Occasionally I have to conclude that God is purposefully endeavoring to get His point across to me. It is likely that He works this way in your life also from time to time. It often includes a repetitive message that follows you from various, unconnected sources. Maybe it’s a sermon you heard in church followed a few days later by a similar message from a radio preacher. Then God will have the subject arise again in some casual conversation and He marks it with His holy-highlighter in your mind so that it stands out amid all the other parts of that conversation. Has He ever hunted down your heart through music? Amy and I were riding around town last Friday and discussing some of what God is doing in our lives and when I pressed the power button to my truck’s stereo a song came on mid-chorus that, in the first 10-15 words being sung, directly addressed the very things we were talking about. Both of us sat for a couple of minutes and cried silently as we traveled, knowing God had decided to enter our conversation and put the matter to rest for the day.
Here’s the issue for me: I’m trained not to give a whole lot of credibility to the subjective. I prefer to operate in measured, quantifiable terms. Having a chapter and verse from Scripture on an issue makes me feel very, very secure. Solid foundations are my good friends but God also invites me to spend some time in the land of… the squishy.
“All Christians are at once beneficiaries and victims of tradition—beneficiaries, who receive nurturing truth and wisdom from God’s faithfulness in past generations; victims, who now take for granted things that need to be questioned, thus treating as divine absolutes patterns of belief and behavior that should be seen as human, provisional, and relative. We are all beneficiaries of good, wise, and sound tradition… and victims of poor, unwise, and unsound traditions.” -J.I. Packer
There is no need for me to delve into the details of what I am personally working through because my intent is to ask you to examine this need in your own life. What do you believe about God’s Kingdom and your place within it? Most of you who read this blog have some fairly robust convictions about doctrine (I do also!). My question to us is how well-equipped are we to validate those convictions using the Bible, and nothing else? More than likely, a fairly large portion of what you believe is embedded within you because godly, sincere people poured their beliefs into you. Mr. Packer says it well as he suggests in the quote above that what was poured into us wasn’t necessarily comprehensively good. I’m not saying that you don’t believe what you believe, or that you shouldn’t believe what you believe…I’m asking you if you have wondered lately if there is any Scriptural reason to believe it. Be very careful right here at this moment! You will be tempted to shrug this issue off and make broad generalizations which responds with, ‘Of course my convictions are Scriptural.’ My challenge is for you to know the specifics of where and how those convictions are substantiated.
Consider this: if a brand new Christian, truly saved by grace through faith, was deposited in a remote place with nothing other than his or her bible, would he or she come to the same theological conclusions that you hold? Hear me now: this person has no pastor, mentor, seminary prof, or other authors to influence how the bible is interpreted. It’s just the Christian and the Word of God.
Would she be a Calvinist? Would he be an Arminian? A millennialist or an amillennialist? When it comes to the gifts of the Holy Spirit – a cessationist or a continuationist? Pre-trib rapture, mid-trib rapture, no rapture? Don’t send me emails, but would that Christian learn solely from the bible that God commands complete abstaining from wine or merely moderation? While we are at it, how convicted could that Christian become (using only the bible) concerning what style of worship of music pleases the Lord? Would that Christian believe in the active possibility of ongoing miracles after the Apostolic age, or would he or she conclude by Scripture that the age of signs and wonders came to a conclusion when the Apostles passed off the scene and the Bible was canonized? Without study-aids and a discipler by his side, would he believe in the legitimacy of speaking in tongues, or would he easily conclude that those days are over? By the way – would he or she be absolutely confident that the particular translation of the bible in his or her hand be acceptable to God or rejected as unfit?
Why all the hypothetical questions? Because we Christians are proficient at making alternatives into absolutes. I am not a liberal when it comes to theology or the living out of my faith, but neither am I a fish that assumes the hook in his mouth is connected to a rod in the hand of God –don’t get reeled in without bringing your Scripturally-settled mind. I’m using today’s post to tell you that I have done a lot of confessing as I have examined some of the finer points of my faith over the last decade. I have spoken with much more personal conviction in the last 19 years as a Christian than perhaps was biblically warranted at times. If you talk loud and often, and people, including yourself, will think you are convinced. Yet when the voice of God begins to challenge you…your roars will turn into whimpers. Friends, when we attach the authority of God to our particular brand of Christian dogma, make sure He has actually signed His name to it. If it is not obvious that He has done so, then I suggest that it is wise for us to be reluctant to speak on His behalf concerning things about which He chose to remain silent.
Check your convictions. Take your time because you have a lot of them. I promise that you will find, as I am finding, some of those convictions are nothing more than recycled good-intetntions. God deserves far better from us.