Salutations. This article piggybacks a bit off of my previous two about doctrine. You can check them out here and here. In those articles, I made an argument that as Christians, we live in a culture focused around ‘petty theologies’ instead of holy living. I illustrate the critical, core theologies we must have, and how the Bible steers us not to have perfect theology, but implores us to walk a holy life filled with love. Today, I focus on that topic.
Posts tagged ‘love’
I Cor 13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (more…)
I have numerous brothers who come to me with heavy hearts. They have placed their faith in Jesus for their justification. However, they cannot seem to shake the issue of sin in their lives. With verses like Galatians 5:16-25 and John 8:36, it would seem we should live with a life free from sin and filled with love, kindness and other characteristics of the Spirit. However, as they dig deeper, they find instruction from their leaders saying either that we cannot be free from sin, or that we simply need to take steps to try harder.
Welcome to the sixth blog entry of New Direction, where we search the Spirit, Scripture and more discovering the New Direction God is leading his church in this post modern culture. Today, we take a look at the Commandments of Jesus. This post is longer than normal, but there’s a lot to say here. As always, you can watch the embedded video version, which has much of the same content. (more…)
This is a follow up to my last post.
Recently, I contacted a local pastor to discuss evangelicalism and challenges in the Salt Lake Valley area. The time we spent together over a meal went rather well. We lost track of time talking about numerous topics, despite our dramatically different backgrounds. Later, I sent a follow up email asking him if we could get together again, as brothers, and discuss the Word of God further and become friends.
The letter, politely worded, indicated that while he did not question my heart (for God?), he could not consider me a brother. (more…)
Recently, two local, Utahan, faith leaders had a debate, televised through YouTube. Pastor Jason Wallace represents, as a pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church represented a more traditional view. During the discussion, he defended a multitude of doctrines considered orthodox by historical Christiantiy including calvinism, Trinitarinism, tradtional leadership structure, eternal suffering in hell, etc. He hosts a weekly show called “The Ancient Paths.”
Shawn McCraney, pastors a group which goes by C.A.M.P.U.S., “Christian Anarchists Meeting to Prayerfully Understand Scripture.” Shawn hosts a show, Heart of the Matter, which addressed errors in Mormon doctrine for its first five years. However, for the last two years, Shawn focused on evangelical doctrines he felt needed correction. For example, Shawn contiverally attacked the doctrine of Tinitarinism.
Both men go through various topics during this two hour debate. In researching their concerns further, I listened to numerous shows they produced over the last year, touching on some of the same subjects brought up in the debate. From a purly theological standpoint, I feel both men make very valid points. As Mr. Wallace deduces that while many of the doctrines we have today, such as the Trinity, may not be found in the Bible, verbatim, they represent concepts spelled out in scripture, and thoroughly researched and prayed for by our forefathers.
Shawn hammers home that all traditions and theological concepts represent man made constructs which should be shoved aside. He teaches that we should take the Bible as a whole, follow the leading of the Spirit as we do so, and quickly dismiss any sort of structure and traditionalism.
Both men represent two extremes. And while my views tend to learn more towards Shawn’s, I believe they both missed the heart of the matter (pun intended). At one point in the show, a guest asked everyone, “Who loves me?” Shawn raised his hand, yet pastor wallace did not. The guest points out the Jesus calls us to love everyone, and that the pastor should have raised his hand. Shortly thereafter, Shawn’s daughter, filled with anger towards the pastor, grills him further on the topic. When he tries to defend why he did not raise his hand, she asks, in a demanding voice, “What more do you need to know to love him?”
Now, I do not know either Shawn or Pastor Wallace’s heart. So, my following comments simply reflect my impression of their approach and behavior, nothing more. With that said, both men, to me, seem to lack love. Each seemed more focused on making his points, rather than display love and concern for the other and/or his followers.
Compare the approach, questions and answer of these men to reknown apologist and debator, Ravi Zacharias. In answering tough questions about God, the divinity of Christ, and so much more, Ravi carefully addresses the essentials, abstains from secondary issues, and delivers his arguments with grace and love. Regardless of one’s faith, few leave a session with Ravi feeling that he wanted anything more than to share his love and faith of Jesus because he truly cares about the person he speaks with.
