- Immerse yourself in the Scriptures. Follow the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and Ezra in Ezra 7:10. They both diligently studied and searched the Scriptures to know for themselves the truth of Scripture. They were not content to know Scripture in a second hand manner. J.C. Ryle encourages us to do the same: “… let me beseech every reader … who desires to be sound in the faith, to study diligently the Bible. That blessed book is given to be a light to our feet, and a lantern to our path. No man who reads it reverently, prayerfully, humbly, and regularly, shall ever be allowed to miss the way to heaven. By it every sermon, and every religious book, and every ministry ought to be weighed and proved. Would you know what is the truth? Do you feel confused and puzzled by the war of words which you hear on every side about religion? Do you know what you ought to believe, and what you ought to be and do, in order to be saved? Take down your Bible, and cease from man. Read your Bible with earnest prayer for the teaching of the Holy Ghost; read it with honest determination to abide by its lessons. Do so steadily and preseveringly, and you shall see light: you shall be kept from the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and be guided to eternal life. The way to do a thing is to do it. Act upon this advice without delay.” As you do so be mindful of several factors that can become an obstacle to arriving at a correct understanding of Scripture. Allegorical interpretations of Scripture – Allegorizing Scripture occurs when one applies a meaning to a passage of Scripture that the original author never intended. For example, in Genesis 6:14 God commanded Noah to build an ark made of cypress wood and to coat both the inside and the outside with pitch. Some have said that the pitch represents sin in our lives. However, such an interpretation can not be justified from Scripture. No where does Scripture say that the black pitch represents our sin. Another example: On one occasion I heard a sermon by an NRC pastor who was speaking on Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. Regarding the stone rolled over the mouth of the tomb this pastor said “Many of us have a stone rolled across our hearts” and for a true living faith “the stone needs to be rolled away from our heart”. The danger in allegorizing Scripture is that it can lead to an endless number of interpretations of Scripture that are completely unrelated to the author’s original thinking. A person can make the Bible say anything that they want in order to justify virtually any belief. To avoid this pitfall it is vital that one use good hermeneutics. Catechism preaching – The danger of this is that you use the catechism as your starting point and then use the Scripture to support the points in the catechism. However, it should be the other way around where the Scripture is your starting point and then, if needed, you use outside sources to support your points. What can result is that the catechism develops an authority equal to that of Scripture.2 The Protestant Reformers recognized this danger. After centuries of the Roman Catholic Church elevating various creeds and traditions to a level that was equal to or beyond the authority of Scripture, the Reformers reestablished the foundational principle of sola scriptura – meaning the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice within the church. (See point 2 below) The King James Version – The NRC is a King James only denomination. Over the last several centuries many godly men and women have used the KJV with great profit to their soul. However, all languages are dynamic and change over time. The English used today is not the same as what was used 400 years ago. I do realize that there are many views regarding the KJV, both inside and outside the NRC. It is the opinion of this author that the use of KJV can present a barrier to developing an accurate understanding of the Bible due to its use of archaic words. An excellent book discussing the reliability of the KJV is The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism by D.A. Carson (Baker Book House, 1979).
- Recognize the authority of Scripture. Confessions and catechisms are subordinate standards and must continually be interpreted in light of Scripture. Lloyd-Jones writes: “… we must … avoid the danger of being legalistically bound by the Confessions of Faith that were drawn up in the 16th and 17th centuries. We must remember that the Confessions are only subordinate standards. They are not of equal authority with the Scriptures, and we must be careful lest we allow ourselves to be jockeyed into positions in which we are just defending the Confessions of those two centuries at all costs and not facing the realities and the practicalities of the situation in which we find ourselves in this present age and generation. The American Presbyterians seem to me to provide us with a most instructive and excellent example at this point. The American Presbyterians in the 18th century did not hesitate to modify the Westminster Confession. They modified it over the question of the relationship between the church and the State. They wanted a wholly free church, a church that was entirely free, so they modified Chapter XX, Section iv, Chapter xxiii, Section iii, Chapter xxx, Section I, of the Westminster Confession. Now that, to me, is spiritual and biblical thinking. The Westminster Confession was not divinely inspiried, and we must be free. We must use these Confessions of Faith as guides and not allow them to by tyrants. They are not to be rigid codes which we must never vary or change in any respect. Let us use them, let us thank God for them, but let us claim that as Christian people we are born again, that we have the Spirit, and are equally capable of determining the teaching of the Scriptures and the true doctrine with regard to the church.3 If warranted by a valid interpretation of Scripture, don’t be afraid to arrive at a conclusion that is contrary to NRC teaching. If you trust Him by trusting His Word there is no need to be afraid even if thousands should oppose you (Psalm 3:6). Who do you fear? God or man? The fear of man often prevents people from drawing conclusions that are contrary to the beliefs of friends and family around them. It is vital to recognize that the fear of man is a deadly snare: “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25) There is exceedingly great joy trusting in the Word of God. No man can take this joy away from you. (Read John 5:44 and the explanation that follows in Relevant Scripture Passages.)
