Today, churches are so caught up in tradition, preference, and pet peeves, that I fear we are stifling the Holy Spirit. Churches who believe the same doctrinally are separating over issues of personal standards. How it must grieve the Holy Spirit. Let me give you some examples :
Woman and pants. I personally have chosen not to wear slacks, but I do wear pajama pants, and my girls wear snow pants. Now, others would say, "Shame on you! Pants on a woman defies Scripture." Others choose to wear pants that follow the Biblical standards of modesty. Still others use their Christian liberty as an occasion to the flesh. Call me a hypocrite if you want, but no where in the Bible does it say that a woman must always wear skirts.
We apply principles from Scripture as the Holy Spirit leads each individual in order to arrive at a set of dress standards for ourselves and our families. But pants on a woman is NOT a doctrinal issue -- Modesty is. I did a Bible study with my ladies a few weeks ago about the Biblical Doctrine of modesty which I think I will share with you tomorrow. It will explain to you what the Bible ACTUALLY says about modesty. Have I piqued your curiosity? Come back tomorrow and give me a chance to explain.
How about the movies? For generations preachers have preached that going to the movie theater is sin. Is it sin or is it it a personal standard that the Holy Spirit may lead an individual to hold? And if one believes that going to the movies is wrong, then shouldn't that standard or reasoning apply to movie rentals or cable/satellite TV? I'm not saying whether you should or should not go to the movies or own a TV. What I am saying is that it is not a doctrinal issue (although, what you watch may be), but rather a personal standard that the Holy Spirit may lead an individual to have.
I could list one example after another, but the point I am trying to make is this...
Why are personal standards and preferences being taught as doctrine? Keith and I have standards that others would say are too conservative, while at the same time, we have others that some would consider too liberal. The truth is that I have never met two people who hold the same, exact standards. If preferences were a doctrinal issue, then I believe God would have made them abundantly clear in Scripture.
I wear slits in my skirts, but have the standard that they should go no higher than mid to lower calf. I have friends who believe that a skirt should have no slits. When I was a teenager, we had churches that would not fellowship with our church, because we had girls in our youth group that wore pants. Christians are so busy fussing and fighting among themselves over preferences that we can't see the forest for the trees.
1 Peter 2:1-3 could have been written to churches today. It says, "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings..." This is the result of preaching preference instead of doctrine. The funny thing about preferences is that everyone thinks their standards are the most Biblical. And if they are doctrine, then everyone who disagrees is backslidden. Let's look at verses 2 and 3, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord (is) gracious."
I always thought this was talking about baby Christians. But take a look at where the comma is located... "as newborn babes" isn't referring to a level of spiritual maturity, but rather the manner in which we are commanded to desire the sincere milk of the word. Verse 2 is a command, "desire the sincere milk of the word." The Lord has shown me grace in so many ways, shouldn't I in turn show that grace to others?
I would like to make it clear that God's Word teaches separation. If someone propagates false DOCTRINE, we are to separate! But not for reasons of personal standards. I honestly believe that the reason we do not see true revival is because we have put the Holy Spirit out of a job, in a manner of speaking. We have become our brother's holy spirit and by our actions have shown God that we in our wisdom can do a better job at leading an individuals life than He.
The answer? "...Desire the SINCERE milk of the word..." Get back to basics. Preach the Word for what it is and what it says. PRAY for one another. I have learned (although, I still do not consistently practice) this truth... when I disagree with my husband on a matter of personal standards, I pray. Sometimes, God changes his heart and we are spared a rift in our relationship; but most often it is my heart that is changed. At times we agree to disagree, sometimes we compromise, and sometimes we concede to the other's standard.
Could you imagine what would happen if we could all get a hold of that truth? If only preacher's would simply preach the basic doctrines of God's Word! If they would teach their people to live Holy Spirit-filled lives, instead of turning out carbon copies who look to the man for direction instead of God -- I believe that we would see revival! Hypocrisy would be a rare occurrence and the Truth would bring unity to God's Church.
Seek God with an open heart. Don't be a fool and preach preference as doctrine. Seek out the Scriptures for guidances when setting standards and rules for your home. Make sure you know why you hold to the standards you have. And never expect others to come to the same conclusion.
One last example. A man once believed that it was sin for a Christian to go into a restaurant that sold alcohol. You see, that man was once an alcoholic and still battled temptation. For him it was right and wise to have the standard of not going into any establishment that sold alcohol. But for a man who has never tasted alcohol, the temptation to drink isn't an issue.
The Holy Spirit leads each of us to set standards to protect the spiritual state of ourselves and our families. What is a temptation to some may not be a problem for others. Also, the Holy Spirit leads each soul one step at a time to a Christ-like heart. Some change quickly, others one step at a time. So to judge someone by what the Holy Spirit has shown you is foolhardy.
Let's follow the Lord's admonishment in 1 Peter 2:1-3 "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord (is) gracious."