The final step for new Christians from Brownlow North is:
Never believe what you feel, if it contradicts God’s Word. Ask yourself, “Can what I feel be true if God’s Word is true?” And if both cannot be true, believe God’s Word and make your own heart the liar (Rom 3:4; 1 Jn 5:10-11).
Again, sound advice. If more people applied that rule, then Susan B. Anthony might never have said, “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”
We, therefore, need an objective measure of truth. Our conscience does a pretty good job at showing us instinctively what is right and wrong. I often give the exampe of my daughter Ashleigh who (at 3) knows that when I tell her to or not to do something, that it is wrong to do the opposite. And when she inevitably does the opposite (show me a 3-year-old who obeys perfectly and I’ll marvel at your ability to create a cool robot–hopefully it follows Asimov’s Laws of Robotics!), she knows she did wrong.
She tries to get out of the punishment–usually no TV or a time out (I’ve spanked before, but I’m not a huge proponent; loss of privileges and time outs work just as effectively). But the point is she acknowledges that what she did was wrong and knows she shouldn’t do it.
Which brings us back to the average person. Knowing and doing are totally different. Everyone knows it’s wrong to steal, yet people are in jail for everything from petty theft to the Enron scandal. Everyone knows its wrong to cheat on your spouse, yet that is one of the main reason couples divorce.
So the conscience is effective at blowing the whistle, but we are equally as effective at ignoring the noise. And, more troubling, is that often we can delude ourselves into believing that God is on our side.
My pastor once told the story of a man who was fired from his job for embezzlement. During the search of his computer, they discovered e-mails proving that he was having an affair. When the boss fired him, he told the man that he was really concerned about the man’s relationship with God. The man told his boss, “I’m fine with God.”
Yeah. Think so?
What about pastors like Rob Bell who are very good at writing theological redefinitions of God that render eternal judgment unnecessary or plain evil, therefore a God of love would never consign someone to it? Instead of “Go, and sin no more” we are being told “Sin boldly, all will be forgiven.” That’s quite different than what Jesus would say, and very different from Paul’s message of grace.
No wonder Susan B. made the statement she did.
So, North’s rule stands. The Bible states “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9).
Let’s not be Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs when it comes to our spiritual well-being. Though the conscience can be an excellent guide, we can ignore it in favor of pursing our own passions. Let Scripture stand as the objective measure by which we know what is right and wrong. Don’t trust your gut.
As we continue with Brownlow North’s six steps for new Christians (and old Christians can benefit from these, too), we come to a tough one:
Never take your Christianity from Christians, or argue that because such and such people do so and so, therefore, you may (2 Cor 10:12). You are to ask yourself, “How would Christ act in my place?” and strive to follow him (Jn 10:27).
The church is, in fact, “the pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Tim 3:15). So it’s impossible not to take (at least some) Christianity from Christians. To not take your Christianity from Christians denies the whole concept of discipleship, which is the spirit in which I posted these rules in the first place.
The place of the church is education and discipline. It should be the responsibility of the church’s elders to identify sin in the congregation and do something about that.
So it’s fair to say that I disagree with the first clause.
The second clause is excellent. Because other people do it, that doesn’t make it okay. As a manager for over a decade and a half in the fast food industry, every single time I dealt with someone’s tardiness the first thing I always got to listen to was an angry litany of names of people who are also “always late.”
That’s what North is talking about. Using someone else’s behavior to justify your own is not acceptable. Take responsibility for yourself.
Amanda Brown, co-founder of We Are Atheism, posted a video that indicted Christianity using the other side of this coin. She said that the church she grew up in preached abstinence, but her peers had sex in the pews during the service. Therefore, abstinence-only education is total crap and doesn’t work
Well, let’s think about this:
- Everyone has sex before marriage.
- It’s really hard to abstain from sex until marriage.
- Currently, the church thinks it’s morally wrong to have sex before marriage.
Given these facts, society has decided that the best solution to the problem is to lower its expectations, accept sex before marriage, and make fun of the church for continuing to preach “antiquated” morals.
Let’s look at this from a different perspective.
What if I were the new manager of your local fast food restaurant? Let’s say that the people in the store think that it’s okay to serve french fries that have been baking under heat lamps for two hours. It’s really hard cook new ones and make customers wait, and it also costs a lot of money in wasted food. Everyone in the store thinks this is cool.
If I were to follow Amanda’s logic, then my best course of action as the new GM is to lower my expectations until I, too, believe that serving two-hour old french fries is acceptable.
Lowering expectations is never the best solution. Indeed, it shouldn’t even be an option. Yet, with sexual morals, this is exactly what society is doing. It’s too hard to resist having sex until marriage, so let’s just have sex now and risk unwanted pregnancies, incurable diseases, serious heartache, etc. Just wrap it up with a condom and you’re good to go. The solution to loose sexual morals is to encourage them, as long as the people involved are being “responsible.”
That’s about like using a Band-Aid to treat an ear-to-ear throat slash.
Bringing this back neatly to the point, we cannot expect to justify behavior by comparing our behavior to the behavior of others. The yardstick for comparison is what North says next: Ask what the Lord would do were he in our place. In other words, “What Would Jesus Do?”