Monday, February 2, 2015



The foreordained plan of God predestined before the world began that we would grow into the image of the Creator, into the true righteousness and holiness of God.

Evolutionary processes are associated with relatively slow and progressive changes over time that result in an increase in complexity and capacity for function that is favorable for survival and future positive development.  Evolution describes only a mechanism, which Christians search beyond.  Christians believe that the developmental goal of the universe, including our goal in particular, is to be perfect and complete -- like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24).  Those who do not believe in God are left with randomness and aimless chance.

God's plan, for the creation to grow into Himself, was why the universe was made.  Evolution simply describes the process of change that God directed at the beginning.

The universe was made and set in motion (physical change with respect to time) to fulfill that plan.  These changes occur according to a preset order which we call "laws of nature."

God executes His will so that the plan has been, is being, and will be accomplished in His good pleasure and in accordance with His timing.  The changes can be described as evolutionary.  Note that evolution does not define God or His plan.  God defines evolution, because the plan of God came first.

The foreordained plan of God is His revelation to the universe.  There is nothing more important.  The plan of God is as important to us as God, Himself.  The foreordained plan is the Foundational and Unifying Law of the Universe.

Even though physical change may appear indistinguishable from a random process, it was created that way by design.  The foreordained plan of God is why the universe was created, why the physical substrate was formed, why humankind exists, why God interacted with people to the time of Christ, the coming and work of Christ, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, what we are supposed to doing, and what the single most important job of the church should be.

When the church follows the will of God as laid out in His plan (Eph. 3:10) and is growing in love and unity into the full knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:12-16), the church will fulfill its role for existing, will beat down the gates of Hell, and will overcome evil with good. 

The extent to which the church does not follow the will of God as laid out in His plan, the church is on the wrong path, operating out of the flesh, pursuing idolatry, and destined to suffer the consequences of entropy by the discipline of God. 

Execution of the foreordained plan of God must be the most important doctrine in the church and more important than any doctrine, interpretation, tradition, or institutional religion of human origin.  It is more important than human titles, positions, or names., buildings, measures of human physical accomplishment, cash flow, or any assurance of future earthly security.  Just verbal acknowledgement means nothing.

If we are within the will of God, our focus is only heavenward in Christ Jesus.  We only look forward, not backward.  We are becoming, not escaping from.  We are headed for, not leaving. We identify as saints headed for perfection in Christ, not sinners who are trying to do better. 

We run the race with eyes on Jesus, casting off the entanglements of sin and leaving them behind.  We help one another to realize our freedom in Christ, not reattach more rules to ourselves or others from our human interpretations.  This includes interpreted necessities of correct behavior for salvation or to maintain salvation.  This reestablishes the Old Covenant and crucifies Christ all over again, and those who do this return like a dog to its vomit.  Understand, this is very serious. 

When legalisms are imposed by the church, the church does not have eyes on Jesus for transformation into the likeness of God.

"Legalisms" include: anything that elevates what one person or group does and diminishes what another does based on a humanly contrived differentiation; anything that returns to a law of "have to" in order to avoid punishment; anything that establishes guilt and sin to set up the need for forgiveness and grace; any established protocol, steps, or rules to obtain salvation.

Grace is the freedom to become like God, not the assumed freedom to choose to sin -- as if the consequences were prevented by the grace of God. Holiness is not something to be pursued in itself -- it is Jesus Christ who is pursued, and it is we who are consequentially transformed by the Holy Spirit into the holiness of God. 

God has revealed Himself in Christ, but that revelation is incompletely known by us.  We have to continue to search, ask, seek, and knock so that we might discover the riches of Christ.  We do not stop and protect what we have discovered or copyright how our private interpretation of what has been discovered.  We do not compare between ourselves.  In unity of mind and purpose, we help one another become more like God.

The church does not preach sin, or preach against sin, or place anyone under judgment or condemnation.  It is a particular affront to use intrinsic condemnation (i.e., the doctrine of depravity) as a "straw man" to set up the need for redemption in Christ.  That doctrine results from a lack of understanding of the foreordained plan of God.  The church's job is to live and show the image of Jesus Christ so that people will also want to become like Christ. 

We must understand that Rom. 8:1 - "there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus" - applies to everyone who will accept and begin transformation into the likeness of God.  The church models what that transformation process looks like; the church does not condemn those who do not conform to church rules for salvation.  That is not the plan of God. 

