Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 31, 1967
NUMBER 17, PAGE 3b-5

Dangers Facing The Church

Wm. C. Sexton

There are today, and has always been, problems facing each congregation of the Lord's people. Some problems are peculiar to each particular congregation, while some are wide-spread.

There are at least two problems, it seems to me, related to dangers facing the church - the called out people of God. They are: (1) Complacency - ignorance of what is going on; failing to recognize any danger, due to lack of concern. Each person should be on guard, because no one likes trouble, thus he is likely, due to wishful thinking, to disregard that which is injurious as of no significance. (2) Over-reaction: becoming so disturbed and upset by happenings till he gives up - quits, or gives in - submits to that which is not right for the sake of peace.

I would like to call your attention to some points drawn from the fare-well message of Paul to the Ephesian elders, in Acts 20:28-38. I'll not quote the passage here, but trust that if you are not familiar with the passage, that you will read it. I draw the following from the great message, and set them forth here for your consideration:

1. The danger in OBSERVING: "Take heed therefore," said Paul, "unto yourselves, and to all the flock...." V.28. Here was a two-fold observation: to selves and the flock. True, this was given to the elders, but other passages teach that the same duty rest upon each child of God. (Cf. II Cor. 13:5; I Cor. 11:28) I am not saying that each christian has the same duty as elders, the point - each christian is to watch for himself, and others. Timothy was told to observe his conduct and doctrine, (I Tim. 4:16).

At times men are prone to be very particular about one aspect of their duty, yet negligent with regard to another aspect. Doctrine, to some is the all important matter, but life, conduct, is passed over lightly. Or, some are concerned about SELF yet make practically no effort at all to correct and encourage his FELLOW-MAN who is going astray. Or, perhaps a more prevalent practice - seeking to correct a fault in others and overlooking one of the same magnitude in self.

A warning that is issued many times from the pages of inspiration, is to "take heed" to the TEACHER. All are taught by someone, and perhaps by many in various ways. Jesus, near the end of His personal ministry said, "Take heed that no man deceive you." (Matt. 24:4) Peter left the following warning: "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness." (II Pet. 3:17) Paul left us an example of one enlightened brother, acting so as to keep his brethren from being deceived by a false teacher. (Gal. 2:5.)

As we observe, may we have eyes that see, and ears that hear and hearts that understand; let us be good observers. The Lord instructs us to be, our eternal welfare depends on it. May we be aware of the many inclinations that cause us to see that which we desire to see, rather than that which is really out there.

II. The danger of REMEMBERING: All, at times, forget! Who hasn't? Paul said, "watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears." One needs, first of all, to "... remember... the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ..." (Jude 17) Each person needs to have God's word "hid" in his "heart" that he "might not sin against" him. (Cf. Psa. 119:11.)

Second, each person needs to remember the warnings that false teachers would come. Paul said that alter his departing some would "enter" the flock with the aim of devouring it, as "wolves." Even from among the elders, some would "arise" from within. Their aim - to "draw away disciples after them," to gain followers. Their method: "speaking perverse things..." Vs. 28-30.

Paul says that these teachers would come; history reveals that they did come. We need to be convinced that such are here now, and shall continue to be. Thus the danger - the need to remember!!!!

It seems evident to me that we have these two classes among the people of God today. Some come in unconverted - they hold to much of their denominational ideas, and/or the ideology of the world. They have never really conceived the Lord's wisdom; they have only been impressed with some aspect of the Lord's people, and have perhaps joined them. They have a desire to change many things in the Lord's church; it is clear that they are trying to impress, to gain attention; they are trying to out do others. Then there are some who have arisen, who at one time was humbly feeding the flock of God, but now they are competing with the "Big Boys" for a place among the "Great."

We need to remember the Lord's will; be aware of it, and meditate on it. Letting it "dwell" in our hearts richly, it will not be hard at all to see the evil in these big projects advanced by "big" men in the "Church of Christ."

Following this article, I would like to call attention to some things among us, examine them in the light of the scripture. We hope that you will give them a serious study, then if we are wrong, in the spirit of Christ correct us. We promise to consider seriously any attempt to refute what we say.

Remember that we are to defend the truth, contend earnestly for the faith. Remember the true nature and condition of those who go beyond the "doctrine of Christ." (II John 9-10.)

III. The danger in REFUELING: A car needs to be refueled after it has been driven; the body needs food after we have used up the energy supplied by the food. Christians who work in the kingdom of the Lord, and fights the "good fight of faith," needs to be refueled, too.

Paul says, "I commend you to God, and the word of his grace, which is able to build you up..." V. 32. We need to go to God the Father often in prayer; we need to meditate on His word daily; our faith in Him will increase steadily if we'll properly consider His work and plan. If we fail to go to Him daily; if we fail to go to the source of strength - we'll become sick, weak, and finally die spiritually.

Talking and visiting faithful Christians can help to refuel the exhausted soldier of Christ. May we see the need to be refueled, understood how it is done, recognize the supply, and go to it often enough.

IV. The danger of Evaluating: Paul showed them how they should support the "weak," and how Christ said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." V.35. We need to ever keep on doing good, being busy, and being mindful of the contribution. Assisting others is more blessed than being assisted; if we are busy, we'll not have time to get discouraged. There is a danger, I suggest, of becoming self-centered, and thinking "I am not receiving as I should," and forgetting the blessedness of being able to "give." Let us see the value of what we are doing, and keep on doing it, making our contribution.

V. The danger in EXPRESSING: When one has spent several years teaching the word of the Lord, and finds some whom he has taught turn their back on him, mistreat him, etc., there is a danger of one being hardened. Let each of us place ourselves in Paul's shoes - remember what he had gone through, what was waiting for him at Jerusalem. Notice how tender his heart was, and the brethren's also. "And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all, and they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship." Vs. 36-38. We need to have a tender heart for our brethren. We need to express that affection for them. As we fail to express, we lose some of the fervor of our affection; the intensity decreases. As the coals burn colder, the light grows dimmer, the hardening process sets in.

These five points to some may seem so obvious they'll give them little attention: to others, they may seem so "far out" they'll see no connection. I hope that they may stir some to: Watch - observe; to think - remember; to feel their need to take in as they give out - refuel; to understand the value of their contribution, and thus contribute what they can; and feel their affection for their brethren and express it. If we can make someone aware of the dangers/or prepare for the future, we will have accomplished our purpose. Look up, look around, look down. Look for more.

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