Part of the time, probably most of the time, and perhaps all of the time, Christianity is not as hard as we make it. What would Paul write to churches of Christ today? What would he by the Spirit write about our ever-increasing controversies and questions? Do the topics we discuss promote a faith which does the work of God or only more controversies?
Which discussions in your congregation concern healthy doctrine questions conforming to the glorious gospel, and which are meaningless talk? Are any mere forms of godliness rather than the real power behind godliness? Which of the "issues" we so confidently affirm and carefully research is God going to bring up at the last day?
While recognizing the danger of oversimplification, I use a contrived term to make two simple affirmations about the nature of following Jesus:
(1) "Such-likers" are excluded from the kingdom.
(2) "Such-likers" can be saved.
First, consider Paul's words to the Galatians (5:1-18).
"Such-likers" are excluded from the kingdom. The Christian life is a life lived by the Spirit. The Spirit-led life characterizes us as children of God (Rom. 8:14). Of more practical importance, the Spirit-led life deters gratification of sinful desires. God's kingdom people wage this internal conflict in liberty and freedom but not in license or indulgence. Mutual love and service for each other replace biting and destroying each other. Seems straight-forward enough, right? If such sounds simple to you, you will not believe the number of questions and controversies these few verses have raised. How live by the Spirit? What fleshly nature? What law? Freedom, but...
Perhaps God inspired Paul to continue writing because God knew our human tendency to controversy.
If the first eighteen verses of Galatians 5 pose difficulties--the last eight verses simplify. What do you mean, Paul?
The indulgent actions which gratify fleshly appetites are obvious! Paul gives us the list, and then he adds, "and such like." The kind of life which is opposed to God's will and kingdom is obvious. The Galatians knew what "such like" meant. The Galatians could identify the "such likers"--those who do such things. So can you and I! The kingdom will never have a place for such things as Paul lists in vv. 19-21, nor for those who practice them. The kingdom of God will never have room for "such-likers." The fruit of the Spirit is a natural consequence of the Spirit- led life. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Second, "such-likers" can be saved.
While the kingdom of God excludes those who practice evil and such things, among the Corinthian church were some of whom Paul says, "Such were some of you." In the church at Corinth (1.6.9-12) were former "such-likers"--fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, and drunkards. The wrangling of the contemporary church over a host of issues has all but hidden the truth that the church exists to redeem the lost from sin.
Where in our churches are the former "such-likers?" In some few churches scattered among us are "such-likers" but in most of our churches "such-likers" are noticeably absent--a telling testimony to our failure to reach out to all people of all kinds with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
The failure of the modern church is twofold.
First, we have failed to separate ourselves from the world. We too often resemble practicing "such-likers." If you continue to live as a "such-liker" you will ultimately be excluded from the kingdom.
Second, we have failed to appreciate the power of the gospel to redeem "such-likers" from the world. If you and I can quit "such-liking," others can too. Former "such-likers" can be saved. That is our hope!
© Robert J. Young. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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