Thursday, February 21, 2008

It's easier when you have all the answers!

*****UPDATE: My friend Marty Colborn recently wrote an article on this subject that you might find interesting. I've known Marty for nearly 3 years and have come to appreciate his thoughts. He's one of the most genuine, godly men I've ever had the privilege of calling a friend. We come down on different sides of some issues, but in the end, we both love our Savior and we both want to serve Him. By the way, Marty and I attend the same church.....we even sing in a quartet together! You can find his article here. *****

I remember it like it was yesterday......I had it all figured out! I knew all the answers to the real important questions regarding life, Christianity, holiness, and sin. It was so simple and I couldn't believe that everybody else around me didn't see it - it was as clear as the nose on my cleanly shaven face!

The year was 1993 and I was a 20 year old bible college student. Everything made a lot of sense to me back then. I knew what a "real" Christian looked like, acted like, dressed like, etc...all others were counterfeit Christians. I knew what kind of music good Christians listened to, what Bible version they used, what kind of churches they attended, and what kind of haircuts they sported. I remember meeting a young man who's father pastored a different kind of know, the kind that was full of "deceived, fake" Christians..... This young man seemed to love the Lord and he had a passion for the things of God. We were talking one night and he told me how the Lord was using his brother in the ministry his brother had. When I asked him what that ministry was, I was shocked to discover that his brother was the lead singer in a Christian Rock Band (one that is fairly well known these days). I was flabbergasted! Fortunately I was able to tell him with a great deal of confidence that his brother was probably not saved.....I explained how the term "christian rock" was an oxymoron - the two words ought not even be uttered in the same sentence. That's right - I had all the answers and that night I lost a friend because of it.

One of the first churches I worked in after college was a small non-denominational church in southern Kansas. The fact that they had the word "community" rather than "baptist" in their title really bugged me, but they preached from the KJV and had conservative music from a good old hymnal, so that was good enough for me. I left that church when I "discovered" that they were supporting an SBC ministry financially - after all, the SBC was filled with compromisers...not "true" Christians. Again, I damaged some good friendships and hurt some sweet servants of God with my damaging words....all because I had all the right answers.

I like for things to be "black and white". I've got an extremely analytical mind and "gray areas" used to bug the living daylights out of me. It was much easier to write people off as being counterfeit than it was to try to understand things from a truly biblical perspective. In my mind I couldn't rationalize how a Christian man could ever have long hair, or wear jewelry, or (gasp!) have a tattoo on his body! As a matter of fact, a man who would put a tattoo on his body had disqualified himself from any usefulness in ministry as far as I was concerned. Yep....I had all the answers...

I guess the Lord began to open my eyes a bit when I finally found a church to attend that felt the same way I did. The lack of love; the separating from the world to the point that we were perceived as haters; the constant denigration of any Christian or Christian group who listened to certain types of music, read certain bible versions, or dressed in a certain get the picture - anyone who was different. Those things began to make me realize that I might just be missing something.

It was a lot easier when I had all the answers.....but it was lonely. I mean lonely in the sense that I went out of my way to ostracize myself from other believers. I viewed things such as music, bible versions, and calvinism as separation issues. I used to get mad when I would hear about or read interviews with CCM musicians and they would talk about ministry or speak of their relationship with Christ. I didn't understand how Satan was using them, but I just knew he was. After all, those within CCM were likely unsaved.......

All the answers.

Well I'm glad I'm no longer deceived into thinking I have all the answers. I've come to realize that God doesn't fit all that well into a little box, no matter how well that box might seem to be constructed. I've made dear friends who seem to have incredible walks with the Lord, yet they just don't see eye to eye with me on everything....I've come to love them and accept them....even the ones who have all the answers! I've come to find that two of the most important characteristics that a Christian should display are humility and was difficult to display those characteristics when I was so convinced of my own righteousness.....

I realize that I don't have all the answers. Sometimes that makes things difficult, but.....I think it's better!


Jim Peet said...

Thanks Ellis,

Good post.

I think it is called "maturity"!

Bob Hayton said...

