I Have a Dream

Just over 60 years ago, in August of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to the crowd of 250,000 who had gathered for that civil rights march. The entire speech lasted just over 16 minutes, and it was just over 1,600-words long. Here’s a portion of his speech.

“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

“I have a dream that one day down in Alabama with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right down in Alabama little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little White boys and White girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

“This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”

It’s been more than three score years since that speech was given, and while our country has certainly made great strides in the last 60 years, I, for one, do believe that it is safe to say that King’s dream has yet to be realized. Let me illustrate.

The neighborhood in which my church is located was started as a “Whites only” neighborhood. Another neighborhood down the road was the Black neighborhood. In fact, as recently as the early 1980s, the former neighborhood was 100% White. While I am grateful that this is no longer the case, it was nevertheless the case in the recent past. King’s dream wouldn’t have included segregated neighborhoods.

Here are some other facts that lead me to believe that King’s dream is still yet to be realized.

As of 2019, the median wealth per family in the United States of America broke down as follows. For White families, the median wealth was $188,000 per family, while the median wealth for Black families was $24,000.

In 2019, 73% of White families owned their own homes, while only 42% of Black families owned their own homes.

Blacks make up only 13% of the total US population, but they make up 40% of the prison population.

In 2019, from the S&P 500 and the Fortune 500, which are the six or seven hundred largest companies in the US, only 5 of them—that’s less than one percent—only 5 of them were led by Black CEOs.

But statistics can sometimes be misleading. Let me share a couple of stories.

I am from South Carolina. I still attend my “home” church whenever I’m in South Carolina visiting my parents. Several years after joining this church in the late 1980s, I was told the story of a Black young lady who tried to join the church earlier in the 1980s.

As she was presented for membership at the church, there were vocal calls to reject her desire to join that church. To the pastor’s credit, he called out the naysayers and told them in no uncertain terms that rejecting someone for membership on the basis of race was sinful. My point isn’t that the pastor was brave (although brave he was). My point is that in the 1980s there were still “Christian” people who would publicly declare that it wrong for a Black person to join a White church.

While I now live in a different state and I’m no longer a member of that church, I thank God that there are now several Black families who are members of that once, all-White church.

And then there’s the story of another church in that same county as the previous church. This story took place in the early 2000s. I was responsible for planning outreach events for the church. We had a series of fall revival meetings coming up, so I thought it would be a good idea to have some type of outreach event to prepare ourselves for our revival meetings.

I decided on the idea of a block party. I ran the plan past a few church leaders, and they were onboard. So, they invited me to the next deacon’s meeting to share the plan with the remaining deacons and the lead pastor.

I still have the sheet that I passed out that night. I had five objectives for my proposed event. Here were my five objectives.


  1. To show the love of Jesus Christ in a practical way
  2. To give something back to [our] Community
  3. To foster racial unity
  4. To learn of unchurched people in our community
  5. To emphasize our upcoming revival

I shared those objectives with everyone who was gathered there that evening, and then, in a very animated way, I went on to share the plan in greater detail. I only talked for probably 10 or 15 minutes, but I was very excited about the plan.

Everyone listened patiently and politely until I was done. And then, I’ll never forget, one church leader spoke up. He said, with a bit of frustration and anger in his voice, “This is really all about number 3. Right?”

At first, I was a bit confused. I didn’t know what he meant by “number 3,” until I looked back down at my sheet. Objective #3, “to foster racial unity.”

So, I summoned up all the courage I had—after all, I was speaking to someone old enough to be my dad and someone who was recognized as a spiritual leader in the congregation—and I said, “This event is certainly about #3, or I wouldn’t have put it on the paper. But it’s not ‘all about’ #3. There are four other objectives on the paper.”

He didn’t like my answer, and he went on to say things like, “I’m not a racist, but they have their church, and we have ours.”

When he said, “they have their church, and we have ours,” I about blew a gasket, and I held up my Bible in my hand and said, “Show me where in this Bible it says, ‘they have their church, and we have ours.’ ”

[If you’re unfamiliar with the Bible, “they have their church, and we have ours” is NOT in the Bible! In fact, just the opposite of that statement is in the Bible.]

