Today we start with the last piece of the puzzle I received for this message- the concept of the title, that one can be passionate about something, be guided by all the right intentions- but be wrong. And it fits in with what we've been hammering away at the last little while- the concept of focus.
Regard Paul. Before he was Paul, evangelist, he was Saul of Tarsus, Pharisee. Was he a hypocrite, as Jesus termed the upper echelon of the Pharisees? No. But like the Pharisees, he had a focus on the purity of Jewish traditions. These had become golden chains that bound their- and his- conception of God. That He could only be seen through rule and ritual, and anything outside the rule and ritual was heresy. Note, though, that "rule and ritual" was IN ADDITION TO "the Law and the Prophets"- in other words, they were added on to the Word of God. He served the same God before that he did after, but his FOCUS had changed. In a facetious sense, you could say he became "Sola Scriptura", though it was much more of a change than that. But the point is, he was still passionate about the same God- but instead of in the wrong direction, he was turned in the right direction. He went from passionately wrong to passionately right.
Recently, I was told that I was "dismissive of anything I didn't agree with." To a certain extent, I knew that to be true. And I do see that as a weakness and a problem. But in meditating on this, God gave me a unique objective lesson (which I am going to try and share in general terms so as not to distract from the main point- or rehash recent wounds), and it set me up a framework for how to make sure you are NOT passionately wrong.
STEP ONE: Recognition that you CAN be passionately wrong. That's what the beginning of this post was about. If it can happen to Paul, it can happen to anyone. And, I suppose I got this piece last because my main problem wasn't recognizing the possibility, but figuring out what to do about it. And it got taught to me last so I don't forget it.
STEP TWO: Prayer. The night after the accusation, I prayed about it. If I am going to do Sunday messages, I can't afford to be stuck in my own golden chains if God wants something else brought out.
About 3:30 that morning, I awoke with my radio on to a three-minute bit by "the Bible Answer Man", Hank Hentegraf. Now there is a certain non-salvational issue that Hank and I have always disagreed on. But that night/morning, he put his side of it a different way, and it got me to thinking. And that thought process got me to looking into the question from all angles, instead of just the one I had always held.
STEP FOUR: Do the research. Now there was plenty of evidence in the Scripture that COULD support my view, and plenty that supported his. So I asked the question, and found not two, but FOUR different theories on the topic, and possible evidence for all four.
STEP FIVE: Remember the integrity of God's Word. A lot of the reason I held my original belief was based on non-Biblical information- some of it in non-scriptural books like Enoch, some in historical works like Josephus, some in Jewish tradition, some in recently-raised archaeological questions. And as I assembled both cases and assessed my position, I remembered one of the rules of Biblical study I'd always taught my students: If you have faith that God can make the ENTIRE universe, you should have faith that He can keep His Word inviolate over the years, despite the best efforts of man. So, if I saw off the extrabiblical stuff, and then how does my position fare?
STEP SIX: Apply the Kalko Rule. Which, in short form is "ten verse before, ten verses after", but the point is, what's the context. If you read AROUND the topic, what Is God trying to get at? And when I sawed off the outside stuff and applied the context, my original opinion just didn't hold up. God was trying to say one thing to me; I was trying to say something different to someone else. When I boiled it down to God's intentions instead of my own, I saw it in a different light.
So did I find myself dismissive of other views? Yes and no. On the topic that I was accused on, no, because I HAD done this due diligence on this topic. So in a way, God's answer to my prayer was to assure me of that position, and that I had been open on it. But on the topic HE brought up, the answer was yes, and God showed me that I CAN be passionately wrong if I haven't done my due diligence.
Moral of the story: If any teacher- including me- teaches you something you aren't quite in agreement with, examine his view, and examine YOUR view. Don't look for the evidence that shoots holes in the other guy's position, look for what GOD'S position is. And when you find that, THEN be passionate!