March 8, 2008

Uncivil War

"Goats and Sheep" – "Wheat and Tares" – "Mixed Multitude" – The Bible’s terms for professors vs. possessors of salvation. That is the sorry state of the church of Jesus Christ in the world today. The lines are being drawn and people calling themselves "Christian" are beginning to join ranks. Many on both sides of the salvation line have predicted a civil war in the church – it seems to be manifesting before our eyes, but there’s nothing civil about it.

Division in the visible Church – Division in "Christian" households – Division among friends – Division in ministries – Church Splits – all are occupational hazards! Truth divides – and error is divisive. The polarization taking place is healthy when goats are divided from sheep, but tragic when sheep are being divided by goats.

There are many fronts in this uncivil war where goats kick sheep, sheep stampede and all step on one another. Skirmishes have happened throughout the history of the church, but of late things have really heated up. One of the biggest civil wars in church history was in the 16th century – the Protestant Reformation. Today, there is a cry for a new reformation – but, unlike 500 years ago, most calling for it now are goats, not sheep. Goats, for the most part, have taken control of the professing church and bully the sheep. This is a result of false teachers in the church who have engineered ways to make church services comfortable for goats while the sheep are left unfed.

In more recent history there has been many divisions in the church within faith groups and denominations. For the past 100 years, with the rise of liberalism, the spirit of the age has infiltrated the modern church, causing a cultural divide between the goats and the sheep. The cry of liberty is being heard in the mixed flock – sheep seeking the freedom from sin and goats seeking the freedom to sin. This has caused a clash in many denominations and church fellowships. Not only have the liberals attacked pure living, they also have attacked pure doctrine. Many denominational splits have occurred as a result.

Error Divides

A major example of this in the past 50 years is the Lutheran Church in the 1970s. A leading goat in that family dispute was "Rev. Dr. John Tietjen, former president of Concordia Seminary, near St. Louis, who helped create a breakaway seminary and an alliance of dissident congregations in a split over biblical doctrine. He also was a major force in 1987 in the merger of churches that created the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, now the nation's largest Lutheran denomination… In 1976, Dr. Tietjen helped organize the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, an alliance of 400 Missouri Synod congregations. As a leader of the group, he helped merge it in 1987 with the Lutheran Church of America and the American Lutheran Church. That merger created the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America." [Source: his obituary in the New York Times  ]

He wrote a book called wrote ''Which Way to Lutheran Unity?'' which did the opposite of creating unity – it divided an entire denomination – the one named after the key Reformer Martin Luther. The Missouri Synod survived but at a terrific loss. Today the ELCA is the largest Lutheran denomination and has regular ecumenical talks with the Roman Catholic Church and is on the wrong side of all the moral issues such as the Israeli/Palestinian dispute, abortion, and homosexual clergy.

The Rev. Larry Neeb, an administrator at Concordia, defended Tietjen saying, ''He wasn't a crusader, he was a man who was protecting his faculty (from censure for teaching false doctrine). What he insisted upon is that Scripture also be understood for the human side of its development.'' In other words, this apostate was saying that Scripture is of human source, not divinely inspired.

Closer to home, we’ve seen church splits within my own tradition: the Calvary Chapel movement. Back in the 1980s, the late John Wimber divided from Calvary founder Chuck Smith and took a lot of people with him to a rival group, the Vineyard. Wimber was the brother in error in this split, wanting to give experience and signs and wonders chasing equal footing with the study of Scripture. Wimber called it, "doing the stuff." His record speaks for himself since he has embraced every strange trend that has blown through the charismatic movement from the false prophet movement to the inner healing movement to the holy laughter fiasco. He left a trail of wounded sheep along the way.

We have our marching orders in this uncivil war. We must take every thought captive, tear down strongholds, defend the faith. And we must remember that the goats are not the enemy, even when they target the sheep as their enemies. Our enemy is the spirit of the age who today is saying, ‘Don’t rock the boat." "Don’t contend for the faith." "Attack those who do."

Truth Divides

I was recently lambasted on a popular blog because I dared to state Scripture as if I believed it because I do. The venom that was hurled at me by so-called "Christians" was startling: "moron," "shrew," "idiot" – all because I quoted the passage that says that those who do not have a love for the truth would believe the lie and be damned. That sent goats bucking and butting. The blog moderator issued threats such as "you just wait til Monday – I"ll show her!" I was tossed  and forbidden to join in the conversation.

That is an example of how to distinguish between God’s servants and those who the devil is in control of. As Christians when we are hated by men we do not respond with violence – goats, on the other hand, lash out at anything that gets in their way. You’ll know them by their fruit.

And then there are those observers who are entertained by the goats and sheep and watch from the mezzanine and cover their heads, unwilling to speak up for an injured lamb for fear of getting the bully billy-goats’ attention –they would rather sell out the sheep than get butted themselves. They need to take a lesson from water buffalo that join forces to rescue one of their own that is in need.

The Good News is that the sheep have a Shepherd and He will divide His sheep from the goats in the not too distant future. Our part in the war is to defend Truth even if the goats grumble at us. It is getting more and more uncivil as the goats take over the visible church today. We need to choose sides. We know we’re on the same side with the Chief Shepherd when we stand for righteousness and the truth of Scripture.

Lines are being drawn in the sand. We must make sure we line up on the right side even though it will mean being hated by all men. 

♥♥♥

 "And you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake: 
but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved." - Matt 10:22 

 "And you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake. 
But he that shall endure unto the end, he shall be saved." - Mark 13:13

 "And you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake."-- Luke 21:17

"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him,
 then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’" -- Matthew 25:31-34

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