Let Christ’s Love Cast Out Fear!(Part 1 of 3)

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Fear is an extremely power thing. If fear is not handled properly, it is capable of destroying a person simply because of its crippling effects. There are those within this world today who live in maximal fear–sometimes for understandable reasons, other times because they have allowed fear to control their lives entirely.

What I want to progress towards discussing within this series are the terrifying ramifications of when believers succumb to fear-based religion. As an introduction, today’s focuses will be on (1) providing historical background of religion within Christendom and on (2) highlighting one of the threats some “christian” churches pose towards spiritual seekers and professing believers alike. 

Strikingly, religion has almost always been wielded in such a way to instill fear into the masses through both oppressive and manipulative means so that the people can be controlled. Yes, even “Christian” religious denominations have largely been premised in fear, which can be quite certainly be linked to the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church(RCC). In fact, prominent author and apologist, Ravi Zachaaris postulates that, “Christianity is not the same as who Christ is“.

I will now digress a little here so that I can provide some reasoning for why I believe this is happening within Christianity. Increasingly what we have today even among several Protestant denominations is the integration of some practices and traditions from Catholic teaching. Notably, within Protestantism there is an expanding-divide between the laity and the clergy in which there is a greater perceived value towards the ministry work among the clergy(church leaders) within the church compared to that which God accomplishes through the laity(church members). The fact is that we are all a royal priesthood of believers under the New Covenant(1 Peter 2:9) in Christ. Therefore, no believer is seen as more or less significant before God simply because they serve in a leadership capacity at a church as opposed to being used in some other capacity in another profession. The hierarchy within the RCC has certainly been influencing and has even started to pervade some Protestant denominations. The consequence beginning to arise from this is the proliferation of Bible illiteracy because church-goers place too much weight on the pastor at the pulpit. Therefore, the spin-off from this is that there is the presumption that this pastor has authority over God’s Word. Sadly, many church adherents then follow whatever is said trusting that the pastor is always 100% accurate, frequently without taking part in their own Bible Study to test what is said against God’s Word. For those of you who know your history of the RCC, I’m sure that this sounds very familiar. In spite of this example, as well as several others unmentioned, one can quite accurately speculate that the trajectory to which we are going within Protestantism is frighteningly similar to the way things were before the Protestant Reformation.  

Returning to Dr. Zachaaris’ point from earlier, I believe that his point soundly exemplifies what is transpiring today within Christianity. As human beings we have put an inordinate level of img_6168emphasis on doctrinal differences and biblical interpretations to the degree whereby they are exalted above what God Himself has told us within His Word. We have forgotten that Christianity is about modeling and living the way Christ lived where we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves through grace, mercy, kindness, compassion, patience, and understanding. We need to walk out our theology rather than simply intellectualizing it in order that God’s Word has it full intended impact within our hearts(breathing in through studying it and breathing out through living it). It is as though we have tried to put God into a proverbial box made out of our human preconceptions and categorical assumptions of Who we think He is. However, as you and I both hopefully know: God simply does not, and, moreover, He cannot fit into our human-made doctrinal boxes. Like apostle, Stephen quotes in Acts 7:48-50 from Mat 5:34,35 and Isa 66:1,2:

However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. What kind of house will you build for Me? says the Lord. Or where will My resting place be? Has not My hand made all these things?

Disclaimer: Please do not misunderstand or misinterpret me at all, I do recognize that pure religion (see James 1:27) has a place and it is essential for the Christian walk of faith. However, without having a personal and dynamic relationship with God, religion is merely a set of rules, rituals and traditions which is dead in and of itself(look at the Pharisees). We need pure religion to keep us grounded while the relationship we have with God enables us to live in the liberties Christ purchased for us on Calvary. Pure religion and relationship are not opposing forces but rather they should work in harmony in a sort of symbiotic relationship.

