Ten Shocking Scriptural Lies That Have Changed America!
The answer to your question is addressed in one or more of these ten messages.1) Hate the Sin but Love the Sinner
2) All Sins are Equal in the Eyes of God
3) Doing Good to our Enemies
4) Unconditional Forgiveness
5) Judging Others
6) Works / Fruits
7) Jesus and the Law
8) The "Gospel" of Love
9) The Purpose of Prayer
10) What Would Jesus do? (WWJD)
Misconception # 1
How many people in this world have you ever - hated? I know of some people I dislike - but hated? If we are to love, as God loves, are we not to hate as God hates? But you say, "God is all love, He never hated anyone" - or did He
Today, regardless of the issue, "hate" is the buzz word used by virtually everyone who disagrees with another person. When honest differences cannot be discussed intelligently, a picture is often portrayed of the sinner being a victim of the sin, instead of its evil author. In this case hate is more than likely the scapegoat. Although saint and sinner alike are equally guilty of this same deception, to disagree with another person is not by any means hateful.
Modern day use for the word "hate," which is closely aliened with tolerance, started as a deflection of truth by sodomites who promote the homosexual lifestyle and is purely an attempt to redirect the issue to a discussion that is more defensible on their part. Although the term "hate crime," was invented for this purpose, as with the word "choice," it is totally deceptive and destructive to the furtherance of honest debate and pro-life / profamily ministry efforts. The old proverb, "When the good are overly merciful to the bad, the good eventually become the bad," comes to mind. For some time churches have been doing whatever they could to convince believers we should always "turn the other cheek," to avoid controversy, like the great SINS of our day, abortion, sodomy, adultery, divorce, gambling, pornography, addictions, political liberalism, etc., to do anything else would be . . . it would be . . . hateful - wouldn’t it? Biblical references to God’s wrath and anger are too frequent to easily be counted. But in order to understand Scripture and God’s instructions we must begin by acknowledging a universal law of Christianity and three laws of hermeneutics (the science of interpretation).
The Universal Law of Christianity is that a statement by Jesus Christ (Son) cannot contradict a Law from God (Father). To state otherwise is heresy. Anyone who makes such a statement is acting completely contrary to God’s will, deliberately lying, or completely stupid - don’t believe them! The first law of hermeneutics is to examine what the text actually says. To do this, there are times when we must go beyond the English text in order to understand what was said in the original language, the Hebrew of the Old Testament or the Greek of the New Testament. This will require a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. The second law is to examine the immediate context in which the passage is found. What is the subject discussed? The third law is to examine the whole analogy of Scripture, meaning, the entire context of the document being studied.
Take the word "hate." (Luke 14:26) - "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his mother and father, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also He cannot be my disciple." Common sense tells us this does not mean we are to literally hate our parents and everyone else, that’s crazy. So what does it mean?
First Law - Although "hate" in Old Testament Hebrew means "personally," in New Testament Greek it means to "love less." We are to love everyone less than we love God - same word but two different meanings.
Second Law - What is the subject? The term "hate the sin but love the sinner" is a paraphrase taken from a letter by St. Augustine, giving instruction for discipline to a religious order of nuns. It was never meant as a panacea to serve in place of punishment for a wrongdoer! In the commonly referred to pro-life verses of Psalm 139:1-18, David lists a stirring message of God’s perfect knowledge of man. But have you ever read the continuing verses 19-22? "Oh God, if only you would destroy the wicked! Get out of my life, you murderers! They blaspheme you; your enemies take your name in vain. O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you? Shouldn’t I despise those who resist you? Yes, I hate them with complete hatred, for your enemies are my enemies." In the Hebrew version of these verses David states he personally and extremely did not "love" God’s enemies. Again in Hebrew translation, Mal 1:3 states also that God did not love Esau, "Yes I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated." Additionally, 2 Chronicles 19:2 asks in a condemning tone, "Should you help the wicked and love the Lord? Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you." In Proverbs 6:17 God also states in Hebrew that He hates, not only shedding of innocent blood, but the person (human form) that was responsible for the evil! Psalm 5:6-7 states, "The boastful shall not stand in your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man," - including the abortionist. Proverbs 14: 17 states, "And a man of wicked intentions is hated." Proverbs 8:13, "And the perverse mouth I hate." We cannot address sin without affecting the sinner. An evil spirit needs a body to occupy. It will not be the sin that is sentenced to hell at the Judgment, it will be the unrepentant sinner.
Third Law - The Bible as a whole universally condemns looking at another person with an unloving heart, but there are instances where hating is justified as in the examples listed above. So the word "hate" can mean one thing in one paragraph and something entirely different in another.
In your life you will always love something and hate something. We can talk all we want about overcoming evil with good, but unless we have a holy hatred for evil, we will never overcome it with good. Most believers say they love the Lord but do not hate what He hates. God is holy; therefore, He cannot tolerate evil in any form - sin or sinner. An unrepentant sinner (regardless of a verbal conversion) cannot dwell in heaven with a holy God! If our love for the Lord is sincere, then we will learn to hate everything that competes against Him.
The question is whether you will not only love what God loves but hate what He hates. What you love is a clue to what you hate, and what you hate is a clue to what you love.
To touch the Lord is to have mercy on the multitudes and hatred toward their oppressors. Holy love and holy hatred are gifts from God and fueled by the other. The term, "hate the sin but love the sinner," is man made, not part of Scripture, and a tool from Satan to hamper the defense of the defenseless and the cause of Christ!
Misconception # 2
Someone is quoted as saying, "A lie can travel halfway around the world while truth is still trying to put its shoes on," which leads me to discuss the following e-mail I received: "Let me say right up front, sin is sin in God's eyes. No sin is greater than another, whether it be the sin of murder, adultery, stealing, lying, gossiping, or gluttony."
First of all, there is not a great deal to be said about such a statement without being rhetorical. The whole analogy strikes in the face of civilized thought that is so basic to Christian teaching it hardly begs discussion. If such a claim were made law, our country would obviously go into a state of anarchy.
This insane thought is simply more rhetoric used by many modern day churches to defuse their responsibility in preserving mandates given by God. In an attempt to justify noninvolvement in controversial issues, most churches and some entire denominations have abandoned entrusted laws of morality and civil decency in favor of a misguided sense of compassion by "leveling the playing field" regarding various sins. As insinuated by the previous writer, why fight abortion if it is no worse a sin than gossiping?
The Christian Church has been invaded in recent years by a theology that is totally foreign to the teaching of basic Christianity. Half of those who attend church have either had a divorce, are "shaking-up" or have committed adultery, have a gambling, alcohol, or pornography addiction, have been involved in an abortion, or have a friend or relative who is a sodomite, and only God knows what else. For fear of offending these people and loosing contributions, clergy "level the playing field" regarding these and other traditional evils. Very rarely are specific sins such as just mentioned discussed within our churches. But if discussion becomes unavoidable, the implication is brought that the person committing one of these offences is no worse than those guilty of gossiping or gluttony. It’s again being willing to tolerate sin in the camp for thirty pieces of silver.
Most deception used to substantiate this equality of sin is taken from Paul’s statement in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The Greek meaning for sinning is to literally "miss the mark" and "not share in the prize." This analogy is derived from ancient archery contests where the person who "missed the mark" was referred to as "sinning," and therefore, would "fall short of the glory of the prize, "and that’s all that it means! The verse has nothing to do with sins being equal in "God’s eyes," it only infers that all of us have "missed the mark" from time to time.
We worship a holy God - not a "good-buddy." It is impossible to research scripture without acknowledging the fact that God promises to punish unrepentant sin. Are all sins equal in the eyes of God? No, in fact, they are extremely unequal! It is also a fact that God clearly orders, in the great book of Leviticus, punishments to be imposed according to the severity of the sin committed. First Corinthians is specific in mentioning various sins that keep an unrepentant sinner from the Kingdom of God, indicating a degree of punishment according to the sin. Murder is a sin and gluttony is a sin, but these sins carry with them very different consequences and therefore different punishments.
We often question why our prayers are not answered regarding an end to the many great evils of our day. The answer is because God is not only loving but also just, and punishes crimes according to the severity of the evil committed! "For whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Gal 6:7). If He finds us unworthy, He will not save our society as He did not save His Old Testament Church that fell captive to Babylon.
Common sense tells us there must be different penalties imposed for different crimes, and all civilized governments direct such penalties. Crimes such as murder carry with them a greater degree of punishment than, for example, that of gluttony. It is always a sin to cooperate in evil, but the gravity of the sin depends on the nature of one’s cooperation. As an example, the driver of the "get-away" car may be guilty of a crime, but not as much so as the person who robbed the bank and shot the teller.
I heard a gentleman who was involved with prison ministries say, "I never discuss their crimes, because we are all sinners in God’s eyes." Although his statement is true, such an analogy is deceptive and misleading if used to "level the playing field" of the crime committed. Some of the prisoners referred to are in prison for stealing bread, while others may be on death row for murder. For the betterment of civilized society, government directs punishment according to the degree the crime has on society. God does the same and so must we!
The current day philosophy of "how much can I get away with and still go to heaven," is not rational nor is it consistent with Christian theology. There is a new "evangelism movement" within church today, Catholic and Protestant, to remove any specific sin from the Gospel which could cause controversy or disagreement within the church body, and that only to "believe" is enough. I sat in church services and heard the pastor shockingly and ignorantly say, "Sin will not keep you from heaven. Christ did it all," an implication that there is sin in heaven. I heard a Catholic priest say, "If you are worried about salvation, don’t be. Just go home and be good to each other, then you will have nothing to worry about." To speak against sin is now considered in most churches sin itself! Millions know Christ "died to save sinners," yet do not know what sin is, and that once having accepted Christ they need to prove their acceptance by living a life of obedience to God’s Ten Commandments, otherwise their "acceptance" was obviously not sincere.
Sin is at the center of the Gospel of Christ, and if not disciplined correctly a theology of Freud is promoted (not Christianity) where responsibility for one’s actions becomes irrelevant. To preach that the act of slaughtering unborn children or to deliberately spread AIDS throughout our country is no worse a sin than overeating, is a detriment to any ministry fighting to counter these evils, and an abomination to the cause of Christ!
