As we prepare to celebrate the birthday of our country, I thought it would be interesting to consider what Paul would write to us if he were still alive. I got this idea when I read a recent Facebook quote. "If Paul saw the church in America, we'd be getting a letter." I agreed wholeheartedly with the concept proposed. I then began to think about what he would say to us.
There are two themes that are prominent in the letters of Paul; as Christians, we are to live according to God's teachings, and we need to be very careful about allowing false teaching to come into the church. These were problems in the early church that we are still dealing with today. False teaching has been allowed in a number of denominations and promoted by the leaders of those denominations. And I believe false teaching can get the grip it does because many Christians today are biblically illiterate. If you don't know the Bible, you don't know the truth.
Paul tells Timothy, "Preach the Word of God. Be prepared whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths." 2 Timothy 4:2-4 (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, Gal. 1:7, Eph. 5:6, Col. 2:8)
I feel like Paul is talking about these times we live in. We have many denominations who have disregarded the writings of scripture and are doing as they believe is right. For instance, denominational leaders are ignoring scripture and science to promote transgender ideologies. They tell people we can wish ourselves a different gender than God gave us, thinking God obviously made a mistake in our creation. Simply, by saying, "I am a man." or "I am a woman." we are a different gender.
But scripture tells us differently, "You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb...You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." Psalm 139:13, 15-16
God knew what our purpose would be before we were born and created us to complete that purpose in our lifetimes. He would not have created us as female if we needed to be male to serve our purpose. God is omniscient, in other words, all-knowing, all-wise, all-seeing. He doesn't make mistakes. It is wrong to think that, as flawed humans, we know more than God.
The Lord told Job, "Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?" Job 38:2 The Lord goes on to ask Job, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? Who supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" Job 38:4-7. And I think he would ask us today, "Who dares question my wisdom in creating your gender?"
Paul instructed the Corinthians, telling them, "Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:11 (2 Corinthians 5:15, 17, Phil. 2:12-13, 1 Thess. 4. We are not the same people once we have accepted Christ's forgiveness, and he brings us into his family.
When we confess our sins and repent and ask for forgiveness, we are turning away from the old way of living and turning toward the new way. "So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord - who is Spirit - makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image." 2 Corinthians 3:18.
John Wesley believed that we must always seek to "move on to Christian perfection." This does not mean that we will be perfect in all we do or that we won't make mistakes. Wesley means that we should seek to have the mind of Christ and to become perfect in love. That really is our primary purpose in life, to become more like Christ so that we can draw others to us so they can acknowledge the saving power of Christ.
I believe we allow church people to live as they want, never expecting them to become more mature in their faith. We don't expect them to tithe, to be active in the prayer life of the church, to join Class Meetings where they confess their sins, or even to participate in or teach Bible studies. I was so convicted that my churches' congregations over the years didn't read scripture during the week that I ensured they heard three scripture readings each Sunday.
It is often hard to recognize Christians out in the world because so many live as if they weren't offered saving grace. I think Paul would be appalled seeing how little we expect of Christians today. I think we can do better.