Resisting the Extremes

Yesterday while surfing the internet I stumbled across some disturbing information on an evangelical personality I once admired. It seems, if the articles are true, this individual has wandered from the faith and is preaching a message contrary to the gospel. I’ve seen this happen before, and not just among public figures. As people “mature” in their faith, often they’ll slide into one of two extremes: either they’ll fall too far into grace, denying justice; or they’ll surround themselves with rules and regulations.

Both extremes are dangerous and contrary to the truth, and I can’t help but wonder if both are rooted in human pride. Human pride elevates man to the extent that justice seems unheard of, or, on the other extreme, elevates man to the extent that he thinks he can somehow earn God’s favor.

And yet, I think this tendency reveals an even deeper issue–man’s depravity. From the beginning of time, man has rebelled against truth, finding ways to twist it to fit our agenda and understanding. The moment we think we are above this–the moment we begin to rely on our understanding, we are in danger of falling.

So how can we avoid this delusional progression?

1. Approach God’s Word with humility. I think one of our greatest faults, as humans, lies in the need to understand, and explain everything. Not everything has an explanation, and if the explanation isn’t there and we assign one, we are crossing the line and elevating man.

Here’s an example. Walk into any seminary and you’ll find shelves upon shelves of commentaries on the book of Job in man’s attempt to explain why Job suffered–to explain God’s purpose in it. But what did God say when asked? He didn’t go into a long dissertation on suffering and the sovereignty of God. Instead, He reminded Job that some things were beyond his understanding. (Read Job 38-41)

That isn’t to say we shouldn’t discuss biblical passages and theological issues, but we must do so with a heavy dose of humility, being careful not to make the Bible say what it doesn’t say.

2. We must understand that the Bible is a unit. One of the first things I learned at Calvary was the need to read biblical passages in terms of context. We quote so many verses out of context, often assigning meanings that were never intended. This, again, elevates man by conforming the Bible to fit our ideas instead of conforming our ideas to the Bible.

Lately I’ve noticed a trend to deny the existence of hell. To do so, you must throw out large portions of the Bible. You must throw out direct quotes from Jesus. And any time you start cherry picking which truths you rely on, you’ve become your own God. You’ve become your own basis for truth. Considering the human heart is deceptive, that is a very dangerous place to be.

I’ve also noticed the opposite side of this trend emerge–those who want to assign rules and regulations God never intended. This also elevates man.

3. Recognize your ability to err. It often amazes me how much I thought I knew before I started taking Bible classes. The first thing I learned was half of what I thought I knew I really didn’t know, and the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. That doesn’t mean I throw my hands up in nihilism, but it does mean I speak with humility, recognizing that I could very easily be wrong. It also means, at times, I keep my mouth shut.

4. Recognize your position before a Holy God. We speak so casually about eternal things. God will hold us accountable for every casual word spoken.

5. Stay in community. Isolation leads to deception. If everyone else in your Bible study disagrees with you, consider the possibility that you are the one in error. If you are feeling tempted to pull away and isolate, recognize this is not from God. God desires believers to live in community. Satan wants us to live in isolation because then we are wide open for attack. This doesn’t mean we will always agree with everything our church or church members believe, but even when we disagree, we should do so with a healthy dose of humility, recognizing that we very well could be wrong.

I have a mentor. She acts as my safeguard. She doesn’t care how many people read my blog, how many articles I sell, or if I write the next best seller. She cares about one thing–my walk with Christ, and she’s committed to hold me accountable.

6. Pray, pray, pray. I’ve shared before, but I often pray Romans 12:1-2 out loud, asking God to daily transform my thinking, helping me resist the downward spiral of cultural influences. My desire is not that I would conform to the practices, ideologies, and opinions of the world around me, but instead, that I would be daily transformed by the renewal of my mind, so that I will know and understand God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.