The Other Side of the Fence
By John Sims
Since I first heard of your decision to leave the United Pentecostal Church on the grounds that….
Since I first heard of your decision to leave the United Pentecostal Church on the ground that its doc trine of salvation was too exclusive and its holiness teaching too strict, I have been reflecting on what you told me. In response, please allow me to raise some questions and share some observations from the viewpoint of one who has already tried that approach.
First, you indicated that I should be spending our efforts on teaching about Christian relationships. There is indeed a great need for teaching on this subject, but there is also a great need in our world for teaching on the apostolic doctrine. And of the two, which must come first? How can any one have an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus if it is not founded on love and sound biblical truth? Most Christian denominations and charismatic churches today talk about love, but few seem to talk about sound doctrine.
What do the Scriptures say about this? “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (I John 2:3-5). “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world” (I John 5:2-4).
Most of the sin problems in the denominational and charismatic world today come from the teaching of what I call “hyper grace.” They emphasize that God is love, that He is a good God, that He is forgiving, and that the Christian life is by grace and faith. “While this is certainly true, they often ignore that God is also our judge, that the Bible teaches holiness, and that genuine faith always includes obedience that should result in good works. While we all need grace, grace is not a license to live in sin. Christendom is in a confused state to day because too many false prophets are teaching convenient doctrines to itching ears in order to build large assemblies.
Christian relationships involve a progressive development over a lifetime. Sound doc trine, on the other hand, is the basic foundation that must be established at the beginning of the Christian walk. Tithe foundation is not correct, then whatever relationships a person builds on top of that foundation will be faulty. Sometimes a person comes to the Lord by means of the true foundation but later decides that he can improve on the foundation, or that he does not need all of the true foundation. He may try to go back and change the foundation, but if he does, his house will eventually fall down. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 3:11). It is important to teach the true foundation so that converts will never try to change it or leave it. In this way, when they build their houses of Christian life and relation ship, they can build correctly and their buildings will stand the test of time.
In the parable of the seed sower, there was a seventy-five percent loss rate. If we 1ook a ten- to twenty-year period, perhaps the same is true in some of our churches today. The question is, Does it have to be this way? I do not think so. If we lay the proper foundation of the apostles’ doctrine, which includes Acts 2:38, Oneness, and holiness, and then carefully build Christian lives on that foundation, we will be able to reduce the loss rate drastically. If we can do this consistently, we will see dramatic church growth over the years.
I have been thinking about the reasons you gave for leaving the UPC. Since I have been where you are, I can truly understand your point of view. No doubt both of us have seen problems in the organization. At one time I wanted to get as far away from the UPC as I could, and I did. I thought the grass would be much greener in another field. When I got on the other side of the fence, however, I quickly found out that all that glitters is not gold.
I also found out that when a person walks away from any part of the true foundation, some strange and frightening things start taking place. As one who was not sympathetic to the UPC, I still observed what happened to ministers and saints who left the UPC over doctrine or holiness teachings. Everyone that I know of who left for a “better way” has slowly gone downhill into deception, false doctrine, worldliness, and in some cases, immorality.
Sometimes, ministers who have left for doctrinal reasons still seem to have the blessings of God upon their congregations. Unfortunately, while they are growing and building they are also falling away to future destruction. They are blind men leading the blind. Because their churches are growing and the gifts of the Spirit are operating, they think all is well.
But we should remember that the Lord gave Ahab twenty-three years to repent, and He still gives men time to repent. Just like Ahab, however, many have taken the blessings of God as signs of approval rather than as a calling to repent and return to the truth. (See Ecclesiastes 8:11; Ro mans 2:4.) If they do not return in the allotted time for repentance, they will go the same way as Ahab did. (See I Kings 22:20-23.)
Romans 11:29 says, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” In view of this, how does the Lord respond when a minister goes astray? One answer is found in the parable of the wheat and the tares. The wheat and tares grow together until the harvest. God does not try to uproot the tares immediately lest some good wheat be destroyed along with them.
Perhaps we can adapt the analogy. When a stalk of wheat becomes rotten, it seems that God gradually tries to move it away from the good wheat. In the case of a minister who leaves truth but stays in the ministry, tares will eventually replace the good wheat among his followers. At the same time the Lord will send him a strong delusion that he might believe a lie (II Thessalonians 2:11), and he will receive it as a new revelation, as a better way. One purpose of this new “revelation” is to slowly take the rotten wheat farther and farther away from the truth and from the good wheat. In the end, all but the good wheat will be cut down and cast into the fire.
TO whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). Our second- and third-generation Pentecostals particularly need to understand the heavy responsibility that comes in knowing the truth. When we know the truth, the Lord puts us in charge of his most treasured and precious pearls. When we walk away from any of them, we violate His trust. We become like the dog who returns to his vomit.
In retrospect, when I left the UPC, it is evident that the following was happening in my life:
* I challenged the wisdom of God in bringing me to an organization that, although it was far from perfect, still has the most treasured truth. Although I did not leave due to immorality, I had a rebellious attitude. In effect, I told the Lord he really was not too smart in bringing me where He did.
* By thinking I had a better way and by refusing to be a part of some thing just because it was not perfect and did not totally suit my fancy, I failed a big test in faithfulness, love, and longsuffering. Instead of talking about the problems and then walking out, I should have been praying and waiting.
* I made the same mistake Rehoboam did when he followed the advice of the young men rather than the elders. The result in his case, and in many cases today, is separation of families, division, destruction of the true foundation, false doctrine, and deception, all in the name of new truth and a higher calling from God.
Speaking as one who has come, gone, and returned to the truth, I Corinthians 7:20 has come to mean much to me: “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.” With all my years in the UPC, then out, and then in the charismatic movement and in several denominational churches, I have reached the following conclusion. Any move in the direction of Acts 2:38, Oneness, and holiness is a move in the right direction. Any move away from these most precious pearls of the Lord is a falling away that will eventually lead to false doc trine, sin, and destruction.
Sometimes, a person who is thinking about leaving the true apostolic foundation can only see tall, green ass on the other side of the fence. I have been on the other side of the fence, and the Lord let me see the roots of that tall, green grass with a microscope. What I found was poison, a new type of locoweed. Anyone who crosses over and eats long enough will die.
FORWARD January-March, 1989