“The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.”
I. Addressing Unrepentant Sin in the Church
The first thing that is important for us to remember is to follow the instruction given to us in 1 Corinthians 5, 2 John 10-11, and similar verses. When people are walking in sin within the church, and they do not confront it in themselves and strive against it, we must be careful to take these things seriously, especially in cases of destructive and unrepentant sinning.
A common problem that prevails in our churches is that we neglect such commandments as in the passages above, believing ourselves to be “merciful” for doing so. This is our foolish thinking, and if we’d take a moment, we’d recognize that this thinking contradicts what Christ has clearly laid out before us to do: “purge the evil person from among you” (1 Cor 5:13). This is essential for many reasons, and one is that separating from those who commit such sin ensures that the message of Christ is not diluted by those who take the name of Christ but live in sinful and destructive ways. In a day when many people speak loudly about the church's sins, it is important that we consider just how wrong we have been to disobey the commands laid out here, proving our hatred of such evils.
We cannot control the fact that people in the church will walk in sin, nor preserve a history of ourselves that is without sin. What we can do is take sin very seriously and, when such cases arise, deal with them. As Paul shows us here in 1 Corinthians 5, we should be deeply grieved when such sins are happening within the church, and put that person out of fellowship with us (v2)—looking for true repentance on their part and not restoring fellowship until then (Matt 18:15-17, 2 Thess 3:6,14). Our failure to do this in the name of a misguided mercy is very often to our shame. We must allow shame for sin to reside where it is due. A great many people cling to ideas of loyalty with phrases like “none of us are perfect” and they fail to act upon the sins of those around them and separate themselves from those who are unrepentant. We must do this in the name of God’s glory, and at His command (Rom 16:17, Titus 3:10, 2 John 10-11.) It is clear that our disobedience to such commands has had a great cost.
Part of the issue that stops us from dealing with these things accurately is the confusion the devil casts regarding Christian unity and division, as if the first cancels out the second. Many people think that Christian love cancels out right division, godly division; they believe this is mercy. They fail to realize how unjust this is, and how it is a promotion of sin, not mercy (Prov 28:4). It is only in upholding such disciplines that we are fully able to contend against such sins in the church, purifying her. They fail to perceive just how essential such actions are, otherwise the Lord would not command us to do such things! Indeed, this is the very means by which we keep the church sanctified. And nothing in Christian love or unity is in contradiction to the commandments of God, for the door is always open to those who turn from their wickedness in true repentance, but light (those who repent of their sins before God) can have no fellowship with darkness (those who sin unrepentantly before God).
Many of us stumble on this point precisely because we realize that holding such judgements upon others is a judgement upon ourselves. These people take this to mean that we should therefore hold no judgments, rather than uphold righteous judgements over ourselves as well as others. The real issue is that many of us are not prepared to actually uphold the standards of God’s Word and conform ourselves to these things. Therefore we do not judge others in sin, not because we’re just bent upon mercy as we imagine, but because we are bent upon not being judged ourselves. This then is only an evil attempt to circumvents God’s judgements for our sin, not a true attempt for “mercy”. The issue then is not a greater need for “mercy”, it is a greater need for a mutual conformity to God’s Word. This false mercy is the world’s version of mercy, not God’s, and its root is permitting sin, not destroying it.
Many are also quick to declare that upholding God’s standard is the type of judgement that Christ condemns, referencing Matt 7:1, Luke 18:11, and John 7:23-24. But God is using these to show that he condemns judgements that come from personal conceit and ignorance, not to say that all judgement is condemned. We confuse what it means to not judge out of sinful superiority with what it means to not uphold the just and perfect judgement of God. Rather, we are meant to judge from the place of saying, “I acknowledge that this is the doctrine of Christ and I acknowledge that I too am held to this standard.” This is what it means to judge not from our own standards but to certainly uphold the standards of God.
When we fail to uphold God’s standard, we are not gracious! We are saying, “I’ll allow all these evils and sins for others if only I am allowed my own.” Our failure to judge is often (not always) an indication of not judging in the Truth, and not upholding ourselves to the full standard of God. Our weakness in conscience to judge grotesque sins is therefore not a grace! It is a judgment upon ourselves, and a great sin on our part. If we look again at what Jesus is addressing in Matthew 7:1 and continue to verse 5, we would see that if we did judge ourselves by God’s standards, we would then be fully equipped to judge our brother by those same standards.
