(followed by “Eight Points of Departure from Sound Doctrine”)
A number of people gathered around the bus as the conductor amiably encouraged everyone to get on board and enjoy the ride. He was a very personable young man with a winning smile and persuasive manner. He could well have been trained as a Public Relations Officer, or even a Disc Jockey. But his job was not in the world of entertainment. He had more serious work to do, even if his manner was light-hearted and jovial.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Gospel Bus, and in a short while we shall be setting off on our journey to theGlory Land. And let me say this right now. You can have every confidence in the Driver. He knows the way. You can leave your worries with him. He will guarantee you a safe passage, and what’s more, there’s a whole lot of wonderful scenery along the way. Could you ever find a better purpose for your life? Here is a true sense of destiny combined with the enjoyment of every worthwhile thing. Step on board whilst there is still time. I warn you, our service will not operate indefinitely. Come along now. Just make your decisions and take your seats, ladies and gentlemen.”
“How much is the fare?” asked an old gentleman.
“Absolutely nothing, sir. Your fare has already been paid by the Company. It was a great sacrifice, and because of that I’m sure you’ll respond with a grateful heart.”
“Are you sure about that? They used to say years ago that there was a heavy price to pay to travel on that old bus over there,” he persisted.
“Yes, and why have you suddenly acquired this fleet of new buses?” asked his wife. “The other old ones have been in service for some 2,000 years.”
“It stands to reason madam. Just look at them. The dents, the faded old paintwork, and worst of all the bullet holes in the side. People were getting really nervous about travelling in them. Besides, look how small they were. Not much room inside was there? Now just compare them with our spanking new buses in brilliant new colours, and covered with exciting adverts for the Gospel. Isn’t it a joy to behold? Look at this on the back – ‘SMILE – GOD LOVES YOU!’ So warm and inviting! Plenty of room inside too. All our new buses are double-deckers. Better view upstairs. No reputable firm would continue to use those old bangers in a day and age like this. Must keep up with the times you know.”
“But you’ve chosen a new route, haven’t you?” queried a mother accompanied by her two teenage children.
“How right you are madam. Large numbers of people from all over the land have worked tirelessly on the job. They have sunk their differences and worked together in laying the tarmac. We were getting so fed up with all the varied groups at each other’s throats all the time. But it’s so different now. Lovely people. Cheers your heart. Look at that now! Our new straight and narrow.”
“Yes, I can see it’s very straight, but it’s not all that narrow,” said a serious bespectacled man with a small voice that got lost in the crowd. “But I always thought the Gospel spoke of a different type of straitness.”
“What happens if I get sick on the journey?” asked a frail woman of about fifty.
“No problem madam. There’s a doctor on board. We don’t allow passengers to stay sick for long. I can assure you madam that our medical care is second to none.”
Apparently satisfied with this, she went on to say, “But I haven’t much money to spend on the journey.”
“And what did I say before, madam? Didn’t I say that the fares have already been paid?”
“Yes you did, but that doesn’t account for what happens on the journey,” she persisted.
“I’m trying to explain to you that on our journey everything is free. We have one great big feast of good things for you people to share with each other as you travel, and they’re all free. You don’t have to pay for anything.”
“What about snipers and terrorists?” asked a policeman. “You were the one to point out the bullet holes in the side of that old bus over there.”
“I can assure you there’s absolutely nothing to worry about sir. We have taken all of that into account. Our new bus is made of bullet-proof steel and glass. What is more, our new route, which we have carefully mapped out, takes us over safer ground and therefore you won’t have to worry about anything.”
“I’m not convinced your new service is the genuine Gospel Bus Service,” quizzed an earnest young man. “I was under the impression the Master said only a few would take this route. How come you have a fleet of these new double-deckers operating a continuous shuttle service?”
“What you say has been correct for many centuries sir. But in these last days there are so many people interested in getting to the Glory Land that we have had to cater for them in this new way. You remember the Master said that whosoever will may come, so why should any of us start turning them away?”
“Your arguments still don’t convince me,” he said, “therefore I’m going to travel on the old bus.” And with this he strode off.
“Come back sir!” shouted the conductor. “Come back! That old bus is dangerous! And the route is dangerous! You may even have to pay for it with your life!”
“Come back!” “Come back!” echoed the crowds, as they all began to board the new bus. And within a few minutes they were off and away.
So much for the allegory. Now for the point of the story. Like all stories, the author attempts to throw a situation into high relief in order to make his point strongly. But how many evangelicals and charismatics today would be taken in by the type of approach that was presented by the conductor in the story?
