AfterGlow: United By One (Dec 1992)

By Matt Dabbs

Phillip Morrison
December, 1992

8Following the songs of the season and readings from Scripture, the preacher addressed the audience of 7,000. His message was straight from Scripture. “I am not calling you to be a Baptist, or a Methodist, or a Presbyterian, or an Episcoplaian,” he said, “I am inviting you to be a Christian. I’m not asking you to join this church, but I do encourage you to find a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching, Bible-practicing church and get involved in it.”

I wanted to jump up from my seat in the balcony, wave my arms, call time out, and shout, “Wait a minute! That’s our line! That’s our message!” That is our message, but we have no monopoly over it, no exclusive right to it. Thank God for truth, wherever and by whomever it is preached. It may be that others have begun to see the joy of that message while we have been losing sight of its purity.

A friend told of visiting a country which, until a short time before, was behind the Iron Curtain. A citizen of that country who had recently become a Christian asked my friend if he was associated with a certain church project in the United States. The American was surprised by the question, and distressed to learn that his new acquaintance couldn’t have fellowship with those associated with that work. Some well-meaning brother deserves praise for going to a foreign land and helping a man become a Christian. He is not to be praised for making a particular brand of sectarian. That’s wrong, whether done by someone else or by us.

Robertson McQuilkin observed, “It is easier to go to a consistent extreme than to stay in the center of biblical tension.”

Extremism, whether consistent or inconsistent, has been with us for a long time. Christians in Galatia had been set free from law by the grace of God, but some of them found such good news so hard to believe that they still tried to be justified by keeping the law. They had their circumcision and their non-circumcision cults, their Holy Day and non-Holy Day sects. Those allegiances didn’t determine their relationship with Christ. “What counts,” Paul declared, “is a new creation” (Galatians 6:15).

But even Paul, though an apostle of the Lord, did not find it easy to live in the center of biblical tension. He described himself as pulled in one direction by his sinful nature and in another by the call of God (Romans 7:7-25). After giving us this intimate look into the core of his soul, Paul appears to reach an impasse: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Then, he gives a ringing, victorious answer: “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).

It is not Christ who has divided us into one-cup and multiple-cup churches. He hasn’t told us what journals to read, what schools to attend, what versions of the Bible to use, which projects to support, how to organize our mission and benevolent programs. It is our sinful nature which gives birth to such divisions.

In the recent presidential campaign, candidates accused each other of “just not getting it.” There is a spiritual sense in which a lot of us “just don’t get it,” but we keep trying to achieve perfect understanding and obedience. Living in the center of biblical tension requires more precise focus on our Lord, not more complete knowledge or more perfect works. Maybe we’re not supposed to get it but to get him.Wineskins Magazine

Phillip Morrison

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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