As we face 2008, a crucial election year and another year of uncertainty as far as the world situation is concerned, I’m not going to be so presumptuous as to attempt to prognosticate the future. Rather, I would like to direct your attention to James 4:13-17 where James asks a very practical question. “What is your life? What does it mean to be a Christian? If you are a Christian, what imapct do you have on those around you? Then James answers that question by likening our lives to a puff of steam. In this message let’s consider our influence on others as Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount likens it to salt and light in Matthew 5. and as James likens it to a vapor.
OUR INFLUENCE AS SALT Matthew 5:13
As salt, our lives should bring flavor to life. As salty Christians, we ought not be noticed. Rather, we ought to be calling attention to Jesus by our lives. Our motto ought to be that of John the Baptist’s, as we find it in John 3:30. “He (Christ) must increase and I must decrease.” Just as we are not aware of salt, when eating a good meal, so people will not be as aware of us as much as they are of Christ living in us. If we are aware of salt in a meal, it’s because there is too much salt. The salt is calling attention to itself. We don’t remark after eating a delicious meal, “My, wasn’t the salt wonderful!”
People who call attenton to their self-righteousness or to their self-importance are detracting from the message and purpose of the church, and from the glory that should go only to God. As salt, our lives should prevent corruption. As salt helps prevent food from decay, so our presence as Christians in this world should help slow down total corruption and decay in the world.
One day Christian will be caught up to Heaven and when that time comes, this world without a single Christian on earth will be plunged into total spiritual darkness and corruption such as the world has never seen. But until then we are a quiet influence for good in this world.
OUR INFLUENCE AS LIGHT Matthew 5:14-16
The reason we are called the Light of the World is because Christ, who is the Light of the World, lives in us and shines through our personalities. Philippians 2:14-16 instructs Christians as to how we are to show forth that light to a lost world. “Do all things without murmurings and disputings that you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and preverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding forth the Word of Life.” That’s the way we influence others around us. Our purpose as lights is not to glare in the eyes of those to whom we are a witness of Christ, but to reflect Christ to those who observe us.
Matthew 5:14-16 and II Corinthians 4:3-7 remind us to not attempt to hide our light, but let it shine as we live consistent, pleasant, holy lives; not just in church, but in our homes and in our places of employment and in our daily living in this sinful world. Christ will be seen as we allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to bear His fruit in our lives. The fruit is described in Galatians 5:22-26.
OUR INFLUENCE AS VAPOR James 4:13-17
First, what is vapor? The dictionary defines it as a visible, diffused matter, such as steam, gas or perfume. Others are continually observing us; including our families, friends, strangers, and especially children. The lost, as well as younger, weaker Christians, are continually scrutinizing us as they look for “chinks in our armour”. They are checking to see if our Christianity is genuine, or just a farce. If our children observe us putting on our cloak of piety when we go to church, but living like the devil at home, they are going to become bitter and will totally reject our Christianity.
The lost are continually looking for flaws in our character so they will have an excuse to trash Christianity and ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit in their lives as He calls them to come to Christ.
Vapor is not only visible, but it is a powerful force for good or for evil. When steam or gas is under control it can be used to run engines and turbines, to run vehicles and to heat homes and office and factories. But when vapor is out of control, it can cost explosions and damage and death. So, when we are out of control, we can do great damage to others, including churches.
Some vapors are fragrant and attractive and others are sickening and repulsive. A little perfume on a woman is attractive. Too much can be sickening. Certainly body odor or halitosis is repulsive. As Christians we are called upon in II Corinthians 2:14-16 to bear the fragrance of Christ wherever we go. As we grow older, if we have been walking with Christ, His fragrance should increase, just as the light of Christ, according to Proverbs 4:18, grows brighter and brighter as we grow older. Understand, young people, that right now you are becoming the old man or the old woman you will one day be. Will you become crabbier and more crotchety or will you develop a sweeter disposition with old age? It all depends how you respond to life now.
Each of us are living out our own individual life stories; stories shaped by our decisions; but more than that, stories shaped by God’s sovereignty. We did not choose our parents nor our genes, nor our personalities with our strengths and weaknesses. We did not choose the place of our birth, nor the circumstances under which we grew up.
Though we all bear the responsibility for the choices we make, including the friends we choose and the spouse we choose; ultimately it is God who brings people and circumstances into our lives and directs the timing of each detail. I can say with the Psalmist, “My times are in Thy hand.” Psalm 31:15 As I look back on seventy-four years of God’s loving kindness and provision and upon some very difficult years in life, I can say with a rejoicing heart, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” Psalm 16:5-6
The following are some of the people who have most influenced me. I list them somewhat in the order they came into my life. Many more, both young and old, could be added to the list. But here is the short list of those for whom I shall forever be grateful.
