Tag Archives: Sanctification

Is “The Gospel” All That Matters?

Author’s Note: The following is a brief reply to articles recently published by Lou Martuneac on his website, In Defense of the Gospel. Lou is a faithful friend and encourager to this pastor.

I have heard for a decade or more a renewed emphasis on “The Gospel” that had to my ears and understanding a different “ring”, an uncertain, albeit “new” sound.  The proponents of “The Gospel” were younger and in subtle ways, implied at least tacitly, the older generation had lost its way and drifted from preaching the simple, sincere message of the Gospel.

I discerned something was different.  Of course, fundamental pastors do not want their passion for the Gospel questioned no more than we want to diminish a younger pastor or evangelist’s passion for preaching and sharing the Gospel.

Enough time has passed for my fears and concerns about “The Gospel” to come to fruition. “The Gospel is all that matters” is publicly stated by the new generation of “fundamentalists”, many of whom are branding as “progressives”, but their philosophy is unquestionably that of the Neo-Evangelicals of my generation.

“The New Gospel” is, in my estimation, a message I describe as “Lawless Grace”.  The preachers of “The New Gospel” shy from preaching the Law and Commandments (a pattern Andy Stanley is following in the Southern Baptist denomination), emphasizing a Liberty less the call to holiness, sanctification, and a life that is a “living sacrifice”.

Preaching “The Gospel”, but failing to teach the whole counsel of God, has desensitized the souls of a generation who profess Christ as Savior, believe salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone, but are insensitive to their own sins, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Know That a Prophet Hath Been Among You (Ezekiel 33:33)

After enjoying a vacation in the Smoky Mountains, I look forward to being back in Hillsdale’s pulpit this Sunday.  We will return to our verse-by-verse study of the Gospel of John, taking up our study with the closing verses of John 9 and introducing one of the most beautiful and beloved passages of the Gospels… the Parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).

Knowing the shepherd is a metaphor for a spiritual leader and the sheep is a metaphor for God’s people throughout the scriptures, I invested several hours focusing on the role of the shepherd and his relationship with the sheep.  In the Parable of the Good Shepherd we identify not only the character of the Good Shepherd (Jesus Christ), we also see the evil characteristics of Israel’s spiritual leaders portrayed as “thieves and robbers” (John 10:8) and as the “hireling” who flees “and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:13).

Israel was cursed with spiritual shepherd’s like those described in John 10.  When the nation needed shepherds to boldly declare the Word of the Lord and condemn the sins of the nation, she instead promoted men to be her pastors who not only failed to lead the nation spiritually, but also exploited her vulnerable state.

The prophet Jeremiah warned the “pastors” (spiritual shepherds) of Israel, “1Woe be unto the pastors [lit. shepherds] that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD…I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:1-2).

Ezekiel prophesied “against the shepherds of Israel” (Ezekiel 34:1-2), condemning the spiritual leaders for putting their self-interests before the needs of the people (34:2).  Israel’s pastors had taken the best of everything for themselves (34:3), neglected the weak and injured (34:4a), failed to seek the lost, pursued sinful pleasures, and failed to call God’s people to be a holy people (34:4).  Israel had become an immoral, lawless nation and God determined to turn the nation and their shepherds over to be afflicted (Ezekiel 34:10).  God, however, did not leave His people hopeless and promised them He would one day deliver them (Ezekiel 34:11-16).

The task of a faithful prophet is not a popular one and God warned Ezekiel he would become the object of scorn (Ezekiel 33).  God challenged the prophet, “I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:7).  Ezekiel was admonished, should he fail to warn the wicked in his sin and the wicked man “die in his iniquity”, the blood of the wicked would be on his hands (Ezekiel 33:8).

Ezekiel 33 closes with a malady that in my observation is present in fundamental churches and colleges of our day…a generation that is “talking against” the prophet, expressing a faux-piety of hearing “the word that cometh forth from the LORD” (33:30), and “with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness” (33:31).  God warns Ezekiel, “they hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32).

