The process of appeal we described in the previous chapter raises the prospect of an individual standing alone for their convictions of the Word. It is not easy thing for people to stand alone without the need for some kind of human support or encouragement. Such pressures can cause individuals to seek out others, seeking to win them to their understanding in order that they might gain the numbers before directly confront existing leadership. Much evangelistic endeavour is motivated by people who come under conviction but do not have a foundation that allows them to stand alone. Such individuals will often be driven by the need for acceptance more than for the love of the truth. Standing alone does not need the support of anyone or anything outside the Word of God. Standing alone does not feel compelled to bring others to their understanding in order to no longer stand alone. Yet standing alone is not a natural human characteristic. Most of us are very vulnerable to the process of groupthink. What is groupthink?
“A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive ingroup, when the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action” (Janis, 1972). From Wikipedia article - groupthink
The human desire for belonging and acceptance has the capacity to cause people to override a proper process of investigation of the Word of God. If something is believed by the majority within a social group then the motivation to believe differently from that group must hold out for that person something of greater worth to them, something that is worth risking rejection by that group.
The pressure to conform to the wishes of the majority can cause leaders who know better to cave in. While Moses was in the mount receiving this instruction
Exo 23:2 Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:
Aaron was down below doing the exact opposite:
Exo 32:1-4 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. (2) And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. (3) And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. (4) And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
Aaron feared the people more than he feared God and in desiring their acceptance more than the truth, he caused Israel to sin.
Exo 32:21-22 And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? (22) And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.
Another man that feared the people was Saul:
1Sa 15:24 And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
Rather the truly repent he begged Samuel to come with him in order that the people would still honour him.
1Sa 15:30 Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God.
In contrast to this we see the spirit of Joshua and Caleb when they gave their report of the promised land.
Num 14:6-10 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: (7) And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. (8) If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. (9) Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not. (10) But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.
These men were willing to brave the majority opinion in order to state the facts. They were willing to risk their lives to stand for the truth.
Many of us may hold childhood scars of finding ourselves outside of the favour of a group of children. I have a few experiences of being mocked and taunted for being different. As a young person, those experiences can be quite frightening and can cause major shifts in thinking in order to be accepted. Parents often feel so helpless as they watch their children become engulfed in a peer group that is going away from the teachings of the Word of God. The need for acceptance washes away the value that comes from standing for the truth.
Satan knows well the power of peer pressure and he uses it where ever he can to cause people to avoid reasoning from the Scriptures with a determination to search out the truth at all costs. Since we all live in this world, it is a certainty that at some point believing the truth will cost you the acceptance of a group you once belonged to. The Bible clearly tells us that it is impossible to believe the truth if we fear losing the honour on men:
Joh 5:44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?
Many people will be excluded from the kingdom of heaven on this point alone. Notice what the Scripture says:
Rev 21:7-8 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (8) But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
The first group mentioned amongst those who do not inherit all things of the Father are the fearful; those who were too afraid to face the majority opinion and risk losing their approval.
It is this human tendency that prevented many leaders who believed in Jesus to openly confess him
Joh 12:42-43 Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: (43) For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
Do we see a parallel today? Are there those who believe yet are fearful of being put out of the church for their belief in the Son of God?
The seed of the begotten Son that finds root in the receptive soul manifests itself in a willingness to face scorn, contempt and ridicule for the truth’s sake. That seed we receive from Christ, He received from His Father and we can know the dimensions of the Seed in these words:
Matt 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
As Jesus rested in this assurance of His Father, He could face the angry mob, the murderous priests, the thuggish roman guard and all the legions of hel . All this He could face knowing that His Father delighted in Him. The reward of following the truth is to receive the spirit of truth which is the Spirit of Christ.
As we decide in our minds to love the begotten Son no matter what the cost, the Spirit of Jesus abides with us and we have our fellowship in the Father and the Son. I can say with absolute certainty that the joy and peace of their fellowship more than compensates for the loss of my former associates with their contempt and ridicule. The love of Jesus more than pays for the loss of my career, reputation and standing in the church, yea I count these things as dung compared to the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord.
Those who truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God will both find the strength to stand alone and the love to appeal to their brethren with submissive grace.
Many times I questioned myself; I felt the pressure of the majority against me. I questioned “what makes you so sure you are right Adrian?” “There are almost none in leadership who agree with you. Who do you think you are to take this stand?” Then I would go back to the Bible and read the plain testament concerning the Son of God. I would read again the many lines of evidence in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. I would examine again the foundation our pioneers laid; I compared the testimony of the 1888 messengers; I poured over the Review and Herald articles and asked myself “Are you sure Adrian!” And the conviction came back stronger and more urgent than before. YES! YES! YES! I am sure that Jesus is the Son of the Father in truth and love and no weapon fashioned against this confession will stand.
And with that conviction often came the sweet experience of peace. Peace that I could never describe. I could feel the love of the Father for His Son IN me. As I embraced the truth of the Son of God, the realisation of the Father’s love for me in Christ was beyond comprehension. Many times when I would receive a harsh email of a word to tempt me from the wicked one, my Saviour would send a word of encouragement to bless me. Often when I would walk I would behold the sparrows and smile as I thought that I was of more value than many sparrows.
I can also testify that after I determined to confess the begotten Son before my brethren and not to be ashamed of His name by remaining silent, I found greater victory in my personal life. My thoughts and affections began to change at a faster rate. The things of the world that would attract me and divert me from my path grew strangely dim. Praise God for his sanctifying Spirit!
My brethren if you truly love the Son of the Father then you will love His remnant church. This love will compel you to confess the Lord Jesus before your brethren and the peace of Christ will give you the courage to stand alone without any political strategies or desires to draw away disciples to your position to create your own majority consensus. You will find yourself free to appeal to those in authority over you and ask them to allow you to worship the Son of the Living God, willing to face whatever consequences may come. Choose the right because it is right and leave the consequences with God.
The Bible tells us:
John 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
The truth sets us free from the fear of what others think of us; sets us free from the need for acceptance from our peers. When we know that we are accepted by the Almighty Father through His Son, we need nothing else to sustain us.
If you wish to study more on this subject I would invite you to read my little book Identity Wars which covers our true value in Christ in greater detail. It is through the principles of this little book that I found the peace to be able to stand alone, to the eyes of men, yet to be standing with Christ and His angels.