Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it — made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.” —C.S. Lewis
So it looks we’ve set up a conflict here between fruits and radical living. In other words: Is the Christian life just about personal holiness? Or should I be fighting crime and rescuing slaves and beating up dictators?
Let’s be clear: The American church absolutely loves the whole personal holiness thing. Almost every Christian book in your bookstore is about transformation, renewing your mind, a better you, “Gospel Centrality,” fixing your heart, tending to your emotions, and a bunch of other self-involved disciplines. Not all these are bad, but the focus is obvious.
Even missional work in America is considered a personal holiness thing. I’ve heard it preached, “In the end you’ll grow closer to God and see what He’s doing for you.” Again, not really wrong, but you see the implication.
We’ve very much disconnected God’s saving grace with His call to glorify His name. When we stick a wedge between Grace and Glory, we’ve lost the Gospel. A lot of theologians want to set up Jesus and Paul like they were saying different things, but NO, they were not. Jesus and Paul would both say Jesus is both the Gate and the Road.
I’ll put it simply, in sort of a rhyme:
The saving truth of God’s grace, the story of the cross, our redemption = LEADS TO = Empowerment for the glory of God, our sacred mission.
Most of us are in love with Jesus’ words but not so much his mission. We like meditation and transformation and revelation but not suffering with Jesus for the sake of the Gospel. We do not intuitively embrace suffering for Jesus. Therefore, you get the comfortable confines of an American church. It is absolutely insane to think the majority of Americans understand the NT church; it’s freaking crazy out there.
So to answer your question: I’m not sure what particular convictions the Holy Spirit has given you about your journey, but the fruits of the Spirit will include you actually fulfilling the Great Commission.
I’m not saying it’s 50-50 — I do believe that we must be resting in the glory of the Good News to really understand our purpose and His Story, so Prayer-Praise-Scripture is super-essential. Then as you seek for yourself all the fruits of a God-centered holiness — the love, joy, peace, purity, and all the goodness in Him — this also means you’re Going, Making Disciples, and Giving for the Gospel.
Please don’t disconnect those things, and also check your heart that you’re not merely “doing to do.” I believe God actually does care more about who you’re becoming, but out of your being will emerge the faithful doing.
I rode my new bike around the neighborhood. It got awkward when a guy walked out his front door like he was expecting Chinese food. I think he flicked me off. Sorry that Chow Chang Wah is taking so long. Don’t be mad, bro.
This is a tough one with real concerns, but short answer: Of course.
Nearly any time I have talked about someone, I’ve told them. I understand you want to protect your friend and I followed that same logic for years. But one way or another it will come around to your friend, and it’s better if it’s you.
Here’s the main thing: If you repent towards your friend and go through that awkward, sick-in-the-stomach, possibly-friendship-breaking season, then you will most likely never gossip about a friend again.
Confessing sin to a real live breathing person is what keeps us in check, because you see what sin actually does to people. It’s devastating.
Yes, you might lose your friend. But if she is your friend, she will forgive you. If not, then it becomes her deal.
If you keep it to yourself, sure it’s safer, but it neither changes the fact that you did it nor will you ever find peace about it (unless you numb your conscience with other things, which is an equally bad road). Pray, tell your friend, apologize, expect the worst. Honesty is the only policy.
This is just about the nicest thing I’ve ever heard. I’m super-insecure about preaching and get pretty much zero response from my people every week (it’s okay, they’re mostly passive Asians and I don’t expect applause, and I love them no matter what), so this is quite a surprising encouragement. Thank you and I’m blessed we’re on this journey together. :)
Do you think it is possible for good theology to become an idol? And if so, what is the balance between loving good theology and doctrine and “idolizing” it?
Not only is this possible, but it happens all the time.
With the Reformed Calvinist movement taking off with Gospel-Centered Idolatry — oops, I mean “Centrality” — and pragmatic cold-hearted preachers who care more about theology than people, it’s no wonder that people outside the church hate on the church. There’s a ridiculous amount of inhouse fighting and 95% of it is straight up stupid. It’s over secondary, tertiary, barely-important matters.
