Saturday, February 25, 2017

On Cheese and Purity

It sure seems we have to spend a lot of time pointing out false teaching and practice. While “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), the “nothing new” can sometimes seem to be our focus. I worry about this as I consider what unbelievers are hearing from us in the public forum.

We have to say a lot about the wrong masquerading as truth.

It isn’t because of a problem with biblical Christianity – orthodoxy and orthopraxy. This is the nature of that which is pure. It must be protected from contamination.

A prominent cheese-maker a few weeks ago was facing a recall because of possible bacterial contamination of its cheese. Cheese production occurs by the purposeful and carefully-controlled use of bacteria. Good cheese is always in danger of contamination. Precautions must be taken to protect it. Its susceptibility to corruption is very real, and the results of contagions could mean sickness or death at the worst, but the production of inferior product at the best.

Our family loves watching shows about cheese. Yes, cheese. We were recently watching a program on goat cheese production in Estancia, New Mexico. Guests were invited to interact and even bottle-feed baby goats, taste the cheeses, and have an interesting experience, but there was a door through which guests couldn’t go – into the cheese-making room. Contamination was too great a threat.

The same is true for biblical doctrine. Every day dozens of heresies are thrown out into the square of mass discourse, sometimes through the careless words of well-intentioned believers, sometimes through best-selling “Christian” books or music or teachers. We must be diligent to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3), for it is the Church’s primary responsibility to be “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

Those things which are purest are in constant danger in a world of constantly creeping impurity, and must be ever inspected and protected.

“On the twenty-fourth of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Haggai the prophet, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Ask now the priests for a ruling: If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?”’ And the priests answered, ‘No.’ Then Haggai said, ‘If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?’ And the priests answered, ‘It will become unclean’” (Haggai 2:10-13).

In this illustration from the old covenant Law, we are reminded that when the unclean comes in contact with the holy, the holy becomes unclean.

Not only do we need to be mindful of this, but it needs to be a point in our conversation with unbelievers. Several times a year I interact with unbelievers privately, and for some who genuinely want to understand Christianity, there is often confusion because of the great mass of voices offering contaminated cheese wrapped in a label of genuine product. We must share this principle with them: things which are pure must be protected against the constant threat of degradation. It’s to be expected that there are many twisted or watered-down versions of the truth out there.

At the same time, we, as believers, cannot allow all of our public speech to be condemnation of impure doctrine. For every false word, we must say a dozen true words. If we truly believe that God the Holy Spirit works through the Word He has inspired, we should be about unleashing it as often as possible, and in every possible medium. I’ve watched this in political speech on the internet, the radio, and television – people are so busy mocking and trashing their political opponents that there is hardly any positive teaching of why their political viewpoint is right. Demonization alone only convinces that all are demons. Proclaim Scripture, beloved. Know and broadcast truth. Yes, “contend” to keep it pure, but don’t let your message be solely about bad bacteria. Let’s say a lot more about pure, well-made, and satisfying cheese than the impure, shoddy, and cheap stuff. As a family we enjoy regularly trying different varieties, strengths, and flavorings of cheese, but always expect that what we buy and sample is pure. Scripture may speak in a wide variety of styles and voices, but, from cover to cover, it gives us a single message inspired by a single Author, and it is good.

Feed them the good stuff.

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