2 Timothy 4:4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
We live in a time of competition for church members; a time where success is measured primarily by numbers and income. There is no end of teachers, writers or churches who will present what feels good and tickles the ear. There is no shortage of churches that provide programs, support groups and myriads of resources that will “meet your need”.
This wouldn’t be so alarming were it not for the fact that many uncomfortable or unpopular issues are avoided because they aren’t “good marketing” and don’t put behinds into pews. The Bible has many unpleasant topics. I call them “distasteful doctrines”. These are being sorely neglected today and that’s a shame because they are a vital part of Christianity. Over the next few days we will take a look at Christian doctrines that you may have never studied, rarely studied or only lightly studied unless you are in a good, uncompromising Bible-teaching assembly – or you have studied them personally.
Jesus had much more to say about hell than heaven. Hell is a grim reality that is virtually ignored by Christians today as being too harsh, unloving or uncomfortable. We don’t want to scare people away with talk of hell, so we simply ignore it, or give it a quick passing mention before moving on to more friendly subjects. That’s a shame because our friendly intentions won’t count for much to those who find themselves in eternal torment. We’ll take a look at the facts about hell straight from the Bible.
It has been said by a very prominent “Christian” preacher that teaching about sin is one of the worst things we can do because it destroys self esteem. Quick, somebody tell Jesus and Paul. Regardless of whether we want to hear it or not, the Bible is very clear about the sinfulness of man. As Christians, we typically believe in the “idea” or doctrine of sin as it applies to humanity as a whole, but very rarely do we get honest about sin when it comes to ME. We’ll take a look from Scripture at the real nature of sin in our lives.
You would think that Christian liberty would be a very pleasant doctrine, but to teach it threatens our stranglehold on “truth” as we define it. I’m not talking about the core essentials of salvation, but all the other peripheral issues that have divided Christians into almost 3000 different “flavors”. We don’t hear much about Christian liberty because we’re afraid people might actually take hold of it and not do things OUR way. Christ died to bring us liberty, and we constantly want to rob other sincere Christians of it simply because they disagree with us on some issue or doctrine. We’ll take a look at liberty, where it applies, where it doesn’t apply and what it means to the Christian life.
Suffering is seen as something today that either is caused by a lack of faith, or is something to avoid and alleviate immediately as all costs. Does God have a use for suffering? Does He allow it? How are Christians supposed to think about suffering? We’ll examine the Bible to see if God agrees with today’s opinion about suffering..
- Christian Discipline
In this age of political correctness, competition for church members and fear of lawsuits, Church discipline has all but disappeared. That’s a shame because a leading factor in the ineffectiveness of the Church today is its hesitation to apply Church discipline. We’ll look at Scripture to find out what it is, how it works and what it accomplishes.
- Jealousy, Wrath & Judgment
We hear much about God’s love, mercy and forgiveness – and rightly so. But how much is our concept of those things distorted when we hear little about God’s jealousy, wrath and Judgment? The lack of teaching on these subjects certainly contributes to the lukewarmness of the average Christian. “Yeah, but you’re not supposed to SCARE people about God!” Oh, really? Who says? There are lots of scary and fearful things about God that we would do well to know and understand. We’ll take a look at the “unpleasant” side of God and how it affects our daily walk with Him.
- Intolerance & Exclusivity
There is only ONE way to avoid being eternally damned in hell, and spend an eternity with God in Heaven. There couldn’t be a more unpopular message today than that. All the political correctness, ecumenism, tolerance, diversity and inclusivism in the world doesn’t change that fact. We’ll look at the Bible to see how it teaches very plainly this “one way”.
Intolerance & Exclusivity
By nature and necessity, Christianity is intolerant. It claims only one way and one person through which salvation possibe. It is by default, exclusive. If there is only one way to be saved, then you are excluding all other ways.
There is NOTHING more unpopular, or hated, in today’s religious and spiritual climate than those who are intolerant and exclusive towards other people’s “beliefs”. We live under this insane idea that anyone and everyone can believe anything they want, and all beliefs are equally valid. That is absurd on so many levels, it would be hard to know where to start refuting it. Only in “religion” can that nonsense exist. Can you imagine scientists or doctors or lawyers or accountants or airline pilots having the same mentality? Just believe and practice whatever you want. Everyone has the right to fly an airplane however they want. It would be chaos. That’s exactly what we have today: spiritual chaos.
It has become very fashionable to be “spiritual”. All the popular and pretty people are doing it. It’s okay to talk about “God” or your “higher power”. Just a few years ago, it was only the “nut” who talked publicly about such things, but today it is very “cool” to be spiritual.
As I have watched this trend, the subtlies of the Enemy have been interesting to observe. First, it was hip to be “spiritual” but you never were very specific about what that meant. It was kind of “you do your thing, and I’ll do mine”. Then it became acceptable to talk about “God” specifically, and to thank him, or acknowledge “the main upstairs”. This only caused a stir when someone actually defined their “God” to be the Creator God of the Bible which would draw quaint little condescending remarks. Until recently, you almost never heard the name “Jesus Christ” because once you mention Jesus, now you are specifically talking about Christianity, and it is the ultimate politically incorrect statement to imply that Jesus is the way to salvation.
This trend has been around for many years and sadly the entire spectrum of every indecent, immoral and worldly celebrity or athlete wears a cross around their neck, thanks “God”, or professes some sort of “spirituality” regardless of how they live their life. I will never forget seeing a hip-hop female music group, barely dressed, perform a raunchy dance number then get up to receive an award and thank the “father in heaven” for blessing them with all they had achieved. It was truly sad and sickening to witness.
A recent celebrity trend, at least in American culture, has been to “thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. Just the other night, I saw a very provocatively half-dressed female singer perform a song, then in the interview afterwards thanked “her Lord and Savior” and just wanted “whatever God’s will is for my life”. That’s all the right evangelical Christian words. The sad part is, I don’t think she was being insincere at all – which demonstrates how worldly the average church has become. I got every impression that she was truly sincere about her Christianity but so poorly discipled that she didn’t realize the contradiction between her faith and her very immodest dress and sexually explicit song.
What was most interesting to me though, was that her comments about her “Lord and Savior” and “God’s will” did not even phase the audience or the interviewer. Just a few years ago, you would have been able to feel obvious discomfort at such statements, or sense the ridicule towards someone who spoke publicly about Jesus. I believe it is an ingenius tactic of Satan’s to allow these phrases to become common place and virtually meaningless in our society. It’s okay to say it, it’s okay for YOU to believe such things, as long as you don’t ever imply that someone else should believe them. Can you imagine what would happen if a celebrity were to say, “I would just like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and just want to follow God’s will for my life. And by the way, everyone listening to my voice or watching this on TV…. if you don’t repent of your sins and turn to Jesus as the only way to salvation, you will spend an eternity in hell separated from God”. Career over.
Just yesterday, I was listening to a very popular national talk show host rant and rave about how it is “wonderful” if people want to privately live their religion, and that he respects everyone who diligently practices what they believe. He even proclaimed his own belief in “God”. He finished though with a tirade about how you are “stepping over the line” when you imply that someone else must believe the same way as you to be saved. He insulted, degraded, and lambasted every person who thinks that their “religion” is the only “truth”. He thoroughly tongue-lashed every person who believes there is only one truth and one way to be saved.
Of course we all know who that group is in America: fundamentalist, right-wing, intolerant, homophobic, bigotted evangelical Christians. With each passing day, the line is drawn clearer, and the division between “religion” and Christianity grows wider. Religion is popular now; spirituality is cool. Even “christianity” and “Jesus” are “okay” to talk about in public. However, should you declare that there is only ONE way to be saved and ONE Person through whom salvation comes, then you will be immediately scorned, insulted, dismissed and roundly ridiculed.
We are quickly coming to the point where “exclusivity”
will divide true Christianity from the rest of the world.
I read a transcript of a radio interview the other day that included a true Christian, an athiest and four other representatives from world religions talking about “what happens when you die?” The four “religions” spoke of love and light, and how you went on to all the good things you wished you always had. All four of them spoke plainly and directly about how “good works” determined your fate after death and while you may get some “punishment”, ultimately, we all end up in heaven. Two of these four claimed the Bible as their “holy book”. Overall, their answers were very vague, very flexible, indirect and inoffensive to ANYONE who may have been listening.
The Christian and athiest both spoke in definitive terms declaring ONE truth, albeit it opposites. They were quickly separated out as the “extremists” and you could almost hear the other four panelists snickering and patronizing their “obviously ridiculous” beliefs. The athiest declared that once you’re dead, that’s all there is. That is not a popular sentiment in an increasingly hopeless world. The Christian stated that salvation was found in no other religion or person other than Jesus Christ as declared in the Holy Bible, God’s Word. You can imagine the response that drew with four other world religion representatives sitting at the same table.
Here’s my point: it is a very ingenius trick of Satan to bring the world to the point where it’s okay to be religious, it’s okay to talk about God or Jesus or spirituality… as long as you don’t imply that there is only ONE truth.
Acts 4:10-12 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (NKJV)
The courage to draw the line and declare the exclusive, intolerant truth found in God’s Word is fast becoming what divides true Christians from the world. It will not be long before it will be considered a “hate crime” to declare only one way to salvation, and quickly following that will come persecution for it. The storms clouds of persecution are building on the horizon my friends. Will you be ready for that day? Are you ready to declare in the face of physical consequences: “There is only ONE way!”?
Lord, Help us to be bold in proclaiming Your Son as the only way to be saved. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?