You’ve noticed a new quickness with accusations of heresy and blasphemy, when most of the blogosphere has no idea what that means. Most of that is just self-promotion and trolling. I’ve been called a lying witch abortionist by a so-called Christian (over this post on my other blog). Like my good friend Unka Glen says, if you’ve pissed off a “religious” dude then you’re probably doing something right.
A major consequence of this whole flag-raising garbage is becoming a Gatekeeper of Theology, where you think you get it and no one else does. That’s categorizing into an elitist caste system, which the Gospel came to utterly destroy.
I say this without apology: guys like Ken Silva at Apprising Ministries plus a handful of bloggers at The Gospel Coalition are almost certainly going to hell. I’m not kidding, and I say that with absolute grief and sickness in my stomach. It doesn’t matter how many “good things” they do or how well they raise their family, because it’s so obvious they’re dividing the church — and no good works can make up for that. Jesus loves them and so do I, but they have to stop the nonsense.
Here’s a test. Question: Is Jesus coming back to rapture the saints before or after the tribulation of the saints? Answer: Jesus is going to come back, so how about shut your mouth and stop splitting your church over this and just obey the IT IS WRITTEN.
Because when Jesus comes back, all these Q&A conferences and theology camps and Reformed Calvinist snobs and loveless theologians won’t give a crap about tiny doctrinal differences. Jesus is coming back with a sword sticking out of his face, his head on fire, a tattoo up on his thigh, holding seven stars in his hand, riding a warhorse and his robe dipped in the blood of fools he just killed, and you’re arguing over what?
In the words of a much wiser man — at least about secondary doctrine — That’s just like, your opinion, man.
But please also allow me the humility to say that doctrine does matter. I praise God for humble scholars, hard-working theologians, and intelligent pastors who can think light years ahead of others. While I wouldn’t hang out with all of them (pretty much only C.S. Lewis, who by all accounts had an awesome personality and pranked all his friends), I definitely appreciate their exhaustive work. To some degree, they’ve helped us all think clearer about the Bible. And we can’t simply “be virtuous,” but also must have correct thoughts about God.
The best way to balance good theology is to recognize where it belongs. More specifically, where it belongs for you. If it’s pushing you towards a greater love for God AND for people, then good. If it’s not, then there’s a deeper issue going in your heart where information is somehow more important to you than revelation and transformation.
I was a victim of Seminary Syndrome, coming out a clone of hyper-conservative values and an uptight exegetical mentality. I totally loved my seminary years and all the professors there, but they don’t teach you how to love people, or even how to confront someone in their sin. In the end, if your study of theology is not aiding you into loving people with truth, then forget it. Put down the books, dig into the Bible, get serious in prayer, and ask God to uppercut your soul. While you’re at it, go serve the poor and knock on doors with the Bible. That’ll humble you real quick.
This is just about the worst feeling in the world — when your friend walks away from truth, regardless of what sin he chooses — and I’m sorry to hear about it. Please let me point you to three posts with similar questions:
The passage you’re referring to about “no fellowship with sinning Christians” is 1 Corinthians 5, which is a difficult one. I do think 1 Corinthians 5 needs to be balanced with other Scripture, specifically those about patience, kindness, and helping out a sinning brother. Because the absolute last resort is to cut off a fellow Christian who’s in active sin. Otherwise none of us would be “qualified” for church.
I don’t want to water down 1 Cor. 5 either (how could I? It’s God’s Word), yet exhort you to be sensitive enough to work out some of the “extra room” questions.
Is there “extra room” in your friend’s heart to hear the truth from you? Is there any extra room where you think you can reach him at all? Is there extra room for your church to approach him in love and seek his best? What about challenging your own heart in the process?
If he is totally ignoring you, dismissing you, cutting you off, and flaunting his stuff at church, you might consider the non-fellowship thing. But even then, by the power of that Holy Spirit, do everything you can to love your friend with the truth. Don’t give up. Please pursue him and pray for yourself. Your instinct is correct.