Fundamentalism's Difficult Tasks

Ed. note— The following is a sermon preached by Pastor M. H. Reynolds, Jr. in 1988 and included in the July-August 2003 issue of Foundation magazine.

A lot of people today do not want to face reality. Therefore, they get into trouble. They are confused. We live in a prosperity-minded world. People judge things by how a man seems to prosper according to worldly standards. Unfortunately, this same thinking has carried over into the church due, in large part, to the wide-spread false teaching of the Charismatic Movement that anyone who has been baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit can expect peace and prosperity and physical health. Sadly, many people believe this error and exalt these ideas of men above faithfulness to the Word and will of God. I am sure than many born-again Christians today have been influenced more than they realize by some of these pastors and teachers and books and seminars that propagate this unbiblical prosperity philosophy. Rather than recognizing that everything must be checked by the Word of God and that everything that is not in accordance with the Word of God must be rejected, many Christians become influenced by such false teaching.

God does not promise fundamentalists easy tasks. When the apostle Paul was converted, and the Lord called him from a life of persecuting the church to a life of preaching the Gospel, God showed him that he would suffer many things for Christ. I am sure we are all thankful for the apostle Paul. He was a great missionary, evangelist, Bible-teacher and pastor. He was a great fundamentalist. When he met with the Ephesian elders, he reminded them that for three years, night and day, he had not ceased to warn them. Most churches today would not tolerate a pastor who would warn them night and day for three years. They would get rid of that man for being too negative. We know, of course, through the words given to Paul by the Holy Spirit, that he was not always negative. Paul built up the saints; he preached the Gospel; people were saved; saints were strengthened—but he did not cease to warn.

Warn God’s People

One of the difficult tasks fundamentalists face today it the need to continually warn people in a time when warnings are not popular. It is difficult to be a fundamentalist because you must endure many hardships. Soon the Olympic games will begin. Athletes have been training for the upcoming Olympic games for years. They have endured hardness. They have afflicted themselves and given up privileges. They strive for a crown. God’s Word reminds us that, physically speaking, athletes will strive for material rewards. But we who are fundamentalists who are seeking to obey the Lord strive for an incorruptible crown. We need to remind ourselves of that. That battle is tough. Don’t think it isn’t. The battle will become tougher. Don’t think it won’t. If the Bible is true, and it is, then evil men and seducers are going to wax worse, deceiving and being deceived. There is no indication that I can see in the Bible that there will be a great revival before the return of Christ. No, exactly the opposite is true. But that does not mean that we as individuals or that we in churches should not seek for and pray that the Lord would revive us again. I would remind you once more that revival cannot take place without absolute fidelity to the Word of God. You cannot ignore what God says and expect revival.

Isaiah was a fundamentalist. We know that because he, first of all, heard God’s clarion call: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” and Isaiah said, “Here am I send me.” Are you a fundamentalist? Have you heard the call of the Lord? Have you said “Here am I, send me?” As I view the ministry of Isaiah and read this wonderful, long book in which Isaiah wrote down the things he heard from the mouth of God, I think back and ask, “What did Isaiah really accomplish in his long ministry (over 50 years)?” During Isaiah’s ministry (prior to God’s judgment upon Israel in which the Israelites were carried away into captivity), what success did Isaiah have? Have you ever thought about that? The truth of the matter is this: As you study God’s Word and the lives and ministries of the other prophets that followed, Isaiah’s ministry appeared to be a total failure as far as gathering large numbers of people together, as far as having a great response from people. There was a remnant, or a “residue” as described by Isaiah. A “residue” is not considered to be worth very much, but it is precious in God’s sight. Yet Isaiah spoke the words of God, he spoke negatively and positively, he wrote some of the most wonderful prophecies in the Bible, and yet what did his ministry accomplish from man’s perspective?

Strive For Faithfulness, Not Numbers

In the religious world today, people look at men and judge the value of their ministries on the basis of numbers—how many people are in their church; how many people are on their mailing list; how man people they can gather together for ministry endeavor. We should not be asking how many, but how true to the Word of God? It is a difficult task even for us as fundamentalists to analyze our own ministries on that basis because the devil comes along and tempts us to question our own ministries based upon outward appearance rather than faithfulness to the Word of God. But thanks be to our God—He always has a faithful few, and thanks be to God for the privilege of being a Fundamentalist.

