Compromising the Truth

Should we wield the “sword of truth” against each other over doctrinal differences OR as a weapon to defeat the world, the flesh and the devil?

Doctrinal Truth. In a discussion I had with a brother about our need to love one another, he replied with a big, “Yes, but we should never compromise the truth.”  Have you heard that one before? Here’s Webster’s third definition of compromise: “to weaken or give up one’s principles or ideals for reasons of expediency.”  But the spin I hear from well meaning brothers is more often about doctrines than ideals or values. These doctrines or “biblical truths,” have divided Christians since the 3rd century and given great comfort and delight to our enemy, whose major strategy against God’s Kingdom is “divide and conquer.”

Webster’s First Definition of Compromise “When two opposing sides, for the sake of peace and agreement, each give in and meet in the middle.” The U.S. Constitution, probably the second most important document, after the Bible, is an example of brilliant compromising. Without willingness for opposing parties to meet in the middle,, we would be a divided nation, not a united one.  But should Christians compromise? The answer is not only that we should, but God has given us a model for it in His Word.

The Jerusalem Compromise In Acts 15, we read how early church leaders met in Jerusalem to resolve a huge problem. The issue was a vast cultural divide between Jewish believers, who held to Jewish practices, such as kosher meals, and non-Jewish believers. Jews who truly loved Jesus, felt they could not fellowship with Gentiles who loved Jesus, unless they adopted their kosher doctrine. Breaking bread together was at the heart of Christian fellowship (See Acts 2: 42-47). Peter testified that God truly was at work among Gentiles bringing them to Christ. But how could Christ’s “love one another” mandate be met, if these two groups couldn’t even sit down together for a meal?

Under the influence of the Spirit’s work—the council decided that the their relationship with Christ and one another and Christ’s ongoing mission to the world, trumped their doctrines. In a Spirit of humility, Jews made a loving compromise by agreeing non-Jews could share at Christ’s table without adopting Jewish beliefs. Non-Jews compromised by respecting their Jewish brothers’ consciences. They agreed to abstain from (a) food offered to idols, (b) sexual immorality, (c) eating meat of strangled animals and blood. This summit is a model of how believers with different views can come together by meeting in the middle. It follows Jesus principle, “Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their lives [Gr: psyche], i.e. egos, for one another.” True Christian love involves laying down our holy cows for the sake of love for Christ. our brethren and our mission.

What is Truth? Jesus said, “I am truth.” (John 14:6). Doesn’t this mean that truth, at its highest level is personal, involving right relationship with God and others? But what about our statements of faiths, our creeds and our doctrines? What does the Bible say? At the judgment, will Jesus greet us with a doctrinal quiz that we must pass before we can enter His kingdom? Or, as we learn In the parable of the sheep and goats, will he simply recognize us as his own by how we have loved… or how we have withhold it?

But there must be bedrock truths, without which, we can have no unity, right?

“Trust and Obey Can we find any higher truth than the words of  the old hymn, “Trust and obey; there’s no other way…” These words rightly divide the word of truth because they stress Jesus’ two core commands. The first is basic, found in John 3:16–“believe.” To have a relationship with Christ, we must first put our faith and trust in Him. (See John 6: 28,29).  Second, we must obey Christ’s new order for a new order–his great commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13: 34, 35).

“Trust and obey!” These two words,  trump all others.

The Sword of Truth. Those who wish to serve Christ’s cause by wielding the sword to defend their versions of the truth “once delivered to the saints,” should remember: the bedrock of all truth is to trust God, to love God and to love one another.

Please make a comment and join the conversation. Thanks.

Book Review: The Love Revolution, by Gaylord Enns

With this post we begin our review of an important book that has become a personal treasure, The Love Revolution by Gaylord Enns. Our New Canaan Society (NCS) men’s group has been reading and discussing it for a few weeks. It’s changing  some of our lives. Goodreads rates it five stars, commenting, “Get ready! Love Revolution will rock your world!”

Hidden in Plain Sight Rediscovering the Lost Commandment of Jesus is the book’s subtitle. No, the author isn’t suggesting a lost command of Jesus has recently surfaced. It’s been right here all along. Gaylord simply points out that Jesus gave us his love command in John 13: 34, 35 and twice again in John 15:12, 17. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

How did we miss it? After reading a chapter of the book, Dave, our group’s leader was aghast. “How is it that, after all these years, I didn’t see this before?” Well, he isn’t alone. Many believers will tell you that Jesus commandment is “Love God with all your heart, soul mind and your neighbor as yourself.” They wouldn’t be wrong, exactly. But think about it. These were Moses’ words, given to him in the old covenant. They don’t come from Jesus.

But Jesus said them, right? Yes Jesus did say them, but only as a quote from the old covenant. It occurred when an expert in the Law asked, “Master, which is the great commandment of the law of Moses.Jesus quoted Moses in his answer, but never owned the command as his own, never taught it to his disciples and it’s found nowhere else in the New Testament.

“Astonishingly,” Gaylord writes, “most of us, and I was one, have substituted the two core commandments of the old covenant for the two core commandments of the new.”

The crux of the book is that Jesus came to bring us grace, truth and love, paying for it with his blood. His joyous good news is that we are free from the harsh demands of the law, and this includes the command to love God and our neighborHold on now. Don’t jump the gun. Let’s give our author a chance to explain, which he does very well.

The Burden of the Law. With genuine honesty and humility, Gaylord shares his own struggles, trying hard to keep this mandate to love God with all of his being. Like many of us, he often felt a nagging guilt that he was never loving God enough. Many responsibilities “kept me from being as devoted to God as I should be”….feeling, “I should be spending more time in prayer and more time in the study of Scriptures.” Think of it! The demands of the law had put him in the awful bind of being torn between loving God and loving his family and congregation. I can relate.

