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DESCRIPTION: What happens when you omit certain teachings from Christianity? You can end up with a big picture that looks very little like what Jesus taught. In this short episode, Jack reads his recent blog post.
Text of this Episode
…the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
The phrase above, taken from the traditional American oath for witnesses in court cases, has developed from the wisdom of the ages. That is, humans have figured out over time that when you talk about truth, you have to get very specific, else some people will try to evade it by either omitting parts of it, or adding to it some things that are untrue.
In this post, I want to talk about the former—about omitting parts of the truth, such that what is left does not paint the true picture at all. The way I see it, this happens with great regularity in America’s churches. Here’s what I mean:
A person can call himself a Christian, and yet behave quite decidedly unlike Jesus and contrary to the teachings throughout the Bible.
So, then, there is what he says, and there is what he does. And there is what he believes, and there is what is the reality of the matter. And there is how he sees himself, and how God and Jesus see him.
And guess whose opinion of him will prevail in the end.
So many churches have got the whole thing whittled down to a “faith” that has to do little more than merely to say the words, “Jesus is Lord.” They have long-since carved away parts of the message, such as:
Matthew 6:46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’, and yet not do what I say?”
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
Revelation 21:26 “They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false…”
And just as they have carved away the substance of the message to leave a mere shadow of it, they themselves are mere shadows of the kind of people we humans were intended by God to be. They are empty and puffed up, and grossly over-confident in the security they assume and claim.
And they have been taught by their churches to be like this. And why? Because this is righteous? No. It’s because you can fill more seats with that kind of compromise than you can with the real deal. The churches strain against Jesus’ own words:
Matthew 7:13-14 Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
As it turns out, there’s little career—and even less profit—to be made from attending to the few who are interested in the real deal. No, the money and power are in catering to the masses—unless, of course, you’ve got your eye on the heavenly economy instead of the earthly one. Then you can store up for yourself treasures in heaven by acting to please God while here on earth—rather than acting to please “the church”, or to please oneself, or to gather a following for oneself.
I do not know a single believer who has never made the error of believing something or other that was false, or of underestimating the importance of actions while overestimating the importance of “belief” alone. We’ve all done it. But so many seem so utterly content to live in that way of life. And it’s gotten so bad that you’re quickly called a heretic if you try to turn people’s attention to the Bible passages that disprove that twisted gospel of “all you have to do is believe that Jesus is Lord and that he died for your sins.”
Not only do so many “Christians” seem not to believe that God is a just God who judges people justly according to their own choices and actions, but they think that a God who did judge like that would be not a fair judge, but a monster. They expect to be given a free pass on account of what Jesus did for them—and that the only responses they are obligated to make to the cross are those of making verbal claims of faith—-and perhaps going to church sometimes. And having whittled it down this much, that leaves them needing only a couple of the Bible’s 31,000 verses. All the rest, they can do without, they think.
They have no idea what they lose—both in this world and in the next—by whittling it away in this fashion. Indeed, they are the sort to think they would be losing if they were to engage in things like reflection, study, and repentance from sin and error. They can’t fathom how those things could actually be good and worthy. No, they’re a different sort of people from that.
31,000 verses. This is no convenient bullet list for the “What We Believe” page on the church website. No, it’s the book collection of a lifetime—a treasure trove of information from and about God. But some do not treasure such things.
Psalm 111:2 Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.
Many simply do not delight in God. Yet they go to church.
They will see.
Meanwhile, this twisted attitude of entitlement to be saved by a Jesus whom they don’t care to emulate themselves—-well, isn’t it interesting that America is currently being torn apart politically by many millions of Americans who have learned to think in similar irrational ways when it comes to politics? They want someone else to make their lives good for them, rather than investing themselves in their own best interests. They want to be free from unpleasant things without lifting a finger themselves to change the world around them.
And they think they find in the Bible a promise of just such a deliverance—from a Jesus who will swoop in to fix the very things he has already equipped them to fix themselves.
It’s a messed-up philosophy that America learns at church—and in the public forum. And we are steeped in it.
So many churchers will claim, “But Jack, man is utterly powerless and helpless against sin, and cannot do anything right without God empowering him to do so.”
And I will ask, “Tell me, who ties your shoes each morning?”
And when pressed like this, they will invent this answer: “Well, when you get down to it, I suppose God does, since he provided my hands and fingers, and the brain that controls them.”
And I’ll ask, “And this is why your shoes get tied automatically each morning, without you even having to think about it? Or do you have to make it happen from your own volition?”
And then they don’t want to talk about it anymore.
Point out some thing that needs doing in this world, and they’ll likely balk, claiming that such a thing is too much to ask for a mere mortal, and that the help of God would be required to make that happen.
So I ask them, “OK, then, why don’t you go get you some of that help from God to make the needed thing happen?”
And they don’t want to talk about it.
And when troubles abound, they don’t dig in and double down to endure and overcome. No, instead, so many of them pray “Maranatha!” (“Come, O Lord”). Their minds are not on enduring and overcoming (like Jesus counseled those seven churches in the Revelation to do), but on escaping the very world into which God has deliberately set their lives. They run from the very tests that this world presents.
And if you ask them if Jesus did that, too—if he ran from the trials, or faced them head-on—- they don’t want to talk about it.
It’s because they’re not very interested in being like Jesus themselves. They don’t actually like him very much. And much of what he said irks them. So they just ignore those parts, and cherrypick the one-liners they like—-things like “let the little children come unto me” and “….you will have rest for your souls.” But they can’t handle the whole Jesus—-the real one.
And so they remain estranged from him, even while claiming to have faith in him. And that’s some twisted business right there. But they learned it at church, so they think it’s the right way to think. And woe to those who teach such things—and to those who believe them. Indeed, doesn’t it say something quite sad about the state of a soul who would want a God who rewards the good and bad alike with eternal blessings?
The person who wants a God like the one the Bible actually teaches—-that’s a different kind of person. That’s a person willing to be accountable for his own deeds and beliefs. That’s a person who understands that we all need forgiveness, and that we all need to invest ourselves in the qualities of our own lives and of our treatment of others.
There will always be false believers—in this world, that is. But there are no false believers in that Heavenly Jerusalem, that Holy City.