Avoiding the Wrong Relationships
“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:” – Genesis 3:1-2
In these opening verses of Genesis chapter three, I’ve noticed something that for many years I had neglected to pick up on. Did you catch it? After the devil poses his barbed and hooked question to the first lady of Eden, Eve answers the adversary seemingly without surprise or stall. It almost appears as though she had been in conversation with the serpent before. She doesn’t seem taken aback at the questioning of God’s Word, nor does she stumble over dialogue as would be expected during a first-time discussion. It’s from this quick and comfortable response that I’m lead to conclude that Eve had possibly built some type of relationship with the most subtle beast in the Garden. Don’t miss the fact that before Eve ever tasted the barred fruit, she was guilty of bad fellowship.
The Bible has much to say about Christian fellowship and both profitable and perilous relationships. It is absolutely essential in the life of every Christian to have comradery with other Christians. This is especially true for the fundamental preacher. No saint should be spiritually shacked up like a hermit in a secluded mountain hideaway. A fundamentalist is not an isolationist. But while every believer needs to build relationships, it is of vital importance that these relationships are constructed with the right kind of Christians. We have already made the case in a previous portion of this booklet that there is a definite difference between a fundamentalist and one who simply espouses the “Christian” title. Eve and the serpent did share some commonalities. They were in the same garden, they knew the same trees, they shared a common Creator, but the two were polar opposites when it came to both their principles and practice.
The Bible is black and white when it comes to warning the redeemed in the area of relationships.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” – 2 Corinthians 6:14
The devil’s design for weakening a believer’s ministry and watering down the Bible’s message has always been to size Christians up and to strap them into an unequal yoke. For both the starting and the seasoned fundamental preacher, it is paramount that extra care be taken when choosing who and what you allow to become close to you.
I remember reading about a particular plant found in Brazil, called by the local population the “matador” or “murderer.” This vine-like plant begins on the forest floor and creeps along until it finds a tree towering above it. When a suitable tree is found, the vine begins to wrap around the trunk of the tree and grow upward, twisting the trunk all the way. After this “murderer” makes its way above the topmost limbs of the tree, the vine opens into a flower. It’s from this flower that the “matador” commences spreading seed throughout the rest of the forest while at the same time choking the life out of the tree. In much the same way, bad relationships will cut off the life of and spread corruption throughout a ministry. We must watch what and who we get wrapped up with.
What you read, who you run with, and those that you follow on your social networking sites should all reinforce Biblical principles and your fundamental position. We mentioned earlier that a fundamentalist is not an isolationist, but though that be true, he is a separatist. It’s important to realize that this practice of separation is not a license for haughtiness or hatred toward those you are distancing yourself from. Instead, it is a stride toward loyalty and holiness with God. There are several types of people that the Bible blows the whistle on and warns the fundamental Christian to either keep clear of or to cut the ties of relationship with; but for the fundamental preacher, I am convinced there are three that are absolutely tantamount.
1. False Teachers
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” – Romans 16:17
The Apostle Paul admonishes the Roman saints to spy out and to stay away from any person that pushed, pilfered, or promoted any teachings that were not contained within the confines of their Bible. You can mark it down that any statement that does not have an anchor firmly fixed within the fathoms of Scripture is a false statement. On the same note, any person, no matter if their stationery reads “bishop,” “prophet,” “evangelist,” or “pastor;” no matter if they are from outside the ranks or from within, that makes such statements can be easily “marked” as a false teacher.
No sane individual would sit in the waiting room of a doctor who is known to give his patients shots of poison when they’re asking for penicillin. No level-headed human would purchase a car from a lot that is notorious for selling “lemons” to its patrons. No right-minded person would dine at a restaurant that serves entrees fresh from the garbage dumpster located in the alley behind the dog pound. In very much the same manner, injecting, investing in, or ingesting anything from the pen, preaching, or program of a false teacher is just as much nonsense. The clear call of Scripture is for the fundamental child of God to mark and not to mingle with such as these.
