May 16, 2014

“Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.” John 8:49

Hello my name is Expert
We live in a land of experts.

If we have a disease, we go to the hospital’s experts.
If we want knowledge, we go to the University’s experts.
If our car maintenance light glows, we go to the car dealership’s experts.

Tax issues – specialist in accounting.
Court issues – specialist in law.
Building issues – specialist in engineering.

We expect our specialists to have answers. We pay them for answers. Often, specialists are cast aside until we find the one who agrees with what we want to do. Even if we can get the answer we want, a bad response is often better than the uncertainty of  “I don’t know.”

We want to know.

This expectation of answers has probably always been at the bedrock of religion. We want answers for our questions of the physical world and we want answers to our questions of the spiritual world.  I recognize the expert’s attitude exerted against Jesus by the Pharisees in chapters 7 and 8 of the Gospel of John. That similar attitude seems to echo through the theological debates of our time. They provided reason and rationale as to why Jesus was not the Christ.

The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” (John 7:20)

But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from. (John 7: 27)

…But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” (John 7:41)

They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” (John 7:52)

So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” (John 8:13)

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8:48)

The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be? (John 8:52-53)

Yet, these proclamations of experts proved to be false and misguided. Their expertise in the Law failed them because it was not based on complete understanding. They were applying flawed, sinful understanding to a manifestation that was without precedent. They rejected the Christ because He did not fit the model in which they were so convinced He would appear. Jesus did not come as they expected, therefore, he could not have been the Christ. Their expertise did not adequately provide the understanding to inform them of the events that were transpiring around them.

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. (John 8:43)

I read the Pharisees’ objections to Christ and can uncomfortably relate to their self-assured theological knowledge. They were the experts of theology for their day and based on their knowledge they had answers. It just happened to be horribly wrong answers based on a lack of understanding.

Calvinism vs. Arminianism
Infant Baptism vs. Adult Baptism
Charismatic Gifting vs Cessationism
Sunday Worship vs. Saturday Worship
King James Only vs. ESV Only vs. NASB Only
Traditional Service vs. Contemporary Service vs. SOMA Service
Premillennialism vs Postmillennialism vs Amillennialism

How much of the rhetoric from these debates is honoring to our Father?

I have studied these issues and I have my opinions. However, I also know that those who do not share my opinions can advocate their position from scripture. I don’t know of a better illustration of this fact than the debate moderated by John Piper between Jim Hamilton, Doug Wilson, and Sam Storms. (An Evening of Eschatology – Piper, Hamilton, Wilson, Storms)

Three capable theologians, who love and follow Jesus, came to three different conclusions based on their understanding of scripture. The fact is that two or maybe all three are wrong. Someone has made a wrong decision based on flawed understanding. Yet, churches have split over these issues in ways that I view as dishonoring our Father. It is the malady of the experts.

Since we are all subjected to the same malady, the only cure is grace.

crossChrist was perfectly clear in His teaching to the Pharisees about who He is.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you before Abraham was, “I am”. (John 8:58)

The further away we get from that central teaching – Jesus Christ and him crucified – the more grace we need to show our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. As we mature in our faith, we should delve into the “secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” (1 Cor. 2:6) However, we must resist the arrogance of the experts.

We must show grace in our theological assertions for our more immature brothers and sisters so that their faith “might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:5)

We must show humility in our debates, understanding our inherently flawed understanding of the mysteries of God.

Imagine how glorifying God’s church would be, if our debates were dominated by experts of humble grace rather than experts of flawed understanding.

PRAYER: Father, you know that I am inclined toward the attitude of the expert.  Forgive me for caring more about winning a theological argument than showing grace to a fellow heir in Christ.  Forgive me of the dishonor that has been wrought when love was not my foremost objective.  Lord, make me into an expert of humble grace.  Give me wisdom in delving into your wonderful mysteries.  Remind me of my continuing lack of understanding to keep me humble.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

A man should never be ashamed to admit he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.
~ Alexander Pope

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  1. Well said!
    “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Phil. 3.15-16

    • Thanks for the verse Mark. Very applicable.

  2. This hits so home for me. Just today I was telling someone how I felt that Justification comes at the revelation of God’s character and only then will our Sanctification come at His revelation of our own character to us.

    Until we come face to face with the majesty of God which goes far beyond our capacity of fully understanding, and the price of the cross overwhelms our soul,we will be incapable of knowing the true sting of humility nor be able to recognize the accompanying magnitude of His grace which covers our deficit.

    2 Corinthians 12:9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

    Thank you for what you do JD, may God continue to bless your ministry.

  3. You certainly picked an interesting lot of “debate areas.” In no particular order:

    1. For me, two of those are matters of relative certainty.
    2. Two of them are of deep, extreme import, although I do not claim to have them “figured out.”
    3. One is pretty troublesome, causing me some angst.
    4. The other two strike me as silly enough to be non-issues (although not so silly to many others in the Body).

    All this is not to extend debate; it is to offer one more illustration of the differences that can arise in sincere believers. Thank Goodness our ultimate destiny is the Hands of the One who knows and understands all.

    The attitude of humble discipleship, not the pretense of expertise, is always better!

  4. This is refreshing. We should be focusing on what brings us together. This does require the humility to admit that maybe I’ve got some of my doctrine wrong!

    I spent way too much time on forums reading all these types of debates. It was so unhelpful but those in the midst of it couldn’t see it.

  5. I’m praying right now, “make me an expert of humble grace.”

  6. Indeed we are all fellow heirs–brothers and sisters of the same family! We would do well to celebrate what we have in common rather than argue about those beliefs on which we differ. At the Christian university I attended, all of us had to take “Philosophy and Christian Thought.” One of our textbooks was “The Christian Faith,” which focused on core doctrines the various denominations share in common. It was a very thick book!

  7. This is excellent!! As an “ordained minister” I left the full-time ministry after some years because of what you’re speaking of. The Lord has used me in a greater way in the many years since than I would probably have ever been used. I also saw the Piper debate you spoke of. What’s interesting is that Sam Storms years ago was a great teacher in the pre-trib, non-continuist camp. He’s now a continuist amil teacher. But he still has the same Gospel which is pure. Great post!!!👍

  8. You are so right! Thank you for sharing this! I have seen many fall away from the Lord because of literally taking context and giving it their own truth instead of relying on the knowledge and truth from God. They used their only fleshly interpretation instead of through the Spirit. They felt it was more important to be right and give their own opinion without earnestly seeking the Lord about it. Grace was not even an option. In the end, we will all know truth when we stand before Him at the throne. The prayer was beautiful and poignant. May we ALL be led with His grace.

  9. About 26 years ago (when I still wanted to be in professional clergy), I asked the Lord what He wanted me to teach. I listed several of those things you mentioned. When I shut up, He asked, very clearly, “What did I say to teach?”.
    I knew, immediately, what He meant.
    Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:
    “Teach the gentiles to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded the apostles,” is what I believe I heard.
    We are such poor practitioners of the love that compels to serve that Jesus had to get very specific. And, it is the teaching of those specifics that is so incompatible with professional clergy-ism. No one will pay you to teach that stuff.

  10. Reblogged this on | Adrian D Riojas|.

  11. Reblogged this on Better Not Bitter and commented:
    Profoundly honest and well written…demands a larger audience….Thank you sir for your heart for Christ and Your obedience to Our Father.

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