From a perspective of outward results, Ezekiel was a failure for Israel did not repent of her sins and her pastors continued in their wickedness.  Ezekiel was promised, when God’s judgment falls upon Israel, all would “know that a prophet hath been among them” (Ezekiel 33:33).

The words of a faithful, prophetic (forth-telling), uncompromising preacher are not welcome in most pulpits and one need not look far in our churches, colleges, and seminaries to understand there are many who “hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32).  I pray God might find me faithful and some “shall know that a prophet hath been among them” (33:33).

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

To My Critics

I realized my earlier blogs stating my observations and concerns regarding Bob Jones University  would not be received well by some.  While I expressed my thoughts in a spirit of love and sorrow, I was aware I might be greeted with a vitriol that might turn personal and caustic.

Like the culture we live in, I have found many believers infected with a strident spirit that maligns and attacks. Indeed, it is that harsh vindictive spirit that chides many into silence.

I have no interest in debating ad nauseam my concerns, nor do I have time to address every critic.  My concerns are my concerns. If you do not share them, that is fine by me; however, do not attack me for daring to express them.

My blogs were not written with a spirit of malice, but as an expression of a shepherd who loves his sheep. After nearly 33 years of ministry at Hillsdale Baptist Church, I am content with being a pastor and have no interest in being a crusader for or against any institution.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

Silent No More

This brief blog post serves as an introductory post to one that will follow titled, “A Failure to Stay the Course: Bob Jones University Student Handbook Changes, Fall 2018”.  I am a 1977 graduate of Bob Jones University and one who has been a loyal alumnus.  

I arrived at Bob Jones University as a 16-year-old freshman in the fall of 1973 and was overwhelmed with a culture shock like none I have experienced since.  This son of the South, born in Lancaster, South Carolina and aptly self-defined as a country-boy was unacquainted with the graces of culture and the refinements of art.  I was a rough, crude piece of coarse clay; a public-school graduate who loved and longed to serve the LORD and desired the training and polish of a Christian education.

My childhood home was loving and disciplined. I knew the rigors of rising early on a small farm, working hard, and appreciated the sacrifices of my loving parents. My desire to go to a Christian college was foreign to my family and the culture of my community; however, it was a seed planted in my heart by the visit of a missionary to Alaska.

A child of the hippy culture of the 1960’s and the anti-war, anti-establishment of the 1970’s, I was unaware of my immaturity as a believer, the deficiencies of my education, or my cultural backwardness.  I knew little of the scriptures and nothing of Christian Fundamentalism, Keeping the Faith, or Fighting the Good Fight.

The administration and faculty of Bob Jones University gave no accommodation to this southern boy’s worldly-wise ways and even less provision for my academic failings.  I found myself, in a proverbial sense, thrown into the deep-end of the pool where I found little empathy for my struggles. BJU had somehow insulated itself from college-campus riots and “panty-raids” that were dogging other college campuses. The school was not only unapologetically Christian, it was doggedly adherent to the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

There were many irritants in the BJU culture that were not only exasperating, but provoking.  There was a discipline that gave little grace and even less understanding for the excuses and failures of youth.  Outside the campus fence my generation was bold and rebellious; casting aside disciplines and morals that had shaped the “Greatest Generation”.  Inside the campus fence little had or would change for another twenty-years.

I thank God it was that culture of discipline, tough-love, and unapologetic convictions that were present to shape and prepare the pliable heart of this Christian teen.  I learned my superiors were not concerned with fairness, but rightness.  I also knew there were times they were wrong; however, the rules were the rules and institutionally the approach was “one size fits all”.

I have learned rules and regulations, often inconvenient and at times inexplicable, are necessary.  Patterns of personal and academic disciplines thrust upon us in our youth shape attitudes and strengthen character.  When we cast off or adapt rules and standards to accommodate youthful immaturity or to enhance cultural assimilation we do so at the peril of a generation that will never know the enrichment of exhortation or the powerful influence of loving correction.

