ON ACCEPTANCE: Next Steps
Last month’s article On Acceptance1 received by far the greatest number of email responses for which its author is grateful.2 A sample (with minor edits) of these emails follows:
I am seeing too many that just say “(T)hat’s the way I am!” who just move on not really growing in the image of Christ. (T)hey may do their devotions and read the Bible, but I see so many not changing.
– RM from California
I thank our Lord for guiding you to be bold and opening our minds to these truths through this article (so) that we pick up the Sword and keep contending for our Faith.
– EF from Mexico
Rather than “caving in” to the current calls for tolerance and acceptance, I am praying for ideas on how to lead people towards a Godly worldview and repentance. Do you have any suggestions or recommended resources along these lines?
– LE from Alabama
I preach at a small fellowship here in France, and with your permission I would like to use parts of your article.3
– AD from France
The thread “Yes, but how?” connects these emails along with so many others we received. If room allowed, I would print from all the emails, each sharing a personal experience or a profound enthusiasm for a fresh perspective on the challenges confronting God’s church today. At the root of these challenges is an unbiblical notion of a call to acceptance – both individually and societally. This article focuses on the societal call for acceptance with issues that dominate our headlines. This author is strongly committed to equipping the Church and encouraging the Saints rather than being drawn into a partisan or secular policy debate. The four readers above reveal these issues cross state and national borders. The political and social climate can be very different from one region or one time zone to another, and I would never presume to know what you should do in your communities. Instead, let’s look at some familiar Bible passages for guidance for the Church.
I am fascinated by the last recorded words of some of the best-known personalities in the Bible.4 An abridged list follows for your consideration:
- Jacob (Israel) to his Twelve Sons Genesis 49
- Moses to those entering the Promised Land Deuteronomy 32
- Stephen before the Council Acts 7
- Paul to Beloved Son Timothy 2 Timothy 4
- Jesus to 7 churches Revelation 2 – 3
I call your attention to the first chapter of Peter’s Second Epistle, which records his final words. I recommend reading and considering the whole chapter (even letter!), and I here will include the first few verses:
Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
– 2 Peter 1:1-4 (underlining added)
Consider the following passages and the lessons we can learn from each of them.
1 Corinthians 5:1 – 8 records, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!” This account is shocking indeed, and Paul, in verse 3, states he has “judged already” concerning him that is guilty of this horrible act. Let us forever disabuse ourselves of the simplistic “Judge Not!” Matthew 7:1 – 5 calls out the hypocrisy of a double standard, not the inability to call sin what it is. Had Paul been guilty of the incest of which he writes, his words would be hollow. Jesus said, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Rather than a call to silence, Jesus’ words are a call to action. Paul continues in verses 6 and 7, “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore, purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump since you truly are unleavened.”
2 Kings 5: 1 – 19 records the miraculous healing of Naaman the Syrian under the direction of Elisha. Naaman suffered from incurable leprosy, and Elisha told him to bathe in the Jordan seven times. Really! Naaman became furious and expected something a bit more dramatic and … God-like. You know the story; you read the headline – Naaman is Clean! He was a new man physically and spiritually, proclaiming, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.” And he wanted Elisha – a man clearly of wisdom and power – to help him with the tough question. Naaman said to Elisha, “Yet in this thing may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the (heathen) temple … to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon—when I bow down in the temple … may the Lord please pardon your servant in this thing.” He knew that awkward moments awaited him and his fresh faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What did the mighty mind of the miracle-working Elisha have for Naaman? “Then (Elisha) said to him, ‘Go in peace.’” Really? That’s it? These words are echoed by Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of John:
But the Helper (Comforter, parakletos), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
– John 14:26-27 (underlining added)
Colossians 3:15 states, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” The Greek word translated “let” and “rule” in this verse means to arbitrate or to govern. This verse suggests that the peace from God on a matter can be sufficient to settle a matter or question. Rightly handling this truth relies on the context of the entire passage and each of you O Gracious Reader needs to review all of the chapter. Verse 16 continues, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” The peace that arbitrates is much more than a feeling. Jesus countered the temptations of Satan as recorded in Matthew 4:1-11 by quoting (Old Testament) Scripture. Jesus modeled the memorization and meditation called for by the Psalmist and popularized by Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em In Your Heart5 recordings.
Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin
– Psalm 119:11
Acts 15:28 states, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things.” This concludes the record of the Council at Jerusalem wherein the apostles addressed the rules to be imposed on the converts. Even then, there was no small disagreement among the assembly. The preceding verses of Acts 15 reveal a reliance on Scripture as well as on testimony to reach a conclusion. And verse 28 describes what I have reached in countless board, and elder meetings – “This seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” Along with the Holy Spirit, the Bible promises “safety in a multitude of counselors.”6 In fact, this is not the first recorded dispute in the Acts. The first chapter in verses 21 through 26, revealed the candidates to replace Judas – “Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias.” A dispute arose over the serving of the Hellenist widows (Acts 6:1-7) and over John Mark (Acts 15:36-41)
Summary: Paul called out the church at Corinth for its failing of sin and, importantly, its failing in the tolerance of that sin. Naaman wanted clear answers, and the Man of God blessed him with a message of peace. John and Peter suggest that the peace from God serves as a guide to our decisions. And sometimes, the counsel of godly believers, the whole counsel of God’s word, eyewitness testimony about what is happening on the ground, and prayer results in a sense of what seems right between God and the group of believers.
I have exceeded my word target for this article and if there is continuing interest I may write a third part to this series. The author invites your comments at email@example.com. And he intends to respond to all emails!