Everything in scripture is first interpreted in the context of the foreordained plan of God.  Each verse and event and story must be viewed in light of how much the people understood of the plan of God at that particular point in time and where God was taking them toward their future fulfillment of that plan.  This also applies to the New Testament - the mystery of the plan was revealed and explained so that the church could progressively implement the plan in the future.  What has been accomplished in 2000 years? 

The entire book of Ephesians seems to be related to explaining the foreordained plan of God.  Eph. 2:19-22 illustrates how we are to always look ahead and not behind - not behind to the Old Testament, when the plan was still a mystery, and not behind to the New Testament, in which the plan was completely revealed, but in foundational form, for the church to continue to discover and apply the revelation of God and plan for creation.  The New Testament provides a living foundation upon which the church should grow.  It does not describe a bunch of dead rocks upon which the church should camp out, maintain itself in controlled environmental comfort, and protect itself from doctrinal contamination.

Eph. 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Since the correct interpretation of the Old Testament is not an isolated goal within itself, completely understanding its exact academic textual interpretation is immaterial as long as it points forward to fulfilling the plan of God.  That means a great number of subjects that Christians and other scholars debate about is of little real consequence to our purpose on earth and can waste time to the point of sin.  The importance of the subject of contention can become elevated by ambitious human competitiveness to an idol status.

Examples: Interpretations of Gen 1-3; creation and evolution (they are the same); origins; meaning of the Garden story, Adam and Eve being literal people; the Great Flood of Noah; Job; Jonah and the great fish, and many more.  We must understand first that it doesn't matter compared to what is really important.  The search for intellectual knowledge is not an end in itself - it must point toward a purpose.  It is a part of, but does not take the place of, becoming like God in accordance with His plan. 

Therefore, during the period before Christ, the foreordained plan of God was a mystery known only to God, until the time had fully come for the plan to go into the next phase (Gal. 4:4).  The physical substrate of the human body and brain had evolved until an overlay of social, political, and religious knowledge could evolve.  The plan of God can be recognized in the Old Testament through retrospective analysis, since after the plan was revealed, we know what to look for.  Jesus Christ provided the transition to the next phase of spiritual evolution, when the conditions of the previous phase of the plan had been met and the last age could begin.  Jesus revealed the plan by His life and through His teaching, although He had to speak in "code."  The power for the last phase of spiritual evolution came on the day of Pentecost, and the revelation of the plan was made known to the apostles.  This was the foundational teaching of the plan, revealed from God through Jesus Christ and then through His selected apostles.  The foundation of the plan was written in the New Testament, and the church is supposed to take the building process from there on into the future until Jesus comes again.

How does the church today compare to that described in Eph. 4:12-16 -- 2000 years after the foundation was completed for the fulfillment of the plan of God?  What kind of stewardship of the power of the Holy Spirit does God require of the church after 2000 years?  What kind of manager has the church been of God's resources?  Would Jesus give His church today a commendation or a reproof, based on the parables about the Kingdom of God?  

One of the messages from Gen. 1-3 is that God placed humankind as His representative in stewardship over the earth.  The creation groans for the sons of God to be revealed (Rom. 8:18-23).  The creation was subjected to frustration (Rom. 8:20), and it is likely getting inpatient for the sons of God to quit arguing among themselves about how God make the universe in order to fulfill His plan and to get busy about being revealed in the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18).  How is God glorified when humans argue over their imperfect opinions instead of keeping their eyes on Jesus?  Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2), not of our human arguments for the correctness of our doctrine.

(Originally published on February 2, 2015; revised on February 16, 2015)

(Some previous posts on this general subject)
    Friday, September 5, 2014

YOUR INNER JESUS  - (Contrasted To "Your Inner Fish")
   Monday, April 14, 2014

    Thursday, December 5, 2013

    Monday, November 18, 2013

    Saturday, August 31, 2013 

    Tuessday, June 18, 2013

    Friday, April 5, 2013 

GOD (by Intelligent Design) CREATED (by supernatural power) THE UNIVERSE (and the earth and all life) THROUGH AN EVOLUTIONARY (so-called “natural”) MECHANISM
Thursday, April 26, 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

Friday, May 4, 2012   

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. (John 14:27)

If there would be a geographical area on earth where the highest density of human conflict, violence, and bloodshed has occurred - in ancient history, in more modern history, and continuing today -- what might that area be? This is the same general area where the above words were spoken. What happened?