To be clear, I don’t hold any animosity against that man. To this day, I hold no animosity against him. He was in sin. Yes, he was. But the truth of the matter is that we’re all born into sin, and even after coming to faith in Christ, we are still subject to give ourselves over to sin.

The answer for that man, the answer for me, and the answer for everyone, is Jesus. Jesus died on the cross to free us from our sin. He died on the cross to rescue us from our sin. He died on the cross so that we could experience forgiveness for our sin. He died so that we can be one—Jew or Gentile, Black or White—that we can be one.

I share this example from that church because this was the early 2000s—not ancient history. I share these things because we sometimes think that these things don’t happen anymore. We think that we’ve moved beyond this. We think that because Jim Crow and the practice of redlining has been criminalized, that racism is a thing of the past.

I’m not trying to be unduly harsh. We, as a country, and we, as a church, are in a much better place than we were in 1963, but King’s dream is still yet to be realized. We as a people—not just churches in the deep South, but churches everywhere—and not just White people, but people from all ethnicities—we have a long way to go. Thank God that we’re not where we were, but we have a long way to go before we can say of racism and its ugly past, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, we’re free at last.”

Commencement is a community affair

It’s that time of year again. In the months of May and June, hundreds of thousands of young people—and some not so young people—will be crossing stages and receiving their diplomas or their degrees. If you’re one of those people, congratulations. You’ve worked hard to get to the finish line, and your labors have paid off.

But there’s something else that’s important for our graduates and their families to recognize. Commencement exercises are a community affair. In other words, your graduation ceremony isn’t only about you! The graduation ceremony is a community event.

As someone with two master’s degrees and a PhD, I’ve sat through several graduation ceremonies of “my own,” and as a pastor (for over 20 years), I’ve been invited from time to time to attend graduation ceremonies for those who are closest to me. Some of those ceremonies have been at secular schools, and others have been at distinctively Christian schools. So, with apologies to Farmers Insurance, I know a thing or two about graduation ceremonies.

Recently, I attended a graduation ceremony at a distinctively Christian school. The ceremony itself was celebrative, yet elegant. The names of each of the approximate 400 graduates were read aloud as each graduate crossed the stage while having his or her picture taken.

At first, there was polite applause from family members as “their” graduate crossed the stage. But as the ceremony continued, the polite applause turned into whooping and hollering, oftentimes lasting so long that the name of the next graduate couldn’t be heard.

And then, to make matters worse, some of the earlier graduates began to leave the ceremony long before the final graduates had ever crossed the stage. By the time the final graduates crossed the stage, a full 10% or more of the seats from the early graduates were vacant. At least 20 to 30 of the early graduates grew tired of waiting, and they and their families simply exited the room in which the ceremony was taking place.

Now, we could address these issues from the perspective of etiquette. It does indeed show poor etiquette to be so loud and proud of “your” graduate that the family of the next graduate can’t even hear his or her name be spoken. And it also shows poor etiquette to leave your own graduation ceremony before all of the other graduates have had their turn to cross the stage.

But these breaches of “etiquette” only point to a deeper issue. We live in the age of the “selfie”—a word which was first coined in September of 2002. Too many of us believe the world revolves around us. Too many of us believe we’re the center of attention. Too many of us act as if we’re the most important person in the room. But that’s neither a humble attitude nor is it our Lord’s attitude (see Philippians 2:1–11 and John 13:1–5).

If commencement exercises were about each of us as individuals, then, in the example above, that school would have hosted approximately 400 separate commencement exercises. But, of course, these exercises aren’t primarily about us individually. They are intended to be a community affair.

By analogy, consider the church and its corporate gathering. Neither the church nor its corporate gathering is about us as individuals. They are also corporate affairs. To illustrate that point, consider the nearly 60 “one another” commands that are found in the New Testament. If the church and its gathering were primarily about us as individuals, then the “one another” commands would make little sense. But the church and its gathering aren’t about us merely as individuals. Rather, they point to a corporate reality where we gather together to make much of our Lord and we encourage one another—from the least among us to the greatest among us.

