“I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.” -General William Booth
We stand on a precarious precipice as an Army of Salvation.
Conformity and capitulation knock at our door.
Our identity is often muddied in the waters of societal perceptions.
We are still a fledgling movement.
We are still a young Army in comparison to other much older establishments and even denominational entities.
Was Booth prophetic in describing the coming century? We are certainly beyond that specific century now but does it still apply? I believe so!
-The Dangers that Booth mentioned:
Religion without The Holy Ghost (Spirit):
There is a danger here to leave little room for the Holy Spirit to fall afresh on us today. We plan everything to the tee and we stringently arrange our time and, if we are not careful, we run the risk of closing the door on the Holy Spirit altogether. That doesn’t mean that He cannot still move, but when His people stop looking to Him for guidance and direction because we are far too preoccupied with appearances, policies and procedures we will begin to seek the power of people instead of God. We are a holiness movement. We were born of this theological element and we cannot abandon or lose our grip on its fundamental truth – the power of the Holy Spirit can and will guide, direct, empower and chastise and convict. We are not a holiness movement because we are stuck in this identity, but rather that this identity is how and where He has called us to exist and serve. To lose this element of who we are and the importance of holiness, we will have lost our way in the process. We practice more than just “religion”. For me this context offers more ritual than relationship. With the inclusion of the Holy Spirit we will always have crucial element of relationship in all that we do and all that we are.
Christianity Without Christ:
As silly as it sounds without Christ in “Christianity” all we would have left in practice is “anity” as in “that’s total insanity!
Christ is the cornerstone, the head of the body. Without Him we have nothing. Without Christ in our mission statement and within our vision statements as The Salvation Army, we are just another social service agency. It is like pulling the foundation up from a structure and expecting it to stand…it’s just not going to happen. Yet, what does happen when we stop professing Christ and that of His love, grace and redemption within our corps buildings and in our services? Are we more afraid of losing funding than we are of losing our faith? I am not proposing we shove “religion” down people’s throats, but I am proposing we stop hiding the fact (if we are hiding it) that we are a part of the body of Christ! Without Him we can do nothing! (John 15:5) Empty worship and empty practice is not who we are. It should never be something that we aspire to become as an Army. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:37-29
Forgiveness Without Repentance:
Grace is a free gift.
Yet gifts that are not accepted and employed are void. Jesus stands ready to offer forgiveness to all yet there is an action step for all who would receive that forgiveness – True repentance. “We believe that repentance toward God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and regeneration by the Holy Spirit are necessary to salvation.” (Doctrine #7, The Salvation Army)
We cannot fully preach or teach the Word of God without the call for genuine repentance. Sin is real and we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) It is imperative that a component of our “heart to God, hand to man” include the plea for all to seek forgiveness of sin. This is not something new for most of us. We understand this, yet have we washed down our doctrines or preached wishy-washy sermons because we fear offending people? What happened to boldness and truth? What happens if we without the truth of redemption which includes repentance? We could inadvertently be misrepresenting Christ and His mission for us…and God help us if we do!
Do you know why Jesus dealt more harshly with the teachers of the law than He did with the common person? Because these teachers knew better and yet they lived hypocritical lives – condemning others while they themselves were living inconsistently and sinfully. We, as purveyors of The Truth must be careful that we do not exclude this call for repentance while at the same time living penitent and holy lives day after day.
To Be Continued…
Tomorrow I will continue this conversation on the “Highway to the danger zone” (sorry Top Gun fans…now you’ll be humming that song). We will again this quote and discuss “salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”
More for our Army to ponder today! To God be the glory!