(Scroll down to the bottom for a brief update about me and where I’ve been the last couple of weeks…)
How often have we heard the words “well, I believe…” or “my opinion is…”? This is fine when it comes to most things. But when it comes to eternity this will never do. We cannot have differing opinions about how one can be right with God. Just as two plus two equals four (and not five or three), there is absolute truth regarding how we can be right with God. We don’t get to just decide what we “want” to believe.
We are not God and so we must turn to Him to find out if and how reconciliation with Him is possible. Thankfully, He gave us His Word to give us insight into this and to all of life. It is a treasure trove of wisdom from above for those who are willing to submit to and obey what it says. (Our spiritual eyes are blinded when we approach it with arrogance and misconceived, pre-determined notions. So one can read–and even study– the Bible without understanding. This is why we must always be praying for and striving for a humble, teachable heart.)
It is in scripture that we find God’s way of how we can have peace with Him. He has provided the bridge we so desperately need through sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins. Jesus paid the price for our sins and has provided His own righteousness so that we can stand righteous before God. It is truly amazing! It is through Christ and Christ alone that we are able to have peace with God. It is only through Christ that we have the promise of eternal life. In God’s Word, we also find out how He changes us when He saves us and there we find many descriptions of the true believer.
A few weeks ago, we were in Sunday school discussing Cain and Abel from Genesis 4. And I’ve been thinking about this a great deal over the past few weeks. It seems like this story is symbolic of each one of us at some point in our lives.
The question is: Will I come to God on His terms or will I insist on my terms?
Cain gave something to God but it was not what God demanded. God demanded the best. I am uncertain if God had expected a blood sacrifice from Cain. I rather suspect He did but I haven’t studied this passage at great length. I do believe we can say with confidence, however, that He, at the very least, wanted the “first fruits” of Cain’s garden. It says in Genesis 4 that Cain brought “some of the fruits of the soil”.
Cain had decided in his heart to keep the best for himself. He deliberately chose to disobey God and to do things in his own way. Abel made a decision to do things God’s way.
This scene has played out throughout history in the heart of every man and the doctrinal statement of every church. Will we accept God’s terms or will we make up our own terms?
When we think we can merit salvation by our own good works, we are demanding God to accept our good works. But He doesn’t.
When we think we can say a prayer and then go on to live a life of sin and worldliness and still be saved, we are demanding the world and Christ, too. But God clearly says we can’t have both.
When we say that all ways lead to God and it doesn’t matter how we get there, we are demanding that God grant His grace to all. But scripture makes it clear that grace is only granted to those who call upon His name.
When we vilify God and make wrong assumptions about His character that are based on our finite minds, we are showing our deep-seated pride. God is good and perfect. He can still be those things, even when we can’t understand certain things in scripture. (As someone once said–we’d be so much better off submitting to and obeying the many things we can understand rather than getting so worked up about the few things we can’t.)
And, while all false religions make wrong presumptions about what it takes to be right with God, I want to turn our focus specifically to the false religion that goes by the name of Christianity for a few minutes. When an individual or church moves from Word-based Christianity to feelings or experience-based Christianity, we automatically move from God’s terms to our terms. Suddenly, we call the shots. Oh, surely, many believe that it is the Holy Spirit who is directing them. But this is a deception of the highest sort, because the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit works with and through the Word. He would never work against it. Not ever.
God has made so much so clear in His Word. And, boy, do we need that clarity for such a time as this! For it is only the Word that keeps us anchored to the truth about Jesus, about the Holy Spirit and, in fact, anchored to all Truth itself. Once we label the Bible unnecessary, irrelevant, and/or without authority, we’ve made a decision to come to God on our own terms. Whether this is how we think about it or not, this is what has happened.