I close with a brief dedicatory of names whose lives provoked me in my youth and whose influence follows me to this day: Dr. Bob Jones, Jr; Dr. Gilbert Stenholm; Dr. Richard Rupp; Dr. Gunter Salter; Dr. Walter Fremont; and Dr. Dwight Gustafson.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Note from the author: You will find the observations expressed in this blog mirrored in several posts I have published in recent years regarding the drift of our Bible fundamental institutions and churches.  For more background, please refer to: 1) From the Front Pew; 2) A Travesty of Abandonment; 3) A Travesty of Abandonment: Christian Schools that Have Left the Ancient Landmarks; 4) Warning: Cater to the Carnal and You Do So at Your Own Peril; 5) What Were They Thinking?; 6) Catering to Carnality; 7) Hijacked: You Can Lose Your Church; 8) Where is the Christian Westpoint of this Generation?

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

Earnestly Contend for the Faith

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Jude 1:1-25

The theme of the book of Jude, only 25 verses in length, is summed up in two words, exhortation and admonition:  Jude exhorts believers to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 1:3) and admonishes the church to beware of apostasy.

A century ago, the pulpits of most Baptist and Protestant churches in America unapologetically preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There were differences in the mode of baptism and church government; however, the preaching of the cross was almost a universal theme in America’s churches.

By the 1920’s a spiritual apostasy crept into many denominational churches and began eroding fundamental Bible doctrines.  Bible colleges and Seminaries became hotbeds of liberalism and apostasy.  In a generation, mainline Protestant churches departed from the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.

Christ taught His disciples a sign of His Second Coming would be, “many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many” (Matthew 25:5, 11).

The apostle Paul warned Timothy, “For the time will come when they [professing believers in the church] will not endure [tolerate] sound doctrine; but after their own lusts [sinful desires] shall they heap [invite] to themselves teachers, having itching ears [desiring to hear something that tickles, scratches or pleases the ear]; 4 And they shall turn away their ears [stop listening] from the truth, and shall be turned [aside] unto fables [myths; false teaching]” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

The book of Jude, written to the late 1st century church, warned believers apostates were already in their midst.  Sounding a warning reminiscent of a bugle playing “Charge” for the Calvary, Jude challenged believers to engage in spiritual warfare.

“Earnestly contend for the faith” is a call to spiritual battle (1:3). To wage war for the faith is to be intolerant of doctrinal error and compromise.   Some argue, “Times have changed and Christians should not be so dogmatic about their faith.”

Times have changed; however, the Truths and Doctrines of the Word of God are timeless!

Psalm 119:160 – “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.”

1 Peter 1:23 – “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”

1 Peter 1:25 – “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.  And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”

To “earnestly contend for the faith” is to stand and agonize unapologetically for the TRUTH.

Paul challenged Corinthian believers, “Watch ye [Stay awake; be alert], stand fast [persevere; adhere] in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Paul exhorted Timothy, “Fight [agonize; be disciplined] the good fight of faith…” (1 Timothy 6:12).

The balance of Jude’s epistle describes the challenges confronting the churches at the end of the 1st century.  Jude described the character of apostates: Denying the truth (1:4-7), immoral (1:8b), rejecting spiritual authority (1:8c), and irreverent (1:8d-10).  The apostasy of the 1st century church is a mirror image of the decadence found in many 21st century churches.

Vigilance is the cause of the hour; however, rather than “contending for the faith”, I am afraid the majority of believers and churches are in full retreat.

The greatest threat to the Church is not persecution without, but false teachers within. 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The frailty of old age is not an excuse for tolerating sin.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 29-31

Having declared God’s Covenant with Israel as His chosen people (Deuteronomy 5-28), Moses concludes with a challenge for the people to affirm the covenant they entered into at Mt Horeb 40 years earlier (Exodus 24) and acknowledge their obligation to the LORD to obey the His Laws and Commandments (Deuteronomy 29-30).

