Top 10 Truths

Late night comedian, David Lettermen, has made a living off the popularity of Top Ten lists. I offer the following "Top Ten Experiential Truths That Shape My Teaching" in order to highlight a few things I find essential to faithfully following Christ. (By the way, the doctrinal content I find essential is summarized in the Ecumenical Creeds of the Church.)

10. Salvation is a process, and not merely a decision. We are "saved" (Eph. 2:8), "being saved" (1 Cor. 1:18) and "will be saved" (Matt. 24:13; 1 Cor. 3:15). To focus on only the past-tense aspect of salvation is to mistake the door for the mansion, the gate for the way. In reality, salvation actually involves innumerable decisions, made daily. We must not make the mistake of assuming that justification is all there is to salvation!

9. The Christian life is a lengthy pilgrimage. We are aliens and strangers in this world, citizens of another Kingdom. As aliens, we should long for our heavenly home. Until we arrive, we should not get too comfortable here.

8. Perseverance is necessary to reach our goal. Ignoring this leads to presumption, apathy, and laziness. God has promised to always be faithful to us, but that is no guarantee that we will always be faithful to him. The Scripture clearly teaches that "if we deny him, he also will deny us" (2 Tim. 2:12). "Falling away" is a clear possibility for every Christian and not merely a hypothetical oddity in Scripture. Sadly, because this truth is ignored, many Christians see no need to "take heed, lest [they] fall" or to "work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling." Perseverance is necessary, therefore, to keep from falling away. We must never allow our theological systems to blind us to the urgent warnings of Scripture.

7. The work of the Spirit is primarily to comfort us that we are children of God–not primarily to condemn us. The chief work of the Spirit is to arouse our hearts to cry, "Abba Father." God disciplines us as sons, love us as sons, directs us as sons, provides for and protects us as sons. The work of the Spirit is to allow us to know and enjoy this relationship. Our greatest identity is found in the phrase "Teknon Theou"–child of God!

6. Sanctification is the process of becoming authentically human, not odd or weird. We must never forget that original goodness preceded original sin. In redemption, Christ restores and perfects all that Adam ruined in the Fall. In other words, Christ’s work returns things to the former state of original goodness (and then some). Thus, in salvation, Christ transforms us into his likeness–the likeness of the perfect Man. To be fully human is our goal.

5. Suffering is not evidence that God is far off or angry with you, nor is suffering evidence that your faith is too small. God’s people have always suffered. Indeed, God’s most beloved saints are often the ones who suffer most–Job, Jeremiah, Paul, and Jesus. The way of the cross is the way of death, suffering, betrayal, rejection, and loss. It is hardly a "road of prosperity"–unless you consider your greatest prosperity to be your possession of God.

4. God is primarily known in the ordinary, not primarily in the ecstatic or miraculous. Most of our lives consist of normal, routine, daily duties. We must find God here, or we won’t find him at all. The ecstatic moments, the purpose-filled moments, the climactic moments, the miraculous moments of our lives are few and far-between. It is the common circumstances of our lives that provide the greatest opportunity to know and enjoy God. If we miss God in the ordinary, God will be absent from most of our lives, since most of life is ordinary.

3. The goal of Bible study is personal knowledge of God, not greater knowledge of the Bible. The Scripture teaches that "knowledge puffs up, but love edifies others." We don’t read the Scriptures in order to have "the answers," we read Scripture in order to know God–with or without "the answers." Reading Scripture is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. We must never forget that the Devil knows the Bible very well–and it does him no good whatsoever!

2. Mystery pervades all and is to be embraced, not explained away. Every significant doctrine of Christianity is shrouded in mystery. Pastors are called to "be servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1). We do this by proclaiming the mysteries and by preserving the mysteries. Many parishioners want pastors to have all the answers to every question–to explain things to the point that all mystery is removed. But to do this would be to eliminate the vast mystery that surrounds the Christian faith. This reductionism would result, not in a better understanding of Christianity, but in the very loss of the Christian faith. Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be experienced. God is not doctrinal statement to understand, but the Mystery of mysteries who has called us to participate in his fullness.

1. Love is the goal of all things–not being "right." According to Jesus, the message of love to God and others is the summary of the Old Testament. According to Paul, one can do many great things, but without love, they amount to nothing in the end. Because of this, I believe it is better to love than to be "right". Your view of God impacts how you treat others. Does God demand that you be right–crossing every "t" and dotting every "i" correctly–before he will bless you? Or does God call us to trust and love him, even when we haven’t got things all figured out? And what do you demand of others before you will love them?

