An Uncompromising Faith
Words by Ethan Jago
In November 2015 I was deployed to Northern Iraq to train, assist, and advise Kurdish and Iraqi forces battling ISIS. At the time, ISIS had killed or captured over 500,000 men, women, and children known as the Yazidis—many of which are our own brothers and sisters in Christ. This people group was unwilling to surrender to ISIS forces, even though they all faced starvation and almost certain death. My specific role was to train and equip local Iraqi and Kurdish forces to execute combat search and rescue in the event of an aircraft shot down by enemy forces or a ground team battling ISIS in need of rescue. In God’s kind providence, we were able to perform a successful rescue of innocent women and children from enemy forces. It was during this time that I felt the Lord calling me into pastoral ministry. I had experienced what it felt like to physically rescue people from death, and now God’s clear calling on my life shifted to rescuing people’s spiritual lives from eternal separation from God.
When I began seminary, I imagined my battle for Christ would be witnessing to non-believers and those hostile to the Gospel. What I did not realize was that the battle I am more often facing is with “Christians” compromising the faith and truth of Scripture. In the past decade especially, I have seen a gradual drift from a God-centered Gospel toward a me-centered gospel. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, all you have to do is scroll through what’s trending in feeds among Christian sub-cultures and see what I call a “social media gospel.” This social media gospel includes bits of truth, but has a heavy lean towards self-help psychology. The pithy and catchy spiritual quotes make one feel motivated and purpose-filled without the need for confession and repentance.
While the Gospel does motivate and give us purpose, the deception that occurs from seeking after man’s wisdom is toxic. The internet is saturated with feel-good-about-yourself motivational memes and a “love is my religion” attitude that professing Christians have drifted toward, while simultaneously moving away from what the Bible actually says. Hebrews 2:1 offers this reminder: “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” The drift being described here can be understood as a gradual movement from one point toward somewhere entirely different than originally intended, due to a failure to attach oneself to something unmovable.
My military training afforded me the opportunity to go to dive school, and one of our assignments was a “deep water dive.” We went miles away from the shore so the coast was a small speck on the horizon, and it was there that we entered the water. As we were checking out each other’s equipment I looked up and noticed we had drifted away from our vessel by several hundred yards. The total time in which my dive partner and I drifted away was only about 30 seconds, but in an open ocean current it is nearly impossible to get back to your starting point without some type of external help. The drift that happened to me in the ocean is the same drift that happens to Christians when we do not anchor ourselves to Scripture.
The Gospel of Christ is uncompromising in its message, yet many of us feel the need to water it down so as not to be “offensive” to, or “ignorant” of, others. We are concerned that if nonbelievers hear the whole Gospel (including hell or our total depravity) it might “turn them off” to God. We may be tempted to see “gently easing them in” as loving, but this is compromise and it is actually quite unloving. Paul said, “How can they know if they have not heard?” (Rom. 10:14), and if the reality of their sin is neglected they will never understand that Jesus alone is their righteousness before God. It breaks my heart that there are churches, pastors, celebrity “Christians,” musicians, and plenty of social media “Christians” perpetuating a different, false gospel.
The issue of false gospels being proclaimed is nothing new. The Apostle Paul battled this with first-century Christians. In Galatians 1:6–7 he called out error within the Church and fellowship of believers when he said, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the Gospel of Christ.” In Acts 6:8–15 and 7:1–54 we see Stephen boldly proclaiming the whole Gospel to the Sanhedrin—including the “offensive” parts—ultimately resulting in his death.
There are those who would argue, “Well, that’s your interpretation of the Bible; my Jesus just wants us to love others and be kind to people.” When someone states that they are saying: 1) there is no standard of truth, and 2) truth is subjective. Does the Bible proclaim truth? Yes, there are many verses in the Bible establishing this fact: John 17:17; Psalm 119:160; 2 Cor. 6:7; Matt. 22:16; Mark 12:14; Gal. 2:5; Prov. 30:5. It is clear that the Scripture is truth. The Bible is our backbone and structure for how we operate as Christians within the world. Yes, Christians are to be loving, kind, and forgiving (John 13:34), but we are also to accurately handle God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:15), and part of that is calling out error or a gospel contrary to the true Gospel.
The Apostle Paul was uncompromising in the message of the Gospel and was filled with zeal. David also described his zeal for the Word of God in Psalm 69:9 when he stated, “For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.” This zeal, or righteous anger, is the same emotion Jesus felt when he overturned the tables at the temple in Matthew 21. The Truth of Scripture is offensive to the unregenerate heart and foolishness to those who are not of the faith (1 Cor. 1:23) and it will sound distinctly different than the popular sayings, mantras, and self-help of the pagans. Romans 12:2 tells Christians not to be conformed to the world, and to renew our minds, by filling them up with the knowledge of God, not the wisdom (folly) of man.
But how do you know if you’re drifting and compromising the truth of Scripture? Ask yourself this: “Does what I am saying sound similar to what the culture, media, and world is saying about (insert relevant topic here), or does it stand in stark contrast with the world and align with Scripture?”
Christian, it is difficult to remain uncompromising in your faith if you are not rooted in Christ and his Word. Jesus explained this in Matthew 7:13–14 when he talked about the two gates mankind can choose: the wide gate, which leads to death, or the narrow gate that leads to life. We Christians can apply the same principles spoken then to our society now. Paul stressed the importance of keeping our minds focused on Christ when he stated in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” So, we need to be careful about information and philosophy we bring into our minds, because it will affect how we live. My charge to us all is Coram Deo (in the presence of God)—live your life according to his Word and Truth. Remember Colossians 2:7, that we must be “…rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as [we] were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”