Dr. Harry A. Ironside put his pen to the task of addressing falsehoods and wrote,
“Some way or another, there is something about error when once it grips the minds of people that makes it assume an importance in their minds that the truth itself never had. One may be going on with the truth of God in a calm, easy way, and then he gets hold of something erroneous, and he pushes that thing to the very limit.”
No doubt, by the pages, men could be listed that were once running well but are now walking contrary to true Bible doctrine. All because some strand of falsehood trickled into their study, streamed into their sermon notes, and eventually flooded their entire Christian life. The devil has always had two main methods of attempting to thwart the work of God: unbridled persecution and unbiblical persuasion. False teachers fall into the latter.
Dr. Jack Hyles penned a profound statement that ought to pound this subject home to our hearts. He wrote,
“The Bible has more to say about false teachers than it does about tavern keepers and bartenders. For that matter, the Bible has more to say about false teachers than it does about strong drink.”
To be clear, God has much to say about Christians and their cocktails or believers and their booze, but it is an undeniable fact that those who teach false doctrine fall frequently within the crosshairs of a thrice-holy God.
As fundamentalists, we have no time for the charismatic television channel. The popular, prettied up, Scripture-perverting, seed-sowing, Swahili-speaking, smiling, no-sin mentioning televangelists of our day have about as much business infiltrating the life of a fundamental preacher as a cockroach does a casserole. As a fundamentalist, there is no case in our Christian life for Calvinism. We believe our Bible is accurate when it states that the Lord desires that “all should come to repentance,” that “whosoever,” means whosoever, and “the world,” actually means the world. As a fundamentalist, there is no need for neo-evangelical fellowship. A sharp suit, a nice necktie, and a wooden pulpit suit us better than open-collared floral shirts, rock music, and a stool. As fundamentalists, we have no reason to report to Rome. We don’t sit at the table with Bible deniers. We don’t study after compromisers. We don’t wet our finger to test the winds of secular thought and trend. We don’t lock arms, build bridges, and join fellowships at the expense of truth. For the fundamental Christian, it is the Bible, the Scriptures, the Word of God alone. It’s been said that “What a man accomplishes depends on what he believes.” To do great things for God, we must hold to and believe in the great truths of God. Keep the Bible as your bedrock, your basis, and your boundary line. The moment a man or a ministry crosses the demarcation line of Divine Truth, mark them and move away. A wrong relationship is without question a relationship with false teachers.
2. Foolish Questioners
“But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.” – 2 Timothy 2:23
Jew and Gentile alike in the days of Paul and Timothy were equally guilty of being involved in various quarrels amongst themselves. These spits and spats all found their common germinating ground in the asking and attempted answering of ignorant questions. As Paul writes to his protégé, he unmistakably admonishes Timothy to avoid “foolish and unlearned questions.” The word “foolish” found in these verse finds its Greek root in the word “moros.” It doesn’t take a Greek scholar to surmise that this word is close kin to our English word “moron” or “moronic.” Paul was, in effect, emphasizing that we should not entertain moronic inquiries.
This clear command is echoed again in Paul’s epistle to Titus. In the ninth verse of Titus chapter three, the Bible says,
“But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.”
No matter the date or the decade, there will be those who try to stir up trouble by asking questions that either have or need no answer. Their agenda fits much into the same category as that of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. The devil’s weapon of choice to lead Eve down the pathway of doubt and eventually destruction was a single, substance-lacking question. For the fledgling fundamentalist, make a note of those who always steer their conversations toward topics that try to muddy the doctrinal waters or shine a less than favorable light on other firm, fundamental ministries, and go ahead and bump that bunch off your buddy list.
George Washington, the father of our Nation and America’s first president, made the comment,
“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”
Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the quicksand of foolish questionings that only lead to more foolish questions and eventually childish fighting. It’s been said that “When a Christian sins the devil always gets out a few extra copies.”, but while the devil may do the publishing, he also has his “newsboys” who are quick to let you “hear all about it.” Whether their M.O. (mode of operation) be over coffee, via keyboard, or in the church, any person that has made a ministry of posing questions and politicking for confrontation is a walking, talking billboard for a wrong relationship.