And while a graduation ceremony isn’t the same thing as the gathered church, those last graduates are also there to be encouraged, to be applauded, to be celebrated. They are also important, from the least among them to the greatest among them. So, as you make plans to attend a graduation ceremony for your loved one this spring, please remember to use that time to celebrate not only your loved one but all of the others who have worked hard to make it to that point. Commencement exercises are not only about “your” graduate. They’re intended to be a community affair.

We Need a Mediator

Sports fans lament strike-shortened professional sports seasons. In 1994, a Major League Baseball strike ended the season early and there were no playoffs. These strike-shortened seasons are usually the result of club owners and players not agreeing on how many millions of dollars these professional athletes should be paid per season.

And when the opposing sides are especially far apart on reaching an agreement, they usually bring in a mediator to help the two sides see eye to eye. The mediator accomplishes this by having each side make some compromises with respect to their ultimate goals.

The Bible teaches us that we are born at odds with God (see Psalm 51:4-5). We’re born sinful, and God is utterly sinless, which puts us at odds with God. We could conclude that we need a mediator between God and us. We need someone to bring the two sides closer together.

But unlike the mediators that sit between the striking players and the club owners, there’s no compromise with God. God is perfect in all of his ways, and he will not compromise his perfection. But God did send us a mediator.

Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and men (see 1 Timothy 2:5). In his Institutes, Calvin writes, “In this ruin of mankind no one now experiences God either as Father or as Author of salvation, or favorable in any way, until Christ the Mediator comes forward to reconcile him to us” (1.2.1).

When Jesus came as our mediator, he came to step in our place. He came to take the penalty that we owe. He came to make things right with the Father. He took on our sin, and he gave us his righteousness in return. What glorious good news is that!!

On our own, we stand no chance of being made right with the Father, but through the love and sacrifice of the Son, we can be put into a right relationship with him forever.

Two Types of Knowledge

Calvin begins his Institutes by arguing that there are two parts to sound wisdom. The first part is the knowledge of God, and the second part is the knowledge of ourselves. Both types of knowledge are important. Without the former, the latter is lost, and without the latter, the former is lost. But why is this so?

So long as we are content in ourselves–that is, so long as we don’t truly know ourselves, we’re quite content to remain in our current condition. It’s only when we realize that we are somehow lacking–it’s when we realize that we don’t have all of the answers–that we turn our gaze from inward to outward.

Calvin writes, “Thus, from the feeling of our own ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity, and–what is more–depravity and corruption, we recognize that the true light of wisdom, sound virtue, full abundance of every good, and purity of righteousness rest in the Lord alone” (1.1.1).

On the other hand, it’s when we truly know God in all of his perfections that we finally realize that we have blindspots in our lives. Our pride disguises our own failings and shortcomings. We compare ourselves to others, and we thus feel ourselves superior because–in our eyes, at least–we’re “better” than our neighbors.

We miss the fact that our neighbor isn’t the measuring stick, but God and his perfection is the measuring stick, and we all fall woefully short on that account.

Calvin writes, “As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature, and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom, and power–the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness” (1.1.2).

We will never truly know ourselves until we come face to face with who God is, and we’ll never truly know God until we know something of ourselves, but let’s start the journey by knowing who God is.

Do We Really Believe That “Jesus Saves”?

Yesterday, January 6, 2021, was a dark day in the history of our nation, and it was a day that will long live in the memories of many Americans. Yesterday, a “protest rally” turned into a criminal riot in our nation’s capital as rioters stormed the United States Capitol building, breaching security and making their way onto the floor of the House and Senate and even into individual lawmakers’ offices.

The rally was designed ostensibly to protest the “fact” that the election was “stolen” from President Donald Trump. [NOTE: This blog post is not arguing for or against the claim of a “stolen election.”] Unfortunately, the rally soon turned from a peaceful protest to a criminal riot with at least four people losing their lives (one through a police shooting and three through medical emergencies).

As I watched parts of the news coverage of this horrific event, I was particularly appalled when I saw one protester who was carrying a bright neon sign that read “JESUS SAVES.” As a Christian who has devoted himself to over 20 years of full-time vocational Christian ministry, I whole-heartedly agree that “Jesus Saves.” But I wonder if the individual who was carrying the sign really believes that.

