Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Good or God?


That is the question John Bevere asks in his 2015 publication published by Messenger International, the publication arm of Bevere ministries. Why is good without God not good enough? Bevere seeks to understand and clarify this question.

Bevere is a new writer-speaker to me so I received this new publication rather cautiously, although it came with high praise after my son heard him speak in Minneapolis, I assume at Substance, a megachurch ministry led by Peter Haas. Having repeatedly encountered this possibility through contacts with numerous social justice groups, I was captivated with the concept that good is not good enough without God. It is a question that deserves consideration in lieu of so much social conflict round about us, with so many taking up social justice causes, there being so much civil unrest, racial tension, political stress, ad infinitum.

The author began with a clear attempt at discerning both good and evil. I found his scriptural reference in Hebrews 5:11-12, 14 (NLT) full of suggestive thought: ”But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” That made sense to me and seemed pretty orthodox.

It wasn’t until chapter four that he suddenly challenged me by making a distinction in the ministry of Jesus, emphasizing a difference between the Lordship and Jesus the Savior (48-49). Here, as elsewhere, he made good use of the marriage relationship to clarify the walk of the Christian with Jesus as Savior and Lord. He clarified this way (49): “I have sometimes referred to Lisa as my ‘little gourmet chef.’ I may have called her this a dozen or so times through our marriage, but more properly, in the past thirty years I’ve referred to her thousands of times as my wife. Why? Because that declares the position she holds in my life. The other title conveys a benefit I’ve received from her being my wife.”

Continuing: “Just because Lisa cooks for me doesn’t mean I belong to her. When I was single … she made me an amazing meal. That didn’t give us a lasting relationship. It was the covenant I made to forsake all other girls and give my heart solely to her as husband that solidified our marriage relationship.” Forgiveness of sin via Jesus the Savior is not quite the same thing as submitting to His lordship, ownership and rule in our lives.  

I thought of the professed Christians I have known who accepted the forgiveness of sins while utterly rejecting the notion that he influence our lives in daily and public behavior. Accepting one without the other is like my marrying my wife but reserving the right to spend one day, or other specified time, having  a fling with other women, or with a specific other person – a marriage relationship that does not build!

Chapter nine deals with a word with which I grew up in my Faith tradition – “holiness.” I was also familiar with his reference (Hebrews 12:14) but the translation was very contemporary (NLT): “Work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.” Coming from a tradition nurtured by the Holiness Movement, I found Bevere’s writing very different in language, but very authentic, clear, biblical and life applicable. He described a religious experience, with which I was very familiar, but it came in language that was very contemporary and non-traditional, yet I could not possibly misunderstand or disagree with it.

I was forthrightly surprised at the author’s candidness in writing. There is a common criticism abroad that suggests pastors/churches dilute their message in order to acquire their large listening audience. On page 153 Bevere described a devotional moment he experienced when finding himself directed to read from Revelation 3:2, which offers this frank declaration: “Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God” (NLT). I confess to being more than a little surprised at his frankness in writing; I had to admit he was simply telling it like it is, without gloss or spin. Yes, I liked that quality in his writing.
Bevere speaks to our contemporary society, a culture that has a huge religious tilt, but remains a culture steeped in myopic narcissism, anti-authoritarianism, and the lawlessness of libertarian politics. Would I recommend your reading it? NOT if you want to stay the same as you were when you started reading; John Maxwell does recommend the book, and I know many of my peers revere him.

Most of all: give some serious consideration to the concept that just maybe good without God is NOT GOOD ENOUGH. This is Warner’s World and I am

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