Clifford Bicker, my father, was a missionary to Peru, S.A. for five short years. Though I cannot remember my father for I was only four years old when he died in a car accident in Peru while traveling to a mountain village to preach the Gospel; yet hearing and reading of his Christ-like life has greatly influenced me.
Ruth, my mother, struggled as a young widow to give my younger brother, David, and me a normal home. Her parents, brothers and sisters often helped her care for us. One memory I have of her is standing at the front door with us and praying for David and me before we left for school each morning. With her limited income she did what she could to make life fun and she instilled in our hearts a desire to know God. She faithfully served the Lord as a missionary in Peru. She with my father and one year old brother, David, were preparing to return from Peru on our first furlough, when my father was suddenly taken in a car accident..
Nine years later she met and married her second missionary husband, Ken Harold. They served together in Haiti and Jamaica. There God gave them two children, Carolyn and Douglas. In her retirement years in Florida, she continued to serve the Lord teaching and participating in Bible classes until her death in 2005 at the age of 95.
My Grandfather Bicker The only thing I can remember about this old preacher is that he prayed with me in his home in Pasadena, California when I was five years old. I can’t remember what he prayed, but the memory of that time on my knees with him still wields an influence in my life. I also remember receiving letters from him just before he died. He often wrote about being homesick for Heaven.
My Grandfather and Grandmother Smith took care of me often growing up in Toronto, Canada while my mother traveled through USA and Canada speaking about missions. I remember their kindness to me.
Oswald J. Smith, my uncle, founded and pastored The People’s Church in Toronto, Canada. Though he traveled throughout the world during the 30’s, 40’s 50’s and 60’s evangelizing, promoting foreign missions, and writing many books, hymns and Gospel songs; the thing I most remember about him was his simple Gospel preaching that I could understand. It was there that I was saved at the age of nine and gave my heart to Christ to serve Him.
Perhaps the greatest thrill I experienced as a boy was was in People’s Church at the old downtown Bloor Street location. It was the vibrant, rejoicing, congregational singing of the great hymns and Gospel songs of the church. I used to sit in the side gallery right above the organ and was entranced by Frank Trenchard, the organist, as his music and the voices of over 2,000 people shook the church every Sunday morning and every Sunday evening. I wept for joy as people came down the aisle every week to receive Christ as Saviour.
Mrs. Josephine Hope Westervelt was a retired missionary who operated a home for missionary children in Batesburg, S.C. during the years of World War II when many missionaries did not take their children with them to foreign countries There were about 100 of us and it was quite an experience. I was there from age eleven to sixteen. I thank God for the character training I received. I remember my Mother leaving my younger brother, David, and me there. As a young widow, it was heart-wrenching to do it, but in retrospect, I know she did the right thing. I remember her reading to me from II Timothy before she left me. “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
Miss Vera Ethel Deardurff was my sixth through eighth grade teacher in a one room school house at Westervelt. This very big woman had a commanding presence as she sat behind her desk all day watching us with eagle eyes. Behind all her teacherly austereness, was a heart for us as big as she was. I knew she loved me. I have often said, I think I learned everything I know from her. It seemed to me then that much of high school and college was just a review of what I learned during those three years. The things I most appreciated from her was a foundation in English grammar and American history and a strong politically conservative outlook on life which she passed on to me.
Miss Violet Bohy was my piano teacher during my Westervelt years. Though I had started piano lessons in Toronto earlier, she taught me the piano skills which I have enjoyed and used for the Lord all my life. I thank God for these single women at Westervelt who sacrificed their lives for missionary children like myself. I doubt they received much money. But any reward I receive for serving the Lord, will be shared by them when we meet Christ.
Lloyd Powlison,one of the older young men at Westervelt, was like a big brother to us younger boys. He used to take us swimming in the creek and hiking in the woods. We had an old Model T without an engine that we used to take turns steering while the rest pushed.
Mark Goodger was a bicycle evangelist. Single at the time; Mark, about 30 years of age, traveled America constantly on his bicycle, eating and sleeping wherever he could find a place, and leading people to Christ wherever he went. Whenever he was in South Carolina, he always stopped to speak to us at Westervelt, sharing his adventures and challenging us to be soul winners. He was our hero and all of us admired his bicycle. Later on he was married and he and his wife continued together in evangelism. We were disappointed though when he traded his bicycle in for an ordinary car and traded his life of adventure for that of an ordinary married man.