We must learn to separate our own judgement of others out of personal opinion and pride from God’s judgement. We are never to remove the latter in the name of the first. This is where we go wrong in “judge not”. We are not to merely “not judge”, we are to “judge with right judgement” (John 7:24). And God makes it most clear that we are to judge those inside the church (1 Cor 5:12), to deal most directly with those who are in sin.
Our wrong judgments are absolutely sinful and wrong, but to confuse this with the great and holy judgments of God is a great, great error. To say, “I don’t judge because I’m a sinner too” is often an indication that we are making this very error, treating God as if He should be judged beneath the same standard that we, as fallen sinners and created beings, are. Yes, you are a sinner, but God is not. Yes, you ultimately have no right to judge, yet God most certainly does. It is most important that we understand a right heart, one that does not forget that we too were once so foolish and lost (Titus 3:3), and that everything we have is only by God’s grace (1 Cor 15:10). Yet we must never allow this to displace God’s judgements. The church today is often mixing up these two essential truths, and doing so has many consequences.
The church today fails greatly in giving right judgement. We must be careful to not judge as evil that which Christ doesn’t condemn (Matt 12:1-7), and we must be equally careful to judge that which Christ does condemn. Both of these are essential judgements we must uphold. The church fails to understand that judgement is an essential organ in the right functioning of her body. "When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?" (1 Cor 6:1) Where is a person to go for right judgment if not to the church? Yet many who go to the church do not find it there. To lose right judgement within the church is a great evil and to her shame. And the devil has tricked so many of us to lose such things out of an over-ambition to not be “too harsh” or to be perceived as merciful.
All of these things are essential for us to understand, for if we fail to judge the sin that is within the church then we fail to uphold true religion. We fail to be repulsed by evil, to uphold what is good, and we fail to uphold God’s judgements about such things, and this absolutely is to our shame. The church cannot control the fact that people will walk in sin, but we can control separating from them or not. And in our representation to the world, in the case of the world’s rejection of the church, we must be careful to show the distinction between good and evil. One of the church's great failures today is that, again and again, she refuses to hate the sins of those within and to act accordingly. And she fails to vindicate those who have been wronged. To do all of this in the name of “love” is only worse harm being done, not less.
In Part 1, we put on the table the perceived failures of the church that the world holds up as proof that God should be rejected, and we parsed these things out to see why it is still the wrong conclusion to reach. If you have not read this first, it will clarify much of what we go on to speak about here. Many of us believers look around us and see exactly these things—sin in the church, the offence of the world, the justification of rejecting God along with all religion—and while we want to be faithful to God, we are merely wandering around in the dark, unsure of how to respond. It is important that we bear in mind several things, and walk in them.
Having said all of this, we must be careful of yet another issue: operating from the accusations of the world. Many people are busy apologizing for the perceived sins of the church, becoming indebted to the world. And many are seeking to “glorify God” by grovelling before the world’s unbelief. This is a gross misunderstanding of what it means to oppose sin in the church.
This attitude comes from a very wrong heart. It is one motivated by the opinions of man rather than the opinion of God, and one that acts as if the church and God’s ways are evil rather than that man is evil. In reality, as much as it appears at the surface to merely be seeking the welfare of sinners, in reality, it opposes Christ because its center is a belief in the world’s lies against the church rather than a belief in Christ and His Word against the world. Even in addressing real sins we must be careful that we do not fall into the same idea the world has: that the church, God’s Word, or God Himself is evil.
This thinking is also just another branch of the same problem listed in the previous section. Both operate from foolish and evil ideas about sin rather than from truth, from the desire in ourselves for what we want rather than for what God wants, and a trust in man’s fallen thinking rather than in God’s Word. Ultimately, believers with this approach are motivated from the love of the world, and of man’s praise, all the while professing to be motivated by love for fallen man.
