Wednesday, December 15, 2010

STATEMENTS OF FAITH

Here are two quotes from two different people concerning their personal faith in Christ to consider.

Person A: "I was humbled to learn that God sent His Son to die for a sinner like me. I was comforted to know that through the Son, I could find God's amazing grace, a grace that crosses every border, every barrier and is open to everyone. Through the love of Christ's life, I could understand the life changing powers of faith."

Person B: "Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings - that we're sinful and we're flawed and we make mistakes, and that we achieve salvation through the grace of God."

After reading these two quotes which of them do you think is pretending? Do either of these quotes strike you as doubtful? What if I told you that both of these quotes were from the same person? Would these statements feel consistent to you?

What if I told you that both of these quotes were from death row inmates? Each of them was guilty of murder, and one of them of rape. Can you guess which one of them was guilty of rape?

Now, what if I said that both of these quotes were from two different Presidents? (They are). Can you guess which of them is the Republican and which one is the Democrat? Unless you're already familiar with the quotation, I'm betting you couldn't do more than guess which one was conservative and which one was a liberal. (And it would only be a wild guess at that).

The fact is that, without knowing who said something, we cannot judge any further than the words themselves. We can only read the words apart from our bias and take the words at face value.

Are these men speaking truthfully? We don't really know. We can only take their word for it, honestly. In fact, we really can't even judge their statement of faith based on their behavior because all of us who follow Christ are sinners.

I think this is partly why Jesus commands us not to judge one another in this way. It's simply not our place to determine whether or not someone is saved. Not only that, we're also not very good at it. For example, let's say that you had two neighbors. One of them is always getting in trouble with the law. He was recently arrested and is sitting on death row. You'd probably judge that this guy is bound for hell. Now let's say the other neighbor is always at church. He leads Bible Studies, he’s on staff at the church, and he has practically memorized the Bible. You’d probably judge that this guy is bound for heaven. However, the first neighbor corresponds to the thief on the cross. He lived a life of crime and was punished for his evil actions, but at just the last moment he put his faith in Christ and Jesus welcomed him into paradise that same day. The second neighbor corresponds to the rich young ruler. He was righteous according to the people of his day, and he was wealthy (a sign of God’s favor) and he kept the law. Yet when Jesus offers him a place on his executive leadership staff, the man walks away and stops short of surrendering his life to Christ. In each case, if you and I were the ones judging these two men we would have been dead wrong.

Only God is equipped to judge the eternal destiny of men and women, not us. We are commanded not to judge others and put them into a box labeled righteous or evil because we do not know the heart of man. We can barely know our own heart, much less the heart of someone else.

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." He also told them this parable: "Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. (Luke 6:37-40)

I can already hear the partisan response to my article brewing as I write this. "But how can this President call himself a Christian if he believes in a woman's right to choose abortion?" Or perhaps, "This President is a liar, a murderer, and war monger who has no compassion for minorities or the poor. How can he call himself a follower of Christ?" But if we allow ourselves to judge one person's salvation based on how much they agree with our politics, we're still placing ourselves in the seat of the One True Judge of all mankind, and this is not our place.

At bare minimum, we should be able to give our brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt and believe the best of them before we outright dismiss their statement of faith. Especially if our only basis for doing so is that they disagree with us on politics.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Luke 6:41-42)

When we judge others we forget that we are also sinners saved by Grace who fail often, miss the mark daily and are in constant need of mercy and forgiveness from both God Almighty, and our friends and family.

Everyone you meet in life is decidedly "in process". We are not yet the people we hope to be, and we are no longer the people we once were. This fact should help us to find grace for each other as we go through this life together.

Our main calling is to become experts at loving one another, and loving those who need it most. If someone disagrees with you on a major issue, and if that person identifies themselves as your brother or sister in Christ, then your duty is to pray for them and to love them, not to doubt their eternal salvation or their faith in our Lord Jesus.

-kg

*Note: Quote A was from George W. Bush and Quote B was Barack Obama.

5 comments:

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Question: Do you see any difference between making a judgement about where a person will spend their eternity, and making a judgement about the gospel they are declaring...?

Scripture also says:

"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world." [1 John 4:1-3]

I have no interest in weighing a person's statements about God based on their political partisanship or their perceived performance as a politician...

I DO however see a large amount of scripture that is dedicated to warning us NOT to simply accept as a brother anyone who comes along and claims to "follow Christ"...

It would be extremely unwise to try and deduce what a particular person really believes about Jesus and the Gospel based on a single quote! (and as it turns out, I find suspicious language in both of those statements...)

Nowhere does the Bible tell us to simply "give people the benefit of the doubt". We're not even to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt! (2 Cor. 13:5)

The issue is not one of whether or not a person uses the right religious language or gospel terminology, but a matter of what meaning is being injected into those words and phrases...

