May 22, 2015 | by: Bob Schilling | 1 comments
I started a new second job recently. As a bi-vocational pastor I work a "day job" for supplemental income and health insurance - we're working on the health insurance part of that equation again/still. Like most pastor-teachers (Eph. 4:11) I long for the day Lord willing when I might be able again, to devote myself to the labors of preaching and teaching and shepherding (1 Tim 5:17-18) - so we continue to pray for God to bless our efforts at Grace and Truth and see our numbers grow that we might develop into what Charles Spurgeon called "An All-Round Ministry" (See the book by that title containing 12 of his annual Messages at the Pastor's College Conference that he hosted for thirty years or so, published by The Banner of Truth Trust in 1960). But one of the side benefits of being bi-vocational in the ministry is mixing it up, like all outside the ministry do with coworkers at your place of employment.
This has struck me afresh in this new place of labor: There are a lot of people that claim to be Christians who by their life or by the profession of what they say they believe, show no evidence of genuinely believing in Jesus Christ.
For some, of course, there's no need in their thinking to even believe in Jesus. As long as anyone is fairly kind and follows a perspective like that vocalized in the famous poem, Desiderata (as one example of many that could be given) - then all will be well when they die. As a young man I loved that poem. "Desiderata" means "essential things" or "things desired" - here's what Max Ehrmann, its author, described as the essential things to be desired in a life well-lived:
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
We need to remind ourselves of one of the basic realities about error: The hook of a thing that is false is that it almost always has elements of truth. This is "true" of every false religion and misguided philosophy that's out there. There's a lot to appreciate in a poem like "Desiderata." Be humble and faithful; speak the truth in love and love all variety of broken people, especially have a heart for the unfortunate. Don't compare yourselves with others and be the real you; don't be phony and avoid cynicism. Grow old graciously, smell the flowers and try not to worry too much. I can heartily, as a Christian, embrace and proclaim the beautiful truths and contained in some of the closing lines:
"And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world."
But I can only know those things because I have a different perspective on the lines surrounding these statements. The universe is unfolding as it should because the one, true and only God is unfolding all that comes to pass. And in spite of all that is broken, it is still a beautiful world because God, the one, true and only God is gracious and merciful, and in subjecting the world to a cursed state after man's rebellion against Him (Genesis 3:14-19; Romans 8:18-25), He brings forth beauty out of the ashes, redemption out of the sinfully tragic.
There are two statements in particular, highlighted in bold print in the quote above with which the Christian has profound disagreement. If you don't disagree with these statements, but find them to be beautiful expressions of truth, then I would respectfully and earnestly challenge your claim to be a Christian.
That's the point of this blog: Someone can think they are a Christian and not truly be one. Is that reasonable to you? Or do you think that everyone who "says" they are a Christian truly is a Christian? Who defines what a genuine Christian is? Isn't it also reasonable to derive our definition of "a Christian" from the one after whom we take that name - Jesus Christ? Let's hear what Jesus says after we consider these two wrong statements from the poem - oh, again, do you not think they are wrong?
"You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here."
“Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.”
So, "You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here."
Is that true?
Are you a child of the universe?
. . .
The universe has no power to beget children. We've not been made in the image of stars or trees or anything else in the universe. We have been created by the Creator of the universe - God, THE God, the only God, the true God who created everything that is. And this Creator has revealed Himself to us. This Creator has a name: His name is Jesus, the Christ (“Christ” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew, “Messiah” which means “the anointed one”) - the One promised, the anointed Prophet, Priest and King of His people. Yes, Jesus created us. And Scripture is Jesus' words. The Old Testament was written by the power of His Spirit through various prophets (2 Pet. 1:20-21; 2 Tim. 3:16-17); the New Testament was written by His apostles and prophets (John 14:25-26; 16:12-15), so that Scripture, the word of God that we believe so that we might be saved from the power and penalty of our sins is called, truly, "the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17; Luke 24:25-27, 44-49). Scripture is the word of Jesus, and Christians believe that Jesus both created the world and spoke to us through the sixty six books that comprise our Bible.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through Him,
and without Him was not any thing made that was made.”
The true God is triune. Not three Gods, there is only one God. But this one only true God exists eternally as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A little tough to comprehend? Welcome to God’s world. The real world. The world where He tells us what is so, not us imagining Him according to our own understanding.
