Thursday, April 23, 2015

Please, Shake My Faith

Mark 9:42
Image result for little dorrit mr. pancks stills
Mr. Pancks, who embraced the reproof of his friend
-from BBC's Little Dorrit
"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea."

God's children are precious to Him.  He makes this clear in His word and with this verse in particular.   The consequences of causing someone in The Faith to stumble will be severe, I'm sure.  But the title of this blog post really has nothing to do with this verse.  I began by quoting it so that we could get that fact out of the way.   

As a believer in God's Word and in Jesus Christ as my Savior I have to confess that I've constantly wrestled with the issue of Truth.  From the creation of the world, Satan twisted God's Word and His intent in speaking it in order to cause men and women to stumble.  The sad part is, many people have succumbed to his deceit and fallen for "faiths" that are not rooted in truth.   Even those in the Church who are actual children of God can fall prey to lies and begin to believe things that are not true.  Their "faith" earnest though it may be, is rooted in doctrine that is false.  

When someone is confronted with opposition to his "faith", it is not uncommon for him to resist it.  Anger may rise.  Emotions may threaten to get out of control.  Relationships can even disintegrate all at the instigation of opposing beliefs.  Some people fear this and actually shy away from conflicts such as this like it was a deadly plague.   But I say, "Bring it on!". 

Having my faith challenged has done nothing but cause me to dig deeper into the Word of God in order to know what is really true.  And I've found that sometimes, I've placed my faith in a doctrine that is absolutely wrong.   I spent the first twenty years of my life believing something that was wrong that I was taught in Sunday school as a child.  My "faith" held me in the bondage of paralyzing fear.  When I was in my early twenties, this matter came to an ugly head and dealing with it became a matter of life and death for me.   How I wish someone had rocked my world earlier, and shaken my "faith" sooner.  I think of all the years I lived in fear, dreading meeting God the Father and I wonder at the waste.   How much praise was forsaken?   How much joy?

God was kind to bring the error of my beliefs to a point where I had to deal with it.  But after twenty years of believing what I was taught it was pretty engrained into my way of thinking.  And it was difficult.  I felt like I was betraying truth just for considering the opposing theological doctrine.  But, when everything was stripped away, all I really ever wanted was the Truth, not a counterfeit.  God did not want me to believe a lie either because to know the Truth is to know Him.  

Charles Dickens wrote a book called Little Dorrit.   I love the story and BBC did an excellent job of dramatizing the tale.  One of the characters in the book is Mr. Pancks.  He's a quirky little guy who's very smart, but he makes a very big mistake.  He convinces Mr. Clennam to invest his money and the money of his company with Mr. Merdle, The Man of The Age. The investment turns out to be a very bad investment and Mr. Clennam looses everything.  But Mr. Pancks, knowing he was wrong, does not just walk away.  He goes directly to Mr. Clennam with great remorse for his advice and begs Mr. Clennam to express his displeasure saying,  "Come on, at me again!  At me again!".  He desperately wants the confrontation because he feels so badly for his role in Mr. Clennam's ruin. He didn't want to plug his ears and run away from the confrontation.  He didn't deny that he was wrong or insist that he was right merely because of the sincerity of his faith in his advice.  

You may be wondering why on earth I'm bringing that scene up in this post.  I love the scene because I can relate so well to Mr. Pancks' willingness to embrace the facts even if it exposes and highlights his error.  The world would have you believe that truth is subjective, that you can hold to something you sincerely believe in even if others disagree with you and it will be true for you.  It would have you believe that no one is ever wrong and that every thought or opinion is equally valid.   But there is only One truth, and that Truth will set you free.  It doesn't matter how passionately someone holds to his faith if his faith is wrong.  Fervency and sincerity will not lend credibility to it in the end.  Those who sincerely believe a lie will only be sincerely wrong in the end.  I never want to be sincerely wrong, but if I am, I would beg for someone who knows the truth to shake my faith.  In the spirit of Mr. Pancks I say,  "Come on, at me again! At me again!"  

One problem I see regarding this subject is that people seem to be to easily offended.  I don't equate confrontation with personal attack.  No one should.  But I can't even begin to count all the times I've heard people say they "feel attacked" by others merely because someone in the church doesn't agree with them.  Their pride gets in the way and they are unable to glean wisdom from listening to others.   

God says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17).   I've said it before, sometimes sparks are just gonna fly.   But sparks do not necessarily indicate a battle or an attack.  It might just be that God is chiseling away doctrinal error.  Believers should embrace the privilege of speaking truth to each other, even when it takes some work in finding the common ground.  After all, Jesus is the Truth, so if we are seeking to know Him, then we will not shy away from investigating what God's Word has to say about any given matter.  

Please, shake my faith.  I believe it's rooted in the Word of God because I've searched it out.  You may have noticed something I've not yet noticed.  It might even be something crucial.  So go ahead and rock my world if you know something I don't know.  But be advised, words and opinions do not hold weight with me just because of the sincerity of your "faith".  It's got to be rooted in God's Word and it's got to be consistent with His character.  And if you're wrong, be ready to have your faith shaken.  Because sometimes when we think we are going to teach someone else something we know, God might just be bringing them into our circles so that we ourselves might be taught.  Are you humble enough to listen or are you too proud or afraid to allow your faith to be shaken? If your faith is rooted in Truth, you have nothing to worry about.  It will stand.  But if it's rooted in something other than Truth, you still don't need to worry.  The loss of an errant "faith" is nothing to mourn.  


Nick Green said...

