You’ve Got To Stand For Something!
by Pastor Ricky Kurth
Back in 1990, entertainer Bob Hope was busy gathering a group of other entertainers to put on a USO show for our troops stationed in the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Shield. At that same time, country singer Aaron Tippin was on the radio singing a song called, “You’ve Got to Stand for Something, or You’ll Fall for Anything.” Hearing it, Bob realized it would be the perfect song for those brave men who were standing firm in the face of Sadam Hussein’s infamous “million man army,” so he invited Aaron to join the tour.
History proved him right, for I can vividly remember seeing a news clip of the hoots and hollers Aaron got when he sang that song to the troops. He really struck a chord with those men who had taken a stand in the desert to defend the line our president had drawn in the sand.
Back in 1968, some grace pastors took a similar stand to defend Paul’s gospel in the face of the doctrinal declension that had arisen in the grace movement. And the stand that those good soldiers of Jesus Christ took when they formed the Berean Bible Fellowship reminds me of the words of that song. You see, if you don’t stand for Pauline truth, you’ll fall for just about anything, because Paul’s gospel is the answer to just about everything!
And the stand they took fifty years ago also reminds me of the question God asked Job in order to give him a sense of His greatness:
“Where wast thou when I… shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth…And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further…?” (Job 38:4-11).
Six thousand years ago God drew a line in the sand of the beaches of the world, and said to the mighty oceans, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further!” And fifty years ago, the grace pastors who founded the BBF said to the apostasy in the grace movement, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further!” They drew a line in the sand and for the past fifty years they and the men who followed after them have faithfully stood their ground and defended it, overcoming every challenge to the truth that Satan has raised, weathering every storm that has arisen.
And I can think of no finer way to honor those founding pastors, and the God they served, and the truth they preserved, than by NOT talking about the men themselves, but rather by teaching a Bible study featuring some of the faithful men who came before them in the pages of God’s Word. Men of God who took a stand for Him and His truth—sometimes in the face of overwhelming odds, often standing alone in the face of those overwhelming odds. Ordinary men who did some extraordinary things.
Men like the man we read about in Genesis 5:21,22:
“…Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years….”
Enoch took a stand for the Lord when he decided to walk with God. And if you think that was an easy stand for him to take, you’re probably forgetting that he lived right before the Flood. You know. In the years when the world was so desperately wicked that God had to wipe the human race out and start all over again with Noah. Choosing to walk with God was an extraordinary thing to do in those days!
Do you ever hear Christians complain, “It’s so hard to walk with God these days, the world is so much more evil than it used to be”? When you hear that, think of Enoch, and remember that any stand that you yourself hope to take for Paul’s gospel must begin with a consistent walk with God. It must start with a stand that you yourself have to take to deny ungodliness in the face of an ungodly world.
You see, these messages aren’t just going to be about the faithful men we see in the Bible, or even the faithful men who founded the BBF. They’re going to be about the stand I hope to inspire you to take for God and His truth.
If you are thinking that it’s too late to start walking with God at your age, notice that Enoch didn’t start walking with God until he was 65 years old! That means for the first 65 years of his life he evidently walked in ungodliness instead.
But it also means there came a day when he drew a line in the sand and said to the ungodliness in his life, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.” So I don’t care how long you’ve walked in ungodliness, or lived selfishly for yourself instead of living for the Lord, it is never too late to take a stand for Him. Just ask Enoch!
In our next reference we see another man who took a stand for God:
“…Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9).
Did you notice that Noah wasn’t perfect in his conduct? He was perfect in his generations. When God announced that the seed of the woman would crush Satan’s head (Gen. 3:15), the devil tried to corrupt her seed by having his fallen angels cohabit with women (Gen. 6:1-4) in an attempt to corrupt the line of Christ. The demonic race that resulted from those unholy unions were said to be “giants.” But Noah’s family drew a line in the sand and said to that Satanic corruption, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further!”
Of course, now that Christ has been born, the devil is no longer trying to corrupt the seed of the woman. Today he’s attempting to corrupt Paul’s gospel. And fifty years ago, when the founders of the BBF drew a line in the sand and said to the corruption that had arisen in the grace movement, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further,” do you really think Satan gave up on trying to corrupt Paul’s gospel? If you’ve known Pauline truth for very long, you know by experience that he’s still at it, and that there is still a need for men of God to stand firm in the face of apostasy.
So if you’re a grace pastor who’s thinking of corrupting the grace message, or watering it down, or making it what you perceive to be more palatable to your hearers in any other way because you deem it to be unpopular—well, I’m not going to lie to you. You’ll probably go further in life than faithful grace pastors. Speaking of giants, you may even grow a giant church.
