It is funny how conviction of sin creeps up on you when you are least expecting it! I remember listening to a John Wimber tape 40 years ago, my heresy antennae fully alert, looking to find fault which is second nature to a Scottish Evangelical Presbyterian and a delicious pastime and pursuit that is able to experience ecstasy when it comes across error! All of a sudden I was convicted to the point of tears that this man loved the Church of Christ while I only loved the part that agreed with me, which was not particularly large though giant sized in its belief in its core place in the purposes of God for Scotland. Then, another time, I remember listening to a Toronto Blessing speaker, again sniffing the air for the scent of fault. Unexpectedly, I was under a conviction that was so heavy it was unbearable – the conviction of judgmentalism and of a critical spirit. Those who felt there was no conviction in that move obviously were not standing where I stood, experiencing what I was experiencing. I have never in my life felt so deeply aware that my sin had been found out and had nowhere to hide other than the sheer undeserved mercy of God.
Well, the same sort of thing happened unexpectedly again last night just after midnight which for me is often the time when a knock comes to my heart’s door that makes me have to go empty handed to knock on the door of God to give me something through His Holy Spirit I have discovered I don’t have. I was surfing the web to no real intent and started listening to a programme on Youtube in tribute to Rich Mullins, the writer of “Awesome God.” He died quite young and tragically. He could have lived in a mansion but chose instead to live among poor people on the average wage of a working man. He had no idea what he earned. All his money from his ministry went to his church and they paid him his agreed wage. He championed the cause of the poor and the oppressed. In many ways he was quite a broken vessel but the glory shone through.
What convicted me last night was his attitude towards Prosperity Preachers who are greatly admired in America. He said this quietly: “They are just wrong. They are not bad people. They are just wrong.”
Why is it that we find it hard to adopt that mixture of grace and truth towards those who we genuinely think are in error about some aspect of the Christian Faith? Why is it that so often we have to try and show them not just to be wrong or in error about something, but feel we have to vilify them and discredit them as well? It leads to even people of integrity sullying their integrity and behaving falsely by putting out of context statements or video clips on Facebook of these “false teachers and prophets.” We are not to rejoice in error but in truth and in what is right.
I spoke yesterday about not being clones of one another, but I did see something in Rich that I want to aspire to.
There are those in the Church of Scotland, and indeed in the Free Church of Scotland, in the Baptist Church, in the Church planting movement and Missional movements, indeed in every denomination and non denomination and Ministry that I think are in error according to the Scriptures. However, there is no need for me to assume evil motive or intention or deny their ministries may do good and do indeed do good. False teachers in the bible were those who seemed to either take away from the sufficiency of Christ for salvation or want to add something to Christ and His cross as being necessary for salvation, whether that was keeping Jewish customs and feasts and so on, or having some sort of mystery religion or Gnostic experience of “fullness” such as seems to lie behind Paul’s letter to the Colossians which I was reading today, imagining I was in the church which received it at first and trying to work out why he wrote what he did to us. Of course there are teachers who are like waterless clouds and are deceptive, but let’s not be so quick to fling these verses at those who may simply be in error. Of course I may fling the word “error” to easily as well. That may simply mean, “They don’t agree with me!” rather than them being fundamentally wrong according to the Scriptures. Lord Soper disagreed with Martyn LLoyd Jones but at least he paid him the courtesy of saying, “He is right up his own street; it may not be mine, but he is right up his own street!”
Oh let’s not get into smaller and smaller self congratulatory and defensive conclaves as Evangelicals or Charismatics or Reformed people content with the praise that comes from one another within the “club” whatever that club may be called. Let’s not misapply remnant theology. These “we, only we are left” remnant clubs can have an encouraging feel good factor amongst their membership but actually can become quite gnarled angry and sour in their outlook when they move out of their own street or meet those who through different life story and influences live in different streets. “They are not bad. They are just wrong, ” did a convicting work on me…It could help save you from wasting a lot of energy fighting what you think are battles “ For the Lord and for Israel!” type of thing, but are really just being fought because some of us just like a scrap and have forgotten that the wisdom from above knows when to yield. I am remembering too something that God said to me a few years ago that was even more convicting. Perhaps with a change of the name He could want to say the same to you: “Kenny this may surprise you but I don’t believe everything about me that you believe!” I mean to say, if He said that about me and my theology….
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