Less than 24 hours after I published the "Haters Gonna Hate" commentary, I saw this tweet from Pastor Todd Wilken just moments ago...
If your theology is a reaction to someone else's, it will never be centered on the Gospel. #ChristCenteredCrossFocused— Todd Wilken (@toddwilken) July 7, 2015
I'll admit, that one stung a little.
How true is that statement for me, personally? Is that what I've been doing? Is that what I've been guilty of over the years, especially in recent months? What does he mean by that, exactly?
I think Pastor Matt Richard already gave the answer back in 2009.
In the book Grace Upon Grace the author, Kleinig, describes Satan’s attack on Christians and the Church. Kleinig notes that we too quickly think of spiritual battle in supernatural or spectacular ways. We think of Satan doing exotic things like sending demons to attack or haunt us. Rather, Satan, as “the father of lies,” most powerfully asserts himself by lying to us, and getting us to believe a lie. Specifically, Kleinig cites Satan’s attempts to lead us to sin -- to engage in behavior which promises comfort or pleasure -- as Satan’s “front door” lie. By believing such a lie, we are led away from our faith in Jesus Christ, or we are lead to a sense of guilt that tempts us to believe that Christ could no longer forgive us. Kleinig then comments on Satan’s “back door” attack. I find his description powerful, convicting and riveting; I read it as a solemn warning. Kleinig writes: “In the front door attack he [Satan] tries to break into the conscience by attacking our faith in Christ; in the back door attack he attempts to gain a secret foothold by attacking our love for our fellow Christians, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
“This is how it works! Satan gets another Christian to sin against us in deed or word. It pleases Satan if a person with spiritual significance or authority, such as a parent, pastor, spouse or leader in the Church sins against us. Their spiritual status, their office, magnifies their offense and intensifies the damage that it does. This is a kind of ritual abuse, the misuse of holy things against us."
“After the offense has occurred, Satan gets us to brood over it, like a stuck track or a video loop, repeatedly and obsessively in our minds, with every greater emphasis on the gravity and injustice of it. As we process the offense and its effect on us, Satan gradually distorts our remembrance and our assessment of it. He uses this offense to encourage us to bring our mental accusations against the offender in the court of our minds. There he presides over the proceedings as we hold a secret trial in which we both prosecute and pass judgment on the wrongdoer."
“The more we brood on the offense, the angrier we get against the offender. We remember all the other offenses that we have ever suffered from that person and all the other people that have ever hurt us. And that fuels our anger and our desire for justice. We maintain that we are in the right; we are justified in our judgment of them. We hold the moral high ground against them. Then, before we know it, anger leads to bitterness and resentment. This, in turn, leads to outrage, hatred, and lust for revenge. And so we end up stewing in our own poison."
“When we begin to hate those whom we should love, Satan has us where he wants us. Once hatred sets in, he can slowly and patiently dislodge us from the Church and from Christ.”
Kleinig’s words deserve to be read slowly and repeatedly. He proceeds by further describing the effects of Satan’s “back door” attack.
“In 1 John 3:7-15, St. John describes this process well. Hatred is spiritual suicide. It marks the end of eternal life, the new life we have in Christ. Anger is seductive because it makes us feel justified in hating those who have hurt us. We are right and they are wrong. We are right in hating them and taking revenge on them because they are our enemies."
“The revenge that we take is subtle and hidden. We don’t usually attack them physically or verbally, but emotionally and spiritually. We write them off and give them the cold shoulder. We reject them in our hearts, dissociate ourselves from them, and treat them as if they were dead to us. That, says John, is spiritual murder."
“Sadly, by cutting ourselves off from our brothers and sisters in Christ, we cut ourselves off from Christ as well. The upshot of that is withdrawal from the family of God and increasing isolation in the darkness of hatred. That is a kind of spiritual suicide, for hatred opens up a secret place for Satan in our hearts.”
“This attack from behind is far more common than we realize. It wreaks havoc in the lives of Christians and many Christian communities. It is potent in its impact and destructive in its effects. Yet, God does not stop Satan from using it in the lives of His people. It is a risky tactic because it can so easily backfire on the evil on. In fact, God uses it to destroy our self-righteousness and to build up the Church as a community of grace, a society of forgiven and forgiving sinners. As our anger and desire for justice expose the spiritual fallout from the bad things that others have done to us, we learn, by God’s grace, to face what has happened, seek healing from the damage that has been done, and forgive as we ourselves have been forgiven.”
Source: John W. Kleinig, Grace Upon Grace (Concordia Publishing, 2008), 234-236.
Ouch! Ok, I'm willing to admit that I've been guilty as charged by the above excerpt.
Here's another admission -- I'm struggling with that perspective ever since I first read it.
I mean, there's a part of me that definitely accepts what Kleinig wrote as being "Biblically accurate" for sure, but there's another part of me that wrestles with it in light of several Bible verses though.
