Saturday, November 24, 2007

# 228: A Ticket to Heaven

There is a teaching among much of mainstream Christianity which needs serious Biblical examination. The teaching is this: After our initial conversion, the good we do or don't do cannot adversely affect our eternal destiny. To believe and live that way is an extremely deadly teaching, which this Biblical post will unequivocally refute.

It concerns six words in New Testament Scripture: “prize,” “crown,” and “reward,” which essentially mean the same thing; and “works” or “good works,” “fruit,” and “deeds,” which all basically are synonymous with each other. This post will examine these words to be certain we understand them in the context in which they are used.

Kindergarten knowledge says that a person’s works, fruit and deeds are what a person’s life produces: good, evil, or doing nothing good (the omission of doing good is evil in God’s sight). The last is the most prevalent.

There are several verses in the New Testament, using the aforementioned three words, that when taken without regards to other verses using the same words, imply something totally erroneous—namely, that a person who claims to be a Christian can have a lesser place in heaven if they don’t engage in Christian-type good works, fruit or deeds. That statement is a lie. There is not one verse in the New Testament to back that false belief. And if they were actively engaging in all good works, they would receive a prize, crown or reward and thus receive a greater place in heaven. According to Scripture, this last sentence is true but somewhat misunderstood.

Mark 10:43. "Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all." Also, Luke 6: 35. "But love your enemy, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High . . ." The reward spoken in this verse explicitly says greatness is the reward of becoming sons of the Most High. By the way, the word “reward” is always used in the singular, and never in the plural. What does that tell you?

Guess what the vast majority of those who believe in this way choose: to do nothing actively to promote the works of Christ and thus take a lesser place in heaven. This is one reason why most church-going, one-hour-a- week "christians" are spiritually lethargic. This type of false teaching caught on like wildfire, and has been burning out of control ever since.

There are so many verses which contradict that belief, that if all of them were mentioned, it would take 6 or more full pages and bore us all. But anyone who desires to be the best Christian possible, which should be all of us who are indwelt by God's Holy Spirit, will understand that any “do little or nothing” teaching is a gigantic heresy.

Romans 2:6-7. "God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life." In this verse the good a person does is not for rewards, a crown or a prize. Our persistence in doing good is required for eternal life, even though that good we do does not justify us, but is only proof to all that we have already been justified by Christ’s blood.

3rd John 11. "Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God." Again, doing good is a display of our connection with God, which all of us must actively engage in.

1st Peter 4:19. "So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their Creator and continue to do good." Again, it is necessary to do good.

1st Peter 2:12. "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." This verse says good deeds are mandatory.

James 3:17. "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is . . . full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere."

1st Timothy 6:18. "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share."

2nd Timothy 3:17. ". . . so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

I believe it is evident with these 7 verses that good fruit, deeds and works are an essential part of the Christian life. There are many, many more verses—over a hundred—that essentially tell the same story.

1st Corinthians 3:8 and 3:14-15. "The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. . . .if what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escapes through the flames." These verses are a good example of what some rewards are: When someone is saved by another’s efforts, the one who is saved will be that person’s reward. Evidentially, there are heavenly rewards which are things other than just eternity with God.

Matthew 5:11-12. "Blessed are you when people insult you, and persecute you and falsely say all kind of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. . . . " And what will be our reward in heaven? Eternal life with God and Jesus Christ.

1st Corinthians 10:27. "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." Let us throw in a few more similar verses that Paul is talking about to be certain the prize is eternal life.

Philippians 3:14. "I press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Colossians 2:18. "Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize."

Along with several more verses, the above all use the term “the prize,” which is also used to mean just one prize: eternal life.

1st Corinthians 9:18 "What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my right in preaching it." In this verse, Paul’s reward is preaching the gospel free of charge without being compensated for it.

Colossians 3:23-24. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward." The inheritance is eternal life.

The following verses using the word “crown” will show that the word “crown” is an eternal blessing.

1st Corinthians 9:25. "They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." Eternity with God and Christ.

2nd Timothy 4:8. "Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."

James 1:12. "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those that love him."

1st Peter 5:4. "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade."

Revelation 2:10. "Be faithful to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life."

Revelation 3:11. "I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown."