But if Berean Bible Society founder Pastor C. R. Stam were still alive, he’d remind you of one of his favorite verses: “buy the truth, and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23). It’s easy to be a sellout. It may cost you to stand for the truth. But who cares what it costs? Pastor Stam and the rest of BBF’s founders didn’t, and neither should you.
You see, Aaron Tippin’s song is about how his dad always stood for what was right. One of the lines says, “We mighta been better off, or owned a bigger house. If Daddy’d done more givin’ in, or a little more backin’ down. But we always had plenty, just living his advice: Whatever you do today you’ll have to sleep with tonight.” Well, as a grace pastor, whatever you do in the ministry in this life, you’re going to have to live with for all eternity. So draw a line in the sand of your heart and say to those thoughts of corrupting Paul’s gospel, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further!”
And if you’re a grace pastor who’s grown tired of standing for Paul’s gospel—tired of not seeing the results that others get who don’t stand for it—may I remind you that Noah wasn’t just an arkbuilder? He was also “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5), a preacher who preached for 120 years (Gen. 6:3)—with no converts! Not a single soul on the face of the earth joined him and his family in the ark.
You say, “Well, he probably didn’t get discouraged because he was preaching what God told him to preach,” and I’d agree. But if you’re a grace pastor, so are you—if you’re maintaining your stand for Pauline truth, that is, and not selling out!
But I’ll go you one further. I don’t think Noah even expected any converts. Did you notice that Peter didn’t call him a preacher of the gospel? He called him “a preacher of righteousness.” God didn’t send him to offer salvation to that demonic race. He just told him to preach righteousness to them—to tell those giants that they were about to be righteously judged of God.
It’s kind of like the message God gave Jonah to preach when He told him,
“…go unto Nineveh… and preach unto it… Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:2,4).
Do you see any gospel—any good news—in that message? Jonah didn’t tell the citizens of Nineveh they’d be overthrown unless they repented. He just preached the coming of the righteous judgment of God. The difference is that the people of Nineveh weren’t made up of the seed of fallen angels, and they did repent.
But just imagine poor Noah preaching for 120 years with no response! Do you think he might have gotten a little weary in well doing—a little discouraged maybe? Well, the next time you get discouraged as a grace pastor, thinking that nobody wants to hear the grace message, just do what Noah had to do and say to that discouragement, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further!”
Sometimes taking a stand for God and His truth will cost you in a way that it cost Abraham. “The Lord had said unto Abram,
“Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Gen. 12:1).
Abraham’s family were a bunch of idolaters (Josh. 24:2). So when God called him to go to the promised land, He told him to leave his family behind. That means taking a stand for God cost him his family! You see, standing for the truth involves standing apart from those who don’t stand for it—even when those who don’t are your loved ones!
That was certainly the case for those grace pastors who took that stand in 1968. The ones from whom they separated when they took their stand weren’t a bunch of faceless, nameless nobodies. They were oftentimes members of their families and friends—
dear friends, lifelong friends with whom they had fellowshipped for years if not decades.
Taking a stand for the truth may cost you in the same way, and you’re sure to have moments of regret if it does. But when those moments start ganging up on you, steel your resolve and do what Abraham must have done and say to those regrets, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further!”
But now, as you probably remember, Abraham wasn’t perfect in his stand for God. While traveling through the land of the giants,
“Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah” (Gen. 20:2).
Abraham was afraid the king would kill him to get his beautiful wife, so he just decided to share her. But that king was also the seed of those fallen angels. You see, after God wiped the giants out with the Flood, Satan raised up another crop of giants “after that” (Gen. 6:4). And if that king had slept with Sarah, it would have corrupted the line of Christ.
That means when Abraham lied about his wife he endangered the genealogy of the Messiah, and in so doing endangered the souls of all mankind. If God hadn’t intervened, we’d all be without a Savior.
I point all this out to remind you that you’re not perfect either. Maybe you’ve made mistakes in your stand for God, just as Abraham did. Maybe even serious mistakes that endangered the cause of Pauline truth for which you stand. The good news is that God doesn’t expect you to be perfect any more than He expected it of Abraham. And if He could use Abraham after the shameful way he treated his wife, I guarantee He can still use you.
So don’t let past mistakes keep you from standing for the truth. When thoughts arise that suggest that your past renders you unworthy to stand for the Lord, just say to those thoughts, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further!”
Moses began to take his stand for God when he attempted to mediate a fight between two Jews (Ex. 2:13). But how’d that work out for him? They rejected his offer to mediate their dispute and tacitly threatened to expose him as a murderer (v. 14).
Did you ever have something like that happen to you? Maybe you tried to settle a quarrel between two grace brethren, or took a stand for what’s right in some other area of your life, and had it just explode in your face? If that happens, I hope you won’t react as Moses did. He ran away from God for forty years! Forty years of his life were wasted, just because standing for what’s right didn’t work out the way he’d hoped.
