Confessions of a Born Again, Independent, Fundamentalist, Bible-believing, Spirit-filled, Charismatic, Full-gospel, Assembly of God, Baptist.
This September 2016, will mark 11 years since my husband, my best friend, my partner in life went to be with the Lord. We were both “pk’s” – pastor’s kids – when we married.
Baptist. He was Southern and I was Independent.
For some 20 years or so before his death, however, we identified only as “followers of Christ.” Unfortunately, forms offer no box for that. A problem we encountered numerous times because of Johnnie’s many trips to the hospital with heart disease. We often laughed and said, “Just send us anyone on duty.” Regrettably, to his dad that was heresy, but what is heresy, really?
Is it possible that for thousands of years, one man’s heresy has been another man’s hunger?
Luke 19:11-27, “Jesus said, ‘A nobleman was called away to a distant empire to be crowned king and then return. Before he left, he called together ten of his servants and divided among them ten pounds of silver, saying, ‘Invest this for me while I am gone.’ But his people hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We do not want him to be our king.’ After he was crowned king, he returned and called in the servants to whom he had given the money. He wanted to find out what their profits were. The first servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made ten times the original amount!’
“‘Well done!’ the king exclaimed. ‘You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.’”
“The next servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made five times the original amount.’ ‘Well done!’ the king said. ‘You will be governor over five cities.’ But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, ‘Master, I hid your money and kept it safe. I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and harvesting crops you didn’t plant.’ ‘You wicked servant!’ the king roared. ‘Your own words condemn you. If you knew that I’m a hard man who takes what isn’t mine and harvests crops I didn’t plant, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’”
“Then, turning to the others standing nearby, the king ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ ‘But, master,’ they said, ‘he already has ten pounds!’ ‘Yes,’ the king replied, ‘and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. And as for these enemies of mine who didn’t want me to be their king—bring them in and execute them right here in front of me.’”
Personally, I think Jesus had a lot to say on this subject. His views can be found in His constant rebuke of the Pharisees, which were the heresy hunters and doctrinal purists of their day.
Recently, this parable in Luke jumped out at me. By the way, did I mention that I used to be a heresy hunter and doctrinal purist, myself? As the title reveals, my journey has been an odd one. We moved often and good churches were hard to find in some of the remote places we lived, but the real truth was that the Holy Spirit was doing a work of transformation in our lives. Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California calls Him, “Jehovah sneaky,” and I can’t help but love that image. He used our nomad life to show us His body in its many forms. I cherish that history. Otherwise, I would never have discovered how beautiful His Bride is.
Still, recent events in Christendom have brought great shame on the church and caused me to look at this passage in Luke from a different perspective. Lately, the internet has been filled with videos by pastors I have honored and whose messages I have listened to in the past. Yet, they have chosen to set themselves up as judge and jury over the doctrinal differences they have with their brothers in Christ.
From a historical perspective, I must say that God will work this thing out over time. He always does. Like Joseph, who had plenty of time to compare the evil report that put him in prison with the evil reports he brought his father about his brothers, (Gen. 37:2 & Gen. 39: 17&18) God has a way of getting our attention. He just Loves us that much. In the meantime, though, the family suffers.
Unfortunately, as far back as Saul breathing out his curses against Stephen, this is the way it has always been for the church.
The parable in Luke 19 begins with verse 11, which says, “While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.” How many of us are still supposing about the unknown rather than enjoying the benefits of the Kingdom?
Before I share my thoughts, let me try to put the doctrinal purists at ease by saying that I am well aware of traditional interpretations of this passage. If the mina can represent our ministerial gifts, (Gill’s Exposition of the Bible), abilities, knowledge of the truth, and membership in the kingdom, (Ellicott’s Commentary), and the gift of the gospel, (Matthew Henry), etc., then it is not a deviation, nor is it disloyal to the parable to compare the mina with what we believe about God. Our personal doctrine.
The man who buried his mina was more concerned about his theology; what he believed to be true of the king, than he was about serving the King. His god was in a box.
Here are two things I see in him that we should consider in ourselves:
1.The man who hid his money sincerely believed he understood the king. In other words, he didn’t question his doctrine.
2.According to his doctrine burying the money was wise. In other words, the other men should have feared the king and buried their money, too.
The fact that they didn’t made them heretics in his estimation.
Ironically, even in my worst Pharisaical period, I’ve never been good with division. Neither the math nor the physical disconnection between brothers and sisters ever made sense to me. I’ve just never understood it, but the older I get the more I do realize where it comes from.
Communication with the other servants would have greatly benefitted this man. The only one who benefits from our disconnection is Satan. The accuser and divider of the Brethren.
My husband and I had a great start at life. Spiritual life, that is. Our parents were amazing Bible teachers. Early on we were grounded in the foundational principles and understanding of the Word of God, but we were a mess when we got married. I was a religious mess and Johnnie was a rebellious mess. Our mess clashed and created chaos. Fortunately, we knew where to go to clear up the confusion.
We ran to the box we had so carefully hidden away with our perfect doctrine. Except, our box didn’t have answers for our condition.