3. Fence Jumpers
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:6
With this very verse, Paul’s theme of encouragement that had been thus prevalent in this Thessalonian epistle is quickly traded out for stern exhortation. Using very staunch language, the Apostle of the Gentiles admonishes these Christians in Christ’s name to “withdraw,” or remove themselves from any saved individual that walked wrongly. From the wording of this verse and those to follow, it is easy to estimate that these disorderly brothers were not always disorderly but had made conscious moves to arrive at that destination. It’s from this brand of brethren that Paul prompts the Thessalonians to part.
In studying the terminology of this verse, you’ll find that the word “disorderly” as it is used here carries with it the sense of a soldier that is out of rank or of a citizen that is out of rule. Paul claims there were some Christians that were out of rank and out of rule when it came to standing for and following the “tradition,” or delivered truth, that they had received. From the time of the Thessalonians, up to the time of this writing, and no doubt until the trumpet sounds, there will be some Christian “soldiers” that start out fundamental but eventually climb out of their bunk, leave the barracks, jump over the barricade, and become AWOL, and on their way to apostasy. For the fledgling fundamental preacher, it is of utmost importance to resolve that if those in your circle, clique, or crew, jump the fence of “delivered truth,” that they will unapologetically not be your crowd tomorrow. It matters not if those brothers preach in conferences, run a college, have a big church or a small church; are known nationally or not much at all. If they remove themselves from the rank and file of fundamental doctrine, we are commanded to remove ourselves from them.
One man said it right when he stated,
”Your strength is seen in what you stand for; your weakness in what you fall for.”
In my tenure as an evangelist, I can list pages of preachers and people who, through differing circumstances and compulsions, have chosen to climb and fall across the fence of fundamental truth. While I can and still do, pray for those individuals, I cannot partner with them. God never leads a believer contrary to His Bible. Thus, you can be sure that those who’ve compromised and cut their ties with truth and right were not directed to do so by Deity. After having landed on the wrong side of the fence, the main motive of a disorderly Christian is to coax Christians on the right side to climb across as well. In direct defense of this very thing, Paul pens for both first century and current fundamental believers, “withdraw yourselves.”
It was Dr. John R. Rice who once penned,
“Many actual Christians are so deceived by the liberals, the unbelievers that they quote and defend the modernists and support them in Christian schools; so some born-again Christians compromise until it is hard to tell the scabby, dirty sheep from the wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Preacher, Christian, fundamentalist, let’s be careful when it comes to our relationships. Let’s not end up like Eve, spending time speaking to some old snake and sucking down forbidden fruit.
I recently read the story of a peasant and a half-frozen snake. While hoeing in his field during the spring thaw, this particular man came across a serpent. Upon raising his hoe to slay the beast, the snake cried out to the peasant that he was much too frozen to harm him. In ignorance, the peasant picked up the chilled snake and wrapped it in his shirt and tight against his chest. The farmer commenced with his work in the field. As the peasant plowed and hoed, his ever-increasing body heat awakened the snake, and immediately the man was struck by a pair of fangs. Writhing in pain, the peasant pulled the long, wiggling attacker out of his shirt. Tossing the snake to the ground, the farmer shouted, “Why?” “I trusted you.” “I made you my friend.” As the snake slithered away, a hissing tongue replied, “True, but do not blame me. You knew I was a snake when you picked me up and placed me near your breast.”
Dear reader, don’t “pick up” those who deny one or all of the fundamental truths of the Bible. Watch for those who try to introduce some teaching that has not a Scriptural backing. Look out for those who are always thrashing and trashing faithful and fruitful men of God–those who are only looking for controversy and could care less about Christ or conversions. Keep an eye out for brethren who have strayed from their once fundamental position. Watch out for the fangs. A sure way for a fledgling fundamentalist to fall is through wrong relationships.
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Since 2006, Pastor Cooper has served as an evangelist and as a pastor, traveling across the nation holding revival meetings and preaching in Bible conferences. Pastor Cooper moved to join our staff in 2019 and is building the Tabernacle Bible Class. He and his wife, Desarae, are an incredible blessing to both the college and church families. Pastor and Mrs. Cooper have one son, Lincoln.