Wednesday, April 26, 2006
There is something disturbing that I’ve noticed more and more in the church in America. I hear it in person or on TV, I read it on internet blogs and websites, and I see articles on it in magazines.
More and more, Christians are declaring that other Christians are unsaved or unregenerate.
Some Calvinists think that Arminians aren’t saved. Some Arminians think that Calvinists aren’t saved. Some non-Charismatics think Charismatics aren’t saved and some Charismatics think non-Charismatics aren’t saved. Some fundamentalists think Reformed folks are unsaved, and some Reformed folks think fundamentalists are unsaved. Some think Emergent church folks are unsaved, and some think New Perspective folks are unsaved. Some think Southern Baptists are mostly unregenerate, and some think the Methodists are all unsaved liberals.
Need I go on to the Protestants and Catholics, the Covenant Theology guys, The Dispensationalists, the New Covenant Theology guys, the Auburn Theology guys, the Open Theism guys, or those who commit some horrible public sin?
And some will say that those who think they have all the truth and that everybody else is suspect in their salvation are the unsaved ones, because they don’t accept everybody.
Now if you are not even aware of these various distinctions and you just love everybody, God bless you. But some will think you are thereby just plain undiscerning and so you couldn’t be saved.
O.K., I know all this sounds a little sarcastic.
And I know that discernment is good. I know that being Bereans who read and study our Bibles is good. And seeking to have accurate doctrine is good. And admonishing and correcting one another is good. And desiring the truth is good. And opposing error is good.
And I know that there will be tares among the wheat, wolves among the sheep. But in the parable of the wheat and the tares, the servants ask the owner if they should separate the tares and gather them up. His answer?
"No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, 'First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.'" -Matthew 13:29,30
What is Jesus getting at here? Why shouldn’t we search out the tares and pull the little rascals out?
Well, you probably know that tares were a plant that looked like wheat. In fact it looked so much like wheat that you couldn’t be sure which was which until the very end of its maturity. You might think you saw a tare, but then you couldn’t be too sure. Or you might think you saw wheat, but then it turned out to be a tare in the end.
Notice some things here that Jesus thinks are important:
1. It’s the Enemy that sows the seeds of the tares.
The Bible calls false teaching "doctrines of demons", but they can be very subtle. And sometimes real sheep, real wheat, can pass on bad teaching that they learned from other sheep passing on bad teaching. So there is definitely some evil going on with this tare thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s always detectable who the tares are.
2. If you attempt to tear up the tares, the wheat may be harmed.
Look at the care that Jesus has for His children. He would rather have the tares growing up in the visible church, than to cause harm to His brethren.
Don’t let that slide by. If you think you hate bad doctrine, God hates it worse. If you think you love truth, Jesus is the Truth. Yet He would prefer that hypocrites, unbelievers, unregenerate be left hiding in the church, than to do anything that would cause spiritual harm to His people.
This brings to my mind two verses:
1. Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, …"I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." We don't have to worry that God's plan will fail because we don't identify every tare that comes along.
2. Rom. 8:28, God causes all things to work together for good to those who love him, and are the called according to His purpose. This includes working together for good the presence of tares among the wheat. It's not that it's good...but God will work it for good.
So how shall we deal with the tares?
Didn’t Paul the Apostle and others declare some people unsaved? Didn’t they rout out the false teachers and declare curses of anathema on them?
Yes. But they also did miracles, healed the sick, raised the dead, and did other authenticating signs of their apostleship. The apostles at times had insights into the human heart that can only be seen as a spiritual gift. But this is not promised to all of us. When Peter tells a local prophet that he is in the gall of bitterness, referring to his lost state, or when Paul or Jude identify a false teacher as one destined for the lake of fire, they are exercising a gift of direct revelation from God. We can’t presume to have the same gift.
We may have an opinion that we keep to ourselves. We may even exercise church discipline on a church member who is unrepentant of some public ongoing sin, and "treat him as if he were an unbeliever", but even then we can’t declare him to be an unbeliever.
Let’s love the people Jesus loves, so much that we are unwilling to hurt them by trying to sort out the sheep and the goats. Let’s love the brethren so much that even in our correction, we give the benefit of the doubt.
We will make mistakes. But we need to err in the direction of love and acceptance for even the weak or misguided sheep. And we need to err in the direction of encouraging the sheep that we may even privately think are not sheep. And if they prove to be sheep after all, we will have done a great service to the Kingdom of God. And if they prove in the end to not be sheep, we will have honored our Lord who said not to tear up the tares. Leave that to the harvesters at the end of the age.
