man, in a saving fashion, to embrace the gospel. It also tells me, consequently, that you will most likely compromise the message to reach them.
I believe it was James Boice, the pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, now in glory, who said that what you win them with is what you win them to. If we are afraid uncompromisingly and unashamedly to put forth the fundamental Biblical doctrines as noted above, then we may still gain a hearing from the intelligentsia, but at what cost? Let's assume that many whom we reach in this manner (perhaps an unwarranted assumption) are truly born again-what kind of faith will they have? Will they question the authority and inerrancy of Scripture? Will they "go soft" on Biblical marriage? Will they acquiesce on women's ordination? Will they soft peddle the doctrine of eternal punishment? Will they look the other way at grievous sin within the congregation, losing their resolve to address sin directly and Biblically? And more importantly, will they sow the seeds of apostasy? Jesus said to the church at Smyrna, "Be faithful unto death," (Revelation 2:10). In other words, hold onto the true Biblical faith no matter what happens, no matter what people may do to you. "If they hated you, you know they hated Me before they hated you. If they persecute Me, they will also persecute you," (John 15:18-20).
In the midst of laying down the requirements for entering His kingdom, Jesus told His disciples, just after the "light has gone on" and they fully understand who He is and why He came to earth, that if they wished to follow Him then they must deny themselves daily, take up their cross of suffering, and follow Him unreservedly. Failure to do so would bring His horrible sentence, " . . . the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels," (Mark 8:38).
If those in the PCA and similar denominations cannot sincerely hold to our doctrine, then they ought to leave and find another denomination more in line with their own theological position. Sophistry has no place in Reformed and evangelical churches.
Here's the bottom line-don't play to the intellectual crowd in your community. Pray, pray, pray, asking the Holy Spirit to prepare people to hear the simple, straightforward gospel message. Stick to the Scriptures. They have authority to convert and sanctify. Remember what you say you know-that you cannot convert anyone, that the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame those things which are wise, the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, the base things of the world and the despised. God has chosen the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man may boast before God," (1 Corinthians 1:26-30). Don't be ashamed or embarrassed by the word of truth. "Pray at all times, asking the Father to give you an open door for the word, that you may speak forth the mysteries of Christ . . . conduct yourself with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity . . . let your speech be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person" (Colossians 4:2-6). Get and maintain the fulness of the Spirit and then go forth, opening your mouth, trusting the Lord to fill it with power and grace.
Reverend Allen M. Baker
Pastor Baker is ordained in the PCA and has been in the ministry for over 30 years. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he received his M.Div. degree from...
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