I’ve been a Christian for a lot of years. Over time I have spent time under the teaching of a number of different denominations, from strict brethren to Lutheran, from Baptist to non-denominational. Many of them have had a pretty similar stance on what you can and cannot do as a Christian. I have usually gone along with whatever was being taught at the time. The more I read the bible though, the more I wonder where the rules and regulations come from.
I have made little secret of my opinion of John Piper. It is difficult to fault his bible knowledge, and lots of his teaching I would agree with. For me though, there is far too much “you have to do it this way or God won’t accept you” in the way he delivers his messages. There is a series available on YouTube where Piper is asked various questions. These are as diverse as “rules for a Christian marriage” to “should Christians drink alcohol” and “is it wrong for men to have long hair.” While some of the replies are firmly grounded in scripture, many of the responses are simply Pipers opinion on the matter. The problem I have with this is that for many people, his words are taken as close to gospel truth on matters that in the grand scheme of things really don’t matter.
The Desiring God website states one of their aims to be to enable everyone to “know the Glory – God’s glory. The deepest longings of the human heart can be satisfied in pursuing that glory. In fact, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.“ They call this truth ‘Christian hedonism.’ A quick check of the website confirms that this is basically defined as Joy. The issue I have is that the primary way to experience this “deep joy” is to obey a bunch of rules, regulations and guidance.
Mike Warnke, Christian comedian popular in the 80’s once said, “People write to me and say, ‘how much makeup should a Christian woman wear?’ Mike would write back and say “I don’t know sister, it depends on your face. The point is that in a world that is going to hell, we really don’t have time to worry about your Maybelline.” We really don’t have time to worry about how we appear to other christians, and how well we are doing at keeping the rules. We don’t have to worry about this because we have already been accepted.
It’s not John Piper per se that I take issue with. It is anyone that we put on a pedestal and accept anything that they say without question. Bill Johnson would be another prime example. I love Bill’s teaching and recognise that even in the sound bites that sound controversial, there is decades to study, time with the Father, and theology behind them. He still says things that I don’t agree with though. Perhaps for you it is the pastor or leader in your local church.
Jonathan David and Melissa Helser sing a song called ‘So much Grace.’
“East went looking for West, but never found him.
Guilt went looking for my past, but only found love
I heard about a sea where sin sinks like stones
There is no floor there, just mercy down below.
There is so much grace (x4)
Do Christians need rules? Absolutely. Should we be getting bound up with keeping them? I think that is a bit like the Pharisees and the law. There are things that Jesus commands us to do, most of which involve loving others. If we are to show the compassion for people that Jesus did we should be more concerned with loving the person in front of us, pursuing those who are lost and introducing them to the Jesus we know, allowing Holy Spirit to convict them of sin, and loving them regardless than worrying about whether we should be allowed a glass of wine with our dinner.
And if we do mess up, and come back to Him, truly sorry, there is no judgement – there is “so much Grace.”