Monday, October 22, 2007

Loving God in contending for the faith

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 4)

The task of contending for the faith has been entrusted to all Christians, regardless of whether they want it or not. Jude in this epistle of his was writing to the members of the churches, NOT only to pastors, full-time workers, office bearers, 'elite Christians' and definitely not only to watchmen. Nevertheless, the sad situation in the Church today is that very few people ever heed this command in Scripture. Instead, what we have is a bunch of 'passionate' Christians who 'love' Jesus but think that we should not contend for the faith. What exactly has gone wrong here? Why do people who call themselves Christians are so timid and refuse to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints?

For this, let us leave behind the entire history of New Evangelicalism and the Feminization process ongoing in the churches. While true, I would like to focus more on the individual Christian in this post. Why is it that any individual Christian is at best hesitant about contending for the faith?

To answer this question, we can look at a few factors.

The first factor is of course due to the environment caused by all the social conditioning in the churches. The effeminate version of 'love' which is praised in the churches is that which is gutted of any concept of genuine Christian love. The twin slogans of 'Love' and 'Unity', and of not hurting another's feeling, have descended on the churches like a cloud. As it is, love in the churches came to be analogous to 'don't offend anyone', 'don't create controversy', and most definitely 'don't say anyting bad against anyone', whatever 'bad' means or refers to. Of course, in general, these are good principles to live by. We shouldn't in general offend anyone, nor to create controversy, nor to badmouth anyone. However, the problem with such a definition is that the Bible seems to be unloving in certain circumstances, even commanding us to publicly rebuke leaders who persist in sin (1 Tim. 5:20).

As it is, all of such carnal definitions are not what true Christian love really is. True Christian love is that which seeks the good of a person, even though that may not be what the person think is actually good for him/her. Therefore, we should not be involved in ecumenical events because they are not good for anyone involved, even though the world and the apostate Church may think it is good. Failure to realize the true meaning of Christian love has led many into disaster, and bring dishonor to the name of Christ.

The second factor is the natural inclincation of the flesh against any form of conflict and sacrifice. No one desires conflict, including me, but that is what contending for the faith would neccessarily lead to. No one likes to be ostracized, and no one likes to be hated, even though it is not their fault that they are so hated. Where possible, most people desire to be at peace, to have many friends, to have a smooth life etc. Therefore, contending for the faith is something that lazy and comfort-loving Christians would naturally want not to do.

I would now like to focus on the last factor, which trumps all the others. It is my contention that the love for Christ has gone cold, which is the primary reason why contending for the faith has gone out of fashion nowadays. Cultural conditioning can be overcome by meditation on the Word of God, laziness by growth in sanctification, love of comfort by santification through the trials send by God, but nothing can overcome a lack of love for Christ. Also, all of these spiritual weapons by which we overcome our disadvantages can only be and will be exercised by a person who truly loves Christ, and therefore this reason is the primary reason behind the failure of Man to contend for the faith.

For the individual, therefore, there is no excuse whatsoever for not contending for the faith. Yes, we may have baggages due to the conditioning of the culture and others, but ultimately it's the individual's own fault for not doing what he/she is commanded to do. Just as in the time of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 18), the Lord will hold every single person accountable for the good they did or did not do. No one can say to God that 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge’ (Eze. 18:2b), as if this somehow absolve them from the responsibility of their actions.

Let us now go into the details as to how a lack of love for Christ is the primary cause for not contending for the faith.

When we are saved, we are adopted into the family of God and become His sons and daughters. Within this family, we have a love for God who saves us and adopts us as His children. Also, we receive a love for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Put into this family context, contending for the faith would be analogous to protecting our spiritual father, God, from dishonor.

Now, with this analogy, we can see why is it that not contending for the faith shows a lack of love for God. All of us have earthly parents, and all of us should feel angry if someone insults them. What more, therefore, when someone insults our heavenly Father? If we are truly sons and daughters of God, shouldn't we not be filled with indignition whenever our heavenly Father's name is insulted, defamed or otherwise dragged through the mud? Shouldn't this holy indignition lead us to attempt to defend the honor of our Father? And this is what contending for the faith is! To contend for the faith is to defend God and His truth from corruption whether through wrong beliefs or through wrong actions, which sullies the honor and glory of our God. Conversely therefore, what can you say about a person who is perfectly nonchalant when his parents or siblings are insulted, except that he does not love them at all! If we push this truth into that of the familial analogy we have established so far, what does the lack of contending for the faith in individual Christians say about our professed love for Christ?

