My! Those nasty “Religious Tennis Shoes” sure stink and they fit so comfortably… On everyone?

Any doctrine of scripture can have an inherent nuance or trapping that can lead one to deviate from the purity and simplicity of the gospel of grace, and ultimately from the end of supreme devotion to only Christ. When one begins to exalt methodology or form, and even function over Christology, thus the Person of the actual risen Christ, intellectualism has successfully subverted the Faith. We may horribly find ourselves exposed to the legitimate charge of Jesus Himself as He once condemned the Pharisees, “You will not come to Me that you may have life.” This is not without sound and guilty precedent in the long haul of Church history.

The only sufficient cure I know is that we cultivate a lasting, consistent communion with the living Christ, who amazingly not only tolerates us, but goes with us in the way.

He is the only One who must actually garner our affections more than the formal trappings of high and mysterious doctrinal commentary that easily causes division, distraction, interest… and not unity. His sword is adequate to divide, and He has not called me to frack preexisting man-imposed fault lines we seem enamored with, especially as IQ seems blessed, and understanding increase in the ordinary, and more dangerously, in the proud ner-do-well know it all.

This is no appeal unto an ignorant bliss by neglect of studious preparation, (the goal of godliness ought be the end of Biblical instruction), so it is an entreaty unto experiential holiness by disciplining ourselves thereunto by means of faith working through love with an eye on the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Perhaps, even more so, it is a call to recognize the danger of formalism and traditions that emphasize the works of man over the glory of Christ by their means of encroachment, (and our encouragement of this insidious danger), so that they subtly deny the complete sufficiency of “His purification from sin” as “He has sat down at the right hand of God.” I see this as a real problem in some sects and really otherwise great groups and… denominations… if you, ugh… will?

We know… “Knowledge puffs up, love edifies.”

“Ouch… what a universal fit that stinky old shoe has on all religious types!” It fits rather comfortably upon my foot too.

Lord, teach me the Christ of the Scriptures, that is the Christ who rules and reigns over my heart this day, expanding dominion and conquering prideful arrogance that disqualifies me from the race. Father, the more I learn the more broken I become, but the more glorious I see my Elder Brother who bids me come to Him for life, not trappings that snare though they fit comfortably as a well-worn, though rather malodorous tennis shoe. 

The Murder of Orthopraxy by Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy kills Orthopraxy whenever and wherever absent the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit is given so the totality of our existence may become a sea of Life. “The Spirit gives life, the flesh profits nothing. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and Life.” We must have both.

I believe a great void endangers much of the modern church. I fear this terminal cancer gains ground in many modern conservative evangelical circles. (But hey, who am I? Thankfully as one recently and most pointedly reminded me: I am a nobody. But as a nobody I do know a Somebody, and that is all the encouragement I need. I have no creds but those I present: I am attached to the Vine and the Vine gives glorious life to the branches as we abide in Him. Is there life in another? So whether you like it or not, that establishes my life and my credibility for His Name’s sake. That’s funny isn’t it? A nobody with creds… and some hate that, because I know the King and have an invitation to His wedding, the same as they do. “He has made us to be a kingdom, priests of our God…” (Damn Reformation!) 

It would seem the Spirit of Christ has been disinvited by many for fear of man’s (our) exposure of fraudulent practices of a cold heart often in light of right teachings, “But He when He comes will convict the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness and concerning judgment…” Now who in their carnal mind wants that? To be exposed as a fraud? As a hypocrite? None but the truly penitent man who sees God high and lifted up as he is bent low in true worship. 

Yet we hear resounded in unison chorus, “Not me!” from the pastors of the First & Second & Third Church of  The Only-Most-Anointed Ones. “We are well content in our self-described-darkness, so please, leave us be!”

Ok. We can do that. But first a word of warning by perhaps only a poor attempt to clear up a thing or two…before I go.  “Even a bad shot is dignified when he accepts a duel.” GK Chesterton (Love me some GKC)

How can we tell this infection or condition exists? The fruits. It’s always the fruits. Fruits are EVER reflective of the good or ill condition of the inner heart or state of being of the body. “What’s in the heart comes out the mouth.” Squeeze a man by truth and the Spirit and see what eeks out of him, out of his character flaws, to get small clue what sort of wrath/anger/malice/ bitterness/vindictiveness/ lack of love/ jealousy/covetousness/ etc may be eating away at him, hidden from the eye of man, but known of God. Pressure and stress tell a true story of the soul’s actual state before the discerning eye of the Word of God. All things are open and laid bare to the Word. Pretense is only superficial and only skin deep. God annihilates it with a breath. 

