Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Doctrine's Destructive & Divisive Nature

We care neither for devout dunces nor intellectual icebergs.
~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Doctrine is a killer.  Those who staunchly promulgate doctrine are often cold hearted, ice cold killers.  In today's world they thrive in internet discussion groups.  But that isn't enough, they stalk about Facebook pages seeking whom they may correct.  They aren't content railing on their own pages but must scour the web looking for theological fallacies, which in most cases are just inside the mirror. They are theological bullies, blasting their shotguns often and everywhere, spraying bullets far and wide. They are the self appointed defenders of Almighty God, who needs their help.

Often they come under the guise of love as they insist on telling the truth. Like Theological Thors they come flying onto your computer screen or flashing upon your smartphone where they deal a crushing blow with their theological hammer.  Why?  Because the world is so messed up and Christianity has gone so awry.  These theology hounds are desperately needed to straighten out the skewed beliefs of the masses.  

Such men and women think it is their sworn duty before God to swoop upon the dolts of Christianity who are not willing to label every Arminian a hell bound heretic headed for eternal damnation.  They love to pounce upon the guy who says as a baby believer he did not understand the Trinity.  They annihilate the mature saint who is unsure if the bible teaches preterism or premillenial dispensationalism.  Depending on what camp you are in (or worse yet, you don't have a position) they drop their hammer and tell you you're an idiot and how can you possibly be saved believing such things.  They accuse people of not rightly understanding the gospel, as they have a firm grasp on it now, when they came to faith decades ago, insisting without a doubt that you weren't saved back then.  Because after all, the thief on the cross could have given a clear gospel presentation that even Calvin would be proud of.  The theology ogres are heavy on truth and bereft of love.  As my wise pastor has said, "There is no truth in you if you are devoid of God's love." Check it out here http://thegracelifepulpit.com/Sermons.aspx?code=2013-07-14-PJ

So is doctrine in fact destructive?  Should we just love Jesus and leave all this theological hair splitting behind?  I mean after all didn't Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners and hang out with winebibbers? Didn't He embrace everyone with an all-encompassing love?  Gentle Jesus meek and mild?  Or is the Thor approach more biblical?  Do we need more theological superheroes? Maybe we ought to be thankful and listen to these theological Hulks.  Since the error is portrayed as so deep and so crucial, maybe it's best to have these guys and gals thrashing about the internet, making Christianity stronger. They're doing us a service, bringing us closer to Christ.  Or are they?

But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance. ~ 2 Timothy 3:10

Wait a second, as the Theological Superheroes start charging me! Are you saying doctrine isn't important? Get ready for a Hulksmash pal!  No, not so fast. Doctrine matters.  Greatly!  As we see above it was not only commendable but crucial in the life of Timothy and Paul.  The problem isn't with right doctrine but wrong actions.  Pride.  High-mindedness.  Contempt. Basically an attitude of 'you're wrong, I'm right and I must show the internet world just how smart I am.' Trouble is while you flex your theological muscles your hard black heart is popping out of your chest. The mass of believers who watch such silly displays shake their heads at the pious antics of glaring immaturity.  Worse, the unregenerate sinner who still shakes his fist at Holy God laughs and becomes more content in his rebellion, even plotting his excuse before his future Judge.

If you're a theological superhero, do you really want that on your resume when you meet your Judge?  

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 
1 John 3:14

Lest you mistake me, we must speak truth.  We must rightly divide the word.  (2 Timothy 2:15)  We must stand for the inerrant, infallible truth of scripture.  We ought to come alongside brethren when error is present.  We must contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)  We must present the rich truths of doctrine found within Holy Writ.  But if it is from a harsh stance where all we do is bash and crash then we have serious, serious problems.  We have forgotten the sins we were saved from. (Titus 3:3 2 Peter 1:9)  So I point to the Spurgeon quote that heads this, we cannot be intellectual icebergs and far be it from us to be devout dunces.  We must know our bible.  We must remember ourselves. We must have compassion on the brethren.  

Doctrine matters, immensely!  The Apostle Paul would not have mentioned it more times in the pastoral epistles than you have fingers if it wasn't.  So before the "I just wanna love Jesus" crowd gets too puffy chested, shake yourself and study doctrine because correct doctrine leads to correct practice which leads to greater doxology.

So in the end, doctrine is not destructive, unless it's in gross error (see TBN or just about any other "Christian" television station).  What is destructive and divisive is the proud Thors and Hulks that stomp around the internet looking to promote their knowledge while claiming to promote Christ.  What's destructive and divisive is the peacocks that strut their theology and trample their brother.  Sadly, when you try to point this out you just get lined up and pile driven as if you were the opponent in an Ultimate Theological Cage match.  You end up bloodied but somewhere behind the adoring Theological Superheroes is a loving Father ready to begin the school of understanding with a walk to the divine woodshed.

