RITUALISTIC HEARING

Probably the majority of those who read this article go to “church” on a weekly basis.  In some fellowships, a bulletin guides the participant through a ritualistic experience of worship.  Still others receive a mini-newspaper of current and future events that are offered to the constituency.  There may even be sermon outlines so one can follow the message and write notes on its content.  To leave the building uninformed would be the fault of the recipient.  In some assemblies, there is no organized ritual, just a free flow of energy culminated by a feeling of fulfillment.  What it comes down to is different strokes for different folks.  Whatever brings us into a true and appreciative experience with our Heavenly Father is what really matters.

The real issue is not the type of worship we follow, but how does the message we hear affect us?  Are we hearing what God is saying through His messenger, or are we just chair warmers fulfilling our obligatory attendance?  Every Pastor knows that the success of the message is weighed by the actions of the hearers.  To simply hear the sermon, congratulate the Pastor on a fine message, and leave with no intent to put action into what we heard is blatant hypocrisy.

For thousands of years the Word has gone out, and countless generations have failed to implement what they have heard.  In Ezekiel 33:31, the prophet illuminates a hidden problem that has continually crept through the centuries of proclaimed Believers.  Through prophetic utterance, Ezekiel expresses that God’s people came to hear the Word, but did nothing with what they heard.  The people regularly attended worship, but their listening was laced with indifference.  They professed love for one another, but their heart was centered on themselves.

Why is it so easy to accept the lies of the Devil and so hard to implement God’s Truth?  Why does the visible tend to overshadow our Faith?   Why do people fail to act on His Word?  Why do circumstances trump our Faith?  Why do we doubt God’s ability to fulfill His Word?  What is the basis for our failure to act on His Word?  There seems to be immunity to His Word.  WHY?

Jesus gave a teaching that all three synoptic writers each recorded to emphasize His teaching to the Jews, Romans, and Greeks.  Jesus simply said that you could not sew a piece of new material on an older garment or put new wine into old containers.  The results would cause a failure to fulfill their intent. (Matt. 9, Mark 2, Luke 5)  It is the same principle when it comes to Christians who try to fit the “new life” into their old ways.  It just doesn’t work.  We punch our Sunday morning time card and, when the service is over, we smile and walk away feeling we have fulfilled our weekly commitment.  The message’s effectiveness is judged by the action of the hearer.  When the message has no room in our lives, we convert the worship experience into a horizontal fellowship hour.

Many Christians are convinced that the way to eternal life is simply believing in the finished work of Jesus on Calvary, and that the evidence of that belief is their weekly attendance at a church of their choosing.  Is that what the Scripture teaches?

The Apostle Paul understood what following Jesus was all about, “…I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)  There is no room for self in a Christ centered life.  To read the Word, hear the Word, live the Word, and share the Word, should be the desire of every Believer.  There is no flexibility in a Christ centered life.  The next time we hear the proclaimed Word, let us open our hearts and prepare to put works with our Faith.

 

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LESS OF ME

I have found the older I get, the more dependent I become on God.  In my younger days, my attitude was to petition God to support my endeavors.  It was more my desires than His.  Whenever my agenda succeeded, God would be recognized as my source of accomplishment.  Little did I realize that God was not the author, but, rather the observer of my actions.  Believers must be very careful when they invoke the name of God in a program they initiated.  If it should fail, God becomes the focus of the blame.   So much of our actions are based on interpretations of what we think is the normal response to Scriptural content.  When our behavior displays an interpretation of the Truth, rather than the intended Truth, there is bound to be separation of Believers.  This is how denominations begin, which in turn leads to independent ministries that claim to be the true representatives of Truth.  We are not the CEO, president, captain, or leader of our Faith, and the sooner we realize that, the greater confidence we will have in the creator of our Faith.  It is not what I want to believe, but what He wants me to believe.

Many Believers go on a spiritual shopping trip in search of Truth that will satisfy the questing of their minds.  Left to ourselves, we will accept teachings that cater to our whims and instant gratifications.   We pass by the basic Truths that will replace our mirrors with windows.  So much of our Faith is about receiving instead of giving.  It is what God can do for me, instead of God enabling me to do for others.

