Category Archives: Church

If I Have All Calvinism, But Have Not Love

Back in 2004, my wife and I took a vacation–a real vacation.  We drove from Chicagoland to Bozeman, Montana.  We were staying over a weekend, and so we figured we should find a place to worship on Sunday.  We saw a church that was just down the street: Grace Bible Church.  Much to my surprise, a fellow Hughes (though no relation) was pastoring the church (and still is).  Pastor Bryan Hughes was preaching on 1 Corinthians 13.  It was–hands down–the best sermon I have/had heard on this chapter.  I remember at some point leaning over to my wife and whispering, “This guy must be reformed.”  Within seconds Pastor Hughes stated something to the effect of, “As many of you know I am reformed.”  He went on to lament what I had lamented often times, that many of those in the reformed group of believers act cold and unloving.  We tend to have an air of superiority.

Whether or not he said these words, I don’t remember, but I know that since that sermon I have often thought of them: “If I have all Calvinism, but have not love, I am nothing.”  If you were to ask my wife or my mom, they would tell you that I am passionate about the doctrines of grace.  I came out of a non-Calvinist background and much like a former smoker or a former alcoholic, I am passionate about just saying no to Arminianism (the same would go for Dispensationalism–anything but Dispensationalism!).  Though I love my doctrine of grace, and though I can’t imagine for the life of me why anyone would disagree, I would never accuse someone of not being a Christian just because they don’t agree with my stance.

After Billy Graham’s death was announced, I saw many of the Reformed faith making some pretty awful comments on social media.  Some of their comments made me think they were made by Westboro Baptist.  I am also hearing the rumors of an uproar between the Calvinist wing and the “traditionalist” wing of the Southern Baptist Convention (of which I belong).  (Incidentally, Calvinism was the original doctrine of the SBC, thus the traditional side of the SBC).

I don’t know much about the current President of the SBC.  I loved Adrian Rogers, and all I know about Steve Gaines is that he pastors the same church that Rogers pastored, is not a Calvinist, and is currently sits as the President of the SBC.  But a couple of years ago, his presidency was up in the air.  There was a close race between he and J.D. Greear.  Both wanted to meet with the other candidate and for the same purpose.  Both were prepared to pull out of the race for the sake of unity.  Greear was the one who finally decided it should be him who pulled out and let Pastor Gaines take the position.  I have much respect for both pastors.  They showed leadership, love, and unity.  May both Calvinists and non-Calvinists imitate these two men this coming June.

You Need Your Local Church, and Here’s Why

Do you ever watch the nature channel?  Me neither.  But you probably know a little about lions.  Lions are typically nocturnal hunters.  They go around looking for prey around the twilight hours, from dusk till dawn.  Stealthily they seek their prey, ever so quiet, waiting until the gazelle or antelope or whatever they’re having for dinner is least expecting them.  Often they look for the weakest of the pack/herd, perhaps one that is injured, younger, or sick.  Without warning, that lion (or lions) attack, separating the animal from the pack/herd.  Before the poor animal knows it, he’s dinner.

Peter wrote, “Be sober–minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV).  He was not writing this letter to an individual, but to multiple churches–local churches with multiple people within.  When he stated that the devil is looking for someone to devour, he was not being hypothetical, he was being specific.  This was warning to the church, not simply individuals, to be on the lookout for Satan. “He is prowling around like a lion,” Peter was writing.  “He’s staying hidden.  He’s stealthy.  He’s just waiting to pounce on someone in your congregation.”

As Christians, God has put us together with a group of people.  A flock, a herd, a pack.  On our own, we are dead-meat.  We might as well be out there in the middle of a field just waiting to be attacked.  We might as well just call out, “Here kitty, kitty.  Come get me.”

Most Christians know that isn’t the way to live.  We know that we’re supposed to be part of the pack.  Some of us get jaded and leave the pack.  Some of us are jaded, but begrudgingly stick with it.  Yet, even knowing what we are supposed to do, we often are not “part of the pack.”  We’re present; we’re accounted for, but we aren’t actually there.  We’re doing our own thing.  We’re minding our own business. We’re not looking out for others, and others are not looking out for us.  In fact, we aren’t even looking out for ourselves!  It’s no wonder so many have been pounced on by that roaring lion–the old devil.

Look what Peter wrote though: “Resist him, firm in your faith,” (1 Peter 5:9a, ESV). He is writing that to every person in the church.  Going back to English class, you may remember the idea of the understood you, except this one is the understood plural you.  (You all) resist him, firm in y’alls faith.”  We come together to resist Satan.  If the devil can, he’ll separate us from each other.  He will get the weak one alone and destroy him/her.  As a church, we are not to scatter, but gather.  We come together to protect the weak.  In fact, Paul wrote just that.  “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all,” (1 Thess. 5:14, ESV).  We don’t run away when the devil strikes.  We are not to abandon our fellow Christian.  We are to rally around them (and they are to allow us to do so).  One believer by himself/herself is no match for a lion, but a pack that comes together, can resist, and beat back the deadly foe.

“Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world,” (1 Peter 5:9, ESV).  Even as local assemblies we can take heart that local bodies of believers all over this planet are dealing and fighting with the same issues with which our congregations–our packs–are dealing.

If you are not in a local church, you need to be in one.  They are your lifeline.  They are your protection.  They are your fighters.  We stand firm together.  Grant it, church’s have gotten away from this idea of relying on each other, trusting each other, allowing each other to help in our fights, but it ought not be so.  As Gandhi would say if he were a Christian (and alive), “Be the change you want to see in the church.”  Start to watch out for the hurting, the weak, the doubting, the fainthearted.  Lift them up in prayer.  Pray with them.  Call them.  Check in on them.  Disciple them.  Help them fight when the lion pounces.