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Don’t be a Jerk (Digging into Dort: Conclusion, Part 2)

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“Pogo” is a famous cartoon that made the often repeated statement, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.” The Conclusion of the Canons of Dort reminds us that a potential obstacle for people believing the truths taught in the Canons might be those who believe them: people might reject the message itself or they might reject the message because of the messengers!

Warning: You May Be the Problem

In the Conclusion, Dort focuses on the conduct of those who adopt the views found in the document. Finally, this Synod urges all fellow ministers in the gospel of Christ to deal with this teaching in a godly and reverent manner, in the academic institutions as well as in the churches; to do so, both in their speaking and writing, with a view to the glory of God’s name, holiness of life, and the comfort of anxious souls; to think and also speak with Scripture according to the analogy of faith; and, finally, to refrain from all those ways of speaking which go beyond the bounds set for us by the genuine sense of the Holy Scriptures and which could give impertinent sophists a just occasion to scoff at the teaching of the Reformed churches or even to bring false accusations against it.”

While affirming every truth in the Canons of Dort, the writers note here that we need to teach with wisdom and care; it is not about being right, but about being helpful and useful. I have seen people who want to argue and tell everyone about Dort, but that may not be the  best strategy to promote its message. The truths can comfort and help people live lives of holiness for God’s glory, and whenever it is taught, teachers should examine their motives — are they trying to show off, impress others, refute others, or help others?

To be honest, when I was first exposed to the truths found in the Canons of Dort (but had not read it yet), I had trouble with both the message and the messengers. The message can be tough to understand, and it is humbling to believe that God is the one at work saving us rather than ourselves. Yet, it seemed like the people who were telling me about these truths were neither humble nor compassionate. They always  wanted to talk about these truths rather than other problems of the world. Writers and pastors seemed to turn to these truths at every opportunity, and the teachings always remained academic rather than pastoral.

I think the better strategy is not to be ashamed of these truths, teaching them as they naturally arise in Scripture, but also seeking to teach and use them in ways that can confront and transform people (hopefully this has been true throughout the blog series).

Warning: You May Hurt Others

The words preceding this exhortation to ministers and teachers should also humble us. It is actually directed to those who were spreading false accusations about the teaching of the Canons. “Moreover, the Synod earnestly warns the false accusers themselves to consider how heavy a judgment of God awaits those who give false testimony against so many churches and their confessions, trouble the consciences of the weak, and seek to prejudice the minds of many against the fellowship of true believers.” These words are reminders that what we say about others may hurt their consciences and their ability to have fellowship with others. These things certainly can be true in our message, so we should make sure we give the right message (and also correctly represent our opponents), not only in our words, but also in our actions. When we fight with others or seem to find greater joy in fighting than in having fellowship with others, we can hurt others and prevent them from coming to the truth.

Bottom Line: Tell the Truth and Live the Truth

Overall, this conclusion to the Canons of Dort is a reminder to make sure we know the truth and share it with others. The manner and occasions in which we speak about these truths and those who oppose us is also important. We have a message of grace and truth — may those things be reflected in how, when, and about whom we speak.

When we face rejection, it should be because of the content of our beliefs, not our conduct. As I have said before, if you are facing opposition or persecution,  you need to ask yourself, “Am I being persecuted for being a Christian or for being a jerk?” While the Canons of Dort don’t put it this way, they do remind Christians not to be jerks about what we believe! But, as we have discovered in the Canons, we need the help of God – and the Canons thus end with a reminder that, by God’s grace, we can avoid being jerks!

A Blessing and a Reminder

The final words of the Conclusion are actually a blessing from God upon us. “May God’s Son Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God and gives gifts to humanity, sanctify us in the truth, lead to the truth those who err, silence the mouths of those who lay false accusations against sound teaching, and equip faithful ministers of God’s Word with a spirit of wisdom and discretion, that all they say may be to the glory of God and the building up of their hearers. Amen.” This blessing points us back to Jesus, assuring us that He will defend himself when needed and that He will give us the wisdom and discretion to know when to speak and when not to speak.

May we not draw attention to ourselves or even to the content and details of the truths, but rather to Jesus himself and the work He does in the gospel.

Questions about the Bible or theology? Email them to Pastor Brian at Theology@wearefaith.org. You can also request to receive weekly emails with our blog posts by filling out the information on the right side.

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Though Jesus walked the earth 2,000 years ago, He still knows about the problems you face today. Not only does Jesus know what plagues us as a culture, He gets us. Jesus can relate. He was tempted, too. He was disrespected, too. He was doubted, too. He mourned, too. He suffered, too.

Faith Church is joining other churches in the Chicagoland area for the series, He Gets Us. We’ll explore that Jesus knows about our insecurity, exhaustion, anxiety, guilt, loneliness and grief. Join us for this new series as we find assurance in knowing we aren’t alone in this world. We have a Savior who gets us and cares about what we are feeling.

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