Misconception # 3
You are one among hundreds of thousands of inquisitive, hopeful, sick, and religious people who have followed this strange holy man through the Judean countryside for many days. There have been healings of every type of disease, casting out of demons, and truth never heard before. The overwhelming crowd is tired and hungry, and the man you are following can be seen from a distance to pause, look around, and proceed to climb to the top of a nearby hill. He turns toward the vast audience, sits, and you listen as He begins to speak. For some reason everyone is able to hear His message regardless of the space.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit... You are the salt of the earth… You have heard that it is said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth... But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also... Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn him away" (Matt. 5).
"Wait a minute," you say to the person sitting nearby, "that doesn’t make sense." Then some time later this same man was heard to say to a Roman official who was questioning him, "If my kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I would not be delivered to the Jews" (John 18:36). But isn’t this a contradiction of what this person they call Jesus meant in His message to the multitudes? No it is not! Contrary to passive messages taught in most churches today, at no time in recorded history has a major dispute been settled by doing good to an enemy! This falsehood, which was never stated by Jesus, is one of the most misused teachings within current day theology and is a hindrance to a civilized society and pro-life / pro-family efforts. In fact, I have never known anyone who actually practiced this ridiculous rhetoric. Jesus lifestyle, actions, use of hard teachings, and direct language does not exemplify that of a pacifist. His great oratorical statements described in Matthew are no different!
But how then, do we explain Jesus’ apparent statement in Matt. 5:44, "I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you?" Common sense tells any sincere student of Scripture that this verse cannot mean as it appears to be written. The accepted view among biblical scholars is that such an approach (with parallels Buddhism) would be unrealistic and unworkable! It is important for Christians to realize that if a New Testament quotation by Christ seems to contradict the greater part of Holy Scripture, the reader must be interpreting the quotation incorrectly. Jesus has no authority to contradict His Father. Such is the case with many of these "new age" theological clichés we experience today. The oldest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, the Alexandrian text, does not mention "bless those who curse you, do good to those that hate you." The Alexandrian text reads, "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." The remainder of the quotation has been added by man!
The Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount) addresses social, moral and personal issues; it is not addressing governmental, corporate, or constitutional matters. An examination of the text will show that Jesus is talking about "personal vengeance, revenge, or vindictiveness," which is not to be confused with "justice," a subject referred to throughout Scripture numerous times. It is not "vengeance or justice" which is proscribed, but "personal vengeance." Not a Commandment, but a lifestyle guideline for happiness, and definitely not meant as an excuse to not defend our life, country, or culture from moral evils of our day. We are to be kind, as much as possible (Romans 12:18), and pray for people we may disagree with, not because we want these people to prosper, but because actions of other people affect our lives.
A similar error exists concerning the term "turn the other cheek" (Matt.5:39). Suppose someone has attacked you and slashed one side of your face with a knife. He is arrested and the court calls for your testimony. In rendering the verdict the judge leans toward you and says, "Sir, it is my decision, that you ‘turn the other cheek’ and let the perpetrator work on that side for awhile." There must be something wrong with this decision—but what? The answer is common sense, it’s not the Judge’s cheek that he is turning, it’s somebody else’s cheek.
When sending out His disciples Jesus instructed them regarding how they should act when coming in contact with fellow believers. If the disciple treated a believer unfairly or offended him, and the believer retaliated by slapping the disciple across the face, the disciple was instructed to "turn the other cheek" because the disciple was guilty of an offence. This does not mean, however, that He intended for evil people to abuse us. To the contrary, Jesus didn’t send out wimps. If a Christian is wronged or slapped across the face by an unbeliever he should "turn the other cheek" to the oppressor in an act of defiance—not submission! There is no such thing as "violence begets violence." If the first act is violence, to respond is not vindictive, but justifiable defensive retaliation. “Loving our neighbor,” Augustine wrote, “will sometimes require using force against aggression.”
Then there is Matt.5:40-42, "If someone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also." The indication here is that the lender is being greedy. Jewish theology considered a "giving of the cloak," to signify nudity, which was viewed as bringing shame on the viewer, not the naked person (Gen.9:20-27), and a way of chastising the greedy person rather than some phony sense of compassion.
"And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two." Roman law at the time of Christ allowed soldiers to demand that inhabitants of occupied territories carry shields, armor, and equipment for them the distance of one mile, to "go with him two," would result in a penalty for the soldier. The implication to "go with him two," was Jesus way of placing criticism on an unjust Roman law-nothing else! An example of this law was when Roman soldiers pressed Simon into service to carry the cross for Jesus.
Finally, does Matt.5:42 allow you to expect a Christian bank president to loan money interest free? Hardly, because it’s not his money; it’s somebody else’s money.
Voters of Austria were faced with a problem in 1938 regarding whether they should vote to have their nation taken-over by Adolph Hitler or resist. Only .25% voted against the take-over. The remaining 99.75% voted to allow Nazi control. Little is remembered of those whose loved peace more than freedom and ended up loosing both. History remembers them as cowards. Christians who stood by silently and did good to their enemy, have lived and died with the world’s and God’s judgment that where evil was present—they were strangely silent!
In the Old Testament, God treated His enemies harshly, but justly, and Jesus (being part of the Trinity) was there with His Father and was fully in agreement with Him! The suggestion, "Do good to our enemies," is simply another misapplication of God’s Word by cowardly people who ignorantly, and in some cases deliberately, misquote Scripture in order to avoid righteous confrontation to defend the Gospel of our Lord!
Misconception # 4
Some years ago I was asked to participate in, and accepted, a position on of the Board of Directors of a large pro-life organization. During my short tenure I experienced a fellow director who was not forthright with the overall membership. In fact, she was responsible for a great deal of unpublicized harm to the organization. After confronting our Board with information to no avail, I eventually resigned my position. Later this person appeared at a function I had the honor of hosting and offered her hand in friendship—but I refused. The reason I did this will become evident as you examine this message.
Forgiveness is one of the most misunderstood doctrines, and along with love, contributes to 99% of today’s church messages. There is even an organization called the National Forgiveness Institute, located in Madison, Wisconsin. Almost all letters I receive from those who refer to themselves as Christians, and condemn me for one reason or another, mention unconditional forgiveness as an all important cornerstone of their faith. But the practice of this false virtue is not part of scripture.
I know of a man who relates the story of a mother and daughter who came out of an abortuary at which he was ministering, and as he approached them the mother said, "We are born again Christians, and my daughter has already begun the repentance process." Even before the baby is killed, she began the repentance process. God save us from this kind of false Christianity!
The unconditional forgiveness approach we are experiencing today is an attempt to find a way to escape reality of the moment and hurts of the past. It is a sacrifice of truth for personal absolution. The implication is that if Christ teaches us to forgive everyone, then we should not take action against those who kill unborn children, spread AIDS, promote pornography, and a host of other crimes against humanity.
JESUS DID NOT TEACH UNCONDITIONAL FORGIVENESS
The Greek term for forgiveness means to "lay-aside," which is a different and less forgiving meaning than the word absolution. When applied to Luke 17:3-4, "If another believer sins, rebuke him; then if he repents, forgive him. Even if he wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and repents, forgive him," this verse takes on a specific meaning. It is addressed to believers, (not everyone in general) and specifies repentance as the all important criteria for forgiving. Without repentance the believer is to be rebuked—period! Remember, only one criminal that was crucified beside Christ was promised salvation, the one that repented. For a Christian to forgive a deliberate sinful act without repentance is to condone evil and is sin itself. When people bowed down and humbled themselves before idols, God told Isaiah, "Do not forgive them" (Isaiah 2:9). Nowhere in Scripture does God indicate that forgiveness is justified without need for repentance, and if that’s good enough for God it should be good enough for us! Hebrew language in Leviticus 16:30 states, “Then before the lord you will be clean from all your sins.” A NIV footnote clarifies the meaning further, “On the Day of Atonement the repentant Israelite was assured of sins forgiven.”
Forgiveness can only be experienced by those who honestly admit they need it. As is recorded in Psalm 51, David, who was responsible for the deaths of some 2000 fellow soldiers in his adulterous lust for Saul’s daughter, asked God for forgiveness:
"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me."
SO WHAT IS REPENTANCE?
The Greek meaning for repentance is "regret," to "think differently," and most notably—change! Many statements of repentance are nothing more than thinly veiled sidesteps to avoid pain resulting from harm someone has done and consequences resulting there from. Repentance means more than remorse for getting caught. While offenders cannot un-spill the milk, they can help clean up the mess they have made. Although it may be impossible at times to know whether repentance is real, we can look for evidence. A truly repentant person will confess wrong, offer no excuses, ask for forgiveness, and accept results. If there is little or no evidence of these criteria being met, an avenue for legitimate forgiveness does not exist— and is not warranted.
FORGIVENESS ALSO DEPENDS ON CIRCUMSTANCES
Sometimes forgiveness is justified when the offender did not know what they were doing at the time. "Father forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke: 23-24). This is often true of little children or the spiritually immature. God does not, however, forgive at the expense of His justice. He does not command us to assist and help people who are deliberately and unrepentantly committing wicked acts—sin. To the contrary, II Chronicles 19:2 states, "Should you help the wicked, and love those that hate the Lord. Therefore, the wrath of the Lord is upon you."
1. Sometimes forgiveness requires us to forgive over and over again, as illustrated above in Luke 17:3-4 and Mt. 18:21-22.
2. And sometimes we are required to withhold forgiveness for sake of the one who has harmed us and society in general. In this case it is the responsibility of a wounded Christian to act. If the wound comes from a believer, we are instructed (as stated earlier) to rebuke him, which is to be in best interest of the brother or sister who harmed us. From a Christian perspective, to hold people accountable for their actions is a way of honoring them, and shows they are important enough for us to take their actions seriously. To not forgive should not be confused with bitterness, which is destructive.
However, the overall emphasis in Luke 23: 24 is not one of immaturity, but whether the act was committed in ignorance or presumptuously. In Hebrew, ignorance means mistake or being unaware. Apparently Jesus felt His adversaries were ignorant of what they were doing and should not be held accountable. Reasoning behind this is the fact that Jesus did not practice what we now call Christianity. He abided by the Old Testament. The Old Testament Law made a clear distinction between sins of ignorance and sins committed presumptuously (Numbers 15:24-31). In Old Testament Law the ONLY sin that was absolved without the repeated need for blood offerings was those committed through ignorance.
