|Vol. 14 No. 4 April 2012||
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). “Be anxious for nothing…” (Philippians 4:6). A word from one who has trouble practicing these Scriptures: Be thankful they are there.
Awareness of evil in the world generally increases with age. Some precious children are exposed to humanity’s injustices earlier than are some pampered adults. Still, the more one knows about the world, the more one knows people mistreat people, the relatively innocent suffer at the hands of the oppressors (cf. Ecclesiastes 4:1), and the privileged and powerful exalt themselves at the expense of the lowly (cf. Matthew 23:14; 2 Timothy 3:6; James 5:5-6). This wicked phenomenon even happens within the Lord’s church (3 John 9-10). It is enough to depress one’s spirit beyond recovery, were it not for the Word of God.
The multiple exhortations of divinely offered comfort include: “Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity” (Psalm 37:1). “And why not?” the persecuted might object. “The evil seem to be getting their way! Their riches increase! People believe their slanderous lies!” (cf. Job 21:7-16; 12:6; Jeremiah 12:1; Psalm 109:1-5). Why not fret? Because the God who had the power to create and uphold the world with His Word (Psalm 33:6; Hebrews 1:3) is the One Who has the power to deal – and here’s the key – in His own good time with the wicked. “For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb” (Psalm 37:2). Rejoice, O soul, for the judgment of the Lord is nearer than one might think (James 1:9-11; 5:1-8).
That powerful and living (Hebrews 4:12), creative and judging (Hebrews 11:3; John 12:48) Word of God is also renewing (1 Peter 1:22-25) and sustaining (Psalm 119:49-50) to the downcast human spirit. Here is a reminder from an inspired man who knew suffering, and eventual exoneration: “Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday” (Psalm 37:3-6).
When we speak of New Testament Christianity, we are speaking of the authority God and His Word has in our lives. We live in a world where everything is viewed as being subjective, where the ultimate authority for many is oneself. Such a view has led to distorted understandings about the role of Scripture in one’s life and what a proper response to it should be. Many individuals and many denominations use Scripture to legitimatize their desires, but they are not willing to go to Scripture to allow God to mold their desires in Him. Christianity in the worldly sense may have been tried and found wanting, but New Testament Christianity has yet to be discovered and lived by many.
Does doctrine matter? Of course it does! God’s will is not subject to humanity’s whims; it has been once for all delivered (Jude 1:3). Only by allowing Scripture to be authoritative in one’s life can God accomplish His good will in us, to make us “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). To alter the teaching of Scripture is to pervert the Gospel and to subject us to eternal condemnation (Galatians 1:8-9). God takes His Word very seriously, and so should we take it very seriously (Revelation 22:18-19).
Why does doctrine matter? Only correct doctrine produces a correct lifestyle. “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). Only by holding fast to the pattern of sound words found in Scripture can one be a pattern in Christian living. “In all things, show yourself to be a pattern of good works…” (Titus 2:7). Neither personal feelings nor societal trends will equip us for eternity, but only Scripture will equip us for eternity.
New Testament Christianity is a call to put God first, to let Him speak to us through Scripture and to conform ourselves to His image. Christianity as the world knows it will never accomplish this goal in us, but New Testament Christianity will. It is time to reaffirm Peter’s directive for our lives; “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11). Let us make a difference in our lives and the lives of others by showing New Testament Christianity alive in us.
The world still needs to see and hear the message of the Gospel in its purity and simplicity. Let us commit ourselves to this principle and see what a difference we can make.