So we come into this world, not because we are “children of the universe” – no, we are “offspring of the divine nature” (Acts 17:29). But according to Scripture, we are estranged offspring. We are children who have fled from our Father, who have renounced His rights over us and have given ourselves to the service of another lord – the “god of this age” – the devil. Very few of the devil’s children think of themselves in those terms. “No, we are sons of God” say the religious people of planet earth, or whether religious or not, "we are the masters of our own life and destiny - we do not serve anyone. And they are offended when they hear Jesus say, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (John 8:44). Whether we profess to be religious or not, we are all born into this world “following the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:1-3) and "are held captive by him to do his will" - the devil's will (2 Timothy 2:24-26). We are only reconciled to God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ - If we are not genuinely a Christian, God is our enemy, not our Father (Romans 8:7; James 4:4).
“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name,
He gave the right to become children of God, who were born,
not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Biblically, “the children of God” are not those who have been merely born physically into this broken world – you become a child of God when you are "born again " or born spiritually by the Holy Spirit (see Jesus’ words in John 3:3-8). It’s the Spirit of God that gives us genuine “faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9) – a trust in the true God that relies only on Jesus’ sinless life and His death and resurrection as substitutes for our lack of holiness and our deserving of His punishment in Hell.
“Desiderata” tells us that we have “a right to be here.” The Bible teaches otherwise. All is gift. We are here and alive and have whatever we have by the gracious gift of God, none of this is our right (Acts 17:24-25). People would rather talk about rights than dependence and servanthood and obligations. But scripturally, our place is “to fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14), to submit to the One whom we call Lord (Luke 6:46, 17:10; 1 Corinthians 7:19), and to live in dependence upon Him for everything we have (Deuteronomy 8:1-3; John 15:1-5; 1 Timothy 6:17) - not to “claim our rights.”
The poem says in closing,
“Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.”
If that’s your perspective – you don’t know God. Try that with your spouse. Try loving “whatever you conceive him or her to be or think them to be or want them to be” instead of loving them – and see how that works for you. God is not open to our conception of Him – His first commandment is quite explicit:
“You shall have no other gods before Me.”
The true God, the one true God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – that is, the God of Israel, the God revealed in the Old Testament. The true God, the only God that can save you from your sins is the God who came into this world, born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem as He had foretold through His prophets, as Jesus, the son of Mary and Joseph – the God revealed in His fullness in the New Testament. If you do not know this God you are not at peace with God. If you are not at peace with God, you can’t “keep peace in your soul.” There is no such peace outside of Christ. It's similar to people advocating "being grateful or thankful" without identifying who it is to whom we are grateful or giving thanks! God is not pleased with generic acknowledgements to "big guy in the sky" whoever he may be (even for God to exclusively refer to Himself with male pronouns is highly offensive no doubt to many).
God isn’t “whatever you conceive Him to be.” God is who He has revealed Himself to be in Scripture. And there are no “other Scriptures.” There’s no 19th century update, no 7th century update, no 21st century update.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways,
God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
but in these last days He has spoken to us by his Son,
whom He appointed the heir of all things,
through whom also He created the world.”
Here’s the point. If you don’t have Jesus Christ as your only hope in life and in death; if you’ve not surrendered to His Lordship and committed your life and soul to following Him, then you have not been saved from your sins and dying in such a state – it will not be well for your soul.
You cannot follow some other supposed God.
You cannot truly follow Jesus without exclusively trusting in Him alone to save you.
You cannot truly follow Jesus, while living in disobedience to His commands.
It doesn’t matter how much you go to church, though if you are not part of a church you’re not a part of Christ’s kingdom on earth. The church is made of living stones and Christ came to build His church – if you’re not a part of that visible expression, you’re not a member of that invisible reality.
It’s not enough that you say you believe in God. It’s not enough that you say you’re a Christian. If Christ is not your life, you are still dead in your sins.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name,
and cast out demons in Your name,
and do many mighty works in Your name?’
And then will I declare to them,
‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
Can that faith save him?
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,
and one of you says to them,
‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’
without giving them the things needed for the body,
what good is that?
So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’
Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
You believe that God is one; you do well.
Even the demons believe—and shudder!”
“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, He said to them,
‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
For what can a man give in return for his soul?
For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when
He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.’”
“Little children, let no one deceive you.
Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous.
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil,
for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him,
and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
By this it is evident who are the children of God,
and who are the children of the devil:
whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God,
nor is the one who does not love his brother.”
(1 John 3:7–10)
It is not enough to say you believe in God; it is not enough to say you believe in Jesus Christ or that you call yourself a Christian. You must repent of your sins, turning from them to faith in Jesus as your only hope of salvation.
Don't try to tell God how this works. Believe the Gospel, live for Christ.
It will not be well for all eternity for those who do not flee to Christ.
(more on that fate here)
Do not be deceived.