Forgiveness in this case was effective for past offences only. As long as there were finite sacrifices, only finite forgiveness was achieved. But once there were infinite sacrifices, infinite forgiveness was achieved. Leviticus16:34, states, "this is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all sins of the Israelites." But an NIV footnote states, "Once a year" repeatedly points out this contrast with Christ's "once and for all" sacrifice in Hebrews 9:11-1
But nothing is worse for the offender than to be allowed to go on in his or her sin unchallenged and uncared for until led into the judgment hall of God!
When someone is forgiven, God does not suspend the natural law of sowing and reaping, nor does He forgive so all consequences of our sin can be removed. He removes guilt and shame, but not scars and consequences with which we must live! Leaving vengeance in the hands of God is not to deny justice against those who have harmed us. King David received forgiveness from God but paid an awful price in the death of his son, family discord, and national turmoil (2 Sam. 12:13-23).
Contrary to modern theology God does not forget our sins. In Jeremiah 31:34, "I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more," the word "remember," in Hebrew, means "mention," a much different meaning. God does not teach us to forget, but rather not to hold sins against one another. God did not forget the sins of Adam, Eve, Abraham, Moses, David, Rahab, Paul, Peter, and other forgiven people.
While it is necessary to love in order to show Christ-like forgiveness, it is not necessary to forgive in order to show Christ-like love. The "I forgive you for my own sake" attitude that advocates forgiveness for purely personal therapeutic selfish reasons is based on wrong theology. The danger is this rhetorical "sleight-of-hand" undermines the loving forgiveness taught in the Bible to a self-centered act of self-protection. In many ways it is seen as an unconditional offering of pardon that says, "No matter what you have done to me, I forgive you." One in which cowardice and apathy receive absolution, while the perpetrator feels justification, thereby allowing evil to be condoned at the expense of the innocent.
I saw this quote the other day from a person who was shot in the head and left for dead, "I forgive him for shooting me. I do it for me, to go on with my life." Although this popular form of emotional therapy, (a forgiveness grounded in me-ism), has run rampant through our churches and society in general, it’s as ungodly as the "Golden Calf." Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Protestant theologian killed by Nazis called it "cheap grace."
In my many years of ministry I have never experienced forgiveness from any Christian pastor, priest, or pro-family leader who disagreed with my activism concerning the great issues of the day. Additionally, I am certain the vast majority of clergy do not actually believe what they preach concerning this virtue and people who populate their churches feel likewise. In fact, most Christians with whom I have had a disagreement have not prayed for me to "see the light" if they felt I have wronged then, but made every vindictive effort at their disposal to destroy our ministry. Here is a typical example:
"As a practicing catholic all my life I am infuriated at your unjustified hatred for people who live a life-style you do not agree with. My religion is about reconciliation and forgiveness for all Gods people. I will do everything possible to tell my friends about your intolerant ministry and convince them to not financially support you."
"None of my clients ever turned the other cheek," said an attorney representing families of murder victims at the hands of a serial killer, "none of them ever forgave him." A Christian NASCAR owner wrote to a clothing store catalog publisher who promoted sexually implicit material in their advertising, "I intend to work diligently to make as many Americans as possible aware of your sexually provocative advertising campaign and to encourage them to boycott . . . My hope is your business will indeed suffer as a result." Did we forgive Timothy McVeigh for his Oklahoma City bombing of a Federal building? What do you think will happen to terrorists that work to destroy our country? "Those who forgive unrepentant evildoers," writes Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, "make the world not a better place, but a worse one."
As a foreign missionary stated at a church I attended, "How is it that I see an apparent spiritual awakening, a revival of sorts, super-churches, tremendous television and radio ministries, great crusades and conferences, and thousands of people coming to them, and still the whole moral fiber of our country is continuing to slip?" We must be careful that our mercy is in the best interest of the other party and not merely a self-deceiving effort to avoid confrontation. Poor theology has taught us to forgive when we think it is in our best interest. God wants us to forgive when it is in the best interest of others!
Misconception # 5
One of the most dangerous evils we can con ourselves into believing is the abandonment of profound truths on which civilized society has always been based. Such is the modern day illusion associated with the term, "judging." As sheep mindlessly follow the shepherd, the word "judge," in sheep talk, means not to—think!
Today, if there is one action that is certain to ignite anger in the hearts of an atheist toward a Christian, it is the act of judging, which is also known as intolerance. Through the many years of my ministry I have been accused numerous times by believer and nonbeliever alike, of the horrible act of "judging." "Who am I to judge," they say to me about my remarks concerning abortion and other great evils. "Jesus never judged anybody." They turn their heads and make
excuses for not confronting wickedness within our society, passively referring to them as political topics or personal private matters, rather than sin. To think, discern, reason, and make decisions regarding right and wrong based on God’s Commandments is considered mean spirited, intolerant, not Christ-like, hateful, and the all-inclusive offense of—judging!
When we start to tell the message of salvation, the cross, and resurrection, we hear, "What is there for God to judge or change in me? Sin, how can I be a sinner when nothing is my fault? I am a victim; someone else is responsible for my problems, my negative actions, my crimes. I trace the difficulty to the abuse of my parents, school, society—but not me. Don’t suggest that God will judge me. How can God do that? Didn’t God make me? If I am not right in some way, it isn’t my fault! God won’t judge me, but I’ll judge God; whatever is wrong with me is His fault." People who voice this distorted viewpoint of life get their information somewhere, they just didn’t pick it out of the air, but it’s not from the Christian Bible—and it is not from God!
Should a Christian leave all judging up to God? Does the Bible teach it is wrong in all circumstances to judge? The answers to these questions are; no, we should not, and no, it does not! God expects His followers to think!
Jesus never told us not to judge—what we are warned against is being judgmental. "Judge not, that ye be not judged." The Greek meaning for judge, in Matt. 7:1, means condemn, which is much different than in I Corinthians 4:3, "yea, I judge not mine own self," meaning to examine. To judge and condemn, without proper evidence is sinful. But to judge, examine, is something else.
In Greek, the verb tense means to "not be continually involved in judging others" which is hardly the same as to never judge anyone. We are to judge, examine, ourselves and others, in order to discern, and discriminate right from wrong so as to lead a proper Christian life. Shortly after Jesus said, "Judge not," He twice commands believers in Mathew 7:6 to judge when He tells us to "not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine." Solomon, in I Kings 3:9-11, asked God for discernment (which in Hebrew means to mentally distinguish) in order to judge and rule his people. God granted his request. There are many other examples.
God has made it extremely easy for His followers to judge correctly; His Commandments are His guideline. So is it right for a Christian to judge, examine, a Doctor that kills unborn children or people who promote a lifestyle that God calls abominable? You’d better believe it—in fact God orders it!
Misconception # 6
While messages of salvation totals are said to be increasing world wide, a host of evils continue to run rampant, not only through society in general but through churches as well! It is an undeniable fact that the Christian Church now has absolutely no affect on our culture whatsoever! Today’s example of a "Christian" is to say a special prayer for salvation, and then pray that others will do the works which they have been commanded by God to do in the first place. In his papers, Sir Frederick Catherwood put it this way, “To try to improve society is not worldliness but love. To wash your hands of society is not love but worldliness.”
Luther once referred to the doctrine of "justification by faith alone" as "the most dangerous teaching," because it has been used for a license to sin. I am concerned regarding a trend or misunderstanding that has developed within our Christian society—the subject of faith opposing works. Notice I say opposing, because that is exactly what modern pastorate seems to be pitching! I believe the purpose for this deception to be a half-witted one, merely an excuse for lack of involvement in political matters.
As a result of door-to-door witnessing by two pastor friends of mine, a man (with a shaded lifestyle) made a confession to accept Christ as his savior. Realizing and promising to abide by his duties and responsibilities, the man publicly announced his desire to join their church and was accepted. Here’s the problem . . . the man never financially supported the church, was never involved in any church function, did not display a significant change in his lifestyle, and after only a few visits, stopped attending church. Needless to say, after a period of time the church removed this man’s membership. The justification? Because as James says, a lack of works proved his profession of faith to be not real and "dead and useless" (James 2:17).
WHAT SCRIPTURE SAYS ABOUT FAITH AND WORKS Greek translations relating to Ephesians, Romans, and James:
- Ephesians 2:8 -10 states, "God saved you by His special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." Greek meaning - For it is a free gift that you obtain salvation, through no work of your own. For we are God’s product, His creation in Jesus Christ, to do the labor God commands us to do.
- Romans 3:28, "So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law." Greek meaning - That man is right by reliance in Christ for salvation apart from the deeds of the law.
- James 2:14, "What’s the use in saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can’t save anyone." Greek meaning - What does it profit if you utter the words that you are reliant in Christ for salvation but do not act? Reliance in Christ by itself for salvation is not enough.
- James 2:17, "So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is no faith at all - it is dead and useless." Greek meaning - Reliance in Christ for salvation by itself, if it does not have deeds, is no better than being a nonbeliever.
- James 2:24, "So you see, we are made right with God by what we do, not by faith alone." Greek meaning - Man is proved to be right by his work and not by reliance in Christ for salvation only.
1. Paul was saying in Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 3:28, in translated Greek, that man is shown to be right by reliance in Christ for salvation apart from deeds of the Commandments. He also states in Ephesians 2:10, however, that a purpose of our salvation is to do deeds God has commanded, and in Galatians 5:6 that faith is a trust that cannot exist without obedience, works.
2. James is defining the topic and making it clearer and more understandable. He is saying there can be real faith or faith that is not real, and real faith will be seen through works! It is virtually impossible to possess REAL faith in Christ without a passion to do His work. The love of Christ is not only a restraint on lawlessness, it is also a motivation to do good works.
3. Paul and James agree with each other. Paul is talking about right relationship - James is talking about right conduct. The only way I can prove my acceptance of Christ is by my works, not my faith. Works is a result of faith. Faith is invisible; it has no shape or color. To say we have faith but live no different than a pagan or do nothing at all to defend God's teachings is as James says, "A lie and not real faith at all." Fruits of the spirit are greater than gifts of the spirit, or stating this in other words - actions speak louder than words.
The thousands of people who followed Christ through the hills of Judea would not have stayed if He had not feed them. What kind of an example would that have been? We must first of all say we have faith - then show we have faith by our actions - so others can see the truth of God’s Word and respond to His call. Morality without God is works without faith, and works without faith are highly unlikely. Few people live a life of sacrifice without powerful motivation. So what if we say we believe in Jesus but display no evidence by our lifestyle? Millions have been told by clergy, "Christ did it all," while utterly ignoring God’s laws. The Bible says we are assured of going to heaven when we die if we "believe," but this is not as simple as it sounds.
