Monday, January 14, 2008

Almighty God vs. Generic God

(From time to time I post several authors who submit articles to News With Views, and although I do not 100% agree with their individual overall theological and political views, I still find some of their writings very appropriate in today's world in which we are living in day after day. Although this post is rather lengthy, I am posting it completely to show the error of today's thinking of mankind who invent the God which they would like to serve based on their own desires and pleasures upon that which they want to live and act upon in their own daily life. The author of this article is Marsha West.)

For a number of years a woman I know, I'll call her Amy, has wrestled with giving her life to Christ. She admits she really wants to, but how can she when she'd have to serve a God who allows murderers into Heaven and sends "good people" to Hell? It would be awkward to have to explain to her husband, family and friends that they're bound for hell if they reject Christ. In other words, Amy won't play by God's rules because His rules make her uncomfortable. In her way of thinking the God of the Bible is too punitive for her sensibilities. And besides, what kind of God would allow a serial murderer into heaven who professed a belief in Christ only minutes before going to the gas chamber while at the same time condemn "good people" to hell for their unbelief?

Liberals like Amy require a more palatable religion, one that's all-inclusive and, of course, fair. They desire a warm fuzzy God. The liberal's ideal God is a sort of jolly ol' St. Nick figure. The liberal's jolly ol' god has a Naughty and Nice list but his heart is so big that he often overlooks naughty children's indiscretions (even the ones who are unrepentant) and delivers the goods to them anyway. He'd be unloving if he didn't bend a little.

Amy has yet to accept Christ and the main reason is it's unthinkable that God would send "good people" to hell. Amy's major stumbling block is that she's acquainted with a number of "good people" who are not Christians -- and they're a lot nicer than some Christians she knows. She contends that a just God wouldn't send nice folks to hell for all eternity simply because they reject Jesus Christ.

But the Bible says otherwise. John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

People like Amy sincerely believe they could do a far better job of running the universe than the One who created it. Talk about chutzpah!

No human being has the wisdom to determine if a person is fundamentally good or evil for the simple reason that no one knows for certain what's in a person's heart! No one can ever truly know a person's motives.

For those who hold to a relativistic worldview, good and evil, ethics and morality are simply cultural inventions and cannot be objectively defined. Liberals perceive the Bible as a book of myths and fables, thus it mustn't be taken seriously. Those who do take the Bible seriously are considered "unenlighted" -- nothing more than addlepated dunderheads. Unbelievers carp that the Bible should not be the standard by which we judge good and bad. But if not the Bible, then what standard should we use to determine ethics and morality? Consensus opinion? Selwyn Duke makes this astute observation:

"If man is the author of what we call right and wrong, if morality is all a matter of opinion, then there is no evil in any real sense. In other words, if we are judging some things to be good and others evil, we have to ask what standard we're using as a yardstick. If the standard is simply consensus opinion, then what we call morality falls in the realm of taste. "So, for 'good' and 'evil' to truly be reckoned as such, the standard we use cannot merely be taste masquerading as 'values.' And since man is being judged (we are, after all, talking about our actions), he cannot be the standard, for a standard cannot judge itself any more than a board can be used to measure itself for a carpentry project. For a standard to judge what is good and evil, it must be both outside and above them, in which case that standard starts to sound an awful lot like God."

Another one of Amy's grievances against Christianity is that many so-called Christians don't behave any differently than unbelievers do. In other words, the lives of Christians she comes in contact with are inconsistent with what they profess to believe in. They claim Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, but they don't serve Him well. Amy has a point.

Indeed, many people want a Savior because they know they need one but they're unwilling to humble themselves before the throne of Almighty God and be obedient to what He desires. They may accept Jesus Christ as their Savior but pride gets in the way of Christ taking his rightful place at the helm of the ship. As poet William Earnest Henley wrote, "It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll: I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."

Following are a couple of composite examples of the contemporary Christian.

Michelle professes faith in Christ. She attends church every Sunday, sings in the praise band, mans the coffer bar, and attends an occasional Bible study. She rarely shares Christ with anyone, unless she's forced into it, whereby she quickly spouts the condensed version of the gospel to avoid making the person feel uncomfortable. Her excuse is that evangelism is not her spiritual gift. Michelle believes God has gifted her with the ability to sing. Her voice rivals Judy Garland's so she really belts out a song in church. But when it comes to sharing her faith she's as timid as a mouse. She feels that as long as she's in a committed relationship, having sexual relations is not sinful. Nor is aborting a child. Michelle became pregnant and had an abortion so as not to bring an unwanted child into the world. She also swears like a sailor and dresses like a Hollywood pop-tart.

Jeff accepted Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade when he was a teen. Ever since then he has tried to be a good person and lead a moral life. Unless his kids have a sports event, the family is in church most Sundays. He and his wife participate in a small group that meets in their home for Bible study and prayer. Jeff is generous with his time, talent and treasure. He tithes 10 percent of his income and is always there to lend a hand. One thing Jeff enjoys is getting together with the guys for Monday night football at a local sports bar. He limits his beer intake to 2 schooners because any more than that could impair his driving. Jeff believes he has the spiritual gift of evangelism and often brags about sharing his faith with dudes he meets at sports events or bars. When Jeff does his income tax he uses "creative accounting practices." On occasion he views pornography on the Internet and thinks it's no big deal. Unbeknownst to his wife he regularly emails a woman he met in a chat room.

