When I was a child growing up in the church, it was a common practice to hear on a regular basis the basic prominent doctrines taught by our church. Along with these 29 important truths, I also was constantly reminded of what was known as “Advice to Members.” One quick way to find out who has been around the Church of God of Prophecy for any length of time is to used that term and watch their reaction.
As a child I thought the “advice” was right up there with Moses on the mountain and surely the apostles themselves read them at the Jerusalem council of Acts 15. Later, when I entered adulthood, I began to think of them as “foolish.” As a young minister, I agreed to abide by them and even teach them to others. Now please understand, I didn’t totally embrace all of them, but because I wanted to be a good minister I followed them. You see, there is a principle of submission that is necessary, especially when we are new converts.
After I had been in the ministry, I began to see them in a different light. This was due to the explanation given in a meeting by our former General Overseer, Bishop Billy D. Murray. He explained it this way, (I am not quoting directly, but you will get the gist of his example) he said, “I have a grown son and son-in-law. If they decide to go into the street and toss a football, they know to get out of the street when a car comes. However, a two or three year old child does not know the danger of being in the street, and someone (an adult) must help them understand the danger… and get out of the street.” I always thought this was the best example I had ever heard. Suddenly, as if a light bulb came on, I began to understand that it was not always about submission, but is wisdom that comes from God.
Initially, this advice was intended to be a help to new believers, but over the years, people began to demand they be followed, and we willing to spiritually beat you into submission if you didn’t follow. In fact, there may have been a time or two that I was guilty of that. Never intended to be a test of fellowship, it became one because of a wrong understanding on the part of those in authority. I don’t know about others, but as for myself, I have repented for the times that I acted out of ignorance, and perhaps a little bit of spiritual pride.
As I grow older, I understand the dangers that our children and grandchildren face are far more complicated than when I was a child. We live in a post-modern world that thrives on chaos…that thrives on no absolutes. It gains its power by challenging anything seen as an absolute truth. Because of that spirit, we are in a moral tailspin in our world…unless revival comes we will be counted as casualties of a great spiritual conflict, and be nothing more than a footnote on the pages of history. We will be seen as ignorant and irrelevant instead of wise and in touch with the times.
Now, please understand me. I am not calling for a return to the legalism and false piety that ruled in our churches, but I am calling for a return to the truth of the Scripture, that we are to “come out from among them,” (2 Corinthians 6:17) and to be a people that stand out in a Godless and corrupt generation. If you will remember the great high-priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17, He didn’t ask the Father to take us out of the world, but to keep us FROM the world.” For His people to be easily recognizable as a “city on a hill” and a “light on a lampstand.” (cf. Mt. 5:13)
There simply must be a return to holiness and to the beautiful doctrines of repentance and sanctification. We must turn from spiritual drift….if not for ourselves, then let us do it for the generation following us.