Setting God’s agenda

“Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?’” (Luke 12:13-14 ESV).

One of the most persistent human endeavors is to attempt to compel God to do our will. An observation of worldwide religious activities reveals that many of those things we call “worship” are actually attempts to persuade or coerce “god” to perform actions which we desire to be done. These include the many fertility rituals, much sacrifice, and even many prayers. Continue reading “Setting God’s agenda”

From heaven or from men

The Tuesday before his crucifixion Jesus made his way into the temple. He was approached by Jewish leaders who questioned his authority, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23).

It was a good question, though obviously not born out of sincerity. The need for authority in religious practice often is regrettably ignored, forgotten, or abused. Continue reading “From heaven or from men”

The closing of the spiritual mind

Years ago a book was published called The Closing of the American Mind. It decried changes in the educational system. Far more serious is the closing of the spiritual mind. By spiritual mind we mean openness to the true things of God. The mind is the understanding, the intellect, where thoughts appear and are processed — or not.

The apostle Paul wrote that the Jews had closed minds when it came to Christ. Continue reading “The closing of the spiritual mind”

‘Without neglecting the others’

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew: 23:23-24 ESV).

The campus of Khulna Bible College contains a number of fruit and nut trees, including mango, coconut, litchi, jackfruit, papaya, and jambora (a type of grapefruit) trees. The nine coconut trees are especially productive and the nuts are prized for their water (or milk), meat, and fibrous hull. Periodically coconuts will be collected and counted out for sharing among the various staff families and the needs of the college kitchen. Continue reading “‘Without neglecting the others’”

The bumper sticker says it all

Word "coexist" made up of religious symbols

By Johnny O. Trail — It seems that most people tend to display those things that they are most convicted about on the back of their cars. As one who reads everything, bumper stickers spark a great curiosity in me. Many bumper stickers contain humorous and witty sayings.  Some of their messages are very good in content and design. Other messages leave one scratching their head wondering why any reasonable person could place such garbage on a car that would have otherwise maintained its re-sale value very nicely.

On the way to Nashville last week, this writer noticed a bumper sticker on a car that read, “Tree Lover, Dirt Worshipper.” The other stickers on the back of the vehicle were not much better in the message being conveyed. This bumper sticker reflects a decidedly pagan view of deity as reflected in the false religions of the Old and New Testament. We have come to think more of the creation than the creator. Romans 1.25 says, “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” This view is supported by a nation that has “gone green” to protect the environment at all costs. Continue reading “The bumper sticker says it all”

Is Jesus the God of the Second Amendment?

 

GunBible

by Richard Mansel

A radio announcer talked about a church where they were celebrating guns and Jesus. My reaction was, “What does one have to do with the other?”

Christians are citizens of a spiritual kingdom despite living in a fleshly country (Philippians 3:20; Romans 13:1-5). We are to be salt and light, commissioned to bring the lost to Christ (Matthew 5:13-16; Mark 16:15-16).

Political ideas and Biblical teaching sometimes do intersect (abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, etc.). When they’re two separate issues, we must be careful to keep them apart so as not to taint God’s Word.

Christians are often political conservatives and one of the most passionate issues is gun control. Some want to take guns away from citizens in order to stop crime. They mean well, but good intentions cannot override a bad idea.

Christians understand sin (Romans 3:9-18, 23; Genesis 6:5) and unless the entire world fully embraces Christ and his Word, true peace will never exist. And that’ll never happen (Matthew 7:13-14). We cannot get laws just right so crime will vanish.

Gun control advocates think criminals will give up their guns along with law-abiding citizens and we’ll be safe and glorious. Ridiculous! Instead, the innocent will be defenseless against armed criminals. People forget crime predated guns.

It’s too late to take away firearms. There are too many of them. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution should continue to allow citizens to own guns for protection. However, that is a political issue and not a Biblical one.

Our ultimate enemy is spiritual and only through spiritual weaponry can we defeat Satan (Ephesians 6:10-17). Only through obedience (John 14:15; Romans 10:17) and the blood of Christ can we be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 John 1:7).

Guns have nothing to do with God’s will and mission and when we portray him inaccurately, we’re violating Scripture (Colossians 3:17), and there will be serious repercussions for that (Matthew 16:23; 18:6).

We can be passionate about God and guns as long as we never forget the boundaries.

We have no right to get angry with those who use God to promote their non-Biblical ideas when we do the same thing. It is just as silly for PETA to call Jesus the Prince of Peas as it is for us to call him the God of Guns.

What everybody knows about religion

Religious errorby J. Randal Matheny, editor

What if what everyone knows about religion is wrong?

Everybody knows that sincerity trumps everything else in religion. As long as you’re sincere, God will save you. Hypocrites are the only ones headed to hell. (And maybe child molesters.) It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you hold to it sincerely.

Except that, in the spiritual realm, as in the virtual, content is king. That is, sincerity doesn’t trump truth. We have to know the truth (John 8:32). Whether Jesus is divine or not, makes a difference. God gives an order, and brooks no changes. Sincerity alone never saved anyone. On the contrary, it can get you killed. Just ask Uzzah (1 Chronicles 13).

Everybody knows that talk is cheap and that you can live or show a sermon better than you can preach one any day of the week. Words are chaff in the wind, but an example is powerful influence.

Except that the gospel, the message of words about Jesus Christ, is God’s power to save (Romans 1:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5). Words have the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). Examples are important, but mere examples can’t tell anyone how to be saved or how to please God. Only words can do that. Verbal communication is the most undervalued activity in modern times.

Everybody knows that religion is a good thing to have, an important aspect to a good life, like a good job, a family, a house, but that you shouldn’t be radical or extreme about it. The world needs fewer fanatics, not more.

Except that Christ bids us fling away everything in order to follow him (Mark 8:34). God’s kingdom has to come first, every time, every day (Matthew 6:32-34), for discipleship is a daily total renunciation (Luke 9:23). Religion is not an accessory, but the main thing and, from an eternal perspective, God’s true religion is the only thing. With the Way of Faith, there is no negotiation, no compromise (Galatians 2:5).

Everybody knows that religion is not a proper topic of discussion anywhere, any time. You have your religion, I have mine, and any attempt at persuasion or comparison is unwelcome.

Except that Christ did not send his people into the world to make friends and influence people. He sent us to proclaim the message of eternal salvation, to speak truth to a world in the power of the father of lies, to change lives by portraying Christ crucified. We do not move the ancient landmarks to please people, but we seek to move people toward the true and living God. To do that, we preach the message, “whether it is convenient or not” (2 Timothy 4:1-3 NET). Or as Marshall Keeble said, “When they like, and when they don’t.”

Most of what people think they know about religion is wrong. And those to whom the truth has been entrusted seek to set them right with God.

 

Random thoughts: religion, videos, restoration &c.

Hate religionPeople are either fawning or retching over the viral video about hating religion but loving Jesus. Some of the latter class are responding to it. Jesus hated any religion that kept man from God, even religion that wore the mantle of God’s own brand. The word religion has gained a negative connotation that equates it with mindless ritual, abusive authority, out-of-touch irrelevance. We’ve written on the word before.

• The video reflects and feeds the postmodernist mindset. But Christians should never defend religion, as such. As people who proclaim that restoration is needed, perhaps this serves as a good platform to join the critics of religion and call to follow the Way which Jesus opened for us.

• The current hullabaloo reminds us that Paul condemned the resistant Jews of his day, not only because they refused the will of God themselves, but “because they hinder us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved” (1 Thessalonians 2:16 NET). Man-made religion serves Satan’s purpose in the same way today.

• Let’s be clear: there is only one God-approved religion, if you want to use the word religion at all. Though there are so many better terms for it, rather than the generic word which leaves a bad taste in mouths everywhere. Call it the Way (now that will leave a bad taste in some), the faith, the gospel of peace, the true grace of God.

• And in all this we must never forget the ultimate aim of the Way: to restore man to God’s presence. As Peter styled it, “to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18 ESV). For this Christ suffered, died, and rose again. Salvation, a concept we use often, but may not fully appreciate, is not only from sin, but for God.

• Yesterday morning, our good brother Adauri preached from John 14. There, too, the movement of all celestial activity is toward God’s presence with man. Jesus prepares us a place “that where I am you may be also” (verses 1-3). Presence. Together. The way-truth-life Savior states the goal: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (verse 6). A person goes to the Father (or, from his perspective, comes to him) for his presence. Fellowship. Together.

• With those two verses, another in John 14 is no less amazing, when our Lord says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (verse 23). Nothing temporary. Permanent. Together. It doesn’t get any better than that. Just think, a religion does that.

• But not just any religion. Only one religion. My postmodernist, emerging-church, and progressive friends forgive me, but if you don’t get this right, you miss the boat, and there’ll not be another. Unlike the video, this message won’t go viral, but it will go eternal. That’s why John calls it the “eternal gospel” (Revelation 14:6).

Be faithful until death

by John Henson

It is interesting how the titular heads of the world’s religions often explain inconsistencies in their teachings by appealing to the constantly changing situations in the world, although they are supposed to represent an immutable and holy God.

In the May 2011 issue of Christianity Today, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, the head of external relations for the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church was asked if wrong choices were made in the Cold War when the patriarchs cooperated with the Soviets.

“Some people say that the church made wrong choices. I don’t think this was the case, because the church had to exist under the conditions that were set without consulting her (the church).”

He said the situation the church found itself with the Soviets was identical to what the early church experienced and “the situation of total control of church life by the Communist regime was a very unhealthy situation. But this was the situation in which the church could live.”

The facts about the early church do not square with the Metropolitan’s statement. Many members of the Lord’s body went to their deaths on the cross in the Roman coliseum rather than deny their Lord. Others were eaten by animals in that same arena while singing praises to God.

God gave his inspired word so that man could follow an objective standard, one given by an immutable and holy God who breathed his word into the apostles (2 Timothy 3:16). Jesus words in Revelation 2:10, “Be thou faithful unto death,” did not end with “only if the situation warrants it.”

The allegations suggested by the interview had to do with the Russian Orthodox Churches’ priests and bishops turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the unmitigated suffering of the Russian people under Communist rule. The Metropolitan’s answer was basically, “that was the situation.”