Jude 1:3 (ESV) Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Acts 17:11 (ESV) Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Matthew 18:17 (ESV) If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Romans 16:17 (ESV) I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 (ESV) Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.
2 Thessalonians 3:14 (ESV) If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.
Titus 3:10-11 (ESV) 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
2 John 1:10-11 (ESV) 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
See what I mean? What do we do with that kind of truth? How do we reconcile the truth shared from Kleinig in light of the truth found here in the Word of God?
I truly want to know, because I'm having a difficult time with all of this right now.
As I tried to sort it out on my own, I found another compelling piece by Pastor Matt Richard. This time, it was his sermon on the Fifth Commandment and the Eighth Commandment.
For example, in our reading from tonight, Jesus essentially states that if you have anger towards a brother or sister or if you have insulted a brother or sister, you are guilty of breaking God’s Commandments. Otherwise stated, Jesus is closing any loopholes that we might create with God’s Law. He is attempting to show that no one is righteous, that no one does things right, and that we all fall short.
Permit me to do the same as well tonight. That is to say, permit me the opportunity to close any loopholes by applying the Eighth and Fifth Commandments to you. Dear friends:
Have you gossiped, delighted to tell others about the faults or mistakes of another, excusing yourself especially by saying that you spoke only the truth?
Have you slanted stories to your benefit or deceived others by withholding some evidence of the story?
Have you found ways gladly and willingly to explain, in the best possible way, those words or actions of others that hurt you?
Have you defended your neighbor when things said about your neighbor have made others think badly about him or her?
Have you been faithful in keeping the secrets of another’s heart entrusted to you in confidence?
Brothers and sisters, repent, for you have broken the Eighth Commandment.
Have you treated your neighbor’s body and life as gifts of God to him?
Have you injured your neighbor with violent actions, hitting and beating on your neighbor, spoken debasing and insulting words, using foul or dirty words to describe the neighbor, or murdered him with thoughts of anger, contempt, and hatred?
Have you injured your neighbor by ridicule, by neglecting to feed or clothe him, withholding compassion and comfort from him?
Have you avoided giving help to your neighbor, avoiding involvement with him in his difficulty?
Brothers and sisters, repent, for you have broken the Fifth Commandment.
As we can see, we tragically assassinate our neighbor’s character through the careless use of our tongues and we murder our neighbor through injuring their body by neglecting their needs or inflicting harm upon them. Truly, something can rub us the wrong way about our neighbor and our anger can quickly ignite, causing our blood to boil, and then hatred seeps through our pores. In a matter of minutes our tongues can get going a mile a minute and before we know it, we’ve injured our neighbor to their face or behind their back. Undeniably, our neighbor needs to be protected from you and me. We need to be protected from our neighbor as well, for this is God’s design. This is what the Eighth and the Fifth Commandment are all about. They are about God setting a protective fence around us and around others in order to protect the gift of life and the gift of a good reputation.
There is another side to all of this as well. In these commandments the Lord is trying to protect you from yourself. You see, once hatred sets in, you and I can not only do a tremendous amount of damage to our neighbor, but believe it or not, this hatred can also slowly begin to dislodge us from Christ’s Church. That’s right, hatred, which is sin, can lead to spiritual suicide. This hatred seduces us, because it makes us feel justified in our anger. We convince ourselves that we are right and everyone else is wrong, in order to validate our hatred. Sadly, we then cut ourselves off from anyone that would disagree with our assessments. We will even cut ourselves off from Christ’s church, for we do not want to let go of our anger; our hands are just too clinched around our hatred. Darkness sets in. Isolation increases. Spiritual suicide encroaches.
Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy on us.
That was just an excerpt. Please read the whole thing, but be prepared for it to sting even more than his last one!
Once again, while I completely agree with everything he preached in that sermon, there's a part of me that is still struggling mightily with my persistent reaction to false doctrine and its potential to destroy and its place in this discussion and study.
After all, let's not forget what we read in the Book of Concord/Large Catechism on the Eighth Commandment that goes hand-in-hand with the Bible verses from earlier...
All this has been said about secret sins. But where the sin is quite public, so that the judge and everybody know about it, you can without any sin shun the offender and let him go his own way, because he has brought himself into disgrace. You may also publicly testify about him. For when a matter is public in the daylight, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying. It is like when we now rebuke the pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. Where the sin is public, the rebuke also must be public, that everyone may learn to guard against it.
So, does another brother or sister in Christ publicly sharing Biblical inaccuracies and half-truths (on social media let's say) justify us in publicly challenging and/or condemning such doctrinal half-truths and outright lies in a manner that keeps us from committing a sin against them and against our Lord?
That's a question that I will continue to prayerfully consider in light of today's findings. Please continue to pray that the Lord would grant me wisdom in regards to this and please feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments Section below.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, these discoveries represent some of the most convicting and difficult things I've read in quite some time.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism almost 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha!). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm experiencing and/or studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!