The sons of Zebedee, James and John came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” (Mark 10:35 NAS)  They wanted Jesus to grant them positional authority in the Heavenly Kingdom.  The James and John syndrome is a very real problem in the Church today.  We desire financial restoration instead of learning fiscal responsibility.  We desire physical healing instead of learning how to treat our bodies.  We petition for forgiveness instead of learning how to forgive.  We are more concerned with “end times” than we are with the present.  We like the thrill of being “slain in the Spirit” instead of being alive in the Spirit.  We want the Gifts of the Holy Spirit for personal gratification instead of their intended use in empowering us to reach out.

Getting older brings a greater appreciation of the sustaining power of God.  The more our physical attributes head “south,” the greater the awareness of God’s ability to sustain and prepare us for the “hereafter.”  The things that I counted so important in my life have only been tools to bring me to where I am today.  I have come to a place in my spiritual journey where I can say with confidence that God is faithful in fulfilling His Word, even to every jot and tittle.  I can say with assurance that I now understand what the peace is that “passes all understanding.”  I have learned, as John the Baptizer did, that “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)  The older I become, the more it is about Him instead of me.  Instead of petitioning Him, it is worshipping and adoring Him.  When I look back on my life, I blush at the embarrassing abundance that I have received from Him.  He has given me more than I could have ever imagined.

I remember standing at Niagara Falls and witnessing the powerful flow of water pouring over the Falls.  I also was aware of the mist that vaulted up from the base of the Falls.  God has truly poured out His blessings on the Believers; maybe it is time to send up expressions of our gratitude.  When we exalt and praise our Creator, it is bound to affect those around us, just as the mist from the Falls covers those who are close to them.  God owes me nothing, but I owe Him everything.

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ARE WE DUE FOR A TUNE-UP?

Keeping mechanical things running correctly involves following the manufacturers recommended instructions.  Lawn mowers and other landscaping equipment must have our attention if we are to reap the benefits of their intended use.  Changing spark plugs, oil, and filters is essential to keeping engines running efficiently, and periodic tune-ups help to extend their usefulness.

As I approach fifty years of ministry, I am becoming more and more aware of an out of tune Church; once a powerful unit with singleness of heart and purpose, it has become more and more out of sync with its Biblical foundation.  Many teachings that are coming out of the Church today are man made doctrines that have stretched Biblical intent for the purpose of being more attractive to the hearer.  Financial prosperity has superseded spiritual prosperity.  Acceptance of people’s life styles has dwarfed the new life in Christ.  Sin has become a relative term.  Through different Biblical translations, the Bible has become more “user friendly” and, in so doing, has camouflaged the Truth.  Unity has given way to diversity.  Christianity without Divine representation has become the norm.  Emotional expression has replaced Faith as the evidence of spiritual growth.

Some feel that the best way to keep the Church running is to introduce “after market” programs that will generate enthusiasm and commitment.  These generic ingredients will only work for so long and then will be dropped for new ideas.  It is time the Church stops looking for quick fixes and realizes it’s time to return to the author and finisher of our Faith.  It is time for the Church to return to the “manufacturer specs” of its Faith and get in tune with God’s will.  When we return to our Biblical foundation, we will once again function as God intended.

The Scripture tells us of a man named Apollos who, one day, was holding an evangelistic crusade in the city of Ephesus.  He was quite a charismatic speaker.  He had a way of presenting the Gospel that captivated his listeners.  In the crowd on that day were two Believers, Aquila and Priscilla, who noticed that something was a little off.  Apollos knew the Word and was “eloquent and mighty in the Scripture.”  But something was lacking.  After the meeting, Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”  What they did was give Apollos a “tune-up.” (Acts 18:24-28)  There is so much preaching and teaching today that either goes too far in interpreting Scripture or does not go far enough in promoting its real intent.  Instead of hitting on all 66 cylinders, the Church seems to center on Biblical books that cater to what people want to hear, instead of the whole counsel of God.  This applies not only to the universal Church, but the individual Believer himself.  Christians use their human “mental detectors” to seek truths that will feed their human desires.

