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For Such a Time: Calling Not Creed

September 15, 2010

Knowledge is power.  There is no denying the role of biblical knowledge in the Christian life.  Without it, we remain merely children in the faith. 

However, what is also clear is that knowledge alone is insufficient.  The Bible even claims that it can be dangerous and make us “puffed up” if it isn’t accompanied with love (1 Cor. 8:1).  James warns that knowledge that doesn’t result in acts of mercy is a distorted sort of faith that really isn’t faith at all (James 2:19). 

When thinking about knowledge and action concerning our following of Jesus, we must conclude that both are necessary.  We need orthodoxy (right thinking about Jesus) and orthopraxy (right living that imitates Jesus).  Orthodoxy without orthopraxy reduces Jesus to a philosopher and leaves us and our faith useless.  Orthopraxy without orthodoxy reduces Jesus to a sentimental activist. 

The temptation for modern evangelicalism is to neglect a calling to mission in favor of focusing on right thinking.  Non-believers have come to see churches more as a discussion group than a dynamic, transformative community.  It is by our “good works” that our faith becomes known to others (Matt. 5:16; James 2:18).  We are more than one of many ideologies from which to choose.  Jesus is our ideology, and to know Him is to be called by Him for His mission. 

This is the spot during this blog that I am supposed to say that creeds are dead.  I am supposed to say that emphasis on truth and doctrine will result in the church becoming nothing more than a museum of the past and a repository of artifacts.  This would be a trendy position.  However, I actually think that the answer to our problem is to take a deeper and more honest look at Christian doctrine.  In some sense, we have not become theological enough until we squeeze our call to action out of any given biblical truth.  Theology rightly understood always builds a bridge to action.  Creeds lead to calling.  Truth causes transformation.   

In order for us to experience the full power of our calling derived from the truth of the gospel, two things have to happen.  First, we have to dissolve the idea that only “specialized” believers are called into ministry.  The gospel not only calls us to be saved, but also calls us to its mission.  It isn’t as if we are recipients of the gospel and then nothing more happens.  To receive grace is to be called to dispense it.  To know the truth is to be called to share it.  To be a recipient of compassion and generosity is to be called to offer it.  Every person who is saved is also called into ministry regardless of their vocation.  Ministers are not only pastors.  Ministers are all who are saved from whatever place in life they find themselves.  They are teachers, nurses, moms and dads, factory workers, etc.  Creeds alone will not satisfy our skeptical, unbelieving world.  They hunger for significance and this will only come with a calling.  We must preach to them that the gospel will not only save them, but will call them. 

Second, we have to understand that the Lordship of Christ extends over all creation and must be proclaimed in “word” and “deed” (1 John 3:18).  Jesus is not only the Lord of our hearts and heaven, but is also Lord over all creation (Col. 1:15-16) including every power and authority on Earth (Eph. 1:20-23).  Evangelicals have been in danger of an ancient heresy called gnosticism.  Gnostics emphasized the spiritual realm to the neglect of the physical realm, seeing it as unimportant.  In gnosticism, the knowledge of the mind is important but the actions of the body are not.  The Bible teaches against this thinking reminding us that Jesus was raised to a new body; our resurrection is “bodily” as well (1 Cor. 15), and creation longs for its deliverance from Christ (Rom. 8:22).  Jesus is the firstborn amongst creation, the agent of creation, the glue that holds creation together and everything was created for Him – to be under His lordship (Col. 1:15-18).  The job of the church is to proclaim the rule of Jesus and this will demand that we proclaim it in word and deed.  We proclaim Jesus is Lord over sin and death and that he can save us from both.  Our evangelism proclaims the reign of Jesus over all spiritual things.  This is the ministry of “word.”  Our acts of kindness and generosity proclaim the reign of Jesus over creation – food, clothing, medicine, and prayer for healing.  This is the ministry of “deed.”  Without both, we lack proclamation of the complete reign of Jesus as Lord.  Also, the two are related.  It is the “word” that calls us to the “deed.”  It is the “deed” that gives evidence of the veracity of the “word.” 

Truth does matter.  The Word can become flesh (John 1:14) through our collective lives as the body of Christ, but only if we listen to the calling within it.  At the same time, an articulation of our calling will speak to the souls of the lost who are tired of living without significance.

One Comment
  1. September 16, 2010 4:09 pm

    Nathan, you are (beyond a doubt) one of the best Christian writers I have read. God has gifted you as few others.

    I will be praying that God continue to bless you with health, wisdom and leadership,,,,,,,,so all of your gifts can be exercised.

    You can’t believe how thankful I am — that you are my successor.

    By the way, I do descriptive writing (which is another way of saying — poor journalism)

    The best friend you will ever have,
    Don Young

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