Religious Counterfeits

Paul, in his letter to the Galatians was taken aback that the Christians had turned away from the AUTHENTIC Gospel.

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.” [Gal 1:6-7]

We’re still being surprised by this reality, that folks are turning away from Christ, to another gospel message, which is NOT a gospel that can save.

It is no surprise to the regular readers of this paper to learn that God has warned us to beware of RELIGIOUS COUNTERFEITS.

Who are RELIGIOUS COUNTERFEITS?

Paul wrote to warn Timothy about those, “Having a form of godliness,” who would be…

“…lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;” [1Tim 3:1-5]

He warned that they would creep in and lead away unsuspecting people. They would be constantly learning but never comprehending the truth. It reminds me of folks who regularly read the Bible but fail to see the basic truths about salvation.

A RELIGIOUS COUNTERFEIT comes in many forms. They would be wolves in sheep’s clothing. This means that they will appear as nice folks. This should also be of no surprise for we know, “For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” [2Cor 11:14]

Our Lord also warned: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” [Mat 7:15]

But He gave us hope in that we could know who they are. We can know them by their fruit. But we aren’t to stop there, for they will be doing many seemingly good things. Jesus said He would not accept those who haven’t obeyed Him…

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” [Mat 7:22]

It’s not enough to observe their fruit, we must also observe their teaching and compare it to the written word of God. This was our Lord’s point, and later it was Paul’s point to the Galatians.

“If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” [Gal 1:9]

For us to be able to discover and to ward off the RELIGIOUS COUNTERFEITS, we must be skilled in God’s word. This will require us to be regular students of the Bible. God’s word is our only defense from the attacks of the RELIGIOUS COUNTERFEITS.

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Making the Best Choice!

“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

 

“Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.” Isaiah 66:10

God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, was very angry with His people because of their poor choices. It wasn’t as if He hadn’t given them clear direction on making good choices. God gave them, and us, all that we need for life and godliness [2Peter 1:3]. Look at what He spoke to the children of Israel about repentance and turning back to Him.

DEUTERONOMY 30:1-20

1-10 God had given clear direction to the children of Israel before He brought them into the land. If they chose to obey His commands, He would have compassion on them, protect them from their enemies and give them prosperity.

11-14 He tells them that His commands are never too difficult, never too far away, but are accessible by all so that they can keep it.

15-20 Here He makes a contrast between the BEST CHOICE and the worst. To Love the Lord thy God is the BEST CHOICE, and to walk in His ways and to Keep His commandments, statutes and judgements. By this He gives a promise of blessing.

However, by making a BAD CHOICE, that is, to turn away from hearing His commands, to worship false gods, then He will DENOUNCE them, remove His protection and not allow them to keep the land.

In verses 19-20, He makes it clear about the two basic CHOICES. Life is to CHOOSE GOOD, which is serving Him, or CHOOSE BAD, which is death. Choosing wrong is a matter of life or death.

“Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.” [Hosea 14:9]

THESE 2 BASIC CHOICES ARE STILL BEFORE US. Peter said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” [Acts 5:29]. Jesus said, “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour” [John 12:26]. Do you see the connection of God’s blessing to the one who follows?

These TWO BASIC CHOICES, following God or turning away from Him, are before us in all our day to day decision making…

  • The WORK we choose to earn our living. Eph 4:28
  • The FRIENDS we choose to keep. 1Cor 5:6; Gal 6:7-9
  • Our choice of SPOUSE. 1Corinthians 7
  • In how we choose to spend our MONEY. 1Timothy 6:17-19
  • In the way we WORSHIP God. John 4:24
  • By the way we choose to spend our TIME. Eph 5:16; Col 4:5

Don’t be confused, all this is to point out that we have free will. Just because we have choice doesn’t mean that God will accept that choice when we go against His commands. We can choose to ignore them, and when we do, we will pay the consequence of our BAD CHOICE.

God is not, as some suppose, a micro manager. He isn’t deciding whether you go to a specific place or another. He is letting you make those decisions. Those TWO BASIC CHOICES are ever before you. To do GOOD or to do BAD.

