By Ben Swift
“Let your Christianity be so unmistakeable, your eye so single, your heart so whole, your walk so straightforward that all who see you may have no doubt whose you are and whom you serve.” (J.C. Ryle)
My father once told me a story of an elderly lady who attended his church for many years, only to abandon her faith upon hearing a sermon that conflicted with her long held belief that Jesus Christ was in fact an Englishman. While this may seem ridiculous to most Christians, it does raise an important question. “How is it that any person within a church community can come to hold beliefs that lie so far from the truth revealed in God’s Word?”
Isn’t this the same problem that enables agenda driven television networks to host guests claiming to represent main stream Christianity whilst simultaneously rejecting the resurrection of Christ?
To truly understand how this happens I believe we need to travel all the way back to the beginning; to where the heart of humanity first sprouted from the seed that gave birth to our inherent, fallen nature. Since that dark day, humans have continued in their thirst for equality with God, to know his thoughts, to even control his thoughts, all in the name of ‘the self’. It seems we are not nor have we ever been exclusively satisfied with the Logos; God revealed to us in Christ. Instead we seek to comprehend the incomprehensible, the hidden God, a God that in the end is often created in our own image according to human reason. This is how – even those who attend Christian churches – come to adopt twisted, alternative versions of God’s truth. A Jewish rabbi can even lose his historical roots and somehow become an Englishman.
Perhaps this is why John Calvin suggests, “The human heart has so many recesses for vanity, so many lurking places for falsehood, is so shrouded by fraud and hypocrisy that it often deceives itself.”
Without eyes focused firmly on Christ, Christians are not exempt from this self-deceit.
Is it not true that even those who are being transformed to be more Christ-like, contrary to their ultimate longings to live in communion with God, still fall short of the perfection of Christ? Are they not at war with their own tendencies to manipulate God for their own purposes? Surely we all at times need to be dragged back into Job’s quivering boots to be confronted once again by the truth about our place before God as mere mortals?
“Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? I will question you and you shall answer me….Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him.” (Job 38:1-3 and 40:2)
What then is the answer to the ongoing conflict within the hearts and minds of Christians and between those within the church? Surely our interpretation of Scripture and the authority we assign to it correlates with the opinions we form and the decisions we make both on a personal and church community level?
To live a Christian life is to follow Christ and if we are to walk in his light we need to recognise and listen to his voice. Perhaps this is why Jesus challenges us with these words right before his parable about building our lives on the rock that is himself:
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)
These words should sink deep into the conscience of anyone seeking to truly follow Christ. Wisdom is not formed by the one who is blown around by the influences of alternative truths but rather in submitting to the Logos; God’s wisdom revealed in Christ. This is why theologian, Martin Luther, wrote the following words:
“The Power of Scripture is this: it will not be altered by the one who studies it; instead it transforms the one who loves it.”
“He who has made himself master of the principles and text of the word, runs little risk of committing errors. A theologian should be thoroughly in possession of the basis and source of faith – that is to say, the Holy Scriptures.” (Luther)
It’s once we cease to test doctrines and interpret Scripture with Scripture that the foundations upon which we stand soon crumble, leaving us with a mishmash of subjective opinions formed by serve-serving human beings. Without being anchored to the rock of the Logos, the Church and its’ people become increasingly indistinguishable from the world around them. The light that once shone brightly becomes hidden under the bushel of tolerance for alternative truths and current agendas trending in society.
What we desire as Christians should align with what God wants. This is the path to the narrow gate through which we enter his pastures and his rest. Jesus words are very clear:
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
With childlike humility we are called to submit to what has been revealed to us in God’s Word. He knows what leads us to life because he is life, having spoken all of life into being; breathing breath into each one of us. And so as we seek to interpret the complex world in which we live, let it be done through the wisdom of Christ. When we seek illumination to interpret his Word, let our interpretations be tested with his inspired Scripture. When anybody makes a claim on God’s behalf, let the claim be analysed under the exposing light of the Logos.
Is it clear then to whom you belong? Is there any doubt in the eyes of those in your life as to the source of your faith, hope and truth?
In the words of Jesus not long before his execution, “Not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
By Ben Swift