In ending, this last verse will summarize the controversy between being slackers, which is in contrast to being like those who make every effort and do all in their power to live as is required in New Testament Scripture. And when we believe we are doing everything possible, there is still room for more. There is no ceiling to doing good works, deeds and producing good fruit.

Never forget, as previously mentioned, that all this good we do is no more than evidence that we believe Christ as our Lord and Savior, love God and our fellow man/woman, and obey all Christ’s commands, and not for justification. We continually do all this good because we have already received God’s free gift of grace: eternal life. As Christ said in Luke 13:24, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, [slackers], I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to." Living the Christian life could not be made more obvious. Everyone has to decide for themselves if the words in this post are true and correct. If anyone believes Scripture says otherwise, please let us know.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

# 227: Exposing Satan's Schemes

# 227: Exposing Satan's Schemes This subject is rather lengthy; although it is one I really don’t care to write about, it is essential that we all know the subtle ways the evil one gets us on his side, most often without our knowledge. The reason we are prone to believing his deceptive ways is because his evil nature and our sinful nature are one and the same. That fact in itself is frightening. Therefore, when we do what comes naturally (feels good), many times, it’s playing into the devil’s hands.

For that reason, the father of lies doesn’t care one bit when we believe in Christ and God or if we claim we are Genuine Christians, as long we continually and actively participate in worldly activities and all the fun things this world offers. Though there are many activities, the majority of us are addicted to entertainment of all sorts, professional sports, and indulging in too much and the wrong type of food that our bodies must put up with, etc. These are just a few of Satan’s favorite schemes which we have a difficult time living without. In essence, they are no more than distractions to keep our minds off of the things of God.

I am certain some will say, "If that is the case, then living the Christian life is a full- blown ‘kill-joy.’" Just remember what the word “ungodly” means: not godly or religious; impious. And impious means: lacking reverence for God. How many things do we do in the course of the day that have absolutely nothing to do with God? Other than the things that are absolutely essential (the things we must do to sustain life), most other activities—if they have nothing to do with God—are ungodly. They are the things we do which divert our attention from a Godly life. And if we are mingling our lives with ungodly activities, although they may not seem sinful in themselves, we, without knowing it, are playing with Satan’s fire.

This teaching is somewhat new to this author. That means to conform, I must do away with a few of the activities I now enjoy, meaning I will have more time to engage in things that bring glory to God.

You see, Christ said, "A little yeast works through the whole dough." Get a fruit or vegetable that has a little rotten spot on it and in a short time the whole fruit will be consumed with rot. That little rotten spot looks harmless, but if left unchecked, that is when it does its dirty work.

Of course, our activities which have absolutely nothing to do with Christ’s holiness are more than a small rotten spot. Many who believe they are Christians are consumed with many, many activities that are ungodly and sinful for the simple reason that God is not included in those particular activities. And the devil is the one who is shrewdly and surreptitiously behind this sort of life.

Another thing to remember: That invisible tyrant who loves to make his abode in our physical body is more intelligent—in an evil way—than any other being, physical or spiritual. The only possible way we can outsmart him is to stick close to God by obedience to all that He commands. In other words, if our belief in God does not coincide with how we live, our faith in Christ is in vain. The holiness we model in life (our fruit) is the only thing that will verify our words of faith. Luke 6:44. "Each tree is recognized by its own fruit."

Satan plays both sides of the fence. If he can’t inspire us to live in a worldly way to get us to do things that please him, he will allow pain, sorrow, trouble, hardships, etc. to come our way. Then we may get fed up with life in despair and say to ourselves, "This Christian life is for the birds," and leave God altogether, and go the way of the world. James 4:4: "Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God."

The list is endless in the ways he can trick Christians into living in ways that please him. The sad part is that many times it is without our knowledge. The reason is that he can transform himself into an angel of light . 2nd Corinthians 11:14. "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve." How, then, can we distinguish the difference between the good and the bad, since Satan is such a great imposter? Only one way: become familiar with the ways of God and Christ by reading His Word every day and then putting them into practice.

