back-biting, christianity, church, envy, faith, forgiveness, God's will, gossip, homosexuality, idolatry, Jesus Christ, judging others, lesbianism, prayer, rebellion against authority, religion, sovereignty of God, strife, theology
I’m taking a second break away from my Ask & You Shall Receive series to write something that God has put on my heart. Or as Monty Python used to say, “And now for something completely different!”
And no, I’m not about to talk about home laser body-hair removal devices for sale on TV (ORDER NOW!!! OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY!!! 🙂 )
Very recently, I had a phone conversation about the things of God with a close friend and former employer who I’ve known for almost 40 years. During that conversation, he spoke of an author who claimed to have been given visions of both heaven and hell and what that minister had said concerning things God has a real problem with, even to the point that those who indulge in them would not make it to heaven.
While I disagree with the idea that our obedience or lack thereof can make a difference regarding our eternal destiny, I absolutely do agree that there are certain behaviors and attitudes which certainly call into question whether someone is born-again in the first place. At the very least, such things will cripple your walk with God and your witness to the lost. Any way we cut it, they are so serious in God’s eyes that we dare not treat them glibly.
After some prayerful consideration on the matter, I feel like God gave me a short list of items that could be used as evidence that someone other than Jesus is your true lord. Here they are in no particular order:
If you go back and read the OT prophets, one of the things that God dealt with extensively is the first two of the 10 Commandments:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. — Exodus 20:2-6
And despite this, “like a dog returning to its vomit,” the Israelites kept bowing their knees to just about anything they could find other than the One True God. He also equated their idolatry to an adulterous spouse, which is why He is particularly down on adultery in general (he’s been cheated on my billions of people over the millennia) and repeatedly judged them for it.
What finally “cured” the Israelites of their idolatry once and for all was the 70-year Babylonian captivity. Unfortunately, though they started off well afterwards — like all addicts left to their own devices — over time they simply changed addictions from worshipping images carved from wood, clay, and stone to worshipping their own rules and traditions (see the Pharisees in the Gospels)
But unless one is a Hindu, Buddhist, or an unsaved Roman Catholic, bowing before idols and praying to them is not the typical form of idolatry as practiced in the USA. Most of our idols are addictions to something. (click here to read a previous article I’ve written on idolatry)
We humans all have this tendency to seek “anesthesia” for our emotional pain and sin-consciousness through compulsive behaviors, whether they be socially unacceptable drugs of choice such as drugs, alcohol, illicit sex, gambling, and Satanism or socially acceptable ones such as workaholism, video games, sports, serial relationships, and so on.
But acceptable to society or not, immoral/illegal or not, they are not acceptable to God if we are indeed looking to them to medicate emotional pain that only He can heal or meet our emotional needs for worth, significance, and safety.
And we are not the only ones who suffer when we worship the wrong god(s). As we see in the Scripture quote above, God hates idolatry so much that He promises He will visit judgment for idolatry onto the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren of those who refuse to repent. That’s why, for example, despite the self-oaths sworn by children of alcoholics, they almost always become alcoholics themselves anyway — unless they allow God to intervene in their lives.
Refusing to Forgive
I’ve already dealt with this one in depth in a previous article on forgiveness, so I will not re-invent that wheel in this post.
What I want to emphasize here is that Jesus repeatedly states throughout all four gospels that we cannot receive forgiveness without our obeying His command to forgive those who have sinned against us. For example:
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. — Matthew 6:14-15
Does that extend to whether or not we make it to heaven? I think not, but do we really want to take that chance? Do we really want to gamble with our eternal destiny by disobeying Him, hanging onto offenses we have suffered, regardless of how heinous they might have been? Selah!
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. — Matthew 7:1-5
We humans have this racial tendency to want to expose others’ faults and label them as “less-than” because of those faults. This is no more of a safe activity than unforgiveness — Jesus and Paul both spend a goodly number of verses stating that 1) God is the only Person qualified to judge the hearts and minds of men, and; 2) our usurping His role as Judge is totally unacceptable to Him.
While we may safely point at a behavior and call it sin, we are not permitted the option of pointing at the persons who commit them and condemning/ attacking them, calling them names, etc., no matter how reprehensible their behavior may be.
And this is such a trap that anyone can fall into it. Those folks from Westboro Baptist Church who go around picketing soldiers funerals, etc. are wrong, but it’s really easy to fall into the very exact same trap they are in by judging them for their error (I speak from experience here — I’ve personally had to repent of this recently).
