The times in which we live today are changing. It seems to me they we are living in some other world. There have been changes in attitudes, changes in morals, and multitudes of changes in religion. These changes have had a tremendous impact upon the world in which we live. I do not want to go back to some of the early times that I have experienced. During World War Two, Mr. Si Burkett and his family, rode in a T Model Ford to worship to the congregation that I grew up in. Some families who lived closer came with the team pulling the buggy or a wagon. I do not want to go back to those days when we had no indoor plumbing or electricity until 1953, but these are not the changes which I have in mind.
Among those early days, I rode with the missionary to Plentywood Montana to lead singing in a gospel meeting. I was all of 15 years old helping with the spreading of the Gospel. We rode with the local preacher into Canada and I made my first talk in a children’s home in 1955. I began preaching every Sunday, October 1958 and I have done full-time work ever since 1959. So, this gives me the perspective of looking at the church for well over 60 years and the changes that are taking place in the world in which we live.
If we are not careful the truth that we stood for and defended in earlier days will be lost in the midst of all the changes that are developing among us. Over the last several years there has been a change in the attitude toward the Bible. In the past, even those who never attended a religious service of any kind respected the Bible as an Inspired revelation from God. This is no longer true. Religion in general has/is rejecting the inspiration of the Bible. Modernism has robbed the Bible of its power and its authority. The Bible cannot be expected to convict individuals of their sins, and of course change the course of their lives, and transform lives if it is not an Inspired revelation from God (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17). When one stands in the pulpit and gives one experience after another and preaches his experiences as though they are the revelation from God, he should not expect his preaching to have any effect.
Modernism, instead of encouraging people to believe the Bible, to read and study it, simply confuses the people. Modernists claimed that one cannot know what the truth is. They insist that truth is relative ever changing and that there is no such thing as absolute authority. This being the case, one cannot be sure about anything that he believes.
Again, there are others who failed to make a distinction between fundamental principles of truth that are unchangeable and certain cultural situations that existed during the time in which the Bible was being written. They confuse custom with eternal truth and what is right. They make no distinction between that which was a custom, or cultural, and the truth, which is essential for one to please God. When they find something that is fundamental truth they do not want to accept, basically they classified it as belonging to the culture in which it was written. In this matter they are able to select what they want to comply with, and reject anything that does not fit their modernistic thinking. Of course, this leaves one without any Bible at all.
Among the changes taking place in the world in which we live is the attitude toward the Bible, it is vital that we defend the Inspiration of the Word of God. When one gives up Inspiration of the Bible as a divine revelation from God, then he might as well lay the Bible aside and believe what one chooses to believe. Let us never be pushed into the crowd that has changed or is changing the Bible. It may be unpopular and out of date to defend the Bible as the divine revelation from God, but we believe the Bible and we have no other choice but to stand for the truth regardless of what the price may be.
More Ignorance Today!
Not only has there been a change in men’s attitude toward the Bible, there’s also been a change in the knowledge that people have of the Word of God. In times past people had some elementary knowledge of the Bible, but this is no longer true. There are many people who could hear a statement and have no knowledge of whether it is found in the Bible or if it is a quotation of a mighty poet somewhere. It’s sad to say in many instances this is also true in the church. The church of the Lord in past years was known for the knowledge of the Bible. It can no longer be said that the church of the Lord consists of people who are hungry for the truth and who know the Book. The greatest threat we have in this world is ignorance.
It is terrible and tragic that while we have more classes and more assemblies than in any time in the history of the Restoration Movement, there’s less knowledge of the Bible today than perhaps any time since the Restoration Movement started. This suggests that we are having Bible classes for Bible classes’ sake. We’re not planning our Bible classes for the purpose of teaching the Word of God, and many who attend the classes are not hungry for the truth when they get there. And, no wonder, they’re being furnished coffee and doughnuts or sweet rolls and suggest that these things be put aside 15 minutes before class begins. Does this suggest a hunger for the Word of God? The prophet of old said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Unless and when we return to the principles of the past when men were hungry for the truth and when they studied the Bible personally and privately in order to know what the truth was, then the future of the church does not bode well. Without a basic fundamental knowledge of the Bible, the church cannot continue to be the church. Like other religions, it will become an apostate religious body, devoid of truth and, may I add, condemned by God Almighty.