The central result of religion without relationship is known as legalism where we frustratingly strive and strive to earn our salvation, while repeatedly falling short and being devastated at the end of our lives when we face God for judgement. What I fervently and earnestly want Christians to know about is the damning power of false (christian) religion which permeates the world today, particularly within the West. It is common knowledge that being a church-goer does not mean that you are saved because church membership cannot purchase salvation; salvation is received by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. However, the church is always one of the most dangerous places you can be if you ignorantly fool yourself into thinking that you are saved when you are really not. Essentially, you have not only become a hypocrite without even realizing(or through suppressing it) but once you are within the clutches of religion, it is exceedingly difficult to escape it because the enemy has cunningly fooled you through using religion as his choice of weapon.

I cannot even begin to fathom the immeasurably high numbers of souls who have fallen victim to the clutches of false religion. I have personally experienced what this is like coming from a Roman Catholic Background myself for over 2o years of my life. I am normally not a stubborn person but God had to radically shake up my life before He captured my attention to see the destructive path which I was on. It is my prayer and hope that the true life-giving Gospel Message of unfathomable love and grace will liberate any readers who find themselves entrapped in fear-based religion.

I encourage anyone who desires to briefly share their experience of being set free from the bondage of religion to comment below.

I plan on continuing this series with a blog post entitled, “Paralyzing Power of Fear”. In this post, I intend on exploring some of the devastating ramifications of living in fear within the framework of religion.

May God Bless everyone in the weeks ahead!

The Mark of a True Christian

I have been very fortunate to grow up in a healthy home with loving and supportive parents who raised me well. The importance of being obedient to my parents and respecting their decisions was instilled within me at a young age. My parents were stricter than most and at times I felt like I was missing out. I even recall being ridiculed by some of my peers for supposedly living too sheltered of a life. Admittedly, there were occasions where I was inclined to agree, particularly with the severe forms of discipline I faced when I made poor decisions. In retrospect, I am very grateful for the way in which my parents raised me because of the person that I am today.

In a very similar way, the Scriptures reveal to us that God not only desires our obedience but He commands it. In John 14:15, Jesus pointedly tells us that “If you love Me, you will obey-god-in-loveobey what I command”. He later expands on this by saying, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching, My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching(John 14:23-24). Without reservation, Jesus declares that obedience is required within the Christian Walk as we follow Him. In effect, the love which we have for God through Christ results in obedience to do what God has asked and called us to become. In John 14 verse 23, we are also told that as we obey God’s teaching that the Father will love us and that They(we) will also make Their home with us. Jesus is referring to when the Holy Spirit resides within our souls in our bodies which have now been transformed into holy temples through Christ’s perfect atoning sacrifice on Calvary.

I am about to digress a little here but I assure you that is for good reason. What I find alarming and disconcerting about the way in which the Gospel is preached today is that there is an imbalanced emphasis on salvation by grace with little to no mention of the need for the now-saved-sinner to pursue continued repentance. I understand that the work on the Cross is finished however this does not preclude the absolute vital need for repentance through making war with sin by the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Gospel is preached while neglecting the essential repentance aspect, a half-truth Gospel is being spread which is really no Gospel at all(Galatians 1:6). What I have seen is one of the results from this twisted gospel message is people ignorantly presuming on God’s grace, thinking that they have a licence to sin because the need for repentance is either minimized or forgotten altogether. The other dilemma is that the majority of this time the person is not genuinely saved, though they falsely think that they are. This half-truth Gospel falsely portrays Jesus as a sort of functional savior where nothing is required from the sinner after accepting Jesus. Jesus Himself warns and advises us to count the costs of following Him. He demands our full allegiance and this will require sacrifice and our unbridled commitment. 

I need to provide some basic Christian theology of justification in order to bring things full circle. Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit initially occurred when we believed in Christ alone for our salvation, in turn making Him the Savior and Lord of our lives. Now God declares us as justified before Him. Amazingly, when God looks at us He sees us clothed in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus. The mark of a true Christian is not that we are now perfect, or not going to stumble, rather, it is derived from true repentance.     

