Closing The Gap
Every Sunday we affirm the teaching of our forefathers enshrined in the Apostles' and Nicene creeds. We boldly declare, "I believe in the holy, catholic church" [Apostles’] and "I believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church" [Nicene]. These are not mere habitual repetitions of biblical truths by which we confidently express our orthodoxy. Nor are they rote liturgical practices performed without engaging the heart, the mind and the will. Far from either, while our affirmation of faith identifies us doctrinally with our spiritual forefathers, and while our solid orthodoxy separates us from those traditions that incorrectly reject such teaching, at the same time our affirmations are to engage the will by leading us to defend and apply these truths as certain proofs of the correctness of their content and the sincerity of our confession. This is true in respect of all doctrine in general and in this case, our doctrine of the church.
Thus, to believe in the church or to believe the church (Calvin), means not only that we believe the truth that the church teaches, that is, the truth that continues and corresponds with the system of doctrine contained in Scripture but also that we believe in the practical demonstration of this truth in our lives. In the space of this brief writing, this denotes at least two principles.
Firstly, our business is to be kingdom - oriented people who are to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, .." Mt 6:33. According to our Lord and King, this is the agenda of the occupants of his kingdom. We have no agenda of our own. The King’s business is our business. Our lives are to be aimed at and e governed by those principles that define and promote our Lord's kingdom and righteousness. While those on the other side of this "kingdom line" spend their lives worrying about what to eat, what to drink and what to wear, kingdom people refuse to spiral their blood pressure by worrying about these mundane (but necessary) matters because we understand that our loving Father is also sovereign, good and personal . We are assured that he knows what we need before we ask of him, v. 8, and he who sumptuously feeds the birds of the air and who provides regal robes for the transient flowers of the field, will much more feed and clothe those he lovingly created in his own image and then graciously regenerated by the Holy Spirit to be conformed into the image of his Son Jesus Christ, vv. 26-30; Rom 8:26. My brothers and sisters, if we do not believe these truths and evidence them in our daily lives, then we belong to that category Jesus Christ strongly indicts as being of little faith, Mt 6:30.
Secondly, we are to demonstrate the reality of these transforming truths in our homes and in the church. This calls not for any feigned expressions of a dubious spirituality but for a practical "rubber-meets-the-road" commitment to these teachings in the context of our relationships. Thus, instead of merely putting up with one another in order to "keep the peace", we are required to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and as sacrificially, lavishly and boundlessly as exemplified by our God who sends his Son to be a propitiation for our sins, 1 Jn 4:7-11. In so doing, we show the world that we are born of God and that we are authentic disciples of Jesus Christ, Jn 13:34-35. In so doing, we also deepen our faith and strengthen our families and the church.
Sadly, these truths have not been identifying marks among us. Despite much preaching and teaching and notwithstanding much exhortation and encouragement, correction and rebuke with regard to these matters, sinful patterns of self-ishness, shallow-ness and care-lessness abound. These are seen on at least on three fronts:
- we're so absorbed in our own trials that we refuse to reach out to others in genuine displays of biblical love. By this we neglect the truth that the strength with which we serve others is not ours but it is Christ's which works itself out in our lives- see 2 Cor 12:9-10.
- we're so overjoyed with "what the Lord has done for us" that we refuse to strengthen the brothers and sisters in return. This proves that we either do not believe or grasp the dynamic of the inter-connectedness of the church as taught in 1 Cor 12; etc., and as repeatedly studied and discussed in our Sunday School classes.
- we're complacent in that our relationships are not rooted in the Word of God and are not God-honoring, Christ-exalting and Spirit-empowered but shallow, religious nonthreatening engagements, in which we tell one another what we want to hear instead of challenging one another to increased growth into Christ based on his Word.
Brothers and sisters, these things should not be. In the words of Arthur W. Pink "To be saved from the power of sin is to have our eyes opened so that we can see things in God's light –.." How true! How appropriate for All Saints Redeemer Church! The gap between our profession and practice of truth, between the doctrine we uphold and its implementation in our lives, is ever-widening. Christian doctrine must interpret Christian experience, Alister E. McGrath, Understanding Doctrine: What It Is – and Why It Matters, p. 175. Brothers and sisters, the time has come and gone for us to close the gap. Let’s repent and return to the height from which we have fallen.