BELIEVING IN OR ABOUT
Believing IN Jesus requires we follow His Fathers mandates, commandments, and Jesus’ teachings! But in many cases the problem is this; many may think they believe in Jesus but really do not, they merely believe about Jesus, which is not enough! Writing in Decision magazine, Pastor Craig Brian Larson states, "As a pastor I was talking with a woman suffering from depression. Alcohol, drugs, a boyfriend and marital conflict were tearing her apart, leaving her desperate for advice on how to sew things together again. What she seemed to be needing most was God, so I asked her, ‘Do you believe in Jesus?’ ‘Yes,’ she replied, but admitted she didn’t read the Bible and seldom prayed. I asked her, ‘Are you living in a way that would please God?’ She answered ‘No.’ We talked further and eventually I gently confronted her; 'I know you think you believe in Jesus, but you may be deceiving yourself. It seems as if you don’t believe in Him; you believe about Him.'
Pastor Larson goes on to say, "Consider someone in a leadership position. We can believe the outward circumstances surrounding that person: He is married and has three children; he works for XYZ Corporation; he is president of the school board. We have no difficulty believing these things about him. But if we oppose his politics and refuse to support him, then we do not believe in him as a leader. Believing in a leader means following his or her direction. Jesus requires that we believe in Him as Leader, in His authority, in the truth of His words, in His right to rule our lives. Believing in Jesus will result in unmistakable evidence that our commitment is genuine. Those who believe in Him and His leadership will follow Him. If we ignore Jesus' words we reject His authority, and thereby reject Him! Jesus loves us too much to let us deceive ourselves, and so He firmly confronts us with the truth, 'If you love me you will obey what I command.'"
Believing about Jesus is acknowledging He is the Son of God, was on earth for a time and did certain things. But believing in Jesus is to go further, to additionally commit to what He taught, and promising to abide by His teachings. This means not only abstaining from what is wrong, but doing what is right! If someone believes in Jesus there will be works. Our Lord said, "Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:20).
Similarly we may believe and confess Jesus is the Son of God, and that He rose from the dead, but if we rebel against His rule, simply saying the sinner’s prayer by itself will not save us, and Jesus never said it would! This is why so called "fox-hole" conversions, or "jail-house" religion, are many times not valid. The same is often true for "death-bed" conversions, and those credited as saved as a result of crusades or alter-calls. It is estimated that the fall-away rate from large crusades to local churches is between 80 - 90%. The key point at stake is the sincerity behind the words. To accept Christ as a "fire insurance policy" is not salvation but hypocrisy, and to teach salvation by word without deed (evidence that our commitment is genuine), and without following His teachings is a lie. It’s like expecting a deed to the Kingdom without paying allegiance to the commandments of the King. We call it easy believeism, and it’s unbiblical and - unholy!
The Bible talks about gifts of the Spirit and fruits of the Spirit, but gifts from God are of no value if they do not result in fruit for God. Frightened people watched at a distance while the one they called Christ was crucified. Some made excuses or claimed they didn’t know who He was while others just denied Him. As it was then, so it is today. For Christians, the desire to learn without a desire to do is false salvation, and lust of the wind!
THE SIN OF DOING NOTHING
Do you know what grievous sin Jesus said would be reason to cast people into "everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels?" Murder? Adultery? Lies? Sodomy? Theft? No... it was the sin of non activity concerning your faith! "For I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in; naked and you did not cloth Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me (Mat 25: 42-44). Then He will answer them, saying, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me."
Approximately 150 years ago, a thought developed in Germany called "Pietism." There was the need to be "born again," to walk with Christ and read His Word, but beyond that—nothing. Piety is good, Pietism is not because it makes the Church impotent and robs it of its structural place in determining how we should live and be governed. It's similar to the difference between feminist and feminism. As a result of Pietism many churches have become so "heavenly bound" they are of no "earthly value." I know people who are caught up in discussing "once saved always saved," or if we can simply say a certain prayer and receive salvation that they fail to recognize what is
going on around them in the real world. Christians have a tradition of personal piety, but many have lost sight of public virtue. Piety turns inward to cultivate the heart; virtue turns outward to build the community. "They claim to know God but by their actions they reject Him" (Titus 1:16).
Tim Wildman, vice-president of American Family Association, said to me while in Madison, "The Beatitudes tells us that those who are persecuted for righteousness sake will be blessed. I think it's pretty hard to be persecuted if we only privately pray."
I believe one of the greatest challenges to the church is to restore the content of the Gospel, even if it means at times removing people from the church. Salvation is quickly becoming increasingly cheap. Being born again is no longer causing people to become involved in the critical topics of the kingdom.
Scripture plainly tells us there is a judgment of believers, not simply regarding if our faith is real or unreal, but of our works. It’s called the "Judgment Seat of Christ," and it is a judgment of our works, not our sins (II Corinthians 5:10). "I am He who searches hearts and minds. And I will repay each of you according to your deeds" (Revelation 2:23). The result of this will be gain or loss of eternal rewards (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). What we do as believers, both good and bad, will have an enormous effect on our place or position in heaven. "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest their labor, for their deeds will follow them" (Revelation 14:13).
Scripture does not teach what most of us assume, that heaven will transform each of us into equal beings with equal possessions and equal responsibilities and equal capacities. It does not say our precious lives will be of no eternal significance. We may hope what happens at the Judgment Seat of Christ will be of only temporary concern to the Judge, and all of our missed opportunities will just "blow over" and none of it will ever make any difference, but that will not be the case. What we do or do not do in this life is of eternal importance, and although this begins with our choice to follow Christ, it does not end there!
Christ will say to some believers, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21). He will not say, "Well said," or "Well believed." In the account of the sheep and goats, what separates sheep from the goats is what they did and did not do with their talents and possessions. We are all invited to the banquet, but whether we are guaranteed a seat at the table will be determined by repentance and faith, substantiated by works. If you are looking for the best seat in the house in the next life, you will need to come up with more than just the regular price of admission. What position we have in heaven will be earned here on earth—by our works!
Misconception # 7
Although a thorough study of Holy Scripture clearly informs us that Christ died so repentant sinners have the assurance of paradise, many are led to believe He came to start a new religion, or to alter or do away with God’s Commandments of the Old Testament. But they are incorrect. Regardless of the fact that Law is the schoolmaster, we live by Grace. However, to live by Grace does not give us freedom to break the Law of God. As a pardon to a prisoner forgives him, it does not allow him to go back to a life as a criminal. This is a major reason the great preacher of the Reformation, Calvin, preached ninety percent Law and ten percent Gospel. A person who refuses to keep the Commandments of God while saying he is living under Grace is living under—disgrace!
If you take out Old Testament references from the New Testament (they both have the same author) there wouldn’t be much left. For example, there are in the New Testament over six hundred direct quotations and references to the Holy Scriptures, and there’s little teaching in the New that is not rooted in the thirty-nine books of the Protestant, and forty six of the Catholic, Old Testament. Even such advanced theology as "Love your neighbor as yourself" found it’s origin by the pen of Moses, Leviticus 19:18, some fifteen hundred years before Jesus quoted it!
There was no sin before the birth of the Law, so God established the Mosaic Law in order to give His children a guideline for living. Originally, God’s mandates went from Adam orally, straight out of the Garden of Eden, to become part of the spoken tradition. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, which means they knew their Father’s character, which was later revealed in the Ten Commandments. This knowledge was passed on from generation to generation through schools of verbal transmission. So before the Ten Commandments were written down in stone, the Bible tells us God’s thoughts were taught orally and written in the hearts of man.
Before Jesus was born, salvation was granted to all that believed in Yahweh (the one true God), looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, and obeyed the Covenant at Sinai (Law). Jews worshiped the same God (Father) as Christians worship. The end of Revelation (22-14) states it is possible to be saved by keeping the Law. However, to abide by its every letter was extremely difficult. By the time of Moses, and after people had been in slavery under Egypt and thereby under influence of the Egyptian pagan religion, their memory had been somewhat corrupted and diluted. That’s what motivated Moses to write the first five books of the Bible so his people would not be confused.
Jesus was a practicing Jew, and abided by and taught the Law of Holy Scripture. But it is important to note the Law of Moses (Civil and Ceremonial), and the Law of God (Moral), are not the same.
Ceremonial laws of Moses were the temporary Laws of the Old Testament and regulated the priesthood, sacrifices, rituals, meat and drink offerings, all of which foreshadowed the cross. Since no human was capable of not breaking at least a portion of the directive, for salvation purposes, devout Jews also needed to sacrifice choice animals as atonement for their sins. Priests could not enter the Holy of Holies without first performing blood sacrifices. The problem was that a shadow overlooked their sacrifices, therefore, they never knew how much sacrifice was necessary because salvation was not assured under the Old Testament Law. That is the spiritual reason they longed for the Messiah, to complete their sacrifices once and for all. There was a material cost to Jews for sacrificing choice animals, therefore, Jesus is said to have "paid the price" for us. When Galatians 3:19 was added, till the seed should come," (referring to Christ the Messiah), and when the Fruit of Jesus came, the shadows disappeared forever.
It is very important to note the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus did not replace God (Father) with Jesus (Son) as our all encompassing means for salvation, nor did it abolish the Moral Law of God! Although the Messiah, as foretold through prophets, abolished various personal Jewish customs, statutes, ordinances, legalistic rituals, observances, and blood sacrifices, lying is still lying, murder is still murder, stealing is still stealing, adultery is still adultery, and sin is still sin, including the acts of abortion, sodomy, and a host of other offences. What was sin in the past is sin now. "Think not that I came to destroy the Law" (Matt 5:17). Romans 8:3 states, "God destroyed sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins." Jesus is now the sacrificial "lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29). As a result, Christians no longer bring a sacrifice to church or celebrate Passover due to the fact that the sacrifice has already been made. The Ten Commandments (God’s Law) "stand fast for ever and ever" (Psalm 111:8). Anyone that claims Christ abolished His Father’s Commandments is completely mistaken!