The majority of saints that are struggling today will find they are not in sync with the word of God.  When was the last time we had a spiritual check up?  Maybe, because of the times we live in and the endless attacks against our faith, we should seek a weekly tune-up.  Nothing is more disheartening than to be in a spiritual battle and find we are not prepared to resist the challenges to our faith.  When we are out of tune, we will be limited in our performance.  The Psalmist understood the importance of having a spiritual check up.  He asked the Lord to search him and look at his thoughts, to test him and to see if anything was out of whack, and if there was, to fix him and lead him in the right direction. (Psalms 130:23, 24)   It is time for all of us to make an appointment with our Creator, to make sure we are “running the race” in the best shape possible.

 

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TO WILL OR NOT TO WILL

Every person has a “will.”  The “will” is what determines our response to life.  Believers should “will” to make a conscious effort to motivate their Spirit, Soul, and Body into an action that brings glory and honor to God.  It is a choice we make which is evidenced by the initiating of our “will.”  Whenever our “will” promotes self-gratification, we will face some difficult situations in our spiritual journey.  I have found that whatever part of our triune man is promoted, that is the compass by which we set our course.  If we are actively engaged in secular things, our interests will center on the fleshly aspects of our life.  If we pursue the spiritual things of life, our desires will center on pleasing God.  It is interesting to see so many Believers absorbed in the news and media propaganda that they become a conduit by which biased editorials are passed on to other “enquiring minds.”  If we must pass on news, let it be the unbiased Truths of God’s Word!  Some are so concerned about their bodily physique that they slaughter every diet man has promoted in an attempt to lose weight.  Instead of abstaining from “forbidden” foods, let us draw near to the Bread of Life and sit at the table He has prepared for us.  Jesus told His disciples at Jacob’s Well that He had “meat to eat that ye know not of.” (John 4:32)  Spiritual food can override physical food.  When we pursue manna from Heaven, the earthly food will serve as a secondary source and not the controlling interest in our lives.

David wrote some great Psalms.  We see his life through the valleys and mountains.  We see his victories as well as his setbacks.  The next time we experience a valley, let us journey through the white pages and see how David handled his challenges.  It is not so bad if we get knocked down as long as we “will” to get up.  The outcome of any circumstance is determined by our “will.”  So many times we call on God to do for us what He has already given us the power to do for ourselves.  It is all a question of whether we pursue an action or not.  I will stand on His Word.  I will not allow negativity to reign in me.  I will put on the armor of the Lord.  I will stand against principalities and rulers of the darkness.  I will show love and understanding.  The decision of what to do with our lives is in our hands.  What we decide to do determines what type of life we can expect.

David said in Psalm 34, “I will bless the Lord at all times…”  Notice, it was not just during the mountain top experiences, but in the valleys as well.  “His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (v.1)  It is very difficult to speak negative things when our mouth is full of praise.  The world’s vocabulary knocks on the door of our mouth, hoping for the opportunity to be used.  Praise mutes the world’s words.  David states that he will boast in the Lord and, in so doing, those who are in dire straits will hear and rejoice that there is a way to victory. (v.2)  The Psalmist challenges the struggling to “magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” (v.3)  Our “will” should be to bring people who are struggling to a place of victory, and that is through praise and exalting the name of the Lord.  (Required reading: Psalm 34)

Our “will” is a strong force that can be used either to contribute to or to deny the outreach of the Gospel.  It is up to us to decide what part, if any, we are to play in God’s plan.  Let us stand with Joshua and pledge, “…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)  Amen and Amen!

 

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REMEMBERING THE PLENTEOUS

Every so often I take a carnal sabbatical to reflect on the bountiful blessings that I have experienced through the Grace of God.  This constitutes stepping away from the tangible realities of life and focusing on the spiritual benefits and blessings that I have experienced over the years.  When I open the flood gates of my memory bank, I am overcome with emotional bliss.  Remembering what God has done in my life brings me to a point of unassisted adoration.  All I want to do is praise and worship Him.  Have you ever been so blessed that you could hardly function?  Your spirit explodes with jubilation, your mind relives the past victories, and your body demonstrates the joy of those spiritual victories.  These experiences not only refresh, but recharge us to the point of renewed service.

