By Dr. James Rasbeary
Jer 6:16 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
Yesterday, our family took a day trip to eastern Oklahoma. In Beaver’s Bend State Park, we came across a beautiful creek tumbling down from the mountain, with white water rapids and little waterfalls. We parked and began our exploration. I have often told my kids (and our Cub Scouts) during these outdoor adventures, “We aren’t the first people to come this way. Others have come before us and have already found the best ways to go, and the best things to see. Instead of blundering through the trees and thorny undergrowth, let’s see if we can find an old path to follow.” Sure enough, we found a path that took us way up into the valley, and directly to all the best spots along the creek. We did not need to blaze a trail; others – many others – had already worn out a clear path to the destinations we desired.
On the trail, we came across two old men and chatted briefly. They were fishermen decked out in all their fly fishing gear, and carrying two stringers of rainbow trout. These men, brothers, had caught their limit and were heading home. In my mind, I imagined these brothers traveling this same path time after time, year after year, always going to the same fishing holes, and no doubt going home with many a similar stringer of fish! I told my children, “If we were fishing here, we would do well to follow those men to where they fish, and do what they do, and we might have the same results!”
The old paths are old because they have been taking people where they needed to go for along time. Many other paths have faded back into the wilderness because they were failed experiments. They were not the “good way” as some dreamed they might be. The “good way” is found on the “old paths.”
Jeremiah lived in a time of “trailblazers.” Worldly, compromising prophets were leading the people down a false and deceitful path, a lascivious trail leading away from the Lord (see Jeremiah 23). The people of Judah stood at a crossroads. Should they follow the old paths of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, and the prophets, or should they follow the new paths of a new age of enlightenment and progress? Jeremiah told them, “Ask for the old paths. Others have already gone before us. Find their paths, and follow them. Those paths will take us where we need to go.” But the people refused, and followed the pied pipers of a new age pathway to their destruction.
We live in a time of radical departures from the faith. I am not talking about incidentals such as technological advances. For example, I do not particularly care if a church has a video screen in the auditorium to aid the people in seeing, any more than I am against a sound system that aids people in hearing. I am talking about a major shift away from fundamental aspects of the doctrines and practices of Biblical Christianity. Certainly, there is room for variety in many of the ways we do things in different parts of the world. But some things are just right no matter where we are, or when!
There is nothing incidental about the Bible itself. There is nothing incidental about doctrinal truth concerning salvation, the church, the ordinances, the inspiration and preservation of scripture, or eternal security. There is nothing incidental about holiness, righteousness, or separation from the world. These are not light issues to be tossed aside. These are issues that divide because they are so IMPORTANT.
The King James Bible is an old path. It has already been blazed. It has already been through the fire seven times. It has already been mightily blessed for over four centuries, and there are no “new versions” that can compare. Yet many who once espoused a King James position are turning to new versions, especially the ESV, simply to fit in with a new crowd. The English Bible path does not need to be blazed again. It needs to be followed. It will get us where we need to go!
This is not the first century. The apostles were trailblazers. Timothy was told to “continue” on the trail that had already been blazed (2 Tim. 3:14). We are not the first people to travel this way. In America, we have a new generation that is simply tossing aside what it took generations to build. Paths that were blazed by wise, godly, spiritual, fervent men of God over generations are being rejected wholesale by a young generation that is “wise in their own eyes.” Is there room for improvement? Yes! But to throw away what it took great men and women generations to build and establish, to set up in its place a worldly altar is folly!
Take for example, our time-honored hymns. To throw out a hymnbook that took centuries to compile in favor of worldly music performed by worldly people is foolishness. God blessed those hymns in the 60’s and 70’s when the hippies and the rock and roll crowd was destroying our nation, and God will bless spiritual music in the 21st century as well. “Just as I am” called many a rock-n-roller to the altar then, and it will call many a punk rocker or hip-hopper to the altar today. And no, I am not against modern songs – but I am againstworldly songs that sound like the bar, the club, or the rock concert. I don’t think that all of our songs have to come from the 1800’s, but I also don’t want them coming from the Charismatics and New Evangelicals that dominate the CCM industry.
For years, giants of the faith cleared a path for Sunday School and church building, for soulwinning, for bus ministries and outreach, for missions, for the training of preachers, and for Christian education. Is there room for improvement? Always! But to throw it all out wholesale and embrace a worldly strategy, a worldly worship service format, to follow after New Evangelicals and their new versions of the Bible, their worldly music, their absence of standards and true personal holiness, all in an effort to reach a crowd, is folly.
I am not a trailblazer. When God called me to preach, I went and sat at the feet of godly men who had already been walking a path. I sat at the feet of Dr. Raymond Barber, who, decades before, sat at the feet of Dr. J. Frank Norris. I sat at the feet of Dr. Bob Smith, who, over his decades of evangelism and pastoring, had known most if not all of the greatly used men of God of his generation. They taught me truly; they pointed me to the scriptures. My convictions were established on unchanging truth, not on changing demographics. It is my job to continue in that path of truth.
Were those men innovators? Yes, in many ways. But they did not leave the old paths. They watched their old conventions, colleges, and movements depart from the faith once delivered, embracing new versions, false doctrines, liberalism, modernism, and worldliness. They saw the conventions turn into machines who lorded over the churches. They saw their colleges turn from preacher training stations to the dens of liberals and modernists. They saw their movements swallowed up in ultra-formalism, Calvinism and spiritual death. They did not leave – their movements left them.
You can keep your ESV, your Convention and all its liberalism, your charismatic music and your New Evangelical worldliness. My Pauls have already gone before. They were not perfect but they walked the right path. Like the men we met on the trail yesterday, the old men caught their limit and went home. I would do well to follow their path. The old paths will take me where I need to go, as they have taken countless others before me.