We are in need of seeing the world’s motivations. The world here in the West is increasingly seeing the church as more and more evil, but this does not come from a right heart; it comes from an evil heart that would sooner cast God off His throne than submit to His plan for justice and righteousness. Too easily we miss where this comes from and we serve this sin in man in place of serving God. If we give way to these accusations, then we serve this evil in man rather than good of God.
II. Standing with Christ
Serving Man Rather than Serving God
When we take on this attitude of shame about God and his church, we are not innocent in so doing. While in part we may do so because of our ignorance, it is also because of the sin in us that is choosing to make man our god rather than God Himself. It is because of our sin in which we seek the glory that comes from man rather than the glory that comes from God (John 5:44). We also are seeking a means of serving that appears easier than the standards that God lays before us, and we are quick to believe that serving man is still moral. We believe that man is an easier master to serve than God. Therefore we make a substitute of serving God rightly for a service that makes man the one we serve rather than God. And these are the motivations that we serve from—even many Christians!
We must be very careful about what we fear and thereby what we serve. Many imagine they are serving good by running as fast as they can to overcome these accusations against the church, when in reality they are only becoming slaves to man and his perverse heart in the process (Prov 29:25). We can discern our true motivations by noticing whether we side with God as good and man as evil, or we side with man as good and God/His church/His Word as evil. We must be very careful that our work—even (and especially) in dealing with the sins of the church—is done from a devotion to God and not from a slavery to man’s false accuastions. Right work in this area is done from a heart believing in God’s goodness, a leaning on the inerrancy of the Scriptures, a belief in man’s inherent sinfulness, a devotion to all of God’s Word, and from a desire to serve God in His judgements rather than resist God in them.
When we are motivated by these things, we will “see clearly” in order to deal with the sin in the church (Luke 6:42). Those who are not motivated by such things have a far greater concern: to root out in themselves the sinful desires within that secretly oppose God and His ways. These people fall prey to the lies of the world, and such people have no business in the work of correcting the sin in the church, for they do so from an evil heart, one that is in enmity against God, seeing Him and His as evil, rather than as good. “Whoever is not with me is against me.” (Matt 12:30) While they may see sins that are very real, they are still motivated by their sinful hearts within such attempts to correct those sins. Such people seek to pull the church toward corrupt and worldly ideas rather than into God’s commandments and true holiness (Matt 5:19).
Our ambition against giving offense must always be from fear of God and not fear of man. How often we hide our love for the fear of man by making it a “moral” to live by! So many are laying down and dying over these accusations, being ashamed of the Gospel and the great things of God!
The Motivations Within Man’s Accusations
As we walk forward in dealing with the accusations of the world, we should be very clear about seeing what man thinks is evil—man thinks that God and true religion is evil. He is quick to point at other false religions and declare they aren’t evil, but that Christianity is. He thinks that rebuke and repentance is evil. That the law is evil. He thinks God’s judgment and hell are evil. To be most clear, he believes that God is evil and that man is good and better than God. It is this belief within man that is the hatred Christ points to (John 7:7)-—this is what the hatred of the world looks like. We must never act in a mercy that is motivated by an obligation towards such thinking, desires, and feelings within man. If we are motivated by the accusation of man, we serve man’s evil desires rather than the righteousness of God.
This means that the offendedness of the world is not a good teacher about morality. Too easily we allow this to be what guides us, rather than being guided by God into righteousness. We are easily confused upon this point precisely because the world professes to be very moral and we are too easily convinced of their morality, failing to realize that this too is corrupt. Today, we are easily misguided into the world’s version of morality rather than God’s, and we do not even question it. Worse, rather than questioning the world, we question God. See how easily we trust man’s offendedness as a trustworthy “teacher” to show us what is righteous or not? That is why it is essential that we understand the truth of man’s heart, thereby understanding where such offense comes from, that even these are evil, and we must therefore not be governed by such things. Many people seek to go about opposing this agenda by groveling before people, but it is exactly in treating these things as if they are true that we promote them!
The path forward for us is to instead be entirely ruled by God, being careful to give no offense in God’s eyes, not man’s eyes. We must recognize the essential need of being governed by holiness, righteousness, and godliness, all of these being defined by God alone. If we are truly governed by these things then we will do no evil against God or man. And when we fail to uphold these things, then we are guilty before God for not obeying Him. This is what we must have to rule us, and this is what we uphold when people are in sin—God’s word, not man’s word.
