Downright simplistic, I guess. I am just now starting to realize how very naive I have been over the years. I had this very strange idea that when someone said, “Hey, I love your work, and stand with you in believing we must hold firm to the doctrines of grace, the sufficiency of Scripture, and the centrality of justification,” that that actually meant something beyond mere words. I thought it meant the person who said that (or wrote that) meant the same things by those words that I do. See, when I say those things, they mean something deep down inside. Those words reflect deep-seated convictions, beliefs so closely related to one another, so firmly intertwined, that to deny a part of them is to deny them all. I thought those who said those things agreed with me about the vital importance of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures, the nature of God’s Word as the final authority, the very voice of God. I thought they had the same kind of passion I do for the sovereignty of God, a passion based upon the plain teachings of Scripture, yes, but one that also has deep connections to every aspect of my life and ministry. And, for some odd reason, I have often said (mistakenly now, I guess!), that it is just not possible that anyone could truly see the glory of justification, the meaning of “peace” with God, the utter dependence that is mine upon the righteousness of another, the “great exchange” wherein my sin is imputed to Christ, and His righteousness, in its fullness, is imputed to me, and having seen these truths, embrace some dry husk of heresy in its place. How naive I was!
But, I have now learned my lesson. As I have watched with deep sadness the unity that once grew from a common confession of the doctrines of grace replaced by all sorts of new “isms” and viewpoints, I have come to recognize that just because someone says they believe these divine truths to be true it simply does not follow that those truths have been burned into their souls with a divine fire borne of faith. Such must be the case, for anyone willing to give up those beliefs for some new theological bauble could not possibly have had that Spirit-written dedication to what those truths mean. Even Calvinism, I guess, can be given lip service that does not reflect an inner appropriation of what it really means to see yourself as the perfectly redeemed creature dependent totally upon the sovereign mercy and grace of God in Jesus Christ. Let the Lord remove His hand of protection so as to bring judgment upon a nation or a culture, and all of a sudden you find those who had once professed such a faith running after all sorts of variations, isms, or just openly denying what they once professed. The result is exactly what a nation or culture under judgment deserves: confusion.
Ironically, as I sit here typing these words, I can think of four, maybe even five, different groups of folks—people with whom I once had various levels of communion—who will automatically assume I am referring to them. That is not only ironic, it is simply sad, since those words might well apply to a very wide variety of folks these days.
So what do you do in times like these? If these truths have become a constituent part of the very essence of your faith, you will continue in them, despite the resistance of those who once stood with you and spoke as if they would always be there. You pray God will guard your faith, guard your fellowship, lift up your elders (or lift you up, if you happen to be in the eldership of the church), and keep you faithful even if you have to “count the cost” as truth becomes ever more the minority position in a culture under the judgment of God (remember, a solid, unified, healthy, discerning church is a blessing upon a nation: and when a nation gets to the point of being so hardened, so seared in its conscience that even national tragedies do not result in any level of repentance, God’s people know judgment is being revealed from heaven).