Almost every modern enterprise, and many a ministry too, now feels the need to have a “mission statement” outlining the ultimate aim of their endeavour. This set me off thinking – what it the aim, the endgame, the goal of the work of ‘discernment ministries’ as we have been labelled by some?
It’s quite easy to look back and see the aim in the 80’s when the churches were first infiltrated and wooed by such aberrant doctrines as the New Age, Restoration, Dominion Theology, Prosperity Doctrine and suchlike.
We were then in the position of defending a Global Church that was under siege, and the aim was:
- to alert those “inside the city walls” to the intruders.
Since hardly anyone knew about or understood the new doctrines, another aim was:
- to educate Christians as to the roots and goals of these new teachings.
It was a “watchman” ministry, sounding the trumpet of alarm as heresies swept in like a flood. “Be aware!” we shouted “Danger!” we said. Just as Jesus told his disciples, we said “Take heed, do not be deceived!”
Notice that – as a bible ministry – this was said to Christians, not to the world outside, nor even to the false teachers! (They weren’t listening anyway.)
Over the years, the tsunami wave of error swept on, heedless of correction – indeed, antagonistic towards it. As the flood rose, it carried more and more followers along, apparently heedless to the dangers. These people were “having fun” and didn’t want to be told they were in danger!
If you find a cliffedge, and people are in danger of falling over, you erect signs and speak out to warn them. But what happens if they actually enjoy the sensation of falling off a cliff, and don’t believe that they will lose their lives at the bottom? How many times and in what additional ways can you alert them to danger?
When I was in the Samaritan charity, we were trained to deal with suicidal callers. One most difficult part was to respect the decisions and self-determination of another person, so that IF all your efforts failed and they did actually go ahead and kill themselves, YOU were not to blame, because YOU could not force them to stay alive against their own wishes.
Does it surprise you to learn that even God will not violate a person’s decision and self-will, even if it takes that person into deadly peril? Of course God will try everything to stand in the way, and issue warnings, and erect signs, and bring others to reason with this wilful sinner – but in the end, God will not FORCE a person to obey him.
So as the years went past – the 80’s, the 90’s and then into the 21st century – a great number of Christians were either conned, wooed or coerced into accepting error. And many others freely chose that error, having been informed about the consequences! But they no longer cared.
Those who stood for biblical truth were in the minority, and often despised.
At a certain point, the Church wasn’t under siege anymore. The walls had crumbled, the enemy were inside the city, and they were gleefully taking over.
Eventually the situation arose, in which we remain to this day, where the visible church was largely in error, and those who objected to it had to move OUT. I speak generally of course.
Now the situation had altered, and many had to “evacuate” from their flood-sodden “homes” and move to higher ground, to fellowship with other refugees. It became harder to find a good church in the first place, and near impossible to do anything to correct your own if it fell into error. (I don’t think I know of one church that turned back and wholly repented of associating with false teachers after the rot set in, despite having members there who prayed and tried to intervene.)
So the initial “mission” was perhaps accomplished! If it was to “rescue the perishing” as the old hymn says, then it was a success!
It’s just that the context of that rescue mission was a bit disappointing, in that it failed to drive heresy out of what we perceived as “The Church”. (But was that the aim? Was it always Mission Impossible? This brings me back to the original question.)
So what IS ‘The Church’?
Is the crumbling and corrupted visible organised Church really the Church of God? Or is the biblical Body of Christ now a less tangible, more spiritual entity? A spiritual fellowship of the justified, as indeed the bible suggested it would and should be from the start? Perhaps then, disintegration is a GOOD thing.
While having limited successes here and there (for which praise God) and raising awareness of heresy, the work of discernment ministries has failed to halt the encroaching false doctrine and false spirituality – and this is because it was never destined to do so! In that sense, it was always “Mission Impossible”. (Matt 24:9-14)
If we fix our sights on the goal of correcting or ejecting error and turning back the flood tide, it seems to me that disappointment, weariness, frustration and ultimately despair will set in. This is not of God.
On the other hand, gritting our teeth and tilting at further and greater windmills of error – if taken to extremes – will do something worse! It will blind our eyes to the REAL danger that now needs to be overcome.
Our Future Battle
Yes the real battle has only just begun! Having achieved the aim to educate, inform and warn, is there nothing left but a slow decline into full-blown apostasy, ending in our leaving this earth terminally disappointed? NO, that is not what God intends I am sure.
God does not call, only to frustrate his people! Victory is our cry, not a lame shrug of “oh well, we did our best.”
“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?” (Jer 12:5)
Is the calling only as watchmen – to inform – but not to be helpers, ministers of the word, comforters and shepherds to strengthen and uphold and prepare those who escaped?
Is it not to help people become more mature, more capable of knowing and discerning for themselves? “Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation…” Isa 33:5-6. And this is NOT the wisdom and knowledge of the flesh, but of the Holy Spirit.
WHY did God raise up ministers?
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Eph 4:11-16
Our task is to grow up, and help others to grow up! And on behalf of any who remain weak (because there will always be weaker ones Rom 15:1) this is the command:
“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; he will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.” Isa 35:3-6
THAT is how we will avoid backbiting, squabbles, misunderstandings, and petty doctrinal debates that sap our spiritual strength:
“Strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled…” Heb 12:12-15
Surely, the mission of every Christian ministry is to raise up the weak, support the poor and needy, preach, exort, encourage, correct and above all present God as the answer to it all. But have we been so caught up in phase one, that this vital second phase is lagging behind?
I remember many years ago having a dream that put these thoughts into pictures – we were all gazing so steadily at a volcano in spectacular explosion off to the left, that we failed to notice the second stage of a missile being launched from a mountain to the right – and THAT was headed straight at us!
