The problem of religion (I use the word religion negatively) is it acts much like faith operating by grace. Sometimes the only way to discern the difference is by looking at the motive for the religious act. If what you do is for God, then you are fine with no one knowing what you’ve done. But if the good you do is for people to see so you may gain their approval, then you cannot be fine with no one not knowing.
The underlying motive for the desire of people’s acceptance or approval is your enjoyment of their praise. If they don’t see, they cannot praise you, and if you cannot be praised, accepted, or thought well of, then there is no reason in your mind to do the kind act. You perform wonderful actions for people’s approval but the bottom line is your own self-approval. You can look at your good deed and be satisfied with yourself. And here is the danger—you can take stock of your kindness to others and be deceived into believing you are a Christian. You reason within yourself that such actions of righteousness can only mean that you are a good person, and if a good person you must be a Christian.
But Jesus says to you: not only should you not congratulate yourself for your good works, you must pay them no mind in regards to your salvation. “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3). Your good deeds are not to be the reason you believe yourself to be a Christian.
Why would this problem with religion exist and need to be exposed? Because there is an underlying ailment within every human heart. The defect in man that leads him to crave the approval of others, and more importantly self-approval, is the significance factor. We all want to feel significant. We all desire to know our life fulfills some greater purpose. Religion is what many people turn to feel this significance.
And the sad fact is, popularized Christianity, opposed to biblical, recognizes this basic defect in the human heart not for what it is, sin, but calls it a basic need trying to satisfy it.
This quest for significance is a popular and modern psychological way to excuse the sin of idolatry. In other words, the motive with which we are all born, this motive to be somebody, to have purpose, and significance, is not godly but the opposite. But the evangelical world seduced by modern psychology believes the desire to be somebody is biblical and good. No matter what you call it, significance, purpose, meaning in life, it is nothing more than sinful pride.
The true motive of the heart should be the glory and pleasure of God. If Christ is your true treasure, He will be all that thrills your heart. Your significance will be Christ and not yourself. You will want Him to be the one praised and therefore, you will do good, spreading your light so that people may see it “and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
It’s been said that God is more interested in the man than the ministry. Meaning that in whatever God calls a man to do, He has a two prong purpose. First, He is calling the man to fulfill a ministry purpose in His plan to redeem a people for Himself. Secondly, God is doing something specific in that man’s life. He is using the very call and ministry to make the man more like His Son, Jesus. We are seeing that happen at RTM, and we are experiencing Him in ways that are new to us. He is shaping and forming us all the time!
“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
Most think when there is a need and prayer is made for supply, the supply is created. For example, when Israel was in dire need standing at the edge of the Red Sea, God created the supply by parting the waters. Doesn’t this show the supply came after the need? Actually, it doesn’t. The way from Egypt to Canaan is not by the Red Sea. The Lord God led them that way so that He could create the need in order to grant the supply, the supply He had already possessed. He was the supply and He existed long before Israel had a need.
Which came first: food, or the stomach that would need food? Air to breathe, or lungs? In both cases the supply was created before the need. According to the Apostle Paul God supplies all our needs according to His riches. Did He recently discover wealth or has His wealth increased lately? Not at all. He owns it all, and always has.
Your greatest need is a savior who can deliver you from your sins. And long before you were born or sinned the Bible tells us the supply for sin was already provided, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).
God has what you need. He does not have to create it. He created your need so you would go to Him for His already created supply. Why wait, wondering whether the Lord has what you need? “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”
Try to imagine this: You know there is a God. You know He has expressed Himself to His creation. You want to know more about this God. So you go to the only place you know of where you can find out more about Him. You go to a local church.
You get there and find experts who have been sent by God, so you decide that you need to do as they say in order to be right with your creator. The whole thing is very mysterious, however. The rituals at the church are performed in a foreign language, the experts read from the book of God, which is also in a strange tongue, and no one ever stops to explain to you who God really is. All you know is that you need to keep coming to the meetings and do as you are told. If you don’t, you will end up tormented in hell forever. That much they made clear.
Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it? Yet for many centuries, this is how the Catholic church controlled mass people groups and entire nations. The people were kept under fear, and they were kept ignorant of the truth of Scripture so that they could be controlled. The Catholics created their own doctrines to make this work, yet the common man would never know this because truth was obscured by a mad desire for power.
