Opinions on faith and life

Choosing Our Battles

2008-11-14

We Christians are easily sidetracked. Any pet doctrine can become the focal point of our lives and take our eyes off what’s really important. We all know we’re supposed to spread the gospel everywhere, to live to please God, but we get wrapped up in any number of side issues which frequently turn out to only be divisive. So we need to have some questions to ask ourselves as a kind of checkup.

  1. Does this issue affect the gospel message?
  2. Does it motivate me to be more Christlike?
  3. Does it affect the way I interact with others?
  4. Does it drive people away from God? (beyond the inherent offense of the Cross)
  5. Does it deepen my understanding of the scriptures?
  6. Does it cause me to break fellowship with other believers?
Those are just a few. And the answers may depend upon various other factors. But the point is that we need to take a hard look at some of the issues that keep us divided and distracted: predestination, eternal security, baptism, the so-called sign gifts, etc.

Now I’ve heard many charges against various views, such that one group calls another group’s view dangerous or compromising with evil. But in most cases the charges turn out to be false or exaggerated. For example, eternal security is said to give people a “license to sin”, yet there is no discernible difference between how people who take that view live and those who don’t. Both groups wind up sinning and repenting; the only difference is whether they were theoretically lost and resaved, or in and out of fellowship. Or Calvinism: as long as we all spread the gospel to all, and observing that neither Calvinists nor non-Calvinists live demonstrably better lives as a result of their views, what’s all the flaming about? (Of course, this teaching has been known to drive people from the gospel, but in most cases Calvinists never tell anyone about their views until a person is saved.)

There is value in debate; don’t get me wrong. It can drive us deeper into the scriptures and make us re-examine some beliefs that may not be accurate. But such debates should never consume us or define us. It is surely a sign of spiritual immaturity to divide over many of the issues we think are so vital. Whatever else we do, we must keep our focus on the Prize.

16 Comments

Lin

Love the new look!

"It is surely a sign of spiritual immaturity to divide over many of the issues we think are so vital. Whatever else we do, we must keep our focus on the Prize."

I agree with this to a point. It is a bit hard to worship with those who think I have to keep silent simply because of my gender. :o(

Paula Fether

Tanx Lin :-)

Just to clarify, I didn’t mean never talk about anything but the gospel. In that case the Bible would be largely unnecessary! We just need to keep our bearings.

And of course the onus to "get along" is on those who would place restrictions in service on other believers. I could fellowship with patriarchalists-- as long as they didn’t try to stop me. ;-)

Lin

"And of course the onus to “get along” is on those who would place restrictions in service on other believers."

Exactly. It is not always US who are dividing the Body. But since the Pats are usually in charge, one has to leave in order to utilize their spiritual gifts because in many churches there are a few who are deciding who has spiritual gifts.

Don

But it feels so good in my flesh to just blast those that do not see things as I do.

Paula Fether

And we wouldn’t want you to feel bad, you know. ;-)

Sadly, that’s what it’s all about in many churches: making everyone feel good. Heck, our whole country values that above all else. American students’ test scores are way below most other developed nations who spend a lot less per student, yet they have very high self-esteem (aka over-inflated opinions of themselves).

The churches should be glaring exceptions to that, in the face of all we read in the Bible about subduing "self". But instead they feed "self" and make it the measure by which truth is determined. And when these self-important people get into leadership, all other "selfs" must bow to them. Amazingly, the sheeple "selfs" don’t assert themselves but prefer to follow whoever abuses them the most. Go figure.

Don

"You need to learn to subdue yourself and I am going to help you do it!" Yikes!

Greg Anderson

I agree Paula, so easy to get off track from the simple good news of Jesus Christ and the power of himself implanted into us. Now I understand a little more about the parable of the sower.

When mercy, compassion, and what we do to the least of these his brethren all take a back seat to the demands of this world, we miss the boat and Christianity becomes just another world religion.

