Weekend Extra – It’s Crystal Clear!

January 31, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


In 2008, the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life conducted one of the largest surveys ever of Americans’ religious beliefs.  Though it found that 92 percent of people believe in God, when asked to specify who God is or make hard and fast distinctions between their faith systems and the faith systems of other religions, respondents struggled.  Instead, most Americans have an increasingly nonexclusive attitude when it comes to faith.  70 percent of people surveyed believe that many paths lead to God.  Gregory Smith, a research fellow at the Pew Forum, explains:  “Even though Americans tend to take religion quite seriously and are a highly religious people, there is a certain degree of openness and a lack of dogmatism in their approach to faith and the teachings of their faith” (“Most Americans Believe in Higher Power, Poll Finds,” Washington Post, 9.24.08).

In all honesty, the Pew Foundation’s survey offers no real surprises.  Though it is one of the largest surveys ever conducted, the results are a dime a dozen.  Survey after survey has demonstrated that, though most Americans are “spiritual” and believe in “God,” they have no real cohesive doctrinal system nor do they subscribe wholeheartedly to an external source of authority such as the Bible.  People claim to be spiritual, but their spirituality is fuzzy.

Long before researchers were around to conduct in-depth surveys on people’s religious attitudes, the apostle Paul foresaw that such misguided faith would be the order of the day for many:  “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).  In a world which subscribes to fuzzy spirituality, Paul seeks to inject some clarity from the Holy Spirit:  “The Spirit clearly says…”  True faith in God is never ill-defined.  It is as clear as the Gospel itself.  Indeed, according to Paul, a faith that does not find its clarity vis-à-vis the Gospel is not a faith in God, but a faith from demons.  And for the nebulous faiths of demons, Paul warns, “some will abandon the faith.”  Two things are notable in this phrase.  First, the Greek word for “abandon” is apostesontai, from which we get our English word “apostasy,” a word which, etymologically, means “to stand apart.”  Paul’s argument, then, is that standing apart from faith in Christ means standing with demons. Second, the arthrous phrase “the faith” reminds us that, quite distinct from the popular conception that many faiths lead to God, there is only one true faith – faith in Jesus Christ.

What is the way out of the fuzzy spirituality which plagues our culture?  Paul cites two remedies.  First, fuzzy spirituality must be remedied by the Gospel:  “This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:9-10).  Hope in the living God and His Savior, Jesus Christ, leads to salvation.  Period.  Of this we can be clear and sure.  No nebulous spirituality can promise salvation like the Gospel can.  It can only conjure up shady specters of possible hereafters.  Second, fuzzy spirituality must be remedied by the authority of Scripture:  “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13).  The Gospel is revealed in, by, and through the pages of Scripture. Thus, if we desire clarity on the Gospel specifically and theology generally, we turn to Scripture and submit to its authority and believe its promises.  With the Gospel and Scripture in our hearts and hands, clarity is given to things spiritual, with even more clarity being promised in eternity:  “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).  Praise be to God for the clarity which comes from our Creator!

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
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Weekend Extra – It’s Not Yours! Sermon Extra – True Treasure

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