Bible Bites

Bible Bites

A System? An Idol? Or a Savior

An evangelical tract, “Walking with God in the Details of Life” begins with a quote from a popular author:
While we were still dating, I convinced Patsy — now my wife, then fiancé — that I was a Christian. Shortly after our wedding it became obvious that we had an ambiguity of terms over what it meant to be a Christian. I was committed to a set of Christian values, but learned that she was committed to a Person. As I soon found out, one can be committed to Christian values but still not be a Christian. To be committed to a set of Christian values is to be a moralist, but not necessarily a Christian.

Commitment to a System

When I read this introduction, I thought, how true! This was the problem of the Pharisees who were concerned with upholding their system of traditions more than truly knowing God (Mark 7:5-8).

Friends in popular denominations express their commitment to systems. Adventist friends have told me, “Were the right church because we are the only ones that keep the Sabbath.” “Jehovah’s Witness” friends say, “We are the right church because we are the only ones who knock on doors.” “We’re the right system!”

Sadly, I’ve heard brethren who seem to be system-oriented, especially when teaching others. Thus we see exhortations such as the following:

  • “Investigate the church of Christ!” — biblically, the church is composed of people, fallible people with problems! I don’t want anyone investigating me! However, the misconception behind this appeal is that the church is a “system’’ and that the “system’’ needs to be investigated because it is “the right one.”
  • A popular Spanish tract of mainstream brethren is titled, “In Search of a Church.” The protagonists in the tract seek out various popular churches, but see flaws in them. Then, however, they find the “Church of Christ “ and see that it is the right one in comparison to the other systems. Is that system-oriented message the gospel preached by evangelists in the book of Acts?

Commitment to an Idol

As much as I liked the introduction to the evangelical tract quoted above, as I read it, I realized that the author’s approach had deep scriptural flaws itself. Three quotes (in italics) illustrate this:

  1. “Jesussayssimply,‘Followme.’Hesays,‘Followme’Hedoesnotsay,‘Followmyprinciples.”‘But,isitreasonable to say, I will follow Jesus and not concern myself with his principles?
  2. “ItisnotthewayofChristthatleadstoeverlastinglife:itisthePersonofChrist.”But,howisitpossibletosaythatwewill follow the Person of Christ without following His Way?
  3. “Itisnotimitationthatleadstoeverlastinglife;itissurrender...Itisacceptingthatwecannotimitatehim.”Thesewordsflatly contradict several texts that exhort us to imitate Christ: 1 Cor. 11:1; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6.

As I read these words I realized that the author and others want a Jesus who can be admired, who stirs emotions and gives good things, but not a Jesus who requires obedience and imitation. They want an object of adoration that makes no demands! Thinking further it dawned upon me, although it sounds harsh—frankly, they want an idol!

These two approaches are the most common ones in “Christendom’’ today: (1) Focus on a system, or (2) Focus on an object of adoration that makes no demands. Neither grasps truth.

Commitment to a Savior!

Jesus Christ is the focus of the gospel. Philip told the eunuch “the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35), “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved... “ (Acts 16:31), “... whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), etc.

But our Savior wants obedience! “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock’’ (Matthew 7:24, emphasis mine), etc. No, we don’t have to do so flawlessly. As children of God we will not be instantly fully-grown (Phil. 3:12-16; 2 Thess. 4:12) and we stumble in our walk (James 3:2). However, we trust in Christ’s mercy as we grow, knowing that as children our salvation is thankfully not based on flawless compliance, but on His grace (Eph. 2:8-10). However, our love will never allow us to look upon Him merely as an object of worship that makes no demands, but rather as a loving Savior who, as we grow in obedience, will gradually mold us into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18).

— In Biblical Insights, January 2014