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On December 8, 2013, I published a blog post titled, “No Compromise,” which highlighted the life of Margaret Thatcher, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and was nicknamed “The Iron Lady” because of her uncompromising politics and leadership style.
This blog post focuses on another individual born here in America and who is a product of my own generation—the Baby Boomers—who rocked the world for a short time before his death in 1982 in a plane crash and who’s legacy (his writings and his music) lives on through his wife, Melody Green, at Last Days Ministries. His name is Keith Green (Oct. 21, 1953 – July 28, 1982) and his life story can be read in a biography written by Melody Green, first published in 1989 and expanded and updated in 2008, titled “No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green.” Keith Green also lived a life of “no compromise” and the forward in this book, written by Winkie Pratney, gives a clear snapshot of who Keith was—a voice crying out in the wilderness of his generation. Here is the forward from the book found on pages ix-x (2008 edition):
Once upon a time, in a generation steeped in much emptiness and spiritual darkness, a boy was born who was given a great gift. Deeply talented, trained as a musician, he had a unique ability (some would later say genius) to take spiritual truth and put it in the language and vocabulary of the common people of his time.
His biographical writings (now available for others to see) record the intensity of his struggles, his early odyssey into pathways that promised so much but sadly lead nowhere. These records chronicle the search of a young man seemingly out of step with his age—a young man not afraid to risk everything for what he found to be real and right. He was nothing if he was not intense—and in that intensity he questioned everything and everyone that seemed to hold a key to life and reality. Once he found that Answer (as we know now he did), nothing could turn him from it.
That commitment given, he began a lifelong crusade to see his world likewise transformed. No one who knew him would deny that he offended many. He often especially shocked established religious people in his youthful zeal to bring compassion, honesty and reality back to the church. Perhaps the truest practical test of a real prophet is this: “Does he make me uncomfortable?” If he does, he probably is. If he doesn’t, he probably isn’t. After all, you never read in the Bible of a popular prophet except the false ones who always went around telling people the things they wanted to hear.
So this young man was blunt. He was funny. He was tactless and sometimes even crude. He steadfastly refused to accept the spiritual status quo. He quietly mocked hypocrisy with laughter while he laid bare his own struggles and fears with tears. Many of his songs are simply sermons set to music—prophetic pieces in harmony that set standards for a generation. He was controversial. He was criticized. He was cut off by some and almost canonized by others—but he was impossible to ignore. His life and work literally affected millions around the world. Although gone from us now, he impacted his generation like a spiritual H-bomb, and the reverberations of his life, courage, and commitment will still be felt for generations to come.
Most people today who have never before had the opportunity to read his writings and journals know him only by his music. (After all, not everyone can write a song that will still be sung five centuries after his death!) We remember him today as the man who launched the Reformation; the musician with the hunger to know God and to make Him known by faith; the man called Martin Luther.
And this, of course, is not his story. But in another century, another culture, and in another country, on a smaller scale, with not as much time to accomplish a task, it might have been. Keith loved Jesus. He did what he could in the few intense years I was privileged to know him. If you have never had the opportunity to share in the life of someone like him who lived for Jesus, you will catch a glimpse of that love in this, his story. He was my friend. I miss him. ~Winkie Pratney, May 1989
(Winkie Pratney has studies every recorded revival in history, and is a world authority on true revival. He has written over twenty books and speaks to over a half-million young people a year. His background in science and pop culture allows him to interpret current trends for the welfare of youth in our technological and media-dominated society.)
Keith Green did not live long enough to witness the ever-deepening spiritual malaise of our day. Our nation is now saturated with mega-churches focusing on how we can have “the good life” with God’s blessings and with a focus on self and material prosperity while remaining calloused towards the sin in our own lives. These elements were apparent in his day, but have exploded exponentially in ours. Who preaches on sin and the need for repentance today? In a two-part series titled, “What’s Wrong with the Gospel?” Keith wrote the following regarding the removing of the cross from the gospel (p. 363):
Paul said, “I determine to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Nowadays it’s “Jesus Christ and what he can do for you!” You cannot have more exact opposites than the Bible’s Christ-centered gospel and our modern, cross-less, self-centered gospel.” . . .
