While living in Texas I was taking a Texas history class at a community college. In writing a paper for class, I mentioned a political figure who was assassinated. I contrasted the pomp and circumstance of his funeral with the plain funeral of the man who killed him and was killed shortly after. I pointed out in my paper that, humanly speaking, the political figure was not any more of a saint than the man who killed him, yet he received greater honor. I then feared that my opinion might cost me a grade. Yet when I got my paper back, the professor had circled where I had written my opinion, and he wrote “Good point!” I got an “A”.
Later I told my friends that maybe the professor was not a big fan of the political figure I referred to. He agreed that that was probably why I got the good grade. Another friend responded, “Your professor may or may not have agreed with your statement. He did not give you an A because he agreed with your thinking. He was just glad to see you thinking!” In other words, my history professor was not trying to clone himself. He was trying to get people to read, study and think for themselves.
In evangelism it is very easy to try to clone people instead of making disciples for Jesus. Sometimes, while telling people to go by the Bible and the Bible only, we are blinded by our own traditions and can’t see to separate our traditions from plain Bible teaching. We end up teaching our view of what the Bible says instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to interpret the Bible to others.
2 Timothy 3:16 reads,
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
A while back I was working as a Bible worker in a church out in West Texas. A young man from a nearby college would visit our church and attend prayer meetings. We were glad to have him! He would come wearing a t-shirt and shorts. One night after prayer meeting an elder came up to me and said, “You need to talk to that boy and tell him we don’t dress like that for church.” There was only one problem. I couldn’t find anywhere in the Bible where it said you can’t come to church dressed like that. Sure there is counsel that we should wear our best and so forth, but who was I to decide what this young man’s “best” was?
Once a lawyer asked Jesus how to have eternal life. Jesus, while being God, set us an example on how to answer such theological questions. Jesus did not give His personal opinion or philosophy. He directed the man to the Scriptures.
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” Luke 10:25-26 NKJV
Notice Jesus pointed the man to the law in the Scriptures and then asked him how he understood it, instead of telling him how to understand it. Jesus was allowing both the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to do their work. We mustn’t think that people have to think just like we do in order to be led by the Spirit.
In Wesley’s time, as in all ages of the church’s history, men of different gifts performed their appointed work. They did not harmonize upon every point of doctrine, but all were moved by the Spirit of God, and united in the absorbing aim to win souls to Christ.-Ellen White, Great Controversy, Page 257.
Did you catch that? They were all led by the Holy Spirit even though they were not thinking exactly like each other.
I have met too many Christians who believe that if you are led by the Spirit that you will think exactly like them, because, of course, they are led by the Spirit. I have heard people say, the Holy Spirit will lead everyone to become vegan because that is what the Holy Spirit led me to become, and so if they are led by the same Spirit they will do the same. But consider this, Jesus was led by the Spirit and never became vegan! He did, however, practice a Bible principle of eating and drinking only to glorify God. See 1 Corinthians 10:31. Jesus followed the Bible principle of eating the best foods available, which were also biblically clean, in His time and place. We are to do the same. In some places that may mean eating vegan. In other places it may not.
We need to be careful not to confuse our personal preferences with biblical truth. While the Bible teaches religious liberty, many think that means they can just follow their personal whims and tastes, instead of real personal convictions of Bible truth. This is why Ellen white wrote,
Ministers who labor in towns and cities to present the truth should not feel content, nor that their work is ended, until those who have accepted the theory of the truth realize indeed the effect of its sanctifying power and are truly converted to God. God would be better pleased to have six truly converted to the truth as the result of their labors than to have sixty make a nominal profession and yet not be thoroughly converted. These ministers should devote less time to preaching sermons and reserve a portion of their strength to visit and pray with those who are interested, giving them godly instruction, to the end that they may “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” –Testimonies to the Church Vol. 4, p. 317.
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth. John 16:13 NKJV
for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21 NKJV
Never should the Bible be studied without prayer. Before opening its pages we should ask for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and it will be given.-Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 93.
Instead of cloning people to think and act exactly like us, shouldn’t we rather train them to study the Bible and rely upon the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth? When they study the Bible, the same Holy Spirit that moved the writers to write those words thousands of years ago is right there with them to help them understand those words today.
We need to remember that we all are human, and we all have human philosophies and traditions, no matter how biblically sound we think we are. Our job is not to clone people to be exactly like us, but to point them to the Perfect Example which is Jesus. This example is found in the Scriptures.
Ellen White, one of the primary founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, spoke these as her last words to the church body, as she held the Bible extended on her hands:
“I commend unto you this Book.” – W. A. Spicer, Certainties of the Advent Movement, p. 202.
Our church founder’s job was not to do our thinking for us, just as my professor’s job was not to do my thinking for me.
Let’s exalt the Scriptures as our church founders did and, even more importantly, as Jesus did. As we study this quarter’s lesson together, let’s ask God to show us the difference between just cloning people to be like us, and making disciples for Jesus.
We, as humans, sometimes seem quick to judge the outside of a person, i.e. their actions, dress, etc. In our fast paced world, It is sometimes hard to stop and consider their journey in this life.
Yet none of us have “attained” perfection. Even the Elder who said “You need to talk to that boy and tell him we don’t dress like that for church” needed us to see where he was on his journey.
Nice post William! It’s such a good reminder to me personally to not get frustrated with people who are at different stages in their life — I might just be frustrating people without knowing it myself.