Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 15, 1961

From A Preacher's Note - Book

James W. Adams, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

"Busy Trifling"

Phillip Doddridge quotes the learned Grotius, great Bible scholar of another generation, as saying on his dying bed, "I have lost a life in busy trifling." Learning is worthless if it fails to teach men to live. Even Bible learning is not an end within itself. It is a means to an end. Its pursuit and attainment are "trifles" if they are not practically applied in the great purpose for which the Son of God was manifested and for which he died upon the cross; namely, seeking and saving the lost." (Lk. 19:10)

So many of us these days are so very busy, yet often we are but agitated by "busy trifling." In reference to this fault, we are reminded of a parable which one of God's prophets related to King Ahab to rebuke him for letting Benhadad, the Syrian King, whom God had appointed to destruction and delivered in Ahab's hands for this purpose, escape. The prophet told of a soldier into whose hands a prisoner had been delivered. The soldier was charged to keep the prisoner or lose his life or pay a talent of silver. However, the soldier became "busy here and there" and let the prisoner escape. King Ahab was asked what should be done with the soldier. He answered that judgment should be as had been decreed. The prophet then told Ahab that he was the soldier of the parable and was by the Lord appointed to destruction for his sin. In the judgment of the last day, multitudes will be lost because they have been "busy here and there" and failed to do the Lord's will, their souls eternally lost because of "busy trifling."

"Pride Of Life"

The avenue of temptation suggested by the title of this article has been, through the ages, the most potent of all approaches to the human heart used by Satan. Our first parents successfully resisted the "lust of the eye" and "the lust of the flesh" only to be conquered by the "pride of life." The appeal of the statement, "God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3: 5) was irresistible.

The Encyclopedia of Prose Illustrations tells of a time when "the spirit of suicide became an epidemic among the girls of Milesia. Neither prayers nor tears of friends availed anything, and they died daily by their own hands. At last a council sent forth an edict that every girl that laid violent hands on herself should, dead as she was, be carried naked along the market place. The edict had its desired effect." Though not afraid of death, the pride of these young women made it impossible for them to stand the thought of their naked bodies being thus displayed.

When we read this, we were made to think of a condition that obtains among the churches of our day. When the proponents of institutionalism and centralized control and oversight saw a few years past that, unless something drastic was done, a great portion of brethren and churches would be taught the truth on the unscripturalness of these practices, they instituted a "quarantine" movement armed with the carnal weapons of mob psychology, political pressure, appeal to prejudice, pride, and position, and stigmata What could not be accomplished through an appeal to the truth (for truth was not on their side), they were reasonably successful in -accomplishing though their carnal devices. Preachers began to crowd the confessional box of the "Bishop of Nashville, the Gospel Advocate, and churches which had never been known to hear the cry of the widow, the orphan, or the naked, or to be moved with compassion relative to the state of the lost of the earth or with zeal for the-fulfillment of the principles of the great commission, suddenly began to send a few paltry dollars to some Benevolent Institution or the Herald of Truth and to report in the papers of the brethren, We are not "ANTI!" Whereas the Lord knows and everybody else knows that they had never been PRO anything in their lives that cost them money outside of that which promoted their own selfish interests. If they had ever done anything previous to the present except meet and eat the Lord's supper on Sunday morning and have a meeting once a year by someone who would preach only that which would not disturb their equilibrium, no one had ever heard of it.

One does not mind so much being called an "ANTI" by men who are moved by deep conviction of the rightness of their "LIBERAL, PRO" position. But it is exceedingly difficult to bear with Christian patience such charges from a group of "Me-too," self-seeking preachers and a host of congregations who donate pittances to evangelism and benevolence through popular channels to prove what is regarded by the "leading" papers and institutions among the brethren as "orthodoxy," yet whose histories have been characterized by sloth, indifference, worldliness, and selfishness.

