This past weekend we had our annual conference for the church I am a part of in Pennsauken. On Saturday the messages were all about “the Christian and the World”. A message on understanding the culture of the world, the claims of the world, the claims of Christ, the necessity for consecration, etc etc. On Saturday night we had a gospel meeting. Two men spoke. The latter was “the usual” – a gospel message telling all how they can be saved (through faith in Christ only). Yes, only faith. Read Romans 11:6 (yes I know the context). Now, the first speaker is the reason I am writing this post. His name is John Miller.
John Miller was born into the Amish religion. Yes, Amish IS NOT a preservation of an older lifestyle, it is very much a religion that can be traced back to the Anabaptists (just like the Hutterites and the Mennonites). As he stated, there are most likely some members of the Amish community that are definitely real Christians, but the Amish lifestyle is one heavy on works and also very prideful. It is made clear that if you leave and join the world, you are really condemning yourself to Hell.
If you want to read his full story of salvation look here:
John Miller’s Testimony
To make a long story short he was eventually saved (or born-again). For reasons he could not explain he felt God was calling him out of the Amish community. His family submitted to his lead and left with him. This was not an easy thing to do as his entire family is in the Amish religion. Basically all of your business is to other Amish folk. As I stated before, if you leave and go “into the world” you are on your own. Now when you leave the Amish, it is not a light thing. His father will not speak with him and will not even allow John and his family to come into his home. This has been going on for almost 5 years. I spoke with him about the struggles of life outside the Amish community. I spoke with him about leaving his entire past behind him to go forth to what God was leading him to do. Since he left his wife and I believe 4-5 of his children have all received the gift of eternal life!
What is my point?
Truth despite cost. John Miller and his family now attend a local church after the pattern of the New Testament. For 3 years they drove 2.5 hours from their home in Virginia to the local church my parents attend in Denver, NC. Every Sunday morning the Miller family would be waiting at the doors of the Denver Gospel Hall at 9 am after driving 2.5 hours to get there. Truth despite cost.
Now, God has seen fit to raise up an assembly of believers right near their home in Virginia. Would this of been possible if John Miller didn’t forsake all that he knew so that he might follow the call of God? No.
So here we go:
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Paul’s words here struck my heart. I can think of no person in the Bible that was more devoted to his calling to preach the gospel than Paul. Think of his descriptions in some of the epistles:
- Prisoner of Christ (Philemon 1)
- Slave of Christ Jesus (Romans 1:1)
- Bond-Servant of Christ (Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:1)
- Apostle of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, 1 Timothy 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1)
And these descriptions were just in the introduction! Many other times Paul refers to his calling in the gospel and that a life lived doing anything else would leave him miserable and devoid of his purpose. The word used in Romans 1:1 is best translated as “slave”, which is meaning that the entirety of the individual is property of the master. How anxious am I to tell others that I am property of Christ? My actions are not my own, my life is not my own, my business is not my own. Everything I am and do is in complete control of my master. If only this were more true in my own life.Now, the reason this hit my heart so heavy was a matter of “revealed truth” and “conviction”. Revealed truth is what leads to conviction but they each struck my heart individually.
When reading the scripture, and I mean really reading the scripture, God will always reveal truth to the truth seeker. I have found myself reading out of habit with the mindset of “well my little plan here says I should read these chapters…” What a way to come at the scripture. I have also found myself with the mindset of “this is what I think the scripture teaches so I should find verses that give the idea of this theology.” Both are mindsets that I never want to have when it comes to the Bible. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2 that all truth is revealed by the Spirit, for only the Spirit knows God (the Spirit is God). Should my attitude then be one of submission to have truth revealed to me by the Spirit? I pray that it is so. Now when the Spirit reveals truth is where my heart was affected. As I am reading and the Spirit reveals truth to me I believe there are three options:
- Reject the Truth
- Delay the Truth
- Obey the Truth
In rejection of the truth, my attitude would be to see what the Spirit is revealing to me and to have the attitude of “no, that can’t be what the scripture teaches because I have been taught this… or I think this… or I want this…” What an attitude to have. Now, a side point may be that a young Christian should not dive into the scripture with the purpose of having truth revealed beyond the spiritual growth of him/her. For instance, a parent would not give an infant a nice 12 oz juicy steak for dinner. That parent would wisely know that the child can only digest certain foods until he/she matures and grows and can handle such food. God is the same way with our spiritual appetite. God is the revealer of truth so let Him do the feeding. There is nothing wrong with “studying to make one wise” but allow God to be the guidance for studying. But I digress. The point here is that my attitude can sometimes be to reject truth based on my presuppositions. God is the revealer of truth and I do believe that He inspired all scripture so He knows what truth is contained. Let Him reveal it and do not reject His truth.