To those who have known the Lord for many years, and have grown into some measure of maturity of understanding, and who have tasted the disciplining of the Master’s hand upon their lives, the whole sordid scene of pseudo-Christianity in this land today produces a sense of spiritual nausea and wretchedness. All the more so when it becomes patently obvious that the malaise has reached a point of no-return, where so much momentum has built up that it is running riot. Where it will end is a matter of grave concern. But insomuch as some will be willing to listen, we still send out these warnings. In this Telegraph we have presented the facts allegorically, but now we seek to take the matter further, and present no less than eight important departures from sound doctrine which are currently traded as Christianity by evangelicals and charismatics alike. As a result, vast numbers of people are being ‘taken on board’ who would never darken the doorway of a church if they really knew what the Lord and Master expected of them in following Him. All we hope is that our dear brethren inRussia don’t hear of the mockery we make of the faith in this land. What matters is that THEIR prayers for us are answered, and not so much the other way round. Many of them are walking in pure white robes of righteousness, whilst our clothes are like filthy and tattered rags. May we bow our heads and humbly seek that which the Master laid before the Laodicean church. “I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich, and white raiment that you may be clothed and that the shame of your nakedness does not appear, and anoint your eyes with eye- salve that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore and repent.” (Rev.3:18-19)
We therefore address this bulletin to “those whom the Lord loves” with our hopes and prayers that they may open eyes and ears to the ways of the Lord.
EIGHT POINTS OF DEPARTURE FROM SOUND DOCTRINE
1. NO WORKS. We are told that “By grace you are saved by faith, not of works lest any man should boast.” (Eph.2:8) As in all these eight areas of departure, it is not so much what is said that is wrong, but what is left out. No believer in his right mind would query the text in Ephesians quoted above. Our salvation comes as a gracious gift from God, and cannot be purchased by ‘good works’. In this sense we would agree with the conductor by saying that the price has already been paid at Calvary.
But the subtlety rests in the fact that each and every believer has an enormous price to pay AFTER he has made his commitment to the Saviour. So great is the price that it literally means everything he has and is. So greatly do we cling to ourselves, our desires, our appetites, our aspirations for the future, our family and friends, that we can be oblivious to the fact that Paul said in Romans 12:1-2 “I beseech you by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto the Lord which is your reasonable service.” It would be correct to say that just as Jesus gave His all for our salvation, so in return He asks that we give our all to Him in obedience and sacrificial love. Furthermore, Paul likens the Christian life to a building programme. (See 1 Cor.3:10- 15) Jesus Christ is the only foundation. But the superstructure is our own responsibility. We are told that some may use gold whilst others prefer wood. But when the structure is bathed in the flames of the divine fire, some will lose their life’s work because it has been of disallowed materials. Hence our work is vital. Don’t let evangelicals rob you of the importance of faith-works. Learn from the Bible what constitutes such abiding works.
2. NO CROSS. We are told that “We are buried with Him by baptism into death – if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Rom.6:4-5) The mistake comes by assuming that this identity is complete just by uttering a suitable sentence at conversion whereas Paul was speaking of an on-going process. See Phil.3:10-14. Paul desires that he may “know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death, if by any means he may attain to the resurrection of the dead.” “Not as though I had already attained,” he adds. What was that he said? After 20 or more years of ministry? “I forget those things which are behind and reach forth – – for the prize of the high calling.” And in 2 Tim.2:12 Paul says, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him, if we deny Him (the suffering) He will also deny us (the reign.)” Yes, the way of the cross is not an optional extra in the Christian life but an expected daily experience.
3. NO POVERTY. We are told these days that “God has given you richly all things to enjoy.” (1 Tim.6:17) There are many other verses in the N.T. which can be picked out to foster the same line of teaching. But it is a snare. Do not listen to those who glibly tell you, “You are kids of the King!” How can we possibly read the story of the O.T. saints in Hebrews 11 cringing at the agonies they endured, and then say that we shall enjoy all the riches and have the same rewards without their poverty? Or perhaps Heb.11:40 is misunderstood. “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” The meaning is that God has provided that better thing for US AS WELL, not that He has something for us better than they could attain. We are therefore to share in their poverty, in order that in a coming day we may share in their wealth in the day of God’s glory.
There is no place in a Christian’s life for unnecessary wealth in any direction. It is a good testimony to be able to show others that this world’s good are used and not abused, given away when needed by others and not hoarded. Let God Himself be our insurance policy against the future, because our future is entirely in His hands. We are not advocating the worship of poverty, but rather declaring the deceitfulness of riches, and the knowledge that the love of money is the root of all evil. The sad thing is that many Christians these days are rich in a tangible sense without being rich towards God.
4. NO SICKNESS. We are told that “They shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.” (Mk.16:18) and “Is any sick? Let him call for the elders of the church to pray over him with the anointing of oil in the-name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise Him up.” (Jas.5:14-15) and Ps.103:3 “He forgives all your sins, and heals all your diseases.”
The mere quoting of verses such as these sometimes raises the hopes of the Lord’s people to unwarranted and dizzy heights. We believe the Lord CAN heal, and also that in certain cases He DOES heal. But there is no warranty throughout Scripture that it should always be the case for everyone at all times. Our Lord clearly selected certain people for healing, and at other times healed all who came to Him. The apostles healed some, and even raised the dead at certain times, and then at other times we read of brethren being left sick. This is a whole complex issue that can only be properly understood in terms of EACH INDIVIDUAL BEFORE THE LORD. Some are healed as a testimony, whilst others are allowed to suffer to perfect their faith and their lives in readiness for the greater life ahead. Every minister of healing should approach every situation as though it were the only one, and seek the specific counsel of God. Healing should never degenerate into a form of mass processing.
