By Leslie Diestelkamp
Problems, problems, they are everywhere among the people of God who, ideally, should be free from such. But it has always been so. Paul warned again and again that such would be true (see Acts 20:29; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 4:1-5). What are some problems for which we must watch and try to prevent great harm from coming to the cause of Christ?
Examples of great problems are found in Revelation chapters 2 and 3: Ephesus had left their first love (2:4); Smyrna would have tribulation (2:10); Pergamos had some false teachers (2:14,15); Thyatira tolerated a teacher of immorality (2:20); Sardis had a name of being alive but was dead (3:1); Philadelphia was not criticized; Laodicea was lukewarm (3:15,16). No doubt many churches today need to study Revelation chapters 2 and 3.
Some Great Problems Today
1. Materialism (“the love of money is the root of all evil,” 1 Tim. 6:10) is everywhere in America. Christians are prevented from full devotion to the Lord and churches are sidetracked into pursuit of physical “things.”
2. Immorality (Gal. 5:19-21) has invaded the ranks of God’s children as they follow the world instead of Christ. Fornication, adulterous marriages, lying, social drinking, and such like disgrace the Lord’s body.
3. Misunderstanding (2 Pet. 3:16) causes the Scripture to suffer abuse. Remember, the Bible misunderstood is no more useful for salvation than the Bible unknown. And it is so necessary that the principles of salvation be understood. If we will believe them, we can understand them if we also use diligence in objective study.
4. Division and strife prevent effective work in the kingdom (1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 2:10). Christ prayed for unity of his disciples (Jn. 17:21). And division is usually over matters that are trivial and/or matters of personal conviction and that, if all have the right attitude, can be settled in the heart of each individual.
A greater problem may be in missed opportunities. Good preachers become tied to “church administration” instead of evangelism. They may be full of zeal for the local church that supports them abundantly, but unconcerned for the lost in far away lands. “The field is the world,” you know, and the commandment is “Go into all the world.” Instead of watching for places to preach to bigger crowds and richer churches, we must “look upon the fields that are white unto harvest” Un. 4:35). And churches must also utilize our modem transportation systems, communication facilities and affluent financial conditions to be deeply involved in world evangelism.
But the greatest problem, I believe, is a watered-down gospel (Rev. 22:19). By this I mean a diluted message. One dairy farmer I knew’ who sold milk directly to the consumers in town was accused of adding water to the milk. It was a watered-down product. Today, from pulpits and presses among us come forth profound and scholarly messages, sometimes, tickling the ears of the listeners but failing to bring conviction to the hearts, or practical edification, to the minds of the hearers. Please do not assume that I thus condemn all gospel preachers, or even most of them. I do not. I love and respect most men who proclaim the Word. But I have heard some and read the work of others who teach truth just as any Methodist preacher might do sometimes nothing wrong with it except for what it does not contain.
Paul said, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you” (Acts 20:20). But there is a concept among some that what we preach and what we write must fill the hearts of listeners and readers with joy. But sometimes we must fill those hearts with shame, and fear of hell, and with aching, broken hearts, convicted of transgression. Indeed, a diluted gospel is a perverted gospel! Truth that is less than all truth will not save or make the saved “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2: 10). With malice for none, with love for all, we must “declare unto you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). A watered-down gospel message, delivered in pulpit or press, may be the Devil’s greatest weapon against God’s people today, especially when those people of God are delighted to have it so!
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 13, pp. 393, 407
July 6, 1989