Tag Archives: doctrine

As A Man Thinketh

Do our doctrines motivate our behavior

or

does our behavior motivate our doctrines?

This question has come up on two discussion groups I deal with.  Interestingly, and perhaps in answer to the question, the doctrines presented in these discussion groups are dramatically different.  The two groups are as close to opposites as we will find within the Christian community.

In one group, we are told that all are saved and there is no hell and nothing will keep anyone from Heaven.  So, the folks who teach that are free to do whatever they want without spiritual consequence.  In the other group, we are told that God is angry with evil and that only a few will get through the gates and that that anyone who disagrees is already condemned.  So the folks who teach there believe they are superior to everyone else and do pretty much whatever they want without worrying about spiritual consequence.  Since the folks in both groups seek to minimize and manipulate earthly consequences, they are almost completely unaccountable.  Yes, it is just that bizarre.

The only difference between the groups, other than their basic beliefs, is their willingness to expose their behavior.  The first group, the one that rejects any negative consequence, is loud and in your face.  The second, the one that teaches others to behave under law and condemnation, has to hide the excesses.  The first doesn’t care about exposure; while the second avoids it.  Otherwise, their behavior is much the same.

Behavior proceeds out of our thinking, according to the Scripture.  So does our doctrine.  What we do comes from what we think.  But what we believe also comes from what we think.  If I think I ought to be able to do something I will find ways to do it and justify it.

So big name preachers mishandle money and women.  And grace teachers get drunk and cuss.  And church leaders abuse their wives and gossip about others.  They do it because they think they should be able to do it.  And they create doctrine that allows it.

Both behavior and doctrine come out of our thinking.  When our thinking is perverse, both our behavior and our doctrine will be perverse.  We are called to “renew” our minds, our thinking, according to the thinking of Christ.  We are to have His mind and His heart.

The Christian life is not a certain standard of behavior.  It is also not a certain set of doctrines.  The Christian life is a relationship with a Person.  It is an exchange, if you will, of His life for ours, of His quality for ours.  He loves us and we love Him.  We walk with Him and He talks with us and we begin to think like Him.

Is there right behavior?  Is there right doctrine?  Of course, but neither matter unless they come out of our relationship with Jesus.

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But What About…?

Grace 101

In the parable of the sower, Jesus spoke of three primary enemies of the sower’s intention for the seed.  I have used this little story as a structure for teaching about the enemies of grace.  First, there was the trodden ground, the hard path, where nothing could grow.  Then there were the predators, the birds of the air that swoop in to devour the seed before it can grow.  Finally, there are the distractions, the thorns that grow up and choke the life out of the new growth.

One of the most common things we experience once we begin to understand this amazing message of grace is that we forget.  It seems so easy to be distracted and to fall back under the shame and pressure of performance.  Fortunately, the Lord reaches in and reminds us from time to time.  But wouldn’t it be better to avoid those distractions?  Wouldn’t it be nice simply to walk in the light of grace?

Maybe thinking through some of these distractions will help.  At least we might know a little better what to watch out for.

I suspect that most heresies and unorthodox ideas begin with the words, “But what about…?”  Years ago I took the training of a popular evangelism program.  They taught us that we should be prepared to pull the discussion back to the gospel when we heard those words.  I have experienced this often as I have shared the good news of salvation.  People will say, “But what about my loved ones who have died?” or “But what about the dinosaurs?”  or “But what about politics?”  These might be worthy questions or discussions of their own, but they are distractions from the main point.

Lately the grace message has been greatly distracted by the universalist debate.  Before that it was the demonic debate.  Before this it was the charismatic debate.  Before that it was the Calvinist/Arminian debate.  Some of these things are never settled.  They are still distractions from the wonderful message of grace.

And the result of the debates is that those who love the message of grace are divided and discouraged.  In spite of all we know to be true about the unconditional love of God in Jesus, we still add things to the message.  “Grace is nice, but you have to see it from xyz perspective.”  The distractions choke the life out of the message.

Don’t let yourself get distracted and discouraged by these debates!  If you know the message of grace, proclaim it boldly and cleanly.  Tell people of the love of God and put the debaters into a room where they can only distract each other.  There are too many people who need to know the truth of love and grace.  We don’t have time for distractions.

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Filed under Grace 101