Okay, here goes... How can you know that the Bible is the literal word of God, as opposed to the collected works of many different writers; and either way, how can you know that you interpret scripture 'correctly', and that yours is the only right interpretation, when we know that the writings come to us translated via at least three different languages?

In short: what do you say to someone who disagrees with you on an interpretation of something in the Bible?

Amy redding said...

@ Nick,

Thank you for asking. I'm keeping in mind of course that you may or may not be asking these questions with a genuine desire to know God more fully, if at all. But regardless of why you ask, I'm answering because I once asked these same questions to at least fifty bible school students, seminarians and pastors. Not one would (or could?) afford me an answer. Whatever their reasons were, whether they pegged me as a 'rebellious scoffer' looking to stir up conflict or maybe they just didn't have the answers I was seeking, it didn't matter. The result of their lack of effort to give an answer was that my weak faith was nearly shattered. Maybe it was shattered, I'm not entirely certain. Either way, God didn't leave me in a state of confusion, but satisfied the honest cry of my heart to know Him. And He's still satisfying me. So, with that I'll answer for what I know.

1). "How can you know that the Bible is the literal word of God, as opposed to the collected works of many different writers?"

* I asked Him. This whole question was probably the weightiest point of doubt for me. I wasn't at all interested in studying or adhering to mere words of men, because I'd seen how men are cruel, driven toward selfish gain, self promoting and fallible. The fact is; The Bible is both the literal word of God AND the collected works of many different writers. God, being sovereign and perfectly good, has shown me that He is able to speak His words and keep them perfectly preserved, even while using the pens of men. God says that He is Truth (John 14:6), and that there is only One God (Isaiah 48:13), therefore there is only One Truth.

Amy redding said...

2). "How can you know that you interpret scripture 'correctly' and that your's is the only right interpretation when we know that the writings come to us translated via at least three different languages?"

*My understanding of Scripture is rooted in surrender to His will, not my own. His testimony transcends language and my finite thinking. I may not understand every "jot and tittle" or other King James-ese. And I may not read Hebrew or Greek. But I trust that God wants to reveal Himself to even me. I've spent much time searching scriptures (and other texts considered 'holy' by other faiths). God has written His law upon my heart (and yours). That same law (and the gospel of grace) is also written in the heavens and reiterates what He has said about Himself in the Bibles I have. They are consistent with each other confirming to me that He is holy and His ways are not my ways. He is merciful, though I can never merit His mercy. He loves me in spite of my wickedness, but does not 'accept' my wickedness or even my attempts to be righteous without Him. Instead He leads me to forsake evil in order to live a holy live through His power.

Truth does not contradict itself. God, being Truth, never misrepresents who He is or what His will is. What I think and know about God must always be consistent with who His really is, or else I'm merely making a god in my own image. I will not claim that I know everything there is to know about God. But what I do know is consistent with what He's revealed.

What I find common in other people's 'interpretation' of scripture is that they bend and twist their understanding of the words of the bible to fit the god they'd like, rather than the God Who Is. Often their 'god' isn't even consistent with the testimony of the Law that is written upon their own hearts. In essence they become their own gods, deciding what is good and evil for themselves based on their own wishes, rather than seeking absolute Truth.

Amy redding said...

For instance, most people believe murder to be wrong. It's a deep conviction, a law upon their hearts. In spite of this, some will defend a "woman's right to choose" saying it's "her body, her choice". For various reasons the law God placed upon people's hearts that says "Do not kill" is suppressed, and in it's place a contradictory law that conflicts with what the person knows to be true is lauded. And then they freely kill their own children.

It's the same with homosexuality. The testimony of anatomy and natural laws of procreation should be enough evidence for God's design and intent in making man and woman to be one flesh. But rather than embracing what is, a new and permissive god is designed in the minds of men that not only accepts the homosexual as he is, but condones his sexual preference. Phrases such as "when did you decided to be straight" are used to call into question the assertion that being gay is a choice. When in fact every sin finds a ready host who could easily conclude it to be natural, because of the ease with which it drew him in.

Those who are prone to overeating for example, could believe themselves to be "born that way", when in fact, they sin by over-eating. Those who struggle with addiction often believe themselves to be helpless to change. They question, "Why does this keep happening to me?" as though they are not culpable for their actions. And I can tell you from experience that it isn't uncommon for a person who struggles with an addiction to strongly resist overcoming it. They fight and kick because it doesn't come naturally to resist temptation or sin. It comes naturally to indulge in sin!

Many pedophiles would have us believe they were 'born' with their desires and should be allowed to 'love' unhindered too, using the same language of those of the LGTB advocates. It is no different for an over-eater, an addict, a pedophile, a homosexual man, or a heterosexual man who indulges in what God has said is forbidden. They all must repent. It's very hard to resist what some would like to believe comes naturally. No one wants to believe they are wrong. When absolute Truth is rejected and traded for a man-made preference we end up with an "anything goes" society, where no one is wrong except the one who stands for God's absolute Truth which tells us what sin is.

Amy redding said...

As I said before, I'm not interested in adhering to mere words or 'gods' designed by men. How worthless that would be! I want to worship the God Who Is. When I see inconsistencies as blatant as those I've mentioned, I know that the interpretations of others are wrong. Purely and simply wrong. If man controls the 'truth' or the 'law' it is most assuredly going to be wrong, designed to suit some personal whim, plan or will or another. My interpretation of scripture is not rooted in my selfish will to make up a 'truth' I prefer, but rather in God's perfect and holy will.

3). "What do you say to someone who disagrees with you on an interpretation of something in the Bible?"
*It depends entirely upon the subject of interpretation. There are many possible and probably discussions one could have. There are too many variables to answer this definitively.