It is impossible for evil to flourish or even get a foothold in our lives when we continually live with an active desire to be the very best Christians possible, as described in the New Testament. Any less will always leave room for the great deceiver to silently and insidiously worm his way into our Christian lives, making our faith and connection with Christ null and void. This type of teaching will not be accepted by all since there is nothing easy about it; it needs constant dedication and vigilance. It may mean a drastic life-change for some who already believe they are living holy lives. Only thing, a life is holy when that life is permeated through and through with the holy life of Jesus Christ. Satan detests this sort of stuff being revealed about his tactics.

Another way that evil brute wins over atheists and Christians alike is to get them to believe he is not a real entity but a representation of evil, and therefore, doesn’t really exist. He loves to constantly whisper in our ear that “the evil—which we shouldn’t call ‘evil’—we engage in is just the working of our selfish nature; that’s the way we humans are." And it is; only thing is, our selfish nature is inspired by him.

Here is another one of his ploys: Other than in rare and isolated cases, he wants everyone to think of him as a wicked-looking creature with horns and a pitchfork in his hands. That is the farthest from the truth. He wants us to enjoy ourselves when we are doing things that are not acceptable by God, which, without our knowledge, is the omission of doing what is right and replacing it with what is enjoyable. The song by Debbie Boone goes this way: "How can it be wrong when it feels so right?" Moses’ inspirations are quoted in Hebrews 11:15. "He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time." Yes, most sins do feel good at the time, and the more we do them, the easier and more natural they become.

This is his most hidden secret of all: That devil doesn’t want anyone to know how powerful he is in getting the vast majority of humanity to do things his way. His tremendous power is made into child’s play when we believe, love God/neighbor, and obey all that God commands in the Bible. Therefore, we who are genuine disciples of Christ have no reason to fear Satan; the one we must fear is God alone. Luke 12:4-5. "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those [evil humans] who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: fear him [God], who after killing the body, has the power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him." Nowhere in Scripture, to my knowledge, does it say Christians should fear Satan. But if we are doing things our own way, which may not seem all that bad, we better fear that evil creature because of what he has planned for us: an eternal furnace.

A group of evil critters we don’t hear much about in our modern times are demons. They are the devil’s work force. A better way of classifying them is to call them evil spirits. They secretly indwell only those who don’t belong to God through Christ. If one believes he/she is in dwelled by evil, the solution is found in James 4:8-9. "Submit yourself, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Peter has good advice (commands) also in 1 Peter 5:8. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, stand firm in the faith . . ."

Even though Christians shouldn’t fear the devil, we must at all times be aware that he is waiting for us to slip up. And if that slipup in time becomes an addiction, Satan can remove us from our secure position. It can happen, and that slipup may be only a trivial matter at the time, which can grow into a serious violation. Result: Satan has us in his grips without our knowledge, since we believe we are safe and secure in the arms of Jesus. And the devil wants us to continue to believe we are still Christians. In this situation, God is powerless to help us without our own effort. Even though God is Almighty, he does not and cannot use magic.

Remember, sin is what keeps us from God. 1 John 3:9-10. "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God." This next verse is extremely important. "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; neither is anyone who does not love his brother." This is the New Testament (God) speaking, not this author.

Satan gets his power from us being unaware of how he is continually looking over our shoulder, as it were, through his evil spirits. For that reason, we must be conscious that the whole world is full of sin, and that prevalent attitude could overwhelm us by its sheer size—we become like those we gaze at. In short, initially becoming a Christian is no challenge, just accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior; but to continue in Christianity, we must make every effort to keep in the grace of God by avoiding all kinds of sins (evil), especially those that don’t seem as if they are sin, like mediocrity in spiritual matters.

I am thankful the devil does not know the complete future. I mean, he doesn’t know who will remain in his custody, who will desert him for Christ, and who he can continually trick into joining and remaining in his spell, thus joining forces with the remainder of his intellectuals, along with the unschooled and unbelieving idiots.

Here is something that should have all of us shaking in our boots: He knows our every weakness/es. These are the areas where he will continue to badger us. When they are weaknesses which pertain to spiritual matters, as the song says, ". . . round and round I go, down and down I go, I am in a spell, I love the spell that I am in, under that old black magic called love," then we will be exploited in areas of weaknesses in the things we love. This is bad news. Our only defense is to draw close to God by obedience, and He will draw close to us. All our follies are derived from our disobedience to the very commands that are for our benefit and protection.