Charles E. Fuller was theGospel radio preacher of the Old Fashioned Revival Hour who preached simple Gospel messages that were broadcast coast to coast during World War II from an auditorium in Long Beach, California. He was one of my boyhood preacher heroes. Later on in high school in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to sit in one of the services In Long Beach and watch young sailors come forward to receive Christ when the invitation was given. http://www.biblebelievers.com/OFRH/mp3_archive.html
Rudy Atwood, the incomparable pianist of the Old Fashioned Revival Hour was my piano hero. What a thrill is was to watch and hear him play “Heavenly Sunshine” in his unforgetable style! Though my fingers were never as nimble as his, and though I am not the skilled pianist he was, I learned from listening to him a little of his piano style. Here’s a sampling of his music. http://heritagemedia.org/catalog1.htm
Robert McQuilken founder and first president of Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International University) in Columbia S.C., was a godly influence in my life. Growing up at Westervelt, we missionary kids often rode, standing in a truck the 30 miles to CBC to hear him or missionaries and other Bible teachers, such as H.A. Ironside. LIttle did I know then that one day my future wife would be a C.B.C. student.
Kenneth Harold, a bachelor missionary, married my widowed mother. Together they served the Lord as missionaries in Haiti and Jamaica. I appreciated especially as a 16 year old, my summer with them in Haiti. He went all out to be a father to my brother and me, taking us fishing, hunting, horse back riding and teaching me to drive. How well I remember going to Convention with him out in the villages of the southern peninsula of Haiti and seeing hundreds of Haitians sitting on bamboo poles for hours and hours in large palm leaf covered “auditoriums” without walls, singing joyfully in Creole while I played the portable pump organ and listened to Ken and Haitian preachers preach the Gospel. It was an experience I will never forget.
Elmer V. Thompson, founder of the West Indies Mission ( now World Team) was one of the most godly men I ever met. He directed the mission under which my parent’s served. It was an awesome experience to just be in the presence of this man who so loved Christ and His Word. He taught that the most effective missionary effort was that of training nationals to establish their own indigenous, self-supporting, self-propagating churches. Several Bible Institutes were established by WIM. to train the future pastors. Today, over sixty years later, the Haitian evangelical church in the southern peninsula is strong and thriving under the leadership of Haitian pastors.
Recently I noted on the internet that the name West Indies Mission has been taken over by the Mormons.
L.E. Maxwell was the founder and president of Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta, Canada. I spent my sophomore year of high school in the Academy associated with the Institute. L.E. Maxwell unfolded the truth of Romans 6-8 to us, the truth of how to live the crucified life. See my article on VICTORY in my Comments on this web site.
Miss Pamela Reeves was my Bible teacher at Culter Academy, one of the first Christian high schools in Los Angeles, California. Interestingly, Miss Reeves taught in her Bible teaching the truth of the crucified life which I had first understood at Prairie. Our graduating high school class of ’52 sang as our class song, “Not I, But Christ” taken from Galatians 2:20.
Bob Jones Sr., founder of Bob Jones University, was the primary chapel speaker when I was a student there. This gentle giant of a man had a soft-spoken heavy Alabama drawl that took me awhile to fully understand. For four years I sat under his daily conversational style of preaching which centered on loving Christ and His Word and character building. It was bound to make a lasting impact on my character and on my own style of preaching. One of the truths he taught us was ” If one knows how to live, he can make a living.”
Evangelist John R. Rice I first heard him at Bible Conferences at Bob Jones University and was touched by his earnest, sound, logical preaching. I devoured his weekly paper Sword of the Lord, and a number of his books. Recently, I found his biography on this web site http://www.earnestlycontending.com/KT/bios/johnrrice.html
Since he went Home to Heaven, I have been dissapointed that the Sword of the Lord has taken a KJV Only position, a position he rejected in his book, Our God Breathed Book-The Bible.
Theodore Epp In the early years of our marriage, my wife and I often enjoyed hearing the daily Back to the Bible radio broadcast as Brother Epp taught God’s Word and as the radio choir sang of the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
I think of a deacon, Al, in the Baptist Church where Pat and I were married in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. He was a mechanic who worked on my car. He had the nerve to tell me, a young preacher who was going to set the world on fire, that I was like a young colt that needed to be broken. He told me that when I was broken God would use me. Wow! Thanks Al, for telling me what I needed to hear.
Patricia Gumm my sweet heart and wife of over fifty-seven years, has been a quiet steadying influence in my life. I thank God for this Godly woman who has loved me and been such a wonderful mother to our three children. What patience it must take for her to sit under the preaching of the same preacher for over 55 years, knowing all his faults; and, perhaps even more difficult, to live with one whose temperament is so opposite hers. I too am learning patience and selflessness as I have learned to help ease her life of back pain that has continued now for over forty years. From our courtship days, through the years we have shared a love for Christ and a basic philosophy of life, as well as a deepening love and understanding for one another.