When we are confronted with the negative, we find it harder to remember the past victories.  In fact, we tend to add to the challenges of our faith by exaggerating the depth of the problem.  How many have taken a simple molehill problem and elevated it to a mountainous conflict?  We spend more time centering on how bad things are than on how good God has been!  Human nature will always look at things as they are and will have no understanding beyond what can be seen and heard.  Believers will look at things that are not and see the evidences of their faith.  Negative situations are meant to initiate the action of our faith.  Exercising our faith is essential to our spiritual growth.  Every time we flex our faith, we become stronger.  When we fail to use our faith, we will be drawn into the arena of sight and feelings.

When Joseph was summoned before Pharaoh to interpret his dreams, he spoke under the authority of God, and stated that Pharaoh’s dreams signified there would be seven years of “great plenty,” followed by seven years of famine.  He also warned that there would be such a great famine that the inhabitants of the land would forget their years of abundance. (Genesis 41:30, 31)  As the seven years of bounty filled the land, Joseph, who had been elevated to a high position, began to store the agricultural surplus in preparation of the seven years of famine.  When the years of dearth began its dreaded reign on the land, the people cried out in despair.  Joseph gave the order and the storehouses were opened and the people ate from the abundance that had been preserved for such an occasion.  Not only did the Egyptians benefit from the stored bounty, but those from other countries came to buy the Egyptian grain.

Storing up blessings and recalling them during our “spiritual famines” will not only bring relief, but the opportunity to share with those who are in the midst of their famine and have forgotten their past blessings.  Instead of dwelling how bad things are, let us remember how good God has been. Let us renew our strength as we draw on those past blessings, knowing that God who has blessed us in times past will never forsake us during our times of need.

Memorial Day is a time when we remember those who have served our Country and the monumental times in which our freedom was preserved.  Should not Believers set aside a time in which we remember those who served the Lord with uncompromising faith and service?  Should we not remember the Biblical Saints and those who followed their examples?  Let us pause to remember the times in our lives when we overcame our battles because of the shed blood of Jesus.  Let us set aside a day of the week to remember our times of “plenty,” so when those days of spiritual famine strike, we will be better prepared to deal with the trials.

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DO WE REALLY MEAN IT?

On Sunday, people stage a performance of casual concern by asking people, “How are you doing?”  I presume that cliché is a standard greeting every Christian uses in frequent and “close encounters.” I wonder, do we really mean what we are asking or is it just an expected greeting?  Are we really interested in how others are doing?  Outside of Sunday, when is the last time we called someone on the phone and simply asked them how they were doing?  How long has it been since we encouraged someone in their spiritual walk?  What about sending an email or card to someone expressing interest in their lives?  What I see happening is a connecting with fellow Believers on Sunday followed by a disconnecting during the rest of the week.

There are many Christians who are struggling with their faith, but are too embarrassed to ask for help.  On the other end of the spectrum are those that have little or no interest in getting involved in the lives of others.  The attitude of some Believers seems to be every person for himself.  In so many fellowships, there is a cosmetic display of interest in others.  There may be an offer to pray for someone’s need if the requester is bold enough to ask, but many times the pledger forgets to pray.  Thank God for congregational assemblies, but what is also needed are people reaching out and touching one another during the rest of the week!

We must understand that the Christian journey is not a walk in the park; it is a battle of life challenging realities.  Every day there are Believers that stumble, trip, and fall because of temptations and challenges to their faith.  Much of the weakness that Believers experience is due to Scriptural ignorance.  Their knowledge of God’s Word is limited to the “blessings” instead of the instructional teachings.  They look at the Bible as an historical source of information, but fail to apply its content to their lives.

On Sunday, the Pastor brings the revealed Word to the Believers.  Monday through Saturday should be a time of applying what was heard.  Sunday is a time of receiving, while the rest of the week is a time for acting on the Word.  Not all Believers mature at the same rate.  Some will receive the Word that was passed to them and will run for the score, while others may drop the Word or get tackled by the cares of the world.  Those that are strong in the Faith need to help those that are sitting on the bench as a spectator.  They need to help them become participants in the greatest experiences of their lives.  It is a seven day operation that demands total commitment to God’s calling.  Believers need to interface with each other.  We need to share the Word and pray together.  We need to encourage and love one another with the same love Jesus has for us.  We all have faults.  We all have made mistakes.  We all have made bad decisions.  Hindsight is so observant and revealing, but the past is just the past.  The Apostle Paul made it so clear when he said, “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.” (Philippians 3:13)  Let us, as Believers, have the same commitment to one another that educators have to their students: they will “leave no child behind.”  We need to stay in touch with each other.  It is not just a “howdy do” on Sunday, but a, “How are we doing today?”  “Is there anything I can do for you?” or “I am having a hard time, could you help me?”

