From the Pastor's Desk

"If you love me, you will obey what I command."

"Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:6

I lead a Bible study each week and we often will use a book or a video to help begin the conversation. Currently, we have been using a book/video combination called “With Jesus in the Upper Room.” It was written by Maxie Dunnam, one of my favorite people. Maxie has been a pastor, the world editor of “The Upper Room”, and the president of Asbury Theological Seminary (from which I graduated). His writing is insightful, thought provoking, scriptural and Wesleyan. In the weekly lesson we recently finished, he made a statement that I believe was very profound and, possibly, one of the biggest problems in the church today. He said, “The problem with most believers is not that we need guidance in what we don’t know, it is that we are not obeying what we do know.”

Though many of us would not like to admit it, that is too true in the Christian churches today. We debate social issues and claim ourselves to be “good Christians” while reviling others for not believing as we believe. The fallacy in all of that is that too often we have misquoted or re-written scripture to match what we already believe rather than believe what scripture actually has to say. In theological terms, we isogete scripture (try to make it match our belief) rather than exegete scripture (see what it actually says and then form our belief). So, not only does that allow for a wide range of “scriptural” understanding and interpretation, it divides us. The bad news is that the problem boils down to disobedience to scripture because we don’t like what it says. We feel much better if we can find a scriptural basis for whatever we believe so we may go to great lengths to extract, twist, emphasize and de-emphasize portions of scripture to justify our own beliefs. To me, that is disobedience as much as intentionally sinning.

Of course, that leads us into the other ways we are disobedient. We will try to justify our bad habits or even sinful living by declaring that scripture says very little about our own sin and much about other types of sin. The conclusion is that, if scripture mentions my sin only a few times and another sin often, my sin must be OK, or at least more acceptable to God than the other. We have a mistaken belief that God grades sin from terrible to acceptable, as if He will punish those terrible sins but let the acceptable sins slide. News flash: God does not grade sin. To God, sin is sin.

What about that guidance Maxie mentioned? We should want God’s guidance in everything we do, say, and think. But are we really ready to accept that guidance? If we do not accept some things in the Bible because they are not in line with our own beliefs or lifestyle, why would we ever want God’s guidance in our lives? If we ask for His guidance, He may guide us to change certain things about our lives; He may move us away from some of our friends; He may move us out of apathy; He may even move us to some mission field. To really give ourselves fully to the Lord is to let the Holy Spirit lead us into becoming the new creature that God wants to mold us to become. That means giving up control of our lives and letting God take over every aspect of our lives, no matter how different or even uncomfortable it might be. To ask for guidance and then not follow that guidance only produces more disobedience.

The scripture passage above says that if we love Jesus, we will follow His commands. So the basic question before us is whether or not we really love Jesus. Do we love Jesus enough to be obedient, even if that means changing a position that we have hung onto that is in conflict with scripture? Do we love Him enough to even admit our sins? Do we love Him enough to truly want the Spirit to guide us, no matter where He may lead? Disobedience is the problem. It seems that love for Jesus is the solution.

-Pastor Howie