Stage One may have been an impressive but essentially toothless spectacle that could not really overthrow genuine obedient bible-loving Christians, but Stage Two puts us ALL into danger! How many realise that an assault of the enemy more vicious and subtle than ever before is waiting round the corner? How ready are we for THAT?
Let’s not get so focussed on combatting men and ministries and doctrines that we fail to become the God-centred, bible-loving, discerning, victorious, Holy Spirit filled people that we are meant to be in these last days. (And I say this with the deepest respect for all the fine work being done today in ministry, and with profound thankfulness for each and every worker in this field – also I speak from the sobering knowledge of my own failings.)
David is our example
As these thoughts were passing through my mind this morning it “just so happened” that my daily reading was about David and the giant Goliath. I then started thinking about the “weapons of our warfare” as the true people of God. We know that verse “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal…” yet are those the ones we rely upon the most right now? And teach others to do likewise?
Do we, do we let others, square up to all this rampant error spiritually dull and unprepared – this giant that has formed before our eyes, this bragging and swaggering beast in front of us, claiming to be invincible like Goliath – standing in the futility of human knowledge and ability, trusting to borrowed armour?
If so, we are the most foolish of all people, because we escaped the paws of the lion only to stumble into the den of the snake!
David confronted Goliath with those famous words:
“You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. (1 Sam 17:45-46)
David had found the secret of success: trusting in the ability of God, speaking in the name of God, not human ability, not reading an article about a false teacher, not joining another blog or website or discussion to discuss the minutia of this or that error, picking over the entrails of a deadly philosophy like a soothsayer looking for omens.
David was actually offered the king’s armour but he decided to go with what he knew, what he was comfortable using – the simple tools he’d used many times before. To his fellows, he probably looked like an idiot, a hopeless idiot, but in the end what David knew served him best and – with God’s ability – the battle was won. Israel was saved.
I realise the story of David and Goliath seems like a contradiction to what I was saying earlier, because David withstood a mighty enemy and overcame, in hand to hand warfare. Yet I have said that is not our ultimate aim and our Goliath cannot be overthrown. Simply because at this end of history God has ordained deception to test and try all people.
However, this is to mistake the REAL enemy! “We are not here to withstand people and ministries, but to save our “Israel” – our own people – from being enslaved.
We are not really fighting false teachers, nor even false teaching, but the satanic powers that are using them to tempt and thwart God’s People. “We who remain” are the target, and we cannot afford to be complacent.
Could we come this far, only to wander in the wilderness, nit-picking one another out of boredom, erecting a golden calf or two along the way – and don’t say you haven’t – grumbling about the lack of home comforts, unsure of the way ahead, and in danger of missing the very reason for our preservation, to be a light in the darkness to come?
The Real War
Fighting fire with fire is getting us nowhere; fighting Goliath with swords and spears and all things worldly is (no matter how worthy and well-intentioned) ultimately doomed.
This behemoth is here to stay and NOW what we need is to be equipped and to equip others for the long-term struggle to preserve our personal faith and dedication to the last, and exhort others to do the same!.
What is the “army” that will truly scare the pants off the devil? It’s a company of people – doesn’t matter how small and weak (David was the least of them all) – a company that recognises its own limitations, is aware of its own human weakness and inability, is not dependent upon human experience, training or intelligence, but nonetheless is equipped with spiritual discernment and ability, fearless in spirit, full of boldness, completely dependent on the Holy Spirit.
The battle isn’t one of words, but of spiritual authority to rebuke the enemy!
One pebble was enough to defeat Goliath!
When I listen to yet another tape of false teaching issuing forth from yet another platform, I long to see a man or women raised up by God (not by any human motivation) standing up like the prophets of old to halt that meeting with such a word of rebuke that the people tremble. (Yet as heartening as that would be, it isn’t our aim.)
One word! One word from God is more powerful than anything WE can devise or use. One little stone!!! All it took from David was a little round stone – one word from God – ah, what that could do! “When the enemy comes in like a flood ,the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him”. Isa 59:19 [Literally, The Lord will put the enemy to flight, will cause them to flee.]
So what is our mission statement? Surely now it’s to seek God’s guidance on how the Christians who have stood firm are to be equipped to resist the next onslaught of deception and to be able to put the enemy to flight?
How are people to find discernment and knowledge and wisdom for their battle, to be made strong in faith and not be reliant on others?
This isn’t something off the shelf that we can give to others! The ‘standard’ or battle-banner of the Lord (his power to put the enemy to flight) isn’t man-made, nor is it found in a favourite ministry, or on a blog or website – no matter how sound and excellent that may be!
Our power and authority is of the LORD Himself, something wrought within every individual believer by the Spirit of the Lord.
Somebody asks: “give me discernment on this ministry, that speaker….” What is wrong with this picture? How can I give YOU discernment? How can anybody? I can give you the benefit of my experience today perhaps, but that won’t help you tomorrow and the next day. MY aim is to make people follow me LESS not MORE!! (Ideally, not at all!) I will rejoice when people do NOT need to come to my website or ask me questions any more, because they have developed spiritual discernment for themselves. Then my work is done.
Remember that David was offered the armour and sword and helmet of another, the armour of a warrior king in fact, somebody trained in warfare, stronger and wiser than he in battle – YET David refused to go out in that borrowed armour.
He wasn’t prepared to face a giant in the experiences and teachings of another!!! He was going to seek God for HIMSELF.
Christians need to be able to stand in their OWN faith and trust in God, mature, fully equipped for service and combat, fully trained in the things of God, fully established on the Rock that is Christ, determined, unmoved, ready to resist falsehood in the power of God and not by human effort.
And THAT is our aim – to persuade everyone to be like David.