striking the balance
An important characteristic of The Good Shepherd Ministries is our desire not to divide God’s people over non-essential issues.  This is not to say that we do not have strong convictions.  When the Bible speaks clearly, we must as well.  But on other issues, we try to recognize the Scriptural validity of both sides of a debate and avoid excluding or favoring those in one camp over the other. 
 
An example of this kind of inclusiveness is found in our approach to the debatable issue concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  We don’t take a typical Pentecostal view, nor do we take a typical non-Pentecostal view. Our desire is to be able to minister to as broad a group of people as possible.  The minute we start taking hard-line positions on any non-foundational, or sometimes controversial issues, we alienate part of the people. 
 
In essential doctrines of the faith, we must take a firm stand.  But in the non-essential areas, we accept that people may have differing views, and we accept these in the spirit of grace.  It is important to recognize that we can agree to disagree and still maintain a spirit of unity and love. 
 
We do believe in the validity of the gifts of the Spirit, and that these gifts can be expressed today.  But we don’t believe in excesses that so often accompany a freedom in the use of the gifts of the Spirit.  So we avoid the controversy. 
 
If people want to speak in tongues, we encourage them to do so in a private devotional setting to assist in communicating their love, their praises, and their prayers to God.  We look to I Corinthians 14 as our biblical example.  We don’t insist that a person speak in tongues as the primary evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We believe that there are other evidences that are more credible than speaking in tongues.  As Paul said, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”  (I Corinthians 13:1). 
 
We don’t emphasize tongues as the primary manifestation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but we look for love as the fruit of the Spirit.  We believe that we can stand on a solid Scriptural basis doing that and, at the same time, encourage people to receive the gifts of the Spirit. 
 
As Paul explained, you may use it for your personal prayer life and for your devotional life, singing unto the Lord.  “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.  What is it then?  I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also:  I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.  Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?”  (I Corinthians 14:14-16)  If you’re in a public assembly with no interpreter present and someone is speaking in tongues, how is a person sitting in the seat of the unlearned going to understand?  You might well be praising God, but the other people aren’t edified.  We need to do all things decently and in order.  In this area, we don’t fit in the Pentecostal category, nor do we fit in the cessionist category that would deny any valid experience of the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit today. 
 
Another example of maintaining a balance on debatable issues is our approach to Calvinism.  This is an area that people get very emotional about.  We’re neither ‘Five-Point Calvinists,’ nor are we Arminian.  We do believe in the security of the believer.  We don’t believe that you can lose your salvation because you lost your temper or told a lie, and as a result, need to go forward next Sunday to repent and get saved. 
 
We believe in the security of the believer but we also believe in the ‘perseverance of the saints.’ We don’t believe that because you are a saint you will necessarily persevere, but that you need to persevere because you’re a saint.  Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;” (John 8:31), and “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.  If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”  (John 15:6-7)  Jesus Himself is the One that brought up the possibility of a person not abiding in Him.  So we seek to take a balanced position rather than getting on one side and pressing the ‘Five Points of Calvinism.’ 
 
The eternal security of the believer is a debatable issue at best.  There are scriptures on both sides.  For example, you have John 3:16.  What does “Whosoever believeth in Him” mean?  Does that mean that anybody can be saved?  It appears to mean that, and so we don’t take the hard-line Calvinistic position of limited atonement that says Jesus didn’t die for everybody, only for those who would believe in Him. 
 
We do not accept that believing in Him has nothing to do with human responsibility but is totally the sovereign choice of God.  This position states that God has ordained some to be saved and some to be lost. This is a denial of the free moral agency.  Instead, we believe that God has given us the capacity of choice.  The reason He gave us a capacity of choice is so that the love we express toward Him might be meaningful and real.  That’s the balanced position that we take. 
 
Do you believe in eternal security?  We say, “yes, of course we believe in eternal security.  As long as we abide in Christ, we are eternally secure.”  If we don’t abide in Christ, are we secure?  Can you have security outside of Jesus Christ?  We don’t know of any security outside of Jesus Christ.  But we believe as long as we abide in Him, He’s going to keep us from falling; He’s going to present us  faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.  And no man can pluck us out of His hand.  We believe that, and we experience God’s security. 
 
So often these issues come down to a matter of semantics.  People end up dividing over the interpretation of a few words. The whole division is over whether we describe a person as backslidden, or whether we just say he was never saved. That’s why we don’t take a dogmatic position on this because we believe that the Scripture teaches both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man.  If you take either of these positions to an extreme, to the denying of the other, then you’ve got a real problem because the scriptures teach both.  But then you might ask, “How can we reconcile them?”  We don’t.  We don’t have to.  God didn’t ask us to.  God just asked us to believe. 
 
So, the very fact that it is an argumentative issue demonstrates that there are two sides.  If there was a clear definitive teaching, then there would be no argument.  If we didn’t have Scriptures that declare, “Come! And let him that is athirst come.  And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely,” (Revelation 22:17), then you’d have no argument.  But the fact is that there is the clear teaching of choice given to us by God.  He expects us to make that choice.  “Choose you this day whom ye will serve,”  (Joshua 24:15). “How long halt ye between two opinions?  If the LORD be God, follow him:  but if Baal, then follow Him.”  (I Kings 18:21).  But yet Jesus said to His disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.”  (John 15:16). 
 
There are two sides to this issue, and it’s important that we not get caught in a hard-line position on one side to the exclusion of the other, because then we have effectively divided our congregation. 
 
Trying to bring God within the confines of our intellect is a real lesson in frustration.  Try to understand eternity!  Try to understand infinity!  Try to understand the limitlessness of space!  Try to imagine where the edge of space is.  How far do you have to go out before you see the sign that says, “Dead end.  No exit.  Nothing beyond this point?”  We need to recognize that God is greater than what can be confined or understood in our mind.  He said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8,9).  Now if God says that His ways are beyond our finding out, then it’s an exercise in futility to try to find out.  It’s beyond our finding out. 
 
We need to accept the limitlessness of God.  When we come to the crisis point that our intellect starts to hit a dead end, we should simply stand and worship the God who is so awesome that we can’t reduce Him to our understanding! 
 
As we begin to minister, as we go through the Word, we will come across those Scriptures that speak of the sovereignty of God.  When we do, we will teach it.  When we come across those Scriptures that teach the responsibility of man, then we will teach that.  In this way, we can be sure that our people are getting a well-balanced spiritual diet. 
 
We seek the unity of the Spirit in a bond of peace and love and believe that God has called us to a unique ministry that fulfills His special purpose in this generation.  May God bless you as you seek to draw near to Him in love.