True Colours - All for one... and One for all!
Several hundred years ago, ships would identify themselves at
sea by displaying certain colored flags at the top of their masts. From 1716
through 1718, the infamous Blackbeard and his crew of pirates terrorized ships
on the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. It was a reign of fear that lasted two
long years. They ambushed ships in the dim light of dawn and dusk when it was
hard to see their ship. The pirates often determined a ship's nationality
first and then they would raise the flag of that country, thus appearing to be
friendly. Then, able to draw close to the unsuspecting ship, the pirates hoisted
their true colors only at the last moment.
Merchant crews often surrendered without a fight the moment
they saw Blackbeard's flag. If the ship did not surrender, the pirates moved
in. Usually their first target was the captain. Once the pilot-less ship was
drifting aimlessly, they snared it with grappling hooks, pulled it close, and
leaped aboard. When the attack ended, the pirates took the passengers and crew
hostage and ransacked the cabins looking for gold, silver, and jewelry.
Blackbeard repeated this scene over and over again, deceiving many ships into
thinking he was an 'angel of light'!
SATAN IS THE BLACKBEARD OF THE CHURCH
2 Corinthians 11:14-15 tells us that "... Satan himself
transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing
if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness...."
There is never any shortage of sheep who will easily 'go
astray,' running after the latest 'fad' teaching that tickles their ears.
The demonic strategy of the enemy is not only to scatter the sheep. The main
goal is to destroy the shepherd who teaches God's word and ministers to His
people. In striking the shepherd, he accomplishes both anyway! If Satan's attack
is successful, everyone involved comes out of the battle disenfranchised, with
less love and a hardened heart.
I never cease to be amazed at how people can react so
differently to the same teaching. One will be uplifted and encouraged, while
another may not only miss the Lord's blessing but actually be offended by an
isolated, yet innocent statement. It seems that for every person who takes the
hammer and chisel to make an idol of a preacher, there is someone else with a
hammer and spikes ready to crucify him. Unless the Lord sustains that man, the
pressures against him can be overwhelming. He will need much courage to continue
proclaiming the Truth, despite the criticism that comes. A man cannot rise any
higher than the level of criticism he is able to handle.
TODAY'S MINISTRY IS NO PLACE FOR COWARDS
Courage is the 'missing virtue' in the modern church
which increasingly faces a hostile culture of unbelief, but fearfulness and
timidity have no place in the hearts of those who know that God sovereignly
ordained the circumstances of their lives and promised to resurrect them in
Christ. This conviction should free Christians of concern about their own
God requires courage from pastors and leaders, not only to
confront the unbelieving world with the truth of the gospel, but also to protect
doctrinal purity and ministerial integrity within the church. There are some
leaders today who are beginning to deny such basic doctrines as the sovereignty
of God and the exclusivity of Christ for salvation. They are calling for an
unbiblical 'open' view of God, which teaches that God cannot know the future
choices of His creatures, but is 'endlessly resourceful' in trying to move
history toward His purposes. These openness theologians are calling for "God
Lite - tastes great, but less saving!" However, Jesus is, always has been, and
always will be the only name under heaven by which we may be saved.
We must continue to evangelize courageously despite the
objections of those who label Christian evangelism as an arrogant 'hate crime.'
Evangelism is not just telling people what they already have or what they can
expect, it is proclaiming the truth! We live in a 'boldness-unfriendly culture'
where boldness for nearly any cause is welcomed except for the cause of Christ.
It takes courage to speak out about Christ, but if we fear God more than man, we
will have all the courage we will ever need.
CONSERVATIVE CHURCHES GROW WHILE LIBERAL CHURCHES DIE ON THE
According to a recent study ("Religious Congregations
and Membership: 2000" conducted by Glenmary Research Center and sponsored by
the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies),
"Conservative churches that demand high commitment from their members grew
faster than other religious denominations in the last decade...." In
denominations described by the media as 'mainline Protestant' or 'liberal,'
their decades-long erosion in membership was continuing.
"Churches that are faithful to their historic teachings,
offer transcendent truth to their congregation, demand something morally of
their people, and believe in the need for personal conversion present a strong
incentive to grow. Churches that allow themselves to be defined by the secular
culture's definition of 'inclusivity' and 'tolerance' really have little to
offer that will change hearts or inspire great loyalty, much less create
A GREATER CAUSE THAN YOURSELF
Both God and the devil want us to die, but for different
reasons! Satan wants to destroy us through deception, slander, lies and
temptations which lead to sin. At the same time, God wants to crucify the part
of our souls that was so easily exploited by the devil in the first place! We
have to be prepared to die God's way, which is ultimately for a transcendent
cause, and not be deceived into dying the devil's way, which is always for the
cause of selfishness.
THE SHELTER OF HIS CROSS
In His wisdom, God gives us two gifts, a new nature and a
cross uniquely designed to kill our old nature. We must learn this truth - God
does not want our old nature to survive. He does not want us to reform that
which actually needs to be crucified; He wants it to die. Our old nature is
corrupt; it is no match for the enemy and is very easily inhabited by him.
The character of the new nature is that of Christ Himself.
With the living Christ within us, how shall we bring a charge against our
neighbors, for Christ commands us to love? If we issue a complaint, shall we
raise our old nature from the dead to be our witness? Shall we silence Christ to
hear the voice of the accuser? You see, if we are to be the Lord's servants,
when offended we must repeat Christ's prayer from the cross, "Father,
forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL!
The Body of Christ must covenant together to direct all our
animosity towards the enemy and to watch each other's back so that we can
soundly defeat him. (Ecc. 4:12 -– "Though one may be overpowered by another,
two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.")
The language of heaven is 'covenant language.' This word
appears hundreds of times in the Bible and means an agreement between two
parties that involves promises and demands from both. A covenant implies much
more than an agreement or a contract! Contracts have an end; covenants are
A recent film, "The Four Feathers" set in 1898, tells the
story of a British officer who resigns his post when he learns of his regiment's
plans to ship out to the Sudan for a conflict with the Mahdi. His friends and
fiancée send him four white feathers symbolizing cowardice. To redeem his
honor, he disguises himself as an Arab and secretly saves the lives of those who
branded him a coward. At the end of the film, one of the characters saved by the
hero gives a keynote speech where he says words to this effect, "In the end,
we do not so much fight for God, the Empire or the flag, but for the man who
stands on our left and the man who stands on our right!"
Let this be the cry of our hearts for one another in the Body