This means we must be careful to distinguish even between different moralities. “Morality” alone is not sacred, and our failure to realize this has us accepting anything that calls itself moral. Rather, we must be true to Christ, so devoted to Him that we reject anything that is not of Him. We show our betrayal of Christ by our accepting of a “morality” that is outside of Him and His ways. We must become more true to Jesus and shun such evil, presumptuous sins that come from man.
Recognize that these “morals” do not come from a good heart as it may seem; they come from an evil one! At its core, this heart hates God, resists Him in all His ways, thinks it is able to define good and evil, commands others to obey them in such ideas, and ultimately cares nothing for God. At the core of the world’s “morality” is their attempt to use their “goodness” in order to promote, justify, and permit such sinful lies. This is the goal of their “morals”. This is not goodness, this is the utter depths of pride and wickedness.
In all things we must be careful to not be motivated by the world’s morality, accusations, and offenses. Doing so only shows that we too think like the world, we too believe such lies about God, and we too have enmity in our hearts against Him.
We must be careful to not try to overcome the world’s accusations. Instead, we must be centered entirely upon overcoming true sin and keeping the truth of God. By doing this alone are we giving no offense, regardless of how the world perceives us. In this, we must also recognize the great truth that God’s glory doesn’t depend upon man’s opinion of Him. This isn’t what glorifying God means. Glorifying God is not living to man’s opinion of God, it is obeying the Truth regardless of all else. If we think God’s glory depends upon man’s opinion of Him, it is often an indication that we ourselves seek glory from man rather than glory from God (John 5:44).
Joining with the World’s Unbelief Rather Than with Christ
“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
Let us be clear about one important point, it is utter betrayal of Christ and His church, as Christians, to join with the accusations of the world. When we join with the world in her accusations against God and all that is His, we reveal ourselves to be filled with the love of the world that is enmity against God.
Many people struggle beneath mountains of the unbelief of the world. They fail to understand that their own unbelief is in no way a legitimization of the world’s unbelief, but is very often a most serious indication of their spiritual adultery (James 4:4). They do not understand that it is their failure to contend with their faithlessness to Christ that is the very reason they are filled with such unbelief and contempt. Nor do they keep their hearts pure, fighting for the faith Christ calls us to rather than bathing in the unbelief the world relishes in.
To be clear, we’re not talking here about having doubts. Each Christian will have their doubts and has full rights to cry to the Lord: “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) It is about the attitudes by which we carry them. Do we fight for faith as God defines it or for unbelief and our own ideas? Do we trust the world’s accusations, do we see God’s ways as evil, or do we fight for faith even when—most especially when—we cannot see? Every Christian will have doubts. This section may or may not be addressing your sin. We are not condemned for doubts, we are condemned when we bathe in them and kiss them like lovers, abandoning the things of God, the truth of His Word, the standard of His commands, in the name of whatever else we hold most dear.
And this is a most serious problem: we imagine that we can merely make morals of our sins and struggles. We imagine our unbelief is a tool to use towards gaining truth, just like we think the fear of man is somehow a tool to guide us towards morality. This comes from deception, and it comes from our failure to fight our sins. Instead, we accept them, and we pat ourselves on the back as if we are somehow more moral for doing so! This is cowardice, adultery against God, and it comes from the desire in us to not strive towards holiness and fight our sins.
That which comes from within us, the grumbling and murmuring within, is from a sinful heart (Ex 16:2). This complaining against God is a condition of our sin nature not a condition of faithfulness to “truth” or “love”. We fail to perceive this purely because we are in love with this world (at least in part) and we seek to serve it.
This must be said because far too many see a great legitimacy in their confusion and disquieted hearts against God. They join with the accusations of the world by these things, and they then take this disquietude to be an evidence against God, His Word, and people, rather than an evidence against themselves and who they have been serving. We show whose side of this war we have been fighting on.
