Time passes so quickly, and history seems to be in a hurry to reach its end. Do you feel, as I do, that the Lord’s Coming is near? I often think that those who have no expectation of the Lord’s soon return must have a hard time dealing with modern life - since our “blessed hope” is the sustaining factor in it all.
Having looked back at the last few years and the production of “Mainstream”, I can see definite changes that reflect the changes taking place in the world and the Church.
When “Mainstream” first appeared - incredibly, seven years ago! - it was dealing with the infiltration of the New Age Movement into the Church. In 1987, that was the area of deepest concern, and most Watchman ministries began by tackling the occult and false religions.
Soon, however, the impact of the Restoration Movement began to be felt, and the emphasis shifted from extra-Church deceptions to Christian errors - a change that angered some but delighted others who had been at the receiving end of such deceptions.
However, more recent changes have demonstrated the increasing pace of the apostasy. Even a few months ago it was possible to include titbits of news in “Mainstream”, and to cover non-essential subjects, just for interest’s sake. Now it is a problem choosing which subjects to cover, from all the vitally important information that is flooding in. It feels like a tidal wave of error is rolling in.
There was a time, a short while ago, when everything seemed to “go into limbo” and we all wondered what would happen next. Despite the deceptive calm, we felt that there would soon come more devastating events to rock believers, and more big deceptions to try our faith.
We were right! We also felt that the years 1994 and 1995 would prove to be a turning point for Christians, and present the biggest challenges yet. We have yet to see if this turns out to be correct, but events so far seem to be bearing it out.
[Note: Reading this now, in the year 2000, we know that in the years 1994/1995 the Toronto "revival" began, so this remark seems to have been more than accurate!]
I have a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I am excited because the final events of the endtimes are drawing near, and that means I will see Jesus soon! But as well as this, I wonder if I am ready to face the pressures and demands that it will entail. I am sure you feel this way too - so I can only pass on to you what I counsel myself when I feel inadequate and fearful:
The verse I was given at my conversion was Phil 1:6
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
We used to sing a chorus that went like this:
Even as I write those words, I am impressed that the goodness and love of the Lord is MORE than sufficient to bring us through all the trials that lie ahead, and to lead us into the presence of the Father at the Throne. Hallelujah!
We have a mighty God! I wish I could use up all the pages of Mainstream with praise to God and examples of how He sustains, heals, guides and protects us. But that would be to miss my calling, which is to sound a warning about deception, and to give a forward look into the future in order for you to be warned. I do not write to condemn, but to convict. Not to sneer, but to steer! I know from the many letters that I have received that the information I give in Mainstream has found its mark, and has contributed to the Lord’s leading in many lives. What God ordains, He sustains - and I have known the sustaining hand of God for many years.
How then can I refuse to trust in this mighty God, even in the darkest times? When my flesh fails, I look up and put my trust in God. Why do we continue to trust in the flesh, when we know it fails us in every test? Why will we continually look for guidance and support to our spouse or friends, to Church leadership, to our own feelings and thoughts, and to the strength of our own lives when we know God wants us to lay all of this down and trust in HIM ALONE! It is hard, but it is so needful!
Nothing but our close relationship with God is going to get us through - all our friends may fail us; churches may close or fall away; our very thoughts and emotions may betray us at a critical time - none of these things is trustworthy in a crisis. Only God has the wisdom, power, insight, ability and strength to sustain us.
This is the lesson He has been trying to teach us for years - but we are slow learners. Never mind, He will continue to love us all the same, and continue to guide us on. But don’t duck out of the tests, even though they are painful, because that is the place where God will meet you and strengthen your faith.
So, I am looking into 1994 with confidence in God (not myself) and also with trepidation - because big events lie just ahead, I believe.
TWO DIFFICULT PROBLEMS
There are two areas in which discerning Christians are being tested right now, and judging by the letters I receive, these two areas are causing almost as many problems as the deception itself.
These two problems are REJECTION by friends, family and other Christians; and EXPULSION from local churches - that is, people being forced to leave, or feeling they have to leave, their church.
But these things should not come as a surprise. The Bible clearly warns that we will be rejected, or even betrayed, by all those who do not stand with us in the strict truth of God’s Word. All who follow the Lord Jesus will be persecuted, just as He was - Jesus said that all nations would HATE us, and that family splits and antagonism of all kinds was to be expected if we decide to follow Him to the end.
But we are human - and rejection hurts. We also feel puzzled that others can’t understand our position. There is a veil of blindness descending over the eyes of those who reject the truth. They not only fail to see what we are saying, but accuse us unjustly of all kinds of things. What should be our reaction?
Look at Jesus. He was spurned by all, even his closest friends, and it was one of his close band of followers who betrayed Him to His death. Yet, He was full of compassion for others, and forgiveness towards his enemies.
