Caught myself thinking again the other day.....actually I was listening to a recording of Bob Kauflin leading "In Christ Alone" (Keith Getty, Stuart Townend) at T4G.
In Christ alone my hope is found....
So, how true is that for you?......for me? My "thinking spell" led me down the paths of all these debates and discourses on Facebook, blogs, forums, etc. I have friends and have myself been involved in the calvinist-arminian debate; I have friends who turn all colors over the young earth-old earth arguments; I've been bent out of shape by paedo-baptist proponents. Now I have a friend who is majoring on "family integrated" assemblies, eschewing age-graded classes, etc.
Wandering further back into time, I revisited my "intellectual" roots. I was an absolute, total, vehement skeptic, unbeliever, "religion is the opiate of the masses" type of guy who by God's grace found himself married to a Christian woman (thank you, Lord!). Early in our marriage, I remember being asked by an acquaintance, a wicked, lying, crooked woman lawyer, "are you in that religious hooey?" meaning "like your silly wife?" I told her, Nah, she does her thing, I do mine.
A few years later, I decided to settle her hash about all that Bible stuff. "Read the Bible, read the Bible, read the Bible......" I kept getting that from her.......So, I said: I will read the Bible and I will show you, for your own good, what a load of baloney it is! I got me a nice "intellectual's Bible"--the Jerusalem Bible--a nice Roman Catholic production with twice as much text in scholarly footnotes as in Bible. I waded through most of the Pentateuch and was getting nowhere....made no sense whatsoever.....and she said: Go to the New Testament, read the Gospels. Yeah, right....
I never got all the way through the Gospels....the conviction of sin was so great, I was literally calling out: What must I do to be saved?!! Just another example of the power of the Word of God....absolutely remarkable, outside reason, outside intellectual understanding, simply supernatural. I pitted my intellect against God and it was no contest.
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
(1 Corinthians 1:20-21)
I need to wake up every morning being aware of this: In Christ alone my hope is found
My "great understanding" of scripture is not a source of hope; my hope is not in the truth of calvinistic soteriology. I think there is a real danger of straying into this intellectual realm, the realms of heated discourse or civil conversation are equally risky. We must not lose sight of Christ. This intellectualism is an aspect of the flesh, a manifestation of pride. Oh, I am so smart......I've got this nearly figured out! All those on the "other side" are so dense; how many more hours must I belabor them before they see the light?
I encourage you to think about these issues in the context of our presence in this world populated with lost and dying men. What's important? How much time do we have for debating, for example, "young earth vs old earth"? Do we want to be known as an outspoken leader in the field of "family integrated worship"? I am very skeptical of the field which is called "apologetics" because it seems over-run by debaters whose primary goal is outscoring an opponent, some sort of intellectual victory.....made him look like a monkey, I did! (Yes, there are a few men in this field who are doing a good job of making the Gospel the center-piece, and I am not referring to them, obviously)
Let's think about a "good debate"--suppose I call out some arminian and he and I debate "limited atonement" I'm an experienced debater (high school and college, albeit half a century ago)....I make him look like that monkey mentioned earlier; I score all the points. Does that make him a calvinist? More likely, it makes him bitter, having been humiliated, and more cautious about whom he debates in future. Me? It just puffs me up a bit more.......Then, I take on an unbeliever, a Muslim, or a cult member and really show them what's what. At the conclusion of the intellectual drubbing I deliver, will they convert? I think not; more likely, they will not see the same result I see, rather thinking they carried the day and affirmed all their own errors....so, both parties leave claiming victory and the lost are still lost; only my pride is enhanced.
I urge you to focus on the Gospel. Lost people do not need to be lectured or hectored about young earth vs old earth.....they are going to Hell no matter how old the earth is. Their only hope is in Jesus Christ........that's Christ the Person, not Christ the intellectual concept which you have garnered from your books........Christ the Person, the one of the song: In Christ alone my hope is found
Preachers, your congregations don't need you to be driven by "family integrated" church structure thinking; they sure don't need a spiritual leader who thinks he's CEO of a million-dollar business enterprise. They need the Gospel! What percentage of your congregation is lost? And you want to spend all your time selling some organizational concept? I'm talking about your FOCUS....incidentals have to be dealt with, I know.....but I'm talking to the way-too-many who are one-trick ponies, monomaniacs who get on some elaborate hobby horse generated by their fertile imagination and ride that poor horse to death, while their congregations starve spiritually for want of the Gospel.
Bottom line is: I don't care if you're young earth, old earth, or middle earth. I don't care if you have age-segregated classes or not; I don't care if you're supra or infra; I don't care if you are a total abstainer from alcohol or a wine sipper; I don't even care if you sprinkle babies! All that is between you and God. I'll tell you this for sure: Unless your hope is in Christ and Him alone, you're lost. Your intellect, your wisdom, your skills, your personality, your charisma, your experience, your education, your superior abilities in so many fields, you will carry them with you (or not) into eternity, lost.
In Christ alone my hope is found
ADDENDUM: A few hours after I posted this on my Facebook page, I added a comment there about preterists. That started a big debate which at the 4-hour mark already had nearly 40 comments.....a lot of them mine, of course. That debate is a great illustration of just the kind of intellectual rabbit trails one can be sidetracked by. Only a few folks probably read this, which I intended to be a call to the Gospel....but a good fight on some doctrinal hair-splitting draws a big crowd.
I also found this photo (which was not credited, so I cannot give credit here as I'd like to).....this is a visual illustration of just exactly what I've been trying to state verbally.