Civil laws of Moses are easily recognized in the Old Testament because they always contain a temporal punishment that consisted of financial recompense to those who had been harmed. There were no prisons in Old Testament Israel. When the theocracy of Israel was destroyed by Rome in 70 A.D., the civil laws disappeared with them. In the Old Testament there was no Knesset, there was no parliament, and there was no legislature—only God. Israel was a theocracy and the Sanhedrin was a court. It was the Supreme Court of Israel whose only duty was to try to interpret meaning of the Law which God had given. Law does not supersede human need.
Moral Laws of God that were originally passed on orally and written on hearts of men have existed as long as sin has existed. The Moral Law of God (Ten Commandments) serves as a mirror to point out sin in our lives, and is a means of assuring us and others that we know Him by keeping His Commandments (1 John 2:3). The Bible says, "Where no law is, there is no transgression" (Romans 4:15). Because of breaking God’s Law, Moses’ Law was added (Galatians 3:16-19), until Christ should come and die. So three separate laws are involved, the Civil and Ceremonial laws of Moses and the Moral Law (Ten Commandments) of God. That there were the laws of Moses and continue to be the Law of God is made crystal clear in Daniel 9:10-11.
Can God’s Moral Law (the Ten Commandments) ever be abolished? Absolutely not! They are revealed principles of God’s holy character that will always be true as long as God exists. Neither can His directives be changed, for it is His character in human language.
The word law in Greek is the word "nomos," and refers to those who uphold the never-changing Commandments of God. Those who are against the directives of God, and say we are saved by Grace through faith and can now do whatever we want, are known as antinomians. For your information, the first heresy trial ever conducted in America was for the sin of antinomianism.
THE LAW OF REPENTANCE
Did Jesus die for everyone’s sin? No He did not! He died for those who repent, so we can be guaranteed of salvation without the never-ending need for ritualistic laws, ceremonies, statutes, ordinances, customs, and blood and other sacrifices of atonement. We should also be aware of what Jesus said (personally) as to the reason He came to us, Matt 9:13-34-35, Matt 15:24, John 3:17 and 5:36 to name only a few.
Obviously knowing if there are no absolutes to purge society, then society becomes the absolute. The Apostle Paul wrote to his pupil Timothy that these same Holy Scriptures (we call the Old Testament) are "inspired by God, and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training, and for doing what is right" (11 Timothy 3:16). The first Christians initially had no other writings than the Holy Scriptures from which to learn the truth! At Thessalonica they were commended by Paul for carrying on a daily study of the Scriptures (Old Testament) to see if Paul’s messages were true Acts 17:11.
Jesus quoted the Law (Holy Scripture) numerous times and referred to it when asked by a rich man, "What shall I do to inherit the kingdom of heaven?" (Mark 10:17). He also referred to Holy Scripture as "The Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms" (Luke 24:44-45).
Romans 2: 12-16 states, "For as many as have sinned without law will perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law. For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things contained in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves. Who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them, in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel."
From a prison in Rome Paul wrote, "For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law, but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become un-circumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous commandments of the law, will not his un-circumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically un-circumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in letter, whose praise is not from men but from God" (Romans 2: 25-29).
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE BELIEVER
To believe in Jesus carries responsibilities—meaning, obeying His Commandments, which are permanent and unchangeable. The One whom we know as Jesus Christ was the One who, along with His Father said, "Let there be light;" who said "Let us make man in Our image;" who opened the Red Sea before Moses; who wrote the Ten Commandments with His own finger, and who dealt with the patriarchs and profits. Jesus came to magnify the Law and lift it to a spiritual plane, "If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father" (John 15: 24). Jesus said it is possible to worship Him, to sing about Him, to praise Him, to laud Him, to believe on Him, to adore Him, and to feel all kinds of worshipful emotions about Him, and do it all in vain! Millions worship their fantastic concepts of Christ, but reject the Ten Commandments of God. They claim to accept Him as Savior—but refuse to obey His Law!
Misconception # 8
Is it really true that God loves unrepentant sinful people and commands us to do likewise? Does Scripture state that God’s chosen people loved and let their enemies off the hook? The surprising answer to these questions is—no!
Fleeing for their lives and hiding in recesses of a wilderness cave, David (who has more references to his life than anyone else in the Bible) and his band of 400 followers were being pursued by King Saul and his 3,000 soldiers. Saul was jealous of the popularity the young man was receiving as a result of taking the life of the Philistine warrior Goliath.
Miraculously, God delivered Saul into the cave David was hiding and an opportunity for him to take Saul’s life. But I Samuel 24 tells us David spared King Saul, not (as is the popular reason today) because he felt kindness or some form of Godly love for him, but because he believed Saul was God’s anointed King!
If there is one word you can depend on hearing (above all else) during church services today it is the message of love. Love, along with forgiveness, composes literally ninety-nine percent of pulpit sermons! I have had more than one person, Catholic and Protestant, tell me they love me and then do everything they could to destroy our ministry. The late Rev. Fr. Charles Fiore, who was one of the original founders of the pro-life movement back in the 1960s, said to me many years ago, "I wish people wouldn’t love me so much." So you can see the term love, if not understood, can become a devilish law in itself!
LOVE IS ACTION
The Hebrew language, which may be the most ancient of languages—so ancient, perhaps, that the Bible describes the creation of the earth using this language—can give us great insight into the meaning of love.
The Hebrew word for love is ahava (אהבה), which is made up of three basic Hebrew letters: aleph (א), hey (ה), and vet (ב). From these three root letters of a-hav-a, we can discover two root words. The first is hav from the two letters hey (ה) and vet (ב), which means to give. The letter aleph (א) modifies this word making it אהב, which means I give, but ahav is also the Hebrew word for loved.
Another Hebrew word for giving is natan, which is spelled nun (נ), tav (ת), nun (נ). This word reads the same backward or forward. Thus, this Hebrew word for giving suggests the essence of what giving is all about. When we give we always receive in return. This may be seen as a loving circle that enhances any love relationship.
The word ahava also shares a root with the word ahav, which means to nurture, or to devote one’s self completely to another person. The essence of ahava, therefore, involves action. Love is not something that simply happens to us, but something that we create through our actions when we give of ourselves to others.
In Greek, love is not simply a word or a feeling but is referred to in a social or moral context associated with charity or particularly - action. Remember this unchangeable truth, love can be known only in relation to the action it prompts! "God so loved the world that He gave...." (John 3:16). So when people say they love the Lord, their statement is virtually meaningless without visible action to back it up. Look for what they do—if anything—it will tell you if they love.
But although Jesus gave us love as a new commandment John 13:34-35, and referred to love as being greater than faith and hope I Cor. 13:13, we must visit the Hebrew and Greek translations in order to clarify the meaning of these verses and the biblical importance of love.
Is love the eleventh commandment? No it is not! First of all, the Hebrew word commandment, in the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20 - 31, means something much different than it does in the John 13:34, Greek verse concerning a "new commandment" of love.
The word for commandment in Hebrew is "Peh," which is an established order or command! But regarding John 13:34-35, "A new commandment I give to you that you love one another," its meaning is different. The Greek translation in this circumstance is "entole," meaning "authoritative prescription," which is more of a suggestion, or remedy, than an order. God may be love, but love is not God! Throughout history some of the greatest injustices have occurred in the name of love. Remember, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss!
Jesus said to "Love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," (Matt 22:37). Then he immediately attached this corollary, "Love your neighbor as yourself." But when Jesus was asked, "Who is my neighbor," He stunned the audience by telling the story of "love and action" provided by the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:33). Then He added this interesting commandment, "Go and do likewise." The golden rule is an extension of the same principle, Do unto others as you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:31). We should love people in the manner God loves us as seen in His love through the gift of His Son (1 John 4:9-10). Jesus says in John 14:15, "If you love me, keep my commandments." In the last chapter of John, Jesus states to Peter that if Peter loves Him, he will prove it by doing something - "Feed My sheep." This coincides with the statement from Paul in Ephesians 2:10 regarding a reason for our salvation.
The Greek meaning for neighbor is a person that is "close by or a friend." In Palestine during Jesus time there were no farmhouses. People lived in villages and went to and from their toil. Community was more important than an individual. The community was viewed as the neighbor. Charitable action (love) toward the community was vital for survival.
For instance, in Leviticus 19:34 people were commanded to love the foreigner living among them: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” Community was part of the Cultural Mandate (Gen. 1:28-30). So what does Scripture mean when it states to "Love your neighbor as yourself?" It means to show the same care for people close to you as showing for yourself. But St. Augustine added this additional clarification, "Loving our neighbor may sometimes require using force against aggression."
But today we have something much different. Church messages now underline love as the only criterion for fellowship among spiritual people, as if to love one another means nothing deeper than getting along with everyone and voids any thought of activism. While this sounds harmless and attractive, a love that is not founded upon Scriptural truth is a product of human nature. So our love must bear Scriptural scrutiny!
To quote from Scripture the good news only and not the total news, is to quote the incorrect news and participate in a lie! People who pitch these untruths are more concerned with making the Gospel respectable than in declaring the whole counsel of God. When I ask fellow church attendees what they believe the word "love" means in relation to their Christian walk, they usually say it refers to "loving as Jesus loved" (John 3:16). I guess that’s fair enough. It’s puzzling though, I have never felt loved by people who attend church any more than those who do not attend.
Love is not love until you give it away. Christian love is to not passively sit by and condone one’s wrongful actions, nor is it some fluffy form of one-sided compassion. This is a misapplication of God’s Word. In the name of Christian love, we are not to encourage and promote another person’s otherwise evil lifestyle and actions. Christian love that is real is to affect change in character if that character is wrong and needs changing. If we truly love a person, we will not "sweep their actions under the rug." Psychologists say no one is ever healed completely of a problem unless they admit their wrongs and repent. A wound must be cleansed before it can heal, otherwise it will fester and get worse.
The love and acceptance we are hearing today is not Christian love but compromise in exchange for peace. AFLM receives letters, e-mails, and telephone calls into our office almost daily, expecting us to condone literally every despicable act imaginable, and all in the name of some form of twisted Christian love. Although there are evil people in this world, the majority who disagree with us have simply been deceived. To these people love absolves responsibility for actions and supersedes any other part of Christian theology. Most of the people who write such letters accuse us of being judgmental if we think, arrogant if we are bold and mean spirited if we are truthful. Usually there is a tone of anger and frustration, along with use of accusatory statements, filthy language, "buzz" words, and a total misuse of the word love.
Love is not Law. I find it hypocritical that those who preach love for their enemies are not very loving for innocent children being slaughtered through abortion—there is nothing loving about that! There is nothing loving about allowing individuals to slide into hell unresisted.