The Catholics always held to the position that people could not understand the Bible and that it was too dangerous to put the Scriptures into the hands of those who are not ordained to minster the word. Overall, this was merely an excuse to mask their desire for control. But there is something of a risk behind taking the Scriptures and making them available for anyone and everyone in their own language. There is the risk that they will be misused, misapplied, and taught incorrectly.
And haven’t we seen that? One of the results of the reformation and the availability of the Bible mass produced in a common language is that false teachers spring up everywhere teaching whatever they want as doctrine and twisting Scripture in order to lead many people astray. Yes, people can read it, misunderstand it, take it out of context, and make a god of their liking using the true God’s own word. Since the distribution of the Bible across much of the free world, bad doctrines and heresies of all sorts of varieties have run rampant.
Yet, I will argue, true Christianity has also flourished. During the height of the Catholic church’s control, everyone seemed to be in the dark. God worked on those inside Catholicism in order to start a movement to get the Bible into the hands of men, but up until that time, you had one major heresy that put a squelch on everything else. With the reformation, people were free to misuse and abuse Scripture, but they were also free to use it correctly and rightly divide its truths.
Flash forward to America, a highly literate, saturated-with-printed-Bibles nation. What do we see? We see the risks and benefits of having the word of God free for all to use and abuse. There are more diverse heresies here than the world has ever seen. Yet there is also a large movement of people whom God has called and holds to the truth of the Scriptures in all of its facets. They can read the Bible daily and commune with God through the Word and His Spirit like no other time in history.
We do point out the false doctrines that parade as Christianity. That is why we put together The History of the Modern Gospel. These things do need to be exposed and contrasted against the truth. Yet we do not feel disheartened, overwhelmed, or defeated because of the avalanche of heresies in the world today. We can rejoice at what God has done in giving us His word in our language.
I am thankful for men like Wycliffe and Tyndale, some of the first to translate Scripture for the English-speaking world. The Catholics didn’t like it. Wycliffe was not martyred, but his remains were dug up decades later, burned, crushed, and scattered. Tyndale was burned at the stake, giving his life for translating the Bible.
They knew there was a risk; not only of their own lives but also in the misuse of their work. But God took those Scriptures and gave life to many through the teaching and preaching in understandable languages. God has been good to us, and we rejoice in the awakening of sinners and the revival of His saints through the precious gift of His word.
A seven year old Japanese girl expressed her grief over all the children killed in the Japanese earthquake and asked why so many children have to suffer. I do not know that a seven year old would be able to understand the full answer as given by scripture, but I do know that the Pope got this one wrong. He responded by saying, “I also have the same questions: Why is it this way? Why do you have to suffer so much while others live in ease? And we do not have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered as you do, an innocent.”
Jesus can relate is not the answer. Jesus knows how you feel is not the Gospel. You are innocent is not correct. Suffering exists because of man. We choose to sin, and the world is under a curse of suffering as a result. Suffering is not an unexplainable phenomenon. And God is not removed from our sufferings. He entered into them, taking the full brunt of suffering on the cross.
We should be amazed not at our suffering but that we are not suffering to the extent that we deserve! Jesus spoke about this very subject in Luke 13:
There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Suffering is a call to repentance and faith. It should drive us to say “Something is not right! What have I done? I have done much in every way to cause this! My sin, oh my sin!”
Would a seven year old understand that? Without the Spirit of God, no one does. But it does no good to lie.
A Muslim woman from the Ivory Coast, where violence has been the manifestation of political fighting, asked the pope: “As an ambassador of Jesus, what do you advise for our country?” The Pope answered that the Vatican was doing what it can and said he asked an African cardinal from among his aides to go to Ivory Coast “to try to mediate, to speak with the various groups and various people to encourage a new beginning.”
Once again, according to the Pope, scripture is not the answer, the Vatican is. There is never any mention of what Jesus says or what God says. The Pope is God as far as authority goes.
This is not new, nor did you need a blog to tell you so. The chasm between the True Church and the Vatican was brought to light many years ago. But it is a good chance to once again emphasize the TRUTH of scripture. It is the final word. It is our source of illumination. If you hear the Pope or anyone giving answers that do not line up with God’s Word, then they are wrong.
