Friday, November 12, 2010

Guardians of the Doctrine

There is more to being a Christian than just espousing and protecting truth as communicated in theology and doctrine. And there is more to truth than those that center on theology as defined by systematized facticity. If the greatest manifestation of Biblical truth we have are in words, and if the greatest mode of defense is in words, than we are hypocrites who are engaged in little more than theological conversations. Knowing spiritual facts is very different than living them out.
Even though the British could not be convinced of Gandhi’s policy of non-violence by argument and logic, they were defeated by Gandhi’s practice of that same policy. But so many believers think that they can use reason and logic and exposure to defeat those who dilute Biblical truth. Although comparing Scripture with Scripture is essential in identifying Biblical truth, displaying a living manifestation of what the Bible teaches is indispensable in proving truth in a tangible way and not just in the Biblical abstract. How was truth conveyed in times past when most of the culture could not read nor write?

You are epistles read of all men.

Reciting and rehearsing Biblical doctrines are hollow expressions of truth if they are not supported by life revelations of that same truth. Of course Paul warns us of those who come presenting another Jesus or a works based salvation, but there are scores of other truths that should be powerful articulations of the spirit and character of the Lord Jesus. It isn’t enough to build doctrinal fortresses to protect truths that are dealt with in the abstract. Our whole lives must be consumed with breathing, revealing, and living the Biblical truths we so often defend.
But one of the problems is that too often believers defend doctrines such as the Trinity or the virgin birth or others that are difficult to actually replicate in human behavior. For example, how does one communicate the Trinity by actions? But many truths such as love, compassion, mercy, moderation, and many others have innumerable ways to live them out as open expressions. But, sadly, those truths are not defended as vehemently as are the others. Which is easier to say, “I believe in the Trinity” or “I believe in compassion”? Just as Jesus made that same observation about saying “Your sins are forgiven” or “Take up your bed and walk”, the principle is the same. No one can discern if you actually believe the Trinity by human works, however there are plenty of observations that can authenticate your confession concerning compassion.
Redemption is active and living, and energized completely by faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross, but that same redemption must go without the camp bearing His reproach. And the greatest challenge of all is to be “clothed with humility” in everything we do, including contending for the faith. Not only is that supremely difficult, but it is altogether difficult to imagine what that looks like in daily life. What does it look like to be bold for Christ and clothed with humility at the same time? Because we have been brought up in a culture of chest beating individualism, we seem to have lost the path, and even the desire, to follow in the footsteps that led to Golgotha. We recoil at being castigated or even slighted, while His face was adorned with spit. He was mocked but we need constant affirmation. They called Him Beelzebub while we demand respect.
Have we lost the way of Jesus? Oh yes, we are orthodox in our systematic theology and we are familiar with Koine Greek and Hebrew, but how articulate are we in embracing unconditional humility? Where are the ten week sermon series that lay out humility in an uncomfortable way that exposes our self righteousness? True spiritual power does not come in the decibel level of our Biblical words, or the ability to proof text our doctrines, or the redundant drone of Sunday School material, but resurrection power can only come through absolute humility that is called death. The death of the cross.
What does the death on the cross mean as it applies to followers of Jesus? It must endure public ridicule. It must be painful and self denying. It must willingly give itself to the excruciating suffering of being rejected. This death is not quick, it is replicated daily and most times many times a day. This humility, gained only through crucifixion, is a glorious and colossal struggle with the world, the devil, and most of all our own personal monster called the flesh. In fact, our old man will embrace religion, fellowship, teaching, missions, and all sorts of evangelical activities, but when our carnal man is asked to die he will do anything to avoid the nails.
The old man will behave and exhibit all sorts of reform in order to remain alive, albeit hidden. He will act religious and even curb speaking his thoughts, as long as he can still freely roam our minds with his disgusting and self righteous imaginations. This carnal man, energized by the fall, is the enemy of God. It will allow itself to be trained, or so it seems. But in order for us to be transformed into the image of Christ we must submit to our own cross, not to be saved, but to manifest the One who saved us.
You see, I do not speak of defending some ethereal doctrine, regardless of how true. The issue about which I speak is far more profound and requires a much deeper dedication and sacrifice than just publicly expressing a faith by words. This discipleship demands a glorious sacrifice that removes the allurement of this world and walks in the eternal spirit of Jesus Christ. To contend for this faith entails a life long struggle. And many times this defense appears as surrender and defeat, when in reality it is the very image of Christ and Him crucified. Approval and affirmation will not be forthcoming here on earth, but just the nod of the Eternal King will be more than enough encouragement.
The western church has changed the image of Christ and made Him altogether different than what we see in the New Testament. Everyone desires to be a John the Baptist but no one seeks to be the man from Cyrene. We relish the thought of scourging the temple with a whip, but resist being scourged ourselves with that same whip. We pray for the self aggrandizement miracles but are blind to the many miraculous opportunities to walk as he walked and to be made conformable unto His death.
And so here we are, thriving in the Babylonian culture. The church has adopted the culture’s fallen values while praising herself because she rejects abortion and gay marriage. Pompous and brash, militant and judgmental, debt ridden and saturated with entertainment, the church enjoys the amen choruses Sunday morning and embraces the “I thank God I am not like that publican” spirit. And mere minutes after the “service” ends the followers of Jesus resume their chatter about anything and everything but Christ, as if the school play has just ended. And with dry eyes and unbroken hearts they pile into their financed cars and head for the planned feast, at home or at the local eatery, to be followed by a recovery from different levels of overeating. And they claim to have met with Jesus that very morning; but honestly I do not think we even claim that anymore.
We have been deceived into learning and defending the truths of Christ. We have staked out our proof texted positions and stand guard over every doctrinal bastion. And safely ensconced inside Fort Orthodox we warm our hearts by the fire of self righteousness, fully fed, and headed for another night of comfort and sleep. It does not matter that the world lies in the wicked one, or that millions are in need of food and water just to live another week. “Be warm and filled” say our lips while we ourselves assume that very position. I suggest you read again, perhaps in one sitting, the gospels. And pay particular attention to the life and spirit of our Master.
So you want to be a warrior for God. You desire to defend His truth. You seek to be a doctrinal bulwark. You want to be like Jesus. All of these are lofty goals, but the road to achieving them is something far different than is offered by today’s evangelical construct. The path to being like Jesus leads through the Via Dolorosa all the way to the place of the skull…the place of death. You see, to be like Jesus you cannot be satisfied with being kind and gentle, or even loving and compassionate. Those are some of His attributes for sure. But to be like Him you must die to yourself completely. And until we give up that ghost, we will still live as religious people and not as followers and imitators of the Lord Jesus. And we will continue to audit the class called "in His steps".

Class dismissed. Resume general swim.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

O God, Lord of Hosts...forgive us, forgive us, forgive us!! Break our hearts and forgive us for grieving your easily we are drawn away from You. Break us and form the Life of Your Son, The Lamb of
God in us!! Do not leave us in our condition but cleanse, purify and sanctify our inner man until all that remains of us is HIM!!