Thursday, July 17, 2014

Acceptance As Is and Spiritual Growth

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16
            The common mistake Christians often make through adopting the today’s philosophy is by forcing God to accept them as they are.  This philosophy has influenced Christian theology so as to picture God as the god who in his love does just accepting his people as they are.  The message from the pulpit has also been altered so as to relieve the people of the duty they ought to do as demanded by God.  Some argue that people come to the church expecting to be “lifted up” by soft message about God’s grace, mercy, and love.  Consequently, they come to church wishing that the minister won’t speak to them of God’s law, of his will as
reflected in his command, and of our duty as God’s people.  And so they say that the people are tired when they come to the church, and thus their sole desire is to be spiritually refreshed through the talk about love and grace.  When a minister speaks about God’s law and demand, people start complaining and then arguing that God accepts us as we are.  What lies behind their argument is the unwillingness to obey God.

            In the dynamics between teachers and students we find this struggle as well.  The teacher knows the standard and the students do not.  In the old days, the teacher pushes the students to achieve the standard.  In that way the students work very hard to achieve the standard.  Through toil and labor, they go through painful process in order to get their mind and body to be aligned to the standard.  But modern day education is leaving such practice.  Modern day teachers feel obligated to accommodate students’ shortcomings and let them to develop their skills and knowledge at their own pace.  In short, modern day teachers are expected and expect themselves to accept their students as they are.  Consequently, education is designed more to accommodate the student’s current state and less on developing students into the standard that they ought to achieve.  “Acceptance As Is” philosophy becomes the norm in every educational endeavor in today’s world.  Family education becomes the tip of the spear of the support of such philosophy.  Parents are expected to accept their children as they are.  For children are seen as weak and innocent, and thus must be protected at all times, at all cost.  So modern day children no longer receive the necessary push needed for them to grow.  And funny, psychologists and sociologists are shocked that the current developmental trend shows the fact that adolescence’s span has changed – that is much longer than in the past.  Parents too complain.  Teachers also complain.  Everybody now complains that the modern generation grows way slower than the older generation.  The current generation, including the next, stay childish and immature much much longer than the older generation.  If one asks for proof, the news will become their undeniable proofs.  The shooting spree, the parental negligence (which has caused toddlers to be left in the hot car), and many more.  If the philosophy that they support is “Acceptance As Is” than they do not need to be surprised at the result they now are reaping.  Do not be surprised that their children do not grow mature.  Do not even be surprised when the society in its entirety has become a selfish society, for the most common trait in children is selfishness.

            This notion is now in the Christian theology and is being pushed into the church, particularly in the pulpit.  The dynamics between teachers and students, parents and children, are being projected into the dynamics between God and his people.  The prevailing philosophy now is “Acceptance As Is” and thus God’s ministers are forced to preach it.  Deep down in their heart, being influenced by this philosophy, is the motive to be left alone – which consequently leads to forcing God to change.  In such kind of dynamics, there are two possibilities: either the people change and God remains, or the people remain and God changes.  The thing is, God doesn’t change.  The doctrine of the immutability of God is solid and true.  God, from the beginning, cannot tolerate sin, and forever he cannot tolerate sin.  But people, in their sinfulness, attempt to force God to change, because they find it difficult to stay away from sinning.  They want God to accept them as they are, sinful human beings.  They force God to be the god of their version.  They desire a god that they can feel safe with, which is the god that only loves and bestows grace.  They reject the kind of God that sets standard, gives law, demands growth, disciplines, and so forth.  As they do not wish to change, because sin is too good for them, they try to manipulate God to lower down his standard in order to accommodate their love of sin.

            But little do they know that when God’s grace of the forgiveness of sin is given to his people, it is only possible at the expense of his one and only Son.  The death of the Son of God is no easy matter.  When they think that God forgives very easily, they know nothing about God.  It is very difficult for God, because his son must be sacrificed in order to get us into his standard.  Without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, without his blood being shed on that cross, nobody can be saved from the wrath of God.  Our justification must be done right.  God does not lower his standard at all.  He fulfills his standard through his son’s perfect obedience.  Therefore it is a huge mistake to assume that God accepts us as we are when he forgives our sin.  No, he doesn’t.  He accepts us only on the basis of Jesus Christ.  “Acceptance As Is” philosophy is a fluke.  It is just an attempt to manipulate God using God’s character, love.  Such people know nothing about God.

