I'm very grateful for this blogger who is posting simply as "Truth," but I don't know who you are! I love getting comments! Seriously, this person gave me like ten comments over two days on various posts. Who are you?
For the rest of you, back on November 8, 2007, I did a post titled The Full Extent
. It was about John 13:1-17. Well, "Truth" gave a really detailed reply and sort of rebuttal to that post and I thought I would just post that comment and open this up for further discussion. Let me say up front that I do NOT have a problem with my pastor, John's teaching. However, I thought I would open this up for others to read. If this type of thing floats your boat then why not open up the Bible and read that passage, read my original post, and then read this comment that I have reposted here:
Doah - first, I want you to know I appreciate your genuinely humble spirit as it regards this passage of Scripture. There's no doubt in my mind that your desire is to live in humility as Christ's servant.
With that said, however, I was there the day that John Reed gave this message and, though I've kept silent for a long time regarding this, I have many concerns regarding John's teaching that day...
1 - Like so many of the other examples of love throughout the NT, Christ's demonstration of humility was intended (at the simplest level) to demonstrate how we, as Christians are to love one another. I'm not suggesting that we're not to love anyone else - but this passage in John 13 wasn't about serving anyone/everyone... it was about humility toward fellow brothers and sisters. If we don’t show love to one another first – as members of Christ’s body – any effort to show love to others cannot bear much, if any, fruit. This reminds me of John’s take on Acts 2 last year – when he described the church as being ‘more concerned with those outside than with those inside’. This wasn’t an accurate translation then, either – the reason that the early followers of Christ sold their belongings (2:45) was to provide for the needs of those inside the body of believers. If they were as ‘outwardly-focused’ as John would have had us believe, then their actions would have been for those outside the body. Here in the Gospel of John, it’s the same thing – Jesus is demonstrating His humility and willingness to serve – and telling us to do the same – because it’s how He wants us as believers to treat one another.
2 – As I was studying this passage in John (the apostle, not the pastor) at home after the service, I noticed that John (the pastor, not the apostle) skipped over vv. 6-11 in his sermon. In taking the passage as a whole, I can only surmise that the reason he did this was because this is the KEY section of the passage and it clearly indicates that the entire foot-washing illustration is, primarily, a parable – in deeds rather than words – regarding forgiveness. How else can you explain Jesus’ statement to Peter - “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me”? Once Peter recognizes this is what Christ is talking about, he responds with the "extreme" reply of requesting a washing (i.e. forgiveness) of his whole self. Clearly, Jesus is talking about the forgiveness of sins – His statement that “you are clean, but not every one of you” directly refers to Judas, as v.18 also makes clear - “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen.” This aspect of the passage was not discussed at all – and the fact that the relevant verses were skipped over reveals (in my opinion) the mixed-up priority of Jesus as example, rather than Christ as Savior. Sadly, however, this is not untypical of the teaching I've experienced there. More importantly, it reveals John's unfortunate willingness to manipulate Scripture passages in order to prove his particular point. Pastors ought to let the Scripture speak through them, rather than making the Scriptures speak for them.
3 - Let's go back for a moment to Jesus' last statement in v. 18... "I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen." I know it's been awhile, but do you recall John telling us that if you do this (i.e. acts of humble service), you'll be blessed? He based this on v. 17, "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." However, he neglected to point out the clear exception in v. 18 - only those whom Christ has chosen will be blessed as described in v.17. Now, without getting into the whole election/free-will debate (which I am not qualified to discuss), this verse makes abundantly clear that those who are not believers will not be “blessed” by doing this. Given John’s acknowledgment to me (multiple times) that many in our congregation are not (yet) believers, he would be wise to remind them that this promised blessing only applies to those who belong to Christ – and what a perfect opportunity that would be to encourage folks to come to Christ! What happens if one of these non-believing attendees took this “great gamble” but did not “feel blessed” at the end of the month (as John assured they would)? Are they to discard the word of God as not being true? Or should they rather have been taught that this promise does not apply to them until they are believers?
4 - In the study guide related to this sermon, John instructs us to “ask God to forgive and cleanse [us] specifically of any regrets or guilt [we’re] carrying today". Why does he so strenuously avoid the mere mention - let alone any discussion or teaching - of sin? Presumably, you know Scripture well enough to know that it is not our regrets, but our sin for which Christ died – thus demonstrating God’s righteous and just nature, while simultaneously revealing his mercy and love. I don’t know about you, Doah, but I still have plenty of “regrets” for sins that I committed in my youth – they haven’t been removed... partially, I suspect, because God uses those regrets to remind me not to head down that path of sin. (With all due respect, things may have changed at TerraNova since the time I eventually left - but this was a constant issue - or non-issue, technically speaking - while I was there.)
5 – Even if the suggestion was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it is entirely inappropriate that the pastor suggested we follow the sinful path of self-gratification if we don’t find that following the righteous path of self-sacrifice leads to blessing. Why would a spiritual leader recommend this action? Analogy: “Worship God entirely and completely for one month – if you don’t find yourself blessed for doing so... feel free to worship another god during the next month.” Or, “Be faithful to your spouse for a month, but if you don’t find yourself blessed... try someone else the following month.” Why in the world would John honestly suggest that we follow a sinful, self-indulgent path if we don’t find ourselves blessed after one single month? In my opinion, this shows a lack of discernment – especially in light of concern #3 regarding unbelievers. Combine these two and you’ll see what I mean. (And if you don't remember his little "challenge", go listen to the podcast.)
6 – Finally, there was no mention of the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling in us that enables us to live beyond ourselves – it is only as we crucify our sinful nature and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us that we will ever truly desire to live self-sacrificially. The absence of this teaching leads naturally to the conclusion that we can – and should! - do this on our own. Once again, the spectre of works-based faith raises its Pelagian head and it becomes more evident that John isn't teaching a full-bodied, complete, Christianity. I believe that you and John – and most of TerraNova, for that matter – believe that salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone... but I never heard that taught. Not once. So, if I’m a nonbeliever, and I heard that message, I would go out and do good things out of a desire to be acceptable to God. That’s a fatal trap, though, and we all know it... why doesn't your pastor teach it?
I realize this was a HUGE post - longer than some of yours, even - but I hope you took the time to read it carefully. This wasn't an attack on John - I love him as a brother in Christ. This was a clarification on John 13 that needed to be made by someone on the pastoral team... but wasn't.