If there were no great evils and no deaf hearts and no eternal consequences, perhaps fitting forms of love would be a soft touch and tender words. But such a world does not kill the Son of God and hate his disciples. There is no such world. John Piper

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God. [Phil 1:7-11]

We are living in challenging times. Not only do we face a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity, we are witnessing a large portion of the church that is fast becoming apostate. The reason for the deterioration is that we are moving away from a full reliance upon God’s Word. When church leaders fail to receive the Bible as God’s authority and refuse to take the words of Scripture literally, great and devastating confusion will reign among believers. This change sounds so relevant and loving and looks so warm and fuzzy, that many are caught up in its deception. Those who speak out against it seem harsh and hateful. It will take great courage and boldness to resist this growing surge of evil that is coming upon the Church of Jesus Christ.

We have learned that Philippians is a letter of joy. At least nineteen times in four chapters, Paul mentions “joy” “rejoicing” and “gladness.” Our joy in the Lord is our strength. [Nehemiah 8:10]. It is not a “happiness” that depends upon pleasant circumstances, but a deep root of confidence in Christ that keeps us satisfied in spite of the circumstances. It is a gift of God that assures us of his loving presence that is working in us at all times. What maintains and preserves that joy is our knowledge of and obedience to God’s Word. [John 15:10-11]. God’s written Word is God speaking.

I am convinced that the church must wake up to the seriousness of the threat before us. That is the sense of Piper’s words above. We have always been engaged in a battle with evil and hateful forces, committed to robbing us of our faith and joy in Jesus. But, we have been lulled into casualness because we have lived in a “Christian nation” which was buttressed by a Bible-believing Church. Now the battle is intensifying. What makes our condition so tenuous is that the strategy of the enemy is so subtle. He is coming into our house as an angel of light, looking like a friend while robbing us of our faith. What we need is a good dose of discernment.

Paul loves the Philippians. Whether he is preaching or in chains he has them in his heart. One of the great joys we receive as ministers is the love that birthed as we work together in the Lord’s vineyard. Ten years later, Paul has not moved on to other things. He still loves and cares for his people just like he did when the Lord used him to give them the Gospel. So he writes that their love would abound and grow in depth of insight so that they would be able to discern what is best.

Love is the deep and precious fellowship that is ours in Jesus. We are not just congregations, we are family. We are bound in the bonds of love. What affects you affects me. How we love each other affects our witness to the reality of Christ in the church. [John 13:34-35] We are to care deeply about our fellowship. Paul continually addresses the unity of the church both in doctrine and relationship in all of his letters. But, this love was not just a feeling of brotherhood, it is a bond whose glue that keeps it together is the truth written in commands and promises in God’s Word.

That is why discernment is crucial. When love is seen only as a compassion for others and is not informed and based upon truth, it can result in devastation to a people whose motives may be good, but whose conclusions are wrong. That is why Paul prays. We need the Spirit of God working in our hearts to enable us to keep from being deceived [Psalm 119:29] by being enabled to see the wonderful things in God’s law [Psalm 119:18]; to understand them [Psalm 119:34]; to love them [Psalm 119:36] and to obey them. [Psalm 119:34].

In a recent meeting held in a San Diego Church that is situated on the campus of its denominational university, a young man stood to make a proclamation. He declared to the students, professors and pastors in attendance: “Thanks be to God that he made me gay! This is my proclamation: I am gay. I am a Christian. I will continue to live in that manner.” This young man has obviously gone through a lot of pain. He has also received a lot of support and comfort from the university faculty which helped him come to this position. Suppose you are one of the 200 believers whose hearts go out to this young man who has bravely determined to go public. You sat there while the majority of the Christians in attendance applauded his bravery. You observed that the pastor of the church commended him for his openness and offered no scriptural truth to challenge his decision. What would you have done? How would you have responded?

It depends, doesn’t it? Do you know the scriptures well enough to understand God’s perspective on this sensitive issue? Do you love this young man enough to tell him the truth that would keep him from being captured by the enemy’s lies? Do you have enough confidence in the scriptures so that you believe what they say is best for all no matter what the issue? Do you love the glory of Jesus enough to take a public stand against the pastor, the college faculty; and the sentiments of 199 sympathetic believers?

Martin Luther once said that, “A simple man armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it.” Are you that simple man or woman? I know we would prefer the “soft touch” and “tender words”, but that is not the world we live in. This world killed the Son of God. The ruler of this world seeks to deceive and destroy the lives of young men and women. The church of this world is often more influenced by the theories of the world than the truth of God’s Word. The leaders of this world substitute love and acceptance for speaking the truth in love.

I know how most of you are responding. You do not know if you have what it takes to be a man or woman of discernment and courage. But, Jesus has not only commanded us to teach his commandments, he has promised to go with us to the end of the earth. Matthew 28: 18-20] He will give us the words to say and the boldness, and compassion to speak them. God’s Word has not changed although our denomination and here professors have. There is a whole new generation that needs to hear the word of God proclaimed and lived out in public. Even though the flow of truth and morals may be flowing against us, we must take our stand. “We are neither to give in nor to opt out. Instead, we are to stay in and stand firm, like a rock in a stream, like a rose blooming in the middle of winter, like a lily growing in a manure heap.” [John Stott]

Let us pray for one another so that in the coming days we will be granted the discernment to detect error, the wisdom to know what to say and how to say it, and the courage to stand against a strong current. We speak not because we enjoy controversy, but because we love truth. We need not apologize for our message. It is still the Good News!