What Does a Christian Believe?

I’ve been watching the intense controversy surrounding this current political season in the United States. People are taking sides in loud and sometimes obnoxious ways. Some people are even losing friends over this election.

There was an oh-so-true cartoon published on FaceBook today that solidified my desire to write this article. The caption read: “Let’s argue about politics until we resort to name calling. Then we can move on to religion and finally kill each other.”

A couple of weeks ago, the following comment was received by a friend of mine:

 

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Rites of Passage

I am convinced that it is the lack of understanding these realities that gives rise to the hopelessness and despair that is so prevalent within our society today. Hosea scolded the Jewish leaders because God’s people were being destroyed due to a lack of knowledge, and this failure to know more than just “what’s happenin'” had devastating consequences. (Hos. 4:6)
Thomas Jefferson wrote to George Ticknor, criticizing the people of his day who made up the various state legislatures “… the members of which do not generally possess information enough to perceive the important truths, that knowledge is power, that knowledge is safety, and that knowledge is happiness.”

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Replacement Theology

“Replacement Theology” is a relatively new term for me. I first heard of  it while listening to Kenneth Copeland about a year ago. Then, a couple of months ago, I had opportunity to be reunited with friends from my bible college days.

They are strong on emphasizing our Jewish roots. (See their website at http://www.foundationministriesinternational.org/) While in conversation with them about what they were doing these days, I was asked whether I believed the Church had replaced Israel in God’s economy.

Without taking time to fully define what I believe, nor to define the finer nuances of the question, I replied in the affirmative. “That’s replacement theology.” I was summarily brushed aside with that remark as if I had committed some grievous social faux pas.

A couple of weeks ago, I was following a thread on Facebook where this same friend was espousing more of an “inclusion theology.” (As I understand it, Christians are “included” in the promises of God to Israel.) The post was getting high marks from fans. This has potential for moving in the right direction, but does little to ameliorate the problem of divisiveness I see arising.

So, as is my tendency when faced with something that may lead me astray, I have researched (though only online; and certainly not thoroughly) the supposed error of Replacement Theology.

One of the arguments is that replacement theology is blamed for most anti-Semitic behavior among Christians. It is said that Hitler held to a replacement theology. This is akin to the so-called “gateway” argument that most (male) rapists read Playboy–therefore reading Playboy leads to rape. Or, the “gateway” argument that most hard-core drug addicts began with marijuana. Simply because many anti-Semites espouse Replacement Theology is not proof that the theology is wrong.

These same people also espouse other doctrines including the necessity that one be born again. Should I then assume that being born again leads to anti-Semitism? Of course not!

The other arguments are against the Scriptures that are used to prove replacement theology. This is merely an argument arising from one’s basis for understanding the Word of God–Dispensationalist or Covenantal. This is not the place for me to discuss these two views of Scripture. However, for the sake of full disclosure, I am more Covenantal than I am Dispensationalist. These differing views have profoundly differing interpretations of the Bible and God’s plan for man.

So, now, I am bothered.

I am bothered, for here I see yet another attempt to take people away from the plain and pure Word of God, and move them toward that which ultimately denies the simplicity that is in Christ.

Some–most assuredly not all–of those who are against replacement theology are also moving toward becoming more Jewish–at least in their approach to worship. This does not bode well for the Church.

Paul dealt with this problem when he penned the letter to the Galatians. He dealt with this problem when he went to Jerusalem to check his gospel against that of the Jewish disciples who had personally walked with Jesus.

There is a powerful move among Messianic Jews that is bringing many to the Lord. I love that. I love their music. But, as is true for the negative “gateway” argument, it is also true that just because Jews are reaching Jews for Christ is not an indication that Christians should become Jews–or Jewish Christians.

The danger lies not in that some are espousing a return to Jewish laws, but in that there are certain things we can do that will make us more pleasing to the Lord. “We should remember that Jesus was a Jew!” I am often told.

God tells us plainly through Paul that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but only faith working through love (Gal. 5:6).

No one (to my knowledge) is teaching the necessity of being circumcised in order to be right with the Lord. That is simply the summation of Paul’s argument about the whole Jewish controversy in which the Galatian churches were embroiled.

