Seeking Balance

I’ve been thinking about balance lately – especially this balance between doctrine and practice. When we find out we’re wrong, there’s a desire to go in the other direction. That’s a good desire. We don’t want to keep being wrong. We want to get it right and run towards truth. We just have to be careful. Sometimes we go so far in the opposite direction that we’re no better off than when we started. We’re just wrong in a different way.

I see a lot of that when I look at Christians who have come out of difficult backgrounds. Those who have lived in the world and lived lawlessly are so intent on living a disciplined life for Christ that many are prone to legalism. Those who have lived in bondage to legalism are so excited about their life in Christ that they may completely do away with all boundaries. That doesn’t do us any good. We just swap places and neither of us are clinging to Christ Jesus.

I grew up in the second camp. There were rules about everything. There were rules about stuff that wasn’t even close to being wrong. My inclination is to leave all of that behind. I have to be careful. Getting rid of every trace of law isn’t right. While our salvation is not based on what we do, God has given us His word and His commands for a reason.

2 Timothy 3:16 says that Scripture is given by God so that we can know right and wrong and how to live.

Paul says in Romans 15 and 1 Corinthians 10 that the things which are written are written for our understanding. God wants us to be warned against the consequences of sin. He wants us to have a hope in Him.

John says in his first epistle that the Word is written that we may know God. The first two chapters of 1 John are full of reasons that the Word is given. It is given that our joy may be full, that we might not sin, because we’re forgiven, so that we will know God, because you know God, because you are strong, because the Word is in you, because you have overcome the wicked one, so that you will not be deceived, and so that you will not have shame when He comes. And then comes chapter 5, verse 13:  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. How precious that is!

Many of us who grew up in the church desire Christian freedom. We’re fed up with the harsh legalism that has forgotten grace. We’re ready to embrace our new freedom, but we need to be careful that we don’t go overboard. Loving God with every ounce of our being is important, but feelings do not dictate our faith. Feelings follow our faith. We look to the Word. We see who God is. We see what He has done for us. That results in the joy we seek. We see what God desires for us. That results in our sanctification.

Having come from a very legalistic background, much of what I have to say speaks of grace. But please don’t misunderstand me. I am not looking to reject the Word of God and its importance for our lives. I am not looking to set aside the truth that comes from Jesus Christ. My desire is not to leave holiness behind. My desire is to see faith produce actions. My desire is to see us live as Jesus lived. My hope is that we will truly be the hands and feet of Jesus to a hurting world. My prayer is that the body of Christ would reach out to the world and point them to our Hope.

Sin is always wrong, but many in the world sin because they have been sinned against. Many sin because that’s all they know. They sin because they are sinners. They are in bondage. That does not excuse their sin, but God did not command us to be arrogant and judgmental.

The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the second is like unto it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. You would hate to be kicked when you’re down. You would have to be looked down upon when you’re struggling. You would hate to be treated with contempt for living the only way you know how. So many times, that is what the church does. We speak “truth,” but we neglect grace and love. We use the Word of God to hurt and harm and tear people down.

Our Bible study talked about fundamentalism on Sunday. It’s been awhile since I’ve contemplated that term in a good light. It’s not the fundamentals of the faith that I take issue with. It’s the people behind the movement. I hear a lot of people with those same feelings.  And I can’t help wondering if that’s how unbelievers feel about us. Fundamentalism might be all right. Christianity might be all right. But the fundamentalists and the Christians send us running.

I am incredibly blessed that the Lord brought kind, gracious believers into my life. So many people need to see Christians who live like their Christ. So many people need to be Christians who live like their Christ. We need to be those Christians.

Lord, please help us to love people and to point them to your hope. Father, help us to share your truth with grace and genuine love for those who are perishing. Let your love be seen in us so that the lost would be receptive to your offer of forgiveness instead of running from your messenger’s hatred.

Will They Know You’re His Disciple?

I’m not entirely sure where to start.

I was 15 the last time I kept a steady blog.

It feels like it was a lifetime ago.

I thought I had so much figured out. I had opinions on all the details of theology. But I may have overlooked grace.

And then I met a group of kind, loving people. I’d been told these folks weren’t Christians. I’d heard all about what was wrong with them from a conservative group of Christians. There wasn’t really anything unbiblical about their lives. They just weren’t the clean-cut Christians I’d grown up with.

But I saw love. I saw Christ lived out in these lives.

Acts 4:13 says, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”

That’s what I saw. I met Peters and Johns and they had most certainly been with Jesus.

I saw older women teaching the younger women how to love God and other people. ….and then I saw those girls go on to minister to even younger women. Just like God commanded.

I saw men who prayed and brought cares and concerns before the Lord.

I heard crazy testimonies from people who would never have come in amongst the judgment of the old way. But love … love touched hard hearts and healed broken people. I saw crazy transformations. It wasn’t a 12-step program or years of therapy that changed these lives. It was the love of Jesus and His people.

There aren’t as many Christians who have it all together in my life anymore. But I don’t see as many lukewarm Christians either. I see a man weeping over his sin. I see a woman pleading with a younger generation not to make the mistakes she did. I see honesty. Transparency. Love.

Theology is important. God communicated to us for a reason! What we know should change our lives though. Sometimes we get bogged down in all the details. We should seek the Lord who saved us, share His grace with others, and be His hands and feet. Just maybe, that’s more important than debating who was the “I” of Romans 7.

1 Corinthians 13:1 says, “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

Jesus said that we would be known as His disciples by the love which we have for one another. Not by the arguments we make as we judge the least, the last, and the lost.

I’ve started half a dozen posts in the last two days. I’m trying to figure out where to start. But wherever I start, I seem to end up back at this point. We, as the church, need to love people. We don’t compromise truth; to tell someone they’re right with God when they’re headed to hell would be cruel. But we speak the truth in love. Let our speech be seasoned with grace. Show the love of Jesus. A love that gave everything for the benefit of His enemies. A love that said, “neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.”

When we’ve got that down, then we can go back to arguing about the minutia. But I think I’ve got enough work to do on this first point to last me a lifetime.

A New Blog

I’ve decided to give blogging another try. Since I’ve heard such good things about WordPress, this seems like a good place to try it. I don’t know what this blog will look like or how often I’ll update it, but it’s here.

I’ll leave you with the words of Psalm 27 (ESV).

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the Lord will take me in.

Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!