By now, some of you already guessed who the devil’s most prolific advocate is when it comes to Biblical teaching: much of organized religion, especially Catholicism, which can’t even be classified as a Christian religion. Next in line, most certainly, are the Baptists. And the champion of Baptist teachings has been Billy Graham for the last 50 years or so. They teach that once a person receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they cannot lose their Salvation (once saved, always saved). Many of the remaining denominations follow close behind. The reason many of them are condemned by New Testament Scripture is because of what they don’t teach, which this blog brings out in the open.

A lawyer friend of mine taught me a great lesson some years ago: “The devil is in the details.” This is what he meant: In most legal contracts, "The big print giveth and the fine print taketh away." Lawyers are taught to make the language in the fine print of a contract so obscure (legal mumbo-jumbo) that even a seasoned judge has a difficult time figuring out that the fine print is taking away all that the big print giveth. They are taught to take away, with complex legal terms, what was given in the big print.

We know that Almighty God is infinitely more powerful than Satan, but as almighty as He is, it is impossible for God to bend holy rules by violating His divine nature and exerting His mighty power (grace and mercy) on our behalf when we do not actively desire to live as His Holy Book clearly displays "in fine print," if you will.

The same is true with Satan. He wants us to believe all the good and easy things the Bible offers (the passive part of Christianity) and then make them invalid by inspiring us to ignore, either knowingly or unknowingly, the fine print (the requirements that are not pleasant and contrary to our sinful nature)—the term “sinful nature” is used 16 times in the New Testament. That chief of demons performs this deadly deception, mostly through clergymen/women who desire large numbers in their churches, and then they believe God is blessing them with such great numbers. They should remember that Satan counts his cohorts, while God weighs His holy disciples, for their faith, love and obedience.

There are over half a dozen verses in the New Testament saying God’s people will be filled with the Holy Spirit. The word “filled” implies that a person can have less than the filling of the Holy Spirit. This says when a person leaves even a little room in the area where the Holy Spirit resides, that evil scoundrel can come in and attempt to inspire us with evil that sounds good—isn’t that what is happening in the world today? Namely, what was called evil just a few decades ago is now called acceptable, good and even desirable. When that Holy Spirit area is filled, Satan cannot even squeeze a toenail into that area which belongs exclusively to God. This is how we can be certain we are filled with God’s Spirit: Read and obey post # 225: "Be Like Jesus?" And put into practice what it teaches, regardless of how impossible it may seem to the human mind. And God and this author guarantee that we will have a full measure of the Holy Spirit, to the point the devil can’t inspire us with his lovely shenanigans.

Just as God is omnipresent, the spirit of Satan is also ubiquitous. Just to think we can move to a better location where evil is not so prevalent (and therefore, escape Satan’s evil works), we are only kidding ourselves. He will be right there waiting for us. Much of the evil he inspires is not blatant offenses against civil laws, but candy-coated evil, which most do not classify as wrongdoings; things like lack of love for neighbor and no visible love for God. Remember, the genuine Christian life is a life of active love. Without that love, regardless of how good a Christian may seem, they are in the clutches of the one responsible for this planet in rebellion.

Humanity is weakest when it comes to obedience in how the New Testament views material wealth and prosperity. For that reason, Lucifer makes a massive killing on this weakness of ours. I won’t say much on this subject since post # 175 and # 153 are quite descriptive in telling the dangers of wealth. God favors the weak, poor and most of the dregs of humanity to be His people since they have a genuine need for what Christ offers. When it comes to the wealthy who claim to be Christians, their wealth will condemn them, with one exception: When the wealthy decide to accept Christ as their Savior, they must be generous and willing to share with those without. Check 1st Timothy 6:17-18. The reason for that is: How can a rich person have love for the less fortunate without helping them? And there are more needy in the world than any one person’s money can ever eradicate. Does anyone truly understand what this last sentence means?

This command is and may always be the most difficult for the majority of people who claim to be genuine Christians to believe and obey. The goal in the Christian community is equality. Check 2nd Corinthians 8:13. To put it another way, how can we have our treasures (wealth) on earth, which always says, "More," and at the same time have treasures in heaven, which always says, "Give"? They will be in competition/conflict with each other, and the winner will always be the most tangible.

