Wang Ming-Dao the Chinese Christian leader of a past generation who I wrote about in my last article said this:
“There are many different aspects of the Christian life. That which most strongly influences other people and most closely concerns the glory of God, is the Christian’s conduct”.
Some years ago I travelled a long distance to purchase a car from a man who claimed to be a Christian. Indeed, he held a high position in his denomination within which he was a also a popular preacher. He had described the car in glowing terms – and told me I would be very happy with it. However, on arrival, one look at the car showed it had suffered much abuse and required substantial work to bring it up to an acceptable standard. As I was about to leave the man expressed his disappointment that we had not more time to speak about a book I had written on revival in the church. As I travelled home I wondered how his preaching and desire for revival sat with the lies [and yes he knew fullwell what he was doing] he had told me about the condition of the car he was selling. Something somewhere was disconnected.
I could relate a number of such stories – some with much more tragic and appalling consequences – even to people taking their own lives. Some of these shook my faith to its core. How can people steeped in theological knowledge and highly respected for their preaching and orthodoxy, live double lives involving lying, cheating, immorality and deception? There is a serious disconnection somewhere between religious profession and practice. But yet, in my experience, this is not a rare phenomena. I believe there is an endemic problem in evangelical Christianity in this regard.
I recently heard a very well known evangelical Christian Apologist addressing a group of Christian students about to go into the world of University. He outlined the issues they would face in relation to their faith and in particular their moral standards. He then went on to address them on the importance of being able to argue for their faith at an intellectual level. At the end he was lauded and praised by the other leaders on the platform.
However I came away seriously troubled. My problem was simply this – how can a knowledge of theology and the wonders of the universe [which was his speciality] help to weather the temptations of sexual immorality which these young people would face? It is a question that certainly was not addressed in his lecture. The plain truth is it can’t! Knowledge alone is no fortress against the storms of temptation and weakness.
I believe there are two missing keys in this regard – love and fear. And these are by no means mutually exclusive for fear and love are, in one respect, two sides of the one coin.
We only need to look at the example used so often in the Bible and everyday life – marriage. If a man truly loves his wife and a woman her husband – they will be faithful to one another. Temptation is faced by the more powerful forces of love and fear – love for your covenant partner and a fear that you may hurt them and the One before whom you have declared covenant love.
“Those who truly love me are those who obey my commands. Whoever passionately loves me will be passionately loved by my Father. And I will passionately love you in return and will manifest my life within you.” Then one of the disciples named Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “Lord, why is it you will only reveal your identity to us and not to everyone?”Jesus replied, “Loving me empowers you to obey my word. And my Father will love you so deeply that we will come to you and make you our dwelling place.”
John 14: 21 – 23 TPT
I truly wonder do we really believe this?
And it is not only Jesus [the true touchstone] who says this – Paul says likewise:
“Knowledge promotes overconfidence and worse arrogance, but charity of the heart (love, that is) looks to build up others. Just because a person presumes to have some bit of knowledge, that person doesn’t necessarily have the right kind of knowledge. But if someone loves God, it is certain that God has already known that one.”
1 Corinthians 8: 1 – 3 TV
I sometimes look at friends who rest in their theological knowledge, orthodoxy and denominational superiority and feel a deep pain in my spirit. How will they ever be brought to repentance and the heart of Love?