We have reached the point that in so many things we have employed “specialists” to instruct us. Typically, we have a team (husband and wife) to instruct people how to have a successful marriage. Why that? Why not have a couple who have been married a half century tell us how they got by. Do we not think they have not been over the road of trials and accomplishments? Some congregations are having investment seminars. What is the purpose and where is the authority for such? (cf. Col. 3:17). We must have apologists now to defend creation. Has our preaching reached this shallow period in our history that we cannot take God’s Word and defend it and Him? The Word has not failed us. We, in many instances, have failed the Word.
A bulletin I receive advertises “Kid’s Church” and asks parents to give them money so the teachers can teach them regarding giving. What? No mention of bring a New Testament, just money is all that is mentioned? Furthermore, the bulletin reads, “parents must check them in to the Kid’s Church and then check them out before an elder dismisses the assembly”. The “junior church” or “children’s worship” is as unscriptural today as it was when we were contending with these concepts. This congregation that I reference is across town from where we used to work as the local preacher. Their attendance records for Bible classes are listed “conversation and coffee”.
But there is another that tells of “Immanuel’s Café” which opens at 8 a.m. And still another tells of “Holy Grounds” for coffee and refreshments. All such are a reflection on the church and thus a reflection on the cross and the Christ of the cross and offends those who faithfully preach Christ and Him crucified.
Ignorance of the Word Leads to Changing Attitudes Toward Sin
With the above things being true, sin is no longer sin today. What used to be sin is now sickness. The Bible still says that sin is the transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) but we have those who deny that a Christian is under any kind of law. They insist that grace eliminates all law in spite of these following passages;
“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28).
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).
“To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law” (1 Cor. 9:21).
And, “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (Jas. 1:25).
Note that each of these passages mentioned the law, which is equal to the Gospel of Christ. If grace abolishes is all law, then a Christian cannot sin, as sin is the transgression of the law. Certainly, there’s been a change in the world in which we live in attitudes toward sin as the result of teaching that grace excludes all law. There’s been a change in attitude toward the sin of drinking. It has become a common thing in our nation served almost everywhere and all attempts to defend drinking ignores what the Bible teaches. It is foolish for those who claim to believe the Bible, and defend the use of alcohol. There’s more than 1 million alcoholics in the world in which we live. How was it that a generation or so ago knew that it was a sin? What ever happened to sin?
Another example of change in the world in which we live is seen in the defense of sodomy, same-sex marriages and all such sensual soul damning practices. Please notice:
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 (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
These verses are still in the Bible. The 21st century has not changed the nature of these sins. The defense of the sodomites is that God made them that way. That is a denial of James 1:13 which reads, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man”. If God is responsible for the sodomite’s condition, then James was wrong, and some sins which God is responsible for. No one who believes the Bible can believe that God is the cause of anything sinful.
The change of the world in which we live toward sin has produced a generation that has lost all sense of shame. In the first century, there were some things that it was a shame to even speak of (cf. Eph:4:12). This is surely not true today. There is nothing that is shameful to speak of as it is demonstrated before the eyes of the viewers on television in almost any form of public speech today. Pornographic stores peddling their smut can be found in almost every town across our nation. City officials try to close them but our courts say that this is a matter of “free speech” in the world in which we live. “Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). And, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Rom. 6:16)?
Change in the Electronic Age
A generation ago there were far less things to compete for the attention of people. The increase in the field of entertainment today has multiplied the appeals to people to spend their time in some kind of entertainment. The present-day society has been brainwashed to believe that life is one round of entertainment after another. The present generation has been led to believe if something does not entertain, it is worthless. What can the church do in the present situation? It surely does not need to stick its head in the sand and pretend that such condition does not exist. Neither does it need to leave its responsibility of teaching the truth of the Gospel and try to compete with the world or try to entertain. Yet it seems that some churches have done just that. I’m amazed at the gimmicks that are used today to try to get people inside a meetinghouse. From clowns to giveaways are being used to try to get people to attend meetings and many instances, elders are not looking for preachers who know the Book and teach it, they’re looking for the best entertainer. Many preachers today are better after dinner speakers than preachers. The Gospel preached and practiced is all the church has to reach the lost. Entertainment has never saved a single soul. The sensational may draw a crowd. It may draw attention, but so would yellow paint, but the Christ of the Gospel lifted up is the only drawing card that will ever save the lost (John 12:32).