For that reason, Satan has a bonanza when it comes to convincing us that wealth is okay to have; he says, "Look at all the help wealthy Christians can give to many ‘christian’ causes. Therefore, the wealthier they become, the more help they can give." To our human nature, that is the most convincing argument of all his lies, which the principles of Scriptural love refute.

In ending, I am certain Satan, the king of all who are/do evil (nonbelievers) has many more truly deceptive schemes in which to trip us up than this post reveals or anyone can ever imagine. And I am sure those gimmicks are of a subtle sort, not able to be recognized for the lovely evils he diligently shrouds. Deception is his trademark. When people are being deceived, they will be the last, if ever, to know they are being deceived. Are you and I in that category?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

# 226: The Most Rampant Lifestyle?

We don’t very often hear it mentioned in the negative, or accuse anyone, at least in public or to a person’s face. It has been mentioned in this blog numerous times, but since it is one of our most natural inclinations, it would be worthwhile for all of us to be confronted again about its deadly outcome. The reason we don’t hear it often mentioned is because it has been given so many positive disguises/attractive euphuisms. In fact, it, most likely, is an intricate part of our human makeup, and was necessary for our survival when we were no more than cavemen/women. It is mentioned frequently in Scripture but avoided like a plague as a teaching by "holy" clerics.

It is a common word known as GREED. Webster defines greed as: "excessive desire for getting or having, esp. wealth; desire for more than one needs or deserves."

Greedy: "wanting or taking all that one can get, with no thought of others’ needs; desiring more than one needs or deserves."

Let us attempt to understand where greed comes from and why it is so prevalent. I am certain there are many answers as to why greed is the “in thing” in this modern world. Let us examine a few. The main reason is because greed and wealth—which are usually close partners—are thought of as being synonymous with wisdom and intelligence. Who doesn’t want to be wealthy as a display of their smarts? Only a fool would say, "not me." Wasn’t it the wise man of his time, Benjamin Franklin, who said we should seek to be “healthy, wealthy and wise”? Isn’t that what all the world is seeking? Isn’t that why most high school students are encouraged to go to college? Are there many, if any, who don’t desire to enjoy an easy life? This list can be endless. The only thing is, wealth, an easy life, the good life, and freedom from want may lead to a path of greediness, with no thought of others’ needs.

It is totally natural to desire security from want and hard times. Only thing, there is a fine line between having our needs met and greed. Saving for a rainy day is one form of greed. Our silence in not exposing how we really feel about others (“Hurray for me and boo for you”) is another form of greed. No matter how we live, greed is constantly beckoning us to come to the best and biggest party in town.

There are several degrees of greed: small-time, big-time and in- between. The majority of us are small-time, while the big-time are the wealthy and the super-wealthy; either way, it is all greed. I am certain the vast majority of us who claim to be Christians would deny that we are greedy. But if we truly and honestly examine our deepest inward desire, which is next to impossible, we would see greed in every corner of our lives. That is the way we humans are. Some wealthy "christians" may even make the pretense of being generous (philanthropists) by giving to the needy and worthwhile charities to make themselves believe they are not greedy. But most often, at the end of the day, the one who inspires greed will outsmart them.

One reason greed has gotten the best of many Christians is because it seems every other church, especially Evangelicals and conservative Christians, are preaching a message of prosperity (material and financial). What these people have done is to circumvent the word “greed” by giving it many appealing and enticing euphemisms. The apostle Paul puts it this way:

1 Thessalonians 2:5-6. "You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up (disguise) greed—God is our witness." Paul is saying it also is easy to flatter people with pleasant-sounding words. That is the major type of message preached in many churches.

Christ-like prosperity—which is a holy form of poverty—is what we must be striving for: where we store our riches as treasures in heaven. James 2:5. "Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?"

What much of clergy has done is to combine the worldly and spiritual prosperity into one. Why should the parishioners not believe their honest and loving pastors? They tell it just like it is! Sure they do! Ha-ha. The gospel the majority preach is a gospel of greed, in the name of Jesus Christ. How many Evangelicals would openly admit they are greedy? I can speak for them since I have been associated with them in the past; the answer is not one.

