You may have noticed fewer posts recently. This is primarily because I’m no longer really interested in the obsessively negative contentious nature of the chookwatchers.
Rather, I’m intrigued by the way these kinds of self-appraising ‘discernment’ ministries miss the point of doctrine, and I use the word ‘discernment’ here with a degree of scepticism.
The watchers, and by this I include all the so-called discernment ministries, from the Irate Christian Radio mob to Pulpit-in-the-Pen polemists and their ilk, focus so deeply on what they see as doctrinal inaccuracies in the teaching of the ministries they deride, that they completely miss the point of the doctrine they claim to defend.
Theology alone vs practical exercise of faith
As an illustration of what I’m saying, I was a in a study recently where the host read from his iPad a lengthy and detailed theological discourse on the first few verses of Hebrews, giving only the doctrinal stance and not the way to make it happen in our lives, i.e., God speaking to us in these latter days. He then opened up the study for discussion.
The question, then, was, “That was a really great teaching on the theology of the passage, but what is the practical application for today for those of us who are engaging in this study?”
Unsurprisingly, that was when the meeting came alive, because, although we want and even need the theology of scripture, what we really require and desire earnestly is the wisdom, understanding and ability to apply what we read, research and diligently seek. That is what Christians are hungry to know and learn.
We don’t just want to know about God, His ways, and our walk with Him, we want to know God personally, because this is the basis of salvation and our changed life in Him.
John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Application with understanding
The Apostle Peter told us that the Word of God is applicable to our lives and provides the basis for all godliness and living.
2 Peter 1:2-4 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.
Thus we have instruction, teaching, promises and advice on which to act so that we demonstrate our relationship with God – being partakers of the divine nature by acting on His promises for us. Alongside this, Paul told us that godliness is profitable to us when it is exercised.
1 Timothy 4:7b-9 …exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.
To exercise is to put effort into the walk we have now received from God. It has promise for the life that we are now leading and that which is to come. What we do now influences what we will be up ahead. We need to act on the Word and not be hearers only.
We are not saved by works, but we are saved unto good works prepared beforehand in Christ. We are also reminded that faith without works is dead. We have to put corresponding action to what we believe.
We are clearly instructed to live the life God has won for us through our relationship with the Spirit of Christ. The purpose of understanding scripture and doctrine is to apply the Word to our lives and walk in godliness – that is, God-likeness, as partakers of the the divine nature, doing things the way God wants us to by practicing and following His Word and Spirit.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Our completion is demonstrated through acting on the Word we have recieved from God in the scriptures.
Doctrine is only part of the story
When I read and hear the complaints of the watchers, they mostly moan about what could be seen as the finer points of theological debate. They also criticise believers for taking the Word and applying it to their circumstances. This they contrive to call placing ourselves in the text as if this is a bad thing, even though we are admonished to read and apply the Word.
James 1:22-24 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
Jesus also told us that we should build our house on the rock of being a doer of the Word and not just a hearer. The parable of the sower has a similar theme. Putting ourselves in the text, then, is completely biblical and even expected as part of our lifestyle in the Word and Spirit. It’s not enough to hear doctrine or theology. We need to apply the Word.
The watchers argue, often from a Reformed standpoint, for what amounts to a postmodern breakdown of line upon line, precept upon precept, jot and tittle micro scrutiny, missing the Spirit of the Word that brings life, to apply the letter of the law that is death to the soul. They transpose grace into law.
I have yet to read or hear the watchers give a practical application to their exegesis, apart from the one thing they say of all those they oppose, that is, to repent. Of course, there is nothing wrong with repentance, or pleading for it, but the point of repentance is to bring us to a place whereby we can live a repented life not to be repented of. In other words, repentance leads us to a walk in the Spirit led by the Word and Spirit.
Which brings us to a crucial point. There is always a purpose to the Word expressed. Life is not only about doctrinal accuracy but about living in the Word and Spirit. If we live in the Spirit we fulfil the purpose of the Word.
Galatians 5:16-26 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Here Paul gives us the revelation from the Spirit that if we walk in the Spirit we fulfil the law. When we reject the lusts of the flesh and determine to follow the leading of the Spirit, which includes the instructions given in the Word, especially the New Covenant, then there is no law against it.
The law becomes redundant when we learn to walk in the Spirit. Whilst it remains relevant as a teaching tool and as examples for us, the only purpose of the law was to keep Israel on the straight and narrow path. When faith came and we were empowered to walk in the Spirit the purpose of the law was removed.
Lawyers of the new age
The watchers are in effect the lawyers of the new age. They have been empowered by the immediacy of the Internet to set up their quasi-legal practices and become judge, prosecution and jury against all and any who do not fit their theological and doctrinal perspective.
But we are not judged by law under the New Covenant. We are redeemed from the curse of the law, which is sin. Through the blood of Jesus we are set free from the sin that bound us to law. Jesus fulfilled all of the law for us. The law is still relevant, and worthy of our attention, but we are of the New Testament, not the Old. We are of grace through faith, not law.
This is not a license to sin, but it is the way into the life in the Spirit, where the law cannot touch us. We still have scripture to guide us and instruct us, but we are led by the Spirit, not by legalism.
The watchers want to place on us unnecessary yokes of bondage to their legalistic interpretations of scripture. They want to regulate the Church. They want to supersede the Spirit of Christ and apply their harsh judgments, constraints and cessationist practices on the Body of Christ.
In this they tend to emulate, whether wittingly or unwittingly, the Pharisees and Judaisers that were identified as enemies of God’s Covenants.
Whilst they can articulate the theology and, to a degree, the doctrine of the cross, they completely miss the point of the cross, of God’s grace, and of the work of the Spirit in the Church.
Paul puts it beautifully in his rebuke of the Galatians, which is worth reading through in its entirety as a discourse on the gospel of grace through faith versus the weakness of the law to understand the thrust of this article. Is it the law that saves us, or grace through faith?
Galatians 3:5 He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
The Galatians had been bewitched by the legalists of their day, but Paul reminds them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free, and not to be drawn back again to the bondage of the law. We can draw comparisons between these legalists and the watchers who want to bind us to their doctrinairism.
Christ has brought us into liberty. We are to resist being pulled back into the bondage of legalism and unbiblical constraints that sit over us and obscure truth like the veil that came between Moses and Israel. The veil has been removed and we can see Christ face to face taking on His nature through the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Don’t allow the legalistic restraints of judgmental watchers bind you to their doctrinal rules and regulations.
We are all called to liberty in Christ. It is one thing to know doctrine, but it is the application that counts. “Show me your faith by your actions”, says James, and all we who live by faith in the Word and Spirit say, “Amen!”