In order to establish in your minds and mine the urgency of maintaining the substance of apostolic Christianity, I would like to direct your minds to two very important statements made by two prominent religious leaders. These two statements help us Christians to understand that there is an outright war on apostolic Christianity with a sinister motive. Quoting Arthur Goldwag from his book, ISMS & OLOGIES (Vintage Books, New York, October 2007), 237, “Secular humanism is the bugaboo (some imaginary thing that causes fear or worry) of many fundamentalist Christian groups in the United States. Dr. David Noebel, the founder of Summit Ministries and author of many books … argues that secular ‘humanists preach a faith every bit as dogmatic as Christianity. Moral relativism is foundational for Secular Humanist ethics; spontaneous generation and evolution are basis to their biology; naturalism is foundational to their philosophy; and atheism is their theological perspective.’ ”
Before I share the second statement, I would like to define naturalism, seeing it is foundational to secular humanists philosophy. Naturalism in philosophy apart from other areas is the rejection of supernaturalism (magic, religion, mysticism, etc.) as an explanation for natural phenomena or as a category of being. Naturalists assumed that environment and heredity were the chief determinants of human character (no great believer in religion or the soul). Emile Zola (1840–1902), who is considered to be literary naturalist’s leading theorist once declared, “Civilization will not attain to its perfection until the last stone from the last church falls on the last priest.”
Can a born again Christian be a naturalist or secular humanist? Something to think about in light of what it truly means to be a Christian! The second statement is also from Arthur Goldwag; he writes, “In April 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger (who would shortly become Pope Benedict XVI) delivered a homily before the College of Cardinals in which he contrasted a steadfast faith in Christ and church with the pernicious pluralism of the day: ‘The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves—thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. … Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and “swept along by every wind of teaching,” looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today’s standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.’ ” Ibid., 125.
While the statement in itself is a statement of challenge to every follower of Christ, yet being a Christian means more than “having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church.” Christianity means having a clear faith based on the infallible word of God. As Augustine puts it, “Faith is to believe, on the word of God, what we do not see, and its reward is to see and enjoy what we believe.” So in the context of pleasing God which is the heart of the Christian experience, the apostle Paul states, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and [that] He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6.
The question is, how can a person truly please or agree with God in such a world like ours plagued with all these Isms: pluralism, relativism, humanism, secularism, intellectualism, materialism, etc., which in a general sense are expressed in such dictums as “Do your own thing!” “Be yourself!” and “Have fun!” The matter of agreeing with God is out of the question, the focus is self-centeredness and self-pleasing. So to quiet the conscience, God and true Christianity is denied and rejected for the imperatives are too restricting. Drs. Colin and Russell Standish in their book, Keepers of the Faith (Hartland Publications, Rapidan, Virginia, January 2003), 57, wrote the following: “In the skeptical climate of the 20th century, fueled by the philosophical concepts of scientific investigation, it is no longer popular to hold firm and unequivocal views. It is considered arbitrary and closed-minded. The scientific methods allows for no absolutes, no final proofs or truths. Scientific hypotheses and theories can never be proved, but may be disproved. This same notion has been applied to the word of God.”
Therefore, what has happened to the minds of many, many Christians today is that they have been immersed so deeply in these philosophies to the extent that they have little regard for the word of God which says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17. So, if the word of God is lightly regarded or is disregarded by so called Christians, how then can there be faith, and if there be no faith how then can we truly please God, and how then can we be Christians? Let us remember the words of Scripture, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6.
The true Christian possesses faith in Jesus Christ, for it is the means, avenue by which he/she pleases or agrees with God. That’s why Paul states, “Without faith” or “apart from faith” or “apart from faithfulness” it is impossible to please God.
Faith is defined by the pen of Inspiration in the following ways: “Faith is the living power that presses through every barrier, overrides all obstacles, and plants its banner in the heart of the enemy’s camp.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 163.
“Faith is the condition upon which God has seen fit to promise pardon to sinners; not that there is any virtue in faith whereby salvation is merited, but because faith can lay hold of the merits of Christ, the remedy provided for sin. Faith can present Christ’s perfect obedience instead of the sinner’s transgression and defection.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1073. So then, it is our faith in Christ and His righteousness, which allows us to become Christians. Ellen White also says of faith, “Faith is the very lifeblood of the soul. Its presence gives warmth, health, consistency, and sound judgment.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 472.
This definition of faith says it all for this message within the context of what we are studying: “Said the angel: ‘Feeling is not faith. Faith is simply to take God at His word.’ ” Ibid., vol. 1, 620.
To begin the Christian journey, faith is necessary, and to continue being a Christian, faith is indispensable! Faith recognizes and acknowledges the absoluteness of the word of Jesus. It accepts without questioning the immutability of God, that in Him “is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1:17. Therefore, without taking God at His word it is impossible to measure up to His requirement, and isn’t this what Christianity is all about, agreeing with God? So, for the apostle, what makes any man well-pleasing to God is faith; without it there is no possibility of pleasing Him (Hebrews 11:6).
In order to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to please God or agree with God, Paul said in Hebrews 11:5, “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” He connects this verse with the account that Moses wrote concerning Enoch in Genesis 5:22–24, “And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: and all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: and Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.”
