Friday, January 27, 2012


Have you ever noticed that sometimes, not all the time by any means, but sometimes, the longer a person is a Christian and the more bible knowledge they accumulate, the more they tend to get cold, cranky, crabby, and even critical, which is the exact opposite of what one would think would happen?

On the other hand......

Have you ever noticed that some young believers, even brand new Christians, who don't know ANY bible really, have little or no experience in church life and have no clue as to what they believe doctrinally speaking,  exhibit a life of graciousness, excitement, and love for people that is hard to believe much less describe?

What is all this?

Would it be wiser to just shoot Christians new in the faith and be done with them rather than allowing time to mess things up?

Just kidding!!

I think all of you would recognize, I'm not discounting knowing doctrine or experiencing church life at all. But something strange does seem to happen the longer some people go to church and the more bible knowledge they accumulate and the end result is, all too often, not appealing. Again, what is all this?

I've got a suggestion as to what happens or what goes wrong. This is just my observation of course, but it is birthed out of years of experience with Christians in a gathered church experience and a systematic approach to teaching/studying the bible and, unfortunately, reflecting somewhat on my own journey and struggles as a believer.

My suggestion is simply that I believe we often misinterpret that wonderful verse in John 8:32 that says, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." All too often this verse is read as if it is saying that when we study His word faithfully the knowledge we gain of that truth doctrinally will set us free. 

But I've already stated that my conviction is too many who do just that very thing wind up cold and cranky, among a few other things like being unloving and judgmental.

I said that such a view of that verse IS a misinterpretation. Well, is it? And, if so, what IS the verse really saying?

IMHO the verse is really saying...

"You shall KNOW the truth..." That word 'know' means to have an INTIMATE relationship with or to know intimately." [As, physically, Adam KNEW his wife and she conceived.] 

"You shall KNOW  [have an intimate relationship with]  THE TRUTH..." Jesus said "I AM the truth." So it is speaking of having an intimate ongoing relationship with the reality of Jesus Himself." And the truth [Jesus Himself] will set you FREE...

At this point it might be wise to get familiar with what Stephen Olford once said. In a chapel service at Wheaton College where he was speaking he made this statement,... "Freedom is not the right to do what you want, but it is the power to be what you ought." 

Bill Gothard picked that definition up and made it famous but it was Olford who first said it. I think it translates quite well what the freedom mentioned in John 8:32 is all about.  It is speaking of the power for BE not the right to DO.

So, to have an intimate and on-going relationship with the reality of who Jesus is as a person, will set us free to be the person we are to be with God, others, and even ourselves. That's a far cry from becoming crabby, cranky, unloving and judgmental because we know doctrine. And it can be a real thing early in your Christian experience OR, if willing, late in life. But, as you can see, it's clearly referring to something far different than many Christians understand it to mean.

It is THIS that I think gets lost along the way for many of us as we go to church, learn bible truth, and get older in the doing of it all. Sometimes young Christians have ONLY the reality of that kind of relationship albeit not accompanied at the moment with a lot of doctrinal knowledge.

But the answer is NOT in shooting young Christians, thus saving them from the kind of fate older Christians seem to often have. [Again, just kidding remember.] The answer may simply lie in reminding all of us older more mature Christians [biologically if nothing else]  we are to major on regaining, if not retaining, the experience of that kind of ongoing grace relationship with Christ. 

That, it seems to me, is the very basis for life and is far more essential than head knowledge about doctrine. That can come but must never replace the reality of our grace relationship. My how we then would/could experience growing old as a Christian... gracefully. 

You think?

Paul B.



Bob Cleveland said...

Paul made it clear to the Corinthians that love, not gifts, "super-spirituality", nor miraculous powers were to be the hallmark of the Spiritual Christian. That was reserved for love.

If that love that reflects off us just as moonlight is really the reflection of the sun, isn't shining off us in all we do, then we'r'e merely using it as a gimmick to do what we personally want to accomplish in some organization or other.

Church, in this case.

Sometimes I get the impression that I personally know most of those divinely reflective guys in the SBC. I sure have been blessed to know a bunch, but then I sure read about plenty of the other sort.

Interesting. Good post.

Paul Burleson said...


Good comment.

Someone asked me one time, "If Jesus is really real to you, what will your life look like?"

My answer was, "It will look more like the Jesus who was gracious, forgiving and who welcomed and received outsiders more than it does the Pharisees who rejected and refused to relate to them at all."

"In fact, if we're REALLY Christlike, we would have little patience with pharisaical behavior. He didn't."

Aussie John said...


I could almost repeat my comment on the last of your "Random Thoughts", which,I hope you keep having!

One paragraph in your reply to Bob truly describes a person who is experiencing in a living relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ, which began,"My answer was, "It will look more like the Jesus".

