RESTING ON OUR DISCERNMENT LAURELS
I am considered on some level a discerner since I point out error in the church and I sometimes name false teachers. I do not breathe fire and use all kinds of vicious invectives as do some bloggers, and I certainly do not roast lost sinners on a verbal rotisserie. But there are some who cannot understand what is wrong with Joel Osteen or Rob Bell or Rick Warren. And so my blog is considered a discernment blog with some uniqueness’s on certain issues.
But I am often, and I mean very often, convicted on a personal level about how easy it is to shoot false teachers in a barrel and walk away from my own mirror. What I mean is that we have so much spiritual ground yet to take in our own lives that we must never feel any sense of having arrived. And just because we are “orthodox” in our theology we cannot see that as a badge of honor. In fact, it is only by the grace of God and the ministry of the Spirit and the Word of God that we have come to our beliefs. In fact many of us use to embrace things that were false and many of us use to be much meaner than we are now. We should rejoice in God’s grace and not in our own devices.
But the feeling that I get is not just a feeling. It is the gentle yet strong convicting power of the Holy Spirit. You see God is on no one’s “side”. He calls all men to come to Him. And even though the Scriptures direct us to discern the spirits, we cannot make that our exclusive journey. No, our journey is to allow the Spirit to conform us into the image of Christ Jesus, and that, my friends, is a monumental and miraculous task.
This is the journey set before us. These are the steps of a true disciple. They walk as He walked; they speak as He spoke; they think as He thought. These steps do not follow the easy and broad way. They lead against the grain of this world. They depart from the path of politics or national allegiance or moral debates. These steps demand a denial of self. They demand all kinds of sacrifices. They are filled with glory as well as filled with the fellowship of His sufferings. They lead to both death and life. Your death and His life.
The speaking out about obvious heretics is necessary, but that is such low hanging fruit. And men like the ones I mentioned provide a continuing stream of ammunition which the evil one can use to distract us from our own pursuit of Christ. Pursuing Christ and walking in His steps requires much more than pursuing a pristine doctrinal statement. Believers can sometimes take an orthodox statement of faith and theology and present it as evidence that they are following Jesus when in fact that is insufficient and many times spurious. Exercising saving faith in Christ Jesus is profound and yet very simple. It is so simple a child can be saved. However surrendering all your hopes and dreams and thoughts and desires and allowing your entire being to be completely controlled by His Spirit is a labor of glory, but a labor nonetheless.
The flesh is ready and willing and able to spring into action at the first sign of spiritual lethargy. In fact, the flesh masquerades as pursuing good and having good intentions when all the while it has deceived us and led us astray from the things of Christ. The flesh has succeeded in deceiving the church in many ways including those churches which are considered “orthodox”. You can stand solidly for the virgin birth and yet exhibit nothing of Jesus. You can stand and boldly proclaim the Trinity, the inerrancy of Scripture, the substitionary death of Christ, the bodily resurrection, and other truths and yet exhibit none of Jesus.
Doctrine is important, however without a personal manifestation of Jesus it is little more than an organized collection of truth that could be compared to a Biblical form of the Dewey Decimal System. The Spirit desires to guide us into all truth doctrinally but also as it pertains to our lives. The Psalmist said “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path”. He didn’t say that God’s Word is a source for us to compile a systematic theology term paper at Bible school. There have been hundreds of thousands of books written about the Bible and about theology and about doctrine, and yet our lives are supposed to be the observable epistles that make the pages of Scripture come alive! We are supposed to be Jesus in this world in thought, word, and deed.
The world is not interested, nor can they understand, our discernment concerning false teachers. They need us to be salt and light in this world. It is so easy to preach to the choir and applaud each other because we can identify the same heretics, but far more demanding is to live so that Christ radiates through us. What does it even mean to be crucified with Christ anymore? The church teaches all kinds of clever and relevant stories designed to help us navigate successfully through this present world, but where are the teachings that call for complete surrender and even a personal crucifixion? Like politics, the current ecclesiastical construct takes sincere men of God and places them in an environment that immediately compromises them and ultimately they become marionettes of the culture rather than crucified servants of the Most High God. And those that are taught by them are molded into good citizens rather than sacrificial disciples of Jesus.
The path that follows Christ has long since been covered over by nationalism, politics, greed, and a variety of avenues which lead to self. And in its place we have laid down asphalt paths of doctrinal orthodoxy and discernment of error. And yet we fail to see the error in our own hearts and lives although we have no energy to search for that. And this is what haunts and convicts me. It is no great feat to see the error in Rob Bell or Joel Osteen or Rick Warren. Like I said, low hanging fruit. But God desires to do something significant in us, but if we continue to have an unspoken attitude which assumes we have arrived and the path ahead of us is guided primarily by what we see in others than we will remain blind.
But let me take it somewhat further.
I Cor.13: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Paul goes on to tell us that between faith hope and love that love is the greatest. Now with love being the greatest among all the elements of faith why isn’t love the major test of orthodoxy? And when you ask someone what should distinguish a follower of Jesus why isn’t love at the top of the list? Why isn’t love on the list of the fundamentals of the faith? And why isn’t the church obsessed with exploring how God’s love works itself practically through a believer and into the world?
Let us be painfully honest here. It is light years easier to confront the heretics than it is to love the brethren and lost sinners the way God does and the way John 3:16 tells us how He acted on that love. God gave His only begotten Son for His enemies because He loved them. So against the backdrop of that unfathomable truth, how should we manifest our love toward our enemies? These are the issues which keep me from ever feeling smug about myself and my doctrinal positions.
And if we just took the issue of love we could spend a lifetime searching out ways to work out the love of Jesus in our lives. In fact, that is exactly the path to which we are called. Resting on our discernment laurels keeps us from being what God desires for us.