Collapse of Conviction

It’s been said that if Jesus isn’t revered as Lord of all—both individually and corporately—then He isn’t honored as Lord at all. Compromising His lordship and the truth of God’s Word to the allure of the world and its political correctness has never been the way of the true Christ follower.

Yet all of human history, from biblical times to now, has been fraught with the peril that comes when believers fall out of allegiance to their first love, thereby inviting grave consequences.

It’s now happening at “tragically epidemic” proportions, says Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, 2008 presidential candidate and now a Fox News political commentator.

“I’m stunned by the preponderance of white surrender flags flying from churches, pulpits and once decidedly biblically based organizations and businesses,” Huckabee said. “Increasing numbers of believers would rather surrender than stand. We want to be ‘accepted’ and ‘included’ by the cultural elites.

“The result is a collapse of conviction. Even worse is the rationale and justification. The consequences are fairly straightforward and simple—‘if the salt has lost its savor, it’s useless.’”

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said it’s important to learn from the church’s past examples of faithfulness and failure, especially now with biblical values and religious liberties under ferocious attack.

“This is a day in which Christians are facing increased pressure from every conceivable source,” Mohler said. “The pressure regarding crucial issues is now so powerful that we’re seeing Christians as individuals as well as denominations, churches and institutions tempted to compromise what should never be compromised.”

Christians witnessed a watershed event in late March when World Vision U.S., a prominent evangelical missions organization, changed its hiring policies to permit employees to be in same-sex marriages. The organization reversed the decision two days later amid an outcry by supporters and evangelical leaders, including BGEA president Franklin Graham.

When the news first broke, Mohler said the church suffered “something akin to a heart attack.”

World Vision first said the move was made in the name of unity, only to later recant and acknowledge that it had the opposite effect.

“Embracing sin divides us,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “It’s the Word of God that unites us and separates us from the world.”

Words like unity, love, acceptance and forgiveness are being widely used these days out of biblical context in an attempt to rationalize positions that defy Scripture.

“Those are words without which we can’t understand God’s purposes in His church and what He accomplishes for us in Christ,” Mohler said. “But those words can be turned on their head and become misleading in a deadly way. Every one of those words can be twisted to mean something that doesn’t point to the Gospel, but rather undermines it.

George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, said the responsibility of those willing to speak out is to examine themselves first, in light of Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 7:3 for believers to remove the plank from their own eye before pointing out the speck in someone else’s eye.

“Some people might say we should simply stop rendering moral judgments about others, but that’s not the answer Jesus offered,” Wood said. “Evangelicals are called first to repent of our own compromises and then to call on others to repent of theirs. What we can’t do is think we’re sinless. That’s the essence of spiritual self-delusion.”

Arguably the prevailing issue facing the church today is the homosexual, same-sex marriage agenda, which directly assaults the family and the biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

Some denominations have so abandoned biblical standards on the matter that they ordain gay clergy, feeding a societal notion that Christians can habitually remain in active homosexual relationships without consequence.

Evangelicals who don’t compromise Scriptural principles on morality are accused, both in secular and religious circles, of over-emphasizing the topic and being hateful.

But Mohler and Perkins say they and other Christian leaders are merely responding to an issue they didn’t initiate.

“I’m reminded of the great reformer, Martin Luther, who made it very clear that it is our responsibility to defend that which the world is explicitly rejecting,” Mohler said. “It’s unfair and almost irrational to blame evangelical Christians for having to talk about homosexuality. We’re not starting the conversation, but faithfulness requires us to join it.”

Relenting isn’t an option, said Perkins.

“We didn’t choose this fight,” he said. “I don’t relish talking about it, but we cannot shrink back from the very thing that is under attack today. Marriage is an institution created by God in the very beginning and was chosen to reflect the sacred relationship between Christ and the church.”

Perkins said timid avoidance of controversial issues leads to deepening compromise.

“The first step is going silent on key issues, then the next thing is you begin to see something adopted as OK in the church,” said Perkins. “What one generation tolerates, the next will celebrate. That’s what we’re seeing happen.

“Once we grow silent on the truth, we entertain alternatives to it, and it leads us down the wrong path. I’ve seen pastors who want to be relevant to the culture and who elevate that over God’s call to righteousness. Then it begins to spread to other areas.”

The Bible is packed with examples of compromise and rebellion—such as the fall in the Garden of Eden, David taking a census that God forbade, Samson falling prey to Delilah’s influence, the deceptive greed of Ananias and Sapphira, and the failures Jesus cited among the churches in Revelation 2-3.

Over the years, segments of the church have been either lax or anti-biblical on issues like slavery, racial segregation, abortion and essential doctrines of the Gospel. In the 1940s, the German church collapsed under the influence of Adolph Hitler’s Nazi regime.

“The consequences are deadly,” Mohler said. “We become a stumbling block to the Gospel. I can’t think of a more severe indictment of any church or any Christian than that.”

What is desperately lacking is fear of the Lord—the practice of holding God in such reverence and awe that it becomes unthinkable to seek the approval of people over following His ways.

“You cannot have true reverence for God and have the capacity to fear man—or vice versa,” Perkins said. “We have lost that sense of the call to holiness and the sacrifice that Christ made for us to be holy and blameless before God.”

Wood said Christians must be prepared and content to stand firm regardless of the reactions they receive from others.

“Sometimes the crowds will commend us, other times they’ll crucify us,” he said. “Either way, we need to remain faithful and do the right thing.”

It’s time for the kind of radical abandonment to Christ that compelled the Apostle Paul to declare that everything else he valued in life was rubbish by comparison (Philippians 3:8) and that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Modern-day believers should have that same perspective, especially in light of eternity.

“I’m on earth temporarily, so the worst the world can do is shun me, punish me or kill me,” said Huckabee. “In 100 years, it won’t matter. What will matter is if I was faithful to God’s Word.” ©2014 BGEA
Bible verses are taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers, Nashville, Tenn.