Life feels so complicated some of the time. OK, maybe most of the time. It can feel like it would be nice to have a list of do’s and don’ts to live by.
Oh wait, that’s been attempted. We’ve learned that doesn’t work out so well.
But it is the easier approach. So many fall for it. Many even teach it.
Many teach that if you just learn a bunch of Christian principles, you’ll grow in your relationship with God and others.
That kind of teaching resulted in this story…
A story about disagreement
Greg was a part of a small church of about 30 people. That church came upon an important decision that would effect everyone. Ideas were tossed around between various people and families about the possibilities surrounding the decision.
Greg thought it would be a great idea to have a group discussion between everyone regarding the decision so they could lay hold of the Lord’s mind on the matter together.
He bought into the philosophy that in a church, believers are brothers and sisters who are co-equal partners in living out Kingdom community.
John disagreed. He thought it would be inconvenient and unnecessary to discuss the matter as a whole group. He wanted just a few of the people to make the decision and then go talk to everyone else to persuade them that the decision was what was best for everyone and what the Lord wanted.
He bought into a philosophy that in a church, it was up to the parents (more mature believers) to make decisions for the children (less mature believers).
This disagreement led them back to examining their core beliefs about faith and practice. They decided to have a meeting to discuss it.
When the source is a principle
Both of them arrived at the meeting ready for a productive conversation. John’s idea of what that entailed involved applying a principle taken from the Bible. That principle was that his role among this group of people was to “correct unsound doctrine and refute those who contradict it (Titus 1:9).”
John came prepared with a long list of Bible verses that would prove that his point of view on the subject was correct. When it was his turn to speak, he got combative, started calling out relational mistakes that Greg had made in the past and dove into reading Bible verses with conviction.
But he made a couple crucial and common mistakes. First, John treated the Bible as a theology dictionary that contained a list of principles to live by. When situations would arise, his approach was to pick a principle and apply it.
Second, he took a principle from the Bible and applied it without the motivation and character of the Spirit of God.
When even if you’re right, you’re wrong
Greg had dedicated a good part of his life to researching, learning and teaching about the Kingdom of God. He wasn’t bringing some worldly philosophy that would throw the church into error, cause chaos and lead them to abandon Christ.
John clearly wanted to be right and puff his chest out. In his effort to do this, the verses he read were completely taken out of context. But even if he would have been right about what the Scripture teaches, he was completely wrong because the source of his behavior was not the Spirit.
Principles are not a source of life
Let me be clear. The Spirit of God will always operate within and express the principles of His Kingdom. You can’t say your source is the Spirit of God if you’re expressing a worldly principle.
But principles can be used without the Spirit of God. Principles are not a source of life. When the Spirit isn’t guiding and animating the behavior, principles can bring disorder and death by fracturing relationships.
You can tell if the Spirit of God is the source if the atmosphere present and activity happening between one another is characteristic of the atmosphere present and activity happening within God.
We can sum this up like this…
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons and daughters of God. (Romans 8:14)