I believe that it would be helpful to establish a working definition of repentance in order to ensure that we are all on the same page. Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines repentance as:

an actual hatred of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5, 6; 2 Cor. 7:10) and turning from it to God…and a persistent endeavour after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments. The true penitent is conscious of guilt (Ps. 51:4, 9), of pollution (51:5, 7, 10), and of helplessness (51:11; 109:21, 22). Thus he apprehends himself to be just what God has always seen him to be and declares him to be. But repentance comprehends not only such a sense of sin, but also an apprehension of mercy, without which there can be no true repentance (Ps. 51:1; 130:4)”.

Repentance is all about turning away from the sin which formerly held us captive through taking off the grave clothes and putting on the grace clothes. As believers in Christ, we now possess this power to be victorious over any and all sin because its stronghold and grasp over us has been destroyed. True believers in Christ are sealed with the Holy Spirit by God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not something that comes and goes within real Christians. However, even as believers, our flesh is very weak and we are ourselves are incredibly prone to go astray. That is why it is indispensable that we walk in obedience by following God’s commands, especially when it comes to daily repentance and putting to death the deeds of the flesh(Romans 8:13). As Jesus continues speaking in John 14 about obedience, He becomes more direct about what He meant in verse 23 when says, “we”. In verse 26 Jesus says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”. We need to be continually filled by the Holy Spirit in order that we may be led and controlled by Him so that God becomes the Lord over all entire lives…not just on Sundays. As I see it, this only happens as an overflow of our love for God through active obedience to God and His commands. Even the smallest, seemingly insignificant day-to-day decisions make the biggest difference over time. CS Lewis put it this way,

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible(CS Lewis p 132).

The Holy Spirit drives the whole engine of the Christian life, therefore when it is grieved or quenched by our disobedience, we stumble back into our sinful and comeholyspiritfleshly tendencies. Herein lies the danger of disobedience. Although believers are indeed indwelt by the Holy Spirit, God does not remove our free will. This means that we have the choice each and every day to either obey God allowing our souls to be filled with the Holy Spirit or to disobey God thereby quenching the Holy Spirit. The former way enables God to work in and through us where He works mightily enabling us to be all that God has designed and purposed for us to become. The latter way leads to an unfruitful and strangled Christian life where instead of thriving we end up merely surviving.

Like loving parents who know what is best for their children, we can rest on the ironclad promise that God knows what is best for us. Even though there are times when we feel like we know better, we need to trust in God and His perfect timing for all things. He is our good Father and He will withhold no good thing for us as we lovingly obey and walk rightly with Him (Pslam 84:11).

The importance of obedience to God is instrumental for living a fruitful, God-honouring, Christ-exalting, kingdom-furthering Christian life. The Old Testament contains numerous examples of those who stepped out in faith to pursue what God was calling them to do. Comfortable Christians cannot change the world. It is not until we leave our comfort zones that God is able start to work through us in ways which you and I cannot begin to imagine.

Lord, I pray that this blog post may serve to help embolden Your Church to courageously pursue opportunities where we are being called even if they make us uncomfortable. I also pray that we delight in following You and Your commandments because of our pure love and devotion to You. Help us to live real Christian lives marked with repentance and an unceasing passion to reach the lost. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

References:

Easton’s Bible Dictionary by Matthew George Easton

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

 

Becoming What You Worship

One thing which believers and non-believers alike share in common is that we all worship something. There is always one particular thing which we dedicate and devote our lives towards. Whatever this thing may be, it will almost always form the identity and the very fabric of who we are as individuals. I would even postulate that in some sense we actually become what we worship and it is my contention that this view is also supported within the Scriptures.MAde for God
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Our Best Hope for Peace

As calamities, atrocities and disasters of all kinds continually emerge throughout different parts of the world, the need for peace becomes progressively amplified. The inescapable truth is that the same peace which humanity has sought repeatedly throughout the last two millennia is still not found in anything under the sun. In fact, as mere mortal beings we are utterly incapable of ever attaining this life-transforming peace because we ourselves are spiritually-depraved. Like Romans 3:10 tells us,Fallen short.jpg

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.

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