I have removed names, but I felt that the topic might be of some interest to other people that might stumble on my blog (for whatever reason).
Thanks for your response, I received it today. I’m glad you are feeling a bit more open to having a discussion with me in regards to the questions of Church practices, however, I don’t want to get bogged down into discussing so many different issues at once, as nothing productive will come out from it.
I desired to write to you, and [name omitted], not with the intent of providing a biblical basis for every differing church practice, I only wanted to present an overview of what we do, in a non-threatening manner, if you choose to proceed in looking up the website. More than anything, I wanted to let you and [name omitted] know that the door is always open for discussions.
My note to you and [name omitted] was from the heart, and did not offer reprimanding biblical facts, as you can understand that if I just flooded you with scriptural evidences as to why I believe you are wrong, and your practices are wrong, you would have in turn (if not shutting me off completely), just fired scriptures right back at me, and we would never have gotten any further in the matter.
I am encouraged to see that we both agree that the love for truth is the driving force behind our commitment to our God, as you pointed out; it is the truth that will set us free! (John 8:32).
When looking over this scripture, because of our differences, I ask myself, if we both agree on what truth this is, that Jesus is talking about. A couple more verses down in John 8, Jesus says that He will set us free, and if He sets us free, then we are free indeed! Indeed, Jesus does say that He is “the way, the truth and the life” the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Do you believe that Jesus is this truth that He is referring to, or is there something more to it? And if there is something more to it, what is it? What truths must we believe in order to be saved?
The book of John is a very interesting book, it’s a book whose purpose was to prove that Jesus was the Son of God, that He loves us, that He died for us, and that through believing in Him, we might have eternal life (John 20:31). The beloved friend of our Lord wrote us a letter designed to guide us to eternal life, and yet, there is so much that he left out, questions like: “How do we organize our Church”, “How do we take up a collection”, “What days of the week are we supposed to meet on”, “How are we supposed to praise God in Worship”. Did John, the beloved of our Lord fail his mission in laying out what was necessary for salvation, or perhaps, have we misunderstood the instructive nature of the writing of the apostles on these questions and made them a test of salvation? And if we have, are we justified in doing so?
What freedom do we have in Christ? John definitely shows us that it is freedom from sin, but Paul (and James) shows us later in their letters, that it is also freedom from the old law and regulations. Is the freedom we gain the freedom by ushering out the old laws and regulations and works of righteousness; the “do not taste, do not handle, do not touch” (Col 2:20-23), and replacing them with new laws and regulations of different works of righteousness; the “do not taste, do not handle, do not touch” of the New Testament?
Paul answers this question by exhorting us to understand that “no one will be justified in the sight of God by works of the law”(Gal 2:16)(Gal 2:21)(Gal 3:11). Galatians is another interesting book in the new testament, it wasn’t until recently that I understand the context of Galatians Chapter 1 with Paul bringing down a curse on all those who taught a different Gospel. After he lays out this curse, he goes on in chapter 2 to describe how he is truly an apostle of Jesus, and how he stuck solid to salvation by grace, even though false brothers, had infiltrated the ranks to spy on the freedoms of Christ and then try to bring them into bondage to the old law (Gal 2:4). In the second part of Chapter 2 he shows how he wasn’t ashamed to oppose Peter to his face, again showing that he had the power of the Spirit. What was Paul opposing Peter about? Peter was falling into the trap of this “other gospel”, basing righteousness on works of the law (circumcision in this case), with Peter being a hypocrite so as to look good to the friends of James who came into town.
Paul continues then in chapter 3, telling the Galatians that they are foolish and bewitched in thinking that what they first received by grace through the Spirit, they could then keep by human efforts (observing the law). Many other scriptures go on to warn us and exhort us to understand that our salvation is not a salvation of works, but a salvation of grace and righteousness.
Now please don’t misunderstand me, indeed, our Faith, a true faith, brings about appropriate works of righteousness, however, the works aren’t the cause of our salvation, they are the result of our salvation (Eph 2:8-10).
However, we are clearly shown that if we are under obligation to observe the strict nature of the law, that if we break any law, then we are guilty of breaking the whole law (Rom 2:17-29), (Jas 2:10-11). What kind of freedom is that, is that the truth that Jesus wanted his disciples to know? So if we perform the Lord’s Supper exactly how it is supposed to be done, but then, we are unfaithful servants and store up treasures in our banks on earth, or we abuse our neighbors, or we swear, or we lie, or we steal, or we do one little thing wrong (in our personal lives, or in our collective Church practices) then we guilty of all laws, and we’re condemned to hell! (Jas 2:11)
I think this is why James tells us that we should be speaking and acting as if we ourselves are going to be judged by the law that gives us freedom (the law of grace) because if we are unmerciful and judge by the old law (of “do not taste, do not handle, do not touch”), then we ourselves will be judged by the old law (and no one can find life through the old law) (Gal 2:16)(Gal 2:21)(Gal 3:11).
This brings me back to the first question, what is the doctrinal truth that is necessary for salvation? While we should try to strive to the best of our understanding on how we are to worship God in a pleasing manner (because we should want to please him), is it a specific set of rules to govern the Church that saves us, is it a specific set of traditions to practice in the Church, a specific set of ways to sing, to praise, to worship, is it a detailed checklist of all the ways that we are to be worshiping God, is it keeping the law perfectly, or is it Christ and the message of the cross?
I think the bible speaks very clearly that it is Christ who saves us, it is His grace, it is Him. In Christ Alone! C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity blessed me, in this way, showing me that, like the word Gentlemen, which used to just refer to a man who owned a track of land, but now is used in a refined sense to mean “Someone who agrees with my standards of living”, the word Christian has also come to be used in the same way, it used to mean someone who believed in Christ and his saving power, but now really means to most people “Someone who agrees with my standards of living”…. I really hoped that book would bless you too…
[name omitted], this is my concern for you, [name omitted], and those who are members of the Church [name omitted]. Apart from arguing any specific detail of the differences in Church practice, you require perfection in Church practices, and yet, you yourselves do not have perfection; by condemning others, you are condemning yourselves, it’s like the man who has a plank in his eye, trying to remove the dust speck from another, what a sad illustration of someone who has misunderstood the message of the cross, the way, the truth and the life.
Please be willing to test what you believe, change when you are wrong, stand firm when you are right, but remember that God will judge us in the manner that we judge others, and it’s only through his grace that we’re saved…
We continue to pray for you, and [name omitted] that you will break free from the bondage of the weight of the law, that you will find your freedom in Christ. I want you to be free! If Christ sets you free, you will be free indeed!
[with love & affection it was signed]