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Posts Tagged ‘simple church’

I can think of very few statements given as broad generalizations that are always true, all the time.  I believe in absolute truth, but my list is pretty short.   That being said, what I’m about to say is probably not always true either, but might deserve some careful consideration. (And if any of that made sense, welcome to Conflicted Thinkers Anonymous. Call for meeting times and location.)

One of the struggles of coming out of cult systems is the false expectation that you will find another neatly packaged belief system that you can ascribe to somewhere within the church at large.  As each former false belief is tested against the Word of God, a person may find that the truths he accepts do not come from one single system of theology or denomination.  One soon finds these separate schools of thought ardently defend themselves against each other and it becomes easy to get stuck in a mire of intellectual, often philosophical debates.

On this journey I find no single denominational creed or system of theology that can adequately answer all my questions, or leave me without contradictions. I came to terms with the fact that I should not expect to find one, and instead search for the deeper meaning and purpose of being a follower of Christ outside the goal of simply being right. While I still find it difficult at times to reconcile mixed messages and remain quiet when I am not in agreement, (yes, I can at times remain quiet – contrary to popular opinion!) I have to make the conscious choice to keep my focus on a simple faith.  If I am not comfortable with the empty spaces of Scripture that God chose not to fill in, I will begin to build my own work on what He has revealed, and this leads to my own pride and pointless arguments. Believe me when I say this is a constant temptation which I fall into. I desire for God to make what I am saying here a reality in my own life as well.

The more I delve into the Word of God, the more I see my assumptions are not always based on what God has actually said.  I realize there is so much I don’t know or understand about Him. Yesterday I was in a mood for spring cleaning so I tackled the bathroom and realized there were a few more toothbrushes than people in our house. My son identified his, which left three mystery brushes. One was completely worn out, obviously the oldest, so out it went. Of the two remaining, I wasn’t about to guess which one belonged to my husband, so I kept them for when he came home to let me know which one was his. Later that evening I hear very unsatisfactory grumbling coming form the bathroom. Yes, I threw away the wrong one, and since my husband had no idea where the remaining two brushes had come from, was not keen on using either one. He consented to borrow mine for a day until I could replace his. I made a logical, entirely wrong assumption. Not once did it cross my mind that the old frayed toothbrush was the one he was using.

How many times have I completely left out a possibility when seeking to understand God? It’s not just probable I have done this, but a surety. In no way could my mind encompass the whole design of God or His purposes.  This seems obvious that we have to admit this. So why do we often behave as if we can and do understand all mysteries when discussing fellow believers who understand the Word of God a bit differently? Can we not have patience for what they seem to miss and allow for the fact that we might also have missed even more than they have? After 2000 years of theology, isn’t there a simple core creed we can agree on and leave the rest to God and our own conscience? I am not against differences of opinion. I’m against the pride and separation in the Body of Christ caused by them. (I do not include cults as part of this equation, obviously.)

(Warning! Broad generalization ahead.. please see first paragraph.) If you can read through the Word of God and not have some aspect of your theological assumptions challenged, you are not listening. God does not dwell in a temple made with hands or in theological boxes designed by scholars with tightly sealed lids. He is the I AM. Our attempts to define Him are necessary to a point, but harmful when we believe our conclusions are complete and without error. I cannot recall a scriptural mandate to have a perfect understanding of God. I cannot find where we are told to identify the true believers by discerning which ones have the most correct knowledge. We wear our theological hats like sports teams wear their colors.

What is a simple faith? (I didn’t say easy, just simple.) Childlike trust in Jesus and all He said He is, and what He shows you are without Him. Do you have to understand all the hows and whys of what He has done, is doing, and will do? No. Don’t think you can. Simply believe it the way a child believes you when you tell her you are going to buy her a bicycle for her birthday. She doesn’t know how or where, or what money is, but she believes you. You don’t find children arguing about how their parents are going to go about choosing and delivering the Christmas presents. They just look forward to it with eager anticipation.