Judging is especially inappropriate when dealing with non-believers. Non-Christians are like cars with no brakes — they sin because they cannot stop sinning. Why? Because they are sinners! It’s part of their nature as citizens of the kingdom of darkness — their DNA as it were — just like dogs bark because they are dogs, cats purr because they are cats, and birds chirp because they are birds.
This extends to cult members, as well. Though I roundly detest the Roman Catholic Church and Mormonism as cults with all their false Christs and bogus doctrines that deceive literally millions of people, I am in no way allowed to judge those who have been blinded by those lies as “less-than,” call them names, and run them down.
Judging non-believers and thereby alienating them is exemplified by the typical Christian reaction to homosexuality. I won’t get into this topic in-depth here because I’ve already dealt with it in a previous article on that topic. But the vast majority of Christians have simply knee-jerked in horrified reaction to a sexual behavior they find personally repugnant (as I do), quoting Scripture passages out of context to condemn homosexuals as un-saveable. Excuse me, but there is only one unforgivable sin defined in the Bible and homosexuality is not that sin.
As a result, the LGBT community will not listen to anything we have to say in legitimate outreach to them, lumping any valid witness into those condemnations and calling it all “hate speech.” They are not to blame for their unwillingness to listen to the claims of Jesus on their lives made by the typical believer. Why? Because beforehand, sincere, but misguided, believers preempted God’s office as Judge and thereby destroyed any possibility of reaching gays by attacking them, rather than showing Christ’s compassion on them.
We believers have no moral high ground from which to judge others because we didn’t transfer ourselves from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God through our own efforts and good behavior. We were rescued from hell by a loving God, Who saw that we could not rescue ourselves through our own dead religious works, but sent His Son to mount that rescue operation, dying in our place so that we could be free.
Looking down on the lost is like being born on 3rd base and claiming we hit a triple. We live a life freed from the curse and power of sin because of Him, not us. That old saying about “there but for the grace of God…” is the operative sentiment here.
As I’ve said repeatedly, the ground is always level at the foot of the Cross!
Walking in Strife
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God, for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. — James 1:19-20-21
The Epistle of James also says that strife “brings confusion and every evil work.” Where does strife come from? James says it comes from our selfish desires which are not being met by someone else who we expect — usually unreasonably and irrationally — to meet them.
Many Christian married people — especially wives — operate under the mistaken impression that they have to get angry with their spouses in order to get their point across. What this amounts to is an expression of self-lordship. Why do I say this? Because their behavior implies that if they don’t take control of the situation, nothing will ever get done and that God is incapable of handling the situation apart from their anger. Selah!
But married folk are certainly not the only culprits in this regard, not by a long shot! We are all tempted in this manner and we are all commanded in the passage I just quoted above to deal with one another without strife.
What are we commanded to do throughout the NT? Love one another. What did Jesus Himself tell us the world would know us by? Loving one another.
What is love? God is. And how does He define love? A choice to give someone else the highest good without regard to the cost to ourselves. He demonstrated that love by sending His Son to earth as a human being to die for us.
So we can see that strife is the antithesis of love because strife is always self-centered and love is always self-less.
The true measure of how godly we are is not defined by our extensive lists of what we do and don’t do in our human-based efforts to live a so-called “holy life,” but by how much our relationships are earmarked by gracious selflessness and self-sacrifice.
Losing our temper and raging on people is something we often justify in our own minds, but there is frankly no excuse for it. No one ever “made us angry.” Rather, we chose to express our anger in a sinful manner, whether through deliberate act of will or unconscious habit, in response to something we were displeased about. Some anger, such as whenever our boundaries are violated, is justified. The vast majority of the time, it isn’t.
And no matter what the vain words of childhood nursery rhymes may state, words hurt — and hurt deeply — and they are a bell you cannot un-ring. Some things, once said, are deal breakers for a relationship and it is the current wisdom among counselors that it is far harder to recover from having been verbally abused than physically abused, especially for children.
If you are angry, take it to the Lord in prayer, submit it to God, seek His wisdom about what to do with it, and if He gives you permission to express it, do so in a loving manner devoid of strife. As a former rage-aholic, trust me: your relationships will be a LOT healthier if you do!
Other than idolatry, I cannot imagine stronger evidence of self-lordship than prayerlessness. And don’t think I’m pointing a finger at anyone because I went for decades with a tepid, anemic, and dispassionate prayer life.