Isaiah finished his long ministry, and then Jeremiah came along and faced even greater opposition than Isaiah. The apostasy in Israel had increased. They could not tolerate Jeremiah. They could not stand him. Nehemiah came on the scene even later, when Israel’s situation was pitiful. The prophecies God had given to Isaiah and Jeremiah had been fulfilled; the Israelites were taken captive by heathen kings; Jerusalem was in ruins; the temple had been destroyed; the people were in reproach. It seemed as though all the years of fundamentalist testimony by the prophets had been for naught. But God’s plan was to be fulfilled. God never says anything and finds Himself unable to complete it, to fulfill it. And so we are thankful for the example that God gives us in His Word of fundamentalists of the past—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and many others.

In the early part of the twentieth century, as Biblical fundamentalism originated, the term “fundamentalist” was coined to designate a group of men who would oppose the liberalism that had come into the churches. Religious liberalism came in through the seminaries which trained the preachers who entered into the churches and spread doubt concerning the Word of God, the deity of Jesus Christ, the work of Jesus Christ and other truths. Yet God raised up fundamentalists to contend for the faith. In those early days, hundreds and even thousands of pastors would gather together for conferences and meetings—men who were not ashamed to be identified as fundamentalists. Then, after a period of time, these men realized the need to separate from their denominations. The first generation fundamentalists did not immediately separate because they were trying to battle the apostasy within their own denominations, their own groups. They were raising up a standard. But it was not long before they found out they had waited too long. It was not long before they found out that too many people in the churches wanted peace at any price. As a result of this attitude within the church, liberalism, apostasy and compromise grew. Finally, the “come out” movement began. And today, one of the primary differences between an evangelical and a fundamentalist centers around the doctrine of Biblical separation. You cannot call yourself a Biblical fundamentalist today if you are not willing to practice Biblical separation from the apostasy, from disobedient brethren, from the world. If you do not practice Biblical separation, you may be an evangelical, but you are not a fundamentalist. Over time, people within various denominations who were Fundamentalists and who cried out against the apostasy and urged people to separate from it found they could not clean house in their own denominations so they came out and started fresh.

Even in the 1940s and 1950s, many Godly fundamentalists could be found who would gather together to deal with certain issues facing the church. In California, for example, we rented the Shrine auditorium at one time (an auditorium that seats around eight or nine thousand people) to hold a rally exposing the apostasy of Methodist bishop G. Bromley Oxnam. At another time, we rented the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and held a rally exposing the errors of communism. Sadly, we could do neither of those things today, for few would be willing to engage the foe and be identified in speaking out so forthrightly against apostasy. Today, very few pastors remain who are warning their people about the dangers of apostasy, communism, Roman Catholicism and other dangers facing the church.

But I do not think fundamentalism has failed. I believe just as in the case of Isaiah and then Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the apostasy has grown and compromise has grown and the opposition to Fundamentalism has grown, but God never gave Isaiah or Jeremiah or any other faithful fundamentalist servant of the Lord Jesus Christ any idea that they were going to produce a moral majority or an evangelical majority. No, nothing of the kind was ever suggested to them. Nothing like that has been suggested to you or to me. You pastors know that if your church grows numerically, you and your flock are encouraged. Yet if people defect from your ranks, the devil comes and tempts you to question your position as a fundamentalist. But God never wants us to think in such terms. If God has spoken, and He has, and if what He has spoken has been written down in a book, and it has, and if we have God’s Word today, and we do, then whatever God says we must do—no qualifications, no questions. It is part of the difficult task of fundamentalists to give the truth and to obey the Word even if it causes you to lose your closest friends. That is part of fundamentalism’s difficult tasks.

Proclaim an Unpopular Message

We do face a heartbreaking situation in the world today. As we look at American and Canada, we can see the great deterioration that is taking place in government, in standards of morality, in the churches. The difficult task we face with a broken heart is not to remain quiet, not to just drift with the tide, but to keep on preaching the Word. We must realize that we have an unpopular message to proclaim—that is one of our difficult tasks. There are too many preachers and teachers who are waiting to find out what other people are saying or doing; waiting to find out what other people will think about them; waiting to find out what the “safe” position will be before they take a stand on a particular issue. That is a temptation today. Yet Isaiah proclaimed “thus saith the Lord!”—it was God’s message he received from God’s mouth. He couldn’t change it without being an unfaithful messenger. He couldn’t keep from speaking it without being like the silent prophets, dumb dogs that could not bark. It is not easy. It is a difficult task for the fundamentalist to give an unpopular message when you already know it is unpopular.

