Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Grace & Telling the Truth Go Hand in Hand!

Years ago, in another life, I listened to many men and women give their Bible College "Chapel Talks." Occasionally someone would veer over into doctrinal areas and share the truth about the New Testament's teaching on immersion for the forgiveness of sin, and its place in the plan of salvation. Usually I would later hear a particular administrator commenting on it. She would often say, "that wasn't very gracious." This became her code for "immersion is controversial, perhaps we should say nothing about it as it may offend some people."

There is seemingly a great fear of putting people off by telling them the truth. Of course, no one likes to be told they're not telling people the truth. And now it is often defended by the catch word of "grace." The Bible College administrator didn't think it was "gracious" to say immersion was essential to salvation. People who speak the truth are often labeled as teaching and practicing a "graceless theology." Is this "new speak" for saying "whatever you want to do or believe is ok, just join my group and I won't offend you by sharing the truth with you"?

If advocating preaching & teaching sound doctrine is "graceless" then we need to return to the Scriptures. Paul warned against "tickling ears" (i.e. telling people what they want to hear, that they're ok just the way they are, etc.) in 2 Tim. 4:3, 4. The apostle who presents most of the New Testament's teaching on the subject of grace also forcefully demonstrated that not speaking the truth was a dangerous and unloving thing to do!

Paul risked preaching the truth even though he knew it would put him at odds - both with believers and non-believers. Paul did not avoid the hard or controversial topics just because it might offend people. When one reads 1 Corinthians they find forceful teaching on issues that are controversial, but necessary to know. He teaches on morality & salvation in chs. 5 & 6. He writes of the role of the Holy Spirit in chs. 12-14. He defends the truth of the resurrection in ch. 15. All of these topics - and more - show Paul defending the truth of God's Word even though it might be offensive to some. He noted this in 2 Cor. 2:14-16 saying that his message was to some an aroma of life and an aroma of death. He put the truth out there, the responsibility was then on those who heard to accept his message for what it was: the truth.

Paul lamented the fact that some would turn away, and even reject him personally, all for telling the truth. In Gal. 4:16 he writes, "Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth?" Galatians is all about the topic of being saved by grace not by works. Paul maintains that to be in a grace relationship with Christ you must know the truth and you must follow it - God's way, not man's way.

A relationship with God, or starting/growing a church, is not ala carte, taking a little of this teaching, some of that one, or rejecting this one altogether and making your faith what *you* want it to be! We do our world a dangerous disservice by telling them God is really ok with you just the way you are. Jesus told the "rich young ruler" that he lacked something in Mk. 10:21. When the young man turned and walked away Jesus didn't run up and say, "wait a minute, don't worry about that, it's no big deal." Jesus told him the truth, and the young man rejected it to his own peril.

How sad it is that we think we need to avoid the Bible's teaching {doctrine} because it might put someone off. Actually, it will save them from hell if we will be bold & courageous enough to teach it. Paul told Timothy that as he pointed these things out to the brethren he would be a good servant of Christ (1 Tim. 4:6). He later told him to "Prescribe and teach these things" (1 Tim. 4: 11). When the doctor gives a prescription it is for the benefit of the patient. When we teach and maintain sound doctrine it is for the eternal benefit of those who will listen. A physician who doesn't prescribe life-saving medicine is not fulfilling his obligation to his patients. A teacher/preacher who will not prescribe sound doctrine does so to the danger of those unfortunate enough to hear him and think he is doing a good work.

No one denies that salvation is by grace (Eph. 2:8). But it is a misuse of the term grace to twist it to mean that whatever we teach (or don't teach) is fine as long as we love God. This is a gross error! Sound doctrine matters. Preaching the truth in love matters. Grace and truth were realized in Jesus' incarnation (Jn. 1:14, 17). Paul wrote to the Colossians that, "All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth (1:6). John wrote, Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, will be with us in truth and love (2 John 1:3).

So to the faithful communicators of God's Word out there: Keep preaching the truth of the Scriptures. It is the gracious & loving thing to do. Don't fall into the devil's trap of tickling ears just to grow your congregation.

C'mon, Murphy, let's go outside!