Moses records that “Enoch walked with God.” This phrase was used also of Noah (Genesis 6:9) and by Micah (Micah 6:8) and the similar expressions, “to walk before God” (Genesis 17:1; Psalm 116:9), and “to walk after God” (Deuteronomy 13:4; Ephesians 5:1), portrays a life of singularly elevated piety, not merely a constant realization of the Divine presence or even a perpetual effort at holy obedience, but also a maintenance of the most confidential intercourse with the personal God. It implies a situation of nearness to God, if not in place at least in spirit, a character of likeness to God (Amos 3:3), and a life of converse with God. The apostle describes it as a life that was “pleasing to God,” as springing from the root of faith (Hebrews 11:5). What we see here is that Enoch’s life was most evidently in complete and beautiful harmony with the divine will. Therefore we can all agree that the walk that Enoch walked for over three hundred years was a life lived in perfect harmony to the word of God. We can agree that he was a true Christian.
Enoch’s walk with God was a walk of faith, and this is how he did it: “Enoch walked with God three hundred years previous to his translation to heaven, and the state of the world was not then more favorable for the perfection of Christian character than it is today. And how did Enoch walk with God? He educated his mind and heart to ever feel that he was in the presence of God, and when in perplexity his prayers would ascend to God to keep him. He refused to take any course that would offend his God. He kept the Lord continually before him. He would pray, ‘Teach me Thy way, that I may not err. What is Thy pleasure concerning me? What shall I do to honor Thee, my God?’ ” Christ Triumphant, 43.
Enoch lived out in his life the words of King Solomon: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.” Proverbs 3:5–7. For Enoch, self was disowned; his will was always subordinated to God’s will, and he endeavored always to agree with God. This was so because he had a conscious realization of the existence of God, “for he that cometh to God must believe that He is.” Hebrews 11:6.
Enoch did not allow the isms and ideologies of his day to destroy his Christian witness or influence. Though he was not in the actual presence of the Eternal, yet he accepted the word of the Lord, which said, “In the beginning God.” Genesis 1:1. He believed when the word of God states, “For He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” Psalm 33:9. Enoch was a creationist; he totally rejected the naturalist and evolutionist philosophies. For him, God was a living, active, ever present being, “in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” Acts 17:28.
With the realization of God’s existence comes the acknowledgment of our responsibility to Him, the fact that, “He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6. There are those who believe that God is morally indifferent, that He has given man freedom of choice and is not concerned about the kinds of choices he makes. This verse informs us that this conception is not true. God does care what men do, and virtue will not go unrewarded. God will reward those who diligently seek Him.
The servant of the Lord instructs us that we Christians, living in this perverse and wicked generation, should endeavor to live as did faithful Enoch: “Like Enoch, we must walk with God, bringing the will into submission to His will. We must be willing to go where Jesus leads, willing to suffer for His dear sake. In seeking to save the souls for whom Christ has died, in conquering difficulties, and in keeping ourselves unspotted from the world, we reveal the genuineness of our religion. Faithful Christians do not seek the easiest place, the lightest burdens. They are found where the work is hardest, where their help is most needed.” Christ Triumphant, 48. She further states, “Our present work is to come out from the world and be separate. This is the only way we can walk with God, as did Enoch.” Conflict and Courage, 29.
The word of God declares, “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4. The prophet here affirms that he who lives by a simple faith and trust in the Lord will be saved, but “the soul which is lifted up” through its own willful pride and perverseness in sin will perish. Therefore is it any wonder that so many professed Christians today are not able to please God or agree with His word? Through false education they are greatly affected by the many manmade philosophies, which repudiate the existence of God and His word. Skepticism is the order of the day. It is from the Greek word skepsis meaning consideration or doubt. It is the view that reason has no capacity to come to any conclusions at all. Therefore a skeptic is a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual, one who doubts the truth about a religion, especially Christianity. So we hear expressions like “Yea hath God said … ?”
It is customary today for professed Christians to question and doubt the word of God. Satan would have it so, for he knows that so long as Christians doubt God’s word, they are no longer pleasing God. Many, many Christians claim that they accept and believe the Bible, but at the same time they are very selective concerning the imperatives that are applicable to their lives. This act of accepting some part of the Scriptures and rejecting those areas with which they are not in agreement is the plan of the devil. Ellen White wrote, “It is one thing to treat the Bible as a book of good moral instruction, to be heeded so far as is consistent with the spirit of the times and our position in the world; it is another thing to regard it as it really is—the word of the living God, the word that is our life, the word that is to mold our actions, our words, and our thoughts. To hold God’s word as anything less than this is to reject it. And this rejection by those who profess to believe it, is foremost among the causes of skepticism and infidelity in the youth.” Prayer, 319.
Jonathan Edwards, the famous puritan preacher, in one of his sermons made the following remarks, “If the godly had only a heart to purpose to do the will, but did not have a heart to actually do as they purpose, they would still be slaves to sin.” We read of some who believed on Christ, but Christ would not commit Himself to them. The reason was that He knew they did not have a heart to actually do the will of God. The gospel writer John in chapter 2:23, 24, tells us, “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men.”
Jesus knew that many of those now eager to acknowledge Him would turn away and walk no more with Him. He knew the fickleness of the human heart, and how many fair-weather converts were heedless or hypocritical. They were only following for the loaves and fishes. They did not possess that faith which works by love and purifies the soul, thus they were unable to please Jesus, likewise many Christians today!
Jesus, recognizing the overwhelming influence that vain philosophies would have on His followers, asks a question which each one of us needs to answer: “When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8.
I leave with you these words, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6. With this in mind I ask you, are you a Christian?
Pastor Ivan Plummer ministers through the Emmanuel Seventh Day Church Ministries in Bronx, New York. He may be contacted by telephone at: 718-882-3900.