Balaam is a great warning to all of us of what it means to be on the wrong side of the battle. Balaam had no true heart for the things of God. He rode his donkey in the wrong direction—towards the enemies of God rather than riding his donkey towards God and His people. This revealed his heart, not just in loving man’s honor and wealth, but in being willing to throw God and His people behind his back in contempt.
We may not think we are the same, but we are exactly the same if we love anything that causes us to betray God, His Word, and His people. It may look like “just a real concern for the oppressed”, but if this “concern” comes at the cost of throwing Christ behind our backs, living in unbelief, and seeking to undo His Word… Then we are revealed to be joined with the world, filled with the mind (ideas) of the world, in love with this world, and at enmity with God. That is a very dangerous place to be. The true measure of ourselves, regardless of what reasons we have, is if we are far more for the world or if we are for God.
So many people are convinced they’re serving some great agenda of love and tolerance, but they are directly in the things of man, of the world, and are opposing God by the very thing they claim to be doing for God. They are intent on overcoming God for the sake of man rather than finding wisdom in what God wills for man and submitting to His goodness in it.
In truth, what do we expect? Do we really think we can kiss the world and not be poisoned with her sins? This is called adultery because it truly is that—adultery. We gasp at physical adultery (at least we should) but we care nothing for the most lewd and heartless sins we commit against our God. Our faithlessness to Christ is not our honor—it is our great shame! And then on top of all of this we expect a perverse self pity to be fed in us by others for such unbelief? We wound ourselves with the world's sins again and again. We are filled with unbelief precisely because of who we have chosen to love and serve—this is a judgement upon us and the consequence of our sin. “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29
To overcome this we have to be willing to address that this attitude comes from the sinful attitude within us, and from the mind of the world. We need to stop believing that our unbelief and enmity against God has such legitimacy! We think like this because we too are caught up in the world. If we were to submit to God and work for faith, we would find that He opens our eyes to His goodness and the soundness of His ways, and all our suspicions and accusations fall to the ground. The matter entirely at hand is who we have chosen to worship, serve, and obey. All things begin and end with this. “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom 6:16)
III. Pursuing Purity
The need in the church is for purity. It is essential that we understand how important this is! If it were not enough that we seek purity as His Bride for His sake alone, may the fact that these impurities are some of the greatest stumbling blocks keeping others from entering the Kingdom call us to attention. The devil uses the impurity of the church to hinder a great many people from entering in (Matt 23:13). The road to Christ is filled with stumbling blocks, and the church is in desperate need of realizing just how active the devil is in seeking out sins, failures, and foolishness in God’s people for the very purpose of using them as an offense, stumbling blocks, to the world.
This means that the church is always in great need of ferreting out her sins. She fails, daily, to comprehend just how grave an effect her foolishness, pride, and other sins have upon the testimony of Christ. That is to say, while there are perceived sins, there are also very real sins in the church.
Purity of Testimony
It seems that, in many ways, much of the Western church has lost a great regard for what the early church leaders held so highly: giving no offense so that the way of Truth might not be hindered from reaching all people. “...for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.” (2 Cor 8:21) It seems that people in the church today either are enslaved to the opinions of man or they call their cruelty, callousness, and downright foolishness a “freedom” from man’s opinions! No, we must be truly free from man and we must be rightly enslaved by righteousness.
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (1 Pet 2:16) Our freedom is for godliness, and godliness alone (Rom 6:18). That means we have no freedom to do anything outside of godliness and we have no obligation or enslavement to anything outside of this either. On one hand, we command ourselves onto the narrow road, never imagining an abuse of the freedom we have in Christ (to use it for sin), and on the other hand, we are freed from the ideas, opinions, and threats of man. Why? Because we are to be entirely self satisfied? Arrogant? Selfish? Foolish? No, because we are to be entirely devoted to God, and we are sure to never fear nor serve the false gods of this world (Jer 10:5).
The only means whereby we will live as truly righteous and as truly free is that of making Christ the whole of our lives, truly given up to Him, living after Him as He commands. Our failure, our sins, foolishness, ignorance, and pride all come from not living unto Jesus as we are called. It does not come from anything else. We are not in greater need of psychology, social work, and any other idea/method of the world. To serve these with all our devotion is a great offense to Christ. We are in need of being devoted entirely to Him, and taking part in nothing that is contrary to Him, that does not bear the seal of His name.