Back on track…

So it’s the fruits beginning with the fruits of repentance brought forth by restoration from the scourge of religious hypocrisy. A hardened hypocrite hates exposure as such, and is blinded by his narrow perception of light to the reality of his deeds. Yet the gospel of grace enables each of us from our particular point of need and hypocrisy to turn from said hypocrisy by bringing forth the fruit of repentant deeds which are Spirit-born and that develop into the responsible actions fleshed out by demonstrable acts manifested by the Spirit-wrought fruits to His glory. We speak of gospel-empowered growth and gospel-driven progression over the long haul of our Christian walk before God. It’s a marathon race, remember? Fruit must grow and mature; or else it rots and falls to the ground. (Fruit must also be utilized in a timely manner or else it becomes rubbish for the swine.) “Against such things (good fruit of the Spirit) there is no law” or limitation. Make the tree good and the fruit good…” We know what happens to bad trees that produce no fruit or that make BAD fruit… (I just pushed up two in my back pasture last week. Why take up my space and ground? They are slated to be burned!)

Biblical Truth has always lived (or died) by recognition and responsive action to this threat or assault upon right living that desires to camp a mere 18 inches above the heart and between our ears only. This assault is relentless and ubiquitous on all fronts simultaneously. Its subtlety is its attractive inherent snare. Dry intellectualism or formalism and the knowledge of God without knowing God is fulfilling and ever present in some form in EVERY setting from the meekness prayer closet to the most prestigious seminary lecture hall with steps leading to the most popular pulpit in the land. None are exempt. All stations in life are called to answer the alarm to “watch and pray lest you enter into temptation.”

Faith only works through love. “But the greatest of these is love.”

“You will not come to Me that you may have life.”

(Jesus to the Religious elite of his time. Notice it’s not to the common man but to the religious hypocrite to whom He brings condemnation.)

“Take heed to your self and your doctrine… to ensure salvation…”

For me I think a regular reading of Bunyan and Ryle give help in preventing and treating this blindness. Lewis is always helpful for whatever ails me too. To say it isn’t happening to you without evaluating the fruit in your life and ministry is disingenuous and indicative of a potential problem. Coupled with a steady diet of Bunyan, Ryle, Lewis and the like, is the regular practice of acknowledging and confessing our sin of self-righteousness hypocrisy which we so easily fall prey to because of the absolute wealth of information we have literally at our fingertips at any time. This can subtly produce a calloused indifference to the plight of our fellow man as it breeds a smug satisfaction that they get what they deserve as we bask in the warmth of love and grace. We can become tunnel-visioned in our pursuit of the next spiritual nugget of wisdom which we hope to uncover by intellectual pursuits apart from heart surgery upon the idol of Self which becomes puffed up as we engorge him with more information yet devoid of required love.

Spiritual Life however is never by orthodoxy in vitro alone, but can live only in orthopraxy, which always must involve the death of Self in vivo, and that by the Spirit of God who both kills and brings life to light by the Word implanted. 

Navel-Gazing vs Finding the Real Cause of it All!

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” (Paul)Philippians 3:7

Grace takes natural gifts, and even spiritual privilege, spiritual pedigree and all zealous works and shifts them in total to the liability side of the balance sheet, from our perception of the asset column in which we had placed them. These “assets” are one and all without exception hindrances to our entry into the narrow door, and must be repented of in their entirety. Self-Righteousness and good works unto attempted justification before holy God will condemn a man to hell as certainly as blasphemy. In the parable of the Wedding Feast the man’s appearance without proper wedding apparel into the King’s dinner celebration resulted in his being cast into outer darkness. He made it a great distance and convinced many of his eligibility to enter, but he failed the King’s scrutiny in the final judgment. We must take heed unto our selves and our doctrine. 

If we are trusting in our confidence of a ticket stub held in hand that gives apparent validation of an past experience or decision we made, and not the present experience of the living God who works deeds of deliverance in our lives today, we need to go again to the basis of saving faith. We must again reconsider, remember and reflect upon the One Mediator sufficient to bring about an eternal ceasefire between ourselves and the Holy God of Heaven. Am I navel-gazing and overcome with grief, sorrow and guilt over my failures to meet my standard, or even worse, condemned by His impossible standard? Or do I grace-gaze into the heavens, anticipating the blessed hope and glory of the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ? I say it is a potential idol to look at a decision or anywhere else, and not to Jesus alone. No where in scripture is such counsel given to recollect a past decision as the basis of hope, but rather, “As you received Christ as Lord, so walk in you Him.” FAITH! We are always compelled to look to faith’s Author and Finisher!

Peter says it well for us all in John 6:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have words of eternal life and we have believed and come to know that You are the holy One sent from God.”

We must never forget: There simply never has been an adequate Plan B. Not ever. WHEN WE BELIEVE WE BEGIN TO KNOW GOD, and that is Eternal Life. 
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