The Balancing Act
It’s been quite some time since I have written a focused article for the website and I am way overdue. Let’s fix that… today.
The ministry is going great. My family and I are blessed and prospered; and we have great hope and faith in all that the Lord is doing.
And yet, I am convinced we are right on the cusp of breaking into a new and wonderful season for myself and those I am fortunate to serve with. This has produced an unsettling within me. That’s not bad by the way. It’s the Lord’s way of saying “Get ready. More to come and you need to be prepared for it.”
For a while I have been taking some time to meditate on my core values and world views concerning my ministry and doctrinal convictions. Preparation starts with getting back to basics. And I think it's important all of us regularly evaluate what and why we believe what we believe. I do this regularly.
While doing these things, I have also been spending time listening to the teachings of those who are "preaching outside of my own choir", so to speak. I have learned to hear the voice of the Lord from many viewpoints and “camps”, and I regularly take the time to listen to those who do not necessarily think the same as I do. It's fun, and there is always something to learn...even if you're relearning how right you are!
Jesus' approval of people outside of our personal influence is nothing new...even His own!
“Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side. Mark 9:38-39 (italics mine)
It’s unfortunate that Christians sometimes have a tendency to think their personal perspectives, favorite teachers and preachers, and their own church affiliation, have a corner on the true or most accurate “revelation”. When we do this, it can be easy to become tribal over our favorite doctrines and/or styles of worship. We can begin to look down on others as not being as knowledgeable or spiritual as we are.
That cushion we plopped our rear ends on while reclining on our self appointed judgement seat can tend to get more and more comfortable. There is a certain rush we get when we believe we are more advanced than others and have something they don't. As that happens, odds are that in the name of “discernment”, we actually enter into a spiritual pride that certainly the Lord won’t be happy with.
Any of us can be tempted to do this. And it doesn’t seem that “spiritual rank” necessarily makes someone immune from its temptation. Even the largest and most influential ministries can develop a sectarian spirit. It's part of our fallen human condition. Knowing this, I certainly try not to allow myself to be so cloistered I miss out on what God is doing wherever He is doing it. I am not perfect, but I am confident my batting average is pretty good.
Let's talk about these things a wee bit more. I'm building up to the purpose of the article.
Consider that if God wanted just one person or ministry or affiliation within Christianity to have a monopoly on “the truth”, then I submit there wouldn’t be the multiple writings of Matthew… Mark… Luke… John… Paul… Peter… James… Jude… you get the point.
For example, within one or two chapters of reading say First Peter and then Paul's letter to the Ephesians…though doctrinally they are the same, there can be no doubt there are stylistic differences and emphasis. But that is a blessing! This allows us to have greater, varied, and more detailed descriptions by which we are able to behold the Lord.
Personalities and different perspectives under the unction of the Holy Spirit can paint and describe many different hues and inflections that not just one writer, or a whole denomination for that matter, would be able to. Consider that the same mountain looks very different standing on top of it… to looking at it from a mile away… or flying forty thousand feet over it.
Personally, I thank God that He uses people to communicate from so many vantage points His thoughts so that we may understand Him in such amazing detail.
So here is the reason I took the time I just did as an intro.
During my perusings, one of the theological perspectives I have been listening to are those who do not believe in the continuous demonstrations of the Holy Spirit through His gifts as discussed especially in First Corinthians chapter twelve. The term for that is called "cessationism". Just because I don't see eye to eye on everything with someone though, doesn't mean there still isn't some great stuff out there to be learned. In addition, I was interested in seeing whether their arguments had changed, or I had changed.
They haven’t and neither have I.
I was particularly listening to a very well-known pastor and theologian who has for years spoken some really over the top and insulting comments refuting from his standpoint the “chaos” of Pentecostal/charismatic theology and experience. He has been insulting to such a degree, that another very proper, world-renowned theologian…who used to believe what this other person did concerning the cessation of the Gifts of the Spirit...
...until his wife was miraculously healed of cancer and now both he and she speaks in other tongues!