- If you do arrive at a conclusion that is contrary to NRC belief and you feel that it is a biblical conclusion, be prepared for the reality of massive family and social pressure to remain faithful to the NRC. Prepare yourself ahead of time for this. (Read John 5:44 and the explanation that follows in Relevant Scripture Passages.)
- Pray, pray, pray. Continually pray that the Holy Spirit would give light to enable you and others to understand the Scriptures better. (Ephesians 1:17) Only the Holy Spirit can open a person’s eyes to see the truth. Your responsibility is, in a kind and gentle way, present the truth to them and leave the results in the hands of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:9-14; 3:6; John 6:45; 16:13-15) The Spirit of God can do infinitely above and beyond anything that you can do.
- Read church history. By reading church history you will be able to put the NRC in historical context and will quickly discover that the problems in the NRC today are not unique. Other churches and denominations in the past have fallen into the same or similar errors. In a series of lectures to students training for the ministry Lloyd-Jones writes: “History shows how subtle it all is, and how many a man lacking balance, or by failing to maintain the proportion of faith, and the interrelationship of the various parts of the whole message, has been pressed by the devil to put too much emphasis on one particular aspect, and eventually pressed so far as to be in a position in which he is really contradicting the Truth and has become a heretic. So church history is invaluable to the preacher. It is not the preserve of academics. I would say that Church history is one of the most essential studies for the preacher were it merely to show him this terrible danger of slipping into heresy, or into error, without realising that anything has happened to him.”4
- Read everything you can on the subject of genuine revival. (If you are not familiar with this subject and would like to learn more the Suggested Reading page has a few suggestions on where you can start.) Look at the periods in church history when the Holy Spirit was moving with great power and compare those times with our own. In times of revival, the church is influencing the world, rather than the world influencing the church. The church is healthy, God glorifying, repentant, and fearlessly preaching and teaching according to sound doctrine. Often the church was influencing the world rather than the world influencing the church. I’m convinced that ALL of the reformed churches (not to mention the evangelical churches) are desperately in need of an outpouring of the Spirit of God. Many of the characteristics that exist today in the churches are not the result of the Spirit of God but are due to the absence of the Spirit of God. Finally, pray for the Holy Spirit! Pray that He would come in a mighty, mighty way. In the Suggested Reading section there is a pamphlet called “Pray for the Spirit” which was written during the 1858 revival in New York City. (Incidentally, the initial prayer meetings at the beginning of that revival were held in the consistory room of the Old North Dutch Church on Fulton Street in New York City.) History has given ample evidence that God can in a very, very rapid period of time can radically change a desperate, hopeless situation into something above and beyond anything imagined. Manifestations of this nature bring great glory to God. No person, no church is beyond the power of God! There is hope for everyone!
- Read the old reformed pastors/authors who have been most used of God in church history. Read Calvin, Luther, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Arthur W. Pink, and A.W. Tozer. The majority of the books by these authors have been published by publishers such as Banner of Truth Trust, and Soli Deo Gloria. Do you know what is ironic? If you are a member of the NRC, some of the books by Banner of Truth and Soli Deo Gloria that sit on your pastor’s bookshelf, are the very books that undermine what the NRC teaches and believes! I believe one of the chief reasons why the NRC is in its present spiritual condition is because members read and understand so little reformed literature outside of the NRC tradition. For generation after generation, members have simply accepted as truth what their pastors have told them and yet they do not see that a large body of reformed literature contradicts some key NRC beliefs. I think the denomination would benefit greatly if members read and thoroughly assimilated the works of pastors and evangelists that have been mightily used of God in the past. If George Whitefield, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards Samuel Davies, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Charles Spurgeon, Arthur Pink and J.C. Ryle were read and thoroughly understood the NRC would soon be a very different place.