The main point of Paul’s argument is that there is no necessity for the Gentiles to become like their Jewish brethren in any way.

And today there is no need to wear a talith (prayer shawl) when preaching, or to refer to Jesus as “Yeshua”, or to keep a Saturday Sabbath, or to use Jewish terms of greeting.

My reluctance to do any of the above in no way makes me a hater of the Jewish people, nor excludes me from the promises of God.

And my belief that “a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” is taken straight from the Scripture (Rom.2:29).

Will Hell Replace Heaven?

Colossians 2:3 (Christ), in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

How far we have strayed from this simple truth. The Church continues to buy into much of the philosophy of this world and is not even aware of it.

DISCLAIMER: As I sit here and ‘throw stones’ please be aware that not too long ago, I was one of those who had been completely deceived by the philosophies of the modern age.

It is easy to hear something that sounds plausible, and then find a verse to support the idea.

For instance, “The Secret”, a New York Times bestseller for the past three years, says that you can have anything in life that you want, if you just know the secret to getting it. That “secret” is in the “Law of Attraction.” Focus your energy and your thoughts on what it is that you want, and the Law of Attraction will go to work for you, bringing you your desired outcome.

How is that different from Joel Osteen’s faith message, filled with sound bites, which is affecting thousands of Christians daily.

Or, how about the Buddhist influence into the Church, as saints seek ‘no mind,’ which is claimed to be at the root of most of our troubles? Or, the Hindu goal of enlightenment? Enlightenment is the experience of “knowing” and not being hindered by dualistic thinking.

Why is it that we cannot see “The LIE” in all this? It is the same lie Eve succumbed to in the garden–“you shall be as gods”–and that is very tantalizing.

Now we are being told by many that we are the ruler of our own ‘universe.’ That is, WE are the ones who control our destiny; WE are the ones who make decisions without regard for anything outside ourselves (except for the caveat of “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.”)

NO!! It is only in Christ that we have any life at all. (John 15:5)

And, there are some who would pervert even that truth by saying “Christ means ‘anointed’, and when you understand that you are ‘God’s anointed’, then you have risen to that which God has prepared for you.”

Why does all this continue to happen?

Because we have gotten away from the truth of God’s Word. We have allowed philosophy to overtake our pulpits, rather than the plain teaching and exposition of the Word. And the people do not know any better, because they spend so little time in the Bible themselves.

A one or two-hour fix each week is not enough to prepare yourself for the battle that lies at our door! Especially when that ‘fix’ is tainted with enough poison to put us to sleep.

Well did Karl Marx say that “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”

We have allowed religion to replace spirituality. We have allowed ‘relevance’ to replace reality. We have allowed sound bites to replace sermons. We have allowed experience to replace exposition. We have allowed problems, and challenges, and issues, and disorders to replace sin. We have allowed therapy to replace repentance.

If we do not turn it around soon, we will discover that we have allowed hell to replace heaven.

NOTE: This is the second in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Colossians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter two of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put the following link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.

Reckon the Revealed Reality

Gal. 4:31  So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

Paul has taken quite some time with his logical application of the Scripture for these ‘bewitched’ Galatians. He is concerned for them, because a “fall from grace” stops the forming of the Christ within. (cf. v. 19)

The “falling from grace” (5:4) will be probably be dealt with by others next week as we delve into chapter 5; but let me say plainly here that it is not about losing one’s salvation. It is about forgetting the reality.

Paul concludes this part of his argument by stating a fact: we are not children of the slave woman, Hagar (flesh); and we do not answer to Sinai (legalism).

Many Christians have a problem with this reality, even though it is a fact plainly stated here and elsewhere in the Word (Romans 7).

The problem with the fact is that we do not reckon it to be so. We choose to believe what our senses tell us rather than what the Spirit says. Our senses tell us that we are still in bondage, because we sin. Satan “verifies” this for us by telling us that we will always be sinners. And, when we look at our situation, we believe him.

And so we do not ‘see’ the reality in our life.

And since we believe this lie, it is easy to accept the next lie: we must DO SOMETHING. And the more we “do” the more we discover that we can’t keep up with the do’s. When we fall short on a ‘do’, we come under condemnation. The condemnation brings about a greater sense of unworthiness. The unworthiness brings about a loss of hope. And despair brings about a whole set of its own problems.