It is only when we obey God, just as He has always been telling us to obey Him, that we will overcome the offenses we create, for all of them are from our disobedience to Christ.
When we see our sins against man, still, let us look and see that these are first committed against our holy God. We are never to become slaves of man. Even if we’ve done great sins against them, we are to remain and seek to be only slaves of God. The measurement of “offense” is that which offends God as evil, not man. Rather than being motivated by the offendedness of the world, the accusations of the world, we must be motivated by righteousness and holiness before God.
This is a far greater path. And it calls us up to the entire standard of holiness and righteousness while equally frees us from the world's accusations. Therefore the true need in the church is that she would sincerely deal with her own sins and be ruled by righteousness.
Purity for Salvation and Judgement
“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Pet 2:12)
It is devotion to God, obedience to Him, and conformity to His will that are the great needs of the church. And it is in this that we will give no hindrance and offense to the world. It is greatly essential that we forsake our sinful, selfish, ambitious, conceited, and foolish ways. In giving Him all our devotion, we become not servants of man but servants of God. “And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor 5:15) The great need of the church is that they would live for Christ. Their failure to do this brings great fault upon them, none least of all, their great hindrance to their fellow believers and to unbelievers.
So while we care, deeply, to give no offense to the world, let us be careful to remember that the way in which we must go about this is not in some worship/serving of man, but in the giving of ourselves entirely to God. “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
When we are pure in this way before God, the judgement of God upon sinful man is most clear—our good deeds expose their foundless accusations and sins for what they are. “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (1 Pet 2:15) We fail to realize that we are to take part with God in His judgement upon mankind, this being either to their salvation or their condemnation. Many people see God as evil for this, and it is clear they still don't understand that man is evil and chooses evil. God calls His people to holiness, firstly, so that man might see himself clearly, see his sins, and, God willing, turn in repentance. But, secondly, God calls His people to holiness because if a person does evil against such good, a goodness that is pure, then their sins are most judged, making great the distinction between what is clean and unclean, evil and good, light and darkness. We are to be used by God for this purpose, and it has nothing to do with our pride, but everything to do with God’s holiness.
We are meant to be this mirror, this scale, and ultimately this tool of the judgement of God, and yet we are a very dirty mirror. It is essential that we partake in this work, and that we partake in it “by doing good”. This is the operation of God’s judgement and His “will” for us. How far away are we from this? “That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Phil 2:15) Are we the lights of the world or a part of it? Are we judging God for His purposes or are we joined with Him in them? Let us keep our hearts with all diligence.
IV. Finding Wisdom
“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” (Mark 7:21-22)
To be pure, we must be free of sin, not trying to cover up our motivations or to secretly permit conceit and selfish ambition, and we must be entirely given over to God, seeking to do His will and not our own. The greatest hindrance to the church today is that she will not give herself over to do God’s will, but she remains in her own. This is where all our weakness springs from. All of these things listed in the verse above are sins that corrupt us, all are most evil and to be rooted out in us. Today, most of us recognize each of these things to be sin, all but one of them, “foolishness”.
Part of being lights in the world means we are pure, it means we are devout, and it also means that we must be wise. How can we imagine that we are any form of light if we do not truly possess goodness, devotion to God, and wisdom? Certainly this is exactly what Christ demonstrated. (Luke 2:47)
The trouble today is that many of us are either entirely content to be naive and call this “faith” or we are lustful for “wisdom” and we are very much “wise in our own eyes”. It’s no doubt that people want wisdom, it’s a doubt that they want true wisdom. For if they did, then they would run and cling to Christ with all that is in them.
The sad truth is that we are happy for what appears to be wise in our own eyes, and in the world’s eyes, and by this we are deceived about ourselves, yet we are entirely exposed to everyone else. The church does not need her own foolish and downright stupid ideas about “wisdom”—she is filled to the brim with these—she needs true wisdom. And this alone comes from being devoted and obedient to Christ as He commands (Matt 16:24-26).
