I wasn’t quite sure where or how to label this post. It doesn’t quite fit in either of the two other series that I’ve started, Mishandled and Prejudice. Still, the LORD seems to have laid this subject on my heart and thus it lends to a new series altogether. If the mishandled series has been getting tiresome for anyone else I hope that this will be a refreshing change for you as it will be for me. My goal through this series is to point out the areas where we neglect to acknowledge that God remains actively sovereign.
If you hold a high view of God’s sovereignty, as I do, then you may find this series encouraging. But if you don’t hold to a view of God’s ultimate sovereignty, then this is probably not the forum for you. I’m not actually going to defend or explain the sovereignty of God in a general sense. Instead, I intend to address the areas in which those of us who do hold to a high view of God’s sovereignty forget to acknowledge His persistent hand.
One thing the church in America is not running short on is variety of styles, opinions, preferences, issues, standards, etc. But how can a sovereign God work among so much diversity? How does God remain sovereign amongst chaos?
What the believer needs to be asking is whether or not God leads people to different conclusions for different reasons. It seems pretty clear from Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 that God allows differing opinions. Further, he tells fellow brothers not to persuade people to act contradictory to their conscience even if their conscience is wrong. So where does the problem rear it’s ugly head? The issue of rightness. Paul tells us to be fully convinced. When we follow his direction we tend to end up with some pretty strong conclusions. Because we have put the effort into ‘working it out’ and have become ‘fully convinced,’ we walk away with an attitude of enlightenment and achievement. The problem is, we aren’t supposed to use these conclusions as a measuring rod for others. Paul makes this very clear in Romans 14:4.
“Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”
If we have a high view of God’s sovereignty then we will trust God to establish what He desires to establish in the lives of our brothers as well. Are we right to assume that others haven’t ‘worked it out’ and become ‘fully convinced’ as the Spirit lead them? It seems clear enough to conclude that God moves people to where they are for the pleasure of His own will.
I am thankful for such works as the Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel which have made great efforts at separating the divide over ‘doubtful things’ to bring unity on the things that really matter. However, though we might have been able to bridge the gaps between Presbyterians and Baptists, we still have a huge division between the old and the new. Where we have given credence to differing opinions on the end times and paedobaptism, we have not been able to yield on far smaller issues such as music, style, and appearance. Within these last three areas, accuracy and rightness have reigned supreme over love and unity.
While the fundamentalist movement was great at establishing theological accuracy, it has had serious consequences in neglecting to stay relevant with the culture it was trying to reach. This has lead to many churches becoming so exclusive that they have not been able to reach and redeem their communities. If I was writing an apostolic letter to the typical fundamentalist church still functioning as if it were the 1950s, this is what I would probably have to say.
“I know you have a lot invested in your work, so much so that you can’t tolerate the wicked who try to destroy it. You’ve been meticulous at examining everyone who claims to be called by God, and those who aren’t, you reject sternly. You’ve persevered and served for the sake of the gospel without giving up. However, I can’t commend you because you’ve lost your motivation, you’ve done it all for the wrong reasons, and you’ve neglected to seek after God. Take some time to reflect where you started out and look at where you’ve ended up. Admit that you were wrong and start over again, or else God will close the doors of your church before you do any more damage.” (This is an extremely loose paraphrase of Revelation 2: 2-5)
I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I am promoting a specific music preference or style of worship. It doesn’t matter which instruments you use or how loud or quite, fast or slow your worship is. If you are more concerned about being right on this issue, then you’ve missed the point. Our design is to seek the LORD together and to prefer our brother to create the necessary environment for them to seek the LORD as well. If you find yourself fighting for your rights to be observed or striving to preserve your way of life, then you’ve truly ‘lost your first love,’ and you need to repent and start your journey of pursuing God from the beginning again.
It’s like when you’re playing ‘Red Light, Green Light.’ You’ve moved when you weren’t supposed to (acted on things that weren’t commands or desires from God’s Word) and now you’ve got to go back to the beginning and do a better job at listening to the voice telling you what to do. (Okay, so I don’t know how many of you will get or appreciate this illustration, but I like it so I’m going with it anyway.)
When rightness is more important to us than unity, then we are neglecting the truth of God’s sovereignty. We must resolve to accept that God is the one who establishes and sometimes that looks different in other people. Listen to the voice of the LORD calling you and get back to the basics of pursuing Him.