I am really distressed this week as I heard about this conference put out by John MacArthur called, 'Strange Fire', but as I think more upon this, I think I am coming to the bottom of the pile of what is really disturbing me about this. Even more serious than this conference is, I am seeing something really ugly in the body of Christ that is happening, especially in America and our Western culture today. I will attempt to explain what is bothering me.
Earlier in the week I struggled with people who are Pelagians. These people have a different Gospel which believes that people can choose whether they want to sin or not. According to them, we don't have sinful hearts we are born with, but we sin because we choose to. But even worse, is their belief that salvation is two-fold. 1. We must believe in Christ's death on the Cross and 2. We must follow God in obedience. As one Pelagian stated, 'Jesus wouldn't give us a commandment to obey, if it were impossible for us to obey it'. This doctrine is definitely heresy and I will fight for the truth and learn how to respond to those who hold this view. I want to manifest God's grace as I present truth. That is what I am learning this week.
But my real struggle is, and has been, with 'Christians' who hold contempt for other Christians that they don't agree with. For example, this whole activity of finding and exposing 'false teachers' has gone way out of the boundaries of Scriptures. The Bible is very clear that we should expose false teachings. We should never receive 'another Gospel' (not that there is any). The Bible is clear that we should rightly divide the word. We should be discerning. We should love the truth so much that we should be willing to die for it. But, the Bible doesn't have many examples of Jesus, Peter, or Paul taking people and slamming them because they are false teachers.
As I was reading the Scriptures this morning, I read about a man Paul pointed out who was doing him great harm. I think there were two verses on it. That was it. Paul didn't write letters or articles against those who were false teachers, and even those doing him harm. Even Peter, who has a lot to say about false teachings, doesn't mention anyone by name. He points out who they are to the people he is writing to, and they knew who these people were, but even that was short. How does that compare to us in the church in America today?
There are a couple of things to keep in mind. One of them is that today, there is a tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water, especially in the church. For example, if someone believes apostles are for today, we call that person a false teacher. But we don't stop there. We tear that person apart. What does the Bible say we should do? How are we to treat those who don't agree with us in our interpretation of the Scriptures? Does the Bible say to hate them? Yes, when we tear someone apart by name calling or speculations, we hate. More than that, we are slandering. We are not 'warning' the body of Christ. We are using our knowledge, whether our facts are true or not, to put down someone. Why do we do this? Because we haven't put to death our own flesh. We think we have, but in reality, we are arrogant Christians. We are bullying other members of the body of Christ around by slandering. We can rename this all we want. We can convince ourselves that we are 'loving' the body of Christ when in reality we are using our God given authority to wound others. I like the phrase in the Casting Crowns song which says, 'The Sword is not ours to wield'. God has given us His authority, and His word is a sword. We are using this sword to destroy others in His name. I think God is repulsed with what we are doing.
We really don't understand Biblically, the subject of exposing false doctrine and the hidden works of the devil. One of the main reasons for this is, that we have not dealt with our pride. We are so deceived that we don't even think we have pride! I can give you my testimony on this. When our church first started 28 years ago, we had a thorough teaching on pride, based on Scriptures. I never saw myself as prideful. I thought I was ok, but when I studied this subject, I realized that there is pride in many different areas of my life that has to be dealt with, if God were going to work in my life and use me for anything. Also, on the other hand, learning about humility. Forget any aspirations of becoming great in the kingdom of God without humility. Humility does not come easily to any of us. It has to be cultivated. We have to pursue it. The Bible is clear that God will resist us with pride. God will respond to us when we are humble, and only when we are humble. Pride has to be dealt with daily in our lives. We have to put it to death. Humility and love are concerned with others being successful, even at our expense. If I love someone (which the Bible commands and God promises to give grace for) then I will want the object of my love, whoever that is, to be successful in God, even at my own expense.
Christians in underground countries experience the power of God in a way American Christians don't. I have always wondered why. I believe the Lord showed me the main reason why is because of our pride. We always have a back up system if God doesn't come through. Plus, should God do miracles in our midst, we would take credit for it. We would want the recognition for it. We are glory stealers. Citizens of countries that are poor or under Communist rule don't have this option. If God doesn't come through for them, they are toast. But God does come through for them. Even those in remote countries are hearing the Gospel. Many are coming to Christ. Miracles do take place. The blind are receiving their sight. God is moving in these Third world countries. But why not in America?
Two reasons why God isn't moving in America. Maybe more. First is pride in the church. Second is lack of love in the church. Another one though, is that some church leaders really don't believe in the supernatural power of God to work. There could be a lot of reasons for this, but, I think one of them is simply, a lack of faith in who God is. God says He is many things. He is healer, provider, sovereign, supernatural, love, Father, etc. We tend to shy away from these things because it is hard for us to believe that God would do supernatural things in our midst. I actually had a Jehovah's Witness lady tell me that the devil was the one who healed me when I was healed from certain things. I fear for the body of Christ in America today, because we are limiting God because of our lack of faith, or maybe just ignorance on what He could do in our midst if we let Him. Our thinking is just as bad as the Jehovah's Witness lady!
The other reason really goes back to the lack of love issue. We really are not charitable to our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. We look at those who are struggling with sin and accuse them of being false converts. We expect other Christians to come up to our level of understanding of Christianity and critique them when they fail. This whole thing has gone way out of hand. It is like a strange fire in the body of Christ. It is a fire of hate and arrogance. It is a form of being 'holier than thou' in our midst. It is ugly and it glorifies the devil.
Jesus says that the world will know we are Christians by the love we have for one another. I would rather have love for those in the body of Christ than to have all my theology ducks in a row. Our love for God is measured by our love for one another, and, in America today, this doesn't look very good. Maybe that's the reason America is in the condition it is in. When we come together in love and unity, even with our differences, God will meet us. God will meet us when we humble ourselves and stop stabbing one another in the back. Until then, God will be distant, and we will never understand what it is that is wrong.