Down the Rabbit Hole. Without knowing it, over the years, this burden took its toll. His faith was becoming a burden rather than a joy. In 2001 he fell into a hole, experiencing a breakdown. It took a full year to recover. But, thank God, during that recovery, he made the discoveries of a lifetime. When he was back, leading his congregation of 33 years, it was with fresh insights that changed his life and the direction of his ministry forever. He was, and is, on a journey rediscovering Jesus’ neglected command, not only for himself, but for his Jerusalem, which is the environs of Chico, California and even to the uttermost parts of the world, literally.

Why do we love God? This is the question Gaylord answers, not by reverting to Moses’ law, which puts the burden of love on the believer. Jesus gospel of a new covenant, places the burden of love on God.  Simply put, “We love Him [only] because He first loved us.” It’s shocking, isn’t it? Somehow, God’s love for us and his desire for us to return his love has been overshadowed by a law that demands we love him! How could we have slipped back into that bondage–turning the joyous good news that, “God so loved the world” into, “World, you better love God!?”

Trust and obey. Gaylord explains that Jesus, like Moses, had two core commands. “Trust and obey” describes them in a nutshell.  Our author identifies his first command, to believe in Jesus in John 3: 16. We also find it   throughout the gospels, especially in his reply to the people who asked, “What does God want us to do?” This time Jesus answers with his command, not Moses.’ ”God wants you to believe in the One He has sent.” His apostles also urged it, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

His second command, ”Love one another,” follows necessarily from his first. Gaylord stresses that love for God results from putting our trust in His son. New Covenant faith begins with trust, but doesn’t end there. It leads us to love God and others, not because we are ordered to, but because we want to.

Pastor Enns has helped me grasp once more, the simple truth that true faith in God must lead to love. And isn’t this true of any solid relationship? A great, old hymn makes it crystal clear. “Trust and obey; there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”

How did we miss it?

In our next post, Gaylord answers an objection I’ve often heard to this teaching. He explains how Jesus’ two “trust and love” core commands, helps him to love God and his neighbors even more, not less. I would add that, as I continue to grasp this truth for myself, I’m more relaxed and more fun to live with—at least my wife said so today. It’s working!

We live for your comments. Please drop us a line or three.

United We Stand

Divided We Fall. Lincoln was so committed to the idea  of unity he went to war to keep America one nation under God. Along the way he freed an enslaved race. His ideal came from Jesus,  “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Mark 3: 23, 24).

Blind Spots. Are we Christians able to adjust our mirrors to see our glaring blind spot—the absurdity of rejoicing over being one nation, yet happily engaging in our own little ministries, while disregarding the work of our brethren?  From this we have many Continue reading

Our Vision

People sometimes ask why we have such a passion to see the body of Christ come together and become one in the Spirit of God. Years ago, this burden was placed on a mentor of mine, a humble pastor whom I loved—Leonard Evans.

The Lord visited him and told him the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit in the last century was for the purpose of realizing the prayer of Christ, “Father, may they be one, that the world may believe.” Everywhere he went he preached the love message of John 13: 34, 35, “Love one another as I have loved you that the world may recognize you are my disciples.”  His people got sick of his message. “Can’t you preach something else,” they complained.  But he could not.

My good friend, Leonard, died young, I believe of a broken heart. Not only was his message rejected by everyone, the church became more fragmented than ever.

Now I’m not a visual person. I rarely see anything when I close my eyes. Yet, over 25 years ago, while in prayer I saw something that changed my life. It was vivid and in living color.

The Vision: I saw a lovely young woman, dressed in white, like a bride, wandering alone and lost in a barren wilderness. Her beautiful gown was ripped, soiled and tattered. She was thirsty and frightened. Tears stained her face. Each step she took left a bloody footprint in the sand.

“Lord,” I asked. Who is this woman?”

“My bride,” He answered, my American bride.” I wept for her! I could not stop weeping but I felt the comfort of the Bridegroom weeping by my side as well.

Excited, I began preaching and sharing this message, but like my mentor, there was little receptivity to my message. I was puzzled, Why was this vision given to me?  Finally, after so much rejection, I got discouraged and put this call aside, thinking it was too impossible.

When I retired and was ready to take it easy, I met a woman with whom I shared this vision. Immediately she accepted it as from God and later she became my wife.

“You mustn’t give up. God wants you to continue on the path he put you on.” It was like a prophecy.

I cried out to God. “What can I do?”

“Intercede,” he said, “and prophesy! Call my lost bride back home that she may be restored to her former glory.  Weep with me. Woo her and win her back to her Bridegroom. There are many others that I’m calling as well. This is the hour of her restoration.”

We are committed to this holy vision, in part through prayer and in part through this blog The Horizontal Church.

Lord of Mercy and Grace, forgive us our divisions. Heal and restore us, we pray and bring us back into the unity of former days. Restore your church to her former glory and power. 

Unveiling the Mystery of God

We puzzle over those well-known mysteries such as UFO’s, the Loch Ness Monster, lost Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle, and the identity of Jack the Ripper. They are still unsolved, but there is one mystery that isn’t. St. Paul cited “the mystery of God [Gk: mysterium o Theos] 19 times in his writings, six times in Ephesians alone. But what is this secret of God? Continue reading

God’s Dream of Unity

In One Accord.   Imagine for a moment the discordant, jangling of trumpets, flutes and violins, all  tuning to different keys, warming up to perform a concert. Can you hear it? Suddenly there’s a tapping as the maestro flourishes his wand. It comes down and the harsh discord miraculously transforms into an exquisite sound, flooding  the auditorium with the wonder of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. These are no longer just individual instruments,  but have joined as a single entity, under one head, uniting in perfect harmony.    Continue reading