Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Orthopraxy of Chewing Gum

Author's note: While this blog as a whole isn't purely dedicated to theological posts, articles, or treatises in nature; there will be times when a certain issue is lying on my heart that will cause me to write more theological posts at one time over another. This is one such post.

Kids. Funny aren't they? Always trying to figure out ways to reinvent the wheel. Ah, the imagination and sometimes cunning in ones so young is impressive. One time, I heard a little boy ask his mother if he could skip brushing his teeth before bed that night. His mother's terse and instantaneous response of "no" made me, the observer, think "Case closed;" within 20 seconds, a befuddled look crept onto the boy's face, he said, "But, mom, I already chewed gum after eating dinner. That means I don't have to brush my teeth, doesn't it?" Much to the boy's chagrin, his mother corrected his faulty thinking and had him march to the bathroom to brush said teeth. I walked away chuckling to myself about the situation. To be honest, I've chuckled about it for months. It stopped last month, though, when the issue came full circle and I stood before God claiming my own "chew diligence."

I want to point out that the nightly habit of brushing our teeth, has a striking parallel with our Spiritual walk.

With so many resources that are easily accessible with a click of a button, the modern Christian can, and has, grown accustomed to an instantaneous form of edification that they foolishly confuse with sanctification. So what they do is read about the Bible in books and they hear of Jesus' words in sermons. Stop. Hear what I'm saying. I'm not saying we shouldn't read books or not listen to sermons about Scripture and the character of God. But, when we don't primarily engage in the Word of God faithfully and personally, we sometimes don't taste and see how good He is to us. In short: instead of Christians "brushing their teeth" to prevent cavities, they chew gum to get rid of the bad breath. We aren't being honest with ourselves, and we certainly aren't fooling God.

Instead of investing the time in studying the Scriptures ourselves to purify our souls (brushing teeth), we are lazy and believe that we can supplement our time in Scripture and freshen ourselves up by reading, for example, Carl Trueman's "The Creedal Imperative*" (chewing gum). Here's the facts. The real thing can't be replaced with an extension of it. It doesn't matter how Godly the author or biblical the book. You cannot substitute the power of God breathed Scripture for words of men who see that Scripture through a glass darkly.

To be sure I'm making sense to you, I'll run through the analogy in more detail. If I go to bed, tired and exhausted, deciding to skip brushing my teeth, I can chew a piece of gum as I dose off. The next morning, voila! No bad breath. But, what about those germs on my teeth that destroy enamel and create cavities? Well, no worries, the smell isn't there at least! Let's assume this behaviour continues for days, weeks, months, years even, what's gonna happen to my teeth? What teeth? Exactly! They will eventually become so rotted and decayed, they will have to be removed. If I had done the actual work of brushing and caring for my teeth in the way that was edifying for them, I wouldn't be wearing dentures. Granted, this illustration isn't perfect, but it gets the point across... I hope. But, doesn't it sound somewhat familiar? Even though we are not explicitly talking about whitewashed tombs, that dialogue of Christ's with the pharisees is still applicable.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." -Matthew 23:23-28 (ESV)

Sanctification can only occur when Scripture is being brought to bear upon your life, and by the power of God it is changing you into His Son's image. It is a rigorous, daily, and even tiring process. We can gain benefits by reading books that are edifying to the soul, but we can never be Sanctified by them. I can say with certainty, that whether young or old, we as Christians can always be digging deeper into the God's Word as He has given it to us.

For me, what I realised in the end, was that I had traded out an intimacy I could have with God, my Saviour, by reading His Word to me. Instead, I was looking at other's relationships with Him (whether in books or sermons) to validate my own. Sanctification by Association simply doesn't work. You are what you what read!

As an encouragement to you, and certainly myself. Pursue His Kingdom first. Yes, it has been twisted into a somewhat clich├ęd mantra in some circles. But, if you cleanse your soul with Scripture daily, and look for Him in every passage, whether that passage comforts or convicts you. Just wait. It's His word, there's no way He won't show Himself to you, let alone change you!

*My use of Trueman's book was just an example. It's a fantastic book. I just wanted to demonstrate that even the best of books, if not put in it's proper place behind Scripture in use and priority, can only encourage us to be moral and not Holy.

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