In the years I have been in the ministry, books have been my constant companion. Though many have taught me; the authors who have influenced me most are: Oswald J. Smith, John R. Rice, L.E. Maxwell, H.A. Ironside, Donald Grey Barnhouse, G. Campbell Morgan, Alan Redpath, Martyn Lloyd Jones, J. Vernon McGee and John MacArthur. One thing in common about all of these influential people in my life is that Christ was the main focus of their lives.
To those of you who pity us and think life has been boring for us, let me assure you that life has been anything but boring. Life has been a continuous adventure and romance with God and with each other. I pity the poor soul whose life is so boring that he has to live in a fantasy world to make life bearable.
Walking with Jesus is an adventure, but this is only the preface. Life in Heaven is going to be an eternal adventure. If you are living a boring existence, admit that you have been living for yourself and sin has ruined your life. Receive Christ as your Saviour and surrender yourself to His Lordship. Get into the Word. Get involved in a church where Christ is loved and where Bible preaching is central. An adventure awaits you now in this life and in eternity.
Recently, I was thinking back to one of the most influential moments of my life.
For most of the six years I lived in Westervelt Home for Missionary Children in Batesburg, S.C. from 1944 through 1949 each morning we recited in prayer together at the breakfast tables Psalm 19:14.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”
Each evening at supper we recited Psalm 139:23-24
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
My father and mother were missionaries in Peru, South America, when Dad died in a car accident. I was four and my younger brother, David, was one when he died, leaving my mother a widow at the age of 27, To read the story of his short life and death go to the link below and scroll to chapter 11.
.While on a road trip, an elderly couple stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch.
After finishing their meal, they left the restaurant and resumed their trip.
When leaving, the elderly woman unknowingly left her glasses on the table and she didn’t miss them until they had been driving about twenty minutes.
By then, to add to the aggravation, they had to travel quite a distance before they could find a place to turn around, in order to return to the restaurant to retrieve her glasses.
All the way back, the elderly husband became the classic grouchy old man..
He fussed and complained and scolded his wife relentlessly during the entire return drive. The more he chided her — the more agitated he became. He just wouldn’t let up one minute.
To her relief, they finally arrived at the restaurant.
As the woman got out of the car and hurried inside to retrieve her glasses, the old geezer yelled to her, “While you’re in there, you might as well get my hat and the credit card.”
Liberalism is basically the denial of the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God. It is the denial of the deity of Jesus. They may use the adjective divine to describe Jesus, but they reject the deity of Christ, the idea that the man Jesus who walked in Palestine 2000 years ago and then died on a cross is God in a human body. Of course, along with that rejection of the deity of Christ, is the denial of His virgin birth, His miracles and His bodily resurrection.
A liberal is at heart a Unitarian, that is one who denies the Trinity, He is at heart a Universalists, that is, one who believes “all roads lead to Heaven and eventually all will be in Heaven”. They repudiate the idea of Christ rejecters suffering for eternity in Hell.
A liberal rejects the Biblical truth that God created the universe in six days simply by the power of His Word. He would rather choose to believe in evolution as the answer to the source of life on earth. He would reject the universal, world wide flood in which all but Noah and his family and the animals in the ark were annihilated.
The liberal judges the Bible by his own mind and refuses to allow the Bible to judge him as a sinner.
The liberal’s idea of Christianity is subjective, based on reason and experience. He refuses to base it on the Bible. He interprets it in the light of modern knowledge and teaches it with his unregenerate mind simply as an ethical way of life.
HOW DO LIBERALS WORK?
Liberals believe they are building the Kingdom of God by capturing the hearts and minds of the masses through gaining control of our educational system, our legislative system and the media over the past century. The public school system and most colleges and universities teach the religion of liberalism and humanism. The way they have accomplished that has been to legislate the Bible from the classroom or in some cases teach it only from a Liberal perspective. Thus Satan has accomplished his purpose in turning America, a nation founded on Christianity, into a purely secular nation. With their liberal values, they have turned well over half of America into a liberal, secular, Godless nation.
The National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches, founded about sixty years ago, unite liberal minded churches who advance the liberal social gospel throughout our nation and the world.
American Liberalism began in New England in the latter part of the eighteenth century when a handful of Boston area ministers called for a modern rational Christianity. Hence Liberals were often referred to as Modernists up through the first half of the twentieth century.