For the record, I have no idea who that individual is. I don’t know that individual. The camera angle from which I was viewing was too far away to tell if it was even a man or a woman. I know nothing about that individual other than he (or she) was carrying a sign that read “JESUS SAVES” and he (or she) was trespassing on the steps of the US Capitol building during what can only be called an illegitimate and illegal criminal riot.

Also for the record, I believe there are many faithful Christians who voted for Donald Trump and I believe many of them were genuinely disappointed when he lost the election. Furthermore, I believe many authentic Christians may have some doubts about the veracity of the election results.

And with all of that said, however, if someone (Christian or otherwise) feels that an injustice has happened, that individual has every right to peacefully protest and to seek recourse through the law (i.e., the courts or other legal channels), but unless we’re being required to deny our Savior or a key principle of the faith, Christians are not justified in resorting to criminally violent behavior when their politician of choice loses an election.

So, here’s a question for serious Christians to consider. If we really believed that “Jesus Saves,” would we participate in a criminal endeavor because our politician of choice lost the election? I don’t think we would and I don’t think we should.

Participating in this type of activity reveals a heart of idolatry. Let me explain.

The Bible teaches that Jesus is sovereign over the events of this world (see e.g., Psalm 2). This means Jesus was sovereign when Donald Trump was elected four years ago as the president, and this also means Jesus is still sovereign now as Joe Biden will be taking the oath of office in less than two weeks. Nothing has changed in the heavenly realms.

And even “if” the election was stolen from Donald Trump, Jesus is still on his throne. He’s still sovereign. We don’t need to “storm the Capitol” if we believe Jesus is who he says he is. If we really believe that Jesus is sovereign, then we will understand that Jesus is just as sovereign under a Biden presidency as he was under a Trump presidency. And if we really believe that it’s Jesus who saves, then we know that Jesus can save people under a Biden presidency just as easily as he can save people under a Trump presidency.

Psalm 146:3–5 instructs us: 3 Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. 4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. 5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.

Idolatry rears its ugly head when—among other things—we put our hope in politicians rather than in Jesus.

Christians ought to lament that the name of Christ was connected to the storming of the Capitol and other lawless deeds. We must remember what our Savior said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36). Let us purpose to not misuse the name of our great King (Exo 20:7), but to be ambassadors for his cause—imploring lost men and women to be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:20).

Kingdom-Oriented Prayer (part 5)

In Romans 15:32, Paul writes,

Romans 15:32
so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.

Notice how Paul ties in the prayers of his brothers and sisters with the will of God—“so that by God’s will I may come.”

Abraham Lincoln once said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day” (Boice, Romans, 1897).

To say prayer is necessary isn’t to say that God “changes his mind” because of our prayers. Nor does the necessity of prayer simply mean that God changes us through our prayers. It encompasses both of those thoughts.

Here’s how that works. God not only appoints the end results that he desires, but he also appoints the means toward those ends.

John Calvin, in his commentary on Romans, wrote this. “The phrase through the will of God reminds us of the necessity of devoting ourselves to prayer, since God alone directs all our paths by his providence” (Calvin, Romans).

Tim Keller writes,

Edmund P. Clowney wrote, “The Bible does not present an art of prayer; it presents a God of prayer.” We should not decide how to pray based on the experiences and feelings we want. Instead, we should do everything possible to behold our God as he is, and prayer will follow. The more clearly we grasp who God is, the more our prayer is shaped and determined accordingly.
Keller, Prayer, 62

Take some time right now to pray for you and your church to be a shining light for the gospel.

Kingdom-Oriented Prayer (Part 2)

We read these words in Romans 15:30.

Romans 15:30

30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf.

We see in these words that prayer is vital. Paul begins this passage by “appealing” to his brothers and sisters in the Lord. I love the Greek word that Paul uses here. The word is used over 100 times in the New Testament. It means to appeal or to urge or to beg. I can’t help but think about The Temptations and their hit song (Ain’t Too Proud to Beg) whenever I come across this word.

Paul was willing to beg his brothers and sisters in Christ to join with him in prayer. And why was he willing to do that? Because he knew that prayer is vital.

