Monday, January 14, 2013

Just How Far Should We Go in His Love?


I was born again in March of 1975. I was as green as grass and I began my walk with Jesus as a blank slate. I had never heard a theological debate, I had never been inside an evangelical church, and I had never read any of the Bible. I had no idea where to go to church, so for a little while I went to the neighborhood Lutheran church, the denomination in which I had been raised. It was not long before I realized that was not where God wanted me to attend. In August of 1976 I began Bible college in Florida. I was the least knowledgeable of almost every classmate.

I had never heard of the rapture either in name or as an event. I had never heard about the debate on eternal security. I had never heard about the arguments over the gifts of the Spirit or the inerrancy of Scriptures. Calvinism verses Arminianism - never hear about it. As you can see I was a blank slate. But I did know that Jesus was God and that He was the only way to eternal life. And I knew beyond any doubt that I was a brand new creation in Jesus Christ. Some of my testimony I shared HERE and HERE.

But it was not long before I became aware of how evangelical believers love a good argument. I mean they would argue over almost anything, and they seem to hold tight to everything even if it was a minor point of doctrine or practice. And of course I got sucked into it. Being a male from the New York area arguing had been a part of my life, but I had no idea it is a mainstay of much of evangelical Christianity. Of course there is a distinction to be made between arguing and correction; between gossip and correction; between being nasty and defending the faith. And it is sometimes a very fine line we walk amidst those issues.

Years went by and as I got older I began to sense something very wrong. I could not put my foot on it but there seemed to be a very different spirit within me. How I felt about Jesus now was much different than how I felt about Him as a brand new believer. And how I felt about lost sinners now was different than how I felt about them as a new believer. Not only would God’s Spirit not give me any peace about it, but I began to feel a gnawing inside me that I knew was God’s Spirit drawing me into His threshing floor. And I do not remember just what day it was, but I began to see something seriously wrong with the way many believers saw themselves and saw others.

Where was the love of Christ in all of this? There was a massive battle between orthodox and liberal, and I could see where the liberal wing were distorting and even leaving the Scriptures. I got that and, yes, I could never depart from Scriptural authority. Sin was still sin and the only way to heaven was through a personal faith in Jesus. I got that and I will always have my flag deeply planted there. Even today there are many false teachers and heretics that are dismantling the faith and shredding the Word of God, and I will continue to contend for the faith.

But we must never let that battle change our hearts and make us see ourselves as “warriors for truth” rather than servants of Jesus. Can you not see the distinction just in those two phrases? It is no small thing in the kingdom of God when we think too much of ourselves, for when we do that we think less of Him even though we shout His name. These bellicose preachers and discerners stand in open boldness for Biblical truth, and they exert much energy tracking down doctrinal miscreants, but where is the humility that reveals that they are servants of Jesus and not just servants of truth. And again, those two phrases have a much different spiritual essence. It is possible to contend for truth with methods and attitudes and words that are completely incongruous with the teachings of the One who IS truth.

And in these dark times this issue is of great importance. We as believing followers of Jesus must be consumed with exhibiting His nature and character and indeed His very Person to a lost generation in desperate need of the light which leads to redemption. And just carrying a card which says “Orthodox” will not suffice. Just displaying our doctrinal credentials falls way short. Just patting each other on the back because we stand for truth is not an outreach into the fields. All those things are very easy and are widely embraced as the fruits of a disciple of Jesus. But to live as He lived, to love as He loved, to care as He cared, to speak as He spoke, to humble yourself as He humbled Himself, to think as He thought, and to walk in Him so deeply that His life becomes yours, well my friends, that carries a sacrifice which penetrates much, much deeper than just being orthodox and having the Apostles Creed tattooed on your mind.

But once you untether your life to the dictates and whims of men, even men who know Jesus, then you are faced with uncertainty and the overarching question, “Just how far should we go to reach the lost?” That is a wonderful and searching question and it indicates a first step in a journey toward Christ. When we realize we have constructed a religious fort then we can be led out by His Spirit. It does not lead to compromise or a rejection of Scripture, rather it leads to a refining of Scripture which allows the glory of Christ to shine more brightly in and through us. And that is no trifle.

