Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Set in Concrete

I have spoken against quick fixes for the Christian life. But I am convinced that many of our denominational distinctives are quick fixes that have become set in concrete. We come up with something as a key to obtaining spirituality. Then we build a denomination around it. Then, even if these formulas fail to produce their desired results, they are enshrined in that group's doctrinal commitments and are unchangeable. 

There are the various concepts of a second work of grace. Now I am convinced that growth in Christ is a process that happens over time (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:12-16; 1:6). But there is an attraction to finding a short-cut that will get you there instantly. And this becomes a quick fix. Spiritual gifts can become involved as a sign of having reached this higher level of spirituality. Now I see no basis in Scripture for saying certain spiritual gifts have passed away. But I do find that not every person is meant to possess every gift (1 Corinthians 12:11-30; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Peter 4:10,11). Therefore, having a particular gift is not a sign of spirituality.

Another common quick fix is our mode of worship. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the sacraments or ordinances. There is the idea that doing them in the right way or with the right understanding is a guarantee, if not of salvation, at least of closeness to God. Other forms of worship can also have this status. Do we use a liturgy or not? Do we sit quietly or jump up and shout hallelujah? What kind of music do we use? And there is the idea that if we do things right, we are the ones truly in touch with God. Now many of these things are not clearly commanded anywhere in Scripture. But even if it is possible to reach a definite answer on one of these issues, is there any basis for making it a formula for being close to God? Now all the commands of God are to be obeyed, but we all fall short of obeying all of them. Should we regard being correct on minor points as the key to spirituality?

Then we come to the idea of church government. Now I do not see a Scriptural basis for prescribing a particular form of church organization. But it is sometimes claimed that if we just organize correctly, it will be a magic formula for doing the work of God. While many of these ideas are modern, the older ideas of church government seem based on the same idea and are also quick fixes.

Now I do not want to discourage asking what God really commands in any of these areas. But I am convinced that serving Christ is a matter of long-term endurance and not quick fixes. And they unnecessarily divide us up and divert us from what we should be doing.

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