We wonder about the future of our so-called "liberal" brethren and churches when there is so much of this spirit among them It might well be that the virus of carnality Which they have employed to win a doubtful victory in the present skirmish will ultimately be the means of their own destruction. We think .we see signs of this turn of affairs in the crying that is now beginning to be heard about the problem of "church support of the colleges" and the turn that the much publicized, "teenage apostle," brother Pat Boone, has taken. Brethren who went along h the worldly, materialistic effort to publicize the Lord's church through worldly notoriety of a rock-and-roll singer, now "weep" in their bulletins because-he has embarrassed them with a turn he taken to worldliness. They are further agitated because TIME MAGAZINE has taken advantage of the situation to "hit them where it hurts. Where were these brethren when many of us were being castigated for our opposition to such worldly publicizing of the church of God? May we respectfully suggest to these brethren who are now critical of brother Boone that theirs is the greater fault. If they had respected the fact that the "gospel is God's power to save" and not the worldly reputation of some of the people who may from time to time be found in the membership of the churches, they would not be found in such a difficult and embarrassing situation. Is it their "pride" or their "convictions" that is now giving them trouble? Do they fear spiritual death yet utterly rebel at being exposed "naked" in the columns of TIME? Methinks, as the Lord used heathen kings to punish defecting Israel (He hissed for the fly of Egypt and the bee of Assyria." Isa. 7:18), He might well use TIME now to afflict his digressing churches.

"Splendid Faith"

"Faith is never so splendid as when it looks at the worst it can encounter and then, refusing to be overwhelmed and to quit, gets to work, clear-sightedly, responsibly, here and now where this day we stand." (Ethical Outlook, Editorial, via Nuggets)

This is an excellent statement, and one that brethren might well ponder in the battle for truth now going on among the churches of Christ. All effort must begin from where we are, not from where we wish we were. We must deal with things as they are, not as we wish they were. We must refuse to be overwhelmed by odds, power, money, or influence. Yet, a negative dogmatism and a pugnacious militancy are not enough. Real faith is ever "clear-sighted" and "responsible." It knows where it is going and why. It always counts the cost and measures the consequences of its actions. It is ever characterized by direction and purpose emanating from and based upon divine truth. In any battle for truth, irresponsibility and purposeless and directionless belligerency are always destructive and chaotic in their tendency.

Attitude Toward The Word Of The Lord

Practically all the difficulties in religion in our day could be settled by a proper attitude toward the word of the Lord. The Wise Man said hundreds of years before Christ, "Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded." (Proverbs 13:13) More may have been intended by this statement than the word of the Lord, yet it certainly is inclusive of, and perhaps primarily applicable to the Lord's word.

"Despiseth the word" and "feareth the commandment" are antithetical qualities or attitudes. The word "fear" means to respect, to revere, to regard with awe. The word "despiseth" as used by the inspired writer would mean, therefore, the very opposite. To despise the word of God, then, is to be lacking in respect for its authority, to fail to revere its precepts and its institutions.

We live in a day when orthodoxy is scorned and meticulous fidelity to the word of the Lord, its laws and institutions is branded as "anti-ism" and "legalism." Yet, from the first of Genesis to the last of Revelation the attitude of absolute fidelity and unwavering devotion to Divine truth is that which is most frequently discussed. God's first commandment to man involved him in the responsibility of absolute devotion to a positive precept of the Lord's word. Mother Eve, and through her, Father Adam, was deceived and led into sin when she permitted the Devil's logic to cause her to rationalize with reference to God's commandment. Human wisdom and logic suggested the eating of the forbidden fruit. God's commandment forbade it. She "despised" God's word and "feared not the commandment." She ate of the forbidden fruit and gave to her husband and he did eat. Cain and Abel constitute a personification of these antithetical attitudes. Abel feared the commandment of Jehovah and offered of his flock. Cain despised God's word and offered of his field. Abel's offering was accepted of God. Cain's offering was rejected. Thus does the word of God begin. Then in the last book of Inspiration, Revelation, we are solemnly warned; "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book. If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Rev. 22:18, 19)

If meticulous fidelity to the word of the Lord is "anti-ism" and "legalism," then the God of heaven requires that his people be both "antis" and "legalists." God forbid that I should despise what God honors!