A wise man once said, “There’s much that can be done after you pray, but nothing can be accomplished before you pray.” Paul understood how vital prayer is for the Christian.

And we also need to notice the trinitarian nature of Paul’s appeal. Not only is he appealing to his brothers and sisters, but he’s appealing through the Trinity.

Romans 15:30
30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf (emphasis added).

When we enter into prayer, it’s no small thing. When we pray, it’s not something to be taken lightly. When we pray, we are speaking to the Creator of the universe.

If we were told today that we were going to have the opportunity to spend an hour with our favorite celebrity tomorrow, we’d probably lose sleep tonight thinking about what we’d want to talk about. What questions might we ask?

Well, to state the matter rather bluntly, no celebrity compares with God! And when we pray, we are speaking with him. We’re not speaking with his publicist or his agent; we’re speaking with him.

Prayer is vital. Spend some time right now praying for 3 people you know who are not yet Christians. If you don’t personally know any non-Christians, pray for an opportunity to get to know some non-Christians.

Telling Others about Jesus

What does it mean to make disciples who make disciples? Well, it may mean many different things to different people, but it all starts with seeing people in the same way that God sees them. It starts by seeing every person as someone special who’s been created in the image of God. Every individual person has been created in the image of God because God wants to have a relationship with that person.

And we make disciples by being very intentional in all we do, to point others to Jesus. Making disciples who make disciples is primarily about being intentional in all of our actions and in all of our relationships to move people in the direction of being more like Jesus.

We want others and we want ourselves to look and be more like Jesus. Five-weeks, ten-weeks from now, 6-months, 12-months from now, will we be more like Jesus than we are right now? Our friends or co-workers now, who don’t yet know Jesus, will they know more about who Jesus is and why it is worth it to give their whole lives to follow him? Will they know more about that in the weeks and months to come than they do right now?

Here’s a helpful visual. If we were to think of a number line—this number line has positive and negative numbers on it. It’s numbered from a negative 10 all the way to a positive 10. Negative 10 represents someone who is a militant atheist. This person gets aggressive at the very thought of God. That individual represents a negative 10.

A little further up the scale, we have a friend who’s heard the good news about Jesus. She may even be able to explain the good news to us, but she hasn’t yet repented of her sin and trusted in Jesus. She may be represented on the scale at a negative one or two.

Zero is the moment that a person actually comes to faith in Christ.

So, we have a family member who just became a Christian in the last month. She’s so excited to be a Christian, but she doesn’t know what following Jesus looks like. She would be a positive one or positive two.

And then we have someone who has been faithfully following Jesus for decades. He regularly practices spiritual disciplines. He tells others about Jesus. He may be a 7 or an 8 on the scale. [No one actually makes it all the way to positive 10 until we are finally glorified and with Jesus in heaven!]

So, we have this scale. We can all picture the scale in our minds. We may even have friends, family members, and co-workers, who, if we were asked, we could put them at some point along that scale.

Now, our job, in making disciples who make disciples, is to move that person to the right on that scale (toward the higher numbers). Now, it’s extremely important for us to understand that this is ultimately a work of God. “We” don’t do it. God does it. But God uses us as his means to accomplish this. He uses us as we open and share the Word of God with these individuals. He uses us as we are prayerfully dependent on the Holy Spirit to work.

So, for our militant atheist friend who is currently a negative ten, if we could, by God’s grace, get him to the point where he would acknowledge the possibility that a supreme being exists, that would be a win. He’s moved from a negative 10 to a negative 9 or maybe a negative 8. He’s moving in the right direction.

Now, of course, our ultimate goal is present everyone mature in Christ so we should have a godly desire to see this friend actually get to a zero and then to grow in Christ, but it’s still a win for him to move from a negative 10 to a negative 8.

And for our family member who just became a Christian in the last month, by God’s grace, we hope that she’ll move from a positive 1 to a positive 3 in the next twelve months.

We’re making disciples who make disciples by moving people to the right on that scale.

So, I have two questions to leave you with. First, what number would represent where you’re at right now on that scale? Second, if you’re a Christian, what are you doing to help move others (and yourself) to the right on that scale?