The feeling of love has supplemented God or religious principle as the moral guide for young people. Wrongful actions are now nothing more than blemishes to be covered up by the cosmetic of divine love.
To touch the Lord Jesus is to touch what He loves and what He hates. It is to have compassion on the multitudes and to be angry at their oppressors. We would like a revelation of Christ that tells us of His love, power, healing, and grace. But the revelation of Christ that tells of the One who hates pride, arrogance, and evil is just as valid. "I hate your show and pretense - your hypocrisy of honoring Me with your religious feasts and solemn assemblies . . . I will not look at your offerings of peace. Away with your hymns of praise, they are mere noise to My ears..." (Amos 5:21-23). Romans 12:9 states, "Let love be without hypocrisy." If we are to overcome evil with good then we must love what God loves and hate what God hates.
The Bible warns us to beware of being wise above that which is written, to beware of forming fanciful theories of our own and then trying to make the Bible square with them, of making selections from our Bible to suite our taste. Beware of manufacturing a god that is of Satan and of your own creation and sentimentality such as that of our critics; a god who is all love, but not holy and just; a god of tolerance, compromise, and without repentance; who will allow good and bad to exist side by side now and throughout eternity. A heaven containing all sorts of characters mixed together indiscriminately, Judas with Jeremiah, the saint and the sodomite, where the liar sings with the choir, Hitler wears a halo, and the aborted resides with the abortionist. Alas for an eternity such as that—there would be little difference between it and Hell!
Misconception # 9
The situation was bleak. Outnumbered and with the support of only fifteen percent of his countrymen, General Washington and his exhausted troupes were on verge of losing the War for Independence. He had led his fighters into battle many times against the British and was defeated nearly 70 percent of the time—yet they fought on. Two long years of war had taken its toll. Thomas Payne wrote, "These are the times that try men’s souls." The famous painting, "Prayer at Valley Forge," depicts Washington kneeling beside his horse along the banks of the Schuylkill River, praying for guidance from Almighty God. Of 11,000 men that walked into Valley Forge only 6,000 remained to change the course of history forever.
While General Washington was praying and fighting, his mother Mary was doing what she could to help her country. Travel to the outskirts of Fredericksburg, Virginia, and proceed along a winding trail. Duck beneath a canopy of hanging branches and proceed until you see a small hill. Jutting out from the top is a large rock. On a smooth side of this natural formation is a place to recline, or to pray. This is Medication Rock. It is where, during the Revolutionary War, Mary Washington regularly came to pray for the safety of her son and a country that was fighting for its very survival.
During dark days of the Civil War President Lincoln addressed a torn nation:
"Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with a sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so shall it must be said, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
In the beginning Lincoln’s entire Cabinet opposed the War and would have permitted Confederate States to secede. At first Lee’s Southern troupes had their way with the Northern forces. In wake of another defeat, this time at the Battle of Bull Run, Lincoln called for a National Day of Prayer, urging Americans to "recognize our own faults and crimes as a nation and as individuals, to humble ourselves before Him and pray for His mercy."
Plagued by rain, WWII General George Patton placed a call on December 8, 1944, to the U.S. Third Army’s Chief Chaplain. "This is General Patton; do you have a good prayer for weather? We must do something about these rains if we are to win this war." The Chaplain quickly drafted a brief prayer asking God to "Grant us fair weather for battle... that, armed with Thy power, we may crush the opposition and wickedness of our enemies." At Patton’s direction, 250,000 copies were printed - one for every man in the Third Army. Along with the prayer, the Chief Chaplain also sent, at Patton’s order, a letter to all of Patton’s officers. "We must urge, instruct, and indoctrinate every fighting man to pray as well as fight," the letter stated.
During WWII people at home prayed for safety and success of our troupes, and then rushed off to defense plants where they helped manufacture supplies necessary to defeat the opposition. The enemy was eventually defeated and our country saved from tyranny, not only by prayer, but also by 45,000 American soldiers who paid with their lives, and the efforts of millions of dedicated warriors at home who "stood in the gap."
PRAYER AS A "COP OUT"
In past generations, America’s leaders, including clergy, called our country not only to prayer, but also to repentance, confession of sin - and action. But now, prayer is used mainly as a "cop out" from responsibility and the number one excuse by churches to withdraw from involvement!
PRAYER vs. ACTION
When my wife Susan was alive we held each other in our arms every morning and prayed for God’s will. Prayer is a privilege. To communicate personally with the Almighty is the most powerful force on earth. An opportunity to confidently pray for God’s assistance concerning health, and many other topics that are totally beyond our control is basic to Christian faith. At times prayer has been the force that has kept our family safe and our ministry alive.
But there is a great difference between praying for something beyond our control and praying for something within our control. God does not instruct His people to pray for benefits they could otherwise achieve through their own action. Jesus prayed for us in those weak areas of our lives that are most in need of His miracle working supernatural power. A missionary to India is expected to do more than just pray for New Deli! Exodus 14:15 states, "Then the Lord said to Moses, Quit praying and get the people moving! Forward, march." When Joshua’s army was defeated at Ai, he fell on his face praying until God said "Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? . . . Get up, sanctify the people" (Joshua 10-12).
Although God calls us to prayer, did you know He (for obvious reasons) calls us more importantly to action? Throughout Scripture Jesus is stated to have acted much more than He is listed to have prayed and always associated His prayers with His actions! Jesus did not expect His Heavenly Father to drive money changers out of the temple for Him. He did it! It is through Jesus’ action (crucifixion and resurrection), not His prayers, by which we can have assurance of salvation. Prayer is not the Gospel—prayer is a result of the Gospel.
IF GOD ORDERS IT, YOU DON’T NEED TO PRAY ABOUT IT
It is your responsibility to adhere to the fact that if God ordered it, you don’t need to pray about it. This kind of prayer is simply an attempt to con God into holding our hand when we should be seeking His face! Nowhere does the Bible say prayer is easy. Fr. Frank Pavone National Director Priests for Life, stated, "We need to be careful not to abuse a good thing. Even prayer can become an excuse from our responsibility to take action. God calls us to action not because He needs us, but because He wants to use us. Prayer and action are not two separate options, but rather two aspects of the same reality: union with God. When we come away from prayer we should not feel rested but restless. We should not feel that we have done our duty, but that we’ve been given our duty. God is not going to rip open the sky, come down, and tell us how to end abortion and other great evils. Instead He is going to put conviction in our heart and words on our lips and command us to pray - and act!" The secret to victory is not only praying but praising, not asking, but thanking, and not apathy but action. There are two responsibilities in prayer, God’s responsibility and ours. You cannot have one without the other.
LAZINESS AND HYPOCRISY
If you never go to work but simply stay home every day and pray that your bills will be paid, how long do you think it would take before problems set in? If your children stopped attending school or studying, but prayed they would somehow have the knowledge to become nuclear scientists, would they succeed? If you have a flat tire or your roof is leaking, would you pray and nonchalantly go about daily activity without attempting to fix the problem? Come on now—of course you wouldn’t. In fact, the problem would probably get worse. It’s simply common sense. How then, can any intelligent person expect sins of our day to simply go away, or correct themselves, if we treat them in like manner? They cannot and I assure you they will not! Madison, Wisconsin, is one of the most prayed over cities on earth—and yet has highly populated by atheists.
Two thousand years ago, a prominent lawyer approached a lower class Jewish man and asked the question, "Who is my neighbor?" Christ stunned the audience by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. Then He added, "Go and do likewise." This was not a suggestion, but an order! He was making a point about the need for His followers to demonstrate what they believed by what they do. It was not enough for the Samaritan to only pray about the problem. Jesus was stating it was not right that a Jewish traveler should bleed to death, while men stepped over and around him. In all of Scripture the directive to act supersedes the directive to pray. Verbs: go—seek—ask—find—knock—do—work—act—are prominent in God’s message.
PRAYER MEANS WORSHIP
In modern day churches there is much misunderstanding about the word "pray" or "prayer." The translated Hebrew word for prayer (tephillah), and the Greek word (proseuche), almost always means worship, rather than a petition for favors. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, the Greek word Proseuchomai, translated from pray suggests that we worship without ceasing, rather than continuingly asking for a list of favors.
GETTING AHEAD OF GOD’S WILL
Prayer puts us in position so we can receive God’s preconceived will for our life. When praying for God’s will, it is important to understand there is a known, and an unknown will of God, and the unknown never contradicts the known (Matt 12:25). A personal word from God is only given for confirmation and never for information (Acts 13). We often think of God’s will for us as hidden in fog of the future, but that’s not true, God’s will is always current, He has promised to guide us if we are willing to follow (1 John 5: 14-15). But when people get ahead of God’s will and begin to live as they please (abortion), we wade in dangerous water. Our heavenly Father is under no obligation to sustain us in bearing trials that were never a part of His plan for us.
Jesus did not universally pray that the trials of this world would be sheltered from His followers, but for spiritual protection only God can give. "I do not pray that You should take them out of this world, but that You should keep them from the evil one" (John 17:15), which is something to remember when praying to end abortion. The great Christian preacher of the Civil War era, Dwight L. Moody, was once asked to pray for a person who he did not especially admire. "I will not pray for him," Moody said, "He does ten days of work in five, and eats everything in sight. If he doesn’t care enough to take care of himself I will not ask God to."
PRAYER CAN BE AN INSULT TO GOD
Did you know prayer of an unrepentant people is actually an insult to almighty God? If anyone thoroughly reads Scripture, you will find our Father is a loving and forgiving God. But He is also a just and Holy God. We wonder why our prayers are not answered in ways we would like regarding moral matters. In many instances it’s because God is not only loving, but also just! If He finds us unworthy He will not save our society as He did not save His Old Testament church that fell captive to Babylon.
It’s a knee-shaking request for an audience with Almighty God that no one should take lightly. Christians dare not treat God as though He were some genie who can be called to our service when we feel the need, and then bottled back up whenever we please. The God we are asking to service our requests will not look favorably at our child-killing, pervasion, apathy, and cowardice. "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven" (Matt. 10:32-32). Not only are we saved to serve—but if we are saved, we will serve!
