Part Two: THERE ARE ALWAYS TWO
Joshua Harris is right about a few things. His assessment of formulaic religion is accurate. His critique of dead, rules-based Christianity is spot on. He nailed it when he condemned speaking one thing with the mouth and living another thing with the life. So, it may sound strange for me to say that, while Josh is terrifically right, he’s also terribly wrong.
So, how could someone so right be so wrong?
Because that someone is missing the fact that there are “always two.”
The Bible is full of the idea of twos. As I always say to my students at Ellerslie (and you can quote me if you wish):
There are always two.
Even the Bible itself is broken into two parts. But right from the beginning God always distinguished between a first and a second. Cain — Abel. Ishmael — Isaac. Esau — Jacob. Saul — David. Adam — Jesus. Goats — Sheep. Tares — Wheat. Virgins with — Virgins without. And as Paul says throughout the New Testament: Flesh — Spirit. And it’s not to be overlooked — God always chooses the second. The first one can’t please God. It’s only the man who is born again (i.e. a second time) that can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
There is a counterfeit and there is a real. And God tells us this. He warns us of “the first” and says that to find eternal life, you must forsake the first and embrace the Second. (Hint: His Name is Jesus. See 1 Corinthians 15:47).
But this idea of two is not just replete in Scripture, it is also replete in life.
For instance there are two ways to live life:
1. You can live from the power of self-effort.
2. You can live from the power of God’s working in you (i.e. grace).
There are two ways to love:
1. You can love from the reservoir of your own feelings and longings.
2. You can love via the Holy Spirit loving in and through you.
There are two ways to pursue purity:
1. You can attempt to be pure through your own self-effort with a “touch not, taste not, handle not” list of rules.
2. You can be pure by giving your life over to the Living God and letting Him live His pure Life in and through you.
If you pursue the right things, but you pursue them the wrong way, the end result is still wrong (though you were right in your pursuit).
Joshua Harris either never learned the truth of twos, or he is choosing to forget it. But when you look at the Church today you will find two. There are those who are goats and there are those who are sheep. There are those that are tares and there are those that are wheat. There are virgins without oil in their lamps, and virgins with oil in their lamps.
Maybe Joshua Harris has had an up-close and personal view of goat Christianity. But that doesn’t mean that sheep Christianity isn’t real.
It’s possible that Joshua Harris has only known tare Christianity. But it’s important that we don’t lose sight of good old-fashioned wheat Christianity. Because it’s out there.
And yes, maybe he never had oil in his lamp. But just because he never knew what it was like to have the oil of God slosh about inside his lamp, it’s nonetheless a very real thing for millions of Christians alive on earth right now.
There are always two (and remember, you can quote me if you like).
There are those who do wonders in the Name of Christ but never are known by Him, and those who do wonders in the Name of Christ and ARE known by Him. (See Matthew 7:21-23).
Okay, back to the subject at hand . . .
It’s always been a topic of twos. There are two distinct methods for finding it, for gaining it, and for proclaiming it.
The first way is the goat, tare, empty-lamp way. This way depends entirely on human willpower and discipline in order to pull it off. It supplies rules, laws, prohibitions, and burdensome commands. It seeks to build formulas, to name and categorize everything, and to create intense governmental structures in order to ensure exactitude to the prescribed dictates. It promises that which it can’t deliver. It says, “If you can live perfectly, then you will have Heaven on earth.” But there is no man that can live perfectly. So this method eventually proves hollow to all who follow its brightly lit path.
The goat, tare, empty-lamp way stinks! Christian history has referred to those who espoused this way as Judaizers. (See Acts 15:5). It is my educated guess that this is the path that Joshua Harris went down. And it’s also likely that this is the path he proclaimed and beckoned others to follow him down. As a result, I have a deep heartfelt sorrow for him, and for those who were led down that path because of him.
But as sad as that is, this is a topic of twos. And what seems to have been overlooked in this Joshua Harris debacle is that the presence of a tare, a goat, or an empty lamp doesn’t exclude the presence of wheat, sheep, and lamps filled to the brim with the abundant Life of Jesus Christ.
The second way for pursuing sexual purity is glorious and all-together beautiful. It brings life to its hearers. It inspires them to pursue God with all their heart — to set their lives in His almighty hands and surrender to His control, His leadership, His power. It says, “You can’t possibly live out this life the way God wants you to, but if you give your life to Him and allow Him to live in and through you, you will find the impossible made possible.” It gives awesome hope, but it’s not a hope based upon human effort; it’s a hope based solely on God’s promises. It supplies clear direction — not the direction of rules, but the direction of Truth and the beautiful care and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
This second way is so miraculous and powerful that words fail to describe it. I can’t speak for Josh Harris and describe for you what has taken place in his heart and mind over the past twenty-five years, but I can tell you what has taken place inside my own.
I have found abundant life. It’s not life without difficulty. It’s not a primrose path. It’s the way of exquisite suffering, tremendous trial, unceasing resistance, and yet boundless hope, baffling intimacy, and the winsome wonder of walking daily in the cool of the day with the King of all kings.
There are always two.
Now, right before your eyes this maxim has once again been proven true.
There is Joshua Harris’s take on the purity movement and there is Eric Ludy’s take.
One of these guys is kissing his marriage and his Christianity goodbye, while the other has barrels of heavenly oil sloshing about inside him, a buoyant laughter always leaping in his soul, and a deeper love for his wife than should be legal this side of Heaven. (Not because of my own merit, but simply because of Christ in me, the hope of glory. See Colossians 1:27.)
There are always two. If you are hanging in the balance wondering which way to go, I’d love to give you a nudge.
My next installment is called The Apology Tour. It is sure to get you stirred up to hop on a bus and head out on a tour de force all your own.
Other blogs in this series:
August 9 – Blog #1 – What’s a Father to Do? (A Christian father’s response to Joshua Harris’ recent renouncements of purity, his marriage, and his Christian faith)
August 12 – Blog #2 – There are Always Two (How to choose the real and lasting version of purity)
August 13 – Blog #3 –The Apology Tour (How to live unashamed of God’s Truth in our morally declining culture)
August 15 – Blog #4 – The Marriage War (What causes Christian marriages to fail?)
August 20 – Blog #5 – The Mud and the Stars (Does purity lead to beauty or heartache?)
Honorable Manhood Program:
8-week online program for men of all ages, March 1 – April 19.
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A BOOK TO READ:
A highly unusual book dealing with an extraordinarily difficult topic — sex. This is a book for young adults and, believe it or not, it’s safe, pure, and Christ-honoring. I highly recommend you read this book — it’s an amazing mixture of profound and beautiful. [Click here to view this item in our store.]