I find Shawn’s approach particularly ironic. In discussing his controversial viewpoint on orthodox Chrsitianity over the last year or two, Shawn stated multiple times that people may have differences on these secondary issues such as Calvinism, Trinitarianism, etc, and still be considered bretheren in Christ. Yet, he spends weeks and months on each one, giving them a signficance that he, himself, downplays. In my opinion, he would better serve the body of Christ by focusing on the namesake of his show, the heart of the matter. In the case of faith, we must repent of our sin, and place our faith in the God of the Bible. Many (though I do not say all) of these other issues he so ardently fights should not be raised on a pedistal over this truth. I would encourage Shawn to compare his television ministry with Ravi’s.
Ironically, my own attitude towards the Epistles and traditionalism makes it hard for me to buy into some of the viewpoints Pastor Wallace defended. He presented those opinions with a bit more sincerity, humility and politeness than Shawn. (Why have we, as American Christians, forgotten that we are called to act with love, and not rudeness? 1 Cor 13). I understand that the two men have some unpleasant history, but as Christians, we are called to turn the other cheek.
Regardless, I hope that both leaders may learn, at some point, to focus on the primary matters Jesus did during his ministry, and drop arguments and public debates over secondary matters (most ending in “-ism”) Jesus did not die for Cavlism, water baptism, anti-traditionalism or trinitarism. . He died because men sin, deserve hell, and need forgiveness. He shed his blood so we may live. He commanded us to first love God with all our heart, mind, body and spirit, and then commanded us to love one another. If He felt these other subjects were worth fighting over, he would have spelled them out. Instead, told us to not let the sun set while a brother is angry with us. May we all pray that help us lay aside our egos and agendas, show us His heart, and teach us to follow where He would lead us.
By His Grace
Phil aka JCServant
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” – Kevin Max
“We are the Bibles the world is reading; We are the creeds the world is needing; We are the sermons the world is heeding.” ― Billy Graham
After I accepted Christ, I spent must time studying Christian theology. I wanted to know God better, experience Him as best as possible, and live a victorious life in Christ like the apostles. I read numerous books, listened to many pastors and took any and all opportunities to learn from other siblings in the faith. I learned quite a bit. However, it took me decades to notice a concerning trend. As a group and culture, we Christians seem more concerned having the correct ‘theology’ than actually living the life.
For some reason, I see 90% of my readers closing this page after reading that last line…but, please, hold on tight.
To properly lead others to Christ, we need both love, communicated through actions, and truth, communicated through words. Love without actions, or actions without love, becomes meaningless. And without truth, neither of these matter. Timothy Keller said,
“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.”
Few Christians would argue with this. Most preachers would teach upon the above. However, in our evangelical culture, we spend a lot more time talking and teaching theology than we do living out the life of truthful love and action. Such an approach comes off as prideful boasting, and the world sees it. A recent poll by Barna shows that over half of Americans think evangelical Christians act more like Pharisees, than Jesus. ( https://www.barna.org/barna-update/faith-spirituality/611-christians-more-like-jesus-or-pharisees#.VKgRzSvF_D8 ) . In the comic book industry, we have a saying… show, do not tell. Some comic creators, myself included, have a tendency to add a lot of exposition to our story, when showing those same details through actions would get the point across much more effectively (and memorably).
Now, I do not mean to imply that Christians do not love, take action or give. Many do show their devotion to Christ through action on a regular basis. However, if one measure the amount of time, money and talent wrapped up in teaching theology versus the time, money and talent dedicated to giving and serving as Jesus did, we would find a huge variance. And the world notices.
A pastor I listen to spent nearly a dozen weeks (three months), discussing preterism… the belief that Jesus already returned after his resurrection, fulfilling those prophesies regarding his second coming. My wife and I listened, somewhat interested. However, I could not help but notice, what if the entire group of listeners took those 18 hours, and, as a group, worked to make a difference in someone’s life…or in each other? What if, instead of talking about the love of Jesus, we showed it?
I do not advocate a complete 180. We do need preaches and teachers. The Bible explains that to us numerous times. Jesus, himself, preached. However, I advocate a better balance between how we spend our time, talent and money as the body of Christ. To show the world the love of Christ, which He commands us to do, will require a massive change in how we gather, think and walk in our daily lives. I pray that you will join me in asking God to challenge our hearts to shine His light in front of man.
Mat 5.16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
John 13.34 A new commandment I give to you,that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
James 2.14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Another blogger recently ‘liked’ something that I posted. When that happens, I get an email from WordPress informing me of such, as well as an invite to check out his or her recent posts. Following one, I came across a well-written blog entry by TK asking “Why does it matter if sexuality is a choice?” TK’s sentiments echo those of many out there. I wish to respond to it, offering, perhaps, another point of view. Please be aware, this post clocks in nearly 50% longer than my typical approach, as I wanted to give these questions the attention they deserve. (more…)