Our Faith is not an individual Faith, but a corporate Faith that exhibits the “Body of Christ.”  (Required reading: I Corinthians 12:12-27)

Soldiers of Christ, it is time to unite with each other and represent to the World the true BODY OF CHRIST!

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FACING THE PROBLEM

How do we respond to the challenges in life?  I am certain that we all have a different approach to circumstances that could have a negative effect on our faith.  Christians know the Word, but to implement it in our own lives is another thing.  To many Believers, the first response against an attack on their faith is to exhibit an arsenal of resources which are based on feelings and human emotions.  Worry, fear, anxiety, and doubt play the role of pawns that block faith, trust, belief, and confidence from entering into the arena of conflict.  These emotionally unstable pawns persuade the physical body to respond with things such as high blood pressure, ulcers, and sleeplessness.  It is only when our pawns are wiped out that our spiritual weapons finally enter the conflict.  Why do we feel that we have to initiate carnal responses before we can introduce the spiritual weapons of warfare?  Why is it that the “first responders” are fleshly instead of spiritual?  Maybe we need to look at the Scriptures and see how the early Believers dealt with assaults against their faith.

The Apostle Paul realized that complete trust and faith in God was the only way to be guaranteed a victorious life.  How did he deal with tribulations and sufferings?  He gloried and rejoiced in them!  The reason he took that approach was to show God that his hope rested in Him.  Paul knew that tribulation would work patience.  Patience is one trait that Believers have a difficult time achieving.  We want God to work things out yesterday, instead of waiting for God to develop spiritual character in us.  Patience then develops experience.  Experience is the best way to understand Biblical truths.  We must come to a point where the Bible is to be experienced, rather than just read.  When we act on the Word, Hope enters the picture.  In other words, we are confident that God is in control and our “tribulations” will become a teaching tool in the hand of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 5:1-5)

Many times I have assumed a responsibility of acting on my own volition.  Needless to say, I made decisions that led me on a spiritual roller coaster.  During these periods of emotional conflicts, I would exhibit my “pawn emotions” which would only help to intensify the problem.  I have to admit there were times I failed to practice what I preached!  Some Believers have a condition known as “Biblical Gluttony.”  We can be full of the Word, but unless we act on the Word, we become lethargic and ineffective during our times of testing.  Some claim to know the Word, but fail to show the Word.

The next time we are faced with challenges to our faith, let us rejoice, knowing we are about to embark on a journey that will bring growth and spiritual development to our lives.  Let us be patient as the Holy Spirit leads us through the difficult times.  As we experience Divine intervention, let us learn through the challenges so we will be ready for the next assault on our faith.  Let us take our emotional pawns off the board and let our spiritual arsenal be displayed!

The Apostle James also stressed the importance of expressing joy when faced with challenges to our faith.  He showed how patience helps to establish the goal of spiritual maturity. (James 1:2-4)  Joy and patience (longsuffering) are two ingredients of the Fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23)  Fruit is to be eaten as well as exhibited.  As we digest the Fruit, people should see its growth displayed in us!  When the problems arrive, let us keep our fleshly responses locked away, and start rejoicing at what the Holy Spirit is going to work in us through our times of difficulties!

 

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THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT

The point of this article is not to open up the different categories of the marriage subject, but to bring awareness of how important the marriage contract is to God.

One of the difficult things in life is adjusting to life itself.  There is continual evolving of every aspect of life.  Change is everywhere.  If one does not readily adapt to the engine of change, he will become a caboose seeing only the past as it fades from his eyes.  Change is usually initiated when something does not work, or is not as effective as it used to be.  Change is looking for something that might expand ones appreciation of life.  Change influences every aspect of life: things like apparel, language, literature, entertainment, relationships, values, politics, and even religion.  Change is usually initiated by a minority of individuals that are dedicated to expanding the definition of life.  They are willing to push the envelope and, through shock and awe, will influence the masses to launch out into the realm of endless possibilities.  Change will rapidly approach the eyes and ears of the unexpecting and gullible public.  Not all change is bad, but whenever it challenges God’s plan and purpose, it becomes an instrument of division.

