It is difficult to keep one's thinking truly undenominational. Proud, carnal attitudes constantly make their way into spiritual affairs. The sources of jealousy and strife today are the same carnal attitudes that plagued the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 3:1-5).
I think few people have complained more about the mental and spiritual shortcomings of modern churches of Christ that I have. I intend to continue to do just that. We must guard against party factions, against denominational conceptualizations, against becoming simply another sect. The concept of undenominational Christianity must be treasured by us and taught to the world. But…
But I am troubled. Sometimes I am troubled when I hear others criticize (or admonish) because I wonder if our motives are the same and I wonder if our solutions are the same. I reprove my brethren because I love them, not because I find them unattractive. I am concerned about the inadequacies in churches of Christ because I consider them to be precisely that — churches of Christ, the hope of the world.
It seems to me that many of the young critics of the church today proceed on an entirely different set of assumption. Their criticisms do not reflect an intrinsic love and respect for simple faith but rather a personal revulsion against simplicity of faith and against simple people. Their call for a deeper individual commitment to godliness comes off sounding like a rejection of literal obedience and the acceptance of authority. I feel I am being faced again with the ancient liberal choice of being either right or righteous.
In short, I sometimes hear young men saying the same things that I think need saying — but our thoughts lead us to act in different ways. I like simple plain preaching done by a corn-fed Alabama preacher (even at the risk of a passage being taken out of context). They like the evangelical scholars (few having attained the elevated intellectual status of appreciating sophisticated liberal scholarship) and yearn for their fellowship. I like conservative churches, even though some in them are contentious, and some do not understand undenominational Christianity (by the way, I think that most do). They find the spirit much sweeter in liberal
churches, even in denominational churches, though they often are less than frank in saying so. (And is it possible to imagine that one would find an understanding of undenominational religion here). The differences between us are profound in act if not in word. I believe their actions reflect serious misunderstandings about the nature of the church of the Lord, about the quality of those who hold that faith today, and about the quality of religion in the sectarian world.
One final point — BE HONEST! I have no respect for a man who hides his convictions behind rhetoric. If one believes that the churches of Christ in this country are the Lord's people in our time, fighting his battles, being faithful to his patterns, then let's try to build up the cause and expand the borders of the kingdom. If one believes that the "conservative churches of Christ" are an unenlightened, often bigoted, partially correct, contentious wing of the "Christian world" that one happens to be trapped in because of family or traditional loyalties, then let's get that understanding up front. I can appreciate most any one's work in the kingdom (even if it seems unenlightened to me) if I can see that he loves it. When one's affections turn to other places, then it is time to leave.
Some of the proverbial expressions not found in the Bible are nonetheless true. Truth will always plumb with all other truth; it cannot contradict itself. Take the expression “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” That’s not in the Scriptures, but I fear it’s true nonetheless. Nobody that I’ve ever heard of really wants to go to hell; and everybody I know intends to do something about not making that trip. But when? That’s the question.
“I intend to be more diligent.”Diligence is necessary to progress in spiritual living. You can’t just sit around and become spiritual. Furthermore, it doesn’t come by some process of osmosis—or just because you are in close proximity to a Bible, or to others who believe it and are involved in it. Diligence is a personal, willful action: you decide to do it. In the NKJV, 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Give diligence to present yourself approved to God.” The word translated “diligence” is from a Latin word which means to give earnest persistence to a matter. The Greek word means both an earnest zeal and a burning haste to get it done. You can’t just sit around and be still be diligent.
Peter tells us something about diligence when he uses that same term to describe what have been styled “The Christian Graces” in 2 Peter 1.
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self control, to self control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
You don’t add those things up in your mind and you’re through—it’s a life-long pursuit. And it all begins with the decision to get on with the project. That means you develop a serious conviction and a pressing urgency to the need to add all those things to your life. Intentions won’t get it; it takes work.
“I intend to get involved.”When? And what’s wrong with today? Intentions won’t get it, folks. You can only get involved when you participate with someone in something, become a part—a working part. The “someone” is other brethren and the “something” is the work you’ve decided to do together.
Paul speaks of joint participation in Romans 12:
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
We’re individuals who are melded together in the fight against sin and ungodliness. And we’re together in our common worship of the Father, in our desire to bring others to Him. We’re together, and being together takes work, patience, understanding; and it takes time. But it doesn’t just happen. It’s a planned action. Intentions don’t work, folks.
“I intend to tell somebody.”I seriously doubt that anybody is going to heaven alone. You will go with someone and you will take someone. Just as somebody loved us enough to tell us about the Lord and His salvation, it’s up to us to pass it on. Not just intend to, mind you, but to do it. Everybody intends to talk to their family, to their neighbor, but that won’t get it. You have to run the risk. And if you lose a friend over it, it’s no more than what the Lord did.
“As many as were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word” we are told in Acts 8:4. Not just the preachers, not just the elders, but “as many as were scattered.” Everybody has the responsibility to pass on the message of the risen Savior and His salvation. It may be that the great deficiency of the church in this age is the failure of its members to get involved in teaching others. Oh, they intend to. But intentions won’t get it.
And you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to teach the word. All you need is a note pad and a knowledge of the Scriptures broad enough to tell someone what you did to be saved. Following the great commission in Matthew 28:18, Jesus said, “… teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” What did He just command? “Go therefore and teach all nations,” that’s what. Maybe you intend to do it but you don’t have the ability? Then help someone else do it. Be a part. One thing is certain: it needs to be told. And intentions won’t get it done; you have to get on with it.
When it’s all said and done and you stand before the bar of judgment, can you say to the Lord, with a clear conscience, “Lord, I intended to”?