Truth be told-2
David Bahn-Reflections Podcast
For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
– 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 [ESV]
I was sitting with some fellow pastors in a meeting of a local ministerial alliance. We had a cordial relationship even though we were from decidedly different beliefs and church bodies. That became clear to me as we spoke about evangelism, Jesus, judgment, and hell. One pastor disavowed belief in hell. Another spoke about Jesus as a moral teacher (only). And another rejected the idea of miracles. Then he added, “Of course, I’d never tell my people that!” I shake my head now as I recall that moment. Sad.
It’s also true that proselytizers to the cults will withhold much of their unique and blatantly bazaar beliefs from people as they begin to woo them. Only later does one find out that the LDS belief includes a Mr. & Mrs. God procreating spirit children for their own planet. In fact you may not know that while polygamy is officially rejected by the LDS church, they hold out the idea that a man will have a harem of spirit wives in their celestial realm. No polygamy now, but wait until then!
Paul makes the point that his “appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” He comes with the truth in no way shaded or obscured. In fact that truth got him in lots of trouble. The cross was a scandal to the Jews. The empty tomb a stumbling block to the Greeks. But he spoke openly and boldly of both.
When I first was exposed to Lutheran teachings I was impressed by two things. Every time I asked a question about a belief or a practice (from Jesus’ descent into hell to the practice of infant baptism), I was pointed to the Bible. Our teachings – even the unpopular ones – come from the Bible. And that was made clear again and again. The second was that we were always led back to Jesus: his love, grace, truth, mercy, and forgiveness. The center of our theology is Jesus, specifically, justification by grace through faith.
Some people don’t feel the need for God’s grace. Their consciences are seared. Some reject the idea that he is the sole repository of truth and the only way to God. Some people reject God’s word. Some people want nothing to do with what they call, “your truth.” But this is our confession, our delight, and our joy: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father apart from him. We need not look elsewhere. No one else has died for us. No one else has conquered death. No one else offers the pure joy and peace that he offers. And that’s the truth. Let it be told!