Confront a Rebellious Audience

Another of Fundamentalisms difficult tasks is to realize that we do have, for the most part, a rebellious audience. One can speak about so many different topics today and nobody will lift an eyebrow. But when we deal with the issues that are affecting the church today, it is though an atomic bomb has exploded—people are sounding off in all directions, simply because they are being given an unpopular message. But we must remember that we are dealing with a rebellious audience. Yet if we are wise and if we determine to remain faithful and biblical, the fact that we minister to a rebellious audience will not deter us from giving all the message.

Give a Minority Report

Another difficult task that fundamentalists face is that we are giving a minority report. Years ago when our children were growing up and we were approaching the time to elect our national leaders, they would ask me how I was going to vote and I would tell them. Then, the election was over, and most all the people for whom we voted lost the election. One of our children asked us, “Daddy, don’t you ever vote for anybody who wins?” If you study the Bible, you will find that this is what God has used over and over again—a minority report. It does not make any difference who wins the election, the important thing is to give the Word of God faithfully and completely.

Do Not Expect Worldly Reward

Another one of fundamentalism’s difficult tasks is that, especially as far as pastors are concerned, it seems to be an extremely unrewarding ministry. However, the rewarding ministry for fundamentalists does not come now, not during this life, not with numbers, not with physical results, but when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ and we hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” I need to hear that and you need to hear it. When Jesus was here on earth, He was rather popular when He fed the five thousand, but when He began to teach, most of them departed. He asked His disciples, “Will ye also go away?” to which they responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Fellow fundamentalists, do not be tempted to jump ship because it seems as though you are not getting anywhere. We must not judge our ministry, our testimony, by the world’s standards. We must judge them by the Word of God.

Be careful, fellow fundamentalists. Don’t back off from the Word of God. When God speaks, do it. When God calls, say, “Here am I, send me.” When God puts you at a difficult place on the battle line, don’t say, “Lord, I’m too tired; I’m too old; I’m too weak; I can’t do it.” Stand, and keep standing.

Why do fundamentalists face such a difficult task today? Notice Isaiah 56:10-11. First, God’s watchmen are blind—spiritually blind, lacking in spiritual discernment. Second, God’s watchmen are ignorant and dumb—they are unable to bark. Many “dumb dogs” exist in the church today in places of leadership. They cannot bark. They cannot sound a warning. Third, God’s watchmen are greedy. Beloved, if God tells us to do something, and we fail to do it because it might cost us something, we are fitting this description. We are greedy dogs. We do not want to suffer the consequences. So many pastors today are sinning against their conscience, their Lord, their people. They say they want to take a stand, but quickly say they cannot afford to obey God’s Word.

Deal With Disobedient Brethren

Notice Isaiah 58:1. God told Isaiah to “cry aloud.” He did not say “whisper it” or “pass the word along if it won’t disturb too many people.” No, He said, “cry aloud, spare not.” Do not worry about offending Dr. So-and-so or ruffling the feathers of someone who gives generously to your church. God adds, “lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression.” This is one of the difficult tasks of fundamentalism—to deal with brethren who are disobedient. Brethren who walk disobediently need to be rebuked, and when we do it, we should realize as fundamentalists that in so doing we are not setting ourselves up as those who are perfect. It simply means that if God has spoken and given a warning and commanded us to cry aloud and spare not, then we must name names. Do not ever let anybody mislead you into the notion that it is unchristian, unloving, unkind, unscriptural to mention names. God’s Word mentions names, and we need to also even though it is a difficult task.

Notice God’s command in Isaiah 62:6—“I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence.” Those are our instructions, fellow fundamentalists. Do not let anybody shut your mouth when God has filled it with His Word. Finally, notice Isaiah 66:5—“Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified.” When your brethren persecute you and cast you out because you are too “fundamental,” go along with it; expect it, but then listen to the promise of the Lord: “but He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.” I am a biblical fundamentalist, and I trust by God’s grace to be a biblical fundamentalist until He calls me home either by death or by the rapture. Fundamentalists may have difficult tasks—and there is no doubt about that—but we have some blessed privileges. We do not have to throw up our arms in despair and ask, “What’s the world coming to?” God has already told us. All we need to do is believe it. This world is coming to judgment, but the church is headed for the rapture. And, praise the Lord, we have all these promises to encourage us even though we have these difficult tasks. — M. H. Reynolds, Jr. (1988)