The basis of Israel’s obligation to honor the Covenant with the LORD was not only the sacrifices they offered to seal the Covenant at Mt. Horeb (Exodus 24), but also the LORD’s loving care of the nation over the course of their wanderings in the wilderness (29:2-9).

The nation, its leaders (“captains…elders…officers”) and “all the men of Israel” (29:10), representing every man, woman, boy and girl…even “thy stranger that is in thy camp” (those in the midst of the tribes, but not Hebrews by lineage) were to affirm the covenant with God (29:11-15).

Moses warns the people (29:16-29), should they turn to idols and follow in the sins of the heathen nations and fail to keep their covenant with the LORD and obey His Laws and Commandments, the nation will be punished with plagues and sickness (29:22) and the ground cursed (29:23).

True to the nature of God, having promised in His justice He would punish Israel for breaking covenant with Him (Deuteronomy 29:24-29), He promises in Deuteronomy 31 to be merciful should the people repent and restore them to their land (30:1-14).

Deuteronomy 30 concludes with a strong challenge to Israel to know the Word of the LORD is sure and He will bless the people when they keep His covenant; however, He will surely bring judgment upon the nation should they disobey His Laws and Commandments (30:15-20).

Mindful of his own mortality and knowing the days of his earthly sojourn were coming to a close, Moses reminds the nation he is “an hundred and twenty years old” and the LORD had said, “Thou shalt not go over this Jordan (31:1-2).  In the tone of a loving, elderly father who knows his days with his children are coming to a close, Moses encouraged the people, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not” (31:6).  The same God who delivered Israel out of Egypt and preserved them in the wilderness, “He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (31:6).

Affirming his role as the leader chosen by the LORD to take the nation across Jordan, Moses publicly affirms Joshua’s ordination “in the sight of all Israel” (31:7-8).

Turning from Joshua, Moses challenged the spiritual leaders of the nation, “the priests the sons of Levi”, to be the custodians and teachers of the LORD’s Law and keep the Law and Commandments before the people (31:9-13).

Reminded He is Omniscient, the LORD revealed to Moses the days would come after his death, that the people would break their covenant with the LORD and “go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land” (31:14-18).  The LORD commanded Moses to write a song that would remind the people of their covenant with the LORD (31:19-22).

Deuteronomy 31 concludes with Moses giving a final charge to Joshua as he assumes the leadership of the nation (31:23).  Gathering the people, Moses challenged the Levites, to take the record of the LORD’s Law and “put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD” (31:24-26).

There are many lessons we can take from today’s scripture reading; however, for me and my generation it is:  The frailty of old age is not an excuse for tolerating sin.

At one hundred and twenty years old, Moses was “feeling his age” and was conscious of his physical weakness and the inevitableness of his death.  The pressures of leading a rebellious people “forty years in the wilderness” and old age had taken its toll on the man (Dt. 29:5).

In Deuteronomy 31:2, Moses confessed, “I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in” (31:2).  In Deuteronomy 31:14, “the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die”.   We read again in Deuteronomy 31:16, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers”.

Moses was old and frail; however, the fire of his convictions and dedication to the LORD had not abated.

I am afraid the same can not be said of my generation.  There is a growing tolerance of sin and carnality in today’s fundamental Bible preaching churches, Christian schools, Bible colleges and Universities that is disconcerting.  In an effort to appease rebellious children in their own households, leaders of this generation, men like myself in their 50’s and 60’s, are compromising spiritual disciplines and precepts of the institutions they are leading.

A spirit of tolerance (i.e. softness in the matter of sin) is eroding the spiritual character and heritage of churches, schools, and institutions.  The fears Moses expressed in Deuteronomy 31:29 are, I believe, a foreshadow of what will become of many fundamental churches, schools, and institutions.

Deuteronomy 31:29 – “For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.”

It is my observation, when spiritual leaders accommodate and tolerate sin, the institutions they lead become a shadow of their former character or suffer demise.

