A couple of weeks ago, I was shocked (and a little perturbed) at a Facebook post a friend of mine published. He does not believe that God speaks to the human heart except through the Word. He was being critical of those (like me) of a more Blackabean bent who believe that God does speak and lead with details by the Holy Spirit to the human heart and mind. That’s fine. I think he is wrong – don’t see how you can get to his position from the Bible. He does not think our position is biblical either.
What disturbed me was not that he disagreed, but the way he framed the disagreement. Our view was a great danger to the church, according to him. He basically condemned the beliefs of millions of sincere Christians, painting us as threats to the work of Christ because we disagree with him on an issue that is anything but fundamental to the gospel. The disagreement was not over the gospel, or inerrancy, or the Trinity, or the divinity of Christ. Nope. It was about an aspect of the working of the Holy Spirit over which sincere Christians have always disagreed.
The point today is not whether God speaks to the heart in ways that supplement the clear revelation of the Word, or not. It is about the way we treat people with whom we disagree.
This story was brought to mind yesterday when I was reading my Bible. Ever had that moment when a verse just leaped off the page (the Holy Spirit speaking, right? – sorry). Luke 9:49 did that for me yesterday.
John came to Jesus all aflutter because there was a man casting out demons in the name of Jesus. Terrible, right? This man was doing what the disciples sometimes failed to do – he was healing people possessed by demons. And he was doing it in the name of Jesus. Scandalous, right? The problem was revealed in John’s wording.
“We tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.”
The disciples were not so concerned with whether or not people’s lives were being changed, or whether souls were being freed from demon possession. They were concerned that people be part of their group. There is a natural controlling tendency in all of us, that was clearly also present in Jesus’ disciples. We seek to impose conformity and authority over others. We demand that people not only name the Name, but that they be part of our little group as well.
Have you ever struggled when you heard of something really good happening at another church? When God does something wonderful through a Calvinist, does it bother you? When a non-Calvinist is blessed, do you discount it – it was probably “of the flesh, not of the Spirit”, right? Do we rejoice that God is saving millions around the world through charismatic/Pentecostal churches that do not share our theology and, in fact, err seriously on many doctrines we cherish?
Jesus refused to sanction their controlling thinking.
“Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”
Rejoice that the work of God is done and that souls are being freed, even if the work is not done under your control or authority, by someone in your group, or under the same doctrinal and practical banner under which you minister.
A “Moment” of Blessing
On September 14, I had an amazing moment of worship. We had a ministry called Convoy of Hope come to Sioux City. You can watch a video of that here is you are interested. Twenty-seven churches from around Siouxland – Assembly, Reformed, Bible churches, the two SBC churches, and a wide variety of others – joined to provide around 1300 volunteers to minister to nearly 6000 poor and needy folk in Siouxland. We gave them fun, food, job counseling, family photos, haircuts, shoes for kids, medical/dental screenings (especially breast cancer screening for women) and a host of other benefits – all at no cost. Then, at the end we attempted to pray for them and share the gospel with them. Nearly 5000 allowed that spiritual contact and several made professions of faith.
The “moment” I spoke of happened on Friday night at our volunteer rally before the ministry on Saturday. Just about 1100 Christians from all over Sioux City were worshiping together as one. For two days, we were not Baptists or Charismatics or Methodist or Reformed or whatever. We were Christians ministering to needy people in the name of Christ. As we sang together, hands raised all over the stadium, I could only think that God was honored and glorified by the churches of Sioux City laying down their doctrinal distinctives for couple of days to unite in worship and in ministry.
Of course, all of these churches proclaim (with varying levels of effectiveness) the biblical gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This was not just a food-giveaway or social ministry. It was helping needy people with their physical needs so that we could also minister to their spiritual needs and tell them about Jesus. It was gospel-oriented social ministry. I would not have participated in some kind of ecumenical ministry that hid the gospel and pretended we were doing God’s work. Unity of the Spirit can only come with those who have been baptized in the Spirit upon their conversion to Christ.
But within this gospel group, there was a wide range of views on a wide range of subjects. Lots of charismatics with all their questionable theology. But if you ever worship with charismatics you will see a pure passion for Christ and his kingdom. Frankly, I love to worship with charismatics. Many lack discernment – that is true. But they also usually lack that critical, condescending, nit-picking, wet blanket theological perspective that so many in the Baptist world, especially the Baptist blogging world, exhibit.
The word of Jesus would be to accept our brothers and sisters in Christ, even those with whom we disagree, as full brothers and sisters, as fellow heirs of Christ! Your charismatic brethren are not psychics or psychotics. They may have some theological issues and lack discernment, but they are passionate followers of the same Christ you love. Reformed people (Baptist or otherwise) are not the enemy of the gospel. Non-Reformed people are not idiots who do not read or know how to interpret the Bible. They are your brothers in Christ.
The next time we disagree with someone, we would do well to remember the words of Jesus. If they aren’t against us (by denying the biblical gospel or the other fundamental doctrine) they are part of the family. Treat them as such. Even when you confront their doctrine, do so in love and honor.
Even your errant brethren are brethren! Treat them as if they are what God says they are.