What Happened to Fearing Sin and Desiring God?
By Jim Shempert
When Christian leaders labor to excuse sin rather than beg people to flee from it they destroy a key purpose for the church’s existence.
“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth.” – John Wesley
Today my heart is heavy. I was raised in a small United Methodist Church in north Mississippi which had about 20 members. Even though I chose a poor path in my late teens, by my mid-twenties I came back to the cross and flame. I was baptized a Methodist, married a Methodist, and had my infant daughter baptized in a Methodist church. I have been an active member in the Methodist church for quite a while. However, I can no longer be certain of the future of the “United Methodist Church.”
In my state in recent weeks, two of the larger Methodist congregations have made it known that they will be withdrawing from the denomination by pulling out of the Annual Conference. The reason? There’s where things get a bit iffy. The United Methodist Church is at what some see as a breaking point. The General Conference that convened in 2016 was supposed to clarify the denominational position on human sexuality. Unfortunately, the bishops chose to “kick the can down the road” as it were. They established a “Commission on the Way Forward” to help us lay people figure things out. Their wording:
“We recommend that the General Conference defer all votes on human sexuality and refer this entire subject to a special Commission, named by the Council of Bishops, to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality. We continue to hear from many people on the debate over sexuality that our current Discipline contains language which is contradictory, unnecessarily hurtful, and inadequate for the variety of local, regional, and global contexts.“
I wonder how many of small Methodist congregations know that their leadership even voiced this. I know that there was nothing said in my church when this happened. But I take my faith seriously and did my own research. I don’t rely on others to tell me what is going on in a church to which I belong.
As a lay person, here is my comment on the fissure that is about to split the United Methodist church. Christianity is built upon the sacrifice of Christ as a sin ransom for man. All sinners, whatever their sin, are worthy to be forgiven because of the sacrifice of Christ. It is in Him that our salvation is secure. Where I think the split is coming, is that some believe that you can continue in your sin and force the church to accept it. That goes for any sin. Should we welcome the adulterer? Sure. Should we congratulate or celebrate their adultery? Absolutely not. Can Christ use an adulterer in His Kingdom? Absolutely. Would Christ celebrate the act of adultery? Not a chance. Christ died to save us from our sins, not to celebrate them. That goes for all of our sins. My sins. There is no scriptural evidence to believe anything else.
There are far too many who have fallen for the lie that the Holy Trinity is tolerance, inclusiveness, and diversity. While those words sound good on paper, so does communism. The only scriptural Holy Trinity will forever be God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. How, no matter how enlightened or tolerant you like to paint yourself, can you imagine that Jesus the Son who came to be a ransom for sin would be somehow “tolerant” of the sin that He died to forgive?
I am in total agreement that the body of Christ must welcome all. I imagine the church as a lighthouse guiding ships that are lost on a dark sea. Does that lighthouse exist to tell the ships to keep running towards the rocks? The very thought is asinine.
The little country church that I grew up in still has about the same number of folks in attendance. Some have passed on, some will soon. My grandfather is buried in its cemetery, and my grandmother will be when she is called home.
My fear is, if the “council of Bishops” fails to adhere to the Book of Discipline, and tries to accept any form of sin in the name of tolerance, then they will have chosen the world over Christ. I, for one, simply cannot be a part of that. I will not leave the Methodist Church, it will be the Methodist Church that has left me.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2a).