Then what? As James says, our faith will be evident by our works, and he clearly shows what kind of works he means. Not traditions, outward observances, 10 volume commentary sets (which I do enjoy using incidentally) but the true and undefiled religion of compassion for those who do not have a way to help themselves, just as we were before Christ found us. We abide in Christ, the vine, and bear much fruit. Spiritual fruit is similar to edible fruit in many ways. It feeds others, reproduces with the seeds it contains, and its very existence is a result of belonging to the Vine, not born by its own effort.

We cannot hope to attain perfection in knowledge and even in those places where people strive for it, you will not find consensus. But we are commanded to be perfect in another ways.

Matthew 5:44-48 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 19:21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Knowledge has it’s place! Yes! God designed us to be curious, to investigate, form theories, and reach for more understanding. These are not bad things. But the goal for perfection in knowledge seems to be one which no one can reach as well as an obstacle rather than a catalyst to love. I have just discovered while writing this, exactly how serious an issue this is with the following strong warnings.

James 3:13-15 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

James doesn’t mess around does he? Probably the hardest book in the New Testament to read. The works of the flesh are fully evident in the church. We may pride ourselves in moral purity while still exhibiting the more acceptable works of the flesh against our brothers and sisters in Christ. When knowledge is exalted to a higher place than love, this is the result, as we see over and over.

Gal 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The parable of the sheep and the goats, the Good Samaritan, and how to discern a false prophet – all connected to spiritual fruit, not head knowledge or “being right.” The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians is clearly based in character qualities.

Gal 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

The backlash to exalting “knowledge of God” over “love for God and others” has been a movement to throw out knowledge altogether and ignore the Word of God. Obviously, because it has caused so much division and strife, we just need to leave it alone and go on what feels right. Right? Wrong. But rather than examine their valid accusations against the worship of knowledge, we instead dig the trenches deeper and fortify the defenses. The correct use of knowledge is indeed to contend for the faith but somewhere we got confused and thought it was the end of it.

I know, none of you personally know anyone with this problem, right? It’s always somebody else in the other church that acts like this or has these attitudes. We can’t see our own errors – it’s true. I have had many a cult member blatantly tell me white is black and black is white, but are we immune to this just because we aren’t in a cult? We need to pray for the Holy Spirit to fall on us and convict our hearts of things we cannot see so God can be glorified in our lives. I greatly admire the defenders of truth who have preserved our faith. But soon, brothers and sisters, we may realize we need each other instead of fighting with each other. The enemy has us pegging our enemies among ourselves so we won’t take his ground and realize where the real battle is taking place. We aren’t even on the front lines in most cases. We’re arguing about battle formation while the enemy has advanced without much resistance. We may need to repent for the fact that we have presented a great deal of distraction from the simple saving truth the world needed to hear. We may be asked to give up some things in order that Christ may be lifted up.

I don’t believe persecution coming. I know it’s already a reality for those who would take a bold stand for the simple faith. (Not that I have been one of those bold ones!) The world already hates a message that states there is only one Way to God. The world seeks to kill anything that insults its pride and the god of human wisdom that thinks it can solve all our problems without a God at all. The more we expose the lies of the world with the light of Christ, the more it will push back. Jesus warned us that it would! He told us to expect it. The more the world pushes, the tighter we will be squeezed and unnecessary things will have to fall away. As Richard Wurmbrand said so succinctly, “Only the ultimate, eternal truth survives in the underground church. All other considerations that engage the transitory interests of a church disappear.”

I know we don’t want to hear it might happen, and have reasons why we think God will spare the church in America when it’s already being squeezed to the point of death around the world. I don’t ascribe to those theories myself. Nations rise and fall. Governments come and go. The history of the last 2000 years only serves to prove there is no sure thing, no lasting security in this world. I pray we desire a unity in Christ over our own pride and seek a purity in love the world can recognize for the Glory of Christ, and the salvation of the lost. Is this what Jesus meant when He said, “Love the Lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself?” I think most of us can understand and agree on that.

I have much more I could say, but lucky for you, I have to go shopping for a toothbrush.

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