If you’re old enough and you’ve watched enough television, you’ll remember this popular show from the Eighties. The show was about a police department in a large unnamed metropolitan city. The show was called Hill Street Blues. Every week the show began with the officers gathered for “roll call” as they were given their assignments and updates just prior to going out on the streets. Roll call was conducted by Sergeant Phil Esterhaus and just as the officers were dismissed, Sergeant Esterhaus would always add these words, “Hey, let’s be careful out there!” Jesus loves us. Jesus forgives us. Jesus cares for us, provides for us, protects us, and commissions us to take His Gospel out into the uttermost parts of the world (Matthew 28:18-20). We call His command to share the message of the Gospel “the Great Commission.” All of you, and me have been called, commanded, and commissioned by the Risen, Living, and Reigning Christ to share His good news with a world dead in transgressions and sins. Jesus knows that the job He has given you is not easy. It’s hard. It’s difficult and at times, it’s dangerous! Yet, that does not excuse us from His command. Jesus knows these things and that is why He said, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). In other words, Jesus is saying to you and me, “Hey, let’s be careful out there!” So, here’s our first word of instruction – Never compromise the truth. Last month we looked at the idea of truth. In last month’s pastor’s article we were reminded that only God’s truth is “true truth”. We live in a day when truth is defined not by an absolute but by a relative standard. Some have even said, “Well, I’m glad that is true for you and works for you but it’s not for me.” In other words, today’s humanistic culture simply does not embrace anything near the concept of absolute truth. Everything is up for grabs. Churches that once stood at the bastions of historic and orthodox truth have now compromised the unchanging truth of God’s Holy Word for a watered-down, anemic, false gospel that is, as Paul wrote, “no gospel at all” (Galatians 1:6-9). This is why I love Paul’s words in Galatians 4:16, “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” With those very words the apostle illustrates for you and me the essence of our calling and why we need “to be careful out there.” Every day we enter this world we will encounter a culture that is anything but friendly to the truth of God. When we encounter some confessing Christians, we will find some who have embraced a false gospel. There are plenty of “churches” in our day that have departed from God’s truth and deceived their followers, but we should not be surprised. Paul wrote about those who turned from the truth of God’s Word, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (I Timothy 4:1). Paul was not alone. John, the beloved disciple, wrote, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (I John 2:19). Even Jesus warned us about the reality and power of falsehood when He said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). When the late William F. Buckley founded the magazine National Review, he said that a conservative stands athwart history yelling, “Stop!” at a time when no one is inclined to do so. As Christians we do that too. We stand upon thousands of years of history (“His Story”), the record of God’s revealed truth given to man. This truth, God’s truth, has been tested and tried and it has stood the test of time and it must be spoken. We need to go out into the world as Jesus commanded and we must never compromise His truth. There is also something else we need to know as we seek to obey the commission given to us by our Saviour. We must never assume! That’s right, never assume anything. For example, Jesus had a group of disciples who assumed bad things of others. We find the story in John 9. One day the disciples and Jesus passed a blind man on the street. The man had been blind since birth. One of the followers of Jesus ask, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” You see, the disciples were assuming the man’s blindness was God’s punishment for someone’s sin, either the man sin or his parents’ sin. But Jesus told His followers that their assumption was wrong. Jesus said this man was born blind so that “the works of God might be displayed” in his life (John 9:2-3). We have our assumptions too, don’t we? We too often assume that we aren’t qualified to share the Gospel. We assume no one would ever listen to us. We assume that we don’t have the knowledge, the wisdom, the education, the ability, the power, or the experience to share the Gospel. So, we don’t! Rev. Dr. Steve Brown wrote. “People really are people, whether they are Christian people or not. Everybody has a story, every angry person has a reason for his or her anger, and everybody is needy … I am not much of a people person. An elder in a church I once served told me that I was the only preacher he knew who did not want to know his neighbors and just wanted to be left alone. He suggested that I, at least, learn my neighbors’ names. I took his advice and was quite surprised. I discovered that many of my neighbors were curious about my faith and wanted to talk with me about it. I found out that some of there were really hungry for truth and were not offended by it. I discovered that many of my neighbors were just waiting for someone to say something. From experience, let me suggest that you get to know your neighbors. You might be surprised too!” So, what can we learn? We can learn that above everything, God’s truth is absolute truth. It has stood the test of time. Men and women and even children have given their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Today, we have the truth of God’s Word because they refused to compromise even to the point of death. We learn that we cannot compromise God’s truth. We also can learn that we should never assume. We should not make assumptions about others or ourselves. As Jesus said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). God’s peace! Pastor Jim

Hey, Let’s Be Careful Out There!

Pastor’s Article for September

 

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