Rooted in Reality

October 15, 2010

Faith is one of the primary topics in the New Testament, yet many people are confused about the nature of faith. I recently heard a preacher on the radio proclaim, “If you can conceive it, you can achieve it.” That statement sounds great, but it is not true. When I was eight, I could conceive of myself playing baseball for the San Francisco Giants when I grew up. I had a great Little League career and I looked forward to being a pro baseball player. As a senior in high school however, the reality of my potential as an athlete collided with the dream I held in my heart.

The idea that we can pray and proclaim something and will happen is not true. No amount of perfect speaking or believing on our part is enough to shape the future. We can declare and cooperate with what God is doing because Christ is in us. God can show us the future through the Spirit or the word, but he is the one who brings it to pass.  If someone rebels against the word of God, we can predict his or her behavior will lead to a bad outcome. We can also predict blessing for those who faithfully love God and their brothers. Jesus said that we must worship God in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24). God’s people should be rooted in reality. If we know the Lord, we should see things as they really are, not just as we hope they will be.

Bishop Eddie Long is the leader of a 25,000-member church in Atlanta. He has been accused by four separate young men of seducing them into sexual acts and giving them cars and gifts in exchange for sex. He spoke to his congregation about the situation and the media reported that he said, “Though I am not a perfect man, I am not the man they are saying and I will fight these charges.” Thousands of people cheered their support for him.

The fact that four separate witnesses testified to the same behavior pattern is a strong indication that their stories have validity. I Timothy 3:2 states that the first qualification of an overseer is that he should be above reproach. Why would a congregation ignore the reproach their bishop is bringing to Christ and leave him in his position? Perhaps because their faith resides in the strong leader they love, rather than the word of God which should be the foundation for all our lives and churches. If they confuse their responsibility to forgive those who sin against them with the church’s responsibility to bring discipline to leaders who flagrantly sin, their mess will just get worse. Bishop Long should be removed from his ministry pending the outcome of a thorough investigation into these allegations.

Jesus established the church to nourish believers in worship, love, and faith; yet sometimes church leaders act in their own self-interest rather than the interest of those they are supposed to love and serve. Some leaders establish the identities of their congregations by emphasizing doctrines based on obscure Scriptures. They declare that other leaders who do not emphasize the same doctrines do not know the truth. Those who follow these leaders get cut off from the rest of the body of Christ because they live in the delusion that they are the only ones who really understand the truth.

Our faith should be based on the entire word of God, not on a leader or a unique system of theology. Faith brings us into a relationship with God that is built on love and trust. Faith pleases God because it brings his blessings into our lives and helps us to keep growing in love.

My three-year-old grandson Matisse said, “I want to be a superhero, but I don’t have any superpowers. I can’t even fly!” Faith does not give us superpowers. It does connect us to the Father through Jesus Christ. He gives us every gift we need to enter God’s Kingdom and bring others in as well.

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