Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The first shop he stopped at was called Charisma. It claimed to provide useful tools for the journey. But as he entered there was a protest going on. Some carried signs saying no one could be successful on their journey without certain tools. Others were saying those same tools were fraudulent and should not be sought after. But curiously enough, the traveler found a package of tools with his name on it selected by the King for him. He picked up this package and went on.
Next he came to the shop of Proskunema which offered merchandise meant to honor the King. But as he looked around he saw this was not one shop but many, all offering different types of wares, though there were a few basic types. Some offered venerable and ornate items with deep historical significance. Others were boisterous and frenetic and favored loud celebration. And some were austere and restrained, avoiding any ostentation or excesses. Also, while some items honored the King, many exalted the sellers or their experiences or the groups they belonged to. Even the items the King mandated, the sign of water and the sign of bread and wine, came in a perplexing variety of forms. The traveler took a simple form of the required signs and such other things as he felt honored the King and moved on.
The next shop, Logos, offered maps for the journey. There were maps in older or more modern language, many with interpretative helps. There was also a variety of other aids to interpretation, ranging from brief condensations stating people's position on the contents of the map to detailed scholarly treatises to simplified popular books. There were also here many protesters arguing for their version of the map or their compilation of its contents. The traveler picked up a version of the map and, not being so conceited as to despise wise counsel, chose carefully some aids to interpretation.
With persistence he made it to the other end of town, avoiding the multitude offering him quack remedies or quick fixes to help him on his journey. As he left Hype behind he noticed the number of pilgrims on the road had thinned out, as many had stayed behind to sell their wares or to protest. But the traveler let out a sigh of relief as he saw Hype vanish behind a hill.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
The fundamental issue is that our goal should be that of correction and reconciliation; we are to win our brother, not drive them away (Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 12:12,13). We need to start with direct personal confrontation (Matthew 18:15). This does not mean to tell someone else or to try to get someone else to talk to them, but to go to them yourself. There is a reason for this. The goal is to restore the person (the word in Galatians 6:1 is used of setting a broken bone or mending a fishing net) and to restore the relationship. This may not be possible without explaining where you are coming from and perhaps instructing them in the issues. You also need to hear their defense; even if you cannot agree with it, you need to show them you have heard it. Also, if there is reconciliation they need to know you are reconciled and are not still angry with them behind their backs. None of this can be done through a third party. Now I do believe there is a place for invoking love covering a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). But if it is serious enough that it must be dealt with, it should be dealt with properly.
Also, it may be necessary to bring in witnesses, either to attest to their lack of repentance (Matthew 18:16) or to establish the fact of their actions (1 Timothy 5:19). Now these witnesses need to be two or three (Numbers 35:30) and to be open and public witnesses who can testify to the actual facts of the case. In the Old Testament the witnesses were to cast the first stones (Deuteronomy 17:7) and, if false, were liable to the punishment they tried to get imposed on the accused (Deuteronomy 19:15-19). No anonymous or second-hand witnesses should be accepted.
But everything must be done with gentleness (Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 12:12,13). This does not mean we should ignore or minimize sin (1 Corinthians 5:1,2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6), but we must attempt to turn the sinner back to the right way. Even if the church is required to take the final step and exercise discipline (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:3-8), it should be done lovingly, with the hope for restoration (2 Thessalonians 3:14,15; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11). Confronting sin is a difficult task. It should not be undertaken lightly, but it is also dangerous to ignore, if it is necessary. We need to trust God to lead us in the right way to handle these situations. We also need to look to ourselves, that we are not drawn down into the errors of the people we are correcting (Galatians 6:1, Jude 22,23). But we must be careful to approach the situation in a Biblical manner if we hope to genuinely restore people.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The idea that certain spiritual gifts have passed away has no solid basis in Scripture, and we are told not to forbid people to speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:39). (I know it is claimed that modern tongues are not real tongues, but would God command not to forbid something that is about to pass away?) Now there are rules laid down for the use of the gifts (1 Corinthians 14:26-40). However, the description given is fairly informal. We are instructed not to all talk at once and not to do things, such as speaking in tongues without an interpreter, which are not understandable. But we need to be careful of looking down on something because it is not dignified enough (2 Samuel 6:20-23). Also, the fact a gift is misused does not mean it is not legitimate. 1 Corinthians 12-14 was written to check the misuse of spiritual gifts. (Note that Paul was not shy, and if the gifts being used were largely counterfeit, we would expect him to say so.)
There is an emotional aspect to our response to God's truth. We are to rejoice (Philippians 4:4), we are to have peace (John 14:27); even faith, hope, and love have emotional components (1 Corinthians 13:13). But what is appropriate and what is overboard? Now I am hesitant to criticize other people's spiritual experiences, if they do not result in false teaching or disobedience to God's commands. But it is when people pursue experience rather then pursuing God and hold up their experience as necessary for everyone that it creates problems.
Scripture speaks of people being overwhelmed by the greatness of God (Daniel 10:8-12; Acts 9:3-9; Isaiah 6:1-5). I myself have felt the Spirit fall so powerfully I felt like I had been hit by a truck. But I have never fallen over backwards nor felt that God wanted me to. I do not feel I can discount this in all cases as a genuine spiritual experience, but I see no Scriptural basis for requiring it. I have known cases where God's truth has come home to me in such a powerful way I ended up crying or laughing . I am not at all sure this is the same as "holy laughter". As for "holy drunkenness," I do not think this is what Acts 2:13 means. Further, regarding rolling in the aisles, barking like a dog, or roaring like a lion, I do not see a Scriptural or rational basis for these.
But the basic problem is that certain spiritual gifts and emotional experiences are seen as showing a higher level of spiritual life in those who have them. This is contrary to Scripture (1 Corinthians 13:1-3; 12:28-30; Romans 12:3), which says God is at work in all His people to accomplish His purposes (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 2:10).