By J. Oliver Jones
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
This verse is taken from the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins who await the coming of the bridegroom. The parable speaks of the necessity of being prepared, for we do not know when He will come. I am taking the verse totally out of context and using it to make a point. I suppose, since this is not a sermon but an article, I am allowed to do this, but just wanted to let you know that I am aware of what I am doing.
So what is the point I want to make using this lonely verse pulled from its surroundings? Simply this – While the Bridegroom (Jesus) tarries, the Southern Methodist Church (SMC) is sleeping. Why am I picking on the SMC you ask? Because I am a Southern Methodist. The Church universal is making progress in many parts of the world while the organized church in America and Europe slumbers. No, as Southern Methodists we do not sleep alone, but that is no excuse.
I realize that many people who read this article are not Southern Methodist. Don’t feel too smug, for most likely whatever group you associate with is sleeping right along with us. In fact, it is possible that you may be a part of a group that has even died in its sleep! So what I say here applies not only to the SMC, but to most others as well. And if you are in a church that is not sleeping, then please sound the alarm loud and clear so that others might awake and join you in the battle.
This article of necessity must be brief, therefore, I must make my points without a lot of the detail I would like to use. Also I will make my points without fear of who might be offended. Needless to say, some will be, but that does not change the truth of what I say. As the old saying goes, “if the shoe fits, wear it!”
Point One: Creation. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”(Genesis 1:1) He spoke matter into existence and then shaped the universe from that matter. He filled the earth with plant and animal life. He formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath (spirit) of life. No Big Bang needed. No long ages required. No evolution necessary. Over one hundred years ago the church surrendered this battle without much of a fight. It has taken decades of struggle for men like Dr. Henry Morris, Dr. John Witcomb, Dr. Duane Gish, and many, many others to show scientifically that creation is the work of God, not some accident of nature! If you still hold to some theory of evolution (man’s idea to explain God away) because you were told there is “scientific proof” you have believed a lie. Repent and turn back to the Creator!
Point Two: The Bible. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16) For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:21) The Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant revelation of God to man. It is not a good book written by men about God. It is the Word of God given to men. The word inspired means “God-breathed.” The Bible is the very breath of God! Infallible means it is incapable of misleading or teaching deception. Inerrant means the Bible contains no falsehoods or lies. It is without errors or mistakes in the original manuscripts, and we have sufficient evidence to prove that what we have today in our translations is reliable and can be trusted to correctly convey God’s message to His people. And because of these truths, the Bible is authoritative, meaning it is our final authority in every area to which it speaks. Much of Christendom has surrendered this foundational truth concerning God’s Word. The Bible has been relegated to a place alongside other “inspirational” writings, and its authority has been replaced by the ideas of men. If you are a part of an organization that no longer reveres the Bible as the special revelation of God to man, then resign from that organization, repent of your sin, and return to the truth of God’s Word.
Point Three: Salvation. Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’. (John 14:6) Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12) I could write a book on this one point (actually, I think I have!). This should not even be an issue within the church, but unfortunately it is. Again, much of Christendom has surrendered to outside pressure to be more “tolerant” of other’s beliefs. Here is the problem – Our God is not a tolerant God! God loves mankind, wants fellowship with mankind, and has paid the price through the shed blood of Jesus to provide restoration for mankind. God’s holiness demanded that sin be punished. Jesus took that punishment. He paid the sin penalty for us. Only He could, because only He is God who became flesh, giving Him both the ability as God and the right as man to pay that debt. The result – only Jesus can save! There is salvation in no other. There is no other way to the Father; not good works, not being sincere in your beliefs, and certainly not some other man or god! For by grace (the unmerited favor of God) we are saved through faith (in the person and work of Jesus Christ). And if you think God will accept your “other way” you are dead wrong (note the word “dead”). There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25) We need to awake and stop compromising. People are perishing!
Point Four: Holiness. …but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’ (1 Peter 1:15-16) It is hard to believe that there are those in the Church that proclaim that personal holiness is optional – good, yes; required or even expecterd, no. We cannot be holy in ourselves, our good works play no part in our salvation, and our old depraved nature is always prone to sin. On this we can all agree. But that is overlooking what happens when we are “born again!” Our sins are forgiven, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, we receive a new nature – the nature of Christ, and we have God’s law written on our hearts and in our minds. We have been given everything we need to be holy! We must now choose to walk in the spirit (new nature) and not in the flesh (old nature). We are saved so that God can restore His image in us, the image lost in Adam’s fall. We are now to be “conformed to the image of Christ.” We are to be holy as He is holy. This was one of John Wesley’s primary messages to the people that were called Methodists. It needs to be our message for today! Live holy for God’s glory, “that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. If God’s people are not living in personal holiness and righteousness, then how is our Father to be glorified? We must allow God to change our hearts, renew our minds, and transform our lives into lives that are holy.
Conclusion: I could go on, but our time and space is drawing to a close. So let me bring this to its conclusion. The world is lost and dying. People seek for truth and relevance in all the wrong places. Much of the organized church has become or is becoming apostate (turning away from known truth). And while all this is happening, many of us who hold faithfully to the truth of these four points (and many others) are slumbering while the Bridegroom tarries. God forgive us for our complacency, for our selfishness, for our lack of compassion. We must repent and return to our first love, just as Jesus told the church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7). There is a great work to be done. There is a great spiritual hunger all around us. There are people for whom Christ died who need to hear the Gospel. The Church has been promised victory! There is hope! We can overcome! (Read Dr. Vic Reasoner’s message, The Basis of Hope in this issue)
So I ask the question, “What are we waiting for?”
Note: I am a strong believer in Christian Education – true Christian education. There is not a lot of true Christian education available today. The purpose of The Wesley Institute is to provide true Christian education in the local church. This program is available to you and to your church. There is no “good” reason for you and your church not to be involved in it. Contact me and I will be happy to come to your church and present this opportunity to your people.
I am also a strong believer in Christian Outreach and Discipleship. There is also not a lot of that happening today. The Outreach and Discipleship Ministry (parts of which are still being developed) is now underway. This ministry is also available to you and to your church. I am still praying for the initial fifty Small Group Leaders that God is calling out. You may be one of them. Are you listening for His call? If you and your church would like more information on this ministry I would love to present this opportunity to you also.