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SOLD, Watercolor Pencil, Colored Pencil, Acrylic Paint on Matboard, 18 cm x 41 cm (7″ x 16″)
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” (Romans 14:17-18)
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
“…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Once, when I was driving through a small town out in the country, something caught my attention. On one city block there was a large, old church building. It was made out of stone, and it had stained-glass windows and a modern sign out front saying, “Come worship with us!” Directly across the street was another large, old church building also made of stone, and it had stained-glass windows and a modern sign out front.
I was amazed at how there could be two such big, elaborate church buildings in the same small town. Each congregation must have spent a lot of money and time on the stonework and stained-glass windows for each building. Where did they get all that money in this rural town, and what made them build such extravagant structures in such a tiny, modest place?
Secondly, I was perplexed at how the two churches ended up directly across from each other, literally about 15 steps apart. They looked as if they were squaring off for a dual. Even their signs seemed to silently squabble over obtaining congregants, advertising their various programs and services to passers-by in attempts to attract them into that particular church instead of the one across the street.
All day long I kept thinking about what I had seen and the deeper spiritual issues that eventually resulted in the foundation of these two elaborate churches being laid in perpetual opposition to each other.
Later that day I went for a beautiful walk through the woods and had a great time with the Lord in prayer. At the end of my walk I sat down on some rocks overlooking the river and began to read my Bible. I read the passage, “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive” (John 7:37-39).
I began to meditate on the truth of these beautiful verses, and I began to thank God for eternal life and the Holy Spirit, which he has given me. Then all of a sudden, in my mind I heard a little voice saying, “That is not what this Scripture means.” I began to argue back in my mind, “Yes, it is.”
All at once I was transported back into a lengthy doctrinal argument I had had with another Christian about this particular passage of Scripture. I began to re-fight the entire argument with him all over again in my head. In my imaginary squabble, I brought forth many Scriptures to prove my doctrinal stance was correct and his was incorrect. His rebuttals came into my mind, and I rose up to refute them. However, the longer I entertained the argument in my head, the more I plunged into deeper confusion over what the Scriptures actually said, and I quickly lost my peace with God and the ministration of the Holy Spirit into my heart through this Scripture. My wonderful afternoon with God was doing a rapid divebomb.
All of a sudden, in the middle of this heated doctrinal argument in my head, a huge bald eagle flew right in front of me. It was the closest I had ever been to one of these majestic birds in the wild before. He was only about 20m (65′) away, soaring up the river looking for fish. I was captivated by the sight of this magnificent bird and totally forgot the argument in my head.
At that time, I had been in a season where the Lord was speaking to me a lot about “flying” and “soaring” with him in his presence by the power of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 40:28-31).
All of a sudden, it dawned on me that I was completely in the wrong place spiritually (duh). I realized that just like the two churches I had seen that morning, true Christianity goes beyond possessing all the perfect doctrines. True Christianity is about living in constant, worshipful communion with God through Jesus Christ. Certainly, a lifestyle of perpetual praise delights the Lord more than possessing perfect knowledge alone! I had lost my peace because I departed from the presence of God in order to re-hash a doctrinal argument.
We definitely shouldn’t be negligent about our doctrine, for Paul says to Timothy, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). But it is possible to possess perfect doctrine and yet still be completely dead spiritually. Notice the Lord tells us through Paul to watch both our life and our doctrine.
The Pharisees pursued perfect doctrine (at least their version and interpretation of it), and they vigorously argued with other religious groups over it (Acts 23:6-10). They even lived scrupulously according to their doctrines (the Law and the “traditions of the elders”) (Matthew 23:23-24, Mark 7:1-22 ), but yet they totally failed to live a worshipful life in God’s presence, for they rejected God when he presenced himself amongst them in the person of Jesus (John 1:10-11). Therefore, Jesus rebuked them:
“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)
“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.'” (Mark 7:6-7)
True Christianity goes beyond knowing and adhering to doctrine alone. The attitude of our hearts must be pure and worshipful before God, for we can “worship” him with our lips and yet still have hearts that are far from him. We can become hypocritical Christian Pharisees if we become negligent about the attitudes of our hearts.
True Christianity is about knowing God intimately through faith in Jesus Christ (John 17:3), abiding in his presence and living a constantly worshipful life unto him. Living according to doctrines only requires a mind full of Biblical knowledge a good measure of human willpower. If this is the summation of one’s Christianity, then it is counterfeit Christianity. However, living according to the truth requires us to humble and surrender ourselves to God and to daily seek his face, that he may refresh us in his presence, renew our minds through his Word and ever increasingly transform us into the likeness of Christ.
We were created to soar with God, not to war with men.
“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23)
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:10-15)