Unless people are truly convicted of sin . . . then it is virtually impossible to show them a need for a savior. Why, what would they need to be saved from? Fun? Today the Lord is presented as a sort of “ice-cream man Santa Claus,” and the church is the candy store where you can get every goodie your heart desires.
Keith goes on to say:
First and foremost, today’s “gospel” appeals to the selfish. If people come to Jesus mainly to get a blessing or only to get forgiveness, they will ultimately be disappointed. But if they come to give him their lives in honor and worship, then they will truly have forgiveness and joy—more than they could ever imagine!
In part two of the series, Keith talked about “the traditions of men” which include “the alter call and the easy assurance of salvation just because someone came forward” as well as an examination of “the sinner’s prayer” (p. 364):
It is obvious that there is no set sinner’s prayer. The words are not important. It’s the state of the heart of the one saying the prayer. I believe that a true sinner’s prayer will gush out of anyone who truly is seeking God, and has been enslaved to sin.
And he spoke about “cheap clichés and Christian slogans” such as (p. 365):
“Please be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.” This can be really a horrible replacement for “I’m sorry!” It puts the blame on the wrong person. “The reason I’m such a creep is because God isn’t finished with me yet!”
Then there is that other fabulous excuse that absolutely ends all quests for expectations for holiness: “Christians aren’t perfect . . . just forgiven!” What we are saying by this fabulous piece of prose is, “You cannot trust your teenage daughter with my Christian son. You’d better keep your eye on him. He’s just forgiven!”
He summarizes by pleading with Christians to examine what they are doing (p. 365):
Don’t you see what fools we are! We preach a man-made plastic “gospel.” We get people to “come forward” to the altar by bringing psychological pressures that have nothing to do with God. We “lead them” in a prayer that they are not yet convinced they need to say. Then, to top it all off, we give them “counseling” . . . telling them it is a sin to doubt that they are saved!
Beloved family, the world around us is going to hell. Not because of fanatical dictators, television, drugs, sex, alcohol, or the devil himself. It is because of the church! We are to blame! We alone have the commission, the power, and the truth of God at our constant disposal to deliver sinner after sinner from eternal death. Even though some are willing to go . . . they are taking a watered-down, distorted version of God’s message, which God has not promised to anoint. That’s why we are failing. And unless we admit that we are failing then I’m afraid there in no hope for us or the world around us. We have the choice between causing eternal tragedy for our whole generation, or bringing our beloved God a whole family full of good and faithful servants.
“We preach a man-made plastic ‘gospel’” . . . What was true in Keith’s day is exponentially true in ours. Today it’s called “easy believism” and it saturates our landscape, and it does not produce changed lives—not in us or in others. We end up instead with a “religious, churchy” spirit that is easy on our own sin but judgmental of others, and not with a truly changed life. And Jesus is still left on the cross because our sin has never been dealt with. As Keith stated, it’s not about saying a prescribed “sinner’s prayer,” it’s about the state of our heart as he stated when he said, “a true sinner’s prayer will gush out of anyone who truly is seeking God, and has been enslaved to sin.” Especially in our day today, our own sin is treated casually and with great indifference, and mostly as a nonessential, irrelevant to our relationship with God. We come to Jesus to get his blessings and never think twice about actually laying down our very lives in service to him. And that, folks, is a false gospel that can’t save anybody, and it certainly hasn’t saved us.
In the closing thoughts of the book (pp. 481-482), Melody states that one of Keith’s favorite passages in the Bible is found in Galatians 6:7-10 (NIV):
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
At the end of the book in a section titled “Retrospective” by John Dawson, President of Youth with a Mission and Founder and President of the International Reconciliation Coalition, he states the following about Keith (p. 489):
Keith had the heart of a child with an Ezekiel 37 assignment: “This is what you need to tell the people. They are not going to listen but you need to tell them anyway.”
Keith was a revivalist at heart. He wanted to see the open heavens of God, in a time of the outpouring of the Spirit and of the harvest. We were talking about all that, but it hadn’t turned into song lyrics yet. It was being processed by prayer. Keith was getting ready to prophesy to those dry bones . . . .
