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Is your loyalty to a church or movement or Jesus?

November 13, 2007

I received this the other day and I agree with it.  But I wonder about balancing it with a desire not to speak against another group of people who claim Christ as their savior.  But at a point that the gospel they are “selling” is no gospel at all Paul says it means Christ died for nothing!   Read this and tell me what you think?

I ran into a couple last weekend in the grocery store. I knew them maybe a decade ago; we went to the same church. I was pushing my cart down the dairy aisle when I heard someone say, “John!” It was one of those embarrassing moments where somebody clearly knows me and I vaguely remember them, but for the life of me, I can’t recall their name and so I say, “Hi!” back, with enthusiasm to cover myself. We chatted for awhile.

But what was so painfully obvious (to me at least) was that we are no longer on the same page. They seemed stuck in a time warp – still concerned about the same old issues, still attending the same church, still using the same old language. The pretense we maintained for a few moments was, “We’re all still in the same old boat, eh?” Just like the good old days. But we’re not, and for the rest of the day I was uncomfortable, though I couldn’t really explain why. Now I think I have some clarity, but I’m uncomfortable setting it down in black and white for fear of being misunderstood.

Not all Gospels are equal.

We’ve fallen prey to this thinking that it’s wrong to draw a distinction between various movements inChristianity, or churches, or Christians. After all, we know it’s wrong to judge. “Judge not,” Jesus said, “lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:11). A good command, by the way. I’m all for it. But the meaning of this warning has gotten twisted into something else altogether. I find that many Christians are uncomfortable, unable even, to make distinctions between various churches and gospels. And they are really uncomfortable saying that one is better than another.

I was talking to a friend about a Christian college when I said, “They don’t get it.” I was referring to three issues – that the heart is central to the Christian life, that we are invited into a conversational intimacy with God, and that spiritual warfare is real. Rather core categories. I mean, we’re not talking about the length of Jesus’ robe or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin here. What you believe about these issues will profoundly shape your Christian experience. My friend – who is somewhat loyal to the school – was really upset. “It’s not right to say that,” she said. “It’s arrogant.” Now, there is no question that it could be said arrogantly, but I wasn’t being arrogant at all. I was making an observation.

What do you think – is it right or wrong to make observations like that? And voice them?

A few days later a different friend was talking about a church we had once both attended, in particular the women’s ministry (which she was familiar with), and how the Bible study program they were running was focused on duty and obligation, with a heavy dose of legalism. “That’s the last thing women need in their life, more shame and guilt. They’re leading so many women into bondage.” She immediately followed this comment with, “I shouldn’t have said that. It’s wrong to judge. Now God’s probably going to come down on me.” Her sudden shift caused my heart to sink. For one thing, she was right about the women’s ministry, and thus far to my knowledge no one had said it. It needed to be said. For another thing, her immediate selfcontempt was a classic symptom of the belief I’m describing.

Yes, Jesus told us not to judge. Most Christians know the passage, but they think it means, “Don’t ever let yourself get in the mindset where you think you’re right and someone else is wrong.” But, how will we know when we are right? And how will we help someone who is wrong?

Jesus also said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” (John 7:24). Wait a second. Now Jesus is telling us to judge, and carefully. Jesus healed a blind man on the Sabbath, and the Jewish leaders are so upset about it they want to kill him. Talk about missing the point. They had come to worship the Law, not the God of the Law. Jesus is showing them they have missed the spirit of the law entirely. “[Y]ou circumcise a child on the Sabbath. Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? Stop judging by
mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (7:22-24).

Jesus says, “You guys just don’t get it. I established the Sabbath for your restoration. A day of rest, so that you may be restored. Now you’re angry with me for restoring a man on the Sabbath??!! I want you to start making the right distinctions and not the wrong ones.” He does not say, “Don’t make any distinctions.” He says, “Start making a right judgment.” Let’s go to Paul and the Galatian church: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (1:6-9).

Wow. Paul is pretty hacked off here, and pretty vocal about what he sees. The Galatians had begun to embrace a gospel which said, “Yes, faith in Jesus Christ. And, you need to be circumcised, and keep the Law of Moses as well.” A different gospel from the one that Jesus and Paul preached. A “sort-of ” gospel. Just enough “Jesus” in there to make it sound like the real deal. But it’s got other ideas and rules in it that are going to take these folks away from the heart of God and the relationship he offers. (There’s a good bit of this still going around, by the way). Paul isn’t going to ignore it. He has no problem saying, “Hey, wait a minute! You’re wrong about this!” and doing so publicly.

Is Paul “judging?” Well, he’s not being arrogant, and he’s not exposing them to justify himself. But he is certainly making a distinction between the true and the false, the accurate and the not-so-accurate. Do you see? Not every gospel is equal. We need to say so.

This idea that both my friends were under – that it’s wrong to draw distinctions and make value judgments between various forms of Christianity – this is not helpful. And it’s not biblical. But it’s got a lot of good people trapped in bad churches and programs. There’s just enough Jesus words in there to make it sound like Christianity. But it’s not the Gospel Jesus preached. That concerns me. Not all gospels are equal.

You must draw these distinctions. Don’t just stay with the old gang because it’s the old gang. Your loyalty is not to a church or a movement, but to Jesus Christ.
For him,
John

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2007 9:27 am

    touchy subject I guess….

  2. November 15, 2007 10:18 am

    Just hard to find an adequate comment….and you are right, sometimes it is just to fresh and personal to comment on.

  3. November 15, 2007 10:45 am

    I started to comment yesterday, myself, but didn’t know what to say! I agree with what the author wrote, but you have to be really, really careful in how you deal with other people who you don’t agree with on things, I think. Always deal with them in genuine love and not just to get your point across.

    It’s a hard subject to handle or to know what exactly to do with, Tommy.

    Sorry I’m not more insightful.

    Dee

  4. November 15, 2007 1:52 pm

    I have often been in situations where there is a bunch of people in the same group, church, organization, whatever, and half of them really “get” it and the other half only think they get it. The truth comes out when they open their mouths. And it’s sad. The point of deception is to not know you’re deceived.

  5. November 16, 2007 8:47 am

    It is porbably one of those things that is okay when you are still in the group but when you leave that changes.

    My experience is those more like minded have had the hardest time with us. We can put up with it why couldn’t you. As you point out, they don’t seem to see the larger implication of what doing nothing really does.

  6. November 16, 2007 1:22 pm

    This post is excellent! Thank you for writing and sharing it.

    The passage you referred to in Galatians has weighed heavily on me for some time now, I have preached on it and shared with several folks privately my thoughts on it.

    This is where the rubber meets the road. Christ has done quite enough on our behalf. The gospel demands our whole trust in Him, plus nothing for salvation. Add circumcision, church attendance, being in “the right church”, music, # of cups, or any other practice as a requirement for salvation and presto! you have another gospel, or have perverted the gospel of Christ.

    We believers “do” because of who we are and to Whom we belong. We are not in that eternal relationship because of one tiny thing we “do”.

    To suggest that I am being sinfully judgmental by comparing what some preacher, church, or school teaches by the Holy Scriptures is shocking. By that standard those who read Paul’s letter to the Galatians could have accused him of judging. Those of us who are saved should take to heart these words from Jude “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

    His peace,
    Royce Ogle

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