© Richard J. Vincent, May 13, 2002

7 Responses to “Top 10 Truths”

  1. Chet says:

    Salvation is a process, and not merely a decision. I do certainly agree. I am a “former” crusade evangelist having moved from preaching and giving altar calls to an equipping evangelist, one who equips the saints to use their spiritual and ministerial gifts do the work, labor, and consequently lead others in the process of “evangelization.” I am interested to know if you are familiar with and therefore have a word or two to say about the “Alpha Course.” I am currently an associate pastor and I direct the ministry of Alpha USA for the Bay Area (actually the region of northern california. If you are UNfamiliar with Alpha you may be interested in briefly visiting http://www.alphacourse.org or http://www.alphausa.org. Hoping to hear from you, Chet Pastor Chet Gallagher Alpha USA Bay Area chetgallagher@alphausa.org

  2. I certainly appreciated your belief motif of the Trinity bounding and infusing your statements. I have been in ministry for over 30 years mostly in amissions/parachurch context and only recently seem to have been “led” to rediscover the Trinity and rework what I believe around this centering revelation. I will pass on your website to others in Youth With A Mission (YWAM) for perusal. Blessings,Paul Martinson

  3. rick says:

    Rich, Great point with regard to #3, Jesus said “…Search the scriptures, for they are they which testify of Me…” which supports your statement. He also frequently taunted the “Bible scholars” (Pharisees, et. al.) of His time with “Have you not read?” These guys, knowing their “Bible”, failed to recognize and even boldly rejected the Son of God!

  4. Naomi Johnson says:

    Richard – I’ve been visiting your site and works for a few years now. Always appreciate what I discover, and your ‘top Ten’ list is no exception. Thanks for labouring to share your gifts with the greater Body, at large. Muchly appreciated. NJ in Toronto, Canada Rich: Thanks so much for your kind and encouraging comments! I am grateful whenever I hear that the site is an encouragement to others. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment – and, please, continue to visit! God bless!

  5. T. Monaghan says:

    I just want to give you some personal feedback. Lately I’ve been going through one of the toughest times of my life. I lost my job (I sustained a concussion and started to have series of migraines so they retired me early on disability). Then, I right after I lost my job I started to have one health problem after another: a few weeks ago I was in the hospital with pneumonia, then I got sinusitis, I’ve had a mild case of asthma for years – lately it’s flared up so I have to check my lungs each day (with a peak flow meter) and use a home nebulizer if needed. I could go one and on (I’ve had attacks of cluster headaches). Sometimes I don’t want to go to church because of some of the “comfort” of my brothers and sisters in Christ that makes me feel very insecure in my relationship with my Savior (I’m now call it the Job comforter syndrome) if you’d just pray … Jesus said according to your faith therefore … whatever they say I walk away felling all this stuff that is happening to me is somehow my fault! (or that I’ve somehow let the devil sneak in when I wasn’t looking!) I’m saying all this to say how much I’ve appreciated your web cite and down load MP3s sermons. I used to make a 6 figure income in Washington DC but now my wife and my two sons (one in the University of Maryland) are just making it (we have a very generous Father (in heaven) but He doesn’t spoil us). This week I’ve been going over and over you’re MP3 on Eph 1:1-14. I’ve gone over and over it and studied the chapter in what commentaries I could find. My health, my finances, my job (or lack thereof) does not define me – the eternal glory of being “in Christ” defines me. The glory of that has put a big grin on my face this week at the oddest times. The book of psalms (the best psychology book ever written!); some other reading spots I have going in the Scriptures; some other books I’m reading (although my wife has officially banned me from buying any more books until finances pick up); and your wonderful articles and MP3 downloads have literally kept me sane and focused these past few months. Thank You Rich Vincent – The Lord Bless Bless Bless (3X Hebrew emphasis) you, your family, and your ministry. Tim Monaghan Rich: Sorry to hear about your recent trials, but I am very grateful to hear that you are persevering through them. I am also very grateful that my messages have been encouraging to you. Thanks for taking the time to share your words of encouragement and testimony of endurance. God bless you as you continue to press forward!

  6. Dear Rich Vincent: Your teaching sounds very Christian and Christ-centric. I believe you are right to experience and say that our salvation is a life-long process of pilgrimage. You are, I think, on the right way to become..a Catholic, like many before you, in the true sense of the word. I do not mean to offend you or any of my brothers and sisters who are good Christian Protestants. God bless you. George Farahat, Toronto Dec. 2008 Rich: Thanks for your kind words and blessing. No offense taken. I greatly value and treasure the Catholic tradition and have been greatly enriched by it. God bless!

  7. Jim says:

    I too live in West Bend. I was poking around on the internet wondering if there’s anyone in the area who might have similar beliefs, concerns, interests, and itches as Do I. Found your website, saw that we have similar taste in books. Enough about you, let’s talk about ME… 1.) I’m obsessed with greater truths and Christian spirituality. 2.) Most of the time, I’m a believer, but sometimes I feel like sinking into agnosticism. I find myself praying, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” 3.) Similar to the little boy in The Sixth Sense, I see Pharisees. They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re Pharisees. 4.) I believe the earth is billions of years old. 5.) I believe that with the right mindset, faith and science are completely compatible; we just have to know when to say, “we don’t know, but isn’t it fascinating?” 6.) Science does as much to bolster my belief in the supernatural as does the Bible; sometimes more! 7.) I think the Big Band and evolution are comparable to God “Breaking” trillion & trillions particles like billiard balls with such divine “English” as to deliberately create higher conscience beings with whom He could commune. All the while, preserving free-will by covering His tracks. 8.) I believe that the unexamined life is not worth living. 9.) I don’t think we should treat God as the ultimate rabbit’s foot, or magic wand. 10.) I don’t think we should lie and say we love God, if our beliefs about Him depict a cruel tyrant, and not a all-giving, forgiving, Lover. Let’s get real; either we’re placating a big bully, or we’re loving on Abba Father. So, think we should get together for coffee some time? Jim

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