Life is long and messy for most of us. But Keith was like a comet. He came and went and left the rest of us here to mop up and run the marathon . . . .
Romans 12:1-2 states:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
So let’s not be conformed to the pattern of this world . . .
But be transformed by the renewing of our minds . . .
And let’s run that marathon . . . .
YouTube Video: “So You Want To Go Back to Egypt” by Keith Green:
I watched a wonderful movie last night titled, “The Iron Lady,” (2011) about one of the most powerful and controversial women of our times. She passed away this past April at the age of 87. Her name is Margaret Thatcher, and she was “a British politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and the Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990” (quote source here). The nickname “Iron Lady” became associated with her due to her uncompromising politics and leadership style.
Born in 1925, Margaret Thatcher entered the political arena when she was elected Minister of Parliament for Finchley in 1959; appointed Secretary of State for Education and Science in 1970; elected as Leader of the Opposition and the first woman to lead a major political party (Conservative Party) in the United Kingdom in 1975; and winning the election for Prime Minister in 1979. She became Prime Minister at a time of high unemployment and ongoing recession (source: Wikipedia).
At the age of 26, Margaret “married wealthy British businessman Denis Thatcher, who lovingly referred to her as ‘The Boss.’ Throughout their marriage, she often relied on Denis for his strong support and unconditional love. Denis once told the press, ‘I have been married to one of the greatest women the world has ever produced. All I could produce, small as it may be, was love and loyalty.’ In 2003, Denis passed away at the age of 88 after almost 52 years of marriage” (quote source here). Their children–twins, Carol and Mark–were born in 1953. Margaret paid tribute to Denis in her memoir, “The Downing Street Years,” stating “Being Prime Minister is a lonely job. In a sense, it ought to be: you cannot lead from the crowd. But with Denis there I was never alone. What a man. What a husband. What a friend” (quote source: Wikipedia). At the time of her own death on April 8, 2013, The Telegraph published an article titled, “Awed, never. Denis Thatcher was a man deeply proud of his wife” (click here for article).
I have to admit that I did not know much about Margaret Thatcher until her death this past April which brought about many and varied reactions. She was, without a doubt, a powerful force, and as quoted in an article in “The Week” shortly after her death, during her “three terms as Prime Minister she brought enormous change to the UK. An objective assessment of her greatest achievements (and failures) isn’t easy – opinions are still divided. But there is some consensus on her legacy” (see the article and quote source here).
It goes without saying that “no compromise” was second nature to her and she was fearless in her leadership capabilities. As I watched the movie, “The Iron Lady” (Meryl Streep is excellent in her role as Margaret Thatcher), I was most struck by two things: (1) her presence, power, composure, and personal and political convictions as the only woman (and also the leader) in a sea of men; and (2) the powerful and loving relationship between her and her husband and confidant, Denis (which is remarkably touching). In her time she was, indeed, a lightning rod.
While compromise is not necessarily a bad thing and is often mutually beneficial (as in marriage relationships and in a myriad of other social, business or political settings), it depends on what is being compromised. Dictionary.com defined compromise as follows:
1. a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc., by reciprocal modifications of demands.
2. the result of such a settlement.
3. something intermediate between different things: The split-level is a compromise between a ranch house and a multi-storied house.
4. an endangering especially of reputation; exposure to danger, suspicion, etc.: a compromise of one’s integrity.
5. to settle by a compromise.
6. to expose or make vulnerable to danger, suspicion, scandal, etc.; jeopardize: a military oversight that compromised the nation’s defenses.