            Our passage in Ephesians 4 speaks clearly about God’s desire to get us into maturity.  God does not accept us as we are.  God does not bring us into his kingdom and then leaves us the way we are.  No!  His will is for his children to grow into maturity to be like his perfect Son, Jesus Christ.  That’s the reason why he sends apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.  God does not desire us to stay childish.  This desire is reflected in the way our children grow as well.  Even though our children are so cute when they are little, we can’t keep them little and cute forever.  They grow eventually.  Physically they grow into adulthood.  Mentally they grow.  Spiritually they do too.  This fact is undeniable.  Why on earth do we want to deceive ourselves into thinking that God will accept as the way we are?  God sends his servants to build us up.  He wants us to grow.  He doesn’t want us to stay the way we are.  He wants us to be like his Son Jesus Christ.  The standard of maturity is Jesus Christ.  And given the state when we were saved, we were far from being mature like Jesus.  So we need to work.  We need to toil and labor in order to achieve God’s standard.  In the time that he gives us, in the opportunities that he provides us, in the resources that he lavishly grants us, we must grow.  We are built to grow.  We are not built to stay as we are.  Even in our day to day life we can’t stand being idle.  We can’t stand it when our kids remain immature.  We can’t stand it when our employees remain ignorant.  We can’t take it when our government stands still.  We all want growth.  Even in our business we expect growth.  Thus when we demand God to accept us as we are, we are being unfair.  It’s our sinfulness talking.  We develop such kind of philosophy and theology just because we enjoy our sin too much, and instead of disciplining ourselves to change to become more Christlike, we force God to be more humanlike (the sinful one).

            “Acceptance As Is” is not biblical.  The pulpit that preaches it betrays good and sound theology.  Omission of the discussion of God’s law, will, and demand, is a betrayal of God’s faithful word.  He wants us to grow.  He wants us to become like Jesus.  And we must understand that we need a lot of work done in us in order to attain such goal.  Thus, the pulpit is to speak of God’s law, will, and demand.  The pulpit cannot be void of God’s desire for us: not to bow down to other gods, not to carve any image and bow to it, not to misuse the name of God, to keep the Sabbath, to honor our father and mother, not to kill, not to commit adultery, not to steal, not to bear false witness, and not to covet our neighbor’s possessions.  The pulpit is the venue of which God’s command is to be announced to the people.  In the pulpit God’s ministers preach God’s grace and justice, love and discipline.  Just as children ought to obey their parents, as God’s children we too ought to obey God.  The today’s “Acceptance As Is” philosophy has resulted in a tendency to rebel against God.  Because it has formed a lie in their mind that God is only love and thus he will accept us no matter what.  With such imagination in their mind, they can’t accept the truth that God desires us to change, that he desires us to be holy.  Many of them argue of the parable of the prodigal son, in which, they say, the father accepts the prodigal son as is.  But they haven’t carefully contemplated on Jesus’ parable that the father orders for the son to be given the right robe, sandals, and ring.  No, the father does not leave the son the way he is.  Besides, the son has repented way before he arrives at his father’s house.  Today’s “Acceptance As Is” philosophy dislikes the idea of repentance.  Because repentance requires a change of heart, and thus a change of life orientation, which means a change of lifestyle.  “Acceptance As Is” philosophy wants both the sinful world and the benefits of God’s goodness.  The truth is we need to choose between the two.  We can’t have both.  If we choose the world, we will be lost.  If we belong to God we will hate the world.  Human mind is cunning.  It seeks to manipulate and exploit, but God will not allow it.  That is why Jesus’ message is “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near.”  And repentance is the beginning of our spiritual growth to become mature like Jesus Christ.
- The Business of Christian Education LXXXV -

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