We wandered in the wilderness until our hunger drove us into the promised land of looking outside of our box. What wonders we encountered, but it came at great cost. There were actual answers to our dilemma. They were available and all within the same scriptures we had grown up loving. With one exception. They came with the tag: “heresy” attached. How ironic.
Follow Christ, hunger and thirst after righteousness, experience the Lord and His presence in supernatural encounters and be free… or stay in the box and be accepted.
What I believe affects my life, my work in the kingdom, and my reward. What you believe affects your life, your work in the kingdom, and your reward. But it is all the King’s business and we are all the King’s servants.
John 4:23, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”
There was a time when there was more Life in the Charismatic movement than Word and there was little Life in the Word movement. Johnnie used to say that the church went through a divorce. The Baptists chose The Word over the Holy Spirit and the Charismatics chose the Holy Spirit over The Word.
Again, the irony: Jesus or His Spirit.
Mother took the Spirit and father took the Truth. The children struggled and many died because there was no Breath in one house and no Bread in the other.
But God is bringing these two back together. We will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth again.
The time has arrived, but the cost is high. Those who dare are being called heretics.
Throughout our journey of the last 30 years, we met Baptists who were hungry for the Holy Spirit and Charismatics who were hungry for the Word. Both groups risked being ostracized, snubbed, ignored, given the cold-shoulder of disfellowship, blacklisted and losing favor with their denomination. Yet, they were pioneers; daring to come out of the box of denominationalism and nondenominationalism. They were simply hungry for more of God.
The simple truth is that Fear is the greatest enemy of the Kingdom because it is the opposite of Faith and because Love and Fear cannot coexist. Fear is what divides us.
1. Why did he bury his money?
2. Why do we try to define God?
3. Why do we put our definition of God in a denominational or nondenominational vault where it can’t be touched, changed, or scrutinized?
4. Why do we defend our definition of God as if it was God?
5. And why do we shut out anyone who doesn’t believe in the same definition and attend the same vault we do?
a. You guessed it. Fear.
There just isn’t another explanation. According to this parable, I am responsible for what the King gave me, not for what the King gave you. If I buy into your fears, your definitions, and your worries over the unknown, I will be bowing to your golden calf and suffering the same punishment you receive for not obeying the King.
In all these years, I marvel that no matter what denomination I am in, we teach our doctrine rather than discipleship. We teach the rules of “our” faith rather than how to hear the voice of God and follow Him. What are we afraid of? No one has cornered the market on the King.
If we are terrified that the “erroneous” beliefs of another denomination might rub off on us, then we have already been deceived. We have more faith in our fears than we do in Christ.
The man was afraid, therefore, he was deceived.
Speaking of doctrine, the more fearful a believer is, the harsher their view of God tends to be and the harsher their god, the fiercer the believer will fight to keep their doctrine safely buried inside their box.
So, just Who is the King of this Kingdom? From the beginning of time He has been trying to tell us. “God is Love.” “For God so Loved the world…” (I John 4:18 & John 3:16) But the Liar has had his say as well. “Hath God said…” (Gen. 3:1) And we’ve been trying to decide which one we believe.
Is He Love or is He other?
“Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment,” Proverbs 9:10. While I’m fairly certain we’re missing something in translation, many who use this scripture to prove why we should bury the box rarely show the awe and reverence for the Lord that is referred to here. What we fear we worship and this was the wisdom displayed by the two men who took their money and invested it. They were in awe of the King. They worshiped Him. They Loved Him. They couldn’t wait to see His face when He saw what they had done with His money. This is the Kingdom.
The following are just a few of our fears that tend to keep us in our boxes.
1. We’re afraid because we don’t know the King. We’ve always done it this way.
2. We’re afraid because we don’t want to come to the foot of the mountain. The cloud of intimacy frightens us.
3. We’re afraid to hear God’s voice. If we heard His voice, it might get personal. We would have to choose whether to obey or not.
4. We’re afraid because we like following a man we can see rather than a God we can’t see.
There is a fine line between tradition and traditionalism; a tension that is necessary to life.
“Tradition is the living faith of dead people to which we must add our chapter while we have the gift of life. Traditionalism is the dead faith of living people who fear that if anything changes, the whole enterprise will crumble.” ~Jaroslav Pelikan
The box wasn’t the problem. The problem was not allowing the box to change. To grow and expand. Too many people live and die in their box. That ended badly for this man, but God looks at the heart. The box can’t save us. In the end, those who are trusting in the box will be as disappointed as this man was, while those who are trusting in the King will be pleasantly surprised to find that He was so much bigger than their box.
Eternity will afford us all the fellowship and wonder of the amazing expressions of Christ we failed to enjoy here.
While I am happy that my husband has already begun to experience that delight, I am deeply saddened that we are still fighting over the box. It will always be heartbreaking to watch one man’s hunger become another man’s accusation of heresy.
I remain forever hopeful that today’s Saul will have a supernatural encounter with God, emerging tomorrow as Paul with fresh bread and the refreshing wind of the Holy Spirit.
Hungry souls are waiting.