The Christian Overcomer in a Day of Church Breakdown
The Christian Overcomer in a Day of Church Breakdown
March 1, 2014
It is a matter of great encouragement to see that God considers and provides for the path of a faithful Christian in a day of Church breakdown. This is an important realization; otherwise, the individual Christian seeking to remain faithful to God’s Word might be led to decide that it is right – even necessary – to reduce the standards attached by scripture to a right and proper Christian walk. This reduction of standards, then, can only add to the existing confusion in a day of breakdown.
There are several key scriptures we can draw upon to show that God desires to encourage and support Christians – individually or collectively – in a day of declension. Zechariah utters, “Who hath despised the day of small things?” After saying “all in Asia have turned away” Paul writes to Timothy that “the firm foundation of God stands”. John shows that when the Lord addresses the Assembly in Philadelphia in The Revelation He expresses clearly that “I have set before thee an opened door, which no one can shut, because thou hast a little power”. This matter of power is all important – Paul writes to Timothy that “God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of wise discretion.”
The first necessity is to recognize in an honest way that Christendom is in confusion and breakdown publicly. David beautifully states the mind of God in Psalm 133 – “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Like the precious oil upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, upon Aaron's beard, that ran down to the hem of his garments; As the dew of Hermon that descendeth on the mountains of Zion; for there hath Jehovah commanded the blessing, life for evermore.”
The primary thought in the Divine Mind as set out in scripture is that Christians should be unified. Paul writes to the Ephesians “using diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace. [There is] one body and one Spirit, as ye have been also called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all.” Notice, too, that in Psalm 133 unity is connected with eternal life. It is said in 1st Corinthians 15 that a day will come in which God will be “all in all”. There will be no disunity in eternity, and the Christian calling today on this earth involves being diligent to keep unity. “Some of Paul, some of Apollos” are notions disqualified by the Apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians.
Thus, the many denominations, sub-denominations, splinters and sects in Christendom today bespeak clearly the widespread devaluation of Divine principles that should govern the Lord’s people here on earth. There is clearly set out in Scripture the reality that there is only one Church in the Mind of God – it is composed of all true, believing Christians (see Roman 12 and 1st Corinthians 12).
Of course, all that is seen in what we refer to as Christendom today – the breakdown including sects, divisions, schools of thought, etc. – is known to God and foretold in Scripture (in this respect see Galatians 5, 1st Corinthians 11, Acts 20 and The Revelation chapters 2 – 3). Nevertheless, none of this gives the honest Christian any license to settle down in such breakdown – the very opposite is given – the Lord says to Ephesus, “Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works”. In his last address to an assembly in The Revelation – to Laodicean Christians – He is most strong in His language – He says “thou art lukewarm … I am about to spue thee out of my mouth.”
If any struggle to accept the above statements regarding the public breakdown of the Church a necessary and prayerful contemplation should help assure as to these simple truths.
If all the above is true, the great question for any Christian – for the reader of this document – is how to approach Christianity today amidst the confusion, and how to walk in a moral, worthy way that comports with scripture.
It is vital, in treating of Christian truths, to get hold of primary principles as set out in scripture. After all, the Bible is God’s work and “Every scripture [is] divinely inspired, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” – it is from this Book we draw that which is to “make us wise unto salvation”. Furthermore, the indwelling service of the blessed Holy Spirit is present to cause us – if He be not hindered by our natural wills and thus be grieved – to be guided into all the truth (John 16).
Divine principles never change. The Lord is the same yesterday, today and forevermore. Thus, a Christian approach to proper fidelity here immediately involves the first and great commandment – which stands today as it did from Old Testament times: love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and understanding. The second commandment, the Lord could say, is like the first – love thy neighbor as thyself.
It is of all importance to understand that the Divine order as given above shows that the first commandment cannot be made secondary – i.e., any Christian path which shortchanges Divine Persons either in their rights to being worshipped or in the proper fidelity due to Them simply cannot be compensated for by attempts to be of service to men – Christian or otherwise – here. Thus, fidelity to God comes first – “if ye love me keep my commandments.” Only the reflex of our proper relationship with God enables a proper relationship with all others – including any appropriate Christian service.
Of necessity, the first step in Christian faithfulness is to commit to the full will of God. “Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord negligently” (Jeremiah 48).