But we must also realize that the question about sincerely following Jesus is not a stagnant answer that can be written on a test. It is a living and pursing expression which oftentimes falls short but learns and continues to pursue Him. It is a journey with joy and correction and glory and conviction and exhilaration and depression and hurts and healing and a life that diligently seeks to live Him in this life. It is the life of a disciple. And after all is said and done, just how far must we go in order to embrace Him and reach those without?

All the way to the cross, for that is where you found Him and he found you. And if we could go to that cross every day and die, we would be able to let Him shine through us. The question is not how far do we have to go, but how far are we invited to go. And the answer again, is all the way to the cross. And until we go to the cross we can never go to the empty tomb and walk out in His resurrection power. You see, there can be no resurrection until there is a death.

It is time for the church, and we as individual believers, to die to ourselves. We cannot continue to champion earthly causes and we cannot continue to make Jesus and His redemptive glory subservient to a range of issues. This war is an unseen war and it is about the souls of men. Do you actually believe the war is between Satan and God and that war determines who reigns? Absolutely not! God could wipe out the devil in a word, and the only reason the war still rages is because God loves sinners. And the Lord has not allowed this battle to continue just so He can fashion an elongated narrative about which He has already reserved only a certain number of places within His redemption. In other words, this battle does mean something and we do play a part.

When Jesus commands us to be salt and light and living sacrifices, it isn’t just so He will be impressed. Yes our lives should glorify Christ, but they should also be used as epistles that can be read of all men and help draw sinners to Jesus. If that is not true than we are nothing but marionettes dancing within a narrative whose beginning and end has been written without even our smallest participation. But the Scriptures are clear. Our love, our grace, our mercy, our humility, our witnessing, our patience, our good deeds in His name, in fact our very lives can and are used by the Spirit to help search out a Bride for our Elder Brother.

Oh what glory we can bestow upon Him! God is sovereign and God does reign, but in His infinite love and grace He has chosen us to represent Him unto the uttermost parts of the earth. We are earthen vessels which contain His glory. We are His workmanship created to do the works of His hands. Our mouths are His; our hands are His; our legs are His; our minds are His; and our lives are His. Away with all the worldly bluster about worldly issues! Away with all this allegiance to earthly nations! Away with all the self righteousness disguised as boldness! Away with using theology as a club for sinners! Away with all this doctrinal smugness! Away with it all!

As we become prisoners of His love, and as our eyes survey the fields of white, we no longer need to ask “How far should we go?” Now we can say, “Here am I Lord, send me!” And as we are sent, we go in the power of His love. And just how far can His love go? It goes all the way to the cross, and there we die to ourselves. And the moment we die, He resurrects within us. And open your hands and look at them. What do you see? Nothing. That is what you did to usher you into God’s glorious kingdom…nothing. And if you embrace that knowledge you must require nothing from anyone else to love them with His love. If you are worried what people might say or think, then turn back now since people are already talking somewhere. Some people have already judged you so if that is an issue you will be spiritually immobilized.

But if you can see and hear Him, then you are free to love as far as eternity can stretch. In fact, when you reach the cross you will discover there is no distance in God’s love. God’s love has traveled from the holiness of God’s dwelling place all the way to the pig’s sty of earth, and the moment the Spirit entered Mary’s egg God’s love became incarnated. We are the products of that eternal love, and driven by the humility we should feel because of that redeeming love, we must go without the camp bearing His reproach to those with whom we were once numbered.


JMD said...

I agree with you in the aspect that the various denominations do quarrel considerably over issues. Some are deal breakers, most are not. Probably why I recently read that we have about 1,200 various religious affiliations being called Christian.

Cherie c. said...

As far as it please God, and beyond if able.

Cherie c.

Anonymous said...

Pastor you just lifted the fog that obscures the cross. I'm going to put this on my mirror... "But to live as He lived, to love as He loved, to care as He cared, to speak as He spoke, to humble yourself as He humbled Himself, to think as He thought, and to walk in Him so deeply that His life becomes yours." Now that's to die for :-)