By Irven Lee
Elijah went to Mount Horeb in getting away from those who threatened his life, especially Jezebel. The question that came from the Lord was, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” Elijah’s answer came from his discouraged heart. “He said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword: and-1, even I only, am left; and they seek my life to take it away” (1 Kgs. 19:14).
Christ came into a wicked world and sent his apostles out into that Roman Empire with its atheism, idolatry, and immorality. The apostles’ work was not in vain. Why did God select a generation that was given to greed and carnality? “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son” (Gal. 4:4). Did he make a mistake in selecting that generation? That age was very much like ours. If those apostles and other disciples could go to cities like Ephesus and Corinth and reach many people, could not a few men with the zeal of the early disciples and the same gospel do as they did? Men are going out today and planting the seed and seeing a harvest. Hollywood and humanists have made it more difficult to reach people, but there are some hearts that can be reached.
Servants of the Lord do not use carnal weapons, but their weapons are mighty to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4). Paul had gone into Corinth and established the church in that city of idolatry and immorality associated with pagan deities. Greece had atheists, so many who thought that they were only animals certainly lived in that city of trade and corruption. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but you are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
It was difficult to keep the people who had been washed from going back to their old ways. Whatever sin becomes common in a community tends to come right on into the church. The use of alcohol and other drugs is common everywhere, so it becomes a problem to the church. Divorce is in the world about us, so expect it among church members. This is not new. Recall the parable of the sower. Some seed fell on the wayside soil, some on the stony ground, some fell among thorns, but there were some with good and honest hearts and they brought forth fruit. It is that way in this generation. We do not reach all when we preach the gospel, nor do we keep all who make a start in the right direction; but we should remember that there are some with good and honest hearts in our time.
The Lord may have to remove the candlestick from many churches. That was a possibility among the seven churches of Asia (see Rev. 1,2,3). Bold and faithful teaching may save some sick churches if they will endure sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:1-5). There is room for hope that some who went into the digressive movement in the recent decades may be restored’. The liberal preachers and churches are going further and further in their move back to denominationalism. As they do this, some preachers and churches are awakening and are moving back toward a safer course. Maybe we can gradually trade our worse members for their best! Many will cross the line of separation going to the liberals, and others will cross as they come back to safety.
Some churches have zero growth, gaining only as many as drop out through death or unfaithfulness. This is discouraging, but there are new churches starting and growing. Some older churches are also setting a good record. Take a good look at the fine young people who have ability and conviction. Fifty years ago many churches met only one hour per week for Bible study, and there were not many capable teachers. Young men went their own way on Sunday.,This was true especially in rural churches. It is possible now to see factions, worldliness, indifference, lack of growth, and all these things depress some who care. But keep looking, and you will see young adults who attend night services, conduct some home studies, and maintain high moral standards. Some point out that there are but few. Did the Lord promise many (Matt. 7:13,14)?
Churches grew fast in the 1930s and 1940s, but we baptized people faster than we taught them to have special regard for Christ as the head of the church. Faithful servants of the Lord have regard for the silence of the Bible as well as for the words. A practice is not scriptural if it is not even mentioned in the Book (see 2 John 9-11; Rev. 22:18,19).
Drug addicts and fornicators are not happy people. Suicides are very common among them. The Roman world with a life style like the worst in our world were not a happy people. The pleasure of sin is but for a season. The righteous people have the promise of the life that now is and of the life that is to come (1 Tim. 4:8; Mk. 10:28-30). The Roman pagans could see that Christians had something good that they themselves did not have. They may have first observed the courage of those who died for their faith. The church in the next generation may suffer more persecution from the world, but there will still be Christians who worship God.
As you see the weakness among those who profess to be Christians you may become discouraged to the point of hopelessness or you may double your efforts as you fight a good fight. The Lord may “shake the tree” so that the faulty fruit will fall. He did that in the last part of the last century by the societies and instruments of music. The tree has been shaken just as hard in the last part of this century. Study the word and meditate on it so that you will not fall for the next unscriptural practice or doctrine that comes to test us (read 1 Cor. 11: 19; 2 Thess. 2:10-12).
Put on the whole armor and stand (Eph. 6:10-20). These are times that try men’s souls. Take your place in the front lines. My generation of preachers fought some good battles, but we will soon give way to another, and as we step aside for the next generation we leave them with problems. There will still be battles to fight. The gospel is still here and still powerful. We need to urge all who come after us to pull down the strongholds of evil with the Lord’s weapons.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 2, pp. 35-36
January 21, 1988