Their so-called enlightenment ideas gave rise to American Unitarianism and Universalism at the dawn of the 19th century. Perhaps the major fountainhead of Liberalism in America has been Union Theological Seminary in New York City. From there it has spread to most of the major denominational seminaries and State Universities.
Again, I remind you that Liberals basically feel they are building the Kingdom of God on earth. Their goal is the universal fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.
WHAT IS NEO-ORTHODOXY?
Liberalism’s dream was dashed with World War I and further crushed with World War II. About that time a new theological movement was exported from Germany, Neo-Orthodoxy. Orthodox describes one who holds faithfully to the Christian Faith. The term Neo-Orthodox was actually a contradictory term. How can one come up with a new position concerning the Christian Faith which was once and for all given to the Church, as Jude 3 teaches?
No, the term Neo Orthodox was a misnomer for this new theological movement from Europe. A better name would have been Neo-Liberalism. This new theological movement that swept America’s seminaries almost a century ago was another “wolf in sheep’s clothing” that Jesus had warned about. This new movement was rooted in the work of Kant, Schleimacher, and Hegel. The works of Karl Barth, Emil Brunner and Soren Kierkegaard popularized it in America. Reinhold Niebuhr, a promoter of the Socialist Party in America, also had a part in this new movement.
The promoters of Neo-Orthodoxy are masters of double-talk. Though they deny the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible and though they deny the deity of Christ, including His virgin birth, His miracles and His bodily resurrection from the dead; they are masters of double talk. I sat in a Neo-Orthodox seminary and listened to a theology professor teach the glories of this false doctrine. We studied the works of Emil Brunner until I was so sick of this poison, that I quit this so-called Conservative seminary in the middle of the year.
The Neo Orthodox would say, “Though the Bible is not inerrant, it becomes the Word of God to us whenever it speaks to us.” Though they deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus, they wax eloquent when they preach on the Resurrection at Easter. Though they deny that Jesus shed His blood on the cross to appease the wrath of God for our sins, they preach eloquently on the cross of Christ and His love for us.
If our sins do not incur for us the wrath of God and eternal damnation in hell fire, then why on earth did Jesus go to the cross and endure the worst torture and means of death that anyone could ever devise? Why did He have to show His love to us that way? That doesn’t make sense. In fact, it would be sheer stupidity.
If you were sitting in your front yard watching your home burn to the ground and a fireman should rush into your house, knowing there was no one to save, yet should stay there and burn to death to show his love for you, that would be utter stupidity.
If on the other hand you were in the burning house trying to escape and a fireman should come rushing in to help you escape and in the process he should die of asphyxiation, that would be an act of pure love.
Neo Orthodoxy, which denies the truth that all men are sinners and are sentenced to eternal damnation in Hell fire, teaches the irrational doctrine that Jesus endured the torments of death on a cross just to show how much He loves us. Of course, He loved us. He died on the cross and shed His blood because He loved sinners and He paid the penalty of death that we deserved to pay in Hell for eternity. He paid that penalty for a world of sinners by enduring the death that we all deserved to pay throughout eternity.
Christ’s death on the cross makes no sense unless He died to be the propitiation or to appease God’s wrath that we deserved to suffer for our sins. See my link on PROPITIATION for more on this.
Neo-Orthodoxy denies the orthodox position of inerrancy and verbal, plenary inspiration. By that term we mean that every word in the Bible is completely inspired by God and is accurate, whether it refers to science or history or anything else. Neo-Orthodoxy teaches that as the authors of the Bible wrote, they interpreted the events or the words of Jesus, writing their own flawed interpretations. But in this gobbledygook of error, “the Bible becomes the Word of God whenever it speaks to us”.
Whereas Orthodoxy accepts the Bible as the complete and sufficient revelation of God to us, Neo-Orthodoxy believes that the Bible is merely a medium of revelation. Orthodoxy claims it is God’s Revelation to us.
To the Neo-Orthodox, truth is defined as that which is relevant to his experience or to his personal interpretation, making the discovery of truth a mystical experience, rather than a concrete fact. See my article on EXISTENTIALISM on this web site for more on this confusion that is associated with Neo-Orthodoxy.
Neo-Orthodoxy further teaches that Scripture is not the only form of revelation, but that further revelation can be directly obtained from God as He speaks directly to us apart from the Scriptures. This explains the modern “prophetic ministry” which has become a norm in liberal and Charismatic Churches.
If a church has come to the place where she believes that Truth is revealed directly and that it is subject to the interpretation of each individual and that God is still declaring new truth and new revelation, then they have departed from the Truth of God’s Word.
Let’s not lose the Truth by departing from it to seek new revelations and mysticism, the very foundation of Liberalism and Neo-Orthodoxy.