I see an old but nonetheless troubling trend in the American Church today: some mistake their zeal for a theological “truth” as zeal for God.
I guess that was on my mind as I emailed a friend who is a man of God and growing greatly in his faith. Here is what I wrote to him (who I will call “Theophilus”)
Thanks for your thoughts.
I have a huge amount of reading and listening to do so I won’t have a chance to hear the sermons in the foreseeable future, but they sound like they seek to honor the Lord’s word through his scripture.
Since you are obviously seeking God and have been growing in Him, I thought I’d share a word with you as your pastor and friend.
In your desire to grow in Jesus, keep your focus on the targets God does: love and obedience to the voice of Jesus.
I have noticed that some, in a genuine desire to honor God, end up making right thinking on a wide variety topics their measure of spiritual maturity, thinking it pleases God. So they develop a long list of narrow doctrinal stances and declare people “in” or “out” based on that. This is not spiritual maturity.
I am not saying that [name of speaker] is doing this, since I don’t know him nor have I listened to his sermons. But it happens enough today that I wanted to share this with you.
I am not opposed to knowledge: I have a doctorate, study the Bible daily and read other books every day, too. I do think there are a few basic theological truths which we can’t waffle on.
However, God is much bigger than our theologies (we can’t contain him in our limited brains), and the Bible itself never says that agreeing to a long, detailed list of statements is the measure of maturity nor holiness. I have seen many change their minds about what they were once passionate about.
What is the mark of spiritual maturity? Love.
Jesus said Love God with all you have (yes, including your mind) and your neighbor as yourself. He said “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”
1 John 4:7-8 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
I’m not saying that doctrine is irrelevant, I’m just pointing out that making a long narrow list will not match God’s reality nor help us grow. Knowledge – using our minds – is part of following Christ, but we need to be humble on our opinions. We can’t love our doctrinal positions more than people nor more than God.
1 Corinthians 8:1 – Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.
Again, what really matters? Knowledge plays a part, but not the biggest part.
2 Peter 1:5-8 – For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6) and to knowledge, self-control: and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 ) and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8) For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In His love,
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