5. NO LAW. We are told that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believes.” (Rom.10:4) and “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Gal.5:].8) and “The righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets.” (Rom.3:21)
How true all this is! And praise God for it. But what does it actually mean? So many believers today seem to think that they no longer need to read the TEN CONMANDMIENTS, that they are no longer binding upon Christians. But once again a great error is perpetrated by lack of care in interpretation. Paul’s argument was that the Jews were trying to attain righteousness through the keeping of the law. And Paul showed by his teachings that no man can ever attain righteousness by this means, because we are all fallen by nature. If we offend in one small point, we are as guilty as if we had transgressed them all. Hence righteousness comes only through Christ, by faith in His sacrifice, and not through the works of the law.
But having said that, Paul truly establishes the law, rather than demolishing it. Indeed it is a most dangerous principle to assert that Christians do not need to attend to the TEN COMMANDMENTS. All Christians should attempt to keep the commandments of God at all times. And should they fail, they know that there is plentiful redemption in the blood that has been shed. Blessed indeed is the one who teaches man the laws of God to do them. How much better this land would be if Christians once again taught their children the laws of God.
One final word here. It is important to realise that many ORDINANCES no longer apply, because they were fulfilled in the sacrifice of our Lord upon the cross. Hence of course there was a complete termination of all blood-sacrifice at the time of His death. And other laws, such as that of circumcision, have become spiritually operative instead of enacted in the flesh. But in all cases of the O.T. laws, much wonderful teaching can be gained by reading them and understanding what God was saying through them. But many more laws still apply today than most believers are normally willing to concede. An expansion of this theme would be out of place in this article, but may perhaps be taken up in a later issue.
6. NO WARFARE. We are told “That through death He might destroy him who has power over death, that is, the devil.” (Heb.2:14) and “He has spoiled principalities and powers and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it (i.e. in His death)” (Col.2:15)
By the use of such verses as these many believers are encouraged to assume that all has been accomplished by our Lord, and that there is no real need to engage in any spiritual warfare at all. Jesus has made a completed work at the cross, and there is nothing left to do. And this is where the error lies. It lies in the inability to understand the meaning of our identity with Him when we believe. To a Christian, it must be a finished work. God has accomplished what He set out to do, but He invited His children to enter into that victory and experience what it means in practical terms and this is for our own good as well as being a part of God’s overall plan. To be ‘in Christ’ is not to be blissfully asleep in the back of an armour-plated bus, but to be out on the battle-field for the Lord, entering into the cosmic warfare with the armour that God supplies for us, and SEEING the victory of the cross as we use the authority of our Master’s name to expel demons and sever Satanic links, to bring release to the captives and drive out fears. Christ’s victory can then become our own experience in life, to the glory of God.
7. NO PROPHECY. We are told of “The dispensation given to me (Paul) to FILL UP the word of God.” (Col.1:25) and“When that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.” (1 Cor.2.3:1Q) and “If any man add to these things, God will add to him all the plagues of this book.” (Rev.22:18) By Scriptures such as these we are made to believe that the Bible is a closed volume which contains the sum total of all that God ever intended to say to mankind. Once again, selective reading has produced a distortion of the true facts, and robbed the believer of his right to the LIVING WORD OF GOD in his daily experience. When Paul said what he did to the Colossians (quoted above) he was referring to the fulfilment of the message and work that God had given him to do. And when he spoke about ‘that which is perfect’ coming, he was looking to the resurrection day, not the final compilation of a Bible. And the Revelation passage, with its dire warning clearly refers to those who might tamper with John’s writing and the revelation it contained, and cannot be extended in its meaning beyond that. Our Lord said that man cannot live by bread alone, but by ‘every word (rhema) that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’ A church that cannot believe in the daily outpouring of divine wisdom, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, must indeed be a very impoverished church. God’s people must be a prophetic people, conveying to the world at large the true character of God and the need for repentance and belief.
8. NO TRIBULATION. We are told that “You are the children of light, not darkness, – – and that day shall not overtake you as a thief. God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess.5:4-9)
The old adage that ‘a text without a context is a pretext’ applies here. The N.T. is replete with statements showing that ‘through much tribulation we shall enter the kingdom of God’. The O.T. bolsters up this understanding with its many rich and colourful accounts of men’s lives. God has a work to do IN US (as well as through us) and to accomplish this He needs to take us through times of trial and testing. But He promises all those who keep faith with Him that they will be kept safe in the midst of trials. And the ‘safety’ factor refers to our spiritual integrity, not to our bodily lives. It is not this life that is of great importance to the Lord, it is that which He is fashioning for our future, and is laid up in heaven progressively for us, as a kind of bank balance, so that we do not misuse it in this present state of imperfection. The church is not going to be ‘raptured‘ before tribulation, but refined, perfected, and strengthened in it and through it, whether it be through personal tribulations, or during a time of “great tribulation.” Jesus offered us a “strait and narrow way”. The word “narrow” is better translated “tribulated” because it comes from the same root as “tribulation” used elsewhere. How then can any of us by-pass it, if it is God’s chosen way for us all?