Us and Them

Posted: Fri. Jun, 10 2016

Us and them

This morning as I was just beginning to get to the day's work I heard a voice from the outer hallway of the church yelling, "Hello, hello?" I popped my head out and was introduced to a lady who used to work on the second floor of our building, in a business that is no longer there. She spoke to me about a certain man's cause to start a neighborhood prayer group in Salem. She told me that Frank Graham is coming to Salem this month and that their group, and any other believers who wished to attend, were going to meet at the capitol building at noon that day to pray for the nation. This nice lady told me that the solution is not in the government or the politicians but in the church, and that through the message from the church the nation needs to repent. We chatted some more, she handed me a flyer, I gave her a church business card, and we parted ways.

My initial reaction to this encounter was different than usual. A younger me, and not much younger, would have dismissed this as something superfluous to Christianity, falling into that category of, "Let's lay aside our doctrinal differences and love one another." But my initial reaction today was not that. The growth that God has given me in these last years have been quite eye opening. No matter what was said to the contrary, in certain Christian groups that I was a part of in the past, there was a definite "us and them" mentality. If another church or group had even the slightest differences on non-critical issues, it seemed that these things were magnified so that we could maintain our "us" status. And when I say non-critical I do mean things that do not affect the sound foundational beliefs of Christianity as are clearly taught in God's infallible word. After some research on-line, I found that the organization that my visitor was partnered with did indeed have a sound gospel message and an admirable vision.

What I have also come to see in the last few years is that pastors and congregations grow together. A local congregation may understand a minor doctrine incorrectly, but in time, if they are humble learners who are teachable sponges, they will learn and correct their errors. Php 3:15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you. Certainly, the person of Christ, His hypostatic union, His salvation work, the Trinity, salvation, grace, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the inspiration and inerrancy of the word of God, and other foundational doctrines they know and believe, so why the barriers?

The old sin nature is a subtle beast. He will stealthily convince us that we are the only ones with the truth and so we must guard it and hide it from others who want to steal it and pervert it. This was Elijah's error. He was a great prophet and defender of the truth. He was so good at it that he started to look at himself as the only one who was doing it. In self-pity he believed that there was no one else to proclaim the light of Jehovah, yet God told him that He had 7,000 more who could do what Elijah had done, and that Elijah's replacement was ready for promotion. The identity of the 7,000 are not given and rightly so. There are thousands of unnamed Christians out there who will fill our gaps should we vacate them. Elijah was great because of the Lord's grace to him. We are the lights of the world and the city on the hill only because God has made us this. The light is to shine and not to be covered by a basket.

God did not guard or hide His truth. Our Lord came to the earth and He gave the truth to those who would accept it and love it; learn and teach it in humility, in service of others. This is the mind of our Lord, Php 2:5-9. But He also gave the truth to those who would take it, pervert it, and try to profit off of it. The whole world was drenched with the gospel of peace and the entire canon of scripture.

Php 1:15-18 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.

I have prayed and prayed for God to show me how to lead this church in impacting the community around us. The obvious idea is to get an above ground church with a big sign, and I have a sign guy, a half-Jewish man who demands a sign. Signs are cheap enough, at least I hope so… but buildings are not. I thought about renting out space in a park and doing the tent-revival thing (without the healing and ecstatics - I don't know how to do either) but I've seen that legitimately done and it's not very effective. If I've learned anything in the last few years as a pastor of a church, it's that the faith to do a thing is in us and the numbering of the steps is all the Lord's.

PSA 37:23-24 The steps of a man are established by the Lord; And He delights in his way.

When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong;

Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

My faith may be strong but the eyes of my heart a bit dim. This will likely lead me to take a wrong step - good intentions; not so good an idea. But the Lord promises that I will not be hurled headlong. I must always have the mind that says, "My steps are established by the Lord and not by me, nor another, nor a denomination." As I take more steps of faith my eyes will clear up. If I lack the faith and the hunger to find and take those steps, then there are no steps to take in the first place.

What dawned on me this morning is that someone came into this basement and handed me a proposition. No one ever comes down here except construction workers (because the electrical room for the building is down here - sometimes I mess with it for fun and shut off the power to various places, like the bank upstairs) and members of the church. Is this an answer to my prayer, or the beginning of an answer? I still don't know. And I still don't know if I'm going to go to their prayer meeting, or that if I do go, what I'm going to do when I get there. My options are all mine in freedom and open. If I find it to be ridiculous then I'll leave, but could it be that God is starting something? Could I have a "chance" meeting with someone that could be a door to more open doors? If I keep my old, "us and them" attitude, I will never find out. It's not exactly a dream, but an opportunity.

(To see a wonderful description of the difference between dreams and opportunity watch this 5 minute PragerU video:

The Lord went to Jerusalem in attendance of the Passover and other feasts. I've always found it odd then He attended the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah). JOH 10:22-23 At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. I have thought this odd because it was a fest that was added to feasts of the Mosaic Law at a much later date. It was for celebrating the consecration of the Temple by the Maccabees in the second century B.C.,  yet Christ was there walking in and around the temple witnessing of Himself and the salvation of God through Him. Christ was not adding the feast to the Law. He would never have had such a sinister motivation. He was there because the people who needed Him were there. During His ministry Jesus dined with tax-collectors and their hired girlfriends (prostitutes). He in no way condoned their lifestyle, but they were in need of Him. The physician comes for the sick and not the well. The Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes thought that they were well, and they gave the eternal Physician harsh treatment while those whom they believed to be unclean seemed to accept Him warmly.

I will never compromise the truths that I know to be so by the word of God. I will never condone any false doctrine in the hope that it will do "some good." Yet, that vow does not mean that God will not send me to a place where there are some who do. If we find ourselves praying for something over and again, might it not be that God has put this thing upon our hearts? Could it be that it is so prevalent an idea within us and that we can't stop asking God about it because God has impressed us about it? George Mueller, an evangelist in nineteenth century England, was asked if he really believed that two men would be converted, men for whom Mueller had prayed over fifty years. Mueller replied: "Do you think God would have kept me praying all these years if He did not intend to save them?" Both men were converted shortly after Mueller's death. Mueller didn't save them by prayer, but is it possible that God put those men on Mueller's heart? After coming to know God a little more over the last years, I do not hesitate to conclude that He did.

It has been on my heart for a while now to reach out to this community with the great truth that is a treasure in each of our hearts here at GTM. Such a treasure should never stay hidden within us, but should shine forth like that city on a hill. It doesn't matter how large or small the city is. If it is a dark night and the city is alight, no matter how small, it will be seen. I am certain that I have no other motivation for this than the people who are desperately in need of the truth. If a great sinner like me can have it, then why not them? They must!

I encourage all who listen on-line and are far away from Salem to search God's heart in prayer for their own communities. Like that woman said to me this morning, our nation and the people in it are in trouble and only their repentance from lies to the truth will set them free - Amen to that!

I will likely go to this event and see what God may open or close. Like Jesus at Hanukkah, I will go for the people in need and if God sees fit to use this vessel and others in the congregation, then all glory to Him and Him alone.

It's not "us and them" but us and the kingdom of darkness. We don't wrestle against blood and flesh. Every one of them out there is a potential believer, and every believer enveloped in falsehood is a potential mature believer to the measure and stature that belongs to Christ. If we see them this way of hope and love, then we will be far greater witnesses for our Lord than if we see them as the enemy.

Pick up and put on the full armor of God, Royal Family,

Pastor Joe Sugrue

Grace and Truth Ministries


p.s. I never mess with the electrical room. I'd be a big cinder if I did.