Monday, February 24, 2014

Rejecting Uncomfortable Truths

Quoting from Deuteronomy 8, Jesus informed the Devil:

  •   “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Mat. 4:4)

This means that Jesus’ faithful follower has been deprived of the luxury of picking-and-choosing what truth to believe. Instead, we are to live by all of God’s words. If we leave any out, we might find ourselves trying to navigate a plane with only one wing.

It’s like doing math. If you leave one term out of an equation, your answer might be radically different. For example, let’s look at this equation:

1000 + 5000 x 0 = 0

If we leave “x 0” out of the equation, our answer is “6000” – very different from “0!” It is also possible to do the same thing with our theological calculations and derive a very different worldview by simply omitting one teaching.

This is just what is often done in many “seeker sensitive” churches. Certain doctrines are omitted because they are offensive, for instance the “depravity of man”:

  • The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9)
  • “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands;   there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

On top of this degrading picture of humanity, Scripture makes modern humanity even more uncomfortable by its radical distinction between the saved and unsaved:

  • The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:14-16; Rom. 8:5-8; John 3:3)

Such truths present both an obstacle to what we see and how we wish to live our lives in our professional settings. We look at the outer man and not the inner man. Consequently, the unsaved look virtually the same as the saved.

However, even more problematic is the “us vs. them” (saved and unsaved) distinction, separating us from the world we so esteem. Brian McLaren, a key writer of the Emergent Church movement, charges that:

  • Christians have been taught to see in "us vs. them" terms for centuries, and it will take time to reorient faithful people in a new direction -- "us with them," working for the common good (Huffington Post Religion Blog, 2/19/03).

In support of his indictment, McLaren cites two like-minded students:

  • “People don't want to have to side with the church and against their friends who are Buddhist or Muslim or Jewish or agnostic." 

  • “We can't find a church that doesn't load a bunch of extra baggage on us. We tried, but they all had this long list of people we had to be against. It's just not worth it.”

McLaren is right that this teaching tends to set us apart, creating discomfort and interfering with social and professional engagement. But perhaps this cleavage is biblically warranted! Since McLaren argues his case in terms of the costs of this biblical doctrine, it is justified to also weigh the benefits. This doctrine of the radical distinction – believers vs. unbelievers - serves as a lens enabling us to see reality clearly and to navigate its waters. Consequently:

1.     We will not become disillusioned when the world rejects our best efforts (John 15:18-20).

2.     Understanding the depths of human depravity, we will be less inclined to be influenced by naïve, costly utopian schemes to change the world.

3.     We will be on guard against the world’s hatred of the light (John 3:19-21; John 16:1-4). 4.     We will be on guard against the sinful influences of the world and how it affects our thinking (Mat. 7:15; Mark 8:15). Paul warns against the possibility of being cheated out of our reward (Col. 2:8). 

4.   We will be more apt to protect the teaching ministry of the church (Titus 1:7-11; 2 Tim. 2:24-26) and to correct those we need to correct (James 5:19-20).
6.     We will be less inclined to compromise our faith and our relationship with our Lord (John 15:7-14) and to be joined with those who will undermine our faith (2 Cor. 6:14-18).

7.     We will not reject the Bible-believing church as an ignorant obstacle to unreservedly joining hands with the world. For many the church has become an embarrassment, like a deranged sibling who we keep locked-up at home.

8.     The rest of our understanding of Scripture will be subverted by the addition of a doctrine that doesn’t fit (Gal. 5:9). For one thing, it will undermine the warranted praise that the Lord should receive for rescuing us out of our contemptible depravity, producing in us gratitude.

We cannot leave any of God’s teachings out of the equation without great cost. The Apostle Paul affirmed this principle during his final visit with the elders of the church at Ephesus:
  •  I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. (Acts 20:26-27)

More than anything else, we need to know that our lives are pleasing to our Savior. Paul affirmed that we could not have such assurance if we have systematically left out portions of His teachings.

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