–September of 1998
One political analyst characterized former President George Bush as “a good man who just couldn’t decide what he believed.” This inability to articulate strongly a set of beliefs enabled the media to paint him as a “wimp” and ultimately took him down to political defeat. It is too bad that the church didn’t learn a valuable lesson from this former president. No one wants to listen to the windy babble of a man who isn’t sure what he believes, while on the other hand people are strongly attracted to the man who can state his opinions and beliefs in clear logical terms. Unfortunately the church is often plagued by leaders who pride themselves on their ability “to almost say something.” Too many leaders seek to cultivate an ambassadorial style of communication that never ruffles anyone’s feathers. Traditionally, the holiness preacher was a man who stood for and stood against some things. You didn’t see him “bellying up” to the bar of consensus and compromise to drink his fill. Convictions were not set aside for the sake of convenience. There were places he refused to go and things he refused to do. He was known and admired for his stand on the issues. Nowadays, however, it has become almost in vogue to consent to a host of general rules and biblical principles with our mouth, only to ignore them with our lives. This duplicity is not only accepted but defended as a way to operate and keep peace.
In fairness to the pulpit, it must also be said that this is a serious problem in the home as well. Parents seem to lack the courage and commitment to communicate forcefully, yet lovingly, to their own children a belief system that will not be compromised under any circumstance.
I’m not suggesting that holiness people need simply to adopt “tough” agendas so as to appear spiritual. That direction is as deceitful as it is deadly. I am saying, however, that if we truly have a belief system grounded in the Word of God it will affect the way we live and lead. Biblical principles form convictions in our lives, and those convictions will become the moral fiber of what we are. What we are and what we believe will ultimately guide and gauge all of our actions. If it doesn’t, then something is critically wrong with our Christian experience. I believe we will have to take stands on issues where the Bible draws a line. The Bible gives us moral laws, standards for ethical behavior, as well as numerous directing principles to guide our daily lives. We cannot give intellectual assent to them and move on with our lives. True holiness demands that we allow the Word of God to impact the totality of our living.
When a culture or civilization goes as far astray as ours, it becomes easy to overlook some things as “not very significant” under the circumstances. However, those insignificant issues can be, and at times are, a first line of defense and, once lost, give way to an onslaught of all other sorts of evil. Attorney David Gibbs observed that… “any church body or denomination always makes changes in lifestyle issues prior to making changes in its theological tenets.” In other words, if we change the way we live, we will necessarily change what we believe. This is a treacherous path to trod. Instead of allowing the ancient faith to stand in judgment on us, we turn and judge the ancient faith. I believe we need to take a firm stand on the desecration of the Lord’s Day, on sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, and abortion, on social sins like using drugs, drinking alcohol, smoking and gambling. We need to warn against immodesty and worldly attire. We need to sound the alarm against the immoral values that are being piped into our homes through the arts and entertainment world. We need to speak up and courageously proclaim that Christians don’t lie, cheat, steal and defraud their neighbor. This is not a time to soft-soap our words. It is not a quiet day in Zion we need, but rather it is an earthquake followed by a thunderstorm from men who will boldly and courageously proclaim “thus saith the Lord.”
I mean to imply that everybody is capitulating. Some time ago Presbyterian leader Dr. D. James Kennedy, thundered to his large congregation, “Some of you are going to leave here and violate the Lord’s Day by eating out in a restaurant.” Jim Cymbala of Brooklyn Tabernacle fame, advises live-in couples to separate and stay that way until they get married if they really want to follow the Lord and be genuine Christians. If these men will be courageous, shouldn’t we as holiness people be clearly voicing and insisting upon a high standard of moral and biblical behavior for our people?
My heart was refreshed when I heard the story of a young man who is enrolling in our college this fall. He was the manager of a large merchandising store in the Southeast. His position commanded a large five digit salary. However, after his conversion he refused to work on Sunday and accepted the consequences of being fired from the position. I also recently learned of an elderly lady in a distant state who lived most of her declining years in near poverty conditions. After her death they found a stack of checks from the state which were to help subsidize her income and make her living more comfortable. However, those checks had not been cashed because that money came from the state lottery, and she felt that the state lottery was wrong. Here is a woman who would rather live in poverty than spend one dime of money that came from the lottery.
How can we, in good conscience, call men and women to revival when we refuse to insist upon reform in both the pulpit and the pew? I believe the biblical portrait for revival always includes and demands both repentance and reform prior to any outpouring of God’s Spirit.
What a man believes is important. You will ultimately live out what you truly believe. As men and women of God within the holiness tradition, we need to start living out what we say we believe.