To live is Christ, says the Apostle Paul! (Phil 1:21)
In the past three years Paul and I have been walking a road that took us further and further away from the true meaning of life and Christianity. Being a Christian is all about living in Christ (Romans 6:8) and dying with Christ (Gal 2:20).
What is true religion all about? What is Christianity all about? I will let the Bible itself answer those questions.
If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:26-27 (NASB)
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."
Gal 5:13-14 (NASB - original emphasis)
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Eph 2:8-10 (NASB - emphasis mine)
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Phil 2:1-4 (NASB)
That is just the a small sampling from the texts in the Bible that speak of what true Christianity is all about. It is about turning away from your former lusts, snares, and desires. It is about continually repenting of sin and turning to Christ.
While sound doctrine is no doubt very important to the New Testament writers, it is for the purpose of living together in love and peace. If we strive for sound doctrine it ought to be so that we can better love and serve one another. But, what I have seen in my own life (all too often) is a pursuit of knowledge for merely the sake of knowledge and intellect. But, read this exhortation:
Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. 1 Cor 8:1-2 (KJV)I also like this translation of the same verse:
Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know;1 Cor 8:1-2 (NASB)Now, this does not mean all knowledge and learning is bad - by no means. Scripture is also filled with exhortations about acquiring more wisdom and knowledge (see Prov 4:5-7; 2 Tim 2:15) We have to find a balance, and we have to judge our own motives. It is very good to read the Bible! It is very good to read books about the Bible to gain more understanding into the Bible. It is very good to read books about Christian living. SO LONG AS you are reading these books for the end goal of being edified and edifying others. If you want to learn something so that you can seem smarter or debate better, you need to be cautious in your desire to learn. But, if you want to learn more, so that you can better present the Gospel to the lost world, so that you can better love those around you - GREAT!
A bit of personal reflection here - when I was in college I was a part of a campus ministry called "Christian Student Fellowship (CSF)." (The founders/teachers of this group are from the Christian Church, and the group consists of many differing denominations.) My Christian life blossomed under the care of this group! I worshiped and fellowshiped weekly with those who had a variety of beliefs. I served on missions teams with these students. I shared the Gospel with the lost while I was in this group, I was discipled and discipled others while in this group... I was a healthy active Christian with love for the lost world around me, striving to live out the Gospel in my whole being. These were precious, tender years.
Then, I left CSF, I went to Bible College. Somewhere in the following years my pursuit of knowledge conquered over my pursuit of love and genuine growth. Because, frankly, I began to mistake book knowledge for growth... meaning, I was thinking that I was growing in my Christian walk merely because I was reading such knowledgeable authors.
I greatly slacked in my witnessing. I started loving all people a little less. I started drawing divisions between myself and other Christians that never should have existed. I parted fellowship with those who did not believe as I did on the issues that I considered most important. I was in a sorry state, and I was miserable.
You would think that all my Bible knowledge would have caused me to have more compassion for the lost, more love for all people... but that just isn't the case. Because, I was learning to attain intellect... not edification.
I finally feel like, after these past several years of building knowledge without love and separating myself from others, that I am getting back on solid ground. My husband, Paul, and I have had a lot of really good talks about this lately. We are re-evaluating our motives, our love, everything.
My blog life has been quite varied, with the pendulum swinging far into legalism at points. This legalism was not at all helpful to myself or others. In fact, it almost always drove a wedge between myself and other Christians and between myself and the lost of the world who I am required to witness to. I was not the salt of the Earth. I was not a light to the world. I was repugnant... to just about everyone, except those who thought just as I did.
I was not living a life hid in Christ. I was flaunting my own attempts at holiness and right living.
As I blog in the future, I will try to question my own motives more severely.
-Am I writing this to edify and encourage?
-Am I writing this with love?
-Would I want Jesus Christ to read this? (Of course, I know Jesus knows my every thought...)
-Will this cause an unnecessary division among God's people?
-Will this lead others to love and serve the world around them more?
I will still write about the topics that matter most to me: doctrine, modesty, entertainment, materialism, and more... but I will not try to make such a clear cut set of rules as I have in the past. I hope that my readers will notice a difference... in fact, I hope that in the past weeks you have already noticed a difference.