For those of you who are or have been engaged or married, what kind of relationship would you have if you had a conversation with your significant other for only an hour on Sundays and for all intents and purposes, ignored them for the balance of the week? Some of you have tried this and I’ll wager that the vast majority of you who have done so are now single and alone, wishing you had chosen otherwise!
If it won’t work in a human relationship, why in the world do we think it can work with the Almighty?
One of the earmarks of any successful relationship is the progressive-over-time ability of its members to know how the other will regard and react to/in certain situations. For example, I can predict with complete certainty how my wife will react to specific situations, attitudes, and behaviors — especially when I am the source of them (my fellow husbands know exactly what I’m talking about! 🙂 ).
And that is absolutely true of God and us. God doesn’t personally need our prayers — He already knows our hearts and minds forwards and backwards, so nothing we say can shock or surprise Him. It’s we who need to know how He thinks about or reacts to certain situations so that we can “imitate Him as dear children.” It’s we who need to express our humble submission to and absolute dependency upon Him because that keeps our head in the right place about Who we serve and how we are serving Him.
Our country, the United States, was founded upon the principles found in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. But the US is not where the believer’s citizenship is found — our citizenship is in heaven, our allegiance is to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and our constitution is His Word, the Bible.
Our constant prayers are a continual Declaration of Dependence upon the One True God and the Lordship of His Son, Jesus Christ and they are an ongoing Declaration of War upon Satan and the powers of darkness.
When we fail to pray, we are declaring exactly the opposite. Selah!
Of all the things that God has dealt with me about over the years, the #1 item by a margin measured in light-years from whatever might be in the #2 slot is submission to authority.
When I first got saved in 1973, I was a rebel. I had been seriously dumped on by people for my entire life and, upon adulthood, I was having nothing more of it! I was convinced that I was smarter than most, if not all, of the people in authority over me and was never one to suffer fools gladly, especially when they were in a position to tell me what to do!
The process God took me through to disabuse me of that attitude is too lengthy to delve into in this post, though somewhere down the road, I intend to write an entire article dedicated to this topic whenever the Lord allows me to.
But let me just say this for now: unless an authority figure is commanding us to do something immoral, illegal, or otherwise sinful, we are to faithfully obey and we are to do so with: 1) a good heart; 2) integrity, and; 3) quality.
Here is a salient passage on the topic:
Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. 1 Samuel 15:22-23
We have a lot of believers filling pews in church auditoriums all across this nation who would with great self-righteousness declare that they do not practice gross sin, are not idolators, nor do they practice witchcraft. Yet those self-same people would in a New York minute speak out in rebellious grumbling, gossip, and backbiting against their pastors and other church leadership or their employers without thinking twice beforehand!
Here’s the problem for them: God equates them with those who openly practice gross sin, idolatry, and sorcery!
If you want to get a more in-depth insight into how God views this kind of behavior, check out Numbers 16 and other passages in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy where the children of Israel and even Moses’ siblings grumbled against Moses. In no case did things end well for the rebels!
There is a type of Christian that a recent author called “Christian atheists.” The term means people who are giving lip-service to the lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives and maybe even go to church and serve there regularly, but they live their daily lives with total disregard to the Almighty, as if God doesn’t even exist.
If you find yourself exhibiting more than one of the behaviors described above (I exhibited all of them simultaneously years ago, so I’m certainly not pointing any fingers here), you are at least partially a functional atheist and need to allow God to do some significant work in your Christian walk and relationships. If you exhibit all of them, as I once did, you are absolutely a functional atheist and long overdue for a major spiritual overhaul.
Regardless of where you stack up, I beg you to not continue as you are, but repent because the consequences are not pretty. Please hearken to the words of the King:
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.— Matthew 7:21-27
As you can see from this passage, Jesus doesn’t care near so much about what religious works we might demonstrate in church or ministry as He does about us simply obeying Him.
We need to be building our houses on the Rock, being doers of the Word, not hearers only. I’m not going to weigh in on what “enter the kingdom of heaven” and “depart from Me” mean in the original Greek because frankly I haven’t dug into the passage in enough depth to give you an answer right now. On the surface, these could indeed be about our eternal destiny.
But it still leaves us with the burning question I asked earlier: “Why take that chance?”
I know this article will not be the most popular of my writings, but I hope and pray it’s received in the spirit in which it’s intended: a grace-filled call for us all to examine ourselves in the light of this list, invest time in the Scriptures, and ask God to show us the areas we need to bring into greater submission to His lordship than we have up until now.
Thanks for reading!