When I began to write this series on basic Christian living, I knew I would primarily address those who attended church or claimed to believe in Jesus, calling themselves Christians. For some, I hope this series gives them understanding on why Christians do and believe certain things like the Bible, the effectiveness of prayer, etc. I began with another goal for these essays, to draw lines between those who admire Jesus as a spiritual teacher and those who worship Him as God the Son.
Something stirred during the last few weeks while I continued to live in a home without internet access. A person left an anonymous comment on Back To Boardgames using language I have heard from people who believe in Universalism or what Francis Schaeffer called "Paneverythingism". It looks like a continuation of an earlier comment that for one reason or another isn't available.
But there you can see why I chose to draw these lines. This kind of thinking denies Jesus as God and His work of redemption, the foundation of Christian belief. In Romans 1, Paul introduces himself as one who lives to tell the gospel and defines it as the gospel promised through the Bible. He also makes clear this gospel deals with God's son, Jesus. In verses 18-20, Paul talks of evil men suppressing truth made known to them by God. Then, in verses 21-23, we read why wicked people denied the truth of God. "Although they know who God is, they do not glorify Him as God or thank Him. On the contrary, they have become futile in their thinking; and their undiscerning hearts have become darkened. Claiming to be wise, they have become fools! In fact, they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for mere images, like a mortal human being, or like birds, animals, or reptiles!"
One great definition of sin says we do so by worshiping, or glorifying, anything but God. It is to place anything above God. To think of something as more beautiful, trustworthy, or ultimate than God is to sin against Him. Satan's downfall came when he said to himself "I will make myself like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:14). He then planted the same lie in Eve's ear when he told her in Genesis 3:5, "you will be like God". Some claim that man's consciousness (whether the power of an individual mind, collective, vaguely defined spiritual "force", etc.) or thinking need only be corrected in order to achieve enlightenment. This kind of belief, and others like it, in one way or another conclude that we are, or are like, God. This kind of thinking is the very core of sin.
But these people who deny the God of the Bible must also deny the doctrine of sin. If we are our own gods, or if god is an impersonal force, than we have no outside standard from a perfect and unchanging God to which we must answer. If there is no sin, then Jesus had no need to die as payment.
My objective at this moment isn't to debate the existence of the biblical God, the reality of sin, or the redemptive work of Jesus. I want people to realize that they may sit in a church meeting next to people who agree with the kind of things said by my anonymous critic. They might sing the same songs of worship, recite words from the Bible, or help with community outreach.
But do not be fooled. Jesus did say He was God the Son. The Jews recognized this in John 5:18. He also made it clear that people had to believe in Him in order to gain eternal life when He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me" (John 14:6). Jesus talked about Hell more than anyone else in the Bible, He said He was the Messiah (meaning He knew He would pay the price for man's sin), and He believed in the authority of scripture because He quoted the Tanakh (Old Testament) as such. Some people can say they believe in Jesus and yet miss His whole message.
If a person believes in Jesus as God the Son, then he will live a life of repentance and worship the God of the Bible alone. If he merely calls Jesus a spiritual teacher or a "good guy who set an example for us all", he should stop pretending to agree with Jesus and never refer to himself as a Christian.
I'm glad the person leaving the comment chose to remain anonymous because I want to attack the thought and not the person. My response to people like my anonymous critic, Wiccan neighbor, and Jehovah's Witness co-worker is to pray for them. I believe the Holy Spirit can turn their hearts to repentance by revealing both the ugliness of their sin and the goodness of God's grace. It's the reason I never addressed the critic directly. I do have an adversary, but he's not flesh and blood, and he's the reason I draw the line.
*Believe it or not, this experience has encouraged me to next write on why Christians need the Church. See you next month.