Saturday, July 11, 2009

You See Sawdust, I See the Forest

I read again today the words of Jesus regarding judging others (how we shouldn't). In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus said that there is a log-sized problem plaguing me, the listener of his teaching, and I am to deal with it before pointing out the speck in a brother's eye. Most just take this as a lesson to not be a hypocrite by never dealing with your own crap but just criticize others. I think that's fair, but what then. What if one actually removes the log? We never are satisfied whether the procedure was done or not, but quick to throw out the hypocrite line if rebuke or correction occurs. Was it Jesus' intent by saying this that we are to be passive in our faith and let things slide amongst one another because we always have more planks to remove? Is the journey really supposed to be that isolated?

And what exactly is the log? I had the thought today that perhaps the log Jesus was referring to was our inclination to inaccurately interpret Scripture, producing and accepting unsound doctrine. We assume quickly that it is a fault or sin that must be remedied. Does not our failure to understand the Word act the same way to blind us?

I feel like I've been through the process. I've removed my log of false teaching from my eye; I've been given clear vision to see the specks in others' eyes. Is it arrogant or self-righteous of me to rebuke/reprove others if the task Jesus required was accomplished? Is it fair to say that task is impossible to finish this side of Heaven if we are given the Holy Spirit to lead/empower us toward godliness (2 Peter 1:3)? Are we, as a Christian whole, copping out on our duty to correct and rebuke and teach these days (2 Timothy 3:16-17)?

My roommate thinks I am taking things too far by saying Christians should expect persecution to occur if they're doing it right (2 Timothy 3:12, Matthew 5:10-12; 10:22). It's more complex than that: he thinks it's dangerous to not consider Scripture regarding persecution in context, and understanding that what was said on the matter was for then and therefore not automatically transferrable to our time. Where persecution is a possibility, in his mind, it is not a guarantee since religious tolerance is greater these days (I am running the risk of botching his position by stating things in my own words and not his... I feel his general thought process was decently presented to suit my purposes).

I whole-heartedly disagree for reasons I will get to. I hadn't the time to share my reasons with him this morning, but what fuels my position is the underlining concern over false doctrine I see prevalent in the Christian milieu that I cannot speak on my roommate's behalf whether he holds the same level of concern I do. Mainly, I see the gospel as diluted if not distorted, and the implications are that what is presented to the world is tolerable and non-offensive; the problem being that it is not the true gospel, that which is pleasing and desired by God to be proclaimed to the world. So, to contextualize Scripture on persecution as unlikely for our time and culture, I think is grave if what we assume is an okay practice of Christianity is likely a false gospel that poses no threat to the world.

I believe the same implications that the first Christians faced regarding persecutions when proclaiming the gospel is true of our time and culture, if we simply preach the true gospel as they did.

So what has changed? How is the contemporary understanding of the gospel diluted if not downright distorted?

Ask 100 Christians what the gospel is and 97 of them will tell you that you are a sinner, that Hell is what you deserve, but God sent Jesus to die on the cross for your sins if you would just accept Him as God and Savior, resulting in salvation and relationship with Him.

That's not the gospel. To steal from Piper, GOD IS THE GOSPEL! We must start with God. To understand who God is, that is vital. God is the source of all greatness. He is self-sustaining and in need of nothing from us (Psalm 50:12-15). He doesn't need our acceptance of Him to be God. The very fact that He made himself available to us is the Gospel, because by granting us access, the KINGDOM of God is now upon us, for He has established a new world order, where the lost and depraved (us) can now live differently, as God pours Himself out in service and love for us. Yes, Jesus died for our sins, but the condition of our pardon is that we believe Jesus is the visible image of the Invisible God (Colossians 1:15), that by identifying with Him and his new order, we are freed of our old nature to proclaim His glory. Proclaiming His Glory is God's ultimate concern and purpose for creation, as it is the means by which His authority to reign will be proved (Lucifer challenged that authority, wanting it for himself). But more so because there is nothing greater to be known or to strive for than God, since is essence and nature is perfect goodness, perfect love, perfect worthiness. To know God is salvation. It is who He is. That is the Gospel... God! If you focus solely on the benefits one can reap, you pervert the greatest truth ever known into a philosophy of man (2 Timothy 4:3-4, Col 2:8), and God will not honor that. He wants to be known and proclaimed and credited as all glorious and worthy of all praise (Rev 5:9-14), for He is and there is no greater activity in existence than to do such, simply because He is that great.

Jesus said to repent for the Kingdom is at hand and to receive this gospel (Mark 1:15). He also said that the world will hate those that proclaim the Kingdom, but they will be blessed (Matt 4:10-12; 10:22). Paul proclaimed Christ glorified and was persecuted for it and told his protege to expect it (2 Timothy 3:12). The evil world does not want a God that demands recognition and submission. That is why they will hate and persecute us, if only we will stand for the true gospel.

If I'm wrong, make sure you remove your log before pointing it out. If you think your false gospel and doctrine small bananas (sawdust), remember that the eye is small and it doesn't take much to hinder one's vision of the truth.

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