Michelle and Jeff say they're Christians. They both consider themselves good people and for the most part they try to live good lives – but are quick to admit they're not perfect! They reject the "fundamentalist fringe" of Christianity and the "fundies" constant harping on God's holiness. God knows we all have our faults, so why does a pastor need to belabor the point? Michelle and Jeff do the best they can, and besides, God knows their hearts are in the right place. In the long run going to heaven is what really counts anyway, and since they sincerely accepted Christ as their Savior, they're there! They may get through those pearly gates by the skin of their teeth, but at least they're in! Bang the cymbals, praise God, halleluiah, Amen!

Michelle and Jeff typify a lot of church-goers. All they need is enough of God to feel comfortable. Neither one of them want the fire and brimstone God the "fundies" preach about. That God is too harsh, too judgmental – way too scary!

Which brings me to the words penned by Wilber Reese, who sums up the attitude of a large number of contemporary Christians: "I would like to buy 3 dollars worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation. I want the warmth of the womb not a new birth. I want about a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I'd like to buy 3 dollars worth of God, please."

Far too many Christians are looking for an ecstatic experience – they're not looking to be transformed. Why? Because transformation involves change and change is often painful.

Reader alert! The serious Christian has no choice but to change.

For transformation to occur believers must immerse themselves in the Bible because it's the instrument God uses to conform His people to the image of Christ. And by the way, there is no such thing as a solitary Christian. No one should try to do Christianity on their own. Christians are a part of a body -- the Body of Christ -- with Christ as the head. Members of the church body are designed to function together as a whole. Moreover, they are meant to lean on each other when the going gets tough. Every believer should have a friend they can call at a moments notice. This friend can assist with good advice and hold them accountable.

It's not uncommon for a Christian to "crawl off the alter" and slink back into the world every once in a while. That's because many believers are comfortable with their former self (what Paul calls the "flesh"). For some it's like slipping their feet into a favorite pair of shoes. But an authentic Christian won't remain in the world. With God's help the prodigal will be victorious over sin. And the victory is in Christ! Romans 7:24-25 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Now listen to what Paul has to say about transformation:

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Authentic Christians must present themselves "holy, acceptable unto God!"

In his article, "Making Life Decisions," Geoff Pound explains why God's people should offer themselves as a "living sacrifice": "Picking up on the familiar worship practice of sacrificing the life of a bird or animal, the Roman believers are called to offer themselves as a 'living sacrifice'. This is an ongoing presentation rather than a one-off gift. The offering of our lives is not only an appropriate response to the mercies of the God who has given us all but it is a prerequisite for discernment—'so that you may discern what is the will of God.' Discernment cannot be divorced from discipleship. Discernment is not an artificial leg that can be strapped on and taken off when convenient. Discernment is integrally connected to the offering of all that we are to God."

Offering your life to Christ, holy and pleasing, is a prerequisite for discernment! Today discernment is sorely lacking in the Church. So-called Christians are dependent on the government for education, health care, retirement, handouts, and so on. Plus they involve themselves in mysticism and participate in all sorts of unbiblical practices. Why? Because they're deficient in spiritual wisdom and discernment! I've already covered this topic in "Got Meat?" so I won't belabor the point. Instead I'll return to Amy's perception of Christianity.

The way Amy sees it, most Christians she knows pay no heed to God's commands as set forth in the Bible. Are they not aware of the rules (new converts)? Or are they fully aware of the rules and feel no obligation to follow them? In any case, their behavior is no different than the unsaved person. (I personally know Christians that think God overlooks their blatant sin.) But here's the thing. If followers of Jesus Christ fail to exhibit a life lived in deference to Him, how are they any different from the unsaved?

In Amy's view, they're hypocrites (she's right) and a religion that breeds hypocrites makes her uncomfortable. As a result, she has fashioned a user-friendly religion with hardly any rules and an open-minded god who accepts everyone. (Hereafter Amy's counterfeit god shall be dubbed Generic God.)

Generic God does not require an atoning sacrifice for our sins. I mean, please. The atonement thing is so yesterday! "Self" has replaced the Savior of mankind. In other words, "I" will go to heaven, but "I" will make it on "my" own, without anyone's help, thank you very much, because "I" deserve it. Move over Jesus, here "I" come!

Generic God is very cool. In fact, he/she is so cool that there is no penalty for sin! Man is judged solely on his good deeds….or whatever. I suspect that Amy assumes her performance on Earth will pass muster and that Generic God will welcome her into his/her kingdom when she dies. But what if Amy's performance isn't quite up to snuff?

Because Generic God is a wishy-washy god I suspect he/she can be persuaded to change his/her mind, unlike the God of the Bible who will say this to those who reject His Son:

Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

What did Jesus mean by, "the will of my Father?" What he "plainly" meant is that it's God's will that, first and foremost, we repent of our sins and accept God's free gift of eternal life. Performing miraculous signs and wonders, doing good deeds, and being a "good person" does not cut it with God. And here's the reason:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

One last comment about Michelle. If you recall, Michelle believes she doesn't have the gift of evangelism. Thus she's convinced herself that she's off the hook when it comes to sharing her faith. But Michelle's wrong! She's obligated to preach the gospel. Listen to what the Apostle Paul says:

Romans 1:14-17 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

All Christians have an obligation to evangelize the lost! Why? Because it's good news! Christians are offering eternal life, even though no one deserves it. Why would any true believer be ashamed to share the good news with those they come in contact with? People could use some good news!

Sadly, not everyone will go to heaven. Only those who are saved from their sins will reside with the King of kings and Lord of lords for all eternity.

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