And to the congregation to which I belong.
One people, with our version of God.
Highly divisible, with mantra and special revelation for all!
Don't you wonder, sometimes, if this isn't an accurate reflection of the stand we sometimes take?
I am always amazed that there are so many Christian denominations. They cannot all be the result of merely interpreting a Scripture or two differently. I would say they are the result of misplaced allegiance.
For Love of Denomination or Preferred Teacher
My first foray into debating theology was with a very nice Calvinist named Glenda. After weeks and weeks of debating, I finally had to point out:
"You realize that I am quoting Peter and Paul and you are quoting Pink and Piper, right? I am quoting Christ and you are quoting Calvin..."
Even Peter was not immune to preferring the opinion of men over the truth of God:
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.
(Galatians 2:11-12 ESV)
Certainly, there is nothing wrong with seeking information and help understanding Scripture from extra-biblical sources, but if we find ourselves relying on them over a plain understanding of Scripture, we better rethink our allegiance.
For Love of Family
"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37)
When I was first studying what it means to be a Christian - and how one becomes a Christian, a friend and I would meet with a local preacher. At one point my friend said, "if you are saying that my parents, who do not believe in Jesus, are going to Hell, then I would rather go to Hell. I would rather be with my family in Hell than in Heaven without them."
Sometimes we find it hard to be true to Scripture because people we love have interpreted Scripture differently - or not at all.
We Love Our Doctrine
Several years back The Cowboy and I both studied with some people of a different faith who came knocking at our door. They came with proof texts in hand and all went well until their proof texts were challenged. When we would point out passages that contradicted what they had been taught - or if we pointed out that their proof texts were cherry picked - they were speechless. On occasion, you could actually see that the connection was made, but with stalwart allegiance to their doctrine, they persisted. (In the cases of both the man with whom The Cowboy was studying and the long line of women with whom I studied, when it appeared that they might be wavering in their long-held beliefs, a person older in the faith than they would either replace them, or end their study with us.)
When Stephen used Scripture to convince the Jews that they had murdered the Christ, their response was hardly thankfulness:
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him.
(Acts 7:54-57 ESV)
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)
Recently a friend posted a question of Facebook about baptism (which, awesomely enough, happens to be the topic of our next Myth Busters series) and I was surprised by the wide array of answers. Some at least referenced Scripture. Most did not.
It is as if we do not understand by what we will be judged on that final day.
The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. (John 12:48 ESV)
It's as if we do not realize that many who consider themselves children of God will find that they were never so:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)
I don't know about you, but that is impetus enough for me to take the word of God quite seriously.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
(Hebrews 4:11-13 ESV)
Where is your allegiance? On that last day we will not have our favorite preacher, or author at our side to persuade God of his doctrine. Our parents will not intercede for us and we won't be handing our catechisms to Jesus for Him to quiz us. In the end, we will answer for how we handled the Word of God.