Monday, December 19, 2016

A BROKEN, TRANSPARENT, AND TRULY APPEALING CHURCH





I hate false, unbiblical teaching, which poses as Biblical. I know that “hate” is a strong word, but I think that it is warranted here. Look at Paul’s reaction to those who had been preaching a false gospel:

·       But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9; ESV)

Yesterday, online, I was deeply grieved to read several testimonies of people who had departed from the faith. How did this happen? They had all been assured by the teachers of their churches that they should experience evidences of the Holy Spirit guiding them. They should be able to hear His voice and experience His presence. However, they didn’t and concluded that they were something the matter with them. Years later, they confessed:

·       One of the main issues I had with trying to believe for so many years was no voice, no feeling of presence, no nothing. My only options were people were pretending or fooling themselves.

·       Everyone else I was surrounded by always seemed to hear that voice [of God], and I never really did, which is why I struggled a lot as far as fearing that I was doing something wrong or sinning all the time. I so much wanted to just follow God and obey him and hear him, and I tried and tried over the years. Everyone always seemed so confident about what God was "calling" them to do… I never felt confident confirmation like everyone else always seemed to have. Not hearing him wasn't what made me lose faith, but after I did stop believing, I was able to look back and realize there's a reason I didn't hear him.

Both of these young ladies had ceased to believe and insisted, and even though they had wanted Christ, they are now no longer interested.

Please, before you dismiss these two accounts by concluding, “Well, evidently, they were never part of the elect and never really believers, please consider Jesus’ condemnation of false teaching:

·       Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” (Luke 11:52)

Jesus didn’t question whether those “hindered” were actually part of the elect. For Him, it was enough that they had been hindered.

Or consider Paul’s lamentation:

·       For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. (Titus 1:10-11)

Whatever their motive, these false teachers had misled many, even driving some away from the faith.

What had driven those women away? Disappointment, doubt, and the tormenting sense that there must be something the matter with them!

Please understand, I am not trying to say that God doesn’t intervene miraculously. He does. However, because of doubts and a large dose of spiritual insecurity, many speak as if God is always audibly talking to them, and that this should be the expectation for any Christian.

Well, doesn’t the Spirit guide us and shouldn’t we have a sense or experience of this? Not necessarily. God is able to infallibly lead us without having a sense of His leading. There are so many biblical examples of God infallibly leading even those who were enemies of God. He was able to bring pagan kings to march their armies against nations He wanted to chasten.

The martyr Stephen had explained to his executors:

·       “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.” (Acts 7:9-10)

God leading the kings and the Pharaoh didn’t require them to hear the voice of God. Instead, our God is able to lead, even pagans, to perform the very service that He requires:

·       The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)

God had been leading Israel’s first king, Saul, to the Prophet Samuel who would anoint him king. However, Saul was aware of only one thing. He was pursuing his donkeys who had run off. Meanwhile, God informed Samuel:

·       “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.” (1 Samuel 9:15-16)

God was able to perfectly lead Saul to the exact place He intended without Saul having a clue about was really going on. This is why we are taught to trust in the Lord rather than to listen for His voice:

·       So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:6-7)

While God can provide miraculous reassurances, we mustn’t demand them like doubting Thomas who refused to believe unless Christ would appear to him. However, after Christ did appear to Thomas, He also reprimanded him:

·       Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

Also, blessed are those who believe without hearing His voice. We are to trust in God’s leading without demanding evidence:

·       Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Some pastors attempt to validate their spirituality and authority by claiming that they hear God speak certain messages to them. While God can do this, a person who claims to be a prophet must also live up to the requirements of a prophet:

·       But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)

My prayer is that we would learn the lesson God had taught Paul. So that Paul wouldn’t become proud of virtue of his spiritual insights, God had afflicted Him and wouldn’t remove the affliction, despite Paul’s many prayers. Finally, Paul got the message – that he should boast in his weakness and infirmities and not in his spiritual successes:

·       But he [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Perhaps if Christians would be more transparent about their weaknesses, the church might become a more hospitable place for the suffering and the weak.
What does it take to become more accepting of our brokenness and neediness? Faith! Simple believing that it is no longer about us but about the One who loves us (Gal. 2:20)!

I asked the two women (and many others) if there is anything that can now be said to make things better – anything that might bring them back to Christ. They both resolutely informed me that this ship has already sailed, and that they are now glad to be without the church.

2 comments:

  1. I agree with your assessment concerning Christians being transparent and the Body of Christ being a hospitable place for the suffering and weak...

    I struggle with your presupposition that it is acceptable and seemingly even commonplace that those who follow the Shepherd cannot recognize His voice nor hear it consistently. John 10:27-30

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    1. We can't take John 10 literally. Certainly, it is not talking about being able to discern Jesus' tonal pitch or accent which we have never heard. Instead, it is teaching that His sheep can recognize His teachings, His truth.

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