Sunday, April 23, 2006

Lord, Forgive Us (Part 2)

Lord Forgive Us (Part 2)

For those of you who think I’ve declared an open season on Rand, I hope you’ll look at the title of these posts: Lord Forgive Us. US. Me, too. Rand is a dear brother, who is strong enough to take criticism without blowing up or taking it personally. If I didn’t think that was the case, I wouldn’t have commented at his site, pointing him towards some scriptures which I believe addressed something troubling, and which I’ll write about here.
As someone who also came out of a dead church, (Lutheran) and visited for years in a legalistic denomination (Assemblies of God) Rand and I have some things in common.
There are many AG Christians whom I will see in Heaven, who during this lifetime are carrying extra burdens which I praise God for taking off my back: Eternal insecurity, someone who is sick lacks faith, the Gifts of the Spirit must be in evidence to know that you are right with God, those that believe in Eternal Security are preaching heresy, etc.
Since I was led out of that church, I’ve studied more about the Grace by which we stand-and I’ve become sensitive to even a whiff of legalism showing up in my life-whenever I start getting wrong-headed about Grace, God has to deal with me and my pig-headed pride, which is the antithesis of the humility which is supposed to govern my life.
So, forget about Rand for a moment-these are the issues which we may or may not share-no two journeys are the same-and these are some of my faults which God has illuminated, and which I would love to help my brothers and sisters in Christ avoid:

Knowledge puffing me up.
“1Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. 2If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; 3but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.” 1 Cor 8:1-3
My pride tells me that I know more than my fellow man, that I’m smarter, and that because I have studied the Bible more than some others, I’m a better Christian. Baloney. Knowledge puffs up, and Bible knowledge without humility can get you a big head.
I went through a phase where I was ‘Bible only’-not wanting to learn from anything but Scripture, rejecting others opinions. How egotistical I was! And a hypocrite, as I expected others to learn from me, but rejected what other Bible scholars were led of God to put down on paper. We are to lift each other up and edify the body; I was denying the efforts of other good Christians who indeed had much Bible learned wisdom to impart. I considered their efforts as not as good as mine, weak and puny as mine turned out to be.
I now enjoy learning from other Christians, though I’m careful to stick to sound doctrine.

My denomination puffs me up.
I think that Baptists have the right of it, and I’m grateful to God for leading me to the church I’m in now. But Baptists must be careful not to let the pride in our denomination lead us into denigrating other denominations. I mention the AG above-my heart goes out to them, as I feel that they are burdening themselves with legalism. But they are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I’ll be honored to worship Christ with them in Heaven.
And, if it so happens, I’ll worship Christ with them right now, if I am visiting in their church. True, Bible believing churches, no matter the denomination, are just as good as Baptists.

My Salvation, if I’m not careful, can puff me up.
Meaning that knowing that my Salvation is secure, that I “am in”, and can in no way lose my salvation, I can sometimes forget that I’m a sinner, saved by Grace, and no better than anyone else. It would be easy to coast: I could reject the Spirit’s leading, close my Bible and never visit church again, and still be guaranteed Salvation. I would be miserable, a dull utensil refusing to be used, but I could do it. God’s Spirit indwelling me doesn’t allow such selfishness. A good gauge of how I’m doing has to do with how I reach out (or don’t) to the unsaved. Here’s where God is dealing with me, and part of what got this whole post started. In the past I have gotten downright ornery towards some of the visitors to both my site and Michaels. Some of you are nodding your heads right now.
I cared more about being smart and a smart alec than I did about whether the Gospel message was being expressed. The old saw about “You may be the only Gospel someone ever reads” is very true; getting angry and/or making fun of others was me operating in the flesh, not the Spirit. And God called me to account for that. If I cared more about being right in an argument than I did about whether the other person was being reached with the Gospel, I was a knuckle-head, actually muddying up the Grace I was supposed to be an example of. “Great witness, Doug! You make me feel like dirt.”
I should be operating on the assumption that people know in their innermost being whether they are sinners or not, right with God or not, and simply tell them that the Love of God, which I would be sharing with them if I weren't busy being a jerk, is available to them, as God loves them as much as He loves me.
Back to Rand for a moment, and the reason my legalism radar went off: I had noticed that Rand was coming down pretty hard on Jake and Aliera about their sins. Rand may be the most humble Christian on the planet, but that wasn’t coming through.
I felt that he was falling into the same trap I had escaped from. Then he mentioned about the bread and wine/unleavened bread grape juice, and I felt that he was being uncommonly hung up on details. When he refused to partake of the Brethren's Lord’s Table, to me, he was acting like a Pharisee.
If I’m visiting with believers who are honoring me by sharing the Lord’s Table, I will eat and drink with them, leaven or no, wine or grape juice.
If all they have are oreo cookies and root beer, but that is what they consecrate to the Lord, I’ll share that. Because the worshippers are honoring God by their memorial.
And that is what it is all about. I didn’t write this to persecute Rand, or anyone else.
God has been dealing with me, and I’m trying to help a brother avoid the pitfalls I’ve fallen into.

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