Friday, December 6, 2013

Different, But Similar

Stitched Panorama
This fall I’ve listened to two men with whom I disagree on some doctrinal issues. There are scriptures I’ve read, studied and hold dear that their interpretation is 180 degrees from mine. Those are serious differences and I would enjoy an opportunity to discuss them in prayer, but I’m likely never to meet them.

The first is the Catholic Pope, Francis I. Much has been made in the media about his reaching out to people in love, for God is love. The Pope has been clear, too, that doctrine has not changed.
The second is Gerald Jeffers, an Apostolic preacher I heard first on Youtube, not aware of his existence before hearing him lead a congregation in “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him,” convincingly telling us that’s not a seasonal song – He is worthy for adoration every day.

The message I received from both men, that God has and does love us, is tied to:

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:17 KJV)

Please, before anyone starts in about the differences between their doctrines and mine, please focus on the scripture and ask our Lord what it means.

Consider Jesus’ ministry. Yes, He condemned sinfulness, then He forgave – even to the point of death. Are we teaching more condemnation than forgiveness? Are we doing more condemnation than we are forgiving? As evangelicals, is our approach based more on the event of salvation than the life of adoration?

The gospel, the good news, has always been:

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11 KJV)

Our Lord’s interpretation of the Law is succinct:

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40 KJV)

Do we start with these commandments, or do we begin by telling someone they are a lost sinner.  Both are truth – the gospel is true, and it is true that everyone of us is a sinner.  Just as Paul, we are to know and share truth, all of it:

For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:27 KJV)

Too often, I feel, we stick with the sinner part. That could be because we understand the awfulness of the hell we faced without God, and we celebrate our deliverance from it through His merciful forgiveness. We cannot, however, omit focusing on the reason we have that forgiveness. God loved the world – me, you, everyone in it – enough to provide Himself in His Son.

Not everyone will accept this gift, and that breaks my heart. It is, however, a personal decision. I cannot accept for anyone but myself. I can, and I do, present scripture and encourage everyone to follow Jesus’ commandments – love God and neighbor. Read His word. Know His Word. Come, let us adore Him, the one who is worthy.

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; (Revelation 5:9 KJV)

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