In a results-oriented culture, born again believers must not allow pragmatism to triumph over principle.
"Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And inThy name have cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you. Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:22-23).
The fact that some way or method seems to be effective does not ensure that God has originated our doing. For example, if finding a way to attract large numbers causes us to marvel without question that the Lord is at work, we will have to conclude that well-attended athleticevents, rock concerts, and political rallies are actsof God. Or, if statistical data concerning first time "decisions" for Christ confirms in our minds a movement of God, we must minimize the New Testament's constant emphasis on "continuing in the faith grounded and settled" (Colossians 1:23).
Many years ago, a music minister possessed of some of the finest musical gifts and abilities Ihave ever seen told me of a summer tour on which he had take a youth choir. "They sang their hearts out in churches throughout theSouth," he said. "We had hundreds of kids come forward in our services to pray and sign decisioncards. We truly believed God had done a great thing through the choir." The minister continued, however, by sadly shaking his head. "That fall I decided to contact the churches where we had ministered to see how the new converts were doing. To my shock, every youth minister with whom I spoke told me that there had been almost no lasting effect among those who had prayed and made decisions. It took some thought and prayer, but I finally realized that our method had not been Biblical. We had emphasized song rather than preaching and teaching the Word of God." The minister concluded, "We saw a lot of response because you can prompt people to do just about anythingor make any decision through the emotionalpersuasion of music. Apparently, however, our efforts led to very little true repentance. "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (I Corinthians 1:21).
This godly man, now with the Lord, shared this with me as warning that God's will must be done in God's way, or it's not God's will. Apparent results do not guarantee actual reality. I've never forgotten the minister's words, or the obvious truth they conveyed. In his case, he learned, as he told me, that nowhere in Scripture is it taught that we can sing people unto Christ, as it were. Godly music is rather a fruit of the Holy Spirit's presence in already trusting hearts, given as a particularly beautiful way for believersto express our love and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. "Sing unto the Lord, o ye saints of His" (Psalm 30:4). The minister had unintentionally misused God's gift, and the deceptive "results" taught him the great truth that, again, God's will must be done in God's way, or it is not God's will.
Our Lord is Himself guided by the principle of His character, nature, and way. He calls us to the same, and we tread on dangerous, deceiving ground if we substitute the pragmatism of "It works!" for the faithfulness of "I will meditate inThy precepts, and have respect unto Thy ways" (Psalm 119:15). Indeed, consider that those young people who made questionable choices for Christ in response to emotional persuasionmay now believe they have found the Gospel to be wanting in true reality and power. Dangerous, deceiving ground indeed, and let us reiterate yet again, God's will must be done in God's way, or it is not God's will.
"Blessed is everyone that feareth the Lord, that walketh in His ways."