One of the great troubles for the church today is to wean her from her lusts of the world’s wisdom and turn her to the wisdom of God. Because of this she thinks that she sees and yet she is blind to a great many of the things of God (Matt 24:1-2, John 3:10).
The only way forward into wisdom is following Christ. It is not settling for the wisdom of this world, but moving past it to Jesus, allowing Him to lead us into His wisdom (1 Cor 1:30). Again, our faithfulness to Christ and to only that which is truly of Him is what is most important here.
We are in need of realizing the difference between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God. So many people take up their own ideas about the things of God, and this is the trouble. They fail to comprehend, then, how these things come from their own fallen minds and not from God’s. The wisdom God calls us to is not the “wisdom” of batting around ideas and playing games with the wisdom of the world; it is having our minds entirely renewed by God (Rom 12:2). Only then are we of any true use or any true light to this world. Only then. As long as we keep playing around in the “wisdom” from our own minds and the wisdom of the world, we will be of no help, regardless of what we think about ourselves—we hinder Truth, we do not aid it (Matt 12:30).
This is specifically one important point of distinction because the foolishness of the church has brought great harm upon people. And it is certainly one of her main failures. Again, the church is falsely misrepresented, projected as if God and Christianity or the Bible itself is foolish, and this is most evil. Yet those who have not upheld their Christian duty to study and know God, to learn how to truly discern between good and evil (Heb 5:14), they are most at fault for their sins and the harm they have caused by such things.
It is a great tragedy that the church has been so slow to discern what is evil in the world and slow to discern what is good. There are many cases where she has been the tail and not the head of such matters, and this absolutely puts shame upon her.
As stated above, there are a few reasons that cause this foolishness. One is not being always and primarily devoted to God. Then there is pride, slothfulness in duty, and being enamored with the world’s wisdom. And in addition, there are foolish notions of what it means to be innocent, and the failure to mature.
One of the ways we substitute true wisdom for real wisdom is by embracing a wrong view of innocence. We equate the idea of being “child-like” with that of being perpetually ignorant like a child, and we trust this ignorance to be an innocence. The world today is very upside down particularly on this point, she seems to increase in exalting children as practically divine and making adults out to be foolish and subjective to the “wise children”. It is quite strange. And while Christ Himself has taught us to learn from children to combat our pride and ambition (Mark 10:15), we are very wrong if we think we are to imitate being ignorant like a child, as if the place for us to live and grow to is not the maturity of a spiritual adult. “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:13)
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb 5:12-14)
We are to possess a righteousness that is innocent of sin, not innocent of knowledge. Many people are ignorant about the Truth God reveals about evil: the devil, our sin, and this world. And they think this ignorance is to their advantage. This has never been what God has shown us to be, as if the mere knowledge of evil perverts us to it rather than prepares His saints for how to fight against it. The world seeks such innocence because they believe they will not be held accountable for their sins thereby. We must know better than this. We put off sin and we also, equally, are to take on the wisdom of God in all things. “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matt 10:16) Failing to be innocent of sin or wise in the truth of God causes us to do great harm upon others and great harm upon ourselves.
The means by which we are to seek such wisdom is, again, the entire giving over of ourselves to God. It is giving Him our minds to be entirely transformed, giving Him our identities to be changed however He pleases, surrendering our desires for righteous ones, and handing over all our little ideas about everything. We need to realize that all of these things, not just some of them, come from our fallen selves, and they are a part of the world, not separate from it. Being a Christian does not make us pure of sin or foolishness; it is only in truly giving ourselves to God, to be sanctified by Him, that we are made pure as lights of the world. A great many people are so convinced they are lights of the world, when they only project their own ideas which come from the world right back to the world.
We must be very careful to not imagine that foolishness is overcome by taking the wisdom of the world; rather, it is in giving our minds to God. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2) God has shown us the ways to His wisdom. It is the very plain things He has taught us: devotion to His Word, studying to be truly conformed to it, prayer, meditating on the Word, faith, and obedience to Him. Our failure so often is all the foolish little ways we create to seek God with rather than seeking Him within the ways He has plainly revealed (Deut 12:31). The way is not hidden from us, it is most plain. The problem lies with us: if we will simply obey God in this, or not.