The region of the Golan Heights has been, is now, and likely always will be the epitome of conflict between people and nations over political control, rights, and ownership. Nations have attempted to work out treaties, agreements, promises, whatever seemingly with one hand holding a pen and the other a hidden knife. Why does conflict and chaos seem so entrenched in this region? Perhaps it is because it was prophesied to happen (Gen. 16:11-12) and because the answer, that had been provided to change the outcome, Jesus, was rejected and asked to leave - go away - get outta town - leave us alone - we don't want you around here; you mess everything up.

Mark 5:1-20 relates an event in Jesus' ministry of the healing of a man possessed by a legion of demons. The demons had made the man powerful and fearsome, and he was uncontrollable. Jesus cast the demons out of the man and allowed them to enter a herd of pigs. The possessed pigs ran down the hill, over the cliff, and into the sea where they perished. The people who lived in the area came out to investigate, and, upon seeing the healed man, who had been possessed, and the deviled ham in the water, they were afraid.

"Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region." (vs. 17).

And He did. He got back into the boat and left. (vs. 18)

This region to the east side of the Sea of Galilee is the Golan Heights. About 2000 years ago, the people of that region wanted the Prince of Peace to go away and leave them alone. "We don't want your kind around here." Jesus did leave, physically and symbolically, and it doesn't seem like He has ever been invited to return. The words of Jesus give peace, but in the world there will be trouble (John 16:33).

So, what about the region called the Golan Heights? What rules - the peace of Christ or the trouble of the world? What filled the vacuum created when Jesus was asked to get out? Could those spirits of 2000 years ago still inhabit the area? By what power could the influence of demonic elements be driven out?

So, what other regions or territories could the Golan Heights symbolically represent? How about where we live?

How many families have virtually nothing but a consistent generational conflict produced by the consequences of self-perpetuating bad decisions? Alcohol, drugs, crime, prison, abuse - just one stupid thing after another. Jesus is not the Prince of Peace in their lives. And, if asked, it's certainly never their fault - they're the victims. On the other hand, many families have had generations of blessings after a key family patriarch allowed Jesus to enter their life, thereby introducing peace and changing the future course for those who would follow.

What about a society that can determine its future destiny by present choices? What about a society that decides for itself whether Jesus is invited to stay or told to leave? What about a society that increasingly tells Jesus to "make like a tree and get outta here?"

The President of the United States said "American is no longer a Christian nation," and some people got upset. Why? It's not true because he said it; he said it because it's true.

It's promoted like an agenda. Let's get Jesus out of the schools; let's get Jesus out of the books; let's get it forbidden to pray publicly in Jesus' name; let's get rid of prayer altogether (unless it's addressed to some other deity, or non-deity). Let's get Jesus out of our vocabulary, unless it's used as profanity in the media. Let's get nativity scenes off any public property - certainly governmental, but also schools, libraries, and firehouses. Let's get Jesus out of Christmas and have a "Holiday Season." Now, the "reason for the season" is consumer debt. Let's get Jesus out of any consideration of people for public office - elected or appointed. Let's make it offensive to someone to have to hear the name of Jesus uttered in their presence, unless it's embedded in a curse word. Let's complain about Jesus represented in name, in appearance in paintings, pictures, or statues; let's complain about God being on our coins and in our pledge. Let's wonder why our government is so functionless and why greed and pride and self-idolatry prevail. Let's promote anything anti-religious in the media and put an evil slant even on good things that might be related to Christianity.

Let's wonder why there are school shootings and political calls to confiscate guns and beheadings that are called "workplace violence." Let's make peace by not offending anybody no matter what they might say or do - as long as it doesn't promote anything like that Jesus person. Let's wonder why the destruction of the home continues - until it begins to become the "norm."

Let's allow and even promote Satan worship because we don't want to appear like fundamentalists or bigots. Let's live in fear because someone might call us that name or another one.

So, as a society, let's just purge ourselves of this Jesus person. We're afraid of Him (capitals are mine); He interferes with our lifestyle, economics, and choices; we are smarter than that. So, we don't plead with Him to get outta here; we tell Him. Oh, yeah, and we're sweeping out our church buildings, too.

What fills the vacuum that is created when Jesus is told to leave? What happens when Jesus is not recognized as the Prince of Peace ... but maybe more like Beelzebub? (Mark 3:20-30). Uh, oh, better read verse 29.

Well, one could say, "The world is doing it to itself. At least the church isn't saying 'Jesus be gone.'"

