I understand that in this post, I may come across as getting all church-y and critical; however, if you think of it as merely the quibblings of a grumpy old coot and not a breaking out of whips and cords, maybe we can get through this alright.
Some time ago, a fellow blogger asked his readership for future writing topics and among the replies he received was a suggestion that we need to hear more about who we are in Christ. This reader felt that we need reminding that, as children of the king, we are “supernatural royalty.” And that was the catalyst for this post. Why? Because my basic reaction to that sort of statement is usually an ungentlemanly snort of derision.
Time to drop another veil or two about your friendly neighborhood curmudgeon: my spiritual journey has taken me all over the spiritual waterfront, so to speak. I was raised in a Catholic family but I became a Christian when I was saved in a small Pentecostal Holiness church in San Diego. Over the years, Wife and I have connected with a small charismatic church, a house church, a medium-sized Christian & Missionary Alliance, and a United Methodist Church.
As well, Wife and I served as associate pastors for two small Church of God (Cleveland, TN) churches in the Tidewater, VA, area. so I think I can be believed when I say that I am passing familiar with the many strands of beliefs and teachings in protestant churches.
To my mind, one of the most malignant teachings that has appeared in recent days to bedevil Christianity is the idea that we are something special because we are “King’s Kids,” that we are above the hoypoloi because God is our Daddy. Mind you, this originated as one of several streams of the pentecostal Word of Faith (WoF) heresy, but unlike other WoF teachings, “living like a King’s Kid” has jumped the barriers between Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal churches and variants of the idea came to be found in the teachings of many non-Pentecostal pastors and teachers.
Among the non-Pentecostal versions you may come across, one of the biggest is the concept of “Kingdom Living”, that God’s blessing means that we will live well, with material abundance. Why do I say that this “Kingdom Living” teaching (and its parent Word of Faith) is seductive?
Because it appeals to our vanity and our American sense of entitlement. Like many of the heresies of the past, it appeals to our basest desire, to our greed and selfishness, and to our desire to have an easy Christianity that makes no demands on our lives. To me, getting caught up in speculation about our privileges, simply because we are His, is dead wrong.
Don’t Speculate, Examine
There is a more important question that we Christians should be concerned about, rather than “Who am I in Christ?” Instead of trying to tickle our own fancies counting our perks, our time would be better spent in pondering the very serious question, “Am I a disciple of Jesus?”
In 2 Cor. 13:5, Paul tells us to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living the life of trust.” Instead of speculating on our perks, our real need is to examine ourselves to see if we are truly following Jesus, trying to emulate him in word and deed. All too often, our Christianity consists of stargazing or navel-gazing, trying to define our faith by our beliefs. James cut through all that bilge by issuing a challenge:
“Show me this faith of yours without the actions, and I will show you my faith by my actions!”
I can find no place in scripture where we are told to tick off all the Bible Bennies we get from God. Instead, I see Jesus telling one disciple not to be concerned about another disciple, but instead to follow him. (“What is that to thee? Follow thou me.”) I see Paul in a Roman prison telling a church that he has learned the secret of contentment:
In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to have an abundance and to go without. I am able to do all things by the one who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:12-13)
And have you read the book of James recently? That’s one book that’ll take the starch out of any WoF’er’s sails. After all, when a writer devotes five chapters to calling down hypocrisy and riches, he’s got a serious itch he thinks need scratching.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds – 1:2
Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? – 2:5
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. – 3:16
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. – 4:3 (Next verse, he calls them “adulterous people!” for good measure.)
And to me, chapter 5 is the capper, beginning with “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you (5:1).”
This is why you don’t hear a whole lot of WoF teaching originating in the Book of James.
And Peter? After presenting a list of virtues that Christians need to add to their lives (and not one of them a perk for being a King’s Kid), Peter tells his readers
Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 2 Peter 1:10
I hope you see that he isn’t calling for taking stock of our spiritual 401k plans, but instead to examine ourselves in order to confirm our calling and election.
To sum up, we don’t need to worry about what God has in store for us. Instead, the more important question (most important?) in our lives is…
Am I a disciple of Jesus?
More to come….