Between Scylla and Charybdis


Greek mythology warned ancient sailors of avoiding the dangers of two monsters named  Scylla and Charybdis.  Many believe that this legendary warning was rooted in the real dangers of rock shoal on one side and a whirlpool on the other side of the Straits of Messina nearly Sicily.  The term ‘steering between Scylla and Charybdis’ has long been used to encourage people to avoid the danger of extremes.  I hear a lot these days regarding the necessity of being ‘balanced’.  I prefer the term ‘biblical tension’.  I believe that the way that believers steer between the rocky shoals of Scylla and the deadly whirlpool of Charybdis is to understand and embrace what I believe, in many ways, is the most important word in all the Bible–the word ‘therefore’.    The failure of many a professing Christian and many a ministry is to reject the tension of the ‘therefore’.   The Bible’s message is miserably distorted when we  fail to articulate, believe, embrace, and live on both sides of  it’s many therefores.  On the one side of the ‘therefore’ is the objective reality of what God has done for sinners  in Christ.  Avoid this side of the ‘therefore’ and you plunge into legalism, hopelessness, and despair.  On the other side of the ‘therefore’ is the Spirit inspired practical application of that truth.  The ‘so what’ of doctrine.  The practical application.  The way that this truth affects my relationship with God, the world, the church, my thought life, my ethical behavior.  Avoid this side of the ‘therefore’ and you plunge into the licentiousness, anti-nomianism, carnality, and bring shame and reproach to the gospel you claim to believe.  Some pastors and  believers tend toward one side of the ‘therefore’ or the other.  Some long to hear of the truth that we are free in Christ and that ‘He paid it all’ and that there is nothing that I can do or be that can change His heart towards me (true, by the way!).  But when they hear the preacher say, ‘therefore’ they can start to put up barriers.  Don’t tell me any implications, don’t tell me that this must effect change in me.  That’s ‘duty preaching’, that’s moralism, that’s legalism and bondage!!  If  ‘duty’ is a dirty word to you,  then you have an argument with God and not your preacher.   On the other side you have someone who ‘suffers through doctrine’ to get to the ‘meat of application’.  They love to hear all the things on the duty side of the therefore.  They love to hear ‘practical preaching’ and ‘convicting’ preaching.  Grab me by the lapels, preacher!  Shake me and shake others.  We don’t need more promises, we need more implications!  All this emphasis on the gospel leads to sloppy living!  No, it leads to an unbiblical distortion of  the hope we have in Jesus!

Bless God for the truths which are held in tension in that simple word, that most blessed word, therefore!


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