Thursday, November 3, 2011

Doctrine and A Gospel Heart

I've been a Christ-follower for forty years (!) now.  In that span, I've earned lots of degrees.  Studied in lots of places.  Preached for years.  Taught the Bible in all sorts of settings to all sorts of people.  I have  pretty firm convictions about what the Bible teaches and what it doesn't.  Though I would not kill for my convictions - That's actually a biblical conviction of mine, but I digress! - I do think I would die for a number of them.

Needless to say, I've been in some pretty sharp disagreements with folks over the years regarding those convictions.  I left one seminary as a student and one denomination as a pastor over my convictions.  Plenty of folks have left churches I was leading because of my convictions and preaching.

All this to say, I have a measure of sympathy for people who want to avoid a focus on Christian doctrine.  Wars have been fought over differing convictions regarding various doctrines.  Families split.  Friendships forgotten.  In the face of all this, many people hope to avoid the fracture, by avoiding doctrine itself.  Let's worship together.  Let's study the Bible, pray, love others and one another, but don't bring up doctrine.  Particularly if you have strong convictions about it.

I'll save why I think that response is unhealthy, unhelpful and impossible for another day.  I will say that I see a remarkable change regarding how I live out my convictions since my own "Gospel paradigm shift."  My doctrine and convictions have not changed, but my heart continues to be changed by the Gospel of grace.  And that has effected - and should continue to effect - the way I live out my convictions in relationships with others and with God.

The Gospel is destroying a heart that trusts in doctrine for it's security.  When my hope and life are grounded in God's grace rather than built on my own right understanding of doctrine, a door is opened for me to love folks who differ with me without threat of compromising my own convictions.  I can discover that my own convictions are out of line with the Scripture, as easily as I can trust that someone else will make that discovery for themselves.  We are both secure by God's grace, not by our right doctrine.

When my faithfulness is built on my correct understanding or response to God's truth, then getting an understanding wrong means I've been unfaithful.  When my faithfulness is a response to His grace, then His grace remains, even when I stumble and break faith or get confused.

I am less driven to win arguments with people.  Another way of saying that is that I am less driven to make people who disagree with me lose arguments with me.  My security is in God's grace and love for me, not in my winning the argument.

My convictions and doctrine have even taken on a new joy for me.  They teach me more of the majesty, beauty and utter unearned measure of the grace I have received; the God who has loved me, and all He has done to rescue me in spite of my own rebellion and brokenness.  Doctrine is not the sword I use to secure my relationship with God by hacking away at those who disagree with me.  It is truth that deepens my vision of His passionate pursuit of me and His broken creation.

I want to get doctrine right so I can know Him more, not so I can be secure.  His grace is what secures me.  I no longer have to prove others wrong to be certain that my love for God is true.  I rest in his love and grace for me, not the strength of my love for Him.

So I end up deeply committed to thoughtful and orthodox doctrine.  My convictions are firm.  I'll still teach doctrinal truth and continue to disciple people in "the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." (Jude 3)  But I know that even more important is to see people experience the heart-transformation of grace - a work of the Holy Spirit to rescue us from our own doctrinally-correct self-righteousness.  The wars and divisions do not come from doctrine, whether true or false.  The fractures come from self-centered motivations in need of a renovation of grace.

1 comment:

Subscribe to Grace in FXBG by Email