Jamie

We can all thank God that most people in face to face communication, outside of the internet, aren’t as hyper sensitive, angry, divisive and as easily offended as a lot of the ones on the internet. I’ve never seen so much victim mentality in my life!! It’s best to just speak whatever you feel God lays on your heart and then get outta dodge. Everywhere you look Christians are dragging a thousand pounds of undealt-with baggage. Sheesh..

Paula Fether

Yes... we are easily hurt when the focus is on US and not the Savior.

Thy Peace

I miss the picture of a feather. :-(

Thanks for the post. I agree with you. :-)

Paula Fether

Tanx Thy Peace!

I’ll see if I can work it into the design. I didn’t make this one but I’ll see what I can do.

Lin

"Sadly, that’s what it’s all about in many churches: making everyone feel good. Heck, our whole country values that above all else"

On this point, I say we really need to do some thinking about the stuff we choose to divide on like gender, calvinism,etc. I have some extended family in seeker churches (who do not even know they are in seeker churches!) who are so lost it grieves me to no end. They never hear the full Gospel and are convinced they are saved while they live such ungodly and worldly lives. They do not know they are in danger. They do not know scripture except a few proof texts that are taught out of fluffy bible studies that are always out of context.

But their mega church makes them feel good about themselves. They have the outward appearance and since no one gets too close in that environment, no one knows the inward parts are completely lost. Ironically, they think because they follow some of the comp formulas taught in outward appearance, they are ’safe’ for eternity. They also believe that because they were baptized they are ’covered’ no matter what they do or are in their hearts.

In this country we have dumbed Christianity down to really be a social type of movement. Every now and then I will go the websites of this church and listen to the sermons to keep up on what they are being taught. There is no ’untruth’ taught. But the FULL Gospel message is not there. These are people who do not have any understanding of regeneration or sanctification. If the FULL truth is not taught, then it becomes a lie.

I think it is instructive to know what that church’s biggest focus is: Relationship unity. That sounds so nice but it is a snare. It means that no one can disagree without hurting the ’relationships’. Everything is centered on personal ’felt needs’ and everything is man centered. they believe that people stay in church for the ’human relationships’. That is a half truth. Spiritual unity is the goal as we know this is what Jesus really prayed about.

When the goal is gettign along (and going along with whatever the leadership teaches) then truth gets lost. I saw that in person. Hard truths are not preached because that would offend people and hurt their feelings and consequently, empty the pews and the coffers would go dry.

But, we cannot be saved UNTIL we are convicted of our sins. After all, what ARE we saved from? We are convicted of the truth y hearing the FULL gospel truth preached. There is NO good news until we know the truth about the bad news!

It is a damning cycle what is being taught there. And there are people out there caught up in it who have NO clue because they believe what comes out of a pulpit, from an overpaid hirling, ...especially if the preacher is popular. This is going on all over Christendom.

At this point, all I can do is pray. This just grieves me to no end and my heart is so heavy about it. I love these people!

Paula Fether

I hear ya, sis. It just hurts to watch all of this, and even more when they lash out at us for trying to help them.

DB

There is a tendency in some circles to have all the information flow from the top down to the bottom with no reversal of flow. That is problematic.

I’m a bit more blunt online than I am IRL.

I have had a bad experience with a Calvinistic (sort of neocalvinistic,) group that was rigid and legalistic and almost idolized its leadership.

Paula Fether

I think if all we did was preach against hierarchy, we’d solve quite a few problems. There is a very strong mindset that someone just HAS to be in charge or nothing will happen-- never mind how friendships work or what the Bible says about the Body.

There are people who lead by example and have matured in the Spirit and the Word, and those who need to learn from them. But this is where it should stop. A rigid hierarchy, a chain of command, is a structure that has a life of its own; no matter who fills the positions, the positions remain.

This is why I extend egalitarianism to include all spheres of Christian life. I know there are many egals who greatly value liturgical worship and formal offices, and I don’t mean to offend them. But again, inherent in any hierarchy is the danger of abuse.

DB

I go to a more contemporary church but I figure the people that like liturgical worship are just reflecting personal taste and I should just look at it as diversity.

I am very much negative toward a lot of heirarchy.