By Jesse Morrell
In a day that is calling for unity, is there a place for separation? Is there a reason to the worldliness of the church? Why do many professing Christians sin so much? We tread on dangerous grounds, with dangerous people, during dangerous times so how should we guard ourselves?
Never in this life will you see a zebra walking side to side with a lion, nor a lamb with a wolf. The reason is simple enough: the two are opposed to one another. The simple logic that animals have that protect them and keep them safe can very easily be ignored by us humans. The bible warns us of all the dangerous trails we can tread on and all the deadly pits we can fall into. In this fallen world, being hurt is not only a possibility, it is a probability. However God's word is a lamp onto our feet to protect us from falling along side those who have fallen already. Traps, trials, and testing all await the Christian that makes his way through the city of sin to get to the city of Zion.
1 Cor. 15:33-34 says "Be not deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits.' Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame."
When the scripture says "Be not deceived" it is implying the possibility of it. If it were not possible, he would not have warned them. When driving in a city that you are not well acquainted with, it is very likely that you will take a wrong turn and end up somewhere that you did not intend to go. In this life, we must make a conscience decision and effort in order to not be deceived due to our lack of knowledge. We must study our bibles as a reliable map and follow the Holy Spirit as a trust worthy guide so we can walk as "more then conquerors" in the pathways of purity.
And what is it that the Spirit says through the scriptures? Well this scripture says "Evil company corrupts good habits." Because of the Apostles Paul's love of holiness, I believe this scripture was written by his hand with tears in his eyes. So Christian, heed to God's word of wisdom, awake to the watchmen's warning, and choose your steps accordingly. In Christianity some men rise, many men fall, but those that remain do so for a reason. If you look at those that live long in holiness, you see that they walk with holy people. If you walk with sinners, you will learn their sinfulness. If you walk with saints, you will learn their purity. It truly is no wonder some who attempt to follow Christ sin so much. The answer is plain enough if you look at who they associate with. Could it be that they are keeping company with sinners? A teacher of mine when I attended the Honor Academy, David Hasz, told us that within 6 months you will be just like your closest friends whoever they may be and whatever they may do. He did not make this up himself, he simply read his bible. So brethren, beware because there are traitors in our midst. Some who walk among us appear to be the children of light but they are deceptive just like their true father the devil. Some do not have the blood of Christ in their veins but rather have the blood of Christ on their hands. Ps. 119:158 "I see the treacherous, and am disgusted, because they do not keep Your word." The bible gives us a simple, sobering, and sublime message in this text. That message in laymen terms is simply this: guard your fellowship!
We see the example of the early church when it comes to guarding our fellowship. The destroyer of the church was Saul, the anti-Christ, who became the builder of the church Paul, the Apostle of Christ. But the disciples, remembering the words of Jesus, did not merely believe confession to be evidence of conversion. They looked for the fruit. Acts 9:26 says "And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple." It was not until they learned that Paul had already walked closely with death because of his witness that they accepted him into their fellowship. Paul, who once persecuted the faith, was now being persecuted for the faith. There is no stronger and surer evidence of a faithful follower of Christ then being willing to follow Christ to the cross. Although the disciples in Jerusalem where wrong in their judgment, they were right in their judging. The blood of their families and themselves could be spilt if they welcome a wolf in sheep's clothing into the fellowship. In a war only loyal soldiers will do. Any wise general knows to look out for spies and traitors. But oh how we have lost simple logic in the day and age in which we live. Claiming to be wise, we live as fools. Although welcoming an unholy person into our churches may not result in the loss of our heads, it will result in the loss of our holiness. If a city lets down its walls, what's to stop those who desire its harm from coming in? And that is preciously what we have done and that is preciously why we suffer. Sure you may have the largest church in America, but it may also be the largest gathering of sinners in America. Should we open the gates or close the gates? Should we build up the walls or let down the walls? Should we raise the standard of a Christian or should we toss out any notion that there is a standard?
