Saturday, September 19, 2009

Doctrine in an Old Overcoat

This month's Tabletalk magazine has a great devotion by John P. Sartelle, John is the senior minister of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky.

He talks about the explosive effect of good doctrine and the powerful results of coupling sound doctrine with life, as Sartelle puts it: "The characteristics of that life do not produce the doctrine; rather, the doctrine is the source of that lifestyle." He is referring to the verse in Titus 2:1, where Paul counselled Titus to teach the members of the church of Crete a way of life that "fits" or "goes with" sound doctrine. Paul chooses an ordinary group of people and their everyday interactions with one another to demonstrate how God's doctrine penetrates all parts of life. Sartelle goes on to describe some of the characteristics; "dignified; self controlled; sound in love; steadfast; reverent; not slanderers. 'Paul concludes by saying that lives lived in such a way are ornaments to the doctrine of God." I love the way that Sartelle puts that, we are ornaments on the doctrine of God, in other words, the way that we live our lives should coincide with what we preach or speak, if there is any incongruity, our testimony is at best weak and frail.

He goes on to say, "God decorates His doctrine with our lives, which are changed and improved by His teaching "so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior" We must integrate Biblical doctrine into every nook and cranny of our lives, especially in the day of McChurches and McSermons. If there isn't a vivid proof that what we believe matches how we live people will just continue to walk in and out of our churches and lives, thinking that this God that we serve is malnourished and weak, without any power whatsoever to change their lives; or as Sartelle puts it; "Some vehemently argue on behalf of the great doctrines taught by Augustine, Luther, Calvin, but they do not demonstrate the living reality of these tenets in their relationships with the world around them." Even if we can articulate these doctrines well, if our lives are out of sync with what we espouse from the pulpit we are self righteous hypocrites at best.

Again Sartelle puts it so well; "Trust in the sovereignty of God should form a strong humility in the life of the believer. Assurance of the grace of God should produce constant gratitude and an incredible desire to forgive those who have sinned against us." He then goes on to ask the question, "Why should we expect anyone to believe a theology we teach with our lips but contradict with our lives?" Ouch! I know that I have a great tendency to sway towards the moral, self righteous judge. Especially when I see someone who is struggling with the very same thing that I may have only entertained in thought, in an attempt to push the spotlight away from exposing my sinful heart.

Sartelle quotes his mentor, Dr. R.T.L. Liston; "Son, don't wear this theology like a badge..These doctrines are best worn like an old overcoat." what a great picture of how doctrine should fit onto and into our lives, we have to learn, fail, pray, repent and accept correction. Let's be ornaments that adorn the wonderful and life altering doctrine that we proclaim.

If you want a resource that will help you grow in understanding Biblical doctrine and your relationship with the Lord check out Tabletalk over at

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