I am concerned that when I write with my heart touched by the sinful ways in which supposed Christians deal with their fellow believers, as I do now, that I do not create the impression that I believe I am above such things. I know that I am a sinner, who in times of carelessness, will sin, and can only cry with Paul, "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" I am very conscious that when I point my finger at someone, I have three times as many fingers pointing at myself!
As we approach this weekend in which we are reminded of both the cost and the joy of the freedom Paul mentions, I am finding myself thinking about the picture of Christ and His people being painted by those who claim the name "Christian", especially those in leadership (??).
I read about the battles going on in conservative churches in the USA, and in Australia, as well as other parts of the world, and I'm forced to ask myself whether I would want to bring a new child of God into such situations, especially when the battles being fought are not about doctrinal purity, or Biblical practice, but rather about power and control. Often one is forced to wonder how many who claim to be "Christians" in leadership are really Diotrephes reincarnate.
However little we know about Diotrephes, we at least know that "he loves to be first among them" (3 John 1:9). As Mr. Strong puts it, "he was ambitious for distinction". Quite the contrary of the One who such people would claim to be Master and Lord.
I cannot help but wonder about, what appears to be many, who have often been "converted" under a system of Easy Believism, and in the light of their behaviour, drawn to ask questions and consider what Thomas Shepard wrote in the Introduction to his book, "The Sincere Convert".
"The knowledge of divinity is necessary for all sorts of men- both to settle and establish the good, and to convert and fetch in the bad. God’s principles pull down Satan’s false principles set up in man’s head, loved and believed with men’s hearts, and defended by their tongues. Whilst strongholds remain unshaken, the Lord Jesus is kept off from conquering the soul.
Now, spiritual truths are either such as tend to enlarge the understanding, or such as may work chiefly upon the affections. I pass by (in this knowing age) the first of these, and, being among a people whose hearts are hard enough, I begin with the latter sort; for the understanding, although it may literally, yet it never savingly, entertains any truth, until the affections be herewith smitten and wrought upon.
I shall, therefore, here prosecute the unfolding of these divine principles:-
First, that there is one most glorious God.
Secondly, that this God made all mankind at first in Adam in a most glorious estate.
Fourthly, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only means of redemption of this estate.
Fifthly, that those that are saved out of this woeful estate by Christ are very few, and that these few are saved with much difficulty.
Sixthly, that the greatest cause why so many die and perish in this estate is from themselves: either,-
1. By reason of their bloody ignorance, they know not their misery; or,-
2. By reason of their carnal security, they feel not, they groan not under their sin and misery.
3. By reason of their carnal confidence, they seek to help themselves out of their misery by their own duties, when they see or feel it; or,-
4. By reason of their false faith, whereby they catch hold upon, and trust unto, the merits of Christ too soon, when they see and feel they cannot help themselves. "
Shepard's subtitle was "Discovering the Small Number of True Believers".