There is a vast difference between knowing ABOUT Him, and KNOWING Him.

Believe me, I know that of which I write, because I was a good pupil from a young age, and a purveyor of the very information, which has successfully made so many experts at dispensing nothing more than mere information, and rules to people which imprisons them on the paths of traditions, and the gurus who developed them, or, as your paragraph states,".... Pharisees who rejected and refused to relate.....".

We have not only lost the ability to KNOW our Savior and foster living relationships with Him and each other, but we have redefined "freedom" as obligation to duty, and the inability to act,speak or think, apart from the externally imposed restraints imposed by the traditions and gurus,who are,as your paragraph suggests,".... Pharisees who rejected and refused to relate to them at all".

Rex Ray said...

You’re right about freedom is about the power to BE and not the right to DO.

My aunt always said, “When in Rome do what Romans should do.”

That meant BE what you should BE.

Good preaching, but will ‘knowing Jesus’ (in love with Jesus) set us free without knowing the teachings of Jesus?

Even though they may love Jesus; “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I believe (John 8:32) is knowing the teachings of Jesus.

Paul learned truth: “…by reading Scripture, I came to realize I could never find God’s favor by…obeying laws…[but] by believing in Christ.” (Galatians 2:19 Living)

Paul used that truth: “Men from Judea began to teach the Christians that unless they were circumcised, they couldn’t be saved. Paul argued with them at length.” (Acts 15:1-2)

“So-called Christians…came to spy on us and see what freedom we enjoyed in Christ Jesus, as to whether we obeyed the Jewish laws or not.” (Galatians 2:4 Living)

Case in point:
I believe we all love Jesus, but to my surprise I was informed last week I’d no longer be a deacon after our next meeting because I’d be 80. Now does ‘truth’ set me free or do I join that “hopelessly enslaved’?

Paul Burleson said...


The point of my post was not to make an "either/or" between loving Jesus and learning scripture. As I said, "I'm not discounting knowing doctrine or experiencing church life at all."

The point of the post was that when learning scriptures or doctrine DOES become the sole focus ["You search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me,"] we can lose the reality of relationship and the end result is a lack of love, acceptance and forgiveness.

That tendency is seen, it seems to me at least, in those of us who are older and more experienced in bible study and church life all too often. [It doesn't have to be is my point.]

Since I don't presently hold to a view that "deacon" is an OFFICE as is common in modern church life today, but is a ministry assignment that comes and goes as the Spirit gifts and annoints both men and women for it and the church recognizes that assignment by laying on of hands, I don't have any opinion as to how long that ministry lasts.

I'm assuming the church body could/would/should set such boundaries of time, age, or length of service as they believe the Spirit desires for those serving in that ministry. The scriptures ARE silent on such matters as far as I can tell.

I do know..that you I've come to learn..our lives are not defined by ANY ministry that we do, deacon [as your ministry was] or pastor. [As my ministry was.]

Our lives are rather defined by who we are by the grace of God and that is stated in scripture. We are loved, accepted, forgiven, special, and eternally valuable to Him. [Not worthy of any of that but that's what grace is all about.] Hallelujah...hold my keyboard while I shout a little bit. LOL

Rex Ray said...


I understand your post about older Christians have a tendency not to be as ‘friendly’ as they once were and maybe ‘pound’ others over the head with the Bible.

You’ve probably heard the joke of man awarded the ‘extra’ years of life from animals. And the last ten years of his life from the dog; he spends on his porch barking at everyone that goes by.

Or the one if you’re over 60 and wake up feeling no pain, you’re probably dead.

Rodney preached a good sermon this morning on your post of Jesus being our “source” or “resource". Tonight, he agreed those “zealous for the law” (Acts 21:20) did not have Jesus as their “source”.

I fear that you might think that I think if I’m not a deacon, I’ll be less a Christian, less respected, less whatever.

That’s the least in my mind. In fact the lazy part of me would like to stop being on a team, deacon, trustee and just be a bench warmer. But I feel I have a duty to the church for the congregation to have a voice. There’s been discussion if teams could be ‘overruled’ by deacons or vice-a-versa.

This thing of ‘authority’ in the church on Wade’s blog is not contained to just the preacher.

Our bylaws state: Deacons should have the same scriptural qualifications and Christian walk as a pastor.

Also the bylaws state: “The pastor will leave at the request of either the pastor or the church.”

It looks to be like the termination of a deacon would be the same as a pastor.

If the church wants an age limit, I think it should be in their bylaws.

Paul Burleson said...


Yousaid..".I fear that you might think that I think if I’m not a deacon, I’ll be less a Christian, less respected, less whatever."

You could be right on this. [With the exception of the Christian part.] I can't honestly deny it at all. My bad.

By the way, for what it's worth, I don't think ANYONE should be a "bench warmer." ;)