Sunday, August 5, 2018

Words on Unity

Can there be unity without love? Can there be unity without truth? I answer no to both questions. Not a gentle, meek-and-mild no, but a strong NO. Is God glorified by a unity devoid of love? Is God glorified by a unity devoid of truth? Again, I say NO. If either love or truth is absent there can be no true union, no unity.

We live in a time when love is socially acceptable--something that everyone, everywhere can agree is good--but truth is not socially acceptable. Truth is seen as an unwelcome guest--an offensive intruder. Truth is a potential threat. Hold a high opinion of truth? Dare to believe there's such a thing as absolute truth? Claim that the Bible should have authority in a believer's life? Be audacious enough to claim that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life? You certainly won't be popular in many circles. There's nothing worse than to be close-minded enough to believe that the Word of God is the Word of God is the Word of God.

Love the Bible? That automatically means you must hate everyone and that you judge everyone at every opportunity. You can't love the Bible without pointing your finger at everyone, right? To believe the Bible must mean that you think you're better than everyone else. You can't possibly hold the Bible to be true and not be full of hate and righteous indignation?!

You can hold fast to the truth and still believe that LOVE is absolutely central to the faith, to the ins and outs of how to live a life pleasing to God. Growing in truth should keep you humble, keep you repentant, keep you on your knees, so to speak. Growing in truth should make you more compassionate, more understanding and empathetic. Growing in truth should lead you to love more...not less.

Think about it. If you believe what the Bible has to say--about heaven and hell, about sin and salvation, about grace and forgiveness--how can you keep that truth to yourself?

IS the Bible offensive? Yes. But it's equally offensive. It doesn't distinguish or play favorites. It clearly, emphatically calls every man, woman, boy, girl--no matter their age, race or nationality, gender, sexual orientation, profession, political affiliation, weight or height--a sinner in need of a Savior. If the Bible condemns, it condemns everyone. If the Bible calls for repentance--for transformation--it calls everyone to repent. There are no righteous not in need of a Savior. No one can--apart from Christ, apart from union to Christ, apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit--please God and be in right relationship with God. No one. It doesn't matter how you feel about yourself or how you judge yourself. You may think, "I'm a good person. I'm a great person. I'm super-kind and generous. I'm always doing for others. I never let my anger get the best of me. Everyone loves spending time with me because I'm AWESOME. God would be lucky to get to spend eternity with me." You still need Jesus. Desperately. Apart from him there is no hope, no peace. There can be no reconciliation. You're a sinner in the hands of an angry God.

Before there can be good news there has to be bad news. People need to know what they're being saved from, why they need to be saved. People don't always, won't always FEEL a need for a Savior. They won't always be "seeking" an answer.

When people push truth to the side, to the background, or out of the picture together--they aren't being honest about the gospel, about the good news. They may think they are acting out of love, of kindness, of gentleness. They may think--sincerely think--that they are following in Jesus' footsteps. But Jesus made bold proclamations. Many of them. Not just two proclamations. The one about love being the greatest commandment and the other one about do not judge lest you be judged. If you look at his life, at his teaching, at his ministry you will see he called for everyone to repent, to turn from their sins, to turn to God, to put their faith in him, to follow and obey him. He did not proclaim that every person has their own truth to live by, that every person should just follow their own heart, that every person should just do what feels right and best to them. Truth did not become more ambiguous by his coming, but clearer. He did not say that it would be easy and comfortable to follow him. He said it would be hard and COSTLY. That they would have to sacrifice MUCH--dare I say ALL. We are to be living sacrifices. We are called to forsake sinning. We are not called to give up some sin and cling to other sins. We are not allowed to keep pet sins around. We are not called to judge which sins in our lives are little, tiny, inconsequential. We are not called to rank sins highest to lowest or lowest to highest. Mortifying our own sins should take up 99.9% of our time leaving us hardly a moment to notice the pet sins of others. But we are called to mortify sins. To declare war on sin--on Satan. The Christian life is a battle to be fought--day after day after day after day after day. We are to battle sins, not sinners. We are to love good, hate evil. We are to distinguish between what is good and what is evil. Perhaps not so much for the sake of the world but for our own sakes. We have the Bible for a reason. Truth matters. It isn't inconsequential.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. John 4:23-24
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:5
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. John 16:13 
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 1 Corinthians 13:6
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:14-16
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 2:13

This is good, and pleases God our Savior,who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:3-5

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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