The Christian faith is anything but a girlie faith. It is not for the faint of heart nor for woosies. It is strong stuff for strong people. It makes hard demands and expects firm responses. If you want to live a careless, comfortable and carefree life, then the Christian faith is not for you.
Sissies are not the stuff of Christian disciples; hardened soldiers are. That is because the Christian life is everywhere in the New Testament depicted as a life of warfare, of hardship, and of sacrifice. This is not the stuff of the casual inquirer or the weekend tourist. This is the stuff of steeled soldiers, of courageous commandoes, and of brave battlers.
Spineless wonders and delicate girlie men need not apply. Indeed, they would not make it past the first week of biblical boot camp. The follower of Christ renounces a life of ease, of comfort and of residence on easy street. As John Milton put it in Paradise Lost: “Long is the way / And hard, that out of hell leads up to light.”
Or as Jesus put it in Matthew 7:14, “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life.” So forget the gospel of comfort and ease, and prepare for a gospel of commitment, hardship, dedication and difficulty. For there is no other gospel path.
I say all this because my daily reading has taken me to some more hard words – words which most of our Christian dandelions of today do not want to hear. There are strong words which go against the flow of a cross-less Christianity and a “your best life now” bowl of mush.
In 2 John we read some very harsh words about the faith that we must adhere to, and how those who deviate from it must be shunned at all costs. Here is what we find in verses 7-11:
I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.
Here we find several vitally important truths:
-sound teaching, especially about the person of Christ, is imperative
-we must have nothing to do with those who deny core Christian truths
All of this is almost completely absent in so many churches today. It is all about lurve baby. As long as we embrace everyone and everything, including every aberrant and false teaching, we are being so full of lurve. And that is all that matters. Forget about doctrine, about theology, about sound teaching. Let’s just all have a big love-in and try to happily get along.
The early church knew nothing about such sickly, sentimental, syrupy sap. They knew with concrete conviction that the truth matters, and that false teaching about Jesus destroys everything. If we get our doctrine of Christ wrong, we get everything wrong.
John Stott in his commentary on the Epistles of John puts it this way:
Many today want God without Jesus Christ. They say they believe in God, but see no necessity for Jesus. Or they want to bring non-Christian religions on to a level with Christianity, as alternative roads to God. Such errors must be strenuously resisted. In this the Christian is conservative, not progressive, seeking to ‘abide’ in the doctrine of Christ, not to ‘advance’ beyond it….
Christian faith is rooted in the historical events of the incarnation and the atonement, the revelation and redemption which were finished in Christ. To advance beyond Christ is ‘not progress but apostasy’ (Plummer), not enlightenment, but darkness. More than that. The Christian seeks to abide not only in Christ but in the doctrine of Christ….
The Christian’s development is not progress beyond Christ’s teaching, whether direct or through the apostles as recorded in the New Testament, but a progressive understanding of it.
Or as John Montgomery Boice said:
There is a true progress in the Christian life, but it is progress based upon a deeper knowledge of the historical, biblical Christ. Progress on any other ground may be called progress, but it is a progress that leaves God behind and is, therefore, not progress at all. This truth is extremely relevant to today’s religious scene, for the danger today is in precisely this area. The danger is not so much in secularism, still less in communism or any other obviously anti-Christian system. The danger is in that which goes by the name of Christianity but which excludes the true Christ. It is in religion without the true God and that one mediator between God and man, even the God-man, Christ Jesus.
Absolutely. But the idea that doctrine matters and truth must prevail is all but lost on so many namby-pamby believers today. And if that is lost, so too is the very notion of actually excluding those who peddle falsehoods and deception. The idea that we should actually give the boot to these false teachers would give today’s girlie men Christians a real bad hair day.
I can already hear these sissies moaning and complaining: “What?! Kick them out? Exclude them? Have nothing to do with them? John, how can you be so unloving and exclusive and judgmental? We must love and accept everyone.” Stott again speaks directly to this:
But are we to suppose that John was divided against himself? This instruction is given by the apostle of love immediately following an exhortation to love (6). Did John first insist on the commandment of love then immediately break it himself? Besides, we are not ‘at liberty to set aside direct ethical injunctions of the Lord’s Apostles in this manner’ (Alford).
And the idea of not having fellowship with false teachers or unrepentant brethren is of course taught throughout the New Testament. We just like to ignore such passages, or pretend that they are for an ‘earlier, harsher time’. Here are just some of the strong words on such biblical separation and expulsion:
-Romans 16:17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.
-1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
-2 Thessalonians 3:6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us
-2 Thessalonians 3:14 Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed.
-2 Timothy 3:1-5 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
-Titus 3:9-10 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.
Of course the aim of all church discipline, including excommunication, is to restore the wayward brother, if possible. But until repentance and a changed life or corrected teaching is in evidence, this exclusion zone must stand. It is not unloving at all to do this.
Indeed, it is the height of Christian love to prevent dangerous doctrines from contaminating the whole body, and it is most loving to expel the errant brother until he returns to right living and right doctrine. To not do so is to indicate a lack of love and concern, not only for the wayward brother, but for the very truth of God.
In an age of sissified Christianity, it is time to go back to the Bible. There we find stern words, hard words, strong words, words of rebuke, and words of correction. But they are vitally important words – words which we all desperately need to hear.
Give me a masculine Christianity any day of the week to the sissy faith we see on display all throughout the West. A girlie man faith will save no one. But a solidly biblical one will. I know which one I will run with.