But yet, some may say, these people are just so on fire for Christ, or maybe they are just ignorant about Jude 4. Really?! Which part of being the child of God is so hard for a young Christian to grasp? Shouldn't the reaction be natural; that a child would be upset if his/her father is dishonored? Do children need to learn to be upset if their earthly parents are insulted? Yet why are we Christians by and large so apathetic towards what is supposed to be natural for us as children of God? Yet still others may say that we should not be indignant so that we will not offend unbelievers in order to reach them. Nonsense! What kind of witness are we showing to the world when we allow people to dishonor our God without us even making a sound? Aren't we telling people that God can be dishonored at will, since even us His followers apparently do so? And what is this rubbish regarding not offending unbelievers? Unbelievers will be offended by our lives and teachings whether we like it or not! The Cross is an offence (Gal. 5:11) to the natural Man, and a fragrance from death to death unless they repent (2 Cor. 2:16). Furthermore, only God is the one who saves, and He will save those He wills to (Rom. 9:18) and whoever He wills to save will be saved (Jn. 6: 37). To think that our actions has any ultimate decisive effect on whether a person is saved is to resurrect the Pelagian heresy from the pits of hell where it should rightfully be.

Therefore, in conclusion, it is hoped that we should learn how to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 4). If we are truly God's sons and daughters, let us do this as a natural expression of our love for Him who save us from darkness into His glorious light, into the adoption as children of the one true and living God our heavenly Father.

Amen.

5 comments:

Jenson said...

That is "contending", and there is and "Contending" - for the Faith.

The difficulty is knowing the difference.

ddd said...

Care to elaborate?

Jenson said...

I will email you something...

Q said...

Hey ddd, I initially came across your blog while researching charismatic issues in Singapore. Just a little bit about myself: I became interested in pentecostal/charismatic issues when God opened my eyes and revealed that benny hinn was a fraud. I've accumulated a fair amount of research and will be blogging when my schedule is less hectic. Some thoughts after reading your blog:

I am also quite disturbed about what's going on in some of the Singapore "churches" - CHC, New Creation, Trinity, FCBC, Lighthouse,etc. Sadly, most of the Christians I know who attend these churches are rather apathetic when it comes to testing the spirits and checking whether their prosperous pastors take verses out of context. I am appalled that some of these Christians actually believe that clowns like Avanzini (who's coming to CHC soon), Roberts, Hinn, etc. have a powerful anointing from God. These Christians tend to emphasize feelings over Scripture. Do you also get similar reactions when sharing your views?

Sometimes, I think we need to be a little careful in contending for the faith though, lest our overzealousness turns us into Pharisees. It seems that that some of the preachers today are syncretic -- they preach the Gospel correctly as we know it, although their secondary doctrines (e.g. tongues, slaying, etc.) are questionable -- and are in a gray area between orthodoxy and heresy. I generally still regard these people as my brethren. These days, I am more careful and hesitate to label someone a heretic unless it's blatantly obvious.

ddd said...

Hello Q,

well, I sortof gave up talking to the extreme charismatics. I think talking to a stone wall is more productive than talking to them. However, that said, I do talk to whoever is willing to listen.

With regards to naming heretics, the issue wasn't mention in this post per se, and it wasn't even the main focus of this post (periphery yes). I am not as certain as you on their adherence to the truth of the Gospel though, but I will give those whom I know little about regarding the subject the benefit of the doubt. With regards to some of them however, we must realize that some error when embraced actually undermines the Gospel message, and therefore if embraced, would mean that the person actually pays lip service to the Gospel.

If you scanned through the archive, I criticize foreign pastors more than Singapore ones, primarily because foreign ones are more transparent as to what they actually believe. Singapore pastors are not so 'high profile' compared to them.

With regards to the charge of Phariseeism, I disagree with you here. The error of the Pharisees is not on judging others, but on being hypocritical in not practising what they preach (Mt. 5:20, 7:2, 23:3). Too often this fallacious charge is misused to silence all forms of criticism, whereas such a charge most often is invalidly placed.

Lastly, I think it is rather difficult to use the critieria of something being 'blatently obvious' to divide truth from heresy. Error seldom is obvious. Reading the Christological controversy in the early Church should help dispel that criteria as a viable option. The criteria that should be used is whether it conforms to the plain teaching of Scripture. If Scripture is not so clear about the issue, then it's an issue whereby Christians can disagree peacefully. If Scripture is clear about this issue but the issue is not essential nor directly touches on issues that are essential for salvation, we should disagree strongly but without naming them as heretics, since they are not. If however, the issue at hand is abosolutely essential or touches on issues that are essential, then they are heretics. How to judge which is which is for us to learn how to do so through the power and illumination of the Holy Spirit.