An Atheist Pastor and Empty Love
I was reading an article about an atheist pastor in a church in Canada. She has been the pastor there since 1997. Since her installation all vestiges of the Christian Faith have disappeared, and the only cross left is hidden away behind some curtains. The services are a mix of self help motivational speeches to love one another, and testimonies of personal accomplishments. Just recently the national board has decided to review her situation to decide if she fulfills the churches doctrinal positions. *Sigh*
When the Apostle Paul told the Colossians they were to be knit together in love it wasn't so that they could fulfill some personal agenda or meet some emotional need. There were two specific outcomes that their love together was to accomplish: to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery. Both of which are Christ.
Riches of full of assurance understanding. I gave my life to Jesus as a senior in High School, but I wasn't complete in Christ. My standing in Him was secure, but I had not attained maturity. In fact, in my first year at the University of Florida I was confronted by two atheists who seemed to know more about the Bible than I did. Their questions created doubt,math at led to bitterness, that led to mocking the preacher. My friends were aghast, and love took me aside to find out what my problem was. The outcome led me to go to Bible College to find answers. I did not have full assurance.
Bible college gave me a lot of the answers I sought, but created more, as well. I never doubted the existence of God again, but there was a point where I doubted my position in Christ. There were great preachers who spoke in our chapels, calling us to lives of holiness and service. I didn't grow up in a Christian home, and I felt anything but holy. I started to doubt my salvation. I expressed that to a friend and he loving led me to understand the full assurance that I have in Jesus. My works don't make me holy, Jesus' blood covers them.
The riches of a full understanding of assurance is of greater value than any riches the world has to offer. It has kept me through depression, upheld me when ministry was difficult, and keeps me steady when personal doubts weigh me down. The world will tell you that you can't be assured of anything, but God says otherwise. He tells us that nothing can snatch us out of his hand. Tragedy, difficulties, and even death can't separate us from His love. Like the pearl of great price or the treasure in the field, this assurance is worth every worldly possession to attain. The good news is that it doesn't cost us anything. The assurance rests on the character of God.
Knowledge of God's mystery. There is a deep and though experience in knowing God's mystery. It is knowledge saturated with an experience with the Holy Spirit. It is a knowledge that is based on fist hand experience. We did not see the death and resurrection of Jesus personally. Our knowledge of his sacrifice and power have been passed down to us by reliable sources and the Word of God. But our encounter with God is a personal experience in the context of the body of Jesus. We know these disciples of Jesus because they are knitted together in love and are the hands and feet of Jesus. The body of Christ working in concert with the Holy Spirit create an experience where we can know the mystery of God.
Facts are interesting, but it is their fusion with personal experience that makes them meaningful. When the Holy Spirit speaks to our spirits that we are children of God it is an experiential moment. But it happens in the context of God's word and the life of the body. When my friend explained to me the assurance I had in Christ he explained facts, but it was the Holy Spirit who confirmed in my heart the reality of that mystery.
Knitted together in love. Our love for one another is for one thing only. To help us understand and know Christ. Yes there is healing, there is encouragement and blessing, and there is mutual care, but those aren't the end. The end is the glory of God in the Christ. John Piper reminds us that we are most satisfied when God is most glorified.
If our love for one another had its in end in our self-fulfillment, then our love would end when our needs were not met. But as a church we are steadfast in our love for one another because there is a greater cause beyond ourselves, that is Christ and his kingdom.
So, as you are loved and as you love, may you come to a full assurance and understanding of your salvation in Jesus, and may experience first hand the power of God in Christ. I'm just saying.
"being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ" Col 2:3.