How about you my friend?  Does the fire of godly convictions still burn in your spirit and soul?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Portrait of True Love

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Song of Solomon 3-4

Today’s scripture reading continues in the Song Solomon, chapters 3-4.  As a reminder of my approach and interpretation of this book, I have chosen to take a “Literal interpretation”, meaning I believe Solomon penned this romantic book as a king to a young woman who had become the object of his love. For the sake of brevity, my focus will be Song of Solomon 3.

We find the young bride-to-be dreaming and longing for her unknown suitor in the early verses of chapter 3 (remember, she had first met Solomon when he was alone in the countryside dressed as a common shepherd). Allow me to suggest the following outline.

I. The Dreams of Young Love (3:1-3).

Solomon’s fair young maiden dreams of her groom “upon her bed” (3:1) and, because time has passed, she fears she has been forgotten by him (3:1).  She dreams she went out to seek her suitor (3:2-3) and when she finds him, she brings him to her “mother’s house” (3:4). Her dream continues in verse 5 with my second observation:

II. The Patience of Young Love (3:5).

Rejoicing she has found her beloved she encourages young maidens (“ye daughters of Jerusalem”) to Be Patient in the matter of love and marriage… “stir not up, nor awake my love” (3:5b) and Wait “till he please” (3:5c).

We have seen the dreams of youth and the exhortation that true love is patient and waits.  Notice thirdly, the romantic beauty of the maiden’s wedding day.

III. The Joy and Happiness of Young Love (3:6-11).

Our young maiden has dreamed about her mysterious shepherd. He has courted her lovingly and patiently and she dreams of the day he will come with his wedding party to claim her as his bride, but not knowing the day or the time of his coming.

One day she lifts her eyes towards the horizon and sees a cloud of smoke, coming “out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke” (3:6a).  The air is laden with the fragrance of burning incense, “perfumed with myrrh and frankincense” (3:6b).

In the midst, she sees the royal litter, the “bed, which is Solomon’s” (3:7) borne by sixty “valiant men”, war heroes, men of renown in Israel escorting the king with swords upon their thighs (3:8).

Our young maiden realizes her suitor is not a shepherd, but the king of Israel who is coming for her as his bride (3:9)!  The moment is filled with pageantry; while the soldiers bear the bed meant for his bride, the king is in their midst carried by a chariot made of the finest “wood of Lebanon” (3:9).

As with a bride of our day who plans her wedding down to the minutest detail, even the limousine that will carry her away, our young bride observes the beauty of the bed (or chariot) that will convey her and the king to his palace.  The canopy over the bed supported by beams overlaid with silver (3:10), the canopy of gold, and its cushions of purple, all adorned for the king by “the daughters of Jerusalem” (3:10).

Our young bride, overwhelmed by the joy her groom is Solomon the king, urges her attendants, “ye daughters of Zion” (3:11a), to behold their king wearing the crown given to him by his mother (3:11b), perhaps specially adorned by her on her son’s wedding day.

What an incredible story of love and marriage!  Was this not, in days past, the dreams of innocent young girls?  Stories like Cinderella abound with a fairy-tale storyline of a peasant girl who falls in love with a young prince or king and whose courtship with a stranger is rewarded with her own crowning as princess and queen.

Sad to say, but our society has robbed little girls of their innocence and discretion; and parents have failed to instill in their sons the qualities of a genteel, caring spirit.

I am afraid Christian homes have followed the same; unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to guard the purity of sons and daughters, our youth know little about young, innocent, pure love that is patient and waiting.

Too many weddings in our churches lack innocence and tenderness because brides and grooms have indulged in lusts at the sacrifice of true love.

God has given us not only a portrait of love (the sacrifice of His Son for our sins – John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 5:25), but also the definition of love in action

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 – “4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8  Charity never faileth…”

Young person, true love is patient, kind, serving, self-sacrificing, pure, honest, long-suffering, hopeful, lasting, and perpetual…never ending…and never stops loving.

 Wait…wait…wait…and you will never be sorry when true love finds you!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith