A Heavenly Examination

Last night someone asked me what denomination we are. I answered by telling him why I left all the denominations. I talked about how much of the Scriptures are routinely ignored by everyone in pretty much every Protestant church. There are those of us who couldn’t take it anymore, and we are trying to live in obedience to the things most “Christians” ignore.

Then I listed a few for him. Turning the other cheek, forsaking all our possessions, loving with a heavenly love that produces a unity closer than any earthly family. As I quoted the words of Jesus and the apostles, he asked questions about how that is practically lived out.

Honestly, I have no idea of the effect our discussion had on him, but it took my breath away. I am giving myself to the teachings of Jesus, but how fully? Having to explain the call of Jesus highlighted areas where my diligence lags. It highlighted small, or not so small, compromises I make. The sword of conviction was deep and painful, but it’s a pain that must be embraced often by all of us.

If someone were to ask you what it means to hate your own life so that you might keep it for eternal life, do you know what you would tell them? And if you told them, would you be able to say, “That’s how I live my life”?

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9 Responses to A Heavenly Examination

  1. paulfpavao says:

    Honestly, Jack, I don’t know what it means to stress obedience ahead of love. I don’t think we humans understand love very well, and we do sweet, harmful things that we consider love because of the sweetness and God considers cruelty because of the harm.

    There are several verses that suggest the best way to love is to keep Jesus’ commandments, which ties obedience and love together so that one cannot be emphasized without the other. A love not based on obedience to Jesus is very likely not to be love, and an obedience lacking love is very likely harmful, self-righteous, and repulsive to God.

    On the other hand, trying to love might lead us to obedience, just as trying to obey can lead us to love.

    I refer to 2 Peter ch. 1 as a defense. The first things to add to faith are virtue, knowledge, self-control, and perseverance, all things tied up with obedience, but in the end, the goal is love, the last thing in that list. But can we get there without first working on virtue and self-control in accordance with the teachings of Jesus (wisdom)?

    • Jack Lockard says:

      I am searching for the words to best explain what I mean. I certainly do not mean that you can say I love Jesus and continue to sin with no regret or desire to change. That person has never recognized and accepted what Christ did for them and the boundless unconditional love behind it.

      I can see how obedience could lead to love if the reason for your obedience is to grow your love. But, when you fail, (and you will fail at times), love will keep you wanting to obey. If there is no love, it will be easy to say this is not worth the effort or just give up in frustration.

      The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live in a relationship of unconditional other centered, self giving love. We were created to live in that relationship. When Adam ate of the fruit, God screamed No!, I will not leave my creation in brokenness heading for destruction. I will heal them through Christ. I love my Lord because of this and I want with all my heart to live in that relationship with the Father through Jesus the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit and my desire is to be obedient. I will not, however, beat myself up when I fail. Instead I will look to Jesus to give me victory over it.

  2. Jack Lockard says:

    I think we must be careful to not stress obedience ahead of love. We need to live in a loving relationship with the Triune God trusting with a child like heart our Heavenly Father will heal us of our brokenness. Obedience should flow out of love for the Father. Our Father does not look down His nose at us when we mess up. He says great, only 32 more times to go.

    We should hate our Adamic life of alienation from God and seek a life in relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit like we were made for.

    • Restless Pilgrim says:

      > I think we must be careful to not stress obedience ahead of love.

      Can you really separate the two? Can a husband’s love for his wife really be separated from his obedience to his marriage vows?

  3. Restless Pilgrim says:

    > Last night someone asked me what denomination we are. I answered by telling him why I left all the denominations.

    I appreciate the sentiment, but isn’t this really a matter of semantics? Perhaps it depends on how you define “denomination”.

    > If someone were to ask you what it means to hate your own life so that you might keep it for eternal life, do you know what you would tell them?

    To quote the song, “Jesus, first in my heart…”

    > And if you told them, would you be able to say, “That’s how I live my life”?

    Probably not 😦

  4. Ben says:

    Hi Paul,

    If I allow my personal attempts toward holiness and obedience to the Word to determine what the Body of Christ should be, then I basically end up in my back yard with a handful of others calling it “church” (believe me, I know)… I would argue that this is the end result of Protestantism, even if we avoid Protestant terms.

    We should indeed be “trying to live in obedience to the things most ‘Christians’ ignore,” but we cannot legitimately declare what the Church is according to everyone’s success and cohesion in following biblical commands. The Church exists (and is preserved by God) either way. In the end the tares will be separated from the wheat, and the sheep from the goats, etc. We are indeed to strive toward and encourage each other toward “Turning the other cheek, forsaking all our possessions, loving with a heavenly love that produces a unity closer than any earthly family”, etc. But to define the Church according to peoples’ success in these areas sounds like you’re making the case for the “invisible church” concept, which has no biblical or historical evidence to support it (as far as I’m aware).

    Historically, the identity of the Church is not determined by personal preferences/interpretations (and this is a good thing). Chesterton said it very well: “A Catholic is a person who has plucked up courage to face the incredible and inconceivable idea that something else may be wiser than he is.” He also said, “We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. What we want is a religion that is right where we are wrong.” The question of course is, do any of us have the authority to decide for ourselves what the Church is, even if done with Bible in hand and the best of intentions?

    Lately I’ve been reading “Europe and the Faith” by Hilaire Belloc, and I thought of you as he was describing what the early Church was like.

    I think it’s sad that anyone needs to ask “what denomination” a Christian is a part of. We should pray that Christians around the world will be united again someday.

    God bless!

    -Ben

    • paulfpavao says:

      I am going to make a post out of my response to this rather than respond here.

      • Ben says:

        That sounds ominous.
        Why do I have the feeling it won’t be a whole post just so you can say, “Right on, Ben, I couldn’t agree more!” 🙂
        -Ben

        • paulfpavao says:

          Lol. I don’t, but in this case, it’s not going to be one of those knots in the stomach discussions … or at least I don’t think so. Lot more likely you’ll shake your head at me.

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