So if you find yourself, bashing the brethren take a step back and remember that Christ had mercy on you when you were deep in sin and destined for destruction.  Think about the fact that trials and sufferings are part and parcel of the Christian life.  Take heed that your lack of compassion may only be a prelude to some deep, dark trials that will soften you and temper you in order to make you look like Christ.

Friend, your theology ought bring you to the ground in humility not lift you up to some lofty position of authority.  You see, you don't really know you're bible until that clanging cymbal and banging gong go silent. When you stop parading yourself and puffing yourself up, when you stop behaving rudely, you will not only gain some ears but you will prove your theology is pure and true.  Unless you pour contempt on all your pride and humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, all your words will be nothing more than judgment building up for you to hang your head in shame later.

You, like me, were an enemy of Christ, held by the curse, totally depraved, unwilling and unable to come to Christ apart from the electing love of the Father, the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, and the redeeming love of Christ, our Good Shepherd.  That being so are you and I in a position to tread upon our brethren and blaspheme our God by bashing through walls and dropping our hammers on every brother or sister who doesn't think just like us?  Who may be undergoing some immense trial?  Who is at a different point along the journey? 

So then, would it not be better if we reasoned together and spoke the truth in love? 

He must increase
~ Kevin

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Musings of a Madman or........

          I will extol You, my God, O King,
         And I will bless Your name forever and ever. 
         ~ Psalm 145:1

Can you say that?  If you are one who is offended by Christianity or laughs at it, bear this out. Don't quit on me.  

If you profess to trust Christ for forgiveness of sin and deliverance from it, this ought to be your cry too but I get a little closer....  

Is that you in happy times, joyful days, triumphant moments OR can you extol your God and King when you are in the pit and the walls are crumbling down?

I've had lots of time to dwell upon life, especially these last few days.  I have looked back at who I was before Christ knocked me off the pedestal of self.  I have looked forward to what is in store for me.  I have looked right in front of me and wondered, what is it all for?  Who is God?  Who am I?  Is He trustworthy? Has He really said and will He really do?  And in short, He has spoken and He is true. Therefore, I shall extol my God and King and I will bless His name every day.

              Every day I will bless You,
         And I will praise Your name forever and ever. 
~ Psalm 145:2

           What else can I do? For,         

         Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised,
         And His greatness is unsearchable.
                      ~ Psalm 145:3

But, but.....you say.  You don't know how difficult my life is.  You don't know what struggles I have just to make ends meet.  You don't understand the hurt of missing that promotion.  You have no clue of the spiritual wasteland I reside in.  You cannot fathom my disability.  In fact, you have no clue how it feels to be tethered to a pole with a short chain that restrains me from normal life.  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

I have been up and I have been down.  I have enough grey hair and aches along the way to reveal some battle scars, along with some extra shine on my head to boot.  Yet as I heard recently, sometimes God has to hurt us to save us.  Sometimes the Lord has to break us to make us, stretch us to strengthen us.  He must turn the heat up high in order to burn away the weight that keeps us sinking fast.

My question to you dear reader is this, is He refining you in the difficulties of life or is He wooing you to Himself?  

Either way, have we surrendered to Him or are we still proudly clinging to our own weakness.  Are we flexing our muscles in front of a circus mirror, hiding the fact that we're frail and weak? Are we pompously standing before that mirror admiring our falsified image?  Or will we step away from imaginary friends and look in God's mirror and see who we really are?  What we really need?  The One who can truly make us look magnificent.....IF we humble ourselves and submit to His transforming grace?

Though sometimes difficult I still praise Him in the storm.  I declare His mighty deeds, even when the cacophony of voices shout, "NO!  Are you crazy?!"

         One generation shall praise Your works to another,
         And shall declare Your mighty acts. 
~ Psalm 145:4

I have no other option.  I served myself half a lifetime and I have served my God the other half. There is NO comparison!  None!  I'd rather go to heaven with one eye.  I'd rather live my life with one leg.  To be without my Rock and my Redeemer for one moment would be worse than a thousand glorious days under man's praise.  Therefore, I shall praise my King to my children and pray like mad that they do the same.  This chain of violent rebels has been broken by a Mighty God and it must remain unbroken in it's current state.  The only legacy I can leave my children is a father that fears the Lord. I'm talking about a reverential awe.  I am determined to live before my God in such a way, always by the power that works within me, that my posterity will turn to God instead of away from Him, unlike previous generations claiming His favor when in actuality they awaited His righteous wrath.