Jesus told Peter to prove his love by his actions (John 21:15-18). The truth is, salvation apart from obedience is unknown in Scripture! The result of selfish prayer is stagnation. Most Christians are willing to pray about the evils of our day, but few are willing to do anything about them. "The man who says ‘I know Him’ but does not do what He commands is a liar." These are strong words (1 John 2:3-4). Tim Wildman, vice-president of American Family Association, said to me while in Madison, "The Beatitudes tells us that those who are persecuted for righteousness sake will be blessed. I think it’s hard to be persecuted if we only privately pray."
THERE ARE TIMES WHEN ALMIGHTY GOD TELLS US HE WILL NOT HEAR OUR PRAYERS
- Jeremiah 7:16 states, "Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry of prayer for them, nor make intercession to me; for I will not hear you."
- Jeremiah 11:11 says, "Therefore thus says the Lord: Behold, I will surely bring calamity on them which they will not be able to escape; and though they pray to me, I will not listen to them."
- Jeremiah 11:14 says, "Therefore, Jeremiah, pray no longer for this people, nor weep nor plead for them; for I will not listen to them when they are finally desperate enough to beg Me for help."
- Isaiah 1:10-14, referring to the death-style of Sodom and Gomorrah, proclaims, "When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear."
- Ezekiel 8:18 states, "Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they pray in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them."
- Malachi 1:9 says, "God have mercy on us,’ you pray; ‘God be gracious to us!’ But when you bring that kind of gift, why should He show you any favor at all?"
Did God say, "If people will pray then I will heal their land?" No He did not! But that is the manner in which II Chronicles 7:14 is explained in our churches and Bible studies today. This verse contains much more than that, "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
Yes, God states situations where He will or will not hear our prayers. Positive response to prayer is conditional, but when we approach God in humility and repentance—He responds!
A brief note of love from God is recorded in Jeremiah 29:12-13, "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. You will find Me when you see Me, if you look for Me in earnest."
Misconception # 10
Some time ago, I saw a sketch of a little boy and his father observing a statue of Christ hanging on the cross. The little boy asked, "What did He do wrong?" where by the father stated that Jesus did nothing wrong. "Jesus was the most loving, tactful, understanding, tolerant, and forgiving person that ever lived," the father said. The little boy kept staring at the statue and after a period of time said in a puzzling voice, "Well He must have done something wrong."
"Would the real Jesus please stand up?" was the title of an article in an American Family Association publication a few years ago. Like the little boy in the previous paragraph, the writer asks the question, "If Jesus was the most tactful person who ever lived, how did He manage to get Himself crucified?"
WHAT WE KNOW MOST ABOUT - NEVER EXISTED
We know about Jesus mainly through four books written years after his death, at a time when less than one-half of one percent of the Roman world had ever heard of him. Even the four men who wrote the Gospels skipped over nine-tenths of his life. Many writers (Christian and secular) have penned books, booklets, and articles addressing the subject of what they believe Jesus was really like. One Catholic theologian actually described Christ as the most "dangerous person of his day," and a person that "turned society’s values on their head." Another historian describes Jesus as "The most misunderstood man that ever lived." The basic consensus of these writers is that the Jesus portrayed in most of our churches today, never existed. That today’s Jesus is simply a carefully packaged marketing ploy and fundraiser, arranged in such a manner as to not offend anyone and appease everyone.
The purpose for this deception is simple. If we are to model our life after Jesus, and if we can be persuaded Jesus was some serene, meek, compromising shepherd, strolling through the Judean countryside, (who just happened to be God), we then have an excuse for not being involved in political and social issues of our day. The answer then, to the popular question, "What would Jesus do?" concerning these issues becomes easy to answer—nothing!
Nowhere in Scripture does it say that Jesus Christ came to this earth for the purpose of setting Himself up as an alternative to God’s revealed word. Most Americanized churches, in an attempt to justify passive theology, build division between Father and Son by giving more reference to the Son than the Father. This is more than merely stupid - it is blatantly dishonest. Any attempt to pit Jesus (Son) against God (Father) is outright HERESY!
Jesus prayed to His Father (Matt. 26:53) and instructed His followers in (Matt. 6:9) to do likewise. He stated in (John 14:28), "My Father is greater than I." In (John 12:49) stated, "For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me gave me a command, what I should say and what I should speak." And in (John 5:19-20) He proclaimed, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son does also in like manner." There are many other references.
JESUS AND HIS FATHER
The important and guiding rule when considering "what would Jesus do?" is to remember Jesus could NEVER do anything that would contradict what God (Father) said or did. If we are followers of Jesus Christ, we must accept that fact. Jesus never said or implied His followers were to behave in such a manner that was contrary to teachings and actions of His Father. Although most of our modern day clergy cringe at the thought of discussing distasteful events of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ (who was with His Father from the beginning) was in complete agreement with and participated in His Father’s actions - every one of them (John 1:1-3).
A COUNTERFEIT JESUS
There seems to be much talk these days of ways to not address controversial issues in order to soften the message of Christianity. But Christ, far from attempting to "soft-sell" anything, was both avidly controversial and dogmatic. Compromise is a word not found anywhere in His vocabulary.
I heard a story of a child who grew up believing in Jesus and Santa Claus and later finds that Santa does not exist. So he starts questioning the authenticity of Jesus and over a period of time manufactures his own personal version. He reasons that if Jesus does exist, He must be something like Santa - just a loving, jolly, kind-spirited fellow, who will give him whatever he wants. A comfortable household god he can kick into a corner at will like his other toys, sort of a spiritual tranquilizer. Churches (who are disciples of Freud, not of God) started adopting this popular Jesus, and the result is a new non-irritating brand of Christianity that is without offense or effect. A "false gospel" at the expense of purity of truth, and one that is devoid of discipline or justice, a Heaven for everyone, but a Hell for none.
A Jesus that is little more than our "good buddy" has replaced "fear of the Lord" and "declawed the Lion of Judah! Regarding this subject, I recall someone mentioning that when he was a child, associating Jesus with "Cotton Candy, Kool-Aid, Girl Scout Cookies, and green cards at school for being good." But later on in life he reasoned, "How could telling people to be good to everyone get a man the terrible death of being nailed to a cross? What jury would do this to Charlie Brown, Captain Kangaroo, Ronald McDonald, Big Bird, or Mr. Rogers?"
During the years I have been involved in pro-family efforts, I have received many letters expecting us (AFLM) to condone almost every despicable act imaginable, all in the name of some form of twisted Christian love. I can usually see it coming. These letters begin by questioning if our actions are "Christ-like." Then they go on to state we need to be more like "their" Jesus, and describe Christ as someone who loved evil people, tolerated wickedness, never criticized anyone, and accepted everyone.
An editorial in the July 16, 1998 Madison Catholic Herald headlines, "Jesus would not have used billboards," and voices (in the opinion of the writer) that Jesus was more "sensitive and compassionate." The editorial continues to state, "Jesus did not make a sign that proclaimed adultery is sin. Instead he realized that none of us is perfect." Although the people who wrote these letters most likely have been taught these beliefs from someone of spiritual authority, the Jesus to whom they refer does not come from the Bible. The god they created is as true an idol as was ever molded out of brass, wood, or clay.
A March 30, 1996, editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal infers that Jesus was a troublemaker to the establishment of His day. The editorial states, "Somehow, contemporary Christianity has lost sight of this aspect of Jesus. In its place, we have created a gentle savior who went around performing miracles and preaching peace. Since the Jesus we have created would never dream of issuing a direct challenge to the legitimacy of the established order, we assume the Jesus of history wouldn’t do so, either.
Much of the scorn heaped on Christians, the civil rights agitators of the 1960s, and the anti-abortion protestors of the 1980s and 1990s is based on the assumption that Jesus wouldn’t soil his holy hands that way. But there is more to the story of Palm Sunday than is reflected in the sweet hymns and anthems that mark the occasion today.
Put yourself in the position of the civilian authorities in Jerusalem and ask how that march must have appeared. The Roman Empire controlled Israel and its armies are stationed at your city. You, as a civilian authority, know for a fact, should an insurrection occur, those Roman soldiers will tear Jerusalem apart stone by stone. You look out the window and see a parade marching down the street. People are throwing flowers and shouting that Jesus is to be king. Soon after, the Bible says that Jesus marched into the temple, the holiest place in the city, and drove the money-changers from the building. Here, again, He issued a direct challenge to the established authority of the day. The money-changers were essential to the operation of the temple. Jesus, who was not an official of the temple, took it upon himself to drive them out. This guy was creating some powerful enemies."
Dr. James Dobson, President of Focus on the Family writes in an August 1993 newsletter, "Jesus constantly sought out evil and confronted it head-on." . . . "He played offense rather than defense." Dobson goes on to say, "Throughout most of His ministry, Jesus lived and taught around the fishing village of Capernaum on the northern coast of Galilee. Devout Jews resided there and along the western shore of the Sea. They worshiped God, studied the Scriptures and traveled south to the temple at Jerusalem to sacrifice lambs as an atonement for sins."
"On the eastern shore, however, lived people known to be the enemies of God. They were primarily Canaanites whom Joshua had driven out of Israel and who practiced the Greek form of the fertility cults. Among the cultural influences of that area was the ancient worship of Baal, the god of nature, lightning and thunder, and the presumed giver of fertility in the spring. Unlike the Jews, these pagans sacrificed pigs to gain their "god’s" favor. Accordingly, the people of this region opposed everything the Israelites believed." "The Jewish people living on the western shore referred to Baal as "Beelzebub," which by Jesus’ time was synonymous with the Devil. Needless to say, they viewed the territory across the sea as profoundly wicked and frightening to them."
"Amazingly, Jesus and His disciples got in a boat and began rowing directly toward the forbidden world. We all remember the story. On the way across the Sea of Galilee, a fierce storm arose and threatened to sink their small fishing vessel but Jesus uttered a command, and instantly the wind and waves became calm."
"When Jesus and the disciples landed on Galilee’s eastern shore, the first person to meet them was a man possessed by a legion of demons. It figures, doesn’t it? And when He cast the beings out of the man, they entered a herd of pigs, which were routinely sacrificed to Baal. As with so many of the biblical stories, this event can hardly be understood without comprehending the Jewish culture and the period during which it occurred" (Mark 4:35 - 5:13). "This entire episode, as I now understand it, is symbolic of the battle between God and Satan. Again, notice that Jesus did not remain in the safety of the western territory. He constantly sought out evil and confronted it head-on, regardless of the consequences."
There is a cartoon in which Jesus is portrayed as visiting a local church service and asks those attending the same question He asked in Matt 16:13, "Who do you say that I, the Son of Man am?" Their answers were, "You are the Most Magnificent, the All Glorious One, the Rose of Sharon, My Guiding Star, Rock of Ages, Bread of Life, Lilly of the Valley, Prince of Peace, my Friend and Comforter in need, You are Love," where-by Jesus said—Huh?
Dr. D. James Kennedy, of Coral Ridge Ministry, has published a booklet entitled "The Formidable Christ." In his booklet Dr. Kennedy states, "There was much more to Jesus than is portrayed in most of our churches today. We do not see Jesus as formidable, but merely ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild.’ We have turned His meekness to weakness and His gentleness to fear. There was something formidable about Christ," Kennedy writes. "He could look into the hearts of people and read their thoughts, and there was something about His purity and holiness that seemed to be seen in every glance of His eye. He would look into the face of a man who was about to stretch out his hand and take Him, and the man would freeze with fear."
"In Nazareth, His own home town, He went into the synagogue, opened and read the Scriptures and proclaimed truth to them. That truth was condemning to those present and they were irate and enraged. A great mob of men pushed and shoved Him out of town and intended to throw Him off a hill. But suddenly Jesus turned and faced them. There was something that glanced from His eyes, and they slunk back in craven cowardice. The Scripture states ‘He passed through their midst and went on His way.’ Over and over again in the Bible we read this phrase: ‘What manner of man is this?’ It was the formidable Christ who could excite dread and awe in the hearts of men."
It’s interesting to note when delicate or controversial issues arise within our communities, we are instructed by clergy to be "Christ-like" in our response. I’ve heard it all many times before, let’s see, we are to turn the other cheek, love and do good to our enemies, be accepting and not offend anyone, mind our own business and not judge anything, just simply be nice, a "have a good day" sort of thing. But in a dying world, any pastor that adjusts his sermons to appease the cowardly is not worth the price of a good spittoon.
JESUS OF SCRIPTURE
What does it really mean to be "Christ-like?" St. John said we must be willing to "walk as Jesus did" (I John 2:6). So with that thought in mind, let’s take a quick stroll through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to see how our Master walked. For the time being let’s leave His teaching aside, which we are also admonished to follow, and look solely at His actions. Let’s look at what Jesus actually did, rather than what we would like to believe about Him!
- Jesus did not preach the good news only. His prophecies about the future were often very frightening. His teachings are not some "here are my feelings, what do you think?" philosophy. Almost every time Jesus went into the temple it was to have controversy with wicked leaders. (John II: 7-8, Mark 11, Luke 19, Matthew 21). When He visited the synagogues there was controversy (Luke 4), (Mark 1-3).
- In Matthew we find that Jesus rebuked His followers and irritated religious leaders by healing on the Sabbath. He called Pharisees hypocrites and vipers, and didn’t care when they were offended because they didn’t like that He "collared outside the lines of their man-made religion." He rebuked Peter, was exasperated at people’s unbelief, and stood up for children.
- In Mark we see Jesus was angry and distressed at stubborn hearts, "borrowed" a colt without permission, cursed a tree and it died.
- In Luke He said true but insulting things to people from His home town, rebuked John and James, insulted religious leaders, made sure His disciples were armed with swords, and referred to Herod as a "Fox."
- In John He made a whip and drove business men from the temple and vandalized their property. He talked to a strange woman (against the custom), called people on their duplicity, offended people with His hard teaching, and called religious leaders children of the devil. He considered it better to let Mary use expensive perfume on Him rather than sell it and give the money to the poor, and showed no respect for the high priest.
- Jesus praised His cousin, John the Baptist, who judged and publicly ridiculed Herod for adultery. "For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist." Can you imagine Jesus apologizing to Herod for what His cousin said about Herod’s adulterous lifestyle?
- Though it may anger some, it happens to be a fact that when some people attempted to seek Jesus for help, He would withdraw to a private place and not immediately help them. One illustration is in Matt 15: 21 - 29 where Jesus innately refused to answer the request of a Canaan woman whose daughter was demon possessed. Today’s popular Jesus would have emptied every graveyard, healed every illness, cast out every demon, and never refused a request for aid. Yet, the real Jesus did refuse to listen to this woman initially, and had it not been for her intensity, and for her faithful answer to a question she was asked, the account in Matthew clearly indicated Jesus would have stolidly refused to have helped the woman’s daughter.
- A chilling analogy comes from the parable in the nineteenth chapter of Luke where Jesus said, "But bring here those enemies of mine who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me."
This was the kind of person who drew great crowds of thousands, yet often made people feel uncomfortable. His brand of kindness was not always a sweet medicine. If, Webster says, nice means to be pleasing, agreeable or socially acceptable, then Jesus was not very nice. His life and His death proved that point.
The principle of give or forgiveness, loving, and sharing, was what Jesus preached and practiced. But never did He intend to imply that a Christian under His New Testament teachings was not obligated to obey the commandments which He, Jesus, in His preexistent state, had written with His own finger! The Christian Church would not have advanced beyond Jerusalem and would have been stopped before it got started if it had relied on the timid, soft-sell propaganda that is used today to define our Lord.
The original Disciples (pupils of Jesus) paid with their lives for doing what they believed Jesus would do. Jesus showed us how to live and how to die. He showed us how to uphold God’s purpose for our lives and has called us to be His salt and light in a dark and dying world. You cannot refuse His call and still call Him Lord.
Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did. Those that customize Jesus in order to justify all matter of wrongful behavior, are the same frauds that teach He will reject no one for His kingdom. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were religious fanatics that were spiritually proud while being morally corrupt. They were hypocrites. They persecuted Jesus and finally succeeded in killing Him. We are no different.
False teachings of today have declawed the Lion of Judah!
(The Virtue of Tolerance)
Regardless of the efforts we employ for the benefit of educating our society, even the most dedicated person will not achieve their goal of reclaiming our communities for Christ, until America is again drawn to fear God and live the lifestyle of Christian people. This will require a major turnaround within our churches, a change that will take courage, not tolerance, on the part of the clergy and everyone reading this message!
All of the ten deceptive twisting of Scripture previously mentioned are as a result of allowing sin to be tolerated in the camp of Christ for the sole purpose of peace and prosperity. Habits are not formed in a day; they are gradual and progressive. We choose not to hurt someone’s feelings, or as a result of being afraid to respond in a given situation we delay necessary action. Because of a soft heart and often a spineless will (tolerance), we permit someone to "get away with murder." One of the greats of the Church of England said, "Sin is at first very pleasing, then it grows easy; then it becomes delightful, then frequent, then confirmed. Then the man is unpenitent, then obstinate, then he resolves never to repent, then he is damned. Needed in the church of God are men to resist the beginnings."
In most cases tolerance and cowardice dine at the same table. Much like adultery is defined as "having an affair," or the drunk as suffering from "sustenance abuse," tolerance is nothing more than cowardice!
Tolerance is a nice word that has become an especially prized virtue and sole absolute of our land. Yet, few of us understand what it really means. Enlightened people want "to-live-and-let-live," to be known as "open-minded," "easy-going" about beliefs and lifestyles, and of course . . . . tolerant. Even most professing Christians today believe tolerance is the Godliest virtue of all, and why shouldn’t they, for we hear this message pitched from the pulpit every week of the year.
The traditional definition of tolerance means to recognize and respect others’ beliefs, practices, and so forth without necessarily agreeing or sympathizing with them. This attitude that everyone has a right to their own opinion is what tolerance has meant to most people since the founding of our country.
But today’s definition is vastly different. It no longer means simply agreeing to disagree. The new tolerance considers every individual’s beliefs, values, lifestyle and truth claims as equal value (Thou shall not think). This represents one of the greatest changes in history—and our churches are quietly acquiescing.
The slightest expression of personal moral conviction is now considered as "intolerant." Like a powerful acid, the accusation of intolerance eats away at traditional morality, leaving only threads of past convictions behind. By redefining absolute truth as "intolerant," the goal of this deception is to appear open and accepting. But we must realize the most difficult form of evil to recognize is deception itself (Gal.6:7).
The message of Christianity is, however, not tolerant—it is very intolerant! God has said He will turn the wicked into hell. We will either repent or we will parish, there is no in-between! In Revelation 21:8, cowardice, or tolerance, is considered to be as wicked as sorcery, idolatry, and murder. In fact, it is at the top of the list. In Matt. 10:34, far from being a soothing message of "I’m OK, you’re Ok," the gospel is like a sword that dismembers entire families. Tolerance is the virtue of people who do not believe in anything. I heard a pastor recently define tolerance as "man’s attempt to remove himself from God," which does not speak well of our churches. The pastor went on to say, "God is never, never, tolerant. He is merciful. There is a vast difference. Love forgives, but is never tolerant. We must realize that God sent Jesus to the cross because He was merciful, not because He was tolerant. People who claim to belong to Christ do not have the right to condone or tolerate what God says is wrong. An intolerant God has been merciful to me."
When tolerance means being patient with other people, listening to their points of view, and allowing them the freedom to follow their consciences, tolerance is a virtue necessary to every citizen in a free society. But tolerance is not the only value in the book. In fact, there is a grave danger when we separate tolerance from other important righteous values such as truth and justice.
If tolerance means we cease to challenge false beliefs and unjust practices around us for fear we might offend someone, then misguided tolerance actually weakens the bonds of our community. This kind of tolerance does not show an open mind to our neighbor; it shows indifference. It says, "We don’t really care what he / she believes or how he / she lives. All beliefs and practices are the same."
Jesus Himself was never shy about expressing the truth He had been given to proclaim, and He expects equal boldness from His followers. We must steadfastly judge sins and heresies in general, and exhort those guilty of them to repent. Our job is to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations (Great Commission, Matt. 28:19). In order to rescue dissenters, we need to boldly and clearly proclaim apostasy, heresy, abortion, divorce, homosexuality, and other evils to be gravely sinful (Cultural Mandate (Gen.1:28).
The prophetic calling of the house of God is so critical because a sense of one’s guilt is necessary before a person feels need for a Savior. For the church to tolerate evil and retreat from its primary duty to God’s Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission from Christ is an act of provincial cowardice. The definition and central message of the Church has become something counter to that of its historicity. I hope these previous lessons will help you recognize this failure and do your part to make a difference for the Lion of Judah!
"Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." Revelation 5:5New International Version (NIV)
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