There are many different kinds of teachings of the gospel out there. We all have come to our own way of thinking and believing, holding a “my faith is my own” approach in conversation. We’ve all allowed some form of “post-modern” thinking to creep into the faith. We live in a post-modern era, or later, and it has had a huge effect on our thought process. It’s very self-absorbed. “You have your way of thinking, I have mine. It’s relative. Maybe that’s the way you believe or understand it, but I believe differently. All roads lead to the same destination. Truth is up to the interpreter.” No solid foundations found on beliefs because there is supposedly no solid foundation. Nothing is sound. And all of this is done so we can learn to coexist. It’s more important to be politically correct in our terminology than to address the absolute, obvious reality.
I’m tired of being politically correct. I don’t think it’s necessary. I think that instead of being on guard and afraid to offend all the time, I must act out of love. There’s a deeper issue that lies at the root of all this craziness and all of us know what true differences are. Maybe the issue is we’ve left sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel of Jesus for myths. Or maybe we devote ourselves to a saying, believing it’s gospel truth. Maybe we’ve lost the meaning of what things are supposed to be because we’ve enforced them on things where they have no relevance. Maybe, in all this, we’ve promoted controversial speculation instead of advancing God’s work–which is by faith.
I’m reading Timothy now. Paul’s letter to his “true son in the faith” is so intriguing. It’s a letter that charges Timothy to keep to what is sound amidst a culture that runs after the next great philosophy. Paul tells Timothy to stay in Ephesus, to command those who are teaching false doctrine to stop it. Then he gives him clues as to who they are. They teach and devote themselves to the wrong thing, desiring to become something that they don’t understand or know anything about.
A common debate in the early church was the use of the commandments in the Old Testament. But the apostles taught that Jesus fulfilled the Law and thus we’ve been shown grace and don’t need to follow the rituals any longer. But the Jews who would convert had a tough time getting to a place where they could walk away from that heritage, the form of worship they were so used to. And sometimes those who didn’t practice things taught in the law were viewed with contempt. These works would bring an attitude of self-righteousness.
So a majority of Paul’s letters would mention, and do, that we are saved by grace through faith, not through works. Jesus did the work. The work is over. Our acceptance of God’s grace should now bring us to a place where we live out His love in response to it. Let’s face it, finding righteousness through comparison with others is easy when everything is based on works. But when grace is involved, works just don’t matter because we’re not earning anything. It’s grace. Forgiveness. A second chance. We’re made right with God through Jesus. It has everything to do with God now. So what matters is our response to that grace.
I think about our doctrine and the things taught in church. Believe me, I think there are many of us who feel unqualified for this calling and would tell you the same thing: I’m really not sure I’m supposed to be doing this. Unqualified is a good term. Then there are those who believe they are qualified. Isn’t it weird how we generally prefer listening to teachers who think they aren’t qualified to the people who think they are? There’s a way to tell the difference: it’s motivation.
Motivation has everything to do with who teaches and who doesn’t. Those people Paul told Timothy to command to stop were motivated by something other than love. Paul specifically mentions that the goal of the command to stop is love. It comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. There’s no deeper motivation. This love is focused on the other rather than self. There’s no hidden agenda, no guilt after confrontation, and a genuine love for God is displayed.
I would assume these guys are in the church or claim to be believers of some kind. It’s obvious they didn’t get it. Paul gives Timothy a great script for addressing them. The law is good, but isn’t for righteous people. It’s for unrighteous people; people who don’t know Jesus to get them on the right track.
Now we get to what I was mentioning earlier. Again, I’m not sure how to put this in words very well because it’s still being digested. It seems that there are a lot of myths that have entered lifestyle of a Christian. They may not be bad things, but they are meaningless in comparison with the gospel. What I mean by that is God doesn’t hold the value on them like we do. There’s a status quo, a belief system based on American thought that has infiltrated the church in a subtle way. Maybe there’s lots of them that we don’t realize. I’m not sure of what they all are or even of what one would be. I have ideas, but each one is up for debate, and I’m not going to “promote controversial speculations” or turn to “meaningless talk” right now. These are things you’re going to have to take up with God. But I do want to promote something else: love.
Are the things we’re doing, the conversations we’re having, the thoughts we’re thinking peppered with love? Are we advancing God’s work (which is by faith) and promoting love, or are we advancing our work and promoting ourselves? Are our motives based our self-fulfillment instead of love for God, love which stems from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith? Are those three things something that we’re known for? Are we committing to trash what is meant to be for holiness? How much of our talk is meaningless? How much of our lifestyle does God value? (notice I didn’t say “life” because God values your life more than His Son) How is our response to a grace we didn’t deserve? Are we still trying to earn it? The question that will haunt me today is this one: Is our faith in God or ourself?