As I enter year four of this endeavor, I am thankful as Thanksgiving approaches. I am thankful to write and minister. I see a pattern as people want to read that which is edgy, political and polarizing. The basic Christian teachings that come to the surface every once and awhile are never as popular. It seems that most people want to either have their stronger convictions under-girded or watch a dumpster fire burn. Polarizing ideas are more interesting to watch. This is the challenge of conservatism. Holding a line is rarely glamorous.
I am thankful for conservatism, and I say that because conservatism is towing a line long laid down. Conservatism takes longer to change because they are more suspect of moving away from that which has been an establishment as good. They wish to conserve morals, they wish to conserve that which works, and they think through ends that undermine that which has helped get us here. They are more than willing to stand on the shoulders of those who have come before and more than willing to acknowledge the help. Thanks for the help.
Pioneers are great but not in the areas of established morals and foundational truths. Yes, I see your new idea but, if it brings the house down um… Of course, some houses need to be brought down, it is not staunch for the sake of being a curmudgeon. If something props another structure up, you shouldn’t start hitting it with a hammer because of curiosity or novelty. G.K. Chesterton said you shouldn’t knock down a fence just because it is in your way, but discover why it was put there in the first place.
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Jude 1
Jude tells us that he wanted to write about the common salvation. But the truth is the common salvation is not that exotic. The common salvation is a constant reminder of where we come from so it is important, but the more interesting things tend to be when we are forced to contend for the faith. The conservatism comes into play in that the Faith was already once for all delivered. If it was already delivered then we need to constantly turn around and recognize where we come from. When we discover ourselves to be somewhere different, the necessity to look back and see where we went wrong is always appropriate.
I am thankful for the canon of scripture and that the faith has been long laid down. We are called people of the book for a reason, it means we have a source of authority, a source of revelation, a source of contention as Jude mentions. The Bible is full of truth, sometimes some parts are apt as we walk through the valley, and other times it bores us as we have come that way before. But as Christians, we understand that God is constantly giving growth, someone plants, another waters, but God gives the increase. Because sanctification is a spiritual endeavor, we don’t simply mark a checkbox for a particular life-changing truth and move on, we continue to walk under his guidance and we are being changed from glory to glory. Many times we have to retread ground, this takes patience.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 3 and the writer of Hebrews (Apollos?) even tell us they want to take people deeper in God’s truth but they are often not ready and perhaps God has not yet granted them to.
11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits (Hebrews 5:11-6:3)
The challenge for us is that Pastors do not always know when the people are hard of hearing or simply hard of heart if they need more milk even though the desire to feed meat is there. We don’t know if God has not yet granted them deeper truth. Part of this seems to have to do with the responsibility of that truth as this is all in the context of apostasy. We don’t always know, but we do understand that we are to always instruct. We are to come back around to the truth, (that is conservatism, which also tends to be why Christians often follow constitutionalism as well) We understand holding a line even when it is passe, when it is boring when it appears that our heads are in the sand.
Our heads are not in sand but they are probably in the book, a book that clearly warns what happens when we begin to stray from it. Part of my writing this might just be a reminder I yet need. I am thankful for the Gospel. The Gospel will never be trending on Twitter and thankfully I don’t use that medium. The Gospel will never change, this is not because of some men in some churches but by design from God. God’s revelation would mean very little if it changed like a sail in the wind.
6 The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground purified seven times. 7 You, O Lord, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever. (Psalm 12)
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
This is why the Gospel is often communicated in terms of agriculture. For now, we plant, for now, we sow, for now, we keep heads holding to the work, because we understand that we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. I am thankful that the growth comes from God. It is interesting to see as the farmlands in America grow smaller as the world continues to industrialize, post-modernize, and progressive-ize, they are seemingly forgotten about and looked at as backwater weirdos who should want city life. As they shrink, their influence is still there and still necessary. They still feed the people even though the people give little thought to them.
The picture is still apt for the church, the world seems to grow less and less interested in us and what we have to say. But our job is to be faithful, not popular because our message is dire and life-giving. I am thankful that our job is not to be popular. The world cannot manufacture hope. You cannot displace the message of sacrificial love and unending forgiveness. Jesus isn’t going anywhere except back to earth in the future. Will he find faith on the earth?
I am thankful for Jesus and how he provides hope in the midst of all of this. Find thankfulness this year and season. God is blessing us and sustaining us. Be thankful there are still those standing and holding onto Christ.