And just what makes that statement correct? Who has been called to be the presence of Jesus on earth? Who is supposed to make up the body of Christ?  Is the body of Christ shaped like a million parcels of real estate?

The church doesn't create the vacuum, like saying, "Let there be vacuum." The church allows the vacuum to happen because the church does not fulfill its mission to be the presence of Jesus - the body of Christ - the temple for the Spirit of God - the kingdom of God on earth.  Vacuum exists when the influence of the Spirit of God in the church is not present.

Pigs, arise?

This could be a horror movie. Instead of "Lord of the Flies" it could be "Spirits of the Pigs" or "When Pigs Fly." See the moonlit shapes of the ugly demonic critters as they claw their way back over the cliff and slither around looking for someone to possess who has removed Jesus from their life. The demons of the region had ruled until Jesus arrived and exercised His authority over them. What did the demons do when the people in the city asked Jesus to leave? The demons asked Jesus to not send them out of the region, so did the demons return after they finished the bacon?  Speculation - has peace ever come to that region or not?  Maybe the demons stayed in the region.  Maybe they came back.  Maybe the influence is still there.

What do we want for ourselves and for our children and their children? Order, peace, justice, righteousness, and true freedom, or chaos, conflict, discrimination, and bondage? What is on the increase; what is trending up? Is it peace or conflict?

On Friday, September 26, 2014, the Wall Street Journal published an article "Mass Shootings On the Rise," describing casualties in active-shooter incidents increasing 1-2 orders of magnitude since 2000. "The FBI said more gunmen have tried to kill large numbers of people in recent years, with shooters seeking 'an act of catastrophic violence.'" And those data didn't count violence using knives or bombs.

We still have choices, but it is the beneficial and positive outcomes of our choices that are becoming less probable. A choice to continue good will have a high probably of producing a good outcome. However, a choice requiring a turnaround and recovery from a history of bad choices expends a lot of energy trying to correct things, and the remaining benefit quality is reduced.

"Keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Eph. 4:3). Any unity in the Golan Heights? Any bond of peace? Any unity in the church? First Church of the Golan Heights? Has the church headed toward unity or toward creating more division over that last 100 years? 200 years? 2000 years?

"If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." Mark 4:23

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

(Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Tit. 1:4; Philemon 1:3; 2 John 1:3; Rev. 1:4-5)

Thursday, September 18, 2014


And the winds of change blew against that house;
and it could not withstand,
because it was built upon the sand;
and so it fell with a great clatter,
in a heap of words that never did matter.
(with apologies to Matthew 7:24-27)

Got milk? Got doctrine? Got milk of the doctrine?

Because the English words "doctrine" and "teaching" both come from the same Greek words (either didache or didaskalia, teaching or that which is taught), oftentimes people want to say the words mean the same thing. However, the developed connotations of doctrine and teaching are different in our common usage. Doctrine has a connotation of a teaching that has been around long enough to have become somewhat established and accepted. Teaching implies a word description of findings gleaned from a process of study. What is taught may have a range of evidence behind it, from substantial to tenuous. The credibility of what is taught often depends on who is doing the teaching. Doctrine implies a teaching that has been passed down generation to generation (of people or of knowledge) until it is essentially assumed to be unimpeachable - at least by the proponents of that way of thinking. Thus, a doctrine is a tradition - a teaching that is assumed to have been adequately vetted and thought through in the past - a teaching that is defining, bonafide, calcified, even petrified. A doctrine is a hook upon which to hang your hat of salvation. It is to be taught; it is to be perpetuated; it is to be defended. It is a part of your structure of faith. It is a hill to die on - at least for the proponents of that particular doctrine.

The problem comes when there are many different teachings that have become different doctrines that are established on many hills that many people die on. Therefore, the way we have become accustomed to using the words teaching and doctrine, they do not equate to the same thing. However, there is an association between the two, because doctrines started from teachings which started from teachers with credibility. There are many doctrines today that began as teachings from discoveries by Protestant reformers who were contrarily reacting to certain doctrines that had evolved through the Roman Catholic Church since the first century.

Got trouble?

Are our doctrinal standards flying on the summit of a mountain or a molehill?

