by John Vaughn
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17).
Our fundamental Baptist world is being rocked by the Jack Schaap scandal. How are we to understand such a thing? Why is God allowing all fundamental Baptists to be slandered by Jack Schaap’s betrayals? No doubt, when God allows us to be humbled by the sins of others, He is allowing judgment—the severe trial necessary to reveal our character—to illustrate what is coming for all unrepentant men. In spite of the warning in that illustration, the unrepentant take comfort by comparing themselves dishonestly to disgraced professing Christians. Worse yet, when believers do not repent, they help the world mock the very idea of repentance. When preachers bring shame to themselves, they shame the gospel they were called to preach. On the one hand, we must pray for revival. On the other hand, we cannot pray for revival if we do not seek it in ourselves. To be sure, our prayer cannot be, “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are.”
For many years, the wise counsel of a dear friend has guided me in the maintenance of my own spiritual life. I can still hear his patient response, “Criticism is our friend.” In truth, the faithful wounds of a friend are designed to bring us to repentance, but too often, they are met with self-defense. The preacher who thinks his authority is in his title instead of in his teaching is resistant to criticism or correction. Hence, the authoritarian preacher deprives himself of the accountability that might prevent his self-destruction. When a mutual friend destroyed his testimony and ended his ministry, my wise friend humbly prayed, “Lord? What am I tolerating in my life that will blind me to the snare?”
Of course, none of us wants to be dragged into the embarrassment of another man’s sins, but if the public humiliation of another could provoke humility in ourselves, judgment will have begun at the house of God. To illustrate, if my friend’s prayer were to be offered by enough individuals, perhaps it would become the prayer of a congregation. If it were offered by enough congregations, perhaps it would become the prayer of our nation. Truly, what are our local churches tolerating that is blinding them to the snare? What has our nation tolerated that blinded it to the snare long ago, so that we wonder if there is any way at all to recover ourselves?
In June, bestselling fiction author Joel C. Rosenberg released his second non-fiction work—Implosion. In his subtitle, Rosenberg asked the question, “Can America recover from its economic & spiritual challenges in time?” After plumbing the depths of our national woes, Rosenberg recounted the revivals known as the First and Second Great Awakenings. In answer to his question about any hope for recovery, he replied, in essence, “Only if America experiences a Third Great Awakening.” The popular author does not assure us that such an awakening is possible at this late hour, but he wisely tells us that we should earnestly seek revival in our own hearts. Of course, revival will not come even to men who merely cringe at the scandalous sins of others while clinging to their own secret sins. Appropriately, we abhor the shameful betrayals of the Gospel that make headlines. More importantly, it is time to ask the question, “What am I tolerating in my own heart that is blinding me to the snare?” When our personal trial comes, may every one of us who has answered God’s call be reminded of Job’s brokenness when he asked God to instruct him:
I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:2-6)
John Vaughn is the President of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International.