March 15, 2019

Faith in a dogmatic Savior

Dogmatic, black and white, firm conviction, no matter what anyone calls it, being certain something is true or false is usually not the most popular character trait. However, those who are firm in their stand for truth yet are able to present their thoughts in love are often said to be ‘refreshing’ — a rare commodity. I am drawn to people like that because they make it known where they stand on many levels, and I never have to guess or suspect them of deviousness.

The dictionary gives these synonyms: opinionated, peremptory, assertive, imperative, insistent, emphatic, adamant, doctrinaire, authoritarian, authoritative, domineering, imperious, high-handed, pontifical, arrogant, overbearing, dictatorial, uncompromising, unyielding, unbending, inflexible, rigid, entrenched, unquestionable, unchallengeable; intolerant, narrow-minded, small-minded, showing the varying reactions to dogmatic people. If I pull out the negatives, that leaves only a few that describe the good side of being dogmatic, such as uncompromising, unquestionable, and unchallengeable. These three describe Jesus, my favorite dogmatic person.

He spoke with authority on many subjects, including the truth about His own identity. “I AM the bread of life, the light of the world, the door, the good shepherd.” Here are three more statements that many critics would call dogmatic, only because they don’t agree with Him or believe what He claims. The first one is about Him being eternal life for all who believe:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, (John 11:25)

This is a strong promise. It blesses those whose lives are threatened or who have lost loved ones. If faith is part of their lives, then this is assurance of life beyond death, a great comfort. It also puts this life in perspective. Our time here is a small dot compared to eternity, and Jesus promises to give me eternity.

Jesus also speaks of Himself as the way to God and the reasons why that is so:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

I get to God the Father by trusting Jesus. I know truth by listening to Jesus. I have eternal life by putting my faith in Jesus. Dogmatic? Sure, but He said it first. Without knowing His statement is true, I would be left wandering in the wilderness of my sin and maybe not even realizing how lost I am without Him.
Once I believed, trusting Jesus is still the priority. It is not a life of dogmatic rules and ‘thou shalt not’s but a life of abiding in Christ. He uses a figure of speech to describe what this is like:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:1–4)

Living a fruitful life is about staying close to Jesus, trusting Him in every way and for every situation, even in those circumstances He uses to prune me. This means cutting sin out of my life, an often painful process and yet releasing me into greater ability to be more like Him. The fruit He talks about are attitudes and actions, starting with these:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22–25)

Abiding is walking in His will, doing what He says, putting away my sinful selfishness and letting the Spirit have His way in my heart. This is not living by rules but by the inner prompting of God, a nudge that lines up with the external voice I hear when I read His Word.

Jesus, this is an exciting way to live. Thank You for being uncompromising, unquestionable, and unchallengeable yet at the same time loving me so much that You do not walk all over me. You are also patient, kind, good, gentle, full of love, joy and peace, and faithful in caring for me. When I grow up, I want to be just like You.

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