“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” 1 Corinthians 1:30
The following post was birthed from a letter to a blogger’s question, regarding John Piper’s and Rick Warren’s theology. I didn’t want to leave a book-length comment and opted to send an email instead. My intent was not to debate anyone’s theology but to address some thoughts that I’ve been struggling with for quite some time now. The question was merely an invitation for me to finally exhale…
I’ve edited the letter as a blog post, and have stuck a few extra thoughts between the lines for clarification (well okay, a few more than a few extra thoughts).
In a recent email, a friend seemed a bit worried about sounding too mythical, and I knew exactly what she meant on so many levels! To make what could be a long story very short, it seems that some bloggers are walking tiptoed on eggshells… (ask me how I know).
I’ve been dubbed heretical because I would not take sides with rudeness; have been defriended and snubbed because I don’t join ‘ism clubs, hunt for heretics under every rock, or throw the baby out with the bathwater… (and I don’t even go out of my way to ask for confrontation). But, enough about me already.
But wait…there’s more.
God has rescued me from humanism and very very, I mean, very bad doctrine. One of the first things I’ve learned, aside from the most painful dose of humility, is that God is sovereign over ALL things. He really doesn’t need our last word, persuasive diction, clever debates, hot fudge, or cold shoulders. I’ve also learned that salvation is a gift and that sanctification is not separate from the finished product of Christ and its permanence, and am learning still that my allegiance to what I believe, know, and endorse could never save another soul, or win extra brownie– or ‘ism points, or a purer following, or a front row seat in heaven, or whatever…). I’m learning to relax! Do I really believe that God is really in charge! Do you? (Sorry, I’ll try to keep it short.)
Please hear what I am not saying! I am not shunning my responsibility to be sober, vigilant, obedient, or discerning! I am merely trying to shun distractions and unnecessary derailings, which do not build up but tear down. What finally rescued me from the wolf’s den and broke my heart to repent was not anyone’s clever persuasion or insult, but God! We are not in a word, intellect, or carnal weapons battle. We’re in a spiritual battle.
However, aside from God’s word, which always speaks loudest, many other things were also influential in meaningful ways. One of the first of such things was a John Piper video. Other influences were a study by Tim Keller, letters by Brother Lawrence, works by A. W. Tozer, many books by C.S. Lewis and other dead theologians (some of whom were probably at odds with each other), and many books and posts of current pastors and bloggers (many of whom are probably at odds with each other), and I thank God for them all (faults and all)! He knows what He’s doing!
I’ve joined a Baptist church and am friends with Lutherans, Presbyterians, Calvinists, Armenians, and some other folk who look at me strange when they discover that I read puritan books or old catholic hymns. (Do I sound too ecumenical? :c) Why am I saying all this? God is sovereign! I trust Him 100% (at least I want to, although I don‘t always act like it)! He has opened my eyes to so much, and I’m sure that there’s a lot more to be discovered (do I sound too mystical? :c)
Okay, enough with the sarcasm. God was most patient and not sarcastic when I was grossly deceived! Ask me how bad I feel about having deceived others in my deception, including my own loved ones! But God was most merciful and patient throughout the entire time, full of grace and truth, and He showed me most effectively yet tenderly, how Christ has already taken all that sinful stench upon Himself.
But no matter how influential others were, they did not open my eyes! God did!! Those same videos and books would not have had the same effect during the blind spell that God had allowed me to be in. There is only one person whose flawless words finally broke through the darkness, and we all know who that is. The rest—all of the rest of us, are flawed (some more than others, and others dangerously or hopelessly so). But God uses flawed people in spite of themselves! And, until God writes the word ‘elect’ across everyone’s forehead, we ought to steer clear of condemning others. Yes, many are still lost, but perhaps not hopelessly or eternally so (just like we once were), and others are grossly and even dangerously deceived (just like I once was). And yes, some are completely lost, but only God knows who they are and whose they are, regardless of who or whose they think they are.
