About Jesus  - Steve Sweetman

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Disdain For Doctrine


A Biblical based indignation rose from deep within when I heard her say that.  What made it worse was her husband, our soon to be pastor, just sat in silence.  Although it didn't work, to avoid a conflict I bit my tongue and tried to keep the peace.  What was intended to be a friendly, let's get to know each other Sunday lunch, turned into an uncomfortable conflict. 


Both by my nature and my Biblical conviction (Romans 14:19) I attempt to live in peace with everyone.  I really don't like conflict, but when our soon to be pastor's wife expressed the sentiment of our day, I felt compelled to react.  "Doctrine isn't practical," she said.  "Just preach the practicalities of our faith.  We've had enough of doctrine."


Our present western world Christianity's disdain for doctrine is one reason why many of us neglect what I call the "thinking person's" book of Romans.  Besides our disdain for doctrine, we've adopted our culture's dumbed down mentality to seriously think issues through to their logical conclusions.  If we actually do open the pages of Romans we often skip to chapter 12 thinking the previous chapters are doctrinal while the remaining chapters are practical.        


"You cannot divorce the practical from the doctrinal", I told her.  "Understanding doctrine is practical."  She interjected with her objections and of course I was unable to bite my tongue sufficiently enough to avoid responding.    


The fact is that Romans 12:1 begins with the words, "Therefore, I urge you."  That implies whatever Paul is about to urge is predicated on our understanding the doctrinal issues he taught in the previous 11 chapters. 


The first practicality Paul urges is for us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice.  In light of God's mercy he says that's our only reasonable response to God.  To even begin to understand the full measure and implications of God's mercy you must return to Romans 1, verse 1, and work your way forward to chapter 12 and beyond.  Only then can you begin to understand God's mercy sufficiently enough to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.   


"It's impossible to live your faith if you don't understand your faith," I added.  "Many of us can't ever define Biblical faith, let alone live it, so ..." 


Without allowing me to finish, she dogmatically interjected.  "I've had enough doctrine jammed down my throat."


That one was tough to resist.  "You use the word doctrine as if it's a disgusting word.  The word doctrine simply means teaching.  If you ignore Biblical teaching you ignore everything Jesus taught," I said in frustration.  "In fact when you push Biblical doctrine aside, you push Jesus aside."     


That didn't go over well.  She wouldn't budge.  I was getting nowhere fast and feeling bad that what was to be a friendly lunch was turning into an uncomfortable conflict.  To avoid a blistered tongue and escalating the conflict, I just changed the subject. 


If we claim to take Jesus seriously we'll attempt to understand everything He and His Word teaches us.  We may struggle in our pursuit of understanding, but we won't give up because we realize that there is no outworking of our faith without understanding our faith. 


At the onset of what people call the practical part of Romans Paul maintained that the way we are transformed into the image of Christ, which our soon to be pastor's wife would have called a practicality, comes through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:4).  Our minds are renewed when we first know the Scriptural stance and then understand it.  Only then are the practical implications of our faith worked out in our lives.  How we think determines how we live.  If you think Bible you'll live Bible.  If you think no Bible you'll live as you want. 


I felt bad when our guests left our home.  I enjoy a friendly debate but when it gets hostile I don't enjoy that.  Although I like keeping the peace, I admit there are some issues I cannot and will not let slide.  I speak what I believe to be the truth in as peaceful a way as possible and let the chips fall where they may.


She never did become our pastor's wife.  We soon learned that our soon to be pastor was attempting a sexual affair with a teenage daughter of a couple within his church.  How one thinks really does determine how one lives.  How a Christian lives is determined by how he approaches the Bible.  Disdain for Biblical doctrine will eventually destroy your faith in Jesus.  "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6)."        


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