Doctrines can be like the "warm fuzzies" that we carry with us to answer some of life's perplexing questions, such as --

how God works or doesn't work in this world, 

how or who is saved or isn't saved,
what a person (or an institution) has to believe and/or do in order to be saved,
what is means to get saved, be saved, and stay saved,
what sort of hell awaits those who don't obey all of this
(note that the above subjects are listed as elementary teachings of Christ in Heb. 6:1-2)

Doctrines are derived from hermeneutics, which are methods of scriptural interpretation. This is not a process like a scribe copying the Biblical text onto a new page as verbatim as possible. It involves human interaction with the text that is influenced by natural human preconceptions. A person may go to the scripture because of frustration with a particular currently accepted religious dogma that they know can't be true. That's a preconception, and it will be difficult to impossible to discover a new interpretation of scripture that is really balanced without overcompensating for the error in question. Such circumstances easily introduce human thinking into a derived hermeneutic, and the resulting doctrine and the proponent groups that follow it will tend to have certain characteristics -

[1] The doctrine will have embedded elements from the sinful nature

Legalism. There will be rules to be obeyed, protocols to be observed, institutional human activities deemed necessary for salvation or to maintain salvation. An institutional compliance with being a "living sacrifice" will be manifested in precisely defined liturgies, forms of architecture and dress, proper labels and names, proper humanly recognized pedigree for those who lord it over, and proper performance of duties - all of which is to be maintained in the form of a static tradition.

Pride. Doctrine is important; Jesus taught doctrine; we must also. One takes pride in their legalistically defined activities; it is part of their assurance of salvation. A doctrine of performance-based salvation is transparent to the believer until the doctrine is threatened by a successful contradiction. Then it's time to fight and argue and debate as though one's very salvation was at stake - because he thinks it is.

Selfishness, greed, ambition. Either Jesus saves through one particular doctrine and everyone else is out of luck, or else that doctrine brings the believer closer to Jesus than does any of the others. Believers maintain doctrine like they are in competition.

If, according to Calvinistic doctrine, everyone is born as a depraved sinner bound for hell, when a doctrine is conceived, could it have a sinful nature?

[2] The basis for the doctrine will have come from a reaction to the shortcomings of a previous human doctrine.

This ensures that a doctrine will be adulterated by a response to another human teaching rather than purely directed to searching for a greater understanding of the true revelation of God. This is okay if we understand that limitation and continue to search to come closer to understanding God's will. It is not okay if we deify the doctrine and put it in a trophy showcase for display.

[3] Even doctrines corrupted by humanism must still be defended against other competing or contradictory doctrines that likewise incorporate different errors.

If God has really determined in His foreordained will that certain preselected people will be part of the elect, why are there so many different opinions and interpretations and doctrines resulting in divisions within the body of Christ? It's almost like the more the Bible is made available to people, the more opinions develop about what it says resulting in more groups exercising their free will to divide the church.

Why has the increase in number of separate Christian groups been so proportional to the availability of the Bible in easy to understand English translations? The more the Bible is distributed, the more divisions are produced? Is it easier to follow Biblical teachings in unity when the institution keeps all the Bibles and just tells the people what they should believe? Does greater knowledge of the Word of God really produce division? Is this the Bible's fault or are people misapplying their knowledge by exercising their free choice to introduce human elements into doctrinal interpretations? Yes, and then having the arrogance to argue
with one another over which one is right - when none of them are.

[4] Another evidence of human elements in doctrine is if the validity of that doctrine is necessarily linked to a particular (usually "literal") interpretation of certain Biblical passages.

How long will we continue to fool ourselves that the meaning of these passages cannot change?

There are entire movements that depend on the doctrine of creation in 6x24 hour "literal" days and the doctrine of original sin by Adam. Creationism, Calvinism, and Armenianism depend on "literal" interpretation of Gen 1-3 that must be defended at all cost because, if these chapters were figurative, the domino effect on creationism, the Fall of Man, Original Sin, Depravity of Inherited Sin would be catastrophic. That's a pretty tenuous doctrinal structure when the winds of change start to blow.

There is increasing evidence that the Pentateuch was not all written by Moses and that the book of Genesis is likely a compilation of more than one document. There is growing evidence among Biblical scholars that the first three chapters of Genesis are symbolic of God's living in the temple of His creation, in a kingdom, in which mankind was appointed as the caretaker - as God's representative to the physical creation - as God's priest - as God's image bearer to the creation. Most everything in these three chapters takes on a different meaning.

There is good evidence supporting the suggestion that Genesis, including chapters 1-3, was written during the exile and that the Garden story with Adam and Eve represented Israel.

