A Chapter from Temples and Tithes
Sometimes I can some fairly extreme reactions to this teaching from "We've been lied to all these years" to "I'm leaving my church its all wrong" or "This is the biggest load of rubbish I've ever heard I don't want to listen to any more of your teaching". These reactions are NOT what this book is aiming at. With the exceptions of Catholics and Seventh-Day Adventists I don't want you to leave your church. If you are a Catholic or an SDA please find another church graciously. I do regard the teaching of those two denominations as seriously off-center regarding the gospel.
For the rest of you - every church has its faults. I don't know of any denomination that perfectly conforms to the NT pattern or has got the "new wineskins" worked out. While I do want to point out a better way, I do not want, in the process, to plunge Christians into deep and bitter disillusionment with their churches. This book is a deeply radical look at what it means to be a NT Christian. Radical but I hope loving. I do not want you to march off in an angry storm of protest because you have discovered an error or three in your church and its theology and practice. Neither you or the church will grow if that happens.
This book does say that when Jesus talked about the need for new wineskins He wasn't just tacking patches on the old ones. He was very serious when He used the organic metaphors of leaven in the loaf and mustard seeds. It’s a big change, a living revolution. How will we cope? Slowly as usual I suspect!
Were you lied to? Probably not. While I think many of the televangelists are con-artists, most pastors are real and genuine people who love you and the Lord and the Word of God. However they, like many others, have fallen for mixing in the old with the new. It’s a continual process of reformation and it is not easy for anyone. Reaching these conclusions has taken me twenty years!
Many of you will be uneasy with some of the theological stances taken in this book. Pentecostals will probably think I am being too much of a conservative evangelical and conservative evangelicals will think that I am way too charismatic. Like any good conservative evangelical (and that is my roots as a Baptist) I start with the inerrancy of the Scriptures and a concern for sound exegesis, logic and system. Contradictions must be explained. I do not believe there is any virtue in an inconsistent and incoherent theology. God is ultimately very rational and orderly and truth-full. On the other hand I am passionate about receiving the fullness of Christian experience and not setting limits on God and I believe that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit into our midst to bring us life and to lead us into real and tangible intimacy with Himself. If you haven't experienced that yet -please seek it.
Should you go and give your beloved pastor a copy of this with a smug "read this you guardian of the Temple" type comment. No, please don't. We are called to love one another, so please love your pastor. Pastors do their best. If you think that your pastor may be receptive, if there is an interest there in new ways of doing church - then by all means pass the book on. Just don't do it out of hostility or in a "I'm going to change you" kind of way.
One of my big concerns is that we get back to the Sermon On The Mount and start living out our Christian faith with integrity, love and lots of good works done in real and sincere fellowship. I can only see this happening in home fellowships whether those fellowships are house churches or are cell groups of a larger local church. The NT lifestyle advocated in these pages is not the sort you can live as a mere spectator or as a board member of an institution. I have been on so many committees that I now seriously question them. We need a better way.
We need a Christian life that tenaciously grabs hold of all that we are "in Christ". In His death, in His life, in His ascended glory and in His Church. Sometimes we tack "Jesus died for your sins" onto the old Temple structures and call that Christianity. This is terribly inadequate as we have seen. It leaves so much out and leaves the believer in the grip of much that is legalistic or defective. If often leads to guilty, obsessive Christians. If we stop at the cross the resurrection life and ascension authority gets left out of the equation. If you get anything at all from what I have just written get the determination to live in ALL that Jesus has done for you. In His life, death, resurrection, ascension and impending return. Don't live in old patterns, live in new life.
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