Every New Age teacher and guru on the planet claims a belief in Jesus. They will all affirm some notion of "grace". They will affirm forgiveness. They will all even go so far as to give some kind of "positive" interpretation for the cross (since it's rather difficult to deny that it happened...) They can give verbal assent to the words of virtually every orthodox Christian statement of faith under the sun... And yet this is coming from the mouths of men and women who are under the direct discipleship of demons. They are in direct and blatant violation of God's command not to engage in witchcraft and divination, and so have unwittingly become the mouthpieces for fallen spirits who hate God, hate Christ, and hate the gospel with every fiber of their being. Their sole intention is deceive people and turn them away from the gospel that saves, and they are incredibly effective at using biblical-sounding language to preach what is ultimately a satanic gospel...

Without question, we are called to love and pray for such people! They are in bondage and need to be freed! But does that mean we should embrace such people as a brother or sister..? Do we just say to ourselves "well, they're in process, so I'm not gonna judge..."?

Everyone you meet in life is decidedly "in process". That may be true. But we are definitely not all undergoing the same process. We are not all heading down the same path, and we are not all following the same Christ!

Mark said...

The key word to me is fruit. If someone is a follower of Christ their lives should bear witness, not by words but by deeds. James chapter 1 speaks to this, as a life influenced by the Spirit will produce the fruit of the Spirit. Faith without works is dead!

tommy said...

2 Timothy 2:19 is fairly clear on that matter:

"Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” "

1-only God knows
2-if you say (you confess) Jesus is your Lord, act accordingly

I think that Matthew 18:15-17 is a good practical guideline... and the only one we have... and honnestly the only on which work.

We have to judge within the local church. ... but not to judge about eternal destiny, which is God's business, but to judge if a person could still be part of the communauty.

and the order Jesus talks about is crucial. Firstly, go and talk to your brother, then if he refuses to repent, go with another brother, and then if he still refuses to repent go with the entire church.

if this guideline would be followed there would be many problems we would avoid. But it is a very painful way. That's why most of the time it is avoided and sin is dealt by "professionals" and "comitees"...

Our Lord described a way that actually is the way of the cross

it reminds me of Proverbs 27: "the wounds of a friend can be trusted..."
in french it's translated "the wounds that a friend does to you prove his fidelity"

wounds of "a friend"...

I would not start to put into practice the teaching of Matthew 18 about the sining brother to everybody I don't know. He must be my "brother". I think the setting is in a local communauty of believers.

i've found that one of the key feature of a genuine disciple is his will to constantly repent.
And a false-teacher will never repent.... (unless he repents (!?) and stops being a false-teacher...)

All this is very well described in 2 Peter 2, and Jude, and the epistles of John


we have to judge. Paul taught it to the Corinthians. But it is always a painful way. 1 Corinthians starts with a description of Paul's method in such matter.

It's very simple, and it's a folly and a scandal.

it's the cross of Christ

that's it.

are we willing to die ?
if not, a church life is impossible, and we'll become a dead institution.

tommyab
http://tommyab.wordpress.com

Like a Mustard Seed said...

"Are these men speaking truthfully? We don't really know. We can only take their word for it, honestly. In fact, we really can't even judge their statement of faith based on their behavior because all of us who follow Christ are sinners."

This is a pretty troubling statement, because what is essentially being said is that we really can in no way determine who is a true believer in Christ, and who is not...

The problem with that idea is that we would have to go and rip out HUGE portions of our bibles, wouldn't we...?

Like Mark said, it's about fruit... How could Jesus say, "by their fruit you shall know them...", if it is "judgemental" to look at behavior?

Why does Jesus command us to "Watch out for false prophets", if we are supposed to just give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who claims the name of Jesus?

Do you not understand Keith, that there are millions of people on this earth, right now, who "believe in Jesus", but their "Jesus" is NOT the real one..??? Do you not know that people even commune with demons who pretend to be Jesus? Almost every religion on the planet tries to incorporate Jesus into their belief system one way or another! They all try to make a Jesus that conforms with their counterfeit gospel... How could we ignore this?

If you saw a person bowing down and worshipping a piece of stone, or wood, or an animal, and they called that object "Jesus", would you still treat them as a fellow believer? Would it be that difficult to discern if they were worshipping the same Being as yourself? Is it enough that they use the correct name to refer to their idol...?

Maybe you were just trying to make a point about politics, and how they shouldn't shade our view of people and how the Kingdom of God works... Maybe so, but I'd say you also went quite a bit farther then that, even if that wasn't your intention....

Keith Giles said...

Heather/Daniel: It feels as if you're trying to pick a fight with me over things I'm not even implying.

I'm not going to fight with you.

I think anyone who (like you) have read my blog for any length of time will know that I do not advocate demon or idol worship in the name of Jesus. How could you even assume this from my article, or of me as a brother in Christ?

My article is strictly speaking of Jesus' command that we do not judge one another in this way. This way being to condemn someone as a sinner - or to praise someone as a saint - based on what they did five minutes ago, or how they agree/disagree with you on issues, etc.

I'd appreciate not being judged unfairly by you guys as well, especially since you do know me and you know my heart.

Are you judging me by my fruit? Are you calling me a false prophet who denies that Christ has come in the flesh?