The only thing Rick Warren has offered me thus far is a big red flag to steer clear of humanism. I thank God for that! Like I said, I am not shunning my responsibility to be discerning while God is ever faithful. But God would have been just as faithful, had I never read any blog entries raising and waving caution flags. God and His word are sufficient to do just that, and they are fully trustworthy! God uses others to teach or mislead us, always aiming to reveal His truth in the end. He even allows us to be deceived for a season and for a reason—to bring us to our senses (or knees, or faces, whichever comes first)!
Our human tendency is always toward humanism (even while we preach or rail against it). We love comfort, safety, familiarity, our own opinion, and more… and I think we shall be flawed like that even long after regeneration, just not hopelessly so, but under God’s mindful eye and flawless purpose. We lack much, even within the bounds of the most sound biblical theology, and God must teach us much throughout our sanctification process until we finally reach the full perfection that is promised us in Christ Jesus at the end. But we can’t get there on our own two legs, no matter how well-trained they are, or how centered on the truthful path they remain! We can’t take credit and God may just throw us a detour if we should ever think to have arrived on our own accord. It is not, and never will be, about our own perfection. It’s not about anyone’s imperfection either, but always and forever about Christ’s perfection!
As much as we need to study God’s word, we won’t get our theology, doctrine, or hearts 100% right—but God will! How many books has man written on the subject? How many books have been beneficial? Many! How many flawed? Many! How many books are sufficient? One! I don’t need a purpose driven life, I need a God driven life! I don’t need to defend Piper or Warren or Calvin or Luther… or even God. God can and will defend Himself! But I do want to shamelessly honor Him and commend His perfection and grace! I pray for God’s truth and His help continually, knowing it shall not always come easy or bereft of heart-break and humility. I pray for God’s strength and courage to help me to uphold the truth, although at times I shall fail. I’m sinful like that! I also ask God to smack me upside the head whenever I need it! And He will do it, even if I never read another ‘perfect’ person’s opinion. God will reveal His!
I knew nothing about John Piper, when I first found his helpful video, and my first human instinct was to like and follow him, and to find more such eye-opening gems. And I did! I found to my great surprise and disappointment, that man is flawed and weak, a real good indication that I need not follow man but Christ. I thank God for teaching me that people are imperfect (all of them!); that people tend to develop formulas and towers that fit their clever understandings or soothe their sincere (yet oft lofty) longings. But God will not be fooled or put in a box, and neither will He share His glory. However, God will reveal His truth to whomever He will, and He will use whatever and whomever He sees fit to get the point across. Sometimes He even uses those we admire (or think we admire) the most. He’s wise like that!
God also shows us that we really really need to pray for those in ministry. As much as I like and respect my pastor, your pastor, and many other true pastors, I must realize that aside from Christ, everyone is flawed, slanted, and subject to deception. That’s why Christ said, “Follow me.” However, God is faithful! He is sovereign! He knows how to save completely and for always. God makes no mistakes, and Christ has already paid full price for all of ours! Grace rests on His merit, and not on ours! And that’s my take on your latest blog.
In His love
It’s not always easy to hit the ‘send’ or ‘publish’ button. I’m a wimp like that, with much to learn. And it is always a blessed surprise to receive an encouraging response or comment. Here are some snippets of the response I received, for which I am very grateful:
Thanks very much, my friend. I think you have hit upon something quite valuable, and that is that God IS the One who is in charge of all of this. He is the One who saves.Yes, our doctrines may not be perfect and we and our pastors are flawed.
I guess what we should aim to do is to point to Christ and Him alone. To try and steer people away from, out of themselves and what they do, in relationship to how God loves them.
The Lord works His gracious will in many places where His name is proclaimed. We are thankful for that.
I used to listen to a Baptist preacher in the dead of night (both literally and figuratively) and although the doctrine was much different than I now believe, the Lord used that Word to keep a hold on me…
Teachable, may we always be teachable!!
Oh, I know this is an awfully long post, breaking all my ‘how to be a better blogger’ resolutions. But, I really had to get this off my chest. Thank you for your time!
Photo by jshapins Flickr