Sanctimony has an unpleasant odor about it. Self-righteous, self-aggrandizing sanctimony rooted in bitterness downright stinks. Once you run across it, it is as difficult to wash the stench from your nostrils as that of skunk, or putrid eggs, or some other hideous odor that causes one’s gag reflex to kick in.
Tragically, I know this odor all too well having run across it from time to time, and it is so off-putting that I felt compelled to write the following. As a matter of full disclosure, as I know there will be whispers to the contrary, I was not asked to write the following by anyone, at any time, and if I would have been, I likely wouldn’t have.
This weekend I attended the Hear the Watchmen conference in Dallas Texas. I was asked to speak, and even though I have a four month old and an almost four-year-old at home, I made the effort to attend because the needs of God’s people are more important than one’s own comfort. I knew it would be difficult for my wife to be left alone with both children as I traveled, but she understood the importance of this event, so she gave her consent with the caveat that I be gone no more than two days.
As I write this I am sitting in Terminal C at Dallas Fort Worth airport, waiting to catch a flight to Milwaukee, which will put me home sometime after midnight. Contrary to popular belief, I am not flying on a private jet as some like to picture all preachers, I’m flying coach, and my seat is close enough to the lavatories to wish I were a little closer to the front of the plane.
I will be missing roughly half of the speakers at the conference, and for this I am sad. What I did hear while I was there, however, was the testimony of a Messianic Jew who lost both possession and position for the sake of Christ, and who was shunned by his family and ended up living in a tent on the beach in Tel Aviv with his new wife because he refused to deny Jesus. His name is Zev Porat. He is my brother in Christ.
I also got to hear a talk by Dr. Michael Lake, caught the tail end of an enthusiastically delivered message by Carl Gallups, and was present for every minute of Coach Dave Daubenmire’s infectious call to action for the church. Somewhere in between getting fed I also delivered a message on the importance of unity within the body, and how all the tribes of Israel came together with one goal in mind: that of making David King. Without unity, we are prey. Without unity, we have no hope of combatting the darkness effectively.
I did not know why God had led me to preach this particular message, and I delivered it a day before what I am about to discuss occurred.
To top off my short jaunt to Dallas, thirty minutes after touching down, I was sitting at a table with a man who is 88 years young, and still as on fire for God as he was in his youth. His name is Henry Gruver, and although he remembers having been in our apartment in California and meeting my grandfather, I was too young to have remembered the visit.
For the thirty years I’ve been doing ministry he is one of a handful of men I’ve wanted to meet, but somehow never got a chance to. His passion for Jesus is evident to one and all, and his desire to see souls saved is what compelled him to drive from Phoenix Arizona to Dallas Texas on his own; a trying feat for a man half his age.
Throughout these two days I also saw people getting convicted, delivered, fed spiritually, challenged, and encouraged. I saw people laugh, and cry, and revel in that sense of comradery that only being around other like-minded believers can produce. I saw what the work of ministry ought to be, wherein the family of God lay aside all pretense and simply fellowshipped with each other.
On the morning of the day I was supposed to fly back home I was surprised to discover that every speaker at this conference had been branded a heretic. If I had been singled out personally, this post would not exist because I have thick skin and I’ve been called worse. However, I was there when Russ Dizdar spoke of the deliverance ministry and how much of a toll it takes on him physically. I saw the pain in his eyes, and I remember having seen the same kind of pain in my grandfather’s eyes when we traveled. I was there as brother Zev detailed being spat upon by those of his own family, and how he would have inherited a fortune had he simply signed a document stating that Jesus is not Messiah. I was there when Coach Dave spoke of standing in front of abortion clinics and having strangers hurl insults and worse. I was there when Michael Lake spoke of the hardship of leaving one’s spouse at home in an ill state so you can go minister to the people of God. I was there when Mike talked about being at the lowest point of his life, barefoot and penniless, and someone giving him a pair of sandals and a ten-dollar bill. I was there! If these men be heretics, then all I can say is that heretics will be walking the streets of heaven one day.
But see, it’s easy to be a Pharisee nowadays, and playing at being judge, jury and executioner is seductive. Rather than loving the people of God, the people of God love drama and intrigue. They treat the family of God like some cheesy soap opera more interested in unfounded gossip than in whether or not what was spoken was Biblically sound or spiritually impacting to those in attendance.
Rarely will anyone lift a finger to further the work of the Kingdom, but they’ll type themselves down to nubs tearing down people who have been preaching the message of the cross throughout the world for longer than they’ve been alive. If you have to tear others down in order to build yourself up, then all I have for you is pity. If, however, you begin to use words like heretic, which you obviously do not know the definition of since you used it about men who are wholly sold out for Christ, then I would encourage you to give serious consideration to the scripture passages dealing with how one is to approach a brother whom they consider to be in error, as well as how God deals with those who make His little ones to stumble.
The thing of it is we all know the problems. We can itemize them, we can catalogue them, we can talk about them endlessly, but when it comes to solutions, the handful of individuals who have enough heart and boldness to present them are branded heretics.
If all we were meant to do as the Body of Christ was moan and holler about how bad it’s gotten in the world without acknowledging that it is incumbent upon us to do something about it, to stand in the gap, to stand on the battlements, and to make war against the darkness, there would be no point the Scripture regarding being light, fighting principalities, or having done all to stand.
Most Christians are content with being thermometers. A blessed few realize they have no choice but to be thermostats.
It’s not enough to wail about it being hot or being cold. As a child of God you must do your utmost to change the atmosphere around you, to be a thermostat, and draw those who are in the darkness toward the light.
Just as an aside, as I doubt it’s a juicy enough tidbit to make the gossip mill, do you know what all these heretics did when they heard they had been branded as such? They didn’t pray for the Lord to smite anyone, they didn’t pray for the Lord to rebuke anyone, they didn’t pray againstanyone, they prayed for them.
For whatever it’s worth, from everything I was able to witness, these men are either really bad at being the heretics they’ve been accused of being, or really good at being servants of the Most High God who desire to see souls saved, and the world changed for the glory of the Father. But then again, Jesus was accused of being master to the demons He cast out of those who were possessed, by the same sort of Pharisee whose line and seed seems to have survived the millennia.