Good post. I agree.

I've been a know it all in my time, too.

Karin H said...

Well said, Ellis! The journey from legalism into grace is both scarey and humbling, and at the same time enlightening & freeing. What an amazing, awesome, & gracious God we serve!

Have you ever read the book "Wisdom Hunter" by Randall Arthur? If not, I think you would enjoy it! Blessings

Readmore said...

I noticed after my own "theological life crisis" that I didn't say, "This verse says such and such" anymore, now I say, "It seems to me this verse says such and such." It's a subtle difference, but I've come to recognize that people interpret things different ways, and I know that I've been wrong about it before.

In fact, I cringe when I hear people making dogmatic pronouncements about "the way things are" now.

Don Johnson said...

Hi Ellis

Do you have some of the answers?

Can you assert those answers with the authority of Scripture?

I just linked to an article in Psychology Today on my blog. The people described in the article also had "epiphany" moments and changed their world view.

I am not at all suggesting that you are headed there! But...

Be sure you have some of the answers and can state them with all the authority of God Almighty.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ellis Murphree said...

I've never stated that I have no answers, nor am I headed into any sort of desperate tailspin! The point of this article has little to do with that sort of thinking. I'm not some helpless "seeker" being tossed to a fro by every breeze that blows my way! (I know you're not saying that, Don.....I think!)

Ellis Murphree said...

I've been reading your blog off and on for quite a while now.....watching your "awakening" unfold in print has been exciting to me. You've managed to move away from the hysterics without becoming bitter, it seems....most of us didn't do it that way!

Don Johnson said...

Hi Ellis,

Just to clarify, I don't think you are headed over the cliff.

Just a caution on the rhetoric!

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Marty Colborn said...


You mean that a person can be a Christian without seeing things my way?

I do think that there are some good reasons for some of the stands that people have taken over the years, reasons that people have developed with personal holiness in mind, standards that have degenerated into an artificial system by which we judge others, rather than our own personal convictions about what the Lord is pleased with in my life.

Another thing that I would like to say is this: I simply adopted certain standards of a church or pastor or evangelist or Bible college because these were the examples of Christianity that were before me. Some of those things (maybe even most of those things) I still hold to, but having sought Biblical reasons for them. There are still, no doubt, standards that I have that we would disagree on. Grace gives us love for all of our brethren in Christ, but it does not demand that we do things their way in order to keep peace in Christ, or that we even say that what they do is all right, or Biblical. In an age in which tolerance is practiced by the world, it seems as if Christians too are practicing the same kind of tolerance, almost without discernment.
One thing that saddens me is that in this "fundamental revolution" that is going on, the majority of people who go over to the "young, enlightened fundamentalist side" are not doing so because of Biblical discernment, but because they are following someone (perhaps someone like you). They are reacting just as they did before, only following a different piper.
Freedom is a funny thing. It often seems that there is a freedom which does not leave us free, but in bondage to that wind that blows from the opposite direction that we have been following.
BTW - Movements are not ordained of God, not even fundamentalism. The Church is His, and He will claim it. There are changes in the wind, there is no doubt, but the one thing we must focus on is personal holiness, and not making over a movement into our idea of what it should be.

In Christ's love,


Ellis Murphree said...

Thanks for the comments, Marty. I've cited some of the same concerns as you are sounding here - although from a slightly different perspective - in a previous blog entry. I don't care for the term "young fundamentalist" and I certainly don't think that those of us that tend to be associated with that term are the truly "enlightened" ones. My fear is that we shun some of the old standards simply because they are....old.

Your point about "following a different piper" is a great point and one that needs to be heard.

All that being said, while I certainly respect many of our forebears in this thing called Fundamentalism, I find myself unconcerned with why some of the more ridiculous "landmarks" were put up. I don't want to elaborate any further than that right now, but I think you know what I mean.

By the way, Marty, I read your most recent blog article on this topic and I appreciate what you have to say. I think I'll link directly to that article later this week.

Ellis Murphree said...

To those interested, I updated this blog post by providing a link to Marty's blog article....