         On the glorious splendor of Your majesty
         And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
         Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts,
         And I will tell of Your greatness.
         They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness
         And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.
         ~ Psalm 145:5-7

What else could I do?  What will you do?  Will you focus on the glass half empty?  Will you fix your eyes on your troubles?  Will you foolishly attempt to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps or will you, will I, seek the One who holds all power, the One who gives life and takes away life, the One who can move a mountain with a thought or still a storm with a word?  Will we fix our eyes on the One who can make a blind man see?  A deaf man hear?  A lame man walk?  A dead man rise?!  Will we focus on the forest ahead of us and miss the majesty of the tree before us?  The glorious King of all has made each moment.  He has crafted each trial.  He molds and moves the clay.  His ways are altogether righteous. Will we question His goodness?!

The LORD is gracious and merciful;
         Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
The LORD is good to all,
         And His mercies are over all His works.
                   ~ Psalm 145:8-9

Dear friend, His word is true!  What shall we give in return?

         All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD,
         And Your godly ones shall bless You.
         They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
         And talk of Your power;
         To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts
         And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.
         ~ Psalm 145:10-12
What are we making known dear ones?  Are we a wreck and a joke that a sinful and rebellious world laughs at?  Are we more prickly than a porcupine on a bad hair day?  Have we become rougher than 40 grit sandpaper in our treatment of others that they wonder what kind of God we serve?  Do we gripe and complain more than a soccer player who tripped over his own foot in the penalty box?  Do we take 4 steps in the lane, get tapped on the hip and cry foul, foul!? We blaspheme the greatness of our God and King.  We make a mockery of His true character.  We even bring into question our attachment to the Vine.  

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
         And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
 ~ Psalm 145:13

Since we His godly ones will receive an unshakable kingdom, how shall we live?

When we are weak do we mediate upon such truths as this.....               

The LORD sustains all who fall
         And raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You,
         And You give them their food in due time.
You open Your hand
         And satisfy the desire of every living thing.
         ~ Psalm 145:14-16

Never have I lacked His blessing and never has any true child of His.  He withholds that which will harm us and He gives us that which will strengthen us.  Will we look to Him?  Will we acknowledge all comes from His hand and all is good?  Will we align our hearts with His and accept what He brings?  We can you know, because

             The LORD is righteous in all His ways
         And kind in all His deeds.
             The LORD is near to all who call upon Him,
         To all who call upon Him in truth.
              He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
         He will also hear their cry and will save them.
              The LORD keeps all who love Him,
                ~ Psalm 1455:17-20a

Oh weary saint, Oh believing Christian, we must count His word true and certain, more certain than the sunset or the sunrise.  He is faithful.  He will do it.  He is too holy to sin, too holy for one unrighteous act, too perfect to give a snake when His child asks for a fish or a stone when he asks for bread.  He has promised to perfect us to the end.  We must not shrink when the fire gets hot and our flesh says, "fail!"  He who has saved us will sustain us and He is able to make us stand in glory!  Do we doubt that?

And to my friend who has read this far yet lives in unbelief, obstinate rebellion, convinced of his lack of need in such a God, such faith, these things are not so for you.  Despite the claims of a "better place" or to "RIP" the opposite is true of you. It was true of me!  But God!  He saved me with a mighty hand. He can save you.  Believe His truth,

         But all the wicked He will destroy.
         ~ Psalm 145:20b

Do not mistake that to be wicked is to be some vile criminal portrayed in society.  The Glorious King requires perfect obedience, perfect righteousness. He does not grade on a scale.  He does not weigh your good and your bad. You cannot go to another place and purge away imperfections in order to be granted access to his heaven later.  No, no.  It is appointed for a man once to die and then the judgment.  Sin brings death.  All have sinned.  Sin has been atoned for in the perfect righteous act of Christ on the cross but it must be applied to each individual by confessing your sin before the Righteous Judge and believing in your heart that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Simply believe. Simple belief is followed by active obedience, an active pursuit and passion for God. The world and the devil scares us away as if this is bad or this is a sorrowful path.  It is quite the opposite.  It is a path that involves joy unspeakable and rewards unimaginable.  The truth is at this point, you are a vile criminal in God's eyes, for you have transgressed His holy law.  You do not have to be destroyed.

Will you believe?

It is good to give thanks and to meditate on His goodness so as long as I have breath I will do as follows.  Will you join me?
        My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
                   And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.
                         ~ Psalm 145:21

He must increase,