Stoop and Build ’em Up

Derek Ball
Derek Ball

Written January 8, 2021

The time in which we find ourselves is a tumultuous time indeed. We have “elected” the recently ‘resident Joe Biden, Christians and conservatives have found themselves edged out from among the regular spheres of social media, the economy has come to a screeching halt, hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs, their business, and their churches.

One good thing, however, has come alongside all the tumult: Whatever remains after such convulsions are those things which stand upon a firm foundation

“‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:26-28).

Shaking Out Dead Leaves From Good Fruit

During this time, many individuals within the visible church (those who profess faith in Christ, or hold the self-proclaimed title of “Christian”) have revealed themselves to profess falsely. We know this because “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

Furthermore, there are those who teach the love of the world while yet professing the Christian faith: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:16). The agitation of our current time lends to identifying such people, and shaking them out from among the good fruit like dead leaves.

Felling Fruitless Trees With Serrated Blades

The time has come to begin dealing with such treacherous, false, millstone-worthy individuals with all the teeth of a serrated Silky saw. If you are a Christian and have seen the kinds of interactions where Christian men of a certain caliber are engaging with people in such a way, that you find yourself thinking something like, “Boy, does he really need to talk like that?” or, “Is that really Christ-like?”, you’ve probably stumbled upon a man who is midway through a dead tree, and has a little left to go before he’s done.

To answer the first question: No, he doesn’t need to talk like that. That however, is not where the conversation ought to end. While a man may not need to cut down a fruitless tree that is detracting from the beauty of his garden in such a violent way, in many cases, it is unavoidable lest the tree continue to grow without fruit, crowding out, and perhaps choking out other plants in the garden… and at that thought, millstones again come to mind.

If the point hasn’t yet been made clear, I’ll give you an example. Professing Christian A, let’s call her, boldly and bravely proclaims through chirping thumbs tapping into the Twitterverse, “The Bible is not the Word of God. LGBTQ+ people are divine.” You immediately see Professing Christian B in the comment section saying something along the lines of, “You have no basis for truth apart from God’s Word, the God of whom demands all glory, and your blasphemy against Him will not go unpunished.” These are not yet the serrated bladed words I’m talking about. We have not yet stepped into Nehemiah-level beard-tearing territory. Professing Christian A then responds,

“This is an example of toxic Christianity, and your misogyny is showing.” The Silky saw of Christian B is then unfolded, grips some dead wood with its sharp edges, and replies,

“May the Lord shatter your teeth, for you speak falsehood against God and against me, and you have made yourself an enemy of God by loving the foolish ways of the fleeting world.”

While this is a hypothetical conversation loosely adapted from a real-world twitter conversation I had with a certain… professing Christian, the point here is twofold.

First, true Christians must not cower in fear of unbelief. True colors are shown when the fruit is not. You can ridicule and curse people in a loving, Christ-like way. The same way in which Jesus was loving when He mocked, ridiculed and cursed the scribes and Pharisees all the way down Matthew chapter 23. The same way John the Baptizer was loving when he said to the Pharisees, “‘You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit, then, in keeping with repentance… The axe lies ready at the foot of the tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire'” (Matthew 3:8, 10).

When you are filled with righteous anger at the lying, blasphemous, worldly speculations that are raised up against the knowledge of God, you are called to imitate Christ–imitate Him in the way He deals with fruitless professors of faith who lead others astray. No, you are not Christ. You will do it poorly, and at times, altogether wrongheaded. This doesn’t stop us from attempting a life of imitating His lighter tones like love and forbearance, and neither should it stop you from imitating Him in mockery and derision.

Second, this way of speaking is not only a matter of tact. It is also a way in which the church is purified. Much in the same way Nehemiah cleansed the Levites and the priesthood: “So I quarreled with them and cursed them, and struck some of them and pulled out their hair…” (Nehemiah 13:25). These are a matter of tact on the one hand, and on the other hand, it is necessary that someone employs them, and that they should be Christ-honoring, and founded upon the standard of Scripture the whole time. For the goal one day is that Christ will have washed His bride in the water of the Word of God, so as to present her without spot or blemish, holy and blameless to Himself (Ephesians 5:27).

Blessed Are You Through Traps for Fools

If at this point, you’ve agreed with everything written above, but find yourself afraid of the kind of backlash you’ll get for expressing righteous anger, calling out sin, and exposing false teachers, let this be your exhortation:

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

You can be certain that people will insult you, mock you, twist your words and use them against you, and speak evil against you for standing for the truth of God’s Word. This is nothing to be afraid of. Insults are meaningless to those who have abandoned the Word of God as their ultimate standard for truth and righteousness. Consistency is gone with the wind–it’s all chaff. The more you engage with people who have set themselves up as their own standard of truth, morality, justice, and all other virtues that belong to Christ, the more you will come to realize that idols are easy to topple. They take no physical force, no external weight, no worldly wisdom or intellectual prowess to be brought face-down in the dust. All it takes is setting apart Christ in your heart as Lord, and the Word of God your standard.

Be sure that these people will attempt to twist the truth of God’s word to set a snare for the audience. This is the tactic of the Devil from the beginning until now–it hasn’t changed: “Did God really say…?” You will be torn down by being mistaken, misread, and misheard by onlookers who listen to the knaves and trust in smooth speech. Let this be your exhortation: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). Even when no one comes to your aid, no one stands up beside you to hold you up: stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Even when the world tries to tear down everything you’ve built up, stoop and build ’em up with worn out tools.

“If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.”

From “IF–” by Rudyard Kipling

 

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