When we think of marriage, we immediately think of God and His desire to join man and woman together as one.  It is a lifetime contract that couples enter into with each other.  They make their promises to one another and to God.  Are the vows that are made just words or are they truly life long promises that will be honored till “death do us part?”  Today, three out of five marriage partners end up  breaking their vows and promises to each other and God.  What is so shocking is that Christians are part of these negative statistics.  Believers expect God to fulfill His promises, while some rationalize away their broken promises to Him!

One day, a group of Pharisees confronted Jesus with a question that would either bring Him into opposition to the Pentateuch or show His Scriptural ignorance.  The question was simply, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?”  Jesus responded by asking what their take was on the subject.  They unanimously claimed that Moses supported Divorce. (Mark 10:2-13)  Jesus’ response was that because of man’s hardened heart, God had Moses put into the Law that the only cause of divorce was sexual impurity. (Deuteronomy 24:1)  It would seem that before this, it was permitted that a man could send his wife away for any reason.  So God said enough is enough and a “bill of divorcement” was instituted.  Jesus would reiterate the Law by saying, “Whosoever will put away his wife, except it be for fornication…” (Matthew 19:9)  To show how seriously God looks at marriage, Jesus stated that anyone who divorces his wife and she then remarries, causes her to be guilty of adultery, and not only that, but whoever marries her is also guilty of adultery. (Matthew 20:9)  I wonder how many newly married Christians have underlined these verses in their Bibles.

The wind of change has affected marriage to the point that the term is becoming archaic.  Unity without God’s oversight will continue to focus on the temporary.  If anyone of the contract partners chooses to cancel his covenant, it is a hop skip and jump to “freedom.”  The “I do” changes to “I don’t!”  Also, officiating at the marriage ceremony is open to anyone with a simple license to perform a secular or religious ceremony.  Pastors have even crossed the gender lines in performing unions that God does not acknowledge.   How can a Pastor, who stands as a representative of God, lead a non-Christian couple into making a sacred covenant that they don’t understand and will not think twice about breaking?  As our generation continues to pursue an ever changing agenda, let us continue to follow the One who never changes.

 

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VISIBLE CONFIRMATION

One of the easiest things for Christians to do is to use their Biblical language around other Believers.  One of the hardest things for us to do is stand on what we confess when facing difficult times.  The validity of our confession is directly related to our actions.  If we fail to exhibit what we confess, we need to remove ourselves from active duty, go back to boot camp, and relearn the basics of our faith.  Many of the skeptics of the Christian faith find their support in the action and non-action of the Believer.  Our actions will capture the eye of the unbeliever, and what they see will determine whether they will listen or not to what we have to say.   If Believers display unforgiveness against each other, who will listen to us share about the forgiveness of God?  If our love is conditional, how can we share about the unconditional love of God?  Our behavior is the doorway to our words.  When unbelievers see Christians respond victoriously in difficult situations, they will be open to hear our story.  If, on the other hand, they see the same type of responses that they would exhibit, their profanity and verbal abuse toward the Believer and Whom we represent will only accelerate.

Some Christians believe that their faith is a personal matter and, as a result, become a “secret service” agent of the Lord.  The problem with that reasoning is their lack of action and outward display gives credence to the negativity against Christians.  If Believers melt into society so that they are indistinguishable from the world, they can do unspeakable damage to the Kingdom of God.  One of the most mind boggling verses in the Bible is Romans 2:24.  Here Paul tells the Jews that because of their inconsistencies and fleshly actions many Gentiles blaspheme the name of God.  If we as Believers walk in conflict to what we proclaim, we could be responsible for reproaches leveled against God.  If our faith is real, we need to live it.  If our faith is just window dressing, we need to stop professing until we are ready to live by His Word.

