Mike Durning here reporting from the first night of SGI’s 10th national conference.
The blend of people in the auditorium is interesting. Of course, there are hundreds of young adults of college age here, and I look forward to talking to a few, to discern how many of them are from which churches or colleges or which arms of Fundamentalism. More on that later, as Tim (conference director) gets us some demographic data.
Tim Jordan (Calvary Baptist, Lansdale, PA) gave the first message in this plenary session, after a powerful time of simple worship to a blend of old hymns and a few of the contemporary worship songs with profound words, like “Before the Throne of God.”
His text was Ephesians 6:14. I confess I was looking forward to how the conference speakers would meld their theme (God’s Armor: Put it on) with their purpose (Global Missions). The two would seem to not quite connect.
Brother Jordan began by talking about his over-optimistic nature, and how he continually desires to turn a corner and find life, serving Christ, and ministry to be “easy.” But easy appears to be “not on the menu” for his life—or any of ours. Ephesians 6’s armor section clearly indicates to us that we are in a warfare. It is not a fake war, not a cyber-war, but a very real, life and death conflict. Some comparisons are made to the stories of the soldiers coming back from the Middle East conflicts, and he again observes that nobody has used the word “easy” of these conflicts. Warfare is not easy.
We spend our lives and walk with Christ scared, holding on by our fingernails, and scared out of our minds—though we try not to show it on the outside. This, he says, highlights the difficulties of a text that calls on us to “Stand firm” (Eph. 6:14, NASB).
The difficulty is life-long. He commented that as an older believer, he amazes himself that he can still be so stupid, and so weak. The battle never stops, and it never gets easy. We attempt to dismiss it like a fairy-tale, but it is plain, unadulterated truth that cannot be dismissed. It will never be easy this side of heaven.
While it is clear in the text that God provides the armor and enabling, without which we would have no chance, he still clearly holds us to be responsible to engage in certain spiritual disciplines which are vital to our success and survival in this spiritual warfare.
He connected with the youth audience well when he talked about video war-games (such as Halo, perhaps). He claimed that he’s survived long enough to change weapons, but has never succeeded in killing an opponent—which is why he has stopped trying to play them.
Similarly, he is always in way over his head in the spiritual battle, incapable of winning in his own strength. None of us will ever be able in our own strength. But engaging in the disciplines represented by the armor is our duty—our part.
On to the text. It speaks first of the Belt of Truth/Truthfulness.
We must be men and women of truth; focused on the objective truth of God’s Word.
We must do this first, by knowing what the Scriptures truly do say.
This is obvious for those who are pursuing preaching, but is actually vital for all of us.
“It sounds like this, so I’ll just go with it.” I suppose, he says, this is a good starting point, but it had better not be the ending point of your study.
Too often, we are not so much people of the book, but people of “whispering down the line what someone else says the book says.” In fact, many of us consider knowing what the book says to be someone else’s job.
Too often, we have an incomplete or unformed understanding of the truth, and we are satisfied with this state. But learning what God’s Word says is a life-long endeavor. We must day by day engage with the truth of God’s Word.
We must know and understand and love God’s Word every day.
Secondly, the belt certainly is speaking of truthfulness—integrity. Truth in the inner man or inward being. Psalm 51:6 was quoted.
“Fake it till you make it” is at times a valid and necessary function, but it is not in the Bible and is not a strategy for the Christian life.
Pretending you are OK when you are not.
Pretending you have no struggles when you do.
Pretending you are not afraid when you are.
All of these are examples of faking it.
If you are a faker, you will not be able to stand firm.
He gave humorous examples of being overly frank and freaking out others. But he noted that while many indicate they are doing fine when asked, many are actually crying on the inside.
We need to stop pretending. One of the most gloriously absent things in the Psalms is “pretending”. We know how David feels. There is zero pretending in the Psalms.
He spoke of anger with God—and being honest, through respectfully, about our struggles.
You must be honest with what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, and what you need.
Sometimes, you will have to enlist the prayers of others with honesty.
You will not make it if you fake it.
He is not saying we need to share every gory detail of our lives, but we need honesty about the facts and general nature of our struggles.
Brother Jordan then shared honestly about his attitude toward the struggles with some of the idols in his life that recur. He spoke of his frustration with them. And said at times like that we need to actually get the attention of others and urge them to fervently pray for us.
He spoke to the men, who are socially programmed especially to act as though they have no fears or problems, and warned them against this tendency.
We must be genuinely regenerate, clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
But we must also transition to practical righteousness in our everyday lives.
If we are going to stand in this battle, we must let God define what is right and wrong.
We also need to learn to think of righteousness not just in terms of God’s Word’s words, but also relationally—as in what puts us in a right relationship with God and His nature.
Our relationship to this truth should never be static though.
Because there are things we think are right that are not.
And there are things we think that are wrong that are not.
As we grow in our understanding of Christ, His ethics, and His morality, and what puts us in a right relationship with Him and what He has said, we may come to understand rightness better.
Either way, we need to be committed to doing the hard, right thing, or we will be unable to stand. Commitment to doing the hard, right thing, as a breastplate of righteousness, will keep us safe. It will not necessarily protect us from pain, or help us avoid false accusation, or make us successes, but it will keep us spiritually safe.
Examples were Christ and how His right living was mis-interpreted.
It will protect us from being duped by any of Satan’s wiles or strategies.
The fact that I stand righteous before God because of justification by faith, and then living out that ethical rightness in my life day by day, make me bolder spiritually.
There are times when the only way to do the right thing will be to appear to do the wrong thing. That’s not every day, thank the Lord, or it would be very confusing. A few explanations of the difficulty of this were given. And he reiterated that we would be spiritually safe if we do the right thing even in this situation.
He describes the armor, despite its parts, as one thing, to be put on all at once, in order to be powerful and effective for Him.
From tonight onward, we’re going to have to be people of truth, be truthful about our shortcomings, and committed to living what is right.
A few comparisons with Christ and His ministry—concerned with sincerity, truthfulness, and righteousness, regardless of the public image or perceived ministry value of the actions.
Thoughts from Mike:
I thought this message was extremely appropriate to the age-group, and thought they would strongly resonate with the younger fundamentalists, but found it convicting in my own life.
The message was refreshing in some of the themes it gave, particularly coming from a Fundamentalist. There are many preachers in the movement who 20 years ago would not have dared to say some of what he said.
I was a little surprised with the dual interpretation given to the “Belt of Truth”—both the propositional truths from God’s Word and our own truthfulness. Though many commentators take both tracks, I remember being uncomfortable with this duality at the interpretive level when I last preached this text. But hearing Brother Jordan draw them together as a whole in explaining the text actually made them make sense together—and it seemed more than mere rhetoric. Perhaps I’m willing to entertain the notion that Paul actually intended “truth” in both senses—or that there was some definition of truth in Paul’s mind that encompassed both meaning in our own modern thought. Hermeneutical purists may now commence fire.
I am very impressed with the conference so far. I am impressed with the sermon too, which should eventually be available for download from the Missions Mandate site.
I had nice conversations with Dr. Mark Minnick and Dr. Dave Doran. Catching up from old times, and such.
More tomorrow at lunch time.