There is increasing acceptance of the overwhelming plethora of data supporting an evolutionary explanation for the formation of the universe and the origins of mankind over about 14 billion years. In fact, there is a symposium coming up to examine the doctrine of the Fall of Man in light of all this evidence that Genesis 1-3 is not "literal." ("Literal" being defined as what it means to us today in the English language and superimposing our definitions upon the Biblical Hebrew text.)

The doctrine including Original Sin and Depravity and the "Adam is the only human who had a choice" are not compatible with the increasing knowledge and evidence discovered about God's revelation in His creation (Rom. 1:20).  But this evidence will continue to mount until it cannot be ignored or just outright rejected.  

Defending these doctrines of the Garden and Original Sin will become increasingly difficult. Just denying anything contrary will give an even greater appearance of blind ignorance. People who insist on doctrines involving the extraction of Original Sin from out of verses in Genesis 1-3 will be backed into a corner of geocentricism. What's that? That refers to thinking everything revolves around you and what you can understand. By the way, that included God. It involves being in denial to maintain the status quo. It's the position the Roman Catholic Church had when they considered Galileo's notion of the earth revolving around the sun to be a heresy, because this new idea contradicted "doctrine."

The "literal" interpretation of Genesis 1-3 endorsed by creationists, Calvinists, and Armenians will become unreasonable in the face of evidence. What will happen to these doctrines when the winds of change hit this house built on the sand?

The foreordained plan of God for our sanctification and glorification will stand on the rock. Creationism and Calvinism will not. Human-derived doctrines do not comply with the will of God that predestined we should be transformed into His likeness for eternal fellowship with Him.

We are being changed from one glory to another as we are transformed into the true righteousness and holiness of the Creator as a gift of His grace.  Can't we understand that the church is not growing into the maturity of a historical Jesus in a human body.  The Jesus we serve and are being transformed into is the King; He is the victorious Lord at the right hand of God with all things under His authority.  This is the Jesus that fulfilled the will of the Father when the foreordained plan of God was enacted.  We are being transformed into the image of the Creator because we KNOW Jesus - because we have the Holy Spirit living within us carrying the spiritual DNA of God.  We are not being transformed into a description about God that passes through our finite human filters - a so-called doctrine, belief statements, vision statement, whatever.  We yield the job of transformation to the Spirit, who searches the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:10-11).  Since all my trust is in God, I don't have to get upset if something about my doctrine-based interpretations gets challenged, even with successful contradiction.  If I do get upset and defensive, could I be holding my doctrinal view as an idol?   I should be continually standardizing my own doctrines and interpretations against the Word anyway in order to grow closer to the revealed nature of God.  Knock and the door will be opened (Matt. 7:7-8).  Don't knock and do what -- sit down in my padded pew and read a tract advertising why my group's doctrine has to be right? 

[5] Idolatry.

An idol is lurking when the emphasis of one's doctrine is more on how they got here rather than on where (toward whom) they are headed. 

The idol of humanism in doctrine is exposed when a particular insistence on the "right way" to get to Jesus is functionally elevated in importance over becoming like Jesus, Himself. This mirage of what is important is formed when people do not understand that Jesus told us, and Paul explained, the mystery of the foreordained plan of God. Our single most important function is to be transformed into the image of God - into the true righteousness and holiness of the Creator. When Jesus said "I am the way....," the emphasis is on the "I am" (the name of God) and not on "the way." We try to humanly define "the way" instead of focusing on Jesus as Lord. We say that we focus on Jesus, but then we argue over who has the "approved" definition of "the way." That error in direction results in more errors (which is a characteristic of "works of the sinful nature," by the way).

The "wisdom" of the idol abandons the one who has to explain when something is inconsistent with their brand of "the way." People may explain the exceptions to their doctrine by saying "God thinks this or doesn't think that." People often admit that "God is sovereign and can do whatever He wants."  Nice.  But it seems that God is allowed to be sovereign only in the mysterious areas that can't be "explained" by the human doctrine.  In those other areas, people seem pretty confident they know exactly what God thinks.  Hearer beware. 

The idol of competition makes one feel they must explain away the success of someone else - "They may act like Jesus, but if they didn't get there in the right way, they're tricking themselves and only saying 'Lord, Lord.'"

Another result of an idolatrous doctrine is the emphasis on evangelism is more on preaching an intellectual argument to people, that Christians have developed themselves, instead of showing the fruit of transformed lives.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that doctrine without transformation is useless?

As the body without the spirit is dead, so doctrine without transformation is dead.