Maybe it has happened to you, and you did run from God, and now you’re finding it hard to find your way back to serving Him. Can you imagine how hard it was for Moses after forty years? Maybe you haven’t wasted that much time, but no matter how many years you’ve lost for the Lord, do you know what you should say to all that spiritual waste in your life? “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further!”
Joshua and Caleb’s Stand
Now if you want to talk about men who took a stand, how about Joshua and Caleb? What did God say to them about the giants who lived in the promised land?
“Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it” (Lev. 20:24).
But when Moses sent men to spy out the land, what did ten of those twelve spies tell him?
“…we be not able to go up against the people; for they are… giants” (Num. 13:27-33).
But what did Joshua and Caleb say to their countrymen about that?
“…rebel not… neither fear ye the people of the land… the Lord is with us” (Num. 14:9).
In the face of that unbelief, Joshua and Caleb took a stand, choosing to stand on God’s promise that they would inherit the land!
Now most of the time when preachers preach about those two faithful men, they tell you that you can beat the giants in your life by just being faithful. They promise that faithfulness will even enable you to conquer obstacles as huge as cancer, or poverty, or whatever other giant challenges you face in life.
But faithfulness stems from faith, and faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). And God didn’t say in His Word that members of the Body of Christ will slay the giant of cancer, or vanquish the giant of poverty. So you can’t point to a verse that says you will, as Joshua and Caleb could point to God’s promise that they would possess the land. So for you to say you will conquer giants like that isn’t faith, it’s presumption.
God plans to conquer your giants differently. After talking about the giants of “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” (Rom. 8:35), Paul went on to assure us that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (v. 37). You see, God’s plan isn’t for you to merely conquer your giants. He plans to make you more than a mere conqueror by letting your giants conquer you.
“How’s that work?” Well, don’t forget Paul prefaced God’s promise to make us more than conquerors with the words, “we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (v. 36). That’s a reference to what Isaiah said about the Lord as He hung on Calvary’s cross, and how…
“He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter…” (Isa. 53:7).
Was Christ a conqueror on the cross? Before you answer, let me ask you: Did He come down off the cross and whoop up on the religious “giants” who nailed Him there? He could have conquered them if He wanted to. Instead He became more than a conqueror by letting those giants conquer Him by taking His life. He didn’t rest on any promise to save Him from His giant religious foes. Instead, He rested on God’s promise to raise Him from the dead after His enemies conquered Him (Psa. 16:10). He was even “glad” that those religious giants killed Him (v. 9), and He tells us why He was glad when He prayed,
“Thou wilt shew Me the path of life; in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (v. 11).
The Lord was able to gladly endure the giants who so viciously opposed Him because He knew that someday He would sit at God’s right hand—and so will you! In fact, Paul says you’re as good as there (Eph. 2:6). With glory like that in your future, you can gladly tell your giants, “Go ahead and run me over, then back the truck up and run me over again. No matter what you do to me, my Savior is keeping a seat warm for me at the right hand of God!”
That’s the reason Paul cites Isaiah’s words about the Lord in telling us that we can be more than conquerors through Him. If we look at our giants in the way that He looked at His, we can be as glad as He was about having to face them!
This explains why Paul himself was glad when he asked the Lord to slay his giant—his giant thorn in the flesh—and He answered,
“My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities… for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:8-10).
If Paul had his druthers, he druther be sick than well, for he knew the Lord’s power was released in his suffering, just as the power of salvation was released in the Lord’s suffering for us on the cross. So just as Christ was “glad” that His enemies conquered Him, Paul suffered his giant thorn in the flesh “gladly.”
“What kind of power is released in our suffering?” The power to overcome the discouragement that comes when you forget that God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness! And the power of your testimony for the Lord is made perfect as well. When you not only don’t gripe about your infirmities, when you “take pleasure” in them instead, that’s a testimony that literally screams to unbelievers that you have something they don’t have!
And if you can’t take pleasure in that, you need to adjust your priorities. I’m talking about manning up and taking a stand in life, and being the man of God that He has called you to be. Learn to “endure hardness; as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3).
Aaron Tippin’s song ends with these lines:
“Now I know that things are different than they were in Daddy’s day. But I still believe what makes a man really hasn’t changed.” And I know that things are different today than they were in Bible days. They are even different than they were back in 1968 when those men of God took a stand for Paul’s gospel. But what makes a man of God really hasn’t changed. You’ve still got to stand for the truth of Paul’s gospel, or you too will fall for anything!
So “quit you like men, be strong!” (1 Cor. 16:13). There are untold thousands of believers who are falling for the kind of presumption that passes for faith these days. It’s time that grace believers everywhere stood up to all such errors, and to any and all declension from the truth, and said, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further!”