Last Fathers day my wife got me a copy of Garden and Gun. It’s a magazine about all things Southern. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading it and have learned a lot. Turns out I didn’t even know some of the basics of Southern culture. I didn’t even know the states that actually make up the South.
I always thought of the South as the Southeast and I guess I subconsciously removed Florida from the equation altogether. I never realized that the south extends all the way from Maryland to Texas.
Actually, Maryland has caused some debate in the magazine recently. A reader wrote in saying they were disappointed the magazine included Maryland as a Southern state. The next month, someone from Maryland wrote in arguing that they are indeed Southern as their northern border is the Mason-Dixon line and therefore they live below it.
Maybe the first reader simply didn’t think Maryland folk were Southern “enough.” After all, if you live in deep Alabama your traditions and lifestyle are likely much different than someone from Maryland. But I would say the second reader is correct, if you’re below the Mason-Dixion line you’re Southern even if we disagree on exactly what Southerners do.
In the church, a similar back-and-forth goes on. Sometimes we’re surprised at who is Christian because their traditions and lifestyle look differently from ours. We want to argue that they’re not Christian enough, but so long as they’re in certain borders they are.
There are two kinds of issues in the church: open-handed and closed-handed.
There are simply some things scripture has left open to personal conviction. We read the Bible, pray for the Holy Spirit and then decide what we think is best. What we think is best may look different from what a fellow believer thinks is best. Just like your friends from Texas don’t like your South Carolina BBQ, we will come to some Christian subjects and disagree. This is actually a good thing. These differences are what enable us to truly love one another.
Many seek a church where the majority holds their exact convictions on open-handed issues thinking that it would be a place of love. It may be a place of comfort but not one of love. Well, it’s not a place of godly love.
Remember a few key things Jesus said about love. Jesus taught that we’re no different than non-Christians if we only love those who think exactly like us. Jesus said to love your enemies so certainly this would extend to people with which we hold disagreements. He also said that our love is what will confirm to outsiders that we are his.
In other words, if we’re not in disagreement on some things within our churches, we never get a chance to show Christ-like love as a testimony to the world. Therefore, we should embrace open-handed issues and give people space to come to their own convictions.
There are some things that are concrete for the church. Like the Mason Dixion line, some things are a definite border. A standard. A marker that can’t be moved. These things are closed-handed issues. We never let them go.
This means we still love those who don't believe them but rather than agreeing to disagree, we disagree and lovingly call them to accept these truths.
These are issues of doctrine. Finer points may vary among believers to a degree, particularly on what is emphasized or how something is worded, but the major points all remain the same.
At Griggs, we know this border of closed-handed issues to be made up of 9 different items. Here they are along with a brief explanation of each.
The Holy Scriptures
The Holy Scriptures are the old and new testaments. They alone are the inspired word of God.
There is one triune God eternally existing. He is manifested in three personal distinctions - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
He is the eternal Son of God. He is fully God and fully man. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. He revealed God and redeems sinful man. He accomplished our redemption through His death on the cross as a substitutionary sacrifice. Our justification is made possible by his resurrection from the dead.
He ascended to heaven, sitting at the right hand of God the Father, where he serves us as savior, king, and friend.
The Holy Spirit
He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment; He regenerates us, indwells us, and seals us until the day of redemption. He gives us spiritual gifts so that we can serve the church and reach the world.
Man was created by God in the image of God, but because of the sin of Adam and Eve (after being tempted by Satan) the entire human race is fallen, sinful by nature and separated from God, unable to reconcile with God by human effort.
Salvation is the gift of God. It is given to mankind by love and grace. It’s received by repentance and faith in Jesus, whose blood was shed on the cross for our forgiveness and whose resurrection secured the defeat of Satan, sin, and death.
The Church is the body of Christ. It’s universal, consisting of all followers of Jesus of every time and place. It’s also local, consisting of believers in a certain geography.
The local church takes the Lord's Supper and baptizes the saved to symbolize their new life in Christ. As the people of God they serve others using their spiritual gifts, follow the leadership of qualified pastors and deacons and lovingly fellowship around the gospel.
All people will stand before Jesus to be judged. Those who accepted Jesus in life will be given eternal life in the new heaven and new earth and those who rejected him will suffer what is known as the second death in the lake of fire.
The Second Coming
Jesus will personally return to earth one day to rule and reign. His return is imminent. At his return he will establish his kingdom physically, lovingly dwelling with his people for all eternity, wiping away all tears from their eyes.
These 9 issues are presented to us in the scripture as issues of utmost importance. They are presented in the Bible as clear, definite truths on which we must rely. They are the very beliefs that make us Christian. They make us the church.
And, as you know, the church has a mission. Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against us.
If we’re going to follow Jesus and storm the gates of hell we’re going to have to stick together. To charge the gates of hell we all have to be unified. The only thing that is strong enough to glue us together in the midst of all our differences is our doctrine.
No matter what theory a blogger comes up with, no matter how loudly culture yells at us, no matter what names we’re called in a book somewhere, we embrace closed-handed issues. They are truth and the basis for our unity.
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