The Apostle Paul writes to us again in 1 Cor 5:9-11. "I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner- not even to eat with such a person." Now that is what the bible says whether we like it or not. Paul is telling us that there is a standard of living for anyone "named a brother". Although a person may not represent perfectly the views and lifestyle of his family, he still represents his family. Anyone "named a brother" represents all of Christianity whether they want that responsibility or not. A hypocrite is the cause of God's glory being turned to shame. I don't think its "cool" that I have tried to fellowship with others "named a brother" who listen to a sinful rapper like Eminem in the car! I could hang out with my old friends, who are still abiding under the wrath of God, if I wanted to hear music like that. If we started teaching this scripture from Corinthians from the pulpit in our churches, we may loose the wallets of our congregations but we would gain the welcome of God. You can have gain, or you can have God, who will be your master? You who call yourself a preacher of the bible, will you teach all that the bible says? Will you skip over certain parts of the bible or even try to hide certain texts from those in your congregation? I just have two words: God forbid!
Is there a reason for the worldliness in the church? Could it be that we have simply put the label of "church" on what really is nothing more then the world itself? A friend of mine went off to Bible College and while she was there I talked with her. She told me how great the college and the people are. She told me that she goes to a local church there and that it is so awesome that they even have practicing witches come! In her eyes that was a good thing, but in my eyes all I saw were wolves coming in to do the sheep harm while the Shepard slept completely oblivious. Certain I am not saying we are not to reach out to sinners. I would never ever say something like that. I myself am a street corner preacher and go out into the public squares and streets very often. But going out to sinners where they are and letting sinners come to where we are is completely different. I believe that is the fatal flaw of many churches today. Rather then going out to the world, they have allowed the world to come into them. If you know my testimony then you know how worldly I once was. I once was a drug dealer that was going in and out of jail. There were many people that I hurt and many people that I corrupted. I should have died in my sin and for my sin. The Lord protected me even when I had my throat slit in a fight, the scare remains today. And although I am now a devout Christian, I praise God that He did not allow me into any Christian church or youth group until I was saved! As our grandparents always say "one rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch".
Having no company at all would be better then having bad company, that is, if you want to be pure amongst a polluted world. You'll notice that if you want to sin you can find a multitude of others who would join in the fun with you, but if you want to live holy you better prepare your heart to walk alone. Better that a man walks alone with God and yet lives a life pleasing in God's site, then for a man to walk with a multitude of friends and yet be an abomination in the eyes of God. How small would our circle of friends be if we truly obeyed this scripture? A better question would be, how large would our love for God be if we guarded our fellowship? The road of holiness is a road most have to travel alone. If no one will dare to go with you, will you travel it just the same? Yes we may lose some friends but the value of what we would gain completely out weighs what would be lost. The cry of my heart is that I would one day hear the church honestly say with the psalmist "Depart from me, you evildoers, for I will keep the commandments of my God!" Ps 119:115. If we said that today, our churches may shrink in size but we would grow in the Spirit.
If you ever get a chance to attend one of Brother Roberts's sermon index seminars, I encourage you to please do so. I have been very blessed by hearing him speak. In fact there is one this Thursday and I pray you all will be there. One of the things I have learned from Brother Robert, in my own words, is this. If the prayers of the people in our churches go unanswered by God, the problem is with the people and with their lives, and not with God and His power. Could is be that the prayers of the church goes unanswered because they are not truly from the church? God never fails to answer the prayers of the righteous. Who are we labeling a son of God, when Christ Himself calls them sons of the devil?
When I first became a Christian at the age of 16, I went on a retreat with a youth group expecting spiritual growth. I expected a weekend of prayer, praise, and preaching. However I discovered that they seemed to only be offering me fun, fun, and more fun. The devil offered me enough fun when I was in the world. I had had enough fun!! When I wanted to pray, everyone else wanted to play. They had sledding, swimming, soccer, and all the rest of it. I had desired to get closer to God and all I found was games. As the late Leonard Ravenhill said so often, "God pity us." God pity us indeed when our eyes, our minds, our hearts, and our souls desire the same things as those people in the world. God pity us when my generation starves to death from lack of knowledge of the truth and instead of feeding them the meat of the word, we stuff their mouths with the candy of the world. It's an unintelligent mother who feeds her children candy and snacks only. It's a careless parent who would send their child to a school where they had recess more then they had class. Forgive my bluntness but we have been that unintelligent and careless mother.
