I believe in the sovereignty of God, the Five Points of Calvinism, the Solas of the Reformation, I believe that grace precedes faith in regeneration. Theologically, I am Reformed. Sociologically, I am simply a Christian – or at least I want to be. The tricky thing about our hearts is that they can turn even a good thing into an engine of oppression. It happens when our theological distinctives make us aloof from other Christians. That’s when, functionally, we relocate ourselves outside the gospel and inside Galatianism…
Whatever divides us emotionally from other Bible-believing, Christ-honoring Christians is a “plus” we’re adding to the gospel. It is the Galatian impulse of self-exaltation. It can even become a club with which we bash other Christians, at least in our thoughts, to punish, to exclude and to force into line with us.
What unifies the church is the gospel. What defines the gospel is the Bible. What interprets the Bible correctly is a hermeneutic centered on Jesus Christ crucified, the all-sufficient Savior of sinners, who gives himself away on terms of radical grace to all alike. What proves that that gospel hermeneutic has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down on other believers but lifting them up, not seeing ourselves as better but grateful for their contribution to the cause, not standing aloof but embracing them freely, not wishing they would become like us but serving them in love (Galatians 5:13).
Ortland’s got me thinking. There are all kinds of other good doctrines and practices that I use to elevate myself above and alienate myself from other genuine believers, if not externally, at least in my heart: the practice of spiritual disciplines (especially the ones I practice); philosophy of ministry (Is your church attractional or missional? I have my doubts about those who aren’t like me.); size of church (“I’m not into ‘big church’ anymore” has come out of my mouth too many times); translation of the Bible (You use what?!); style of worship music…and the list goes on.
I’m reminded of that great hymn “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It!” While the distinctive beliefs and practices that I listed above are legitimate for me to have, I must be careful not to love to proclaim my love for them above the Gospel. Think of how odd it would sound to sing…
Reformed, how I love to proclaim it
Reformed by the blood of the Lamb
Reformed by His infinite mercy
Cal-vi-nist and forever I am!
[second verse…sounds even worse]
Mis-sio-nal and so happy in Keller
No language my rapture can tell
I know that the right way to do church
With me doth continually dwell
Too often my heart and life are singing “Reformed, how I love to proclaim it!” or “Missional, how I love to proclaim it!” or “House Church, how I love to proclaim it!” Again, these are good values to have and hold out to others, but if I allow my passion for those things to separate me from brothers and sisters who are truly redeemed and love to proclaim it, then I’m guilty of Galatianism. I need to hear Paul say, “For in Christ Jesus, neither [reformed, missional, house-church, etc.] nor [non-reformed, attractional, big-church, etc.] counts for anything, but only a new creation in whom faith expresses itself through love” (see Galatians 5:6, 6:15).
I want the joy and song of my heart to be about the Father redeeming me by the blood of the Lamb so that “His child and forever I am.” But, sadly there are still other counterfeit joys fighting to be my song.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.