I believe it is only natural for atheists to be greedy; since they are not under Christ’s law, greed cannot condemn them since they are already condemned by unbelief in Christ as Lord and Savior of life. Why shouldn’t they be greedy? John 3:36. ". . . but who rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him." They make their own rules. The reason I am saying this is because this post is not aimed at them, but only at those who claim to be genuine Christians.

The problem originates when some ungodly action that doesn’t seem ungodly—and there are multitudes—is not classified as sin; that is when it becomes widespread and deadly; repeating, for the simple reason that it doesn’t look as if it is a transgression against Christ’s law. Greed fits into this category with flying colors.

Then we have to ask, Why are we greedy? Other than being a large part of our sinful nature, it displays our spiritual emptiness. The more we are filled with the security and works of the Holy Spirit, which are goodness, love, obedience, etc., the less we will have the need to accumulate worldly wealth for whatever reason.

Greed by itself is sinful, violating the command "Love your neighbor as yourself," making a person parsimoniously stingy. But the greatest harm is that it can cause people to become silently proud and secretively boastful. This is where God’s jealously is revealed. All our pride and boasting must go to God. Who is greater than Him? Greed can, in one way or another, make people wealthy. And it is the wealthy who rule the world, which belongs to the Lord. And they rule it so they can become even wealthier, while ignoring the downtrodden and common people. It gives them a posture of success and influence. That is another reason God draws lowly, weak, poor and despised people to believe, love and obey Him. Listen to this rather lengthy piece of Scripture that many have never heard of or have simply ignored:

1st Corinthians 1:27-29. "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him." This type of thinking does not sit well with modern Christianity. This is the category this author fits into.

Other than for the reason to save for a rainy day, the reasons for greed are wanting to be looked at as a success in life, and most often wealth makes people demand respect and honor. When people who claim to be "christians" are claiming success because of all they have accumulated, they become pillars in their community and are looked up to by many and possibly even the whole country. Thus, they become models for other wannabe wealthy (greedy) Christians. That is one of the main reasons why God condemns greed, other than not sharing one’s good fortunes with others in need. In stronger words, how can one have love for the less fortunate (love your neighbor as yourself), repeating, which is the second greatest command, and be greedy, regardless of what euphemism one uses to describe it? They are in total conflict with love for our neighbor. It can be said that even an active desire to want more than one needs (attempting to grasp greed by the throat) may lead to destruction.

I am certain there are many reasons for greed, again, which are not called greed, but are the pleasant trappings of our “me-first” culture. When we get caught in greed’s grip, it is not very easy to be freed. Greed is addicting; the more one has, the more one wants. In fact, it might be impossible to escape from.

Since many Christians may not be aware of the fact that greed is condemned by God, let's bring out what is said in the Word of God. Isaiah 57:17. "I was enraged by his sinful greed; I punished him, and hid my face in anger, yet he kept on in his sinful ways."

Matthew 23:25: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence."

Mark 7:21-22: "For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly." Did you notice how greed was compared with many other grievous sins?

Luke 11:39-41 is similar to Matthew 23:25, but adds a little more . "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. . . . but give what is inside the [dish] to the poor, and everything will be clean for you."

Luke 12:15. "Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’"

Romans 1:29. "They are filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity."

Ephesians 5:3. "But among you there must not be a even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people."

Colossians 3:5. "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry."

2 Peter 2:3. "In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up."

2 Peter 2:14. "With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed."

1 Corinthians 5:11. "But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother [Christian] but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler." This is a tough one.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10. "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

1 Peter 5:2. "Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; . . ."

Enough is enough; even though there are many more verses in the Old Testament, I believe you get the message on greed as God and Christ see it, and how we must view it.

