The following is taken from a lecture I gave to some seminary students
This second half of our time together has been interesting and sometimes challenging to speak of contending for the faith in an age marked by (on the part of an increasing number of pastors and leaders) a deliberate downplaying of the very notion of one absolute truth. One God One savior,, Jesus Christ…is getting to be a tough sell in an age obsessed with the tolerance and in some instances blending of all the religions in an effort to demonstrate so-called ‘unity’.
What Francis Schaeffer called for back in 1984, and what I pointed out that is taking place in our day, calls for a balance that only the Lord, The Holy Spirit can give.
Will you agree that progressives and old fashion Bible-believing fundamentalists have some serious differences? An incident that took place in a hardware store a number of years ago taught me a lesson. Some of you may remember a television show starring Tim Allen called Home Improvement. Allen plays a man who hosts a T.V. show called ‘Tool Time.’ The plot line centers on his frequent zany escapades to do with the use of power tools…his mantra is MORE POWER!
It was well known in every Church I pastored that I am NOT a ‘handy kinda guy.’ In fact the slogan at the church was “Quick! Hide the tools…Here comes Jim!” I am quite pathetic. I really do wish I knew how to fix things but I never learned how. I’m stubborn enough, though to keep on experimenting… many times with disastrous consequences. I can’t believe my wife Judy is still upset just because I attempted to change a fuel filter in her car (and set the engine on fire…)
Anyway when I go to a hardware store, it is always interesting. Once I had attempted to fix something that was broken. It was made of wood and plastic. And so I got some Elmer’s glue and stuck the two parts together wrapped them in duct tape (duct tape can fix anything right?) and fully expected for then to adhere for the rest of time. Instead all I got was a goopy mess that now had duct tape adhesive all over it.
The man at the hardware store was right out of central casting. He could have been on the cast of Tool Time. “Oh what have we got here?” he said in a voice loud enough for everyone in the aisle to hear…”I see the problem. What you are trying to do my friend is to glue together two kinds of things that don’t normally go together This stuff you used works fine joining wood to wood, but for joining two different types of material you are going to need something special called epoxy cement.”
He went to the next aisle and got down a package that looked for all the world like it belonged on an instrument tray in a hospital ER. He said, as if giving a lecture…. (A small crowd had gathered by this point) “You will note that the syringe has two chambers. One contains the glue, and the other contains the hardener. If all you had was the glue, it would hold together for a brief period, but wouldn’t set up and stick. Ultimately it would just be all gooey and compound the mess you’ve already made (I didn’t like his tone when he said that)
“If all you had was hardener, again it would sort of adhere but ultimately become brittle and hard and ruin both parts that you were trying to join… No you need both glue and hardener in exactly the right proportions.”
Then once you apply the exact proportions to the two things you want to join, you need to allow time for the cement to set up. Do you know what it is called when it sets up? “Why…No” (I dutifully stoked his ego) He said
“It is called allowing the solution to cure.”
I immediately thought of a thousand things…marriages, church conflicts, wars…We need truth and we need love. We need in fact to speak the truth…in love. I loved a remark made by Martin Luther as he was on trial for his life. He wrote “Peace if possible…the truth at any rate.”
My wife Judy showed me this quote from a book she was reading that sheds light on the issue of truth telling in an age of incredulity,
“Here is a life which constituted a kind of living exegesis of that text ‘speaking the truth in love.’(Ephesians 4:15). And accustomed as we are to measure by outward demonstration, it furnishes a most instructive lesson for us. Two chemical elements which are mild an innocuous in themselves, often have prodigious energy when combined. So it is with love and truth
Those who preach love alone are often the weakest and most ineffective witnesses for Christ. Those who preach truth alone, not infrequently demonstrate the feebleness of soulless orthodoxy. But the truth in love is vital, penetrating and has the dynamic force which we seek.
See how Paul, the apostle of truth, and John, the apostle of love match and complement each other on this point. ‘Speaking the truth in love’, writes the one, ‘Unto to the well beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth’ writes the other. Love furnishing the atmosphere of truth, the medium through which it shines, and by which it is transmitted; and truth lending its gravity and restraint to love, and so preventing it from flying off into a reckless and indiscriminate tolerance, this is the combination which gives true power.”A.J. Gordon, How Christ Came to Church, pp 109-110
So with Tim the Tool man I shout, MORE POWER! Push back by all mean when preachers and teachers go off and begin to downplay the truth and tinker with the Scriptures. Failing to speak up is as wrong as speaking in a shrill, judgmental, stentorian tone.
Attacking the persons we disagree with personally is something the Word addresses “You who are spiritual correct such a one in a spirit of gentleness… taking heed to yourselves… lest ye too be overtaken” The last chapter of The Great Evangelical Disaster contains an impassioned plea for action tempered with a call to godly discourse…something we need to be humble enough to recognize that we don’t innately possess. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us into all the truth…