The average youth pastor lasts 18 months. Could it be because they are pouring out their strength and giving their time to large groups that don't truly want to hear it? It may not be as rewarding as they once thought. Maybe it is because they don't see the youth changed as they hoped they would. I have some simple words of advice for any youth leader who seriously wants to see their youth group grow spiritually rather then grow in size. This is it: for three solid months, cancel all pizza parties, amusement park trips, games, and all other events that you may have. Then offer only bible studies, prayer meetings, street outreaches, and worship services. This will reveal to you who really want God and who really only want games. Then instead of pouring your heart out to many people who are not interested, you can pour into those who truly want to grow. Pastor, your job is not to be the ring leader of the circus but rather to be the minister of the Word of God. Sure your carnival may shrink in size, but that should bring you to your knees to seek the power of God to move amongst the youth. Maybe then young people would be moved by the Spirit of God and not by the thought of free pizza. After those short three months are over you can start having those other events again. If you do this you may lose quantity but you will gain quality. Gurnall wrote in his book Christian in Complete Armor this: "the fire doth not only discover which is true gold, but makes the true gold more pure; what comes out may be less in bulk and weight, because severed from that solid and dross which embraced it, but more in value and worth." Now I know this is a hard challenge to youth groups. What will the senior pastor and the elders say if the youth group drops in size? What will parents say about you if they think you can't get their kid to come to church? Be encouraged! Keep your eyes on Jesus and not on parents, elders, or pastors. If you wanted to please men then you should not have become a bondservant of Christ. Be as David who said "open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them" but let us barricade the way to destruction so no man can enter in.
Ezra 6:21 says "Then the children of Israel who had returned from captivity ate together with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the Lord God of Israel." This message is simple enough. The children of God who have been set free from the captivity of sin need to come together in unity with all the others who have separated themselves from the foulness of the way of the world so that they can seek the face of God. Read that verse again in Ezra, then read it again, and then read it again. We must be separated to unity. Ps. 133:1 says "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" The key word in that scripture is "Brethren". If a holy church can live in unity with a sinful world then there is a huge problem. If practicing witches can attend our church services and not be convicted, let alone converted, then there is a problem. We must come out of the world and come together as Christians. We must go against the grain and swim up stream in order to walk in the fullness that God calls us to. 1 John 1:6 says "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." The truth is not merely something you hear, it is something you practice. The faith is not something you merely have, it is something you live.
We must purify our churches, and guard our fellowship. A. W. Tozar said this "Christianity is so entangled with the world that millions never guess how radically they have missed the New Testament pattern. Compromise is everywhere." Just as in his day, modern Christianity is entangled and interwoven with the world. The church has been fellowshipping with the world and Godly men have been fellowshipping with ungodly men. Let's get back to the bible which says "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?" (2 Cor. 6:14) Maybe we should answer those questions. What fellowship do they have? Be sure of this: if we share in the world's sin we will share in the world's punishment.
The beauty of the church is the holiness of the church. Brethren, open the eyes of your heart and look with me upon a beautiful bride for Christ. Can you envision a bride without spot or wrinkle, nor any such mark on her wedding gown? A virgin bride is certainly the most gorgeous bride that there could be. Our God will marry no prostitute! A church that gives itself away to the way of the world will not be walking down the isle for all to see on that wedding day. A wonderful, spectacular, beautiful bride is the bride which the Lord has chosen. Will the bride make herself ready for the bridegroom? The decision is yours to make.
Beware brethren, of those who would strengthen your own flesh which wars against the Spirit. Beware of those who are dead while they live least you grow complacent and comfortable with them. Beware of losing the fear of God due to a shallow understanding of the love of God taught to you by others. Beware of those who ask you to go down the enticing, deceptive, and devastating road to Vanity Fair where you will spend all your time and yet buy nothing. Brethren, beware who you keep company with, least they be the subtle end of you. My message is simple. My message is clear. Guard your fellowship.
Purify us, oh Lord, according to your grace.
Cleanse us of our worldliness, so we can seek your face.
You set our sins before our eyes, so we may turn or burn.
May we reject the counsel of the mockers, so we can truly learn.
We need you, my God, to bring us to the light.
For you alone are wise oh King, so teach us how to fight.
The Christians life is a battle, yes it is a war.
And yet this life is awesome, there's nothing I'd trade it for.
We've filled our bodies with candy, when we needed meat.
Prepare our spirits for the battle, so we won't know defeat.
Give us courage; give us strength, so that we will not die.
But still the greatest tragedy of them all would be if we don't try.