WHY DO YOU FOCUS ON THE NEGATIVE?

Updated January 10, 2009 (first published April 15, 1996) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org) -

Through the years many men have asked me why Way of Life Literature focuses on the negative. Recently we received one of these challenges from a man who was trained in fundamental Baptist circles but who had a very negative experience in an Independent Baptist church and is presently attending another type of church. He had two questions: One, why do I focus on the negative instead of looking at the positive in various Christian groups? Second, why do I think that fundamental Baptists are without error?

I gave the following reply to this piece of correspondence.

I’m glad you took the time to share your concerns with me about this ministry. I was saved 32 years ago by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16), and for all of these years my chief desire has been to obey the Bible and to please the Lord who saved me by His blood. I don’t know that I have done a very good job of it, but this has definitely been my desire.

I realize that many people are displeased with my preaching. I realize that my preaching is more negative than that of the typical ministry today. I also realize that I am not the perfect Christian, and I often agonize before the Lord, “Who am I to preach to others; I am such a miserable excuse of a Christian myself!”

The fact is that I am not preaching myself; I am preaching the Bible. I am sure the prophets of old considered themselves unworthy to proclaim righteousness and truth to others. No man ever has been worthy to preach God’s Word. But the fact is that God calls preachers, and He has given them a commission, and I must seek to obey God even if I do it imperfectly and even if I make mistakes.

To be honest, I often wish that I could preach popular things and not have to focus so much on the exposure of error, but the fact is that these late hours are characterized by error, and God works mightily in some men to expose it. Jeremiah’s heart burned within him and he found that he could not refrain from speaking God’s reproofs. Do you not think there are prophets of God whose hearts are so enflamed today?

God has commanded me to “prove all things” (1 Thess. 5:21), to “try the spirits” (1 John 4:1), to “beware of false prophets” (Matt. 7:15), to “take heed that no man deceive you” (Matt. 24:4), “to “search the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11), to “prove what is acceptable unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:10), to “approve things that are excellent” (Phil. 1:10), to “rightly divide the word of truth, but shun profane and vain babblings” (2 Tim. 2:15-16), to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).

The Bible commands me to “preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; REPROVE, REBUKE, EXHORT with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:2-3).

The Bible very plainly prophesies that the end of this age will be characterized by error and apostasy, not truth and sound New Testament faith.

The Bible says “he that is spiritual judges all things...” (1 Cor. 2:15). It also says, “The simple believeth every word: but THE PRUDENT MAN LOOKETH WELL TO HIS GOING” (Prov. 14:15).

Biblical New Testament Christianity is not positive only; it involves many “negatives.” The Lord Jesus Christ did not overlook theological error. My Bible tells me He rebuked the Pharisees because they had corrupted the Word of God and had made their own religion. That is precisely what a great many Christian leaders have done today with the New Testament faith. They have perverted it, and God has always called prophets to rebuke this type of apostasy. Did Paul not rebuke Peter for his hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-14)? Did he not rebuke the Galatian heretics who were perverting the gospel (Galatians 1:6-9; 3:1; 5:7-12)?

Preachers today who pervert the gospel, or who yoke together with those who pervert the gospel, are they above reproach? Do what you will, but I refuse to keep my mouth shut about these things.

The Bible contains many negatives. The true Bible preacher not only affirms truth and righteousness; he REBUKES error and unrighteousness. Be careful that you are following the truth and not some man-made, humanistic, nice-sounding perversion thereof.

Overall in my ministry I do not focus only on the negative. We have spent 15 years in South Asia preaching the gospel and planting churches. For years I spent two, three, and more hours a week in a county jail preaching the POSTIVE, life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Even in my writings I do not focus only on the negative. I have written a Bible encyclopedia, and it certainly does not focus on the negative. It covers every aspect of Bible doctrine and practice. I have written many other books which are not negative. We have published roughly 30 books in the Nepali language, and only one or two of those could be construed as being “negative” in the sense of focusing on the exposure of error. I have written 14 volumes of a Bible school curriculum, and only one of those could be construed as “negative” in this sense. Many other examples could be given.

On the other hand, the ministries of
O Timothy magazine and the Fundamental Baptist Information Service, are “negative” by their very nature and design. O Timothy arose out of a burden God put on my heart 23 years ago while we were working as church planting missionaries in South Asia. Apostasy has destroyed the work of Christ in that part of the world even more than here. I had visited the seminary that missionary William Carey had established at Serampore in India, and in an interview with the head of the New Testament department I learned that professors there believed Hindus can be saved by being sincere in their Hinduism. Indian churches are permeated with theological modernism and Pentecostal confusion and New Evangelical compromise. It broke my heart to see these things. While we were staying at a hospital in India in 1983, I was walking to and fro behind a building, pouring out my heart to the Lord about the conditions in the churches. I was weeping and crying out to the Lord to enable me to do something. A magazine like O Timothy had been upon my heart prior to that, and on that particular day the Lord encouraged me to start the publication, exposing apostasy and calling men back to the Old Bible Paths, trusting Him to provide the needs. I didn’t have any money for such a project but I proceeded by faith and the Lord has provided our needs and prospered this endeavor for all of these years.

I believe God still raises up men with prophetic type ministries to “dig in the walls” and observe the apostasy like Ezekiel was commanded to do long ago in Israel (Ezek. 8:7-10). Ezekiel was instructed to preach about what he had witnessed (Ezek. 11:4, 25). That is what I believe the Lord has called me to do, and woe is me if I do not do it!

You must understand that
O Timothy is primarily designed for preachers. Its main purpose is to give preachers information they need to protect their own people in these wicked hours and to encourage preachers to stand true to the Word of God.

If you want something with a positive thrust, you can find it almost anywhere. Most Christian publications today are almost overwhelmingly positive. I don’t think it is unbalanced to have a few publications that focus on exposing those things that are destroying God’s churches. I have a lot of positive things to say, but that is not what
O Timothy and the Fundamental Baptist Information Service are all about, and regardless of what people think I refuse to turn aside from the focus God laid upon my heart 24 years ago. I praise His name for the hundreds upon hundreds of men who have written me to say that I have been a blessing in their lives and ministries. My continual prayer is that God may help me have the courage to go on to the end and fulfill this difficult and much maligned calling.

I would also point out that there is a sense in which
O Timothy is extremely positive. It is all in how one looks at it. Is it not positive to warn people about false gospels that can lead them to Hell? Is it not positive to keep people from straying out of the will of God? Is it not positive to rescue the sheep from the clutches of the wolves? The fact that the shepherd has to deal harshly with the wolf does not mean he is not a positive, kind-hearted fellow.

Turning to your questions about fundamental Baptists, I am critical of fundamental Baptists in many areas. I have lost many friends in fundamental Baptist circles and have been made unwelcome in many schools and churches precisely because I lift my voice against error among fundamental Baptists. I have spoken often against what I call Quick Prayerism, promotionalism, lack of repentance in gospel preaching, worldliness, carnality, lack of church discipline, pompous pastors, sensual music, refusal to preach plainly against sin, Falwell-style ecumenicalism, and many other things.

Just because a church is fundamental Baptist is by no means a sign that it is a true New Testament church. There are many so-called fundamental Baptist churches that I could not support.

I would also remind you of this: Independent Baptist is not a denomination. It is a descriptive name only. It means simply that a church is Baptist in doctrine and independent in polity. Beyond that, there is GREAT variety among independent Baptist churches. I have been an independent Baptist for 32 years, but far more important than independent Baptist is the BIBLE! I support an independent Baptist church only insofar as it follows the Word of God. When an independent Baptist church departs from the Word of God, it is ICHABOD.