There is a literal tsunami of this going on in Christian culture right now. And, in fact, to turn the eyes of the people back to the Word is to invite the harshest criticism from those who claim Christ. But it is what we must continue to do. It is the only thing that matters. It is the only way we can know the Truth about God and about life. We dare not trust an inner voice or a vision or a dream or a sign. We would have absolutely NO way to confirm where these things are coming from. We can sincerely believe they are from God, when they come straight from the Great Deceiver…that Roaring Lion who seeks to destroy; the Angel of Light who seeks to deceive. Oh, how great and grave the danger to those who, assuming these things are from God, embrace mysticism through the elevation of their experiences.
The thing I have discovered in my own study of scripture is that–
1) We can understand what we are supposed to understand. Yes, there are some difficult passages and I surely cannot understand everything. But God has clearly shown us in scripture how to be saved. He has also given many promises and much encouragement, along with great detail regarding sin and choices, as well as regarding the Christian life and how we will be changed if we are genuinely saved. These things can be easily understood by the average believer who is indwelled by the Holy Spirit. No degree necessary.
2) We can’t just pick and choose what we will believe. We must accept it all as God’s Word or we can not logically accept any of it. We can’t just decide that we believe the Ten Commandments or the “red letters” in the Gospel are from God. God very specifically kept His Word cohesive and consistent throughout the entirety of the Book. It is all or nothing.
3) God demands an undivided heart. As God so often does, He has recently brought all I am studying and listening all together into one common theme. I have recently been studying Mark 10 and, in this chapter, I read about the story of the Rich, Young Ruler. W. Graham Scroggie goes to the heart of what is happening in his commentary on Mark–
But what was the thing which this man lacked? The willingness to sacrifice everything to have Christ. Jesus does not teach that to gain eternal life one must be poor in this world’s goods, but He does teach that the divided heart loses the prize. This man wanted something better than he had, but he was not prepared to make any sacrifice to get it. If Christ could accept such, millions of people would join the Church at once. But He cannot, and so this law-keeping, money-loving man missed life. He wanted God, but not at the cost of his gold.; he wanted life; but not at the expense of luxury; he was willing to serve, but not to sacrifice.
Oh, how many want God and the world, too. They desire the golden ticket to heaven but also want to gratify the flesh.
And, oh, how this “say-a-prayer” easy-believism meets that desire! We can have it all and still have Christ. But, my dear reader, those are man-made terms. They are not God’s.
God’s gift is free. He doesn’t demand any works for salvation. But it is clear in scripture that true salvation transforms. Oh, it may not be instant and it will be at a different pace in each and every one of us. But this transformation does occur. It has to. For it is what proves that there is genuine salvation.
If you don’t like what I am saying or don’t believe what I am saying, then I encourage you to read the Bible. You will see that this is what it teaches if you are willing to read it with a humble and teachable heart. Start with the New Testament. When you do this, you will notice a very consistent message of salvation and the desire for holiness that is the natural result of a changed heart.
The Bible, and this alone, gives us God’s terms for peace with Him.
And we dare not miss this. For our very eternity and the eternity for every human being on earth depends on our acknowledgement of and our submission to God’s PLAN.
May we be like Abel and bow in humble submission to our King and His plan, rather than standing pridefully, like Cain, demanding God follow our plan.
For He is GOD and we are NOT.
I’D RATHER HAVE JESUS
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name
He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead
QUICK UPDATE: Two weeks ago tomorrow, my elderly aunt was killed unexpectedly in a car accident. I have to smile to myself when I use the word “elderly” because she really didn’t seem even close to her 87 years. She was so spry and cheerful. She had been an “adopted” member of our family for several years, as her own family had passed away some years back. We had been planning to go visit our newest (ninth!) grandchild in Texas but God’s timing wasn’t quite our timing and so we had to postpone our trip by a few days. The past couple of weeks have been spent mourning the loss of my dear aunt and then celebrating new life with our new grandson and his family. Grief and joy side-by-side, as is so often the case in this world. Both have been a reminder of the fact that life never stays the same. Birth and death never take a break but are always happening. And death always reminds us of the fragility and preciousness of life. Oh, that we would live with this in mind as we we consider our actions and words with our families and friends, our neighbors and co-workers. I guess that’s all for now. Just wanted to give those of you that aren’t on Facebook a brief update!