The World in Which We Live—What Has Happened to Spiritual Values?
There has been a tremendous change in attitude toward spiritual values. How could it be otherwise with the foregoing things being true? The change in attitude toward the Bible has surely had an effect on people’s attitudes toward things spiritual until it is barely recognizable today in some quarters. The Bible is the only source of understanding the importance of spiritual things. Consider the following:
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the spiritual man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:9-14).
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace (Jas. 3:14-18).
Materialism has captured the hearts of the people. Multitudes walk down the same road of the man in Christ’s parable of Luke 12:16-21. Most of us believe that the Lord was wrong when he said that “life does not consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses”. Too many live for “things” until they have about an hour to give on Sunday at best—not more than that. Many are not concerned about Bible classes but are interested in things of the world.
Man’s greatest needs are spiritual and all the material things of life will not satisfy this hunger. “For what is a man profited, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). A return to Bible preaching and teaching is the only cure for the sin of materialism. Did not Jesus say to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness?” (Matt. 6:33). The psalmist knew the only way to avoid the harm of materialism: “incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness” (Psa. 119:36). “I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies” (119:59). “The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver (119:72). “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation” (119:99).
Let us give careful consideration to the sentiments that are set forth by the psalmist, that we may not be caught up in the philosophy of materialism.
The World In Which We live—The Public Schools
One of the basic problems in our present-day society is our public school system. Instead of teaching our children how to read, write, and to emphasize moral values, our schools have been completely kicked God out. Our present-day educational system is more interested in educating children away from God than they are instilling in them the moral values that one must have to live a successful life. How sad it is for the tax money of God-fearing people to be used to teach their children to deny God—to reject God. Many who are in the classrooms of children five days a week and eight hours a day seem to be atheistic in their attitude. They are God defying in their lives, and repudiating the Bible as an inspired revelation from God. Unless there’s a change in what is taking place in our public schools, we will continue to educate our children away from God and the moral decline that has almost turned this nation into another Sodom and Gomorrah will continue. I love school teachers. Our family has many who teach in the system and each will tell you that in most cases their hands are tied. Surely, we cannot expect to avoid the judgment of God unless there is a return to God.
In the World in Which We Live, Are Changes That Are Not Good in the Proclamation of the Gospel
The preaching that characterized our past, for the most part, is not heard today. All one needs to do to sense the difference between the preaching that is being done today and days past, to read some the book of sermons on the writings of the pioneers of the Restoration Movement. Their preaching was Bible based, Bible centered, distinctive in its message, simple in its appeal to people to lay aside the doctrines and the commandments of man and returned the truth of the Gospel of Christ. This distinctive message that characterized the church in the past is almost an unheard thing today. Instead of being distinctive, it seems that the philosophy of our day is to see how closely we can ape the sectarians and denominational people in their rejection of the Bible. Many sermons that I hear live or on YouTube could be preached in any denominational building without upsetting anyone. I cannot think of anything more tragic than for sermons that pretends to be the Gospel of Christ to be such as could be preached in a hotbed of error without upsetting anyone.
The emphasis that has been given to positive preaching, while repudiating anything negative, has also contributed to the lack of a distinctive message. If preaching is to have any effect in the life of people, it must be the Gospel itself. For there alone will preaching be authoritative and it must be preached with conviction to enable people to understand what sin is and what sin does. Let us realize that the changes that have taken place in the last 30 or so years, have carried the church down the road toward the very verge of apostasy, and there seems to be no alarm among many. We need to remember that are some things that are unchangeable. When we attempt to change the unchangeable, we are fighting God and we can only lead to our own ruin and condemnation. Let us give prayerfully and carefully to consideration of a restudy of the things that cannot be changed and let us hold to them with all the fervor and zeal that we can command. Let us defend the faith and never compromise one iota. May God have mercy on us!