Every congregation hopes to prosper and grow, both spiritually and numerically. Unfortunately, some members base church growth solely on numbers. When this happens, we are placing more faith in numbers than in God's word and truth. God is aware that some churches may grow in soundness and faithfulness, with fewer people, rather than more.
I'm mindful of the scripture passage in 1 John 2:19, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they all are not of us (ASV)." This scripture is referring to those who leave the truth in favor of error. Sadly, in my short lifetime, I've witnessed a number of Christians who abandoned the truth. Even within the past few years, I've seen several families leave sound congregations and join fellowship with liberal churches. When I ask myself "why," this verse resounds in my mind. They have sent us their final message: "they are not of us."
Some commentators think they have a verse that teaches "once saved, always saved," but quite the contrary. They think that "if' they had been of us, they would not have left. So, they say, "to begin with, these were not really Christians; any true Christian cannot leave." However, notice what the Coffman commentary says: "It should be carefully noted that John did not here write, of the false teachers, "they never had been of us," but that at an unspecified, previous time, they were not. This is even more clear in the last clause, where the word is not that they had never been of us, but that they are not of us." Obviously, worldliness had influenced them to now deny God's way and leave.
The point I want to make is that when Christians depart, although it hurts, it might be for the better. John was saying, "what have we really lost?" You cannot lose what you don't have. Why? Because "they are not of us." Had they remained loyal and dedicated to the truth, they would have remained with us. If they truly loved righteousness, they would have remained with us. If they truly loved holiness and godliness, they would have remained with us.
Let me give an example of what I have seen. I witnessed two families depart for liberal churches. This is indeed sad, and more importantly, their souls are at stake. But why, why did they leave? They could no longer bear the "strong" teaching standard practiced by the preacher and the local congregation. They could not take the heat, so they got out of the kitchen. Who is to blame? Some blame the preacher and tell him not to be so "strong." Yet, the preacher has done nothing but preach the truth.
Some say, "We should be more tolerant." To tolerate such would be to compromise the truth. They left because they abandoned the high and holy way of righteousness and truth. In fact, one family compromised all of their supposed convictions regarding institutionalism and social recreation as part of the work of the church so that they could have their way regarding immodesty. I tell you folks, they left us because "they are not of us."
In vain, I've tried to teach some Christians that God will not approve of their leanings toward worldliness. One woman wanted to use her slang language and euphemisms and wear clothing that was lust plain lascivious. She had the audacity to become upset with other church members and the preacher because they "made her feel uncomfortable." "They act so self-righteous," she would say and, "They act so high and mighty," but the brethren were only being righteous, not self-righteous. The brethren were only being what God would have them to be. What did she finally do? She left and placed membership with an ultra-liberal church of Christ in the area. She left to go where she belonged. She went to those with whom she had more things in common. She was certainly no longer of us. Her mindset, her conduct, her way of living were not "as becometh the gospel of Christ"(Philippians 1:27).
When we understand this passage, brethren, it teaches that we should not be so weak as to think that the church should lower its standard of righteousness for those who have less conviction. In the case of the woman mentioned above, she realized where she belonged. A sound, conservative, God-fearing church is better off without those who try to corrupt and demoralize her holy ways. Ephesians 5:27 says, "That He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish."
I want to present the mindset of who we are. In other words, to be "of us," or to be a true Christian, one must have a certain mind. Paul told the Philippian brethren, "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel," (Philippians 1:27). 1 Corinthians 1:10 says, "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and [that] there be no divisions among you, but [that] you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." We must have...
THE MIND OF CHRIST:
Philippians 2:5 says, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." The mind of Christ is a sacrificial mind, a mind that denies self. Jesus said, "Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done." This mind obeys the Father, no matter what the cost (Hebrews 5:8). Jesus left everything, even heaven, to obey God. How much of the mind of Christ is in you? Christ had a pure and holy mind. Are we keeping our minds pure? "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). Peter said, "But as He who called you [is] holy, you also be holy in all [your] conduct" (1 Peter 1:15).
MINDS THAT ARE RIGHTEOUS:
The New Testament covenant is based on following the law of righteousness. Hebrews 8:10 says, "For this [is] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God; and they shall be My people." How much of your mind is focused on God's law of righteousness? In many, minds are not being renewed. "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:23-24). The Christian should have a new mind, not the former corrupt, sinful mind. "Among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others"(Ephesians 2:3).
MINDS THAT ARE WILLING:
Whatever God's will is, it must be our will. One such command dealt with giving. In 2 Corinthians 8:12, Paul said, "For if there is first a willing mind, [it is] accepted according to what one has, [and] not according to what he does not have." Do you have a compliant mind, or are you resisting God's will? The rebellious, defiant, and resistant refuse to conform to God's will. How willing are you are to let go of the things you hold dear? If God's will is modesty, are you willing? If God's will is purity, are you willing? You will find that such are His will.
MINDS THAT ARE ON HEAVEN:
"Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:2). Is your mind on heaven? Unfortunately, many are like Lot's wife--looking back, longing for this world. Israel could not forget Egypt. Are the things of this earth drawing you back? Paul said, "Whose end [is] destruction, whose god [is their] belly, and [whose] glory [is] in their shame--who set their mind on earthly things" (Philippians 3:19). Those who care more about fashion, earthly esteem, vain glory, or whatever pleasures this earth might have to offer have "gone out from us," and we can truly say, "They were not of us." A Christian does not love the world or the things of the world. To the Colossian brethren, Paul wrote, "Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in [false] humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind" (Colossians 2:18).
Although the church will lose those who "are not of us," we continue to pursue those who would be God's people. Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27). Will you allow Jesus to lead you and be your Shepherd? If so, hear His voice and follow.