It’s been quite some time since I’ve written anything. I usually write to process something, share something exciting or write about something that is weighing heavy on my heart.
Right now, what is weighing most heavy on my heart, and what I feel God prompting me to say something about is, in a sense, idolatry. We can make idols of many things, but one of the most dangerous yet most subtle things we do is make false versions of God. So many people interpret Scripture based on how they feel. When we do that, we deny, twist and misinterpret certain aspects of Scripture, and consequently God’s character. Scripture warns us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
What should be happening is we should be allowing Scripture to change the way we feel about ourselves and about God. Instead of reading into Scripture who we think God should be and our own pre-conceived notions, we should be seeking to know God for who He really is as He has revealed Himself in His Word, and humbly accepting and embracing the Truth and allowing it to change our lives as we stand in awe of who God really is. The only way to be able to do that is to know and embrace Jesus Christ as the Sovereign God of all creation and the only Savior for the world, and thus of your life. And this cannot leave you unchanged.
Unfortunately, the Jesus that many embrace today is a soft-spoken, all inclusive guy who would never tell anyone how to live, who wants to bless everyone who says his name with health and wealth and would certainly never tell anyone that they are going to Hell if they don’t embrace Him as Lord. It is true that Jesus called all kinds of people to be His disciples, and still does today. He calls people from all kinds of races, ethnicities and backgrounds. But He changes people’s lives to be conformed to His image! He takes them as they are if they come broken before Him, and molds them and makes them into who He wants them to be. They can’t do it on their own and they have to realize that. All are invited to “‘Come.’ Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’ Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life” (Revelation 22:17), but not all will accept that invitation. Jesus was really clear about what will happen to those who don’t accept His invitation. He clearly explains that at the end of time, they will be gathered and thrown into a fiery furnace (the Lake of Fire) where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:36-42, 47-50).
Sadly, many even within the Church believe that if you live a good enough life, Jesus will accept you. But the Jesus of Scripture was actually very selective about the kinds of people who could follow Him. He said things like “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matt. 12:30), and “…then I will declare to them (those who call Him Lord, but don’t obey Him), ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’”(Matt.7:23). Elsewhere in Scripture, there are several passages which proclaim the exclusivity of Jesus’ message; among which is Acts 4:12: “And there is Salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we MUST be saved” (emphasis mine).
The Old Testament even refutes the idea that any amount of works can save us with passages like Isaiah 64:6: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” In other words, every “good” thing we do is tainted by some sort of selfish motive. And, of course, passages that tell us that we aren’t even good at all, like: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12, Psalm 14:3 and 53:3 all carry the same idea).
The Jesus of Scripture told would be followers that if they loved their families more than Him, they couldn’t be His disciples. He spoke out against sin, turned over tables in the temple of a false religion (it became false because of the fact that it lost sight of the intent of the Law), claimed to be THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life and that no one could come to the Father except through Him and, most importantly, He claimed to be God! The Jesus of Scripture spoke a ton about Hell and judgement, and will one day return to judge unrepentant sinners.
I don’t think the Jesus of Scripture would be very well received if He Himself were on earth today preaching the same message He preached then. He wasn’t well received in His own day. I think He would be crucified all over again. He would be called “narrow-minded,” “crazy” and even “Satan” just like He was then. He told His disciples that they would be called the same names He was called, be treated the way He was treated, and that some of them would even be killed for speaking His Truth, and many still are today. He said that when you mistreat one of His followers, you are mistreating Him (Matthew 25:41-46, John 15:18-25).
The Gospel of Jesus is exclusive, yet there are an alarming number of professing Christians who are beginning to buy into the lie that all religions lead to God. Even more alarming is that there are many leaders within the Church that are questioning the Word of God now the way the Serpent did in the Garden. “Are we really to believe that the only way for people to get into Heaven is by holding to a certain set of beliefs about God, and that people spend eternity in Hell because they didn’t make a right decision with a small amount of time they had on earth?” is the line of thinking. And to an extent, they are right. It’s so much more than just holding to a certain set of beliefs. Belief is essential for salvation, but that belief must be genuine, from the heart; and it must change your life!
Jesus warns everyone to “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” and that “…the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13-14). But He does tell us what it takes to be His disciple. One of the best passages for this is the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12.
First, we have to become “Poor in spirit.” This means that we must come to an understanding that we have nothing to offer God and are completely dependent on His Grace to be able to be made right with Him. This will lead to “mourning” over our sin and the ways in which we have offended God. That should “humble” us and cause us to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
We have to be “merciful” because we have been shown great mercy. The one who shows no mercy will receive none (James 2:13). All of these things will help us to become “pure in heart” because, as God works in our lives, our thoughts become more conformed to His and He is able to overcome our deceitful hearts more and more.
Being a “peacemaker” should then characterize our lives. Paul says in Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” In the end, that comes down to repaying evil with good, and not avenging ourselves. But at the same time, Jesus warned us that people would persecute us because they did it to Him. He even went as far as to say: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). When we speak Christ’s message, it is naturally going to cause people to hate us because they resent the fact that there is only one way to God. And, as Jesus warned later in that passage, it may even mean that our own family members turn against us. Our response should be to continue to show them love and, even more importantly, to pray for them to come to Christ!
I hope that as you have read this post, it has been encouraging, and yet convicting. It certainly has been for me as I’ve written it. My biggest prayer is that we as believers will take Scripture seriously and as it is. It takes a lot of discipline on our part, but it also takes the Grace of God to help us to see the Truth for what it is. That is my prayer for myself, and it is my prayer for you as well!
Grace, love and peace in the Truth!