Paul not only warns about the Believers negative affect on unbelievers, but also cautions being a stumbling stone to other Believers. (Romans 14:13b)  Many immature Believers are turned off to the organized Church when they see inconsistencies in the rank and file.  Jesus used the illustration of a child to show how serious it is for Believers to offend (be a stumbling block) a new Christian. (Matthew 18:6)  To be able to have a positive affect on others, we must learn, as John the Baptist did, to decrease in our own eyes so Jesus can increase in us.(John 3:30)

I am hearing more and more Christian clichés, while at the same time seeing more and more inconsistencies.  It is so easy to say, “Jesus is Lord,” but it is another thing to live like He is Lord.  We can spout off with our Christian language, but we need to sprout up with evidences of our commitments.  King Agrippa, in responding to Paul’s testimony, said, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” (Acts 26:28)  Seeing what Paul was going through, and witnessing his unfaltering faith, almost brought the King to his knees in surrender to the true King.  Words backed up by actions can move not only mountains, but countries.  Instead of having spiritual pep rallies, let us display what we believe to those who are looking for an answer to the void in their lives.

I am tired of hearing and not seeing the Kingdom of God being displayed.  If we are not willing to be an example of what we believe, maybe we should just sit at the rapture runway and wait for the Lord’s return.  At least, that way we won’t be a stumbling block to either the Believer or the unbeliever.

 

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WHO GOES TO HELL?

Is it Biblically correct to assume that everyone who does not come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ will at their demise enter the gates of Hell?  Would this include those who have never been presented the Gospel due to their global location?  Would this include those who were raised in isolated or communal surroundings, where their religion or belief has always been a shield of protection against outside influence?  What about those who have no access to organized religion of any kind?

Christianity is the largest religion in the world with over 2.2 billion followers.  The Islamic faith is second with more than 1.6 billion adherents.  Those of the Hindu faith number around 785 million.  I wonder how many of those non-Christians have never even heard of Jesus Christ.  It is estimated that there are 1.6 billion people that have never heard the Gospel. (CNN.com)  When they die, according to our understanding of the Scripture, where would they spend eternity?  Obviously they would not go to Heaven for the only way to access eternal life is through Jesus Christ.  What about Hell?  What does the Bible say about that option?  Does the Scripture convey that when an “infidel” dies and seeks entrance to God’s habitat, that he is not only turned away, but is sent to a burning Hell to suffer for eternity?

I am sure we all have our rehearsed response to this challenging situation.  I am almost certain that the high percentage of respondents have been taught their response instead of having searched out the Scripture themselves.

Does the Bible teach that no matter what man’s belief or non-belief, there are only two options: Heaven or Hell.  Do we Scripturally believe that God would allow someone to experience the torments of Hell, if they have never been given or had the opportunity to know His Grace?  We all have the “canned” response that God has a different way to deal with those who have never heard.  Is that a Biblical reaction or just a convenient way to cover up our uncertainty on the subject?

The Bible contains the abbreviated history of the Jewish people as well as the early activities of the people known as Christians.  The Bible contains the interaction of God with His chosen people.  Through the continual hardening of the hearts of His people, God sent His prophets and messengers to urge them to return to Him.  He also emphasized that there would be a consequence to their sinful actions.  God finally sent His Son, but many also rejected Him.  Jesus took the penalty for their sins and whosoever accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord would have eternal life and abide with Him forever in a place called Heaven.  Those, on the other hand, who rejected Jesus Christ would have eternal life, not in Heaven, but in a place called Hell.

The question that must be addressed is how far should the Judeo/Christian Bible be extended to include those outside the Faith?  If Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven, how can those who have never heard of Him be expected to make a decision to accept Him?  If they can’t, how can we assume they will have to spend eternity in Hell?  Is this what the Bible teaches?  If Heaven is closed to the masses of humanity because of their ignorance, does that also mean that Hell has an open door policy for them?

Would it be possible that eternity is a limited prospective?  Is the reality of eternal life dependent on the decision of accepting or rejecting the Gospel message?  Does the Biblical subject of eternal life include those who have never heard of Jesus?  If this subject pertains only to the hearers of the Gospel, would those who have never heard simply return to the dust of the earth when they die?  What does the Bible teach on this subject?  This article was meant to get us off our couches and to the table of study to see what the Bible really teaches.

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