Only forgiveness heals the wounds of rejection. Bearing a grudge, getting revenge, sulking, or brooding will only drive the dart of the enemy deeper into our souls, where it will cause untold damage. The only way to deal with feelings of rejection is to take them to the Lord in prayer, tell Him our grief, ask for healing, and freely forgive those who hurt us. Furthermore, we have to understand that following Jesus has its price. We have to make up our minds that we will endure persecution as Jesus did, without losing our love for others, or falling into depression or anger.
There is always the temptation to feel a sense of guilt when other Christians accuse us. Maybe that is healthy, because we do need to check out every criticism to see if it is actually correct. But beware of accepting a false burden of guilt placed on you by those who are trying to avoid conviction of their sin by making YOU the scapegoat. If you have spoken up for the Lord, and for scriptural truth; if you have stood out against error, then if you are criticised, accept it bravely and refuse to feel guilty. You have done nothing wrong!
HAVE YOU LEFT YOUR CHURCH?
Secondly, leaving church causes all sorts of problems for people, especially when there is no alternative fellowship to go to. But the fact is, more and more of us are going to be driven out of churches, or else leave of our own accord because we are unwilling to compromise with error.
But leaving behind the building and the elders you are familiar with does NOT mean you are “leaving the Church”. The “church” is not the building, the denomination or the leadership, but the believers who individually gather together for fellowship. When that fellowship degenerates into something that actually contravenes scripture, it has ceased to be “church”.
Every born-again Christian has been incorporated into the worldwide Body of Christ. That Body is really “the Church” - a group of people who love the Lord and follow Him. Your allegiance is first and foremost to the Lord Jesus Christ, and only secondarily to those set over you in the Body. But many who call themselves shepherds are wolves who love to dominate the flock - they use pressures of guilt and fear to force others to submit to their domination. They tell you not to leave their church, but only because they do not want to lose your slavish obedience to their rule!
You are just as much part of the Body of Christ when you do not regularly attend a local fellowship, as when you do. Indeed, you may actually find yourself closer to God and closer to other local Christians as a result of “leaving Church” because your personal prayerlife improves and you are forced to fellowship more openly with like-minded believers.
If the “church” you left has been preaching errors, and refuses to accept correction, then to stay there will expose you to harm. But scripture commands us to withdraw from those who are openly in error. Also, sitting in a pew or chair for an hour or two on a Sunday morning does not qualify you for more “brownie points” than those who study the Bible and worship just with their families or a few friends. In fact, the quality of fellowship improves ten-fold when the Holy Spirit is in charge, and is being allowed to teach and mould His people once more. (It would be impossible to justify from scripture MOST of the arrangements and practices of established churches, anyway - that may come as a shock to some, but I challenge you to check out the scriptures for yourself!)
The uplifting thing about this problem area is that God seems to be behind it! By calling His remnant people out of false church systems He is forcing them to get to grips with the plain meaning of scripture. People are rediscovering simple worship, homely, close-knit, loving groups that really care for eachother, real Bible study that allows everyone to participate, and all the other long-lost (but scriptural) parts of “church” life. God is challenging us all to re-examine our concept of what “church” really is. Did he ever really approve of denominations, church buildings, priestcraft, robes, rites and rituals?
This is a big subject, but I hope these few words will have opened your eyes to a new way of thinking about this difficult area.
Only YOU, only You can stem the tide
Of longing and despair that's in your Bride.
It's not worldly dominion that we crave,
But Love that lives and reigns beyond the grave;
It is not wealth, or fame, nor great success
That we desire most, but godliness.
We know ourselves to be just as You said:
In this life, full of self, and worse than dead;
That self we loathe - it brings pain and defeat
And makes us live in fear and self-deceit,
But we no longer trust this arm of flesh
We know it to be frail, leading to death.
We look above, our eyes are raised in prayer
For something greater than this earthly sphere
We seek Yourself, Your very Self - just YOU!
The Fount of goodness, justice, wisdom and all truth!
Without You, we are just a broken shell
Destined, like all fallen men, to hell.
But with You, we are filled with God's own power
To overcome, to face this evil hour!
Without Your Spirit's discernment, we would fall
Into the apostasy that stalks us all;
Without Your love that keeps us kind and calm,
We grow enraged and do ourselves great harm
Without Your Spirit's power, we fall prey
To demons that grow bolder every day.
Above all, Your Blood-washing for our sins
Keeps us from gross impurities within.
What can we say? Oh, give us more of YOU!
Humble our flesh and let Yourself shine through
Deal with our pride and unbelief, we pray
Break all that keeps us bound to human ways
Shake all that can be shaken; let remain
The Spirit of God to rule and to sustain.