In delaying the truth, my attitude becomes one of “well I do see that is truth, but I just can’t put that into practice yet”. Circumstances in life, whether it be a job, friends, family, school, etc can cloud my judgment on how to deal with truth. I can make decisions as to what I should do with truth based on what I think others will say. This is where the verse from Galatians is especially powerful. If my attitude is this “delaying of truth” then I am what Paul says… not a servant of Christ, but a pleaser of men. I am too concerned about what my friends will think, or what my parents will say. I am too concerned about how this will affect my testimony at my job or at school. I see the truth and I acknowledge it, but I am not ready to be “a servant of Christ”, I would rather be a “man-pleaser”.
The final option is then to obey the truth. At this point I am a true servant of Christ. My devotion is first and foremost to my Savior who is the sole owner of my life. I see the truth revealed to me and obey it with no delay. If Paul was to delay the truth revealed to him, think of the amount of Gentiles that would have possibly missed the gospel of Christ. Think of how many local churches would not have been established. But Paul had no delay in the truth revealed to him. He put the truth above family, friends, job, and his own will. He truly became a slave for Christ and was “pedal to the metal” from the moment of conversion. Oh how I long to be like Paul!
Remember John Miller? What was his reaction to truth? I’m sure he weighed up the cost many times in his mind. I am sure that he had second thoughts at some point but his devotion was “if this is God’s calling then I must obey despite the cost because He is worth the cost.” I can assure you that John Miller is one of the most joyous people you will ever meet. There will never be a time where a Christian who follows God’s truth will regret that decision. Oh how I long to take an example from John Miller!
A conviction is a convinced conscience. True biblical conviction comes from revealed truth. Further, a conviction can only come from truth that is accepted and not rejected. A person that is delaying the truth they see must not have too strong of a conviction about it, or they are going against their conviction for other reasons. This is a dangerous game to play. I will give a personal example. Some time ago, I began to feel convicted about the type of movies I was subjecting myself to in light of Philippians 4:8-9. Many would know this as “the grid”. So many of the movies that were passing into my mind were leaving messages, impressing images, and provoking thought that didn’t seem to make it through the grid. At first, I was hesitant to obey this conviction. I delayed the truth that I saw. Worried about what others might say when I’m with my friends and they want to watch a certain movie. I didn’t want to be the one to say “well I don’t actually want to watch that because _____.” Then I would be pegged as a “holy roller”. So I delayed the truth and put aside my conviction. How unenjoyable movies became when all I could think about was how these movies just weren’t lining up with scripture and heavily went against my convinced conscience that it was wrong. Going against a convinced conscience, in my belief, is sin. See here what Martin Luther said:
“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason. I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
There had to come a time where I stood by my conviction because it was laid upon my heart and mind by the revealed truth of the Word of God. My attitude was not to please men, or be accepted by friends/family. My attitude was to please God. This is just one simple example ( I’m sure there are others with much better examples than my own). Some truth will be more costly than others. I have seen truth pull apart family ties, sever relationships,and destroy friendships. But what is my attitude? To please men, or to please God? “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Paul tells us straight that we cannot do both. We must make the choice to follow truth, or please men. I pray that in all things I will be able to have the courage and confidence to be marked by pleasing God. That I will be able to say with Paul, “a slave for Christ”.
Following truth despite the cost. Church isn’t a popularity game. The church with the biggest numbers doesn’t get the biggest prize. The believer with the best testimony doesn’t win bonus points. The missionary with the wildest story doesn’t earn a bigger mansion. The man or woman, boy or girl, who follows the truth revealed to them by God earns the reward. What truth is God revealing to you (or has revealed to you)? What truth is God revealing to me? Will you follow it despite the cost? Will I? Or will I cave to tradition, family ties, friends, opinions, etc, and tell God to wait?