In conclusion, a few ending thoughts: The question remains, How could Christianity have gotten so far off the mark from what is commanded in the Holy Christian Bible? Are we too far gone to the point where we can never conform to the principle of actual love for God and our fellow man/woman? I hope and pray not. Please remember this: Any form of greed contradicts any and all types of genuine love, except the love we have in word alone. And with all the desperate needs in this world, what right do we as American Christians have to possess more than our immediate needs? It is no wonder why many other religions and atheists can see through our hypocritical ways. They have good reasons not to join in our self-centered way of life. And one thing that could help us to get on the right track is to somehow recognize our greed as the sin that can send us to the place where God does not exist, and PRAY that God gives us an active desire to do something about it. If we desire to be with Almighty God and Jesus Christ for eternity, we must not believe what the majority of churches are teaching or not teaching, and conform to God’s way while in this life, regardless of how ridiculous His ways may seem to the unregenerate. God’s ways are also openly revealed in this blog. If this post is wrong or exaggerating any part of greed, please leave a comment.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

# 225: Be Like Jesus?

We sing, "Be like Jesus is my song." To be Biblically correct, that song should go this way: "Be like Jesus is my life." I am certain many have wondered what Jesus Christ would teach if He came to earth for the second time in human form in this 21st century—even though we know His actual second coming will be at the end of time—with superhuman power to reward His chosen and condemn those who did not believe and obey the gospel. But let’s just suppose this premature coming of Christ would be advantageous for His cause to straighten up a few of the mis-beliefs being practiced by 21st-century Christians.

Jesus Christ did come back to earth as a human through the lives of His followers. Colossians 1:27. "To them [saints] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is CHRIST IN YOU the hope of glory." [Emphasis added]. John 14:17. "But you know him, for he lives with you and will be/is in you." Yes, Christ is back on earth in the lives of His genuine followers. That is a somber truth that should shape how we live. Since Christ is living His holy life through our physical bodies, we must conform how we live as if Jesus Christ, not ourselves, was actually living again. Are we who call ourselves Christians living in that manner? It is sad to say, but the answer is no, not many. Why not?

You see, Jesus Christ lived a perfect life. Therefore, perfection must be our constant goal. Whether we believe it or not, we live in a realm of perfection. You may ask, "How so?" Answer: Luke 17: 20. "The kingdom of God does not come visibly, nor will people say, ‘Here it is’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you." The kingdom of God is where perfection exists. If that is so, we are living as if perfection is the core of our lives.

Why don’t we hear this call for perfection from the pulpit? Response: Some will say, "You must be kidding. How can we be like Jesus, since He lived the perfect life?” Others will say, "Regardless of what scripture commands, that bar for perfection is unreachable for the Christian community." Regardless of what we believe, this is what the New Testament commands with the following verses:

Matthew 5:48. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

2nd Corinthians 13:11. "Finally, brothers, goodbye. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal . . ."

2nd Corinthians 7:1. "Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God."

2nd Corinthians 13:9. ". . . our prayer is for your perfection."

Hebrews 10:14. "Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy."

You see, since we have been made perfect by the sacrifice of Christ, now we have the perfect incentive to put into action what was freely given to us. It is like someone giving us a billion dollars; and if we actually believed it, then and only then would we start to spend that money. The perfection which was given to us by Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross is synonymous with all that money. The only way we wouldn’t start to live in that realm of perfection is if we didn’t believe we were made holy. Webster’s dictionary describes holy as: "spiritually perfect or pure." When people believe they were made holy and perfect but don’t desire to live a holy life, they would be classified as hypocrites—the greatest enemies of God. Yes, even worse than ungodly atheists.

The following verses are commands which imply/infer that we must/can now live like Jesus.

1st John 2:6. "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus walked."

Ephesians 5:1. "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love . . ."

Philippians 2:5. "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."

1st Thessalonians 1: 6. "You became imitators of us [Paul and other saints] and of the Lord in spite of severe suffering . . ."

2nd Thessalonians 3:9. ". . . but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow."

2nd Thessalonians 3:7. The apostle Paul speaking: "For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example."

1st Peter 1:16. "For it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’"

1st Corinthians 11:1. The apostle Paul speaking: "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ."

John 13:15. Jesus speaking: "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."

Philippians 3:17. "Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you."

1st Peter 2:21. "To this we were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his footsteps."

2nd Peter 3:14. ". . . make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him."

Colossians 1:28. ". . . so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ."

Matthew 19:21. "Jesus, answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.’"

1st John 3:2-3. "But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."