- Love your NRC friend or family member. Love them with all of your heart (1 Corinthians 13:1). Getting angry will not do any good. If someone has done something to hurt you, then forgive them. Have compassion on them. Keep in mind that if someone has spent their entire lives within a particular denomination and has never seen anything else, they may have a more difficult time identifying unScriptural beliefs and practices in their midst. It may be that no one has ever challenged them about those beliefs before and just accepted those beliefs as a normal, biblical expression of the faith. They may have bought into the rational that has been used to justify those false beliefs. This is one of the key reasons why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 that the church must be interdependent upon each other. No church should be an island. Even the healthiest, most God glorifying church needs other churches to both encourage and rebuke (2 Timothy 4:2) members within its own body. “The whole truth has never been with any one group in church history,”9 writes Iain Murray.
- You need to do what is best for your soul. You will not honor God by fulfilling a vow at the expense of your soul. Find a church that faithfully teaches the whole counsel of God. Use Nehemiah 8:8 as an example: “They [the Levites] read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.” Never forget that you are not breaking a vow that was never legitimate in the first place. Leaving a denomination is not synonymous with leaving God (apostasy).
- Not all controversy is bad. Some within the NRC may suggest that this website is divisive and should thus be avoided. It is true that the Apostle Paul warned the early church to stay away from divisive people who divide the church (Romans 16:17, Titus 3:10). Yet, those verses should not be interpreted in isolation from the rest of Scripture. Look at the book of Acts. On a number of occasions in the book of Acts the preaching of the Apostle Paul led to massive, city-wide riots (Acts 19:29-41; 21:27-36; 24:5). On other occasions multitudes came to faith in Christ (Acts 2:41). The book of Acts records a whole range of reactions to the Apostle’s preaching. Scripture is quite clear that sometimes a faithful application of Scripture, even though taught in a gentle and loving manner (2 Timothy 2:25, 1 Peter 3:15), will lead to great friction. The preaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ is a perfect example of this. He was sent to the Cross because He told the truth and the Jews hated it. So how can one tell the difference between divisive people who create evil, unnecessary divisions within the church and true Spirit filled preaching that, at times, may lead to great controversy? Simple. Does the teaching and preaching conform to the Word of God? Is there a valid basis in Scripture, using good hermeneutics, to support a particular teaching? If not, then the belief must be avoided. If a teacher or preacher (or website) expresses beliefs contrary to Scripture then you are commanded by God to stay away from them (2 John 8-11). But if the teaching grows out of a valid interpretation of Scripture then you are commanded by God to obey even if many oppose you. Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) was a great example of this. If he believed that a Scriptural belief or practice was being undermined he did not shy away from controversy. Spurgeon wrote “A dead calm is our enemy, a storm may prove our helper. Controversy may arouse thought, and through thought may come the Divine change.”10
- God can use a non-NRC pastor in your life to draw you closer to Jesus Christ. There are many pastors and evangelists outside of the NRC whose preaching is “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). God is building His church all over the world (Matthew 16:18) and it will be of great profit to your soul to see the extent to which God is working outside of the denomination. At the same time be careful that you do not ignore or turn your back on the moving of the Holy Spirit outside of the NRC otherwise you may “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30).
- Although many within the NRC may praise the denomination, be mindful of the fact that the Devil often causes people to praise the very thing that enslaves them. He blinds people by making them think that they are making a wise choice when in reality they are deceived by his lies (Genesis 3:6).
- A helpful article: In 1960 Martyn Lloyd-Jones delivered a sermon called “Knowledge – False and True.” (in his book The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors by Banner of Truth Trust). This is one of the most powerful messages that I have ever read. I think this message is a bold challenge all professing Christians today regardless of what denomination they belong to. Do you have a true knowledge of God? You may have attended the NRC since you were a little child and listened to countless sermons. You even may have made the Confession of Faith vow. But what has it produced? Has it led to a true knowledge of God?
1 J.C. Ryle, Warnings to the Churches (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1967), 67-68.
2 For an excellent discussion of this see Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1987), 209 and 231-232.
3 Ibid, 231-233.
4 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 117.
5 J.C. Ryle, Five English Reformers (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, reprint 1960), 45.
6 Ibid, 47
7 Ibid, 48-49.
8 Iain H. Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1981), back cover.
9 Iain H. Murray, The Old Evangelicalism: Old Truths for a New Awakening (Carlistle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), xii.
10Charles Spurgeon, Revival Year Sermons (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1996), v.