Some men seem more interested in preserving their reputations and methodologies than in defending the truth. God is and ever will be the judge of all motives of the heart, and we never desire to encroach upon his prerogative. But actions that race more quickly to recommend one’s own work rather than hold up the soundness of biblical teaching leave a sour taste in the mouth of those who observe them.
The kingdoms of man are not guarded only by standing armies whose borders are safeguarded by fences and agents that examine documents and compare fingerprints. Human kingdoms are built through denominations, special ministries, benevolence efforts, and outreach missions. They may even use the name of Christ. They may wear the description “church of Christ” as a part of their title. Men attempt to force themselves into the Kingdom of God, or once inside it, make it serve lower purposes.
Human kingdoms are raised in mega-churches with multiple campuses. They are spread by televangelists with multi-million-dollar ministries. They are protected by names and titles and diplomas, proclaimed from theatrical stages backed by bands and staff and a stream of guests, marketed with a special package of piecemeal doctrines and, more importantly, a feeling — a careful manipulation of hopes and dreams and desires yet unfulfilled.
Such false prophets as these are damaging to the Kingdom of God. Many of them jettison any pretense of following that plan conceived in eternity and engaged from the first day of creation to this very day. They wallow in a carnal sea of formless mud while claiming to swim in the purest waters of spirituality. Their invitation to a higher plane of faith smacks of ancient pagan rituals initiating mortals into a secret knowledge, that often debased the gifts of God and turned them into the crassest expressions of selfishness and perversity. Touting the latest gadgets and garnishings, such prophets are robed in the tight and skimpy dresses of postmodernism, as they stand on the crowded religious street corners pimping their wares and promising pleasures heretofore unknown. All the while, it’s the same old profession of winks and whistles and smooth whisperings in the naive ear.
On the other hand, some make their reputations by an acrimonious and spiteful defense of the truth. It is yet another ingenious lie that the truth needs no defense. The gospel has too few defenders. Though we confess to having a skewed perspective of history, no doubt, it seems that in no time like ours have the unvarnished facts, commands, promises, and principles of the gospel come under a more intense attack. We hold to no millennial belief that in the end times suffering, wars, and persecutions will increase. But in our day neither have they diminished. Opposition to the faith — let us be clear — to the the true and original faith set down by our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles and prophets in the New Testament, is white hot. So a vigorous defense of the gospel that will both convince hearers and convert souls to obey the Lord is needed now as much as ever.
When the truth is defended wrongly, however, it is greatly harmed, rather than helped. The Kingdom of our Savior is ill served by those who speak rightly but demonstrate a vicious or indifferent spirit. The harshest men often quote the apostle Paul’s phrase, “speaking the truth in love,” it would seem, in order to soon dispatch with the concept of love and dive past it into the meanness of personal attack and self-exaltation.
Even though their numbers may be small, the loud volume of their attacks is disproportionate to their size. In some quarters, people are cowed by their intensity. In others, their frenzy becomes an unwelcome noise that is quickly discounted and discarded. Hence, on the noisy side their cause is isolated; on the deaf side whatever truth is spoken is lost, and its eternal benefit neutralized.
“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you” 2 Timothy 4.3-5 NLT.