Lesson 12 -- first quarter 2006
February 19, 2006
© Copyright 2006
"Thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life"
Far and wide, churches today have discarded doctrine in favor of opinion and experience. It seems that, in an effort to include more and more people just as they are, many denominations have opted to exclude more and more doctrine. That is one end of the spectrum. At the other end we find individuals and congregations who hold fervently to the Biblical doctrine they have while at the same time knowing there exist other godly doctrines of which they have not learned. So, my friend, know the doctrine, learn the doctrine!
"From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine...for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:15,16).
However, Christian living encompasses so much more than doctrine, as vital as that is to each of us. The Christian life involves way more than what happens within our hearts and within our meeting houses. As elementary as this sounds, the Christian life includes how the Christian lives.
How do you live? What have you learned about putting the Christian faith into practice? People around us need both to hear and to see how one goes about loving his neighbor...and his enemy...as himself. They need practical, imitable examples of holiness, joyfulness, and peace. They need models of separation, nonconformity, and contentment. They need patterns of kindness, generosity, obedience, and selflessness. In other words, they need you living the Christ life.
"...Throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:17).
"Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned"
Having that kind of truth and knowing that kind of responsibility for living the truth, why do people who know the truth choose to disobey it? I am guessing that you may find the answer as near as your own heart. Perhaps if I point out three of my answers you will be able to fetch out some of your own.
Rationale. Even though I know what God wants of me and even though I know what is best for me, I can still "figure out" how to avoid complete obedience. I may choose to poison my mind on the one-legged premise that I ought to have a working knowledge of the world's thought patterns. I may refuse to forgive a not-apologized-for offense because it is a healthy thing for the offender to endure the humiliation and cleansing of having to ask for forgiveness. I may accumulatewealth or avoid the headship veil because certain Bible passages were "obviously intended" only for those to whom they were originally directed. My friend, let's face this head on: Where the flesh quails, "reason" prevails. So let's get this straight: "ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD" (Isaiah 51:1) go together and cannot be separated. We cannot seek the Lord unless we are ready to follow after righteousness. Neither can we follow after righteousness unless we seek the Lord.
Radical. We all know that those who go overboard are up to their necks (or over their heads) in trouble. So as we consider the teachings of the Scripture, we at times fall into the trap of so-called conventional wisdom. We don't want to go overboard in our obedience. We don't want to overdo it. We are wary of radicals and we definitely don't want to be one. Isn't fearing wealth a little radical? Isn't unconditional non-resistance a little radical? Isn't absolute forgiveness a little radical? What about non-conformity, purity, integrity, and set-your-affection-on-things-above? Our flesh craves the pseudo-safety and bogus balance of the middle. God wants us zealous and boiling-hot for the truth. Unless we are unflinching and steadfast in our obedience, we surely will be turned upside down by the world instead of turning it rightside up.
Reproach. "Yeah, I know Mark Roth. He's the fellow with no cones in his eyeballs -- he only sees black and white." My flesh is quite concerned about my public image. I fear the ridicule of others who think I may be taking this literal obedience "thing" too far. (For example, when people find out why I don't own a house, will they mock me?) What kind of shame and humiliation are you willing to bear for your obedience? What kind of condescension and ostracism? Remember that our ears are for the Lord, not for man's opinion. Remember that God alone has called us. Remember God's message to His obedient church: "He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD" (Isaiah 51:3).
Let's move forward with renewed zeal. Let's pursue obedience as though our success and destiny depended on it -- because they most certainly do! Why should I disobey God in order to appease my flesh? Why should I disobey God in order to be "balanced"? Why should I disobey God because I fear mere mortals?
"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).
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