Dear children, let us not love with doctrine and sermons but with actions of truth and transformation.
(cf James 2:20, 26; 1 John 3:18)

An A-slop fable.

Some people were standing beside an intersection discussing how they had gotten there.

"I got here in a bus from the TULIP bus lines."

"I got here in the Batmobile."

"I got here in an airplane."

"I got here riding a bicycle."

"I walked here."

They stood around a sign that pointed an arrow in an easterly direction. The sign said, "Jesus, the way." 

Someone asked, "Where ya' going?"

"East," another replied. 

"Me too," said another.

"Yeah," said another.

Someone said, "Hey, since we're all going east, let's go together."

Then, the tone changed. "Ehhh, not so fast. You can't go - you didn't get here in the right way. You think you were specially elected by the ticket master to ride that bus, don't you? What about the people left behind - did the ticket master not like them? TULIP bus lines only go south from here, buddy."

"Yeah, well, you think you rode in the Batmobile, but it was actually a hearse! You're were born dead, but don't know it, yet. You're going nowhere."

"Well, my airplane passed all of you up; I have faster ground speed than anyone; I just zoomed past you like you're standing still. Yes, sir! Fly on the wings of eagles with the DAISY Air Lines."

"Yeah? Then why didn't you arrive before anyone else? Did you have a doctrinal problem called "delayed departure?" Something faulty about your plane or your flight plan? Was TSA searching your luggage for contraband? If your DAISY chain is so great, why don't you get to places faster?"

"My bicycle is the way of the meek and humble. I'm going to inherit the earth. In fact, I've already inherited the ground you're standing on, so get off my property!"

"Boloney! Let's see your deed for this property God gave you. Who do you think you are? Abraham?"

"Walking is the only way. You should know that walking is the only approved New Testament example. That means none of you are authorized to be here. Jesus didn't use any of your so-called modern conveniences. Jesus walked everywhere He went."

"Yeah? Once Jesus rode a donkey - did you ride a donkey? No? Well, then, you're not so scriptural after all, are you? Besides, Philip got translocated (Acts 8:39-40), so why don't you just transport yourself somewhere else!"

Hmmm. Instead of traveling on together in an easterly direction toward "Jesus the way," they all argued over how they had gotten to the intersection. It seemed to be more important to determine who had gotten to the intersection in "the right way" than to travel on "the only way" to Jesus. It's like the continued trip was invalidated by internal debates. They could have combined their spiritual strengths and traveled in unity toward the destination of Jesus; instead, they combined their human weaknesses and remained stationary, recycling their private arguments in division.

Got unity?

...until we all reach unity in the faith... (Eph. 4:13)

Unity isn't using the same method of travel. If everyone had to ride with the TULIP Bus Lines or in the DAILY airplane, that would be uniformity. Unity is being one in mind and purpose (Phil. 2:3) - it is having our focus on the same destination. It is being transformed into the true righteousness and holiness of our creator God (Eph. 4:24). One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all and through all and in all (Eph. 4:5-6).

Got transformation? (as predestined by the foreordained plan of God)
If I have all the TULIPs and DAISYs in the world, but if I spend all my effort and attention in the garden honoring the flowers I've grown instead of the Chief Gardener who created everything, it profits me nothing.

Whether I can raise a TULIP or a DAISY; whether I know all about their anatomy and can successfully debate the merits of one over the other, if I am not being transformed into the likeness of the Creator, it's the same as if I knew nothing.

Because I know in part, I build doctrines that are partially true. But when I keep my eyes on Jesus, I am headed for the Truth.

When I was on the milk of the word, I emphasized immature things, but as I have matured, I have put these inadequate human doctrines behind me.

Doctrines are of this world, but I am headed for being perfected in love with God.

Whether there be TULIP's, they shall die, whether there be DAISY's, they shall wither away.

But transformation into the ever increasing glory of the Lord is eternal.

Let us not build our house on the sand of human doctrine, but on the foundation rock of Jesus Christ, as we are being transformed into His likeness.

Human doctrines are among the entanglements and sins that we need to get rid of in order to run the race with eyes only on Jesus. (Heb. 12:1-2). Arguments and even protracted discussions about the validity of one human doctrine or another are a waste of time. The undue attention that is given to this sort of thing maintains division, not unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3) and is one reason the church is falling behind the advances in the world - including the advances of the darkness of evil.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Can we get so caught up in ourselves that we lose sight of Jesus?