And finally, we may have encouraged or admonished or corrected one who was not yet a sheep. But through God’s grace, our love and encouragement and teaching, one day they truly believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s not be tare police. Let’s not let the failings of church folks steal our fruit of the Spirit. Our love, or joy, or peace, or patience, or kindness, or goodness, or meekness, or faithfulness or self-control.
Listen to "Grace For Life" Radio Program.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
In January of 2006 I posted on the subject of tithing.
I have received numerous emails and comments that were favorable, and several that were not favorable, but were civil and kind.
I've also received several wild-eyed "You've GOT to be KIDDING!!!, you Anti-Christ Underminer of...of...didn't you ever read Malachi???!!!!" type of responses. I always write back to these folks, offering a kind word, and sometimes offering to calmly and Biblically discuss the matter. They never want to.
The latest, from a man I'll call "Andre" (because that's the name he used in his email with a fake email address) was written in giant, bold-type, accented wild-eyed type font. His accusations were entirely emotional, with accompanying Old Covenant Bible verses (typical). I felt sorry for him in his bondage, and athough my email was rejected because of his fake email address, I replied to him as follows:
Thank you for writing.
The verses you quote are all from Scriptures that were from under the Old Covenant. The quotes from the four Gospels were from Jesus who Himself was born under the Law, that is the Mosaic Law or Old Covenant, and lived under the Old Covenant.
He, of course, fully followed and obeyed the Law, which demonstrated that He was the perfect Lamb of God.
The Old Covenant was made obsolete by the New Covenant in the blood of Christ (Hebrews 8).
I dare say you didn't read my writings carefully at all.
1. I never said tithing was evil. If someone wants to give 10% of their income joyfully...great! Nothing wrong with that.
2. I said that *teaching* tithing [as a commandment] is evil, because under the New Covenant, no percentage of income is *ever* mentioned. And even under the Old Covenant, income was never tithed, only produce, and more than once per year, totaling over 20%.
3. If you could show *one* example of tithing commanded under the New Covenant (that is, after the Cross), I would happily teach tithing. But such an example doesn't exist, only the teaching of cheerful giving as determined by the God-guided heart of the individual, as God prospers him.
4. I strongly believe in giving to the Lord's work, but to teach tithing just puts people under the Law, and actually causes them to sin. Rom. 6:14 says that sin shall no longer be master over us because we are not under Law, but under Grace.
5. The grip of Legalism is so strong around your neck, that you can only shout (for that is what your giant bold print is in the online world) at me while you're being strangled.
I *love* the Word of God, but the Old Covenant is obsolete. You may as well shout at me to slay lambs on an altar, and then shout that "It's in the Word of God!!!!" But you would be as wrong in the lamb sacrifices as you are in the command to tithe one's income.
Listen to "Grace For Life" Radio Program.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Praise the Lord for the resurrection of Christ!
Consider this also. When Jesus died on the Cross on that Good Friday, and took the wrath of God on Himself...in some mysterious way...we were in Him.
We were crucified with Him, and we died. By the grace of God, our old self died, in Christ.
Then we, in Christ, went to the tomb. We were “buried with Him through baptism”...the baptism by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ.
Then when He was raised from the dead, we too were raised from the dead. Made alive to God through Christ Jesus.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together...--Eph. 2:4-6
In raising us up with Him, He gave us a whole new identity.
Where we were Sinners by nature, He made us Saints.
He made us His children, friends of Christ, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, in union with Him, adopted by Him, complete in Christ, free from condemnation, the righteousness of God in Christ, a branch of the Vine, chosen and appointed to bear fruit, the temple of the Holy Spirit, seated with Him in the heavenlies, God's workmanship, inseparable from the love of God, fully accepted in the Beloved.
We can assume no glory for it. All glory goes to the Lamb, who is worthy, who was slain from the foundation of the world.
We can know by faith that we are risen with Christ. And Easter, Resurrection Day, can have greater and greater meaning for us, when we see what God has accomplished in us.
Happy Resurrection Day!
Listen to "Grace For Life" Radio Program.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Christian Musician Steve Sensenig has a great post regarding blogging with love, entitled "A Blogger's Version of 1 Corinthians 13". May the Lord use it to bring the fruit of the Spirit to Christian blogs everywhere. Take a look: