Know what you believe and why
Jesus is the Lord of the church, and when it comes to our diversity, he asks us to speak
the truth in love. Truth and Love go together, not one at the expense of the other. Remember, none of us have all the answers. Look at how many godly, educated, respected men and women have differing opinions as to what the Truth of God’s Word says about any number of subjects. One man considers something as sin, but to another it is not. How do they get along in the spirit of unity? These differences of opinion plague Christianity and cause factions and divisions in the church. This passage is talking about all the extra stuff that the Jews were requiring for spirituality. Rather than discuss and come together in common ground, we separate ourselves calling the other party wrong. The problem is that none of us want to think ourselves as “the weaker brother”, but rather as “the stronger” one. Neither do any of us want the responsibility to curb our liberties for the weaker brother. However, when it comes to “Paul’s gospel”, there are no other viable options according to Gal 1:6-9 defining what “Paul’s gospel” is. If you don’t have a correct Gospel, then you don’t have a leg to stand on before Christ. Everything else in this fallen world is immaterial, temporal and not worth the breath to argue about for the sake of unity. Everything save receiving salvation by faith through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not worth divisions over. The other half of the issue is how do we debate “in love” on these issues, what we believe to be true and worth debating (Eph 4:14, 15).
Live in peace and mutual edification
Rom 14:13-23 Use this link for the NIV or use your favorite version but highlight verses 13, 15b, 16, 19, 22b, 23b
As we ponder God’s character from the above passage, I wonder if God would answer our signature question below in the following way…
Who are you Lord?
I AM the God of faith. Whatever is not of faith has no value to me. I am not interested in your rituals unless they come out of a heart of faith. Prayers said mindlessly over and over are vain to me and have no meaning. It is not the prayer, but the faith that I honor. Your celebrations and feasts, your special days and traditions, without faith and understanding are nothing more than mindless habits. If they bring you to genuine heartfelt dependence upon my grace, then fine, they are useful tools to direct your attention to my Son. But if they are just a formula to earn my favor, then forget them, because they are useless additions to my grace and are actually leading you away from me instead. “Not by works of righteousness which you do but by my mercy I saved you.”
I AM the God of righteousness, peace and joy. When you put your traditions and rituals over peace between brothers and sisters, you err from the truth. Your fellowship should be centered on the person of my Son. There is nothing that you can do to earn your salvation so why should you allow your different ways of worship to prevent you from gathering together in my name? If faith is what binds you together in my Son, then faith is all that is necessary to bind you together with each other. Faith needs no ritual. Faith worships in thanksgiving for who I am. Just as I received you in Christ, not because of what you do; in faith you should receive each other for what they are in me and not for what they do. Remember that you were once my enemies and I received you, so why can’t you do the same for others?
I AM the God of truth and love. My love does not over step my truth or vise versa. Do not use my truth to judge another believer whom I accept in my grace just as I accepted you. Why do you add so much junk to my Word and to my Gospel? It is to be so easy in truth that a child can receive me. The Gospel is about what I did for you 2000 years ago not what you do for me. Love speaks the truth, but love does not judge each other for differences of opinion regarding the truth. Whatever is not done by faith is not accepting the truth, but rather is living in doubt and sin. Once you are confident/ reliant in the fact of my work on your behalf, don’t worry about some church’s condemnations for differing practices. My salvation is not dependent upon any human tradition or ritual, thus your spirituality is not dependent upon them either.
The Lord’s Prayer – mindless chant or higher spiritual exercise
There are many symbolic and ritualistic practices around the globe within Christianity. Symbolism is fine as long as they direct your mind to the reasons behind the symbolism or rituals. Saying the Lord’s Prayer can be a beautiful thing of meaning, or it can be just another work you are trying to perform enough times to absolve you of sins for which only Christ in his mercy can forgive. I do not like it’s monophonic, Gregorian, medieval, liturgical, plainchant style practiced in many church recitals; because it reminds me of vain repetition rather than it’s drawing me closer to God. Thus I find myself translating it in my mind into something more meaning to me when it is recited from the pulpit. But to others the higher liturgical style draws them closer to God, which after all, is the whole purpose of prayer. Without putting aside petty arguments over spiritual ritualism, how can the Egyptian Coptic, Completed Jew, Chinese House Church believer, American Christian (Bible belt vs California surf culture vs New England cathedrals vs Deep Southern Baptist), Stoic Scandinavian and Eastern Orthodox all with their differences in traditions come together in commonality… What is the common denominator? It is the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Christ. But more often, what becomes the focus? Our differences in Culture, Ritualism, Traditions, and Good Works – everything except what really matters – Christ and him crucified. And the world has a field day with us.
Unity amidst Diversity
When God divided the nations and tongues back in Gen 10, he did so knowing that on the day of Pentecost, he would make from all those nations one church – his body of believers. Men and women from every tribe and nation and tongue will praise God around his throne, worshiping the Lamb, all united in Christ who is worthy of all praise. There will be no thought of our differences then. We will all learn a new song to sing to our Lord. God will incorporate from every culture that which is honoring to Him as true worship. If this mentality could be adopted here and now in the churches around the globe, the unbelieving, secular world would have one less thing to hold against us as to why they do not want to come to Christ for salvation – namely division. More people would praise the Lord of the church because of us” rather than use us as the reason to reject him as is usually the case.
More to come,