Tuesday, December 11, 2012

God of Truth

“Could I speak with you a minute? I have something very important to say to you.”

We were just finishing our lunch on Saturday at the noodle shop near our apartment when a college-age looking woman approached our table. We nodded and she continued.

Have you come to China to find God?”

Now this was a question we had never been asked before.

“We are followers of God,” Charly answered.

“Did you know that God has come to China?” the woman asked with heartfelt tears in her eyes.

She said she would wait outside for us so we could continue the conversation.

We wondered where she was really coming from as we gathered our things and made our way outside. I apologized to her that Jordan and I needed to catch a bus to get to a birthday party, but that my husband had some time. CJ and Joshua decided to return home while Charly talked with her and her five friends. It seemed like they believed in the Bible, but also believed that a man they referred to as “God” was in China now and had prophetic words recorded in a book. Charly said he felt sad talking with them because of the false teaching they believed and were spreading. Deception mixed with some truth.

How important is an accurate and complete understanding of the truth anyway?

We are studying Church History with Sonlight this year and have been learning about the Ecumenical Councils that attempted to define true orthodox views and false heretical ones. So many controversial and divisive questions. Jesus’ nature: how to reconcile His humanity with His divinity? The Trinity. The Creeds. Icons. Veneration of the saints. Baptism. Liturgy. The Eucharist.

Who is right and who is wrong (and who decides)? What can be tolerated? And what is worth fighting over? Dying for?

On Sunday we had a lengthy family discussion about the term “Son of God” and what a person needs to believe about Jesus in order to be saved. What is essential and what areas of belief have room for differing views? We came up with some different approaches to this question, and would love to hear your thoughts if you’d like to join in our family conversation!

I love having these kinds of discussions with our kids. They are such challenging, relevant and fundamental issues. They are also directly related to Charly’s graduate studies. Tough topics like truth and tolerance. Acceptance of others’ beliefs without compromise of one’s one. Learning from others. Influencing others. Unity. Diversity. Interfaith dialogue.

Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him,”If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) and John wrote to believers, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.” (1 John 2:20-21)

When I came to faith my freshman year of college, it was partially through the Church of Christ. A friend invited me to church, and I was amazed by the eagerness I saw there to learn and grow and apply God’s Word. People actually took notes on the sermon! I joined a Church of Christ Bible Study that met in my dorm and was individually discipled by a sophomore named Rachel. 

I felt like a sponge, soaking up all that I was learning. But I didn’t know what was truth and what was “off” in the church’s teaching. My Mom expressed real concern when I told her my church friends wanted me to stay during the summer break so I could continue meeting with them. They said their church was The Church and unless I was baptized there I wasn’t going to heaven. In the end, I decided to go home for the summer, and I came to realize there were some things wrong with that kind of teaching. So when I returned in the fall I told Rachel that I wouldn’t continue attending the Bible studies or pursue baptism there. I had decided to go to church somewhere else. She cried because she knew I would be going to hell.

While not all Churches of Christ are the same, I am so thankful that God protected me from continuing on in this one, which I believe was a cult.  But I didn’t know that in the beginning. How many people are in similar situations? Like the woman who spoke with us at the noodle shop “because God told her to.” She was very sincere and committed to what she believed was the truth.

When she first told us she had an important message, the words “Good news of great joy” immediately came to mind. The incredible announcement from the angel of the Lord to the shepherds right after the miracle of Jesus’ birth. I admired her boldness in sharing with us, but did her message bring good news of great joy? Was it Truth?

God is a God of Grace and He is a God of Truth. And Jesus came to earth full of both. (John 1:14) Fully God and fully man. Fully entering our humanity and fully bearing the weight of God’s wrath to fully save us from the eternal punishment we deserve. This is good news of great joy. Jesus. Nothing more. Nothing less. The full Truth and nothing but theTruth.

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