For many years of my life, I have lived in areas where there are cattle ranchers. Many times when you drive in areas where there is open range, you will see the cattle with a branding on their rump to show everyone who that cattle belongs to. The branding of each rancher is unique to them so that there is no mistake about the ownership of their cattle.
Very early in Israel’s history God wanted everyone to know who His people were. Every plague that was sent upon the Egyptians was done so that they knew there was a difference. God gave them a different diet because they were to be different. God had them dress differently than the Egyptians because He wanted there to be a difference. God was not as interested in them looking more like Egypt so that they could reach the Egyptian people. He knew that their difference would cause the Egyptians to want to follow the ways of the LORD. God wanted His people to be different because He was putting His branding on them.
God continued to stress the importance of being branded in the New Testament when He says, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate…” (2 Corinthians 6:17) God did not lessen the importance of being branded under grace, but He continued that importance. Separation had nothing to do with law or grace, but it had everything to do with God’s people being branded as His people.
We live in times when people are doing everything they can to keep from being branded. Many churches today have taken the name “Baptist” off their sign because they don’t want to be branded with the Baptists. Throughout every city you have non-denominational churches that have done everything in their power to avoid being branded with any denomination. Why is it that these churches are running from being branding? If what they believe is so right, why don’t they want to be branded with it? Maybe that is the reason they won’t identify who they are. I have more respect for the Mormon and Catholic church who are not afraid to put their name on their signs than I do for churches that want no branding. The common argument of these churches is that they want to be “inclusive” to everyone. They argue that they’ve identified who they are because they have “church” on their sign. Just because you have “church” on your sign doesn’t identify to whom you belong. The satanist will put “church” on their sign, so that straw argument doesn’t justify the attempt to camouflage your branding. Instead of running from your branding, you ought to be proud of it if you truly believe in who you are.
The attempt to run from branding is also seen in the political world. If you follow politics, you will often hear the importance of getting the vote of the “independents.” The voter who wants to call themselves an “independent” is simply doing this because they don’t want to be branded a “Republican” or “Democrat.” Again, I have more respect for the liberal Democrat who is not afraid to say who they are of than I do for the independent who won’t say who they are. It is wearisome hearing the importance of those who want to call themselves independent. My experience is that the independent is less likely to be involved with what goes on in politics. Being termed “independent” is their way of avoiding their branding so that they can avoid their responsibilities of being a good citizen.
Many preachers have told me that they don’t want to be branded with any group. This always bothers me. When I study the Scriptures, I see that God stresses the importance of being branded. The arguments I hear from these preachers are that they can have a greater influence by not being branded, but their lack of branding always reveals their deficiency to take a stand for truth. When a preacher brands himself, he clearly identifies who he is and where he stands. Instead of running from being branded, they should embrace it.
The Apostle Peter fell for this mentality to avoid being branded at the heathen’s fire. When the damsel accused Peter of running with Jesus, he denied it by saying, “I know not what thou sayest.”(Matthew 26:70) When the maid proclaimed Peter as being a disciple of Christ, he again denied it by saying, “I do not know the man.” (Matthew 26:72) When others began to accuse Peter as being a disciple of Christ because the way he talked was similar to how Jesus talked, he again denied knowing Christ as he cursed and swore. Peter was like many today who try to avoid being branded, but avoidance of the branding led him to eventually deny the church, deny his faith and deny his God.
Being branded is very important for many reasons. If you are going to successfully live the Christian life until you die, you are going to have to be branded. You will always find that the first step of going the way of the world is to run from your branding. There are six reasons why you should not avoid being branded that will benefit you.
1. Being branded identifies you to you.
When God told Israel that He wanted them to be different, He showed them that this would help them to identify who they were to themselves. Exodus 11:7 says, “But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.” Isn’t it interesting that God wanted them to know they were different. God wanted them to know that they were different so that they would stay close to Him.
Many Christians have a hard time staying faithful because they have never identified themselves to themselves. When I call myself an old paths, independent Baptist, it identifies to me how I should live. It is important to my Christian growth and walk to be branded. Every time I call myself an old paths, independent Baptist, it puts pressure on me to live a certain way. I don’t live this way to please others, but I live this way to please God. 1 Peter 2:11 shows me that being branded helps me to overcome temptation when it says, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;” Notice that the branding is what helps me to abstain. If I run from the branding, there is no pressure to abstain. If you will not run from being branded, you will find that you will have an easier time avoiding the lusts of the flesh. It’s not going to be easy abstaining from these lusts, but being branded will make it easier.
2. Being branded identifies you to others.
Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” You will find that by identifying your brand you will have an easier time staying away from the wrong crowd. People often ask me if I ever get into uncomfortable situations with churches that don’t believe like I do. Truthfully, I’ve never had this problem because my branding has identified who I am to keep those who don’t want to walk the old paths from inviting me in. I’m certainly not the measuring stick of the old paths, but my preaching and clear identity have branded me and kept the wrong crowd from wanting me in their church.
