Warm greetings in Jesus Name, upon your 3rd anniversary, you are probably not ready to engage in any theological chat yet, are you?
Well, the city excitement about your fellowship continues, perhaps with more anniversaries ahead, yet we still need to discuss these things don’t we? Especially because you and I are not the first Christians in history you know!
Talking of history, allow me to state early that, truth matters, especially in a relativistic day like ours where everybody believes their own truth. Explains why in 1517, men like Martin Luther were willing to denounce the Catholic Church on matters concerning how ‘men are saved’. May you recall that the consequence of his actions is what birthed the Protestant movement from which evangelical gatherings like yours find their roots.
And by declaring that “salvation by faith alone, through Christ alone, as Scripture alone declares,” Luther showed that he cared about doctrine, because Doctrine matters, and in life, we are all devoted to a certain doctrine, even when we deny so, we confirm that “denial” is our doctrine. After all, all living is a result of believing.
Allow me to commend the sincere and well-intentioned efforts of your leaders at Phaneroo to love and teach the Bible. I must quickly add however that “good intentions” and sincerity are not the same as “truth”. And so,
In all humility, I attempt to biblically and summarily interrogate these few themes prevalent in your teaching with prayerful hope that God’s spirit will generate illumination and open the eyes of your heart” (Eph 1:18) for the benefit of many, perplexed about what they hear in your pulpit.
1. That Christians are saints and not sinners; therefore they do not sin because they are one with Christ.
The New Testament emphasizes that believers are saints yet sinners saved by grace alone (Rom 7:24, Eph 2:8). That’s probably why “God’s mercies are new every morning” (Lam 3:22)
Even after salvation, we still “fight the good fight”, “run the race”, put to death the deeds of the body” “put on the full armour” and “take thoughts captive” etc.
Our faith is not like Wi-Fi- that you just sit there lean, and tap. James said, without actions faith is, well-not fainting-but dead, “…dead “(James 2:14)!
2. That we are gods, and because we partake the divine nature, a sense of divinity is inherently embedded in us.
We may be “created in God’s image” (Gen 1:27) but we surely are not “little gods”, that’s “baptized self-esteem” – not gospel, even when the psalmist says it “ye are gods” the next verse adds “but you shall die like mere mortals” (Ps 82: 6-7)
The Bible’s call to become Christ-like does not mean we will somehow become “little gods”, Scripture always makes the distinction between the created and the creator.
Assuming the latter is “sprinkled self-importance” those who go down that road, even when they go down chanting otherwise, soon discover their frail humanity, through death, disease, and ever-present indwelling sin.
3. That Christians are only “ignorant” about their divine nature and only need to discover it.
“heresy” and “narcissism” (Just like “historical ignorance” and “apostasy,”) have always been bedfellows, discernment is often zero when we are tuned in to what swells our chest, we sinners love ourselves by default setting (Ps 51:5), that’s why Paul talked about “itching ears” (2 Tim 4:3), and “denying self ”(I Cor 15:31) “counting all things loss”(Phil 3:8), because humans, more so postmodern humans, love to only hear thrilling stuff about themselves, we don’t love diagnosis, even when medicine is available, yet we are called “to decrease so he may increase (John 3:30)” – so drop the self imposed “apostle”, “prophet” titles obsession already! I know of a King who was eaten live by worms for not “giving glory to God. “(Acts 12:23) historically speaking, only 2nd century Gnostics elevated the spirit over the body. Looks like we are learning from history again Phoebe.
4. “Sinner” is a not an exciting label but we never appreciate medicine until we admit we are sick.
Jesus said it’s “the sick, not the healthy, that need a doctor” (Mark 2:17), ordinary medics know good diagnosis leads to appropriate medication and eventually good living, the great physician too.
If “gospel” means “good news”, then unless we understand what we are saved from, we will never understand what we are saved for. The bad news of sin “exposed by law” (Rom 7:7) gives us good ground to appreciate the gospel. So denying we are sinners means denying the gospel – ultimately.
5. Funerals, hospital visits and Burglar proofs are present realities in a fallen world.
More than you would like to admit Phoebe, these three are a reality no matter how many positive confessions and declarations we make, courtesy of our first parents, we live in a sin filled the world, at least for now, as groan in expectation (Rom 8:19). So even as a believer Pheobe, don’t be surprised by Police handcuffs, termination letters, and electric fences. Christ will fully restore all things (Acts 3:21) but only at the end of the age, for now, we see in part. (1 Cor 13:12)
So mourn with those who mourn, but not as “one without hope.” (1 Thes 4:13) Also, rejoice when God allows you a healthy body or a secure bedroom, that’s “grace” in a world like ours. Every breath is mercy, Our sin deserved so much more, often look at the cross and remember that. (Eph 2:1)
Phoebe dear, whereas I admire the zeal among your young colleagues, (not many in this city are passionate about Jesus like you are) but as you may already know, – this Jesus you are passionate about is proclaimed to us through a book, a Bible, and so, zeal without knowledge is disastrous. (Rom 10:1)
Pheobe dear, Having “Christ’s nature & sinlessness” in the present world is glorious, I love it too.
But in God’s providence, “glorious” could mean that I suffer cancer in a way that makes Christ looks precious. Like Apostle Paul, he may choose I go “Hungry, naked cold at sea (2 Cor 11:27) ” as long I understand that “these momentary afflictions are nothing in comparison to the glory that will be revealed in us. “ (2 Cor 4:17)
And so Pheobe, guess what I treasure most – the fact that daily grace is poured out on a sinner like me, helping me to put to death (mortify) the deeds of the body, (Rom 8:13) renew my mind (Rom 12:2) and take thoughts captive. (2 Cor 10:5) “run the race, deny myself, etc -all by “the power of him who works in me” (Phil 2:13)
A poor anthropology (study of man) always leads to poor appreciation of the gospel, When the law was given “every mouth was shut” (Rom 3:19)
So may be a little chat about these theological things helps, even on your anniversary, as you know, Christianity is a teaching religion with historical reality based on a book, written by those who saw him, and mediated to us by the holy spirit, I hope you realize that Christianity cannot be under “new management” like every young new orator in town would like us to believe.
We cannot re-invent orthodoxy. Many have gone before us to preserve what we treasure today, namely “salvation by faith alone, through Christ alone, as the Bible alone teaches. ”
I pray for you Phoebe, that you will shelve emotion and excitement, love God with all your mind”, (Luke 10:27) understanding and treasuring this old, old, story told through the lens of an old rugged cross, but first, before you treasure it, you must seek to understand it.
Greetings to your Elvis Mbonye friend, I hope I can write to him someday, I am certain this correspondence will benefit him too, please make him as many photocopies; I am very sure he has enough to pay back your incurred costs.
Phoebe, I await a response from you larger than “these are things of the spirit, you can’t discuss them, they are only revealed by the spirit”
In love and truth