One of the core urgings of the scripture is that we trust God’s promises. But that can be difficult for some of us who feel that God has failed to come through from time to time. One reason for this feeling of God having failed is because we have been claiming as a promise, something God never promised.
Some of you may have noticed that I’m something of a stickler for correct doctrine, and for very careful strict, and correct interpretation of The Bible, backed up by historic, tested, lasting positions of the wider church. You may have noticed that I lack patience for a lot of popular books and a lot of popular preachers. I am very picky about parenting and marriage books, various nationally distributed sermons (whether at conferences or on the internet), songs to sing on Sunday AM, etc.
Here’s what’s going on.
I am not claiming to have perfect understanding of doctrine, or perfect perspective or experience. I am not so arrogant to think that I am the sole arbiter of discernment for the church. What is going on is that I see a very prevalent stream (actually many streams) of books, songs, preachers, bible studies, and conference messages that urge us to claim promises from God that He has not promised.
The reason this concerns me so much is that these false promises will wreck your faith. Either in a big fiery crash some day, or slowly over time, as the false promises distort reality and the scriptures, and erode your faith until it is anemic and impotent. Some examples:
- Parenting books or children’s “bible books” that focus primarily on behaviorism, teaching that God loves and rewards good behavior as the primary message, rather than teaching God’s grace and mercy in our failure as the primary message. This gives children the wrong impression about how to be right with God.
- Marriage books that center the message on the couple in the marriage, with lists of dos and don’ts, and tips and tricks, rather than centering the message on the reality that marriage is an image of Christ and the Church, with all the grace, patience, and faithfulness that comes with this.
- “Christian living” books that carry a very subtle “prosperity Gospel” message with them, not so much with regard to health and wealth, those are a bit more obvious, but more of an emphasis on our obedience toward God being rewarded with some sort of blessing, either physical or spiritual. Rather than an emphasis on the Gospel message of God’s Glory, our weakness, and his providing restoration through Jesus Christ. This is the power and hope we have in our Christian life.
- Conference messages or sermons or books that emphasize “what I heard God say to me in a unique private moment”, or a verse ripped completely out of its context and made to said something that it was never intended by God’s Holy Spirit to teach, rather than focusing on something God’s Word says clearly, through accurate interpretation.
I have had friends and acquaintances crash on the rocks of unmet expectations, feeling that God let them down, when in reality it was someone who was claiming to teach them God’s word and will, who let them down.
This is why I’m a bit picky and a little irritated at so much of what happens in Christendom.
Probably some of the irritation comes from recognizing my own error in the mirror of their error.
Some of that angst and irritation is character weakness in me. God is working on me to make me more gentle and patient.
Some of it is a Godly angst from The Holy Spirit that I have a hard time containing.
Thanks for your patience with me while He works on my soul.