If we’re going to make disciples who make disciples, we have to open our Bibles and tell others about Jesus.

When to Stand Your Ground

We’ve all met them. We’ve all met the people who will “fight to the death” over every biblical doctrine—no matter how obscure.

They cry out, “Jude told us that we are to ‘contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints’” (Jude 3b).

Now, please don’t hear me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we should be soft on our doctrine. Who are we to argue against Scripture? After all, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). The Scriptures are “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12). The Scriptures are given to us by God (2 Pet 1:19–21).

Yes, yes. We agree with all of that, but was Jude arguing that we should “fight to the death” over every biblical doctrine—no matter how obscure the doctrine? Are some doctrines more important than others perhaps? Should we weigh the doctrines and contend for those that are most central to the faith?

Several years ago, Albert Mohler, the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Kentucky, introduced me to an idea called “theological triage.” I’m not sure if he was the first to write on this, but I learned it from his writing.

Here’s the concept of triage in a more traditional medical sense.

When a medical doctor goes into a hospital emergency room, she may see all types of patients with all manner of injuries. She may see a mother holding her toddler who had cut his forehead open after tripping into the coffee table. She may see a construction worker who broke his arm when a heavy piece of equipment struck his arm. And she may see a middle-aged man who shows no outward signs of injury, but who is complaining of tightness in his chest and a sore left arm.

Her job, as the doctor, is to assess which person needs the most urgent care. Does she choose the toddler whose shirt is stained with blood? Does she choose the burly construction worker who is agonizing in pain as he holds his arm? Or does she choose the man with no “outward” physical symptoms but who is complaining of tightness in his chest?

Most of us know that the doctor will choose that last person first. Why? Because he is experiencing classic symptoms of a heart attack. If he isn’t seen soon, he may die. The other two patients are in pain, but there’s no immediate threat to their life.

This is emergency room triage.

Theological triage works in a similar way. Here’s an example of how this works.

One person is denying the deity of Christ, a second person is arguing for paedobaptism (infant baptism), and a third person is disagreeing over the order of events in the end times (eschatology). In this scenario, you have different levels of theological concern.

The first person is denying doctrines that are central to Christianity itself. The person who denies the deity of Christ isn’t even a Christian. This is a first-level doctrine. This is life and death! This demands a bold response. The gospel itself is at stake here. We must contend earnestly for this doctrine.

The second person is debating a doctrine that would make a difference about where you have your church membership. If you are an avowed paedobaptist, then you shouldn’t join a Baptist church where only credobaptism (believer’s baptism) is practiced. And, likewise, if you’re an avowed credobaptist, then you shouldn’t join a local Presbyterian church and cause a stink when they baptize infants. The Baptists aren’t saying that the Presbyterians aren’t Christians, nor are the Presbyterians saying that the Baptists aren’t Christians. We are both saying that we think the other is wrong in their practice of baptism, but we’re not denying their faith. This is a second-level doctrine.

The third person is debating a doctrine that makes for interesting discussion and lively debate, but it’s not a doctrine that’s central to the gospel. Yes, it’s an important doctrine, but it’s one over which many Bible-believing scholars differ. It should little impact on the polity of the church and the unity of the fellowship. It is a doctrine over which we may differ and still go to the same church.

Not every theological doctrine is a hill on which to die. We should know what we believe and why we believe it. We should rightly handle the Word of God and study it to show ourselves approved. We dare not minimize the importance of doctrine, but we need to show grace to others when we disagree of lesser doctrines.

Pursuing Holiness

Nearly 300 years ago John Wesley came up with over 20 questions that he asked of himself and of everyone whom he was discipling. I’ve narrowed the questions down a bit, but they’re still great questions to ask today about pursuing personal holiness.


  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
  3. Did the Bible live in me today?
  4. Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?
  5. Am I enjoying prayer?
  6. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
  7. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  8. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  9. Do I disobey God in anything?
  10. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  11. How do I spend my spare time?
  12. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  13. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  14. Is Christ real to me?

The character of Christians is to reflect the character of their divine Father. How are you doing in the area of personal holiness?