Creeping Compromise

{commedia}Joe Crews|Creeping Compromise Introduction|mediafiles/audio/crews/creeping00.mp3{/audio} 

The subject of Christian standards is probably one of the most neglected doctrines in the modern church. Very little is in print today that can provide even elementary instruction in this vital area. Only a few small books or tracts have attempted to deal with the basic and practical principles which should distinguish the Christian life from that of the world.

The reason for this reluctance to write on these specifics of Christian conduct probably rests upon two fears: First, the fear of offending the rather large majority of church members who are living far below the biblical standard. Second, the fear of being labelled as judgemental, legalistic, holier-than-thou, and lacking in the personal, love-relationship with Christ.

We are forced to recognize that these fears have often been justified. There has been too much written in the spirit of pharisaism. Satan has exploited the vocal, fanatical views of a very few and has used them to intimidate those who would write temperately on the subject. And too often, in his special hatred of this truth, Satan has caused many in the church to look upon any discussion of Christian standards as extremist and improper.

These factors have combined to create a dearth of material on this subject. For this reason, if for no other, a tremendous need exists for educating the church on balanced biblical principles of conduct--principles that conflict in no way with the concepts of righteousness by faith which should underlie the lifestyle of every true Christian.

We also must concede that little should need to be said on this subject. After all, the actions are not the means of gaining salvation. We are saved by grace through faith and not by merit of works, obedience, or outward conduct on our part. Any overemphasis on these external things could be easily misinterpreted as a denial of justification by faith.

Obviously, at the time of this writing no such overemphasis exists on a denominational level. Only occasional lone voices are heard on this subject. On the other hand, there is a spectacular resurgence of preaching on the doctrine of righteousness by faith, which is the way it should be. When preached in its true setting the greatest need of the church today is to know more about the experiential relationship of justification and sanctification. But in presenting those deep spiritual truths of salvation nothing should be said to downgrade the importance of obedience. Some seem almost incapable of maintaining the beautiful balance between faith and works. But this is so important and necessary! To misunderstand either grace or works is to stultify the experience and thwart the personal witness.

Some may object that a book like this is not needed, because the outward conduct is a natural, spontaneous outgrowth of conversion to Christ. Therefore, the life will automatically produce the fruit of true obedience and righteousness. But is this totally true? It is true that the actions spring from the internal attitude of conversion, but instruction is needed for the most committed Christian.

Many converted people keep Sunday and smoke cigarettes simply because no one has explained to them the biblical objections to those actions. Are we being legalistic in teaching them to change their conduct on the basis of the Word of God? Then could it be wrong to talk about other areas of outward conduct which might need harmonising with the Bible?

One final observation should be made before you begin reading the pages which follow. The doctrine of Christian standards is for spiritual people only. This book is not written for the unconverted. Indeed, it will appear only as a lot of foolishness to the worldly class.

Please do not take the things which are presented in this book and seek to impose them upon your unregenerate family or friends. Especially are we counselled against forcing dress standards on those who are not converted. Listen to this warning:

"You cannot possibly change the heart. To get up a different style of dress will not do it. The difficulty is, the church needs converting daily .... Those who venture to disobey the plainest statements of inspiration will not heed any human efforts made to induce them to wear a plain, neat, unadorned, proper dress .... To those who are making self their idol nothing in the line of human tests should be presented, for it would only give them an excuse for making the final plunge into apostasy." Our Health Message, pp. 429-430.

Apply the principles of this book to your own life. Some of them have seldom been seen in print before. Restrain the impulse to call them fanatical until you have read the entire book and have asked God to show you what to do about them in the fading light of earth's last sunset.

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