“I’m a _________, therefore I believe….”
Have you ever heard someone say something like that? Even the best of us can make the mistake of defending our beliefs based on a label. “I’m a protestant therefore I believe we are saved not by our works”, “I’m a Calvinist, so I believe in election”, “I’m a Baptist so I don’t dance”, “I’m a Pentecostal so I believe in speaking in tongues”, etc. etc…. Whatever happened to basing our beliefs on the Word of God? Shouldn’t we rather say, “Based on the Word of God, I believe ___________” and then just leave it at that?
Jesus said to the Father, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). Our religion is not based on the teaching of man, but of God. It’s not about a denomination; it’s about what the Word of God says. When we put a label on ourselves, whether it’s a denomination name (like Baptist or Pentecostal) or a man’s name (like Calvinism or Arminianism) I truly believe we diminish the name of Christ.
If you specifically asked me what denomination I am I will probably tell you that I am a Reformed Baptist. In other words, I’m Calvinistic in regards to the “doctrines of grace” as they are called, but I’m not Presbyterian when it comes to baptism, I believe in believer’s baptism not infant baptism. In labeling myself so I am taking what I believe and packaging it in a simple box. We all have labels. Catholic, Protestant, liberal, conservative, Wesleyan, Lutheran… I used to be very proud of the fact that I was a “Calvinist” and I would argue and defend Calvinism and loved it. I found a security and pride in what I believed. But in the last year I’ve realized that my heart behind my love for doctrine was all wrong. I was finding my security in doctrine instead of the Person of the doctrine.
Most people think that idolatry is worshiping something instead of God. While that is true, the meaning actually goes deeper. Idolatry is putting anything before God. Idolatry then can be anything. Marriage can be an idol if you esteem it more than you do God. Children, money, man’s approval… can all be idols in our hearts. But have you ever considered that doctrine can be an idol?
Do you put doctrinal points at the center of your life instead of God Himself? Do you find that you are consumed with studying doctrine instead of studying to become more like Christ? Do you argue about a doctrinal position at the expense of alienating or offending a fellow Christian? (And just so you know, I will admit that I have done these things.)
Lose the label!
I don’t know about you, but the only label I want to bear is Christ – and that’s an awesome enough label as it is! Think about it…. Christian. It literally means “little Christ”. We bear the very name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; the One who lived and died on our behalf. The Bible says that Christ actually dwells in us… we are His temple, His dwelling place! The question is how well do we bear His presence?
“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ’…. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect… For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor 1:10-12, 17 & 2:2)
I shall end with a marvelous quote from Spurgeon, with whom I quite agree:
“There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer – I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it.”
– C.H. Spurgeon (from A Defense of Calvinism)
Let us learn to love only the label of Christ Himself, and may the center of our doctrine be Jesus and the Gospel of His kingdom, and the layer around it – sincere love for the brotherhood.