When I worked in the secular world, I always made it clear that I was a Christian. It is amazing how making my branding clear kept them from inviting me to their parties where alcohol, drugs and illicit living would be present. My branding told them that I wouldn’t fit in to that lifestyle.
You will always struggle with the wrong crowd when you run from your branding. Being branded an old paths, independent Baptist will identify you to those who want nothing to do with this way of life. You will find that being branded has a way of repelling them from you. Being branded is like a person spraying mosquito repellant on themselves to repel the mosquitos from them in summer. If you want to repel the wrong crowd, then don’t be afraid of being branded as an old paths, independent Baptist.
3. Being branded keeps you safe.
Being branded will keep you from meddling with things that you have no business meddling with. If Peter had not ran from his branding, he wouldn’t have found himself at the heathen’s fire. The whole reason he found himself there was because he tried to cover his branding. In reality, it was his branding that caused others to identify him with Christ which eventually kept him safe from going back to the wrong life.
My experience is that when I boldly proclaim my branding, it identifies me and keeps me safe in the future. When I was in high school, there was a young lady who wanted to date me, but she told me that she knew I would never date her because she was not my type. She was exactly right! Even though I was in a Christian school, I still declared my branding. Everyone knew that I was going to be a preacher. Why? Because I made it clear when I preached. By embracing my branding I kept myself safe.
I’ve oftentimes wondered if the reason many are afraid to be branded is because they want to live a compromising life. Your branding will put pressure on you to live according to the God you represent. It won’t only keep you standing right in the present, but it will also help you to continue to stand right in the future.
4. Being branded helps future generations.
God commands in Jeremiah 6:16, “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…” I’m afraid future generations are not going to know what the old paths are because so many have run from that branding. I know what the old paths are because there have been Christians before me who showed me those paths by embracing the branding of old paths. I have personally seen Lee Roberson, Jack Hyles, Curtis Hutson, Tom Malone and others walk the old paths. That help me identify what they are. I heard men like Oliver B. Greene and Harold Sightler boldly proclaim the old paths. These men boldly embraced the branding of the old paths which made it easier for me to identify what the old paths were so that I can walk in them. I have not run from being branded with these men because their branding was the brand of the old paths which are the paths that I want to be identified with.
Friend, future generations will never know the old paths unless you embrace the branding of the old paths. If you cover your branding, they will not know what the old paths are. Don’t let the old paths be lost because you are afraid to be branded.
5. Being branded will make you more influential.
The biggest argument with being branded is that you will stop being influential. First of all, it is not your job to worry about influence. Second, being branded will make you more influential. Let me ask you a question, who is heard more, the person who sounds like everyone else or the person who is different? The Devil uses this straw argument to try and play on the emotions of the one who has a great desire to influence more people for Christ.
When studying the Scriptures, you will find that the church’s influence grew because they were not afraid to be branded. It says about Peter and the church in their early days, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) Being branded gave them a distinction that brought notice to what they were doing.
This branding continued to grow their influence to where the “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26) They didn’t grow their influence by blending in with the modern day culture of the popular religious crowd. Their influence grew because they were willing to be branded.
You will see the zenith of their influence in Acts 17:6 where it says, “…These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;” Their influence grew to this degree because they were not worried with being influential or with being branded. It grew to this degree because they decided to do right and embrace their branding.
The only thing that will make you different from anyone else is your branding. Don’t run from being called an old paths, independent Baptist, but embrace it as you continue to boldly preach and walk the old paths. Your distinction is what separates you from the crowd. The reason you will drop your branding is because you are concerned with influence. That shouldn’t be your concern. Your concern should be with doing what God has commanded you to do in the way that He commanded you to do it. If you are branded, so be it! But, don’t run from being branded.
6. Being branded will bring criticism.
Yes, being branded always brings criticism. These statements about the early church were not supposed to be glowing reports of what they had done by the popular religious crowd, but they were derogatory statements in an attempt to minimize what Christ was doing through them.
If you will allow yourself to be branded, you will be called divisive, harmful, destructive to the cause, Communist, legalist, shallow and who knows what other names they will come up with. That should not cause you to shy away from being branded. Always remember that the Devil blurs the lines. God is a God of absolutes. There are no gray areas with God. Those who blur the lines should be avoided. When you can’t discern where a person stands or with whom they are identifying, you would be wise to steer clear from them. Yes, they will simply say that you are hurting the cause of Christ by embracing your branding, but that is what they have said about those who have embraced this branding for centuries. Always remember that it is never the majority who makes the difference, it is always the remnant.
The next time you are tempted to remove your branding of being an old paths, independent Baptist, remember that by removing your branding you are joining the crowd that has always hurt the cause of Christ. God wants you to be different, or branded. Forsaking being branded for the sake of the bigger cause is compromise. Embrace it and continue to preach, teach and walk the old paths. Your branding is what will allow you to help more people to avoid the deadly hooks of the world. Brethren, let’s not be afraid to be branded an old paths, independent Baptist.