Did you know that according to Pew research, most Americans believe in both Heaven and Hell? Of course, the percentage of those who believe in Hell is much lower since it is easier to pretend something so unpleasant doesn’t exist rather than to face reality. And of course, most people arrogantly feel they’re already on their way to Heaven anyway.
Unbelief was the common denominator amongst the Jewish religious leaders. Yet, they were committed and dedicated to religion, keeping their Synagogue and Temple meetings, going through the rituals, and teaching others about the Judaism. They challenged Jesus because He wasn’t in the “In Crowd” or published in the Jewish Who’s Who of elite theological academia. What we saw Sunday was just because you are immersed in proper religion (after all, the Jewish training was in the Old Testament Scriptures), and just because you go through the religious motions, doesn’t mean you are a true believer. For many in 1stcentury Israel, religion was a powerful place to be and didn’t require a person to actually believe in God just so long as he believed in himself.
Bart Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He’s an atheist. His journey didn’t start as an atheist, however. He claims he was a born-again Christian whose educational journey began at Moody Bible Institute, and then he went to Wheaton College for his Bachelor’s. But, the formerly biblical and orthodox Princeton University, which fell into liberal theology over a century ago, was his undoing. He attended Princeton for his M.Div. and Ph.D. and became convinced that the Bible wasn’t true. Interestingly, while he’s an atheist, he is still involved in religious publications and societies. He has written some best selling books which make Jesus out to be nothing more than a man, which disclaim the Bible’s authenticity, and attack historical or doctrinal issues. His newest book promotes the idea that Jesus never taught on Hell, and that no one really knows what happens after death.
Now, let me take you back in time to 1988. The Southern Baptist Convention was internally fighting as the same liberalism that had thoroughly infiltrated Princeton was making great inroads in our Convention and schools. But, some great battles were fought to bring it back in line with Scripture. We’ve sadly lost many people and some state SBC-affiliated schools who did not want to affirm and believe the Bible as being 100% inerrant, authoritative, and God’s Word. One of the great voices of this fight was the pastor of First Baptist Dallas, Dr. W.A. Criswell. Below are two of his messages at the annual conference for the SBC:
- https://wacriswell.com/sermons/1985/whether-we-live-or-die-sbc/(you can click on the video to watch it, or just listen to the audio).
Dead religion saves nobody. Going through the motions, showing up on Sunday, raising hands during the singing, throwing in an occasional “Amen”, or “Praise the Lord”, and then going back to a life of faithlessness where living like the world is commonplace, doesn’t bring hope or life, but rather discouragement and death. Even though seminary is quite useful and our Southern Baptist seminaries work hard to give the theological education that our men need. But even a seminary education doesn’t mean one is saved as we can saw above with Bart Ehrman.
Our quest is to be balanced. We need the passion and love that comes from a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. But we also need that relationship to be built upon His Truth, hence His Word. This is what is called Orthoschesi.
- Orthodoxy is right belief. This is why we put time into accurate and clear doctrinal beliefs based on the accurate and clear interpretation of Scripture.
- Orthopraxy is right practice. Serving, witnessing, loving each other, showing grace, and fighting heresy are traits of a church and a Christian who does the right things.
The great problem is that we have orthodox Christians, churches, and preachers in their pulpits who believe the right things, go through the motions, and yet are no different than the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. However, just because a church does the right things, is loving, warm, embracing, sweet, and kindly, doesn’t mean that church is of God either. Orthodoxy without Orthopraxy is the source of hypocritical, dead, and powerless Christianity. Orthopraxy without Orthodoxy is the foundation of liberal, heretical, and secular Christianity.
The answer? Orthoschesi. Orthoschesi is the power-filled glue between Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy because its foundation is in having a right relationship with God (see Jesus’ harsh criticism of the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:4). This one little item is paramount to being a Christ-honoring and balanced church. We cannot have right beliefs and glorify God unless we are saved and filled by the Holy Spirit. Similarly, we cannot do the right things and glorify God unless we are saved and led by every word of His Scripture, guided by a solid doctrinal foundation.
The Pharisaical trait we must stand against in our church is holding to right beliefs but lacking a real faith in God. The Pharisees refused a relationship with Jesus and died with their orthodoxy. I am thankful that Waikoloa Baptist is not filled with empty practices and empty rhetoric. One of the most exciting things about Waikoloa Baptist is that you are all loving, passionate people. But, churches tend to function like pendulums and will swing back and forth between Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy, or just get stuck on one of the two. As you develop your Orthoschesi through reading the Word and spending time in prayer, you can help assure Waikoloa Baptist remains balanced and doesn’t hear one of the various rebukes found in Revelation 2-3 when Jesus sent letters to seven churches in what is modern-day Turkey.
- What are your weaknesses and strengths when it comes to:
- Orthodoxy ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Orthopraxy ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Orthoschesi ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Knowing you are strong or weak in different areas can help you identify where you need to work to become more balanced. What can you do to strengthen your weak areas? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- A trained, concert pianist and a jazz pianist are two different beasts. One is technical and plays the notes that are on the lines, but the jazz pianist will go off-script (so to speak) and improvise, often making instantaneous changes with the rest of his jazz band (both following or leading the music). Is one more right than the other? Or, do each serve different functions when it comes to music? Yet, the biggest area that will ruin the performance is if there’s no heart in it. A technical pianist will play the notes, but put no feeling into them, and leaves the performance feeling sterile. A jazz pianist who just plays and never feels the music he is playing is just a sham. Now, whether you’re more of an Orthodoxy person or an Orthopraxy person in your Christian life, you must work hardest at the Orthoschesi.
- What are some practices you have in place to build a deeper relationship with Christ: _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- What are some practices you are missing that should probably be part of your life to help you in this quest? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Listening to W.A. Criswell’s two messages, what alarms you most about the cancer of liberalism as it relates to our churches and our Convention? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Do you see any of his indictments within our church? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Remember, a little leaven leavens the whole lump! (Galatians 5:9; I. Corinthians 5:6-7). Liberalism is a type of leaven.
Ye Holy Angels Bright Hymn by Richard Baxter
1 Ye holy angels bright,
Who wait at God’s right hand,
Or through the realms of light
Fly at your Lord’s command,
Assist our song, or else the theme
Too high doth seem for mortal tongue.
2 Ye blessèd souls at rest,
Who ran this earthly race
And now, from sin released,
Behold your Savior’s face,
God’s praises sound, as in His light
With sweet delight ye do abound.
3 Ye saints, who toil below,
Adore your heavenly King,
And onward as ye go
Some joyful anthem sing;
Take what He gives, and praise Him still,
Through good or ill, who ever lives.
4 My soul, bear thou thy part,
Triumph in God above,
And with a well-tuned heart
Sing thou the songs of love;
Let all thy days till life shall end,
Whate’er He send, be filled with praise.