This is a hard time and a blessed time; hard, because (amongst many other things) I wish to write more, and blessed, because their is wisdom in not speaking/teaching too hastily — especially when there is a greater need of hearkening and learning than… typing.
Here is my predicament (the same as it has always been really)… For so long, being outside of a congregation for most of my adult life, but having experienced so many viewpoints within both Christianity and Christendom, it can be difficult to navigate through truth and error. Believers and unbelievers alike agree and disagree in so many different areas. Some arguments seem sound from both sides. I have read great works from immersers and from sprinklers; psalmists-only and hymnists, sole pastor-advocates and advocates of a plurality of pastors/elders. I have seen deep, deep battles between so-called Lordship-Salvationists (on the one hand) and Neo-Sandemanians on the other. I have heard dead, dry, lifeless (but accurate) doctrine coming from those who do not view Arminians as fellow-brethren in Christ (a view to which I do hold as well) and I have heard some of the best, most edifying messages I’ve ever encountered from some Sovereign Grace-adherents who (to one degree or another) do. I have seen battle after battle, argument after argument, and have been engaged in quite a few myself. 99% of it has been useless to me.
And yet, what is the bottom line? What is a person to do? How does one know whom to trust, what to trust? It is not enough to say “by the Holy Spirit” because all sides claim the Spirit of God. It is not enough to say “by the Bible” because all (claiming to be orthodox believers in the true Gospel of free and sovereign grace) swear the Bible is on their side. It is not enough to say “church history,” or “creedal history,” or “congregational history,” because such can be arbitrary and surely fallible.
So how does one know what to cling to, who to believe, who to follow? How does one strive to stay on that straight and narrow path, seeing that we have been absolutely commanded to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” knowing that “it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [His] good pleasure.“? How do you know whom to bid godspeed, whom to avoid, whom to encourage, whom to admonish, etc.? How do you know what to believe, when it comes to those things that are disputed amongst professing (Sovereign Grace, Predestinarian, High Calvinist, and related) Christians?
I both do and do not have an answer. I have an answer for me but not necessarily for everyone. My answer now is simple, relatively at least… I simply want to follow those who most closely follow Christ. My interest isn’t in head knowledge alone, dry doctrine alone, mere form alone, but in those who truly know, follow, and obey Christ, as their all sovereign Lord, Master, King, God, and Saviour. Am I now a Lordship Salvationist? I don’t even know what that means given that within that camp, within that umbrella title, there seems to be so much difference, so much variance of belief and opinion. I will say this though, I do believe that an important part of manifesting that we are already born again Christians, especially already mature (or at least maturing) Christians, is our striving to obey God, in love, by the Spirit of God — via the lawful means that He has already given us.
Consider that it was said of Abraham:
Genesis 26:4-5 “And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; 5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.“
Now, far too many argue that it is impossible for a Christian to obey God’s voice, keep His charge, and to keep His commandments, statutes, and laws. They will say that all God meant by this was that Abraham “trusted in Christ, in the Messiah to come, for His righteousness,” and that “he, himself, never kept or obeyed any of God’s commandments.” This kind of talk is so foolish to me, so absurd, that I disdain being around it, hearing it… though sometimes it is needful to be around such for the benefit of others. I think it is quite clear that, in light of already being quickened and converted, and already being perfectly righteous and sanctified, Abraham was given much grace to be actually, manifestly obedient to the voice of God, and to His commands (when it came to his character and conduct). Was he perfect in his walk, in His manifest sanctification? Of course not; though he was, and is, so perfect in the Lord Jesus Christ (legally, eternally, after the inward man).
Abraham was a man that loved the Lord, wanted to serve and obey Him, and strove to do so. I believe this same sentiment is shared by all true believers, and is manifested by the words of the Apostle Paul:
Romans 7:25 “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
For me, the clarity is becoming sharper and sharper. I will hearken to, observe, and follow those who not only profess the true Gospel, but who love the Lord, striving mightily to obey Him, and who teach others to do so as well… not in their own carnal strength, but in the over-abundance of grace, mercy, and resources the Father has already provided for us, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit. I will value, and give honour where honour is due, to those ministers who stress the need to close with Christ, to know Him more, love Him more, praise and worship Him more… and yes, to obey Him more. I want an action-filled relationship with the Lord and not just a talk-filled one. The Christian life is not one of debate, chatter, philosophy, and theory. It is one of following, obeying, serving, needing, trusting, loving, and daily relying. I pray for that… and it comes only through a relationship with Christ, again by the Spirit, with a right understanding of who and what the Christian is in Christ. I want to follow those who exhort us to be honourable children of God, reliable children, lovingly-kind children, patient children, obedient children, ministering children, humble children, needy children, thankful children, etc. I want us all to be ever “children of God,” though not always children in the faith. In other words, I pray that God massively mercies all of His people, bringing us to a higher level of faith, integrity, obedience, and love than we have seen in many, many generations.
May God give all of His children more and more grace to forsake the worthless things of time and space and to cling to all that which is eternal. As Pastor Jesse Gistand states, we are a work in progress; I am a work in progress, and a messed up one at that. I need, need, need the Lord and Saviour (Christ Jesus) daily. I have no strength outside of Him. None… what… so… ever. Yet, I do believe He has, and is, all the strength I need to successfully navigate this life … ‘through ’til the end.’ Without Him I can do nothing, without Him I am nothing, apart from Him I will only mess things up badly, but in/by/through Him, there is only everlasting peace and victory. I believe this and hope that those reading believe this to.