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” [Colossians 3:17]

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life [John 11:25; 14:6]. When He appears, this world of sin and doubt shall be dissolved. Since this is true, Peter asked, “what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” [2Peter 3:11]

“But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” [Romans 6:17-22]

THAT’S NOT PUNNY!!

that’s punny

We all groan when somebody tells a pun. For example; Where is the first baseball game in the Bible? In the big inning. Eve stole first, Adam stole second. Cain struck out Abel. The Giants and the Angels were rained out.

Merriam-Webster defines pun as, “a joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words that sound alike but have different meanings.”

Would it surprise you to know that some folks use bible puns to confuse and excuse sin? No, not the regular audience that reads this paper. It’s no joke, and it’s certainly not funny.

One of the most common ‘BIBLE PUNS’ is the word JUDGEMENT. When a person has a sin pointed out by another, who cares for them and wants them to go to heaven, they might tell this pun; “Judge not that ye be not judged.” Did you catch it? They switched the meaning of judge (to form an opinion or conclusion) with the meaning of judge (to condemn to death). To understand the difference, read these passages [Mat 7:1,2; 1Cor 6:1-5; 10:15; 14:29; 2Tim 4:1-8].

NOT FUNNY (PUNNY)

These kinds of Bible Puns aren’t very funny at all, as a matter of fact, they’re dangerous. Another common BIBLE PUN involves the word church and it goes something like this; “Quit bugging me about going to church, don’t you know that we are the church?”

Did you catch the switch on this one? They switched the scriptural idea and command of a local assembly of the church of Christ (going to church) with the also scriptural idea of the universal church of Christ (we are the church).

UNIVERSAL & LOCAL CHURCH OF CHRIST

Before we go on, it’s vital we understand the difference between the universal church of Christ and the local churches of Christ. [Rom 16:16]

God adds to the UNIVERSAL church, believing & obeying people [Acts 2:38-47]. This UNIVERSAL church includes every living Christian (CHRISTIAN is another pun the ridiculer tells, but that’s for another article). It also includes all the dead in Christ. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:” [1Thess 4:16]. To be in Christ is to have ‘put on Christ’ in faithful baptism [cf. Gal 3:27]. John was told; Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth [Rev 14:13]. So, the UNIVERSAL CHURCH includes every Christian both alive and dead. Because the UNIVERSAL church of Christ includes both the living and the dead in Christ, we are never and can never activate the UNIVERSAL church for any work. All work is done by the LOCAL churches of Christ.

The LOCAL church of Christ is where the living Christians of a city or town assemble (church means assembly cf. Acts 19:32,39) as commanded by the Lord. [John 4:24; Acts 20:7; 1Cor 11:17-34; 16:1-2; Heb 10:25]. Saul of Tarsus had been added to the UNIVERSAL church of Christ when he obeyed the gospel [Acts 22:26] but had to join the LOCAL church of Christ with the aid of Barnabas. “And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join (kallao = to cleave, keep company) himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple” [Acts 9:26,27]. Then later, Barnabas brought Saul (later Paul) to Antioch and, “that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” [Acts 11:26].

MORE THAN SEMANTICS

This bible pun is more than just a subtle distinction, it has a profound impact for 4 reasons.

  • As was pointed out it confuses the scriptural teachings about the church of Christ. [Mat 16:18]
  • It implies that a Christian has no command to assemble with the LOCAL church of Christ because they are a part of the UNIVERSAL church of Christ, which is a violation of God’s will. [John 4:24; Heb 10:25]
  • It condemns any who, out of love for another, tries to encourage them to worship with the saints. [Gal 4:16] (Ironically, it violates their own view of the ‘judge not’ bible pun.)
  • It lets everyone know that you’re unhappy with the church of Christ (His members and His doctrines 2John 1:9). No one ever says we’re perfect, we need help, and you are demonstrating to us all that you don’t want to help. [Gal 6:1-2]
LOVE THE BRETHREN

We ought and DO love one another, but we often fail to do it well. Christ said that our love for one another would be a demonstration of our discipleship [John 13:35]. Part of that love is to encourage one another for love and good works. And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works [Heb 10:24].

We’re not saying we’re perfect when we try to encourage one another to do better or to assemble. No, we’re poorly saying, “we need your help.” No, none of us is perfect. Part of the reason we assemble is to get better, and we need all the help we can get.

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ [Eph 4:12-13]

I love you all.