Read the original story HERE.
Good Friday . . .
the words etched in small, black typeface on my calendar.
Friday, April 22, 2011.
Good Friday . . .
What makes Good Friday so good?
The single day of the year to have the distinction of being good –
How can it be good?
The commemoration of a man who claimed to be the son of God, executed –
A man brutally beaten, flesh nailed to wood, lifted up for a crowd to see –
Good Friday? How can that be good?
A people divided, occupied territory, a dissenter to rock the status quo –
what’s so good about Good Friday?
His followers would claim that he was God in the flesh, yet a humble servant to all –
even stooping to wash their feet the night before his death.
They claim that his death was the ultimate act of love –
one who is taking upon himself the full wrath of God against all unrighteousness in our place.
One who suffers under infinite justice -
as if he was the one
looking at porn on the laptop.
as if he was the one
selling crack on the dark corner street
as if he was the one
constantly lying to maintain an image
as if he was the one
who stole supplies from his boss when no one was looking
as if he was the one
who lived life with a disregard for God.
They claimed he became all of that and more to satisfy a debt we can never pay.
Perhaps HE is what is good about Good Friday.
A strong line of storms moved through our area this week. All of our local news stations covered the weather constantly for several hours, preempting regular programming. In light of the outbreak of severe weather this spring and the rash of tornados that have taken several lives across the nation, I am sure many people in our area were glued to their televisions until the threat was over.
There is a tendency for many during times such as this to be anxious. There is a great deal of unknown and a definite threat of danger. How should a Christian react, whether it is a storm or any other threatening situation?
It was a storm that faced the disciples as they and Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee. He had instructed them to get into the boats so that they may go to the other side. The storm came, Jesus remained calm (asleep, actually), and the disciples panicked. They woke him, asking, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” He calmed the storm and questioned their lack of faith (Mark 4).
The disciples failed to see beyond their situation. They saw Jesus as disconnected and aloof in the midst of their impending doom. What they did not see at the time was that Jesus chose them as followers, He had an ultimate destination in mind, and He was going to get them there safely. He was responsible for them, and they could fully trust Him. In this case, getting to the other side of the sea safely was in the Father’s plan.
It was then that Paul spoke these words: “I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.” (Acts 27)
True to the word given to Paul, the ship was destroyed, but the men on the ship made it to shore safely. Paul believed because he had a promise from God, and he trusted that what God said would happen. God stated that He had a purpose for Paul that would necessitate him getting through the storm alive. “you must be brought before Caesar.” He was then told that all would be spared.
But, you may say, I don’t have a promise from God that I will make it through this storm or situation alive or intact. God has not sent an angel to tell me such things! There was a time Paul did not have that word to believe. Earlier, he spoke these words: “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.”
So did Paul not have faith that God would bring him through? Did it take an appearance from an angel to convince him that God would help? Well, it all depends on what you think God bringing him through safely really means.
Is it that we are often shortsighted? We want to have faith that God will preserve our lives, our physical well-being, our finances, our relationships, and more when God is ultimately looking beyond those things to something better.
So what is it that God is looking at beyond the temporal help we are seeking? It is to be conformed to the image of Christ. He is making us a holy, separate people, sanctifying us from the world and sin. It will be complete when we are in His presence, fully glorified according to His plan and workmanship.
That is His goal. Romans 8:28 is a promise we can hold on to.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
And if you check out the following verses, you will see what working all things for good means.
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Romans 8:29-30).
For God to say I am going to work things out for your good may not mean you will get through the situation in the manner you would like. Your finances may not get better. You may be harmed by the storm. You may be like Paul and say “it looks like we are going to lose our lives.” But if God allows these things or He spares you, He is using it all to get you to the ultimate goal: conformity with Christ.
If we can look beyond the temporal to the eternal purposes of God, then we, like Paul, have promises made directly to us that we can hold on to, and we can also say, “For I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.” So what are some of those promises? Let’s take a look at a few.
I will never leave you nor forsake you. -Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. -John 10:27,28.
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. -John 11:25,26
There are just a few of the promises of scripture.
May we be able to look past the temporal into the eternal purposes of God. We must combat anxiousness and rest in the fact that God’s ultimate plan for His children will be for His glory and their good.
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. -Philippians 1:21