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An open letter at a difficult time
At this difficult and distressing time within the body of Christ in Scotland it is good to remember in prayer those who are undergoing trial and upset.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
There are a great number of believers within the denomination, and others beyond, who are hurting and upset over the events of last weekend at the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly.
Within Scotland we have seen the national Church effectively turn away from God’s Truth on an issue which lies at the heart of the humanist (agenda’s) assault on the very existence of a creator God. And many fine believers within the national church are pondering their future.
In 1843 at the time of the last major disruption (ironically this was partly to do with the need to defend the right of local congregation to call their own ministers) approximately one third of the leaders and members left to form the Free Church of Scotland.
Others - who shared the concern -stayed behind in the denomination for one reason or another: perhaps to work for reform from within; perhaps through fear of stepping out into the unknown. (No one will ever know how each and every individual was led.)
But what was particularly sad about the Assembly’s recent decisions was the fact that a significant number seemed to place unity and harmony above God’s truth on the issue under discussion. It would not have been quite so bad if it was an unthinking loyalty to the denomination; but it didn’t seem to be that, although that might also have been an underlying factor. It seemed the ‘prize’ was an avoidance of upset rather than the preservation of Truth.
Be led by the Spirit
Having said all that, the dilemma for Church of Scotland folk at all levels now will be whether to stay or to leave the denomination; and for each person that will be no easy decision. In fact it is not a decision that should be taken in human terms: a list of ‘pros and cons’ just does not figure in God’s economy. And the last time that Jesus’ disciples drew lots was prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. From that point on Christ’s followers became ‘Spirit-led’. And no less should we be today.
Many years ago a young man was being encouraged by good friends to train for the ordained ministry when the inner witness of the Spirit said otherwise. One bit of excellent advice he received from a serving minister was: ‘Be very careful regarding whatever you do and wherever you go, that you are sure it is God’s will for you - because there will come times when that (assurance) will be the only thing that will keep you going.’ How much he has since found that to be true.
Avoid the pitfalls
But we are human and often insecure creatures; and when faced with having to choose on a particular matter, most of us (having come to a point of decision) then go on to defend our actions (if only sometimes to ourselves) with an apparently unassailable rationale: whether it’s in the purchase of a house, choice of a car or a new dress we can list a host of reasons why we made the best choice. (Humans are capable of developing a logic for any and every course of action including the Holocaust, South African apartheid and membership of the Klu Klux Klan.)
And the more significant and important the issue, the stronger are the arguments we are capable of developing to support our choice(s).
For Bible-believers in a two-way ‘either stay or go’ situation this therefore has the tendency to create a bi-polar division, with each side being absolutely convinced (by the aforementioned and respective assembled list of reasons) that ‘our way is right’. And accordingly and by default, the alternative is ‘wrong’. That’s when relationships start to suffer; and that surely needs to be avoided.
Live in freedom
Whatever we do we should not end up (a) accommodating compromise and/or (b) questioning our actions retrospectively at a future date. (Life, as someone said, is lived forward and understood backwards.)
In terms of choices there are many forms of church that have evolved over recent years: what is important is for believers to be in close fellowship with others in their locality and in their weekly orbit. In the Bible the word which is translated ‘church’ refers to a group of people, and never refers to a building or organisation. (Read the last 6 verses of Acts chapter 2.)
So at the end of the day each person has to be led by the Spirit, and allow other brothers or sisters who feel led in a different path that freedom under God and in obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit to make a different choice.
Days of 'shaking' and 'sudden'..
But one thing that I am sure of is that we are in days of ‘shaking’ and also (as one preacher commented – prophetically – in a meeting in Birmingham in 2006) in days of ‘sudden’. (Think of all that has happened in the last 12 months; and now quickly it happened.)
..but we are assured
In all things we thank God that our security and our poise are in and based on that solid rock which is faith in Jesus Christ.
The ‘shaking’ has a purpose: it is to allow that which cannot be shaken to remain. (Heb 12:27) And what will remain will have been refined, and will be more fit to be part of the spotless bride of Christ.
So let us fix our eyes upon Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the cross set before him, endured the cross despising its shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2).
Yours in His unshakeable and matchless grace,
your brother in the faith,