Finding the Right Church

The following article is completely satirical…or is it?

8 Steps To Finding The Right Church
Statistics indicate that if you live near a major metropolitan area, there are literally three million churches in your neighborhood alone, making your choice of where to worship each Sunday that much more difficult.

Thankfully, the variety of churches also means there’s probably a church designed to your exact specifications and built from the ground up to cater specifically to you.

The Babylon Bee is here to help you whittle down the search with this checklist of essentials to look for in a potential church match, and hopefully get you plugged into a congregation sometime in the next decade or two.

1.) Anything less than hand-crafted pour-over coffee is a red flag. Jesus died for the church, and yet they’re only able to muster up an unevenly brewed pot of drip coffee? Puh-lease. This is an indication that they don’t care about the gospel.

2.) Make sure the worship band only plays the genre you like. If you’re into industrial metalcore and the band’s playing late-90s soft rock, it’s time to split. Remember what worship is really about: you and your modern sensibilities and preferences.

3.) If the preacher makes you feel uncomfortable, run. Preachers, above all else, should refrain from sounding preachy. If he starts calling you to self-examination and repentance, make the emergency signal to your spouse, go get the kids, and book it out of there to the nearest restaurant.

4.) Speaking of the preacher: if he doesn’t have at least 20,000 Twitter followers, you’re in the wrong place. You need a church that has a pastor who is not only well-known and cool, but who also specializes in short, sweet, entertaining messages. Look him up on Twitter and verify that he has at least 20,000 followers to confirm both of these attributes.

5.) The youth room must have a fully stocked video game arcade. We’re talking the classics: Galaga, Pac-Man, NBA Jam. This is a non-negotiable if you want your kids to grow up in a Christian environment they love and not walk away from the faith in college.

6.) Shop around for the church with the very best swag to give away. A free donut and complimentary coffee are really the bare minimum at this point. What you’re looking for is a church giving out free T-shirts, stickers, aluminum coffee mugs, carabiners, and those cool pens that can write in space. God gave us every spiritual blessing in Christ—the least the church can do is load up His people with some nice swag.

7.) Pick a church where everyone pretends to be happy. If anyone breaks down sobbing or insinuates that they need prayer for some sort of malady or ill fortune, everyone will understand if you excuse yourself to check out the other church down the road. You want a place where no one will burden you with their personal struggles. You don’t need that negativity in your life!

8.) Remember: it’s not you, it’s them. It helps to keep things in perspective: your specific perception of what a church should look like is probably correct, while their congregation is just jacked up if they don’t fit into that vision. Make sure to let them know this on a comment card or email to the pastor after you leave, so they’ll be edified by your brief presence.

There you have it. Now you have no excuse. Go find your perfect church and get plugged in!
http://babylonbee.com/news/8-steps-finding-right-church/

The Babylon Bee is a satirical website dedicated to mocking everyone. I am in no way promoting them. However, this “humor” hits so very close to what you may hear when you ask what folks are looking for in a church. As the “bee” mocks modern day denominationalism, modern day denominationalism mocks God. Every point of error in this article has been preached from this pulpit.

FOOD? What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God? 1Corinthians 11:22

MUSIC? Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16

SERMONS? Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 2Tim 4:2

PREACHERS? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 1Corinthians 3:4

FUN / FROLIC? And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:42

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 1Timothy 3:15b

BEARING BURDENS? Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

SELF DIRECTED WORSHIP? These things seem to have a sort of wisdom in self-ordered worship [BBE] Colossians 2:23

When Forever is not

One of the objections folks will bring against us, in the Lord’s church, is the one about us no longer holding to the commands of the Old Law. They will point to the regulations regarding the Sabbath and say, “it says we must keep it forever, but you say no. Who’s right, you or God?” this line of argument is most often used when we point out that although David used an instrument for worship, that is no authority for us today. They think they have us caught. However, as I will show in this article, it is they who are “caught” and it will be by the very way Jesus corrected the Sadducees; “Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” [Mat 22:29]

When ‘forever’ is not

First, we need to point out to these folks that there are some ‘forever’ things that are not forever.

These things are called “eternal” and “perpetual” in the Bible, yet they have been abolished: The Feast of Unleavened Bread: [Ex 12:17]; Burnt offