Monday, September 10, 2007

Do You Know the Way?

There has never been and will never be a soul received into heaven because it was Catholic or Baptist or Presbyterian.

There are all manner of people who identify themselves as Christian who won’t be in heaven. There are those who go to church on Sundays and are on the member roll, or those who tithe religiously, or those who fulfill all religious requirements, or those who have parents who were members of a congregation or Christian denomination, or those who have been in a church or two a few times, or those who believe in an almighty presence, or those who believe that if they do good things they will be judged as okay in the end, or those who believe Jesus is just all right with them, but they don’t need to be born again. There are countless who lie or deceive themselves into believing they are Christians who won’t be there. [Matt 7.21] And there will even be those who perform miracles in His name who will hear these words at the judgment, “I never knew you. Depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.'” Acts 8.20

Jesus identified Himself as The Way, saying, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me,” [John 14.6] and scripture shows that early Christians identified themselves as Followers of the Way [Acts 9.2, 19.9]. There was simply one Way, and that way was Jesus Himself. But very soon after the first Christians began to meet, there arose among them those of whom Jesus had warned when He said in Matthew, “"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Christians are warned repeatedly to zealously protect the gospel of Jesus from those who would bring in destructive doctrine, even for instance, denying Jesus Himself [1 Pe 2.1], because as scripture notes, “A little leaven (a slight inclination to error, or a few false teachers) leavens the whole lump [it perverts the whole conception of faith or misleads the whole church].” Gal 5.9 Because of this desire to keep the faith from being corrupted, Christianity has been divided. In many instances, this division was absolutely necessary for the preservation of sound doctrine. We cannot, for instance, take lightly the practice by church members or leaders of disregarding God’s Word. We cannot allow behavior that does not exhibit the love of Christ and the truth of His teachings. We cannot allow false teaching to corrupt the Gospel of Christ. In fact, we are to regard the Gospel as treasure to be protected, and since our highest duty is to spread that Gospel, it is imperative to the Christian faith that the Gospel is rightly proclaimed. It is not wrong to condemn bad doctrine.

You Call Me Master
You call Me Master and obey Me not.
You call Me Light and see Me not.
You call Me the Way and walk Me not.
You call Me Life and choose Me not.
You call Me Wise and follow Me not.
You call Me Fair and love Me not.
You call Me Rich and ask Me not.
You call Me Eternal and seek Me not.
You call Me Noble and serve Me not.
You call Me Gracious and trust Me not.
You call Me Might and honor Me not.
You call Me Just and fear Me not.
If I condemn you, blame Me not.
(Engraved on an old slab in the Cathedral of Lubeck Germany)

There is only one Way to salvation and that is through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. No amount of works, even what the world would label as good works, will get one into heaven, and neither is the performance of sacrifice or ritual sufficient unto salvation. [Rom 3.28] This is the Good News, the Gospel, of the free gift from God, salvation through Jesus Christ. It is the antithesis of the law. As Luther said, “By the law, nothing else is meant than God’s word and command, directing what to do and what to leave undone, and requiring of us obedience of works. But the gospel is such doctrine of the word of God that neither requires our works nor commands us to do anything, but announced the offered grace of the forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation. Here we do nothing, but only receive what is offered through the word.” If a church that puts itself out as a Christian church teaches doctrine that suggests that we must do this or that to be saved from eternal damnation, that is a perversion of the glad tidings of Christianity and must be roundly condemned.

Further, scripture teaches, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. "1 John 2.3 – 6

This is one way that we know we have truly received Christ—when our hearts grieve when we disobey God’s law. Before I became a Christian, I made all types of excuses for my bad behavior, and even more, I didn’t really care or feel I had to answer to anyone for the things I did. Now, when I willfully disobey, I am convicted to quickly repent, ask God for forgiveness and make things right. (Today I had to apologize to my boss for getting angry.) I am compelled by my love of God to keep His commandment to love, and by loving to be joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled. Against this type of love there is no law! I am freed from the bondage of religiousness! [Gal 5.23] I am also now indwelt by the Holy Spirit, another sign that my conversion is real. [1 John 4.13] And how do I know that I have His Spirit? I can tell by the measure of how much I am loving people, because the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love. When we walk in love, we are imitators of God and behave as though we are imitating our Father. We are commanded to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Gal 5.1,2 We are to make every effort to be loving, because if we practice loving, we make our election sure. [2 Pe 1.5 - 10]

Love does not mean accepting any interpretation of Christianity so that no one’s feelings are hurt. We are not required to tolerate lies or misrepresentations. We are simply required to speak the truth, and to speak it with love. We are commanded to treat people in the same way that we would like to be treated [Luke 6.31], i.e., the Golden Rule, and this ought to lead to gracious and gentle discourse. But it does not mean that we set aside truth.

It is God’s will that while we live out our numbered days here on earth, we are still strapped with the rotting flesh that envelops us. Many times we fail, and many times we repent and begin again. This is how God is perfecting us. We need often to be reminded that we are citizens of God’s kingdom, his representatives on earth. In fact, Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is within His followers! God help us to glorify His Name by being good ambassadors!

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” John 3.3 Other scripture puts it quite succinctly: “…. if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10.9 It could not be much clearer.

“You will not see the Kingdom of God unless you realize who Jesus is. You won’t have the Kingdom inside you until you open your heart to Him. And you will not be in the Kingdom eternally unless you’re born again.” Paraphrased from Courson commentary

It has nothing to do with the church you attend and everything to do with the condition of your heart. Consider these words today. Repent and believe on Jesus. You will never be the same. The outcome of your faith in Jesus and His acceptable sacrifice will be the salvation of your very soul. [1 Pe 1.9]

God bless you,

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