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Experience and emotion do not real doctrine make

Experientialism is a mighty juggernaut plowing through contemporary religion. Its attractive helmet hits headlong into foundational truth where God’s revelation trumps perceived notions of His actions through and around the church.  These two candidates stand in great opposition to one another for those seeking a guidepost in determining their way, for not all things experienced are all things true.  We are warned about false teachers and false teachings (2Peter 2:1) and we are told to test the spirits (1John 4:1) and exercise discernment for false prophets and wolves live and breathe among us. Unfortunately, few actually heed this caution.

Felt-needs and personal preferences are main highways where experience travels at high speeds regardless of what the Word of God might have to say.  One can hear the cries of exasperation, “Surely what I feel can’t be wrong! What do you mean it doesn’t matter what I saw?!”  Sensory theology trumps real doctrine as “what I feel” has become “what I know”, never mind that it goes against Scripture. We would do well to remember the warnings found in the book of Colossians – “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” And “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen…” (Col.2:8,18) Many professed believers love to talk on and on about their spiritual experiences through dreams and visions but these claims must always pass the scrutiny of Scripture, not merely experience.

Those who have much invested in their experiential theology are usually not open to being challenged.  To question their experience is, in their minds, to question their spirituality.  If one were to dismantle an experience that they’ve put so much hope and joy into, it is tantamount to calling them an unbeliever. At least that’s mostly how they react.

However, Scripture alone should be our ultimate authority in determining truth and truth should help us organize our practice and become a filter through which we view what has happened.  To do otherwise is to lean into the mystic camp and build bonfires around Gnostic ceremonies.

May we flee what is of self and cling to what is truly of Him.

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Deconstructing Christian Cliche – Part I

judge not 1

Along our walk of faith we find and learn Christian clichés – those pesky little phrases that emerge from the colloquial pond as tried and true nuggets of wisdom supposedly drawn from timeless biblical truth, but in the end, turn out to be more rooted in human imagination than in divine understanding.

Three such impostors making the top of the chart are these – “We should not judge others”, “God loves the sinner but hates the sin”, and “the Lord will not give you more than you can handle.”  These sayings are repeated often in an attempt to spread wisdom and comfort in life through advice and conservation; however, are they really accurate? Do these comments have their root in God or man?

We will take a look at each statement over the next few weeks and examine it biblically to see if it stands or falls. First, let’s look at: We should not judge others.

“Judge not lest you be judged” is probably the most abused statement by both believers and unbelievers alike being thrown around in debates and arguments more frequently than a well-worked pizza crust. It is found in the gospel of Matthew – “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” Matthew 7:1 Certainly, on the surface this looks rather compelling.  However, context is the text in which God breathed out His Word and so we must capture the essence of the passage by expanding our view to the next verses. Here’s what happens when we do:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5

When the entire context is considered, the actual thrust of this warning passage turns out to be speaking directly to those who are hypocritical in their judgments.  Take the log out of your own eyes first and then you will be able to see clearly. The command here is a call to self-examination of sin, not a call to cease judging others.  Keep in mind also that judging here is about discernment not condemnation. God alone condemns.

Other passages help us to see our rightful role in judging, such as John 7:24, where Christ, in dealing with supposed Sabbath law violations said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Paul spoke about our need to judge small legal matters and disputes in 1 Corinthians 6:3 ” Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?”

All throughout Scripture we see both the need to discern correctly and to the need to avoid hypocrisy.  Learn to judge through having the same mind of Christ and exercise humility through patience and peace.