The Great Test: Modifying the Truth
There is a great decision that... every church member, every evangelist, every Christian has to make... The question is this:
Shall we modify the truth in doctrine or practice to gain more adherents?
Or shall we preserve the truth in doctrine and practice and take the consequences?
If the decision is that we modify the truth and practice of the church, then we are responsible for the consequences, whatever they may be. God already knows what the consequences are, and history has shown what they are. But if we choose to preserve the truth, then God accepts the responsibility.
Business people have to make that choice in business. Everyone has to make it at income tax time. Students have to make it in school. We have to make it everywhere in our lives as we touch society. Shall we preserve the truth and the practice of the truth, or shall we alter it just comfortably in order to be more popular, gain more adherents and get along easier in the world?
Actually such a question should never need to be asked. It is like asking, “Should a man be faithful to his wife?” There is only one answer to that question. When we ask, “Shall we preserve the truth and practice of the church, or shall we modify it for immediate and visible results?” we ought to have only one answer. It is not a debatable question, and yet it is one that has to be constantly debated in the secret prayer chamber. It is constantly debated when conferences meet, when boards meet and when a pastor must make a decision.
A commitment to preserving the truth and practice of the church is what separates me from a great many people who are perhaps far greater than I am in ability. This is my conviction, long held and deeply confirmed by a knowledge of the fact that modern gospel churches, almost without exception, have decided to modify the truth and practice a little in order to have more adherents and get along better. When we make a decision to modify the truth, we bring the consequences of that choice upon ourselves.
What have the consequences been?
1) An absence of a spirit of worship
One has been an absence of a spirit of worship in the church. Many people do not even know what is meant by a spirit of worship. That is tragic...
2) An absence of spiritual desire
A second consequence is the absence of spiritual desire. How many people do you know who are all burnt up with spiritual desire and longing after God? How many have tears of eagerness in their eyes when you talk to them? How many say, "Oh, that I might know God better!" Our fathers had spiritual desire, and they spent days with God.
3) An absence of God's inward fire
Another result is coldness of heart, which is similar to an absence of spiritual desire. Once you have been baptized with the fire of inward longing, you will never be satisfied with coldness of heart...
4) An absence of the spirit of prayer
A fourth consequence is the lack of the spirit of prayer. No child is born until there is labor. When Evan Roberts, whom God used to start the great Welsh revival... was on his knees (when) the Holy Spirit fell upon him, and he began to pray, “Oh God, bend me, bend me, bend me.” Another man was praying, and Evan did not want to break in. Roberts described the experience, “I waited for the other man to get through (to get finished), but it seemed he would never get through; he prayed on and on. Finally, he tapered off and petered out and said, ‘Amen.’” Evan began to pray, and the place was shaken with his prayer. From there on the revival in Wales was under way.
Now that is the spirit of prayer. When the spirit of prayer falls on people, God answers their prayer and things are done. When a spirit of prayer is not on us, we just mumble on endlessly. But when the spirit of prayer is on us, the Spirit praying in us to the God above us will get things done around us.
5) An absence of God's presence
A fifth consequence of modifying the truth is that there is no sense of God’s presence in the average church. I get around quite a bit, but I do not go into many places where I find the sense of God’s presence. There are almost no answers to prayer and almost no divine manifestations. This leads to the deadliest consequence of all: the absence of saintliness.
6) An absence of saintliness
There are a few saints around who are so sold out to God that you could not keep them still. They are always coming up with something, and you know that they have been in the presence of the Lord. They live their faith regularly and consistently. Everything they do is congruous (in harmony) with everything they testify to...
It is God’s will that we should have no coldness of heart. The difference between coldness of heart and warmth of heart is the difference between being in love and not being in love... God wants us to have warm hearts, and He wants us to have a spirit of prayer so prayer is effective. Most prayer is like forever turning a key on a dead battery, and the starter does not even whine... God does not want us to pray like that. He wants a spirit of prayer to be on the people. You can have that spirit of prayer. He wants to answer your prayer, and He wants the sense of His presence to be upon you. Always remember one thing: When the Spirit of the Lord comes, that is the presence, and you have that presence. God does want to manifest Himself...
How did the church get into this fix that it is in?
In their zeal to make converts and adherents, they oversimplified the Christian faith. That is our difficulty today. We oversimplify it, and yet we never get simple. Isn’t that odd? We oversimplify the truth, and yet we have the most complex, mixed up beliefs... We have simplified Christianity so much, it amounts to this: God is love; Jesus died for you; believe, accept, be jolly, have fun and tell others. And away we go—that is the Christianity of our day. I would not give a plug nickel for the whole business of it... The devil would not be caught dead trying to kill anybody for acting like that. It does not bother him—the only thing the devil hates is somebody who is after him... (and yet) a whole generation has thought this to be Christianity... the faith of our fathers, (was) living still, in spite of dungeon, fire and sword. Nobody ever put people like that (today's Christians) in a dungeon... Nobody ever threw them to the flames, because they are harmless...
I do not preach any new truth. I do not have a new doctrine, and if anybody would come here preaching a new doctrine, I would say, “I’m sorry, but we already have our doctrine.” I would not allow that preacher in the pulpit. We do not want new doctrine—we want fresh emphasis on doctrine already well known by all of us...
Everyone has a private battle going on, a private fight. You are in the midst of a wicked and adulterous generation, but you have got to overcome... you also can overcome, but... not all do. You can overcome your own flesh, which will be the hardest. You can overcome tradition and custom, which will be the second hardest. You can overcome all things.
“To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” – Revelation 2:7b.
The world is waiting to hear an authentic voice, a voice from God—not an echo of what others are doing and saying, but an authentic voice.
Extract from ‘Rut, Rot or Revival’ by A.W. Tozer