V. Reforming Within
The church of God today has the greatest need of sanctification and reform. In truth, this would yield the fruit she is so often desiring: holiness, justice, and the salvation of souls. As we continue to see the world’s accusations against the church and their legitimate concerns, we must be careful to navigate such things correctly.
We must be careful to look at our own walks, ensuring that we are giving all effort to root out the sins in our own lives, the foolishness, naivety, selfishness, pride, conceit, and worldly ambition. If only we would trust God and realize that if we were faithful to follow Him exactly as He directs, then we would overcome our many great failures today. But be most clear, these are only overcome out of a fear of God and not out of the fear of man. Realize who you serve: yourself and man, or the living God?
In the sins within the church it is very true that so many people are harsh and without compassion, many are legalistic and hyper-fundamentalistic. I do not deny any of these people being real, and certainly, they do great harm. I do not aim to write to such people, and this is for two reasons. 1) Because we are obsessed with these particular sins in people, we do not move on to see the other, and just as important, sins. These sins do violence just as much as any other. 2) I do not believe such people would listen. Those who are cruel and merciless in their application of the Word of God are those who are often most convinced of themselves. I think prayer is often better for such people, rather than words.
But for those who are hungry for the mere acknowledgment of these sins, yes, they are very real. And it is a very hard struggle beneath such sins to navigate towards God. These are some of the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of the Word of God today. It is very hard to navigate away from these things and still hold onto God. And a great many people have turned away from the Truth because of the abuse, oppression, and contempt of such people. Neglect is also a great harm done to many. Your pain is real, and your hatred of such sin is real. I do not deny you the right to hate and oppose such things, I merely ask you, “Where to now?” Would you like to move still towards the Truth? Would you rather fight for faith, for holiness, and for trust in God, or would you rather hold these things in gripped fists against God, for unbelief, for deeper sin, and for contempt against all that belongs to God? That, my dear, is the great and important question for your soul. If we are to choose God, then we must, yes, allow such hate of sin, and yet we must also continue on. Look at the example of David’s life. Again and again he had great harm being done to him and yet he continued towards God and faith in God. Study his example, for it teaches us to continue after God and what is of God even when such sins harm us (Ps 119:23). Do not be overcome by their evil, but overcome evil by doing the good of seeking and obeying God.
Once we have grasped that the sins we see in others are very real and true, are we prepared to look separately at our own? Many of the things listed in the sections above point to our own sins. Where we have rebelled against God and His ways, grouping formalist ways with that which is true doctrine. Or where we have continued to permit our fear of man rather than serve God in truth. Or how about all the ways we have been ashamed of this Gospel? Or the ways we seek to keep our lives rather than lose them for Christ’s sake? Be assured, when our hate for such people’s sins turns to a hate for Christ and His ways, this is our own sin, and not the fault of such people.
We, too, have much work to do here. We all do, regardless of our experience, regardless of if these experiences are our own or if we are only witnesses to these atrocities. Many of us are very confused upon this issue of how to navigate these accusations from the world in which they profess God as cruel, His people as evil, His Word as fallible human words, and God as absent from His creation. The world is hurling curse upon curse at God and His people, and we must fight back against such things, resisting the spirit of this world. And we do this by obeying God purely as He defines. If we fail to do this and persist in our own ideas and ways, then we should never expect to be prepared for such things or even aware of the battle we are in.
The church and the world do not need any more weak-willed Christians, just as much as it does not need any brutish and harsh Christians. The church and the world are in need of godly Christians, those who are devout, pure, loving, truthful, humble, and wise, laying their lives down for Christ, and filled with grace. Those who are the lion and the lamb, innocent yet wise, meek but bold, kind but rebuking, loving yet always defining love by God’s Word and not man’s, and judging correctly. And the only way to possess this is to obey Christ as He has always taught us from the beginning, by truly dying to ourselves, and living wholly for Him and His Gospel. In this alone we glorify God, live as a sanctified church, and are pure vessels that work for the salvation of souls.
May the Lord keep us and help us in all of these things. May His grace uphold us, and may we walk deeper within the truth and knowledge of Him. May His grace remain with all who believe.