Monday, December 2, 2013

2013 New Testament Challenge – Day 18 (Reflections on James & 1-2 Peter)

Every year I participate in a special effort called the New Testament Challenge sponsored by a priest of the Orthodox Church in America. He encourages Christians to spend the Christmas Fast, also known as Advent) reading the entire New Testament as a preparation for Christmas. Each year I have done this, it has been blessing to me and I pray this year will be no different. As part of the New Testament Challenge, I endeavor to blog a bit about the reading for that particular day. I may miss a few, but I pray for those who follow this blog (NOW ALSO ON FACEBOOK) it will be a blessing.

Today was one of those days while I was reading. Every few verses, I found myself saying, OOH, I can blog about THAT….no….THAT……..THAT…..AAAAAA what in the world will I blog about with SO much to choose from in the today’s selections?

One thing that was a constant theme in today’s reading was the very fact that both St James AND St Peter considered it appropriate to write to the “global Church” rather than just a local flock. Being a Priest in the Bible belt, I find many people (including many Orthodox) who consider the local Church as the extent of their Church experience. There is a growing tendency to ignore the needs of the global Church in exchange for a more “self-focused” spirituality.

Another thing that struck me today was how these three letters address proper Christian living. The letters are written as corrective as much as they are instructive. That lets us know two things. First, we know early Christians struggled with the same spiritual temptations that we find ourselves faced with today. Second, it shows that the Church taught AGAINST certain "lifestyles" rather than just accepting them as a given.

The third theme that stuck with me today was how much the early Church must have questioned why they were not receiving (even more) blessings from God.

“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself a enemy of God.” (James 4.1-4)

Finally, (and please remember there was much more I WANTED to blog about today) we were reminded that just because someone calls himself or herself a Christian Pastor, doesn’t mean they have the proper intent..

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. (2 Peter 2.1-3)

In the environment of more than 25,000 denominations calling themselves Christians, we must be extra vigilant about false teachers. This is why the Church, while it would never suggest the Holy Spirit doesn’t inspire someone, has required EVERY teaching to have its foundation in the teachings of the Holy Apostles. Something may or not be true, but if the Holy Spirit hasn’t already guided the Holy Apostles to teach something, then Orthodox refuse to consider it as doctrine, as Jesus declared the Holy Spirit guided the Holy Apostles “into all truth” (John 16.13).

It should come as no surprise that many Protestants do not approve of the letters from James or Peter, as both warn against improper understanding of the Gospel. Both speak to a corporate Church structure. Both imply authority of Bishops and the role of Clergy-Laity relationships. I dare say that these letters are early apologies for the authority of the Church.

Until tomorrow…..if you’re not Orthodox, do your preacher’s teachings coincide with the Holy Apostles? If you ARE Orthodox, do YOUR beliefs coincide with the Holy Apostles? If not…..beware.

No comments: