Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I Said A Bad Word

Did you catch that bad word I so casually typed in my Letter #7 - Dear Father...?

I know! That was not nice of me, but I had to. Sort of. Well, maybe not that way, but...
  • A distinction was necessary. 
  • A distinction is necessary. 
  • Distinctions are necessary.
I learned the hard way it was absolutely necessary for me to make clear distinctions in order to understand Scripture. Why me? Making sure I understood what I believed was my responsibility. The question I asked myself years ago, and still ask myself to this day, that changed my Christian life and my approach to Scripture, is:

Why do I believe what I believe?

I discovered pastors, reverends, Bible teachers, etc., anyone who expounded upon doctrine, especially those whose job it was to elucidate the thoughts, ways, and mystery of God, are to be tested, not simply trusted.

I find many believers are familiar with the story of the Berean's nobility in Acts 17:11. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Upon hearing the teaching of the Apostle Paul, those folks didn't just take Paul at his word and walk away praising God. No. They tested what Paul was saying by searching the Scriptures themselves to see if what he was claiming was actually so. Then, they believed.

But, what if what is being preached is not in accord with the Scriptures?

That was one of the questions I had asked for which people didn't seem to have an answer, or even want to try to answer. I was starting to see a pattern here, and it worried me.

When I was a new believer, I didn't know better. I thought religious leaders of well-known denominations knew more than I could ever hope for. They studied so hard. They read so many textbooks, study guides, and commentaries. They were like spiritual brainiacs.

I'm sure they listened to hundreds if not thousands of sermons. They had read countless books, articles, and essays from famous theologians, usually within their own denomination. They had degrees in divinity and theology from popular seminaries. Ordinations and certificates became commonplace expectations.

Who was I to question what they preached? I was just a layman, after all. Me? Cause division in a church because I used Scripture in an attempt to correct what was said in the sermon? How dare I! How arrogant! I was once told by a pastor, who led the same church for over 25 years, and was on track to earn his doctorate degree, that Titus 3:10-11 applied to me.

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. Titus 3:10-11

Yikes! I was speechless. He was mad. But, I knew in an instant I could either take my place in the pew and do and believe as I'm told, or I could upset the apple cart and ask questions. I also realized there was only one way to really seek and know the truth.

So, I left that pew and started asking more questions, to others and myself. Especially about things that really mattered to God and was relevant to my Christian journey.

  • How is one saved and how can you be absolutely certain?
  • Can one lose their salvation? 
  • If not, what about verses that say if you do certain sins you will not inherit the kingdom of God?
  • If His righteousness is apart from works and comes through believing in Christ, what is the purpose of works? 
  • What are the works we should be doing and why?
  • Where is truth found? 
  • What is revealed to us and what is kept hidden?
  • What is the baptism of the Spirit and how does it happen?
  • What does it mean to be under grace and not under the law?

I had many. many more questions as well. I found another teacher who had asked many more questions of God than I did and who sought His answers in the Scriptures. Finally, someone who could guide me on my spiritual journey. Someone who teaches me how to find the answers myself.

Ultimately, no man was my teacher, interpreting Scriptures for me, and telling me what traditions to follow. Rather, I came to know the Holy Spirit as my true guide, who would guide me into all truth, but that He can work through people who are humble. I needed to be humble, too. Otherwise, I'd grieve the Spirit and He wouldn't be able to do His job.

What was the bad word I used? Legalistic.

"Ouch!" is right. I can't believe I said that. But why did I say it? Because I did not settle for human reason in reaching this conclusion: if we are in Christ, we are not under the law, but under grace.

Getting saved is simple; change your mind about what is required for salvation and believe in the One whom God sent, Jesus Christ. It depends on Him, not you. Next comes the work of sanctification; searching the Scriptures to see and apply what is clearly and directly taught, and then moving on to the deeper things of God.

Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." (John 6:28-29)

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15)

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)

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