Compromise can be innocuous or scandalous. Again, it all depends on what is being compromised. As I look back over the years from a time when it appeared, at least on the cultural and even spiritual level, that some very clear standards were still in place (whether or not they were lived out individually or privately) and the delineations between “right” and “wrong” seemed rather clear; there has been an erosion in our society over the past several decades by a series of compromises that have changed the very fabric of our cultural mores, starting back in the hippie era of the 1960’s (mainly because it was the start of the unraveling of morality on a massive scale in America as well as the introduction of massive drug use across the board). Of course, materialism and greed took center stage around the time of the dot.com bubble which produced millionaires and billionaires practically overnight. And let’s not forget the greed on Wall Street which has significantly harmed Main Street and entered full force into the business world (now everybody wants to be rich, right?). And, that greed combined with religion bred an aberrant gospel known as the “Prosperity Gospel”—greed using God. And Jesus had something vital to say about that in Matthew 6:24 (e.g., it can’t be done–not if we are truly following God).
Gone are the days where folks took a stand for doing right and stuck with it, regardless of the cost to them personally. Now we compromise on just about anything, good or bad, and in or out of the spiritual arena. “Situation ethics,” a Christian ethical theory that was principally developed in the 1960s by an Episcopal priest, Joseph Fletcher, came along and told us that the ends can justify the means or rules can be used to justify the means if a situation is not intrinsically bad (source here), but who is defining what is “bad” nowadays? It appears “bad” only means bad if it’s bad for us individually, and we don’t much care how it affects someone else as long as it’s not negatively affecting us.
Looking back, it seems the 1960’s did more harm than good to our nation. That decade certainly started us down a different path, and an incredibly selfish one at that. The Me Generation (Baby Boomers–born between 1946-1964) gave birth to many of the Gen X′ers (born in early 1960’s to early 1980’s) and to Generation Me (Generation Y–born in the early 1980’s through early 2000’s) and “self” was propelled into the mainstream of everyday life–self-actualization, self-fulfillment, self-love, self-image, self-preservation, even a magazine (still in publication) titled, “Self Magazine.” Self, self, self, self . . . ad-nauseam . . . .
And it has affected the way we do religion in our culture now, too. The compromises that began in the 1960’s have exalted self at the expense of sin and nothing matters anymore and if it feels good, go ahead and do it, right? Like gossip, for example. Even in our churches. And we even rationalize away our sin nowadays. After all, isn’t that what the Cross is all about? Well, isn’t it? The answer is no, it’s not.
When was the last time anyone read the book of Hebrews (in the New Testament)? Self-actualization is not the theme of Hebrews. In Hebrews 10 in a section titled in the NIV, “A Call to Persevere in Faith,” let’s read verses 26-39:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,
“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”
“But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
Those words are some serious words, folks. Christianity is not a thing to be lived according to our own rules and our own lifestyles. And it’s not about us and what we can get in this life, either. Our ancestors in the faith didn’t live selfish lives and a whole lot of them paid dearly for taking a clear and strong stand for the faith. Read Hebrews 11 to get a very clear picture of those folks and what they endured. And then read on in Hebrews 12 where it starts out in verses 1-12 with the following:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.
So much of the time in America our Christianity is so watered down that we hardly even recognize it when compared to what the Bible has to say about how we should live our lives. And it all starts with compromise and a low opinion of sin and a very high opinion of self. Many folks who started out their walk with Christ with a very clear love for Jesus Christ and wanting to serve him have ended up on the ash heap of complacency because they failed to recognize that over time they have allowed themselves to become hardened to sin. They have become steeped in the things of our culture and this world with a cursory showing up at church on Sunday morning and/or hanging out with a Christian crowd that compromises with the culture in the same way.
In Revelation 2-3, Jesus Christ gave a clear message to the seven churches located in Asia and that message still rings out clearly to the Church today to those of us who will listen to and heed that message. Here is a brief description of those seven churches with more information at the links (source here):
Only two of the seven churches were not rebuked–Smyrna and Philadelphia. The rest were rebuked for their unfaithfulness and sin–the same types of sin that are still very much rampant in today’s churches. Jesus Christ stated in Rev. 3:19-20, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
Compromise has eaten away at our convictions in a culture where nowadays anything goes and where money and materialism, gossip and greed, and everything that follows it is worshiped in place of God. And now is the time to repent and get back to God . . .
Before it’s too late . . .
No compromise . . . .
YouTube Video: “Make My Life a Prayer to You” (1978) sung by Keith Green: