Written by Dawn Rutan
Lately I’ve been thinking about Truth; not just facts but Scriptural truth as taught and personified in Jesus Christ. Jesus prayed for His followers, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17 ESV). Biblical truth matters for all who call themselves Christians, and yet there are so many ways in which Christians fail to cling to the truths of Scripture out of fear, conformity, or ignorance.
In today’s news, Lifeway will probably stop carrying Eugene Peterson’s books because of his recent comments that he doesn’t think homosexuality is wrong: “…it’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned.” For someone who considers himself a theologian and a Bible translator to make such a statement is baffling. [Update- Peterson has since retracted his statements.] Yet there are many who agree with him for one reason or another. When those who proclaim to be Christians can’t even agree on what the Bible actually says, our witness in the world is greatly hindered.
Ed Shaw, a person who experiences same-sex attraction, wrote in Same-Sex Attraction and the Church:
“We have a plausibility issue: what the Bible clearly teaches sounds unreasonable to many of us today. And so it is (not unreasonably!) being rejected all over the place. A few high-profile leaders in our churches have already broken ranks…” (21).
“But what helped me was that, back then [the 1990s], embracing a homosexual lifestyle was clearly a no-go area for an evangelical Christian like me… The parameters set out for me were crystal clear—celibacy and a daily battle to avoid even a hint of sexual immorality in what I thought or did (Ephesians 5:3)… And although I found the consequences of that clarity immensely hard, the lack of ambiguity was incredibly helpful. It made the choice I’d taken seem plausible” (25-26).
Whether we’re talking about homosexuality, marriage, the sacraments, the nature of God, the structure of the church, or any other matter addressed in Scripture, we should be clear about what the Bible says and how it should inform our beliefs and actions. Then from the solid ground of Scripture we should have no fear in stating our beliefs.
It seems to me that fear is a driving force behind a lot of people who are bending to cultural norms. I understand that we don’t want to cut off opportunities for ministry and sharing the Gospel, but I think that we are presuming too much about our own ability to convert people. Only the Holy Spirit can bring someone to repentance and faith, not any human effort. Trying to sugarcoat Scripture is not sharing the Gospel. If a clear statement of the truth of Scripture causes someone to pull away, then it is still in God’s hands to soften their heart. If the seeds we are trying to plant are not grounded in Scripture, then they shouldn’t be bearing fruit anyway, and I don’t think God will allow them to bear fruit if it compromises His Word or His sovereignty and glory.
Jesus came as the embodied Word of God (John 1:1-14), and because of the Spirit’s work in the early believers we have the written Word as our foundation for faith and practice. The Word matters because it is the Truth of God. If we choose to abandon the truths of Scripture we might as well stop calling ourselves Christians, because it is not Jesus Christ we are representing but ourselves. Jesus repeatedly stated the importance of abiding in the Word:
- “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
- “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples… If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:7-8, 10).
- “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul reiterates the fact that only God can open the eyes of the blind. Our responsibility is to be true to the Word of God:
“But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (4:2-5).
May we not be tempted to tamper with the Word, but “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
© 2017 Dawn Rutan. The views stated may or may not reflect the beliefs of the pastor or leadership of Dulin’s Grove Church.