The great reality of committal being a necessary first step, what is to be the Christian’s subsequent recourse, amidst the breakdown and confusion such as is extant today, for right fellowship with other, like-minded Christians? Scripture shows two further, essential steps.
In Paul’s 2nd epistle to Timothy in the 1st chapter he identifies that the Church breakdown had commenced – “all who are Asia … have turned away”. He follows this in the 2nd chapter by speaking of the great house (i.e., Christendom) and that “the firm foundation of God stands”. What a wonderful reality for the exercised soul! How encouraging! Whatever is going on around in the world and in Christendom, the firm foundation of God stands. None of God’s primary thoughts have changed. Paul continues by saying that “Let every one who names the name of [the] Lord withdraw from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also wooden and earthen; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If therefore one shall have purified himself from these, [in separating himself from them], he shall be a vessel to honour, sanctified, serviceable to the Master, prepared for every good work.” Christianity involves clarity through God’s Word and it is clear that the part of the faithful Christian is to separate from what is to dishonor so as to be serviceable to the Master. Simply put, a Christian is not regarded as serviceable to God if he or she is linked with what is morally wrong.
Thus, we have a mandate for the faithful Christian in a day of departure and breakdown. We are to separate from what is to dishonor – and, notice, we are separating from vessels – i.e., from others that will not honor the Lord by a proper Christian walk. You say, “But, they are friend, or loved, or relative”; yes, but go back to the 1st and great commandment – the first allegiance is to the Lord and divine principles. Joshua could wonderfully say, serve whom you will, “but as for me and my house we will serve Jehovah.” That’s a decision for Christ – come what may. Are we – you and I and others– prepared, like Abraham, to go out not knowing where we are going (i.e., not knowing exactly what is in store but knowing that, in fulfilling faithfulness and trusting in the Lord and His Word, we will be kept, guarded and receive full measure, shaken, pressed down and overflowing)?
Paul follows up in an essential second step by continuing, “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart.” It is of little ultimate benefit if we leave what is wrong and do not pursue what is right. Otherwise, we are subject to stagnation. We must notice here that righteousness is first (not faith or love, etc.). Why is this? Because “Righteousness and judgment are the foundation of thy throne.” (Psalm 89).
The power for overcoming, to state again, first depends upon fidelity to Christ. “[The Lord] is with you while ye are with him.” Notice that His association with and support of us is shown to be dependent first upon our fidelity. In like manner James says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
One great result of fidelity to Christ is assurance. This is not some natural presumption – nor is it a presumption that a Christian has a blanket acceptance of all that might be said or done – it is necessary that a Christian fulfills righteousness every step of the way. Yet, there is power in treading the Christian path righteously as an overcomer. How do we know this is true? To the overcomers of Philadelphia the Lord says, “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an opened door, which no one can shut, because thou hast a little power, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” It is a day of small things; yet, it is shown that the Lord gives His full support to the overcomer.
One additional matter is to note that the Lord’s Supper is set in scripture as being central to a right Christian testimony. The Lord’s words are, “this do in remembrance of me.” It is not shown as optional – “this do”. The type in the Old Testament is that, unless the Israelite was on a journey, if such did not hold the Lord’s Passover he was to be cut off from among his peoples (see Numbers 9:13) – a strong word. Of course, Paul distinctly writes in 1st Corinthians 11 that a man must prove himself, so that “whosoever shall eat the bread, or drink the cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty in respect of the body and of the blood of the Lord.” A Christian must be morally worthy to partake of holy things and overcoming involves, like the Nazarite of the Old Testament, a fulfillment of a decision to walk here suitably for Christ according to scripture.
This brings up a final point, which is that the only right basis according to Scripture for fellowship is seen in the words of the Lord: “For where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Many think that merely uttering the name of the Lord suffices for Christian acceptance. However, He “has a name above every name” – there is immeasurable moral import attached to the name of the Lord. We must ensure that our Christian walk and profession honors and comports morally with the worth of that Name.
What does the overcomer receive that the non-overcomer does not? Certainly, the approval of the Christ (“Well done, thou good [and faithful] bondman”). Concurrently, there is a profound sense of the support of Divine Persons such as seen specifically in The Revelation chapter 3 verses 7 – 8 and generally everywhere throughout Scripture. And, relative to the great wellspring of all that is most attractive in Christianity, the greatest intimacy with Divine Persons can be experienced. Read and study the letters and ministries of those who have been marked by this spirit of overcoming, and it can be seen that this is so.