Pretty soon, we believe we are not saved, and we turn to the Lord in faith (once again) to start all over again.

I have watched and lived this cycle.

This cycle is not of God.

What is missing? Why do so many have these problems?

The surest, quickest glib answer is a lack of teaching. And this is somewhat true (Hos. 4:6). But there is plenty of teaching around. Sadly to say, however, there are not many students. That is, there are not many who hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matt. 5:6).

What is lacking is revelation.

Without revelation, one gets the letter of the Word, but not the spirit. Without revelation, one fills their mind, but not their heart. Without revelation, one has the behavior, but not the attitude. Without revelation, one has the words, but not the truth.

Ther is no magic formula to produce revelation. Jesus said some have been given eyes to see and ears to hear, and some have not. Revelation is the gift of God. He gives it to those who want it.

Do you hunger for God? (Psalm 42:1) Do you pursue righteousness? (1 Tim. 6:11) Do you strive for holiness? (Heb. 12:14)

If you do, and you are still having times of being in the recurring cycle mentioned above, then I would encourage you to spend much time in chapters 3 & 4 of Galatians. Stay there until the revelation dawns on your heart.

Between the reckoning and the reality is the revelation.

NOTE: This is the fourth in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Galatians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter four of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put this link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.

Christ Alone

Chapters 3 & 4 of Paul’s letter to the Galatians are a powerful presentation of a logical argument. Paul reasons from a logical position of considering the history of the Jews and God’s dealings with them to show how the new covenant of grace could not possibly include any aspect of the law. These two chapters are a synopsis of his great Summa Theologica we call Romans, and were written almost 10 years prior to that great work.

We still need to hear these words today.

As a Catholic, I was taught that I would be judged by my works and if my good works did not outweigh my bad, then I would probably have to spend some time in Purgatory until the scales of justice were in my favor.

Many believers, though not brought up in the Catholic tradition, still cling to some sort of the same belief. Though most Protestants do not recognize any place of cleansing such as Purgatory, they still believe there is a balance sheet and they are desperately trying to come out on the positive side.

Paul argues here that there is NOTHING we can do to be justified before God. You cannot pray enough, go to church enough, give enough, help enough, love enough, fast enough, read the Bible enough, serve enough, or die enough to satisfy the demand of your sin. Not enough rosaries have been manufactured; not enough places of pilgrimage have been established; not enough saints in heaven are available to make your way to God secure.

The greatest truth ever told to me was that there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). When that truth broke through into my heart, all the years of the fear of getting it wrong went out the window in a moment of time.

Now, I find myself continually ministering to people who are still trying to not get it wrong.

These are believers who love the Lord, but have been told there are things that they must do or not do to prove their salvation.

This is sometimes carried along by well-meaning people when they try to witness. It goes something like this:

“Are you saved?”
“Yes.”
“How do you know you are saved?”
And the ‘buttonholed’ one responds with something they did at a certain point in time.

Subtle. So don’t miss this.

I am not saved because I accepted Jesus.

I am saved because Jesus died for my sins!!!

I was saved 2000 years ago! That has always been my answer whenever I am asked by those who look for more than faith.

“Are you so foolish? Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law or by the hearing with faith?” (Gal.3:3-5 paraphrase).

Look to yourselves. Examine yourselves whether you be in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Why do you do the things you do? Is it out of faith that is working by love? (Gal. 5:6) Or, is it out of some other motivation or reason?

Are you looking backward to the cross, or forward to the judgement seat? Where is your trust?

NOTE: This is the third in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Galatians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter three of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put this link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.

Difficulty With NOTHING

Jeremiah 32:17  ‘Oh, Lord God, you did indeed make heaven and earth by your mighty power and great strength. Nothing is too hard for you!

How often do I stumble over this concept that is repeated numerous times and ways in the Bible!!

And in our hymnology–

Nothing! Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Nothing is too difficult for Thee!

What part of ‘nothing’ don’t I understand? Why does my ‘something’ always seem outside the realm of His ‘nothing?’ Why do I constantly end up with the Lord saying to me, “O you of little faith?”

Will there ever come a time when I will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”