UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 26, 2015. It has been updated.
Devotional Thought for This Morning
“Love, Not Doctrine! Really? But Do It Right”
1 Timothy 4:16 (NASV)
“Pay close attention to yourself and to the teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
Back in 2012 I was in Villahermosa, Mexico to train future missionaries. One morning, as I was jogging before the day began, I saw a young man walking towards me; so I slowed down to share the gospel with him. After a few minutes into our conversation, he assured me that he will return to his former church—“Kingdom Hall.” Oh no! He was a backslidden Jehovah’s Witness and I talked him into going back to that cult, which believes that, among other false doctrines, Jesus is a created deity inferior to the Father and hell does not exist. And because this young man knew truly little of the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was in an awkward position of having to inform him of some of their key beliefs only to refute them afterwards.
“Why bother,” some would argue, especially those who agree with megachurch pastor T.D. Jakes who once quipped, “I am too busy preaching the Gospel to split hairs. . . . Many . . . are dying . . . not . . . for the lack of theology, but for lack of love.” But I think John, though known as the apostle of love, would disagree with Jakes. Pointing to those who denied that Christ came in the flesh, thereby diminishing his humanity, John called them “the deceiver and the antichrist” who “do not have God” (I Jn. 4:2-3; 2 Jn. 1:7).
Folks, doctrine is serious business and the eventual outcome of our journey with the Lord has a lot riding on whether we persevere in sound doctrines. It is not without reason that the apostle John declared that “anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in [the doctrine of Christ] does not have God; whoever continues in [the doctrine of Christ] has both the Father and the Son (2 Jn. 1:9 NIV, NKJV in brackets). No wonder then that the apostle Paul told Timothy, a young man pastoring the church in Ephesus, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). And, what happened not too long ago to Joshua Harris, once a darling of evangelicals, shows how starkly true this can be: Neither persevering in doctrine nor life, Harris renounced his faith and divorced his wife.
On the flipside, it seems that some people who “love” theology (e.g., “I’m a 5-point Calvinist”) lack love, meaning they have little tolerance for disagreement. Ironically, it is Harris, who, before eventually becoming a Calvinist, had said, “I remember my first encounters with the Calvinists. Sadly, I must say that they represented the doctrine of grace with a total lack of grace.” Another irony is that Pastor John MacArthur, a fearless defender of the gospel whose popular radio ministry is called Grace to You, is the one who demonstrated this lack of grace and love when he penned his Strange Fire in 2013.
MacArthur once quipped, “People often tell me doctrine divides, and I say, ‘Yes, it divides truth from error.’” I could not agree with him more but, in light of 2 Timothy 2:15b (NKJV) that exhorts the teachers of God’s word to be “a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” we need to “cut” the word with a sharp steak knife for precision instead of hacking it with a butcher knife. Note that the phrase ‘rightly dividing’ derives from the compound Greek word of órthos meaning right, and témnō meaning to cut. So when Pastor MacArthur, seemingly using a butcher knife, accuses the entire Charismatic Movement as “the explosive growth of a false church, as dangerous as any cult or heresy,” he is being neither precise nor gracious. No one needs to remind me of several problems this movement embodies, particularly with regard to prosperity theology; I have spoken against it in my talks and written about it in my books. Nonetheless, impugning the entire movement and those who are true believers in it, as part of a false church, is not only divisive and unloving, but it also encourages people to move to the side of those who deprivilege doctrines like Pastor Jakes.
In closing, I suggest that when we theologize over doctrinal matters that lack clarity (2 Pet. 3:16), the kind that exists in doctrines such as the Trinity (Matt. 4:16-17; Rom. 8:9) or deity/humanity of Christ (Col. 2:9; 1 Jn. 4:2-3), we should avoid the approach of “either/or” and embrace the approach of “both/and.” For instance, when addressing the basis for God’s election, instead of choosing between God’s “predetermined plan” or “foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23 NASB), I suggest that we simply believe what Scripture says, which is both (Eph. 1:11; 1 Peter 1:1-2), and stop, as J. I. Packer says, “suppress[ing] . . . one truth in the supposed interests of the other . . . for the sake of a tidier theology” (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God 1961). I call this the Radica Middle hermeneutics and you can read all about it in my book Theologizing in the Radical Middle (2018) available in Amazon.
And whenever we teach God’s word, including doctrines, we should always “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). So, in love, I shared with the young Mexican some doctrinal guidelines to find a church that preaches the true gospel.
Prayer: O LORD, You are the God who saves, and I am eternally grateful for your truth and the gospel! Forgive me for keeping the truth of the gospel to myself, rarely sharing it with anyone. May the Spirit stir my heart and sharpen my mind to earnestly and accurately share the good news with those around me, in love. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 7
Lunch Break Study
Read Acts 18:24-26 (NIV): “Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures.  He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.  He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.  And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed,  for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”
Question to Consider
1. What made the situation very sensitive between Apollos and Priscilla/Aquila?
2. How did Apollos respond to what Priscilla/Aquila tried to do for him? What does this suggest about the manner in which this couple approached this sensitive matter?
3. Is there something really important (spiritually or otherwise) that you have been wanting to share with this person whom you care about but have been putting it off? What is keeping you? What do you need to do?
1. Although Apollos was a formally trained teacher, this lay couple knew more about the actual life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Apparently, while Apollos knew all about the Messianic prophecies, he didn’t know that those have been fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
2. Evidently, Apollos received the correction since he immediately applied it to his ministry. This suggests that Priscilla and Aquila spoke the truth in love, meaning they avoided insulting their teacher (“You don’t even know this”) while maintaining respect.
3. Once, I corrected this godly Mexican pastor who made a mistake. It was on my mind for a while but I finally decided to address it. Having said that, no one should rebuke or correct anyone unless he is praying for that individual. I guess this man thought that I did that in love; we still keep in touch.
Throughout the day, we have many different conversations. Today, did anyone share a truth that you needed to hear (hopefully in love)? How did you respond? Perhaps, it was you who did that for someone—was it truthful and done in love? Review your day; ask God to sanctify you with His truth (Jn. 17:17).