Galatians 4:19. "My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you."

As any fool can tell, there is overwhelming evidence that we are to "be like Jesus." When we have an all-consuming faith and desire to live in that fashion, it can be said that we are living and heading toward perfection, becoming more Christ-like every day.

There are many different categorizes of people on this earth. The majority are “run-of–the-mill” types, just settling for whatever comes along. Then there are the mediocre. They settle for just getting by in life. Then there are those who will settle for nothing but the best. This type of lifestyle requires much effort. The best of anything doesn’t come easy. If they are not genuine Christians, they will become famous in one way or another by their achievements.

This may be the main reason there are thousands of different types of Christians. The entire Bible is written by fallible humans—though the author is God—in such a way that most of us have a different picture of what the Bible is all about. I believe a perfect God can take advantage of human frailties that pop up mostly throughout the New Testament. That said, almost anyone can make the Bible say what they want by picking and choosing only the verses that fit their human makeup. For God, that is no problem. There are many verses that, when over emphasized, ignored or misunderstood, will become more than enough rope, if you will, for all "christian" heretics to hang themselves.

Christianity can be summarized with these words: The first and all- important area is having faith in all that Christ did to purchase our Salvation (the new birth). If that faith does not produce love for God, Christ and our fellow man/woman, along with obedience to all Biblical commands, that faith in Christ as Lord and Savior does not exist except as a form of worthless words.

The Christian life is the most complex and demanding life in existence. There isn’t much that is easy when living as God dictates. The reason is because authentic Christians are sharers of the life of Christ/God. 2nd Peter 1:4 "Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." The Godly life is not only something to learn about, but it is a continual “in-the-first-person” experience. If it is not being experienced, it is not Christianity. And a person knows with certainty that they are experiencing the life of God if their desires and actions are Christ-like. Romans 8:9. "And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."

Since this is a Biblical blog, we have to make certain we are including all verses in the Christian Bible pertaining to the subject at hand. In other words, we are condensing all the information on this subject from the 26 books of the New Testament into one short post. When this subject of “be like Jesus” is omitted or underemphasized by any Christian organization, you can be sure those church leaders are propagating a deadly heresy. That is the reason we must become familiar with all the different aspects of living the Christian life, and there are many. Lack of understanding, disobeying, or avoiding just one segment can create a slippery slope ending in the arms of the great deceiver.

Putting together this Biblical blog has become an astronomical, life-or- death responsibility for this author. Believe me: This blog, as you can tell, is not being written to pamper the readers by telling them what they want to hear. The professional clergy does more than enough of that.

Many Bible truths, which this blog brings to the surface, are hard, if not seemingly impossible, to put into practice. Those who are offended and think that these somewhat sarcastic/caustic words are the work of a disgruntled lunatic should compare your lives with the New Testament. If your lives are not in unison with the written Word of God, then you have the right to believe as you do, and eventually pay the price with the possible destruction of your souls.

Finally, “be like Jesus” is the foundation holding up the holiness and perfection of Christianity. The only thing is, Who’s making every effort to live a holy life? Modern Christianity has been made into this mediocre saying: "I have been saved years ago, and therefore have been a Christian for many years, so leave me alone with all this talk about living a life that is on the path to perfection."

Yes, the "religious" have made the most precious and important aspect of life into a formality of going to church on Sunday and being "good" the rest of the week, if even that. This fact says that Satan, the father of lies, has won the battle for human souls, except for a very few dedicated followers who desire with all their heart, soul, mind and strength to “be like Jesus.” No easy task.

The epilogue of this post is this: When anyone is about to do or avoid doing anything, be it good or bad, we must ask ourselves, Would Jesus Christ be doing this or that? Would He avoid doing this or that? If we truly know Him, love Him and obey His commands, we cannot “be like Jesus” without doing what He would and would not do. These are tough but necessary words, which is the highest form of Christianity. Jesus Christ had to live it. We must emulate it. Will you and I conform to such a rigorous standard? It is possible, but never will it come naturally and never will it be easy. “Be like Jesus”’ is the backbone of genuine Christ-like Christianity (becoming the best Christians possible). This is a far cry from what the majority of organized religions have been, and still are, preaching. Why is that?