Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.
And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:26-32)
From the beginning, Christian faith is controversial. Not in a tight and rigid way, but in a way that demonstrates God's sovereignty and the loving affirmation of His sovereignty by those who are born again by His Spirit. Repentance is not simply the negative duty every Christian must walk through at the beginning of his spiritual life, after the completion of which he may breath a sigh of relief thinking "Thank God that's over."
Rather, as the first of Luther's ninety-five theses reminds us, "the life of a Christian is a life of repentance." It never ends. We must repent each year, each day, each hour. All Jesus' teaching, mirrored by the Apostles throughout the New Testament, emphasizes that the Christian life is a battle against principalities and powers, and that no growth, no sanctification will come to those who choose a life of peace. The life of repentance means we are to "take up our cross," to "endure hardship," to "fill up the cup of Christ's sufferings," to "wrestle," to "contend," to "guard, to "crucify our flesh," and always to keep in mind that "a man's enemies will be the members of his own family."
Few of us doubt the existence of this battle on a personal level since believers are well aware of the "law of sin and death" that wages war within us. With considerable relief (and even joy), we join in the prayer of confession near the beginning of our corporate worship services knowing that here, at least, among the people of God at worship we may rest secure that we are known as we really are, not as Robert Schuller or Dr. Laura thinks we should be.
But when faced with this battle on a corporate level, many of us revolt against it because here Christian faith is in direct opposition to the last value, the last moral or absolute left in these United States--namely, "Can't we all just get along?" We don't want to be in conflict with unbelievers because such conflict seems to be counterproductive to evangelism.
And beyond our squeamishness at the hatred the world showers upon Jesus Christ, His Truth, and His followers, conflict within the Church is the most grievous of all. After all, Jesus said that our love for one another will be the basis of unbelievers' judgments concerning the truth of our claim that we are Christ's disciples. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples..." How can we honor Christ Who prayed that we might be one when we are fighting with each other?
This is where we must toughen up and think with our Bibles rather than our cultural prejudices and emotions. Scripture teaches that we'll always have the poor with us. Scripture also teaches we'll always have false shepherds and false doctrine with us and it is those false shepherds promoting false doctrines that are the instruments of schism and division with the Body of Christ. How is the peace and unity of that Body to be restored?
By exposing both false shepherds and their false doctrine. By fighting against the wolves who seek to devour the flock...
It is the duty of fathers and mothers over their households, husbands over their wives, teachers over their classrooms, presidents over their faculty, and elders over their congregations to give up their lives for their sheep. This is what good shepherds do.
This is what false shepherds, what Jesus called "hirelings," do not do. False shepherds do not see the wolf. Or seeing the wolf, they wait until they have established beyond refutation that it really is a wolf and not Goldilocks dressed up as a wolf. Or seeing the wolf, false shepherds wait for someone else to fight the wolf.
In a word, false shepherds are deaf, dumb, and blind because they love neither the Chief Shepherd nor His sheep.
As the authors of this blog, we freely acknowledge that we ourselves have been false shepherds in battles in our marriages, homes, and churches. Some wolves we have refused to see; some we have seen but neglected to fight while justifying ourselves with biblical excuses to cover our cowardice. Sometimes we have missed seeing the wolves because we've been too busy pursuing our own kingdoms or pleasures. But God has been pleased to discipline us for our unfaithfulness and call us back to the work, often through the faithful service of fellow elders within our congregations or presbyteries.
This is what we are seeking to do with those who have the responsibility of exercising leadership over our denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America; our denominational college, Covenant College, and our denominational magazine, byFaith. We call those called to guard these communities of faith and their instrument of communication back to the true faith of Scripture concerning the meaning and purpose of sexuality.
We live under no illusion that we are the stewards of the PCA, Covenant College, or byFaith. Our voice is a small one, institutionally, but it's a large one when the power of God's Truth is taken into account. Yes, there are some who still deny that there is a problem among us concerning the meaning and purpose of sexuality. Yes, there are some who continue to think that Frank and Carolyn Custis James have not deviated from the Word of God in what they have written or said. (And it may well be that what the James said at Covenant is better than what we had reported to us by those present, or what Carolyn Custis James has written and published.)
But there are many who have read what the James have written and would not want them teaching their own sons and daughters or the sons and daughters of their churches because they recognize the spirit of the age and know Whose spirit it is. It is those faithful fathers we are speaking to.
Be faithful shepherds of God's flock. Correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience in this time when men do not put up with sound doctrine, but instead surround themselves with teachers who will say what their itching ears want to hear. This is your calling.
And it is a peaceful, a unifying, a healing, a loving--it is a godly calling.