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Saturday, February 14th 2009

10:00 AM


  "A Shameless Declaration" 

By Rev. Jeremy Griffin 

I shared with a friend the story of one of America’s most well known pastors Jonathan Edwards.  Committed to cleansing the church, Edwards took measures to discipline members of the church who were in obvious immorality.  A number of these members were some of the most powerful and influential people in the area.  Edwards speaking out against their sin, and attempting to halt such and to change the traditions of his church to be biblical led to them working to his removal.  Edward’s was fired for a commitment to preaching truth, with concern for what the scriptures said, and with the souls of the lost in mind.  To show both the character of Edwards and the people of his church, it is worth further noting that even though they disagreed with him for his stance they continued to use his services to fill the pulpit unpaid until they found a replacement.  

Edwards, with a large family of 11 children was put into hard times by his commitment to the truth and the zeal of unrighteous men to suppress that truth.  It is reported that one of his friends came to him and asked something to the effect of, “You were wronged. Won’t you fight for justice, Jonathan?”  Edwards responded something like, “No, I will leave that to God, for He will move heaven and earth, to bring a greater justice than I ever could.”  Years later, many of his former parishioners would write Edwards begging for forgiveness, a forgiveness that I believe God wrought in their hearts.  We may not all be given opportunity to see such in our lives and in our ministries, but be assured as Edwards was, that God helps you, and trusting in Him, and doing and saying what He has called you to, you shall not be put to shame! 

As each of us knows, there are great struggles in the world when it comes to fitting in.  In any social situation there is any number of things that might cause us to doubt speaking up, lest we trample some norm of our group and be considered a pariah.  We may pretend that these pressures do not affect us, but if we are all honest, the truth is we want to belong; and we do not want to be outcasts if we can instead be accepted.  As Christians, we assuredly know this feeling, what we preach and proclaim is, to the watching world, folly and a stumbling block (1 Cor. 1:23).   

However, there is a more insidious pressure upon the people of the church, and it comes not from without but from within.  It is an activity not limited to the laity or clergy, but can be present in any within the earthly ranks of the church.  It can be small and nagging, or grandiose and all consuming:  It is the suppression of the truth by the unrighteousness of men (Rom 1:18 ) .  Most of the time, when we reference this warning of Paul to the early church, we see it as being aimed at those that are outside the church.  However, I contend that Paul elaborates on this suppressive tendency in the heart of fallen man within the ranks of churchmen. The Apostle speaks to a younger pastor Timothy, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,” (2 Tim 4:3 ESV).  Jesus made clear that within the body that calls itself His church there will be false ones, and true ones, wheat and tares.  Paul continues this analogy with wolves and sheep.  There is a true Church within the visible church, and speaking to people who are steeped in the body of the church without being a member of the body of Christ, and even speaking to those in the infancy of their faith, can indeed be a terrifying thing. 

Speaking as a minister this anxiety resonates with me.  We want to belong, especially amongst our fellow church members.  There are few things as potent as that feeling of dread, as to go before a body of people gathered under the name of Christ, and to deliver words they simply do not wish to hear.  I have done this; I have prepared sermons knowing that they would breed dissention since they went against a person or against a number of people’s pet theologies.  All I could do was pray to be steely in resolve to do what and to preach what God had called me to.  As Isaiah states, “But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame,” (Isaiah 50:7 ESV) and like him, to commit to saying what God has called you to despite fear, dread, or trepidation.  Consider Isaiah for a moment:  He lived in an environment not unlike our own, surrounded by teachers minimizing God’s wrath at sin, His commitment to truth, His method of salvation for the people, and so forth.  Yet he stood, stalwart against oppressive pressure, not from enemies outside, nor the pagan hoard, nor in fear of Babylon’s monarchy, but from his own country men, his fellow prophets and religious leaders, and his own king. 

Let us meditate upon these exemplars, and let us garner a holy boldness knowing that God will be our shield and our vindication.  Likewise, as we go in life and walk in Christ’s church, let us recall with boldness such examples of God’s people who have gone before us willing to face the ridicule, or as in the case of some - martyrdom.  And we too:  If we are His remnant, His faithful, His people, those that He has set aside and His body in this world, we too must be shameless for the glory of God!

“I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.  But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame,” Isaiah 50:6-7. 

In His Service,


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