The radio was on Sunday morning, and someone was teaching a lesson from Matthew 7. The program may have been going on awhile, but when I began listening, the speaker was on Matt. 7:15-20 .... false prophets. These were said to be those who attracted attention to themselves and spent time at one location until they were discovered, and then they moved on to somewhere else to spread their error. One can tell they are false prophets because of their fruit -- they always cause division in the body.

On to verses 21-23 - "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven." These "Lord, Lord" people were those who called on the Lord while doing all these showy things on TV - like supposedly healing people and falling down and all the other sensory overloads getting people excited and just saying, "Lord, Lord" with no substance. No one particular name was mentioned, but the description given just happened to fit a certain TV evangelico-personality pretty well. Let's not refer to a real name, but, just to have a name, we'll call him Henny Benn. So, now, we have Henny going "Lord, Lord" and supposedly driving out demons and working miracles, like the passage says, but he and those of similar ilk will hear "depart from me" from Jesus, also like the passage says.

This is a classic application of these scriptures from groups who genuinely want to interpret the scriptures in a respectful, conservative, "literal" manner. I grew up in such an environment and am still part of a group coming from that tradition. But that approach is an example of misdirected applications that come from an immature understanding of the foreordained plan of God. Up until a few years ago, I wouldn't have recognized it as such.

First of all, if we are going to be recognized by our fruit, what might that be? How about the fruit of transformation -- of fulfilling the foreordained plan of God? How about the true righteousness and holiness of God (Eph. 4:24)? How about the growth of the church into the maturity of the full knowledge of Christ (Eph. 4:12-16)? How about the love of God? Jesus said we will be known as His disciples by our love one for another. But how does growing in love and maturity include judging other people's efforts in the name of Jesus and claiming that Jesus is going to tell them to "get lost?" Is that "tough love?"

But surely we would not promote the fruit of false judgment of others and division. So, who is crying "Lord, Lord?" Could it be people who compare themselves to other people in such a way that they, themselves, look better? Is that saying, "Lord, Lord, look at me -- isn't it a good thing I am in the good fruit category and not like that Henny Benn person making such a fuss over himself?" Hmmm. Wasn't there a parable about that -- publican, Pharisee, or canusee, or something.

What would the foreordained plan of God have to say about some parts of the body of Christ calling other parts "unclean." Even if they are, that's for God to determine, not us. Even if I think God's word is being clearly applied to "them," that is according to my interpretation, which precludes the possibility that the lesson applies to me even more. I also have my sights on a human fallible standard rather than the righteousness of God. So, if I can just be better than Henny Benn, in the estimation of the wonderfulness of my very own self, does that mean Henny is saying "Lord, Lord," but I'm not?  There seems to be some self-deception going on here.

What is the approach that we are supposed to take? Let us show the results of following the foreordained plan of God. Let us show what it looks like to have eyes on Jesus and to be running the race toward Him. Show the world what the standard looks like - what it looks like to be devoted to being transformed into Jesus Christ - and the Holy Spirit can convict the world of any differences between the standard they see in the church and their own wayof doing things. Let us testify to the manifold wisdom of God, which is His plan for the church (Eph. 3:10). Otherwise, what do we have to say that has any validity?

"Well, you're just saying that Henny Benn is okay and that God is happy with him and that he represents the truth and you're verifying a false prophet and ....." No, we are saying that we need to keep our eyes on Jesus and represent the truth and grow into the maturity of Christ and the righteousness of God or else we will fall away. We need to testify to the wisdom of plan of God and nothing else and let the Holy Spirit do the identifying and convicting, or else we will be crying "Lord, Lord" ourselves. We need to be "doing the will of the Father" according to His foreordained plan, by which He laid out the predestined way we become like Him. It is God's will that we give our attention to being like Him, not different from Henny Benn.

If we claim that we know what the plan of God is about, then why do we take the lesser road that falls so short of the will of God?

It's taken me some years to understand this message, which is a reflection of how much our background reinforces our preconceptions. Years ago, I happened onto a TV channel broadcasting the show of the evangelico-performer previously referenced in an oblique manner. I was complaining to God about the outrage before my eyes, asking Him how He could allow such a poor representation of the church. In response, I sensed some words coming into my thoughts that went something like this. "I can handle ("Henny Benn"), and I can do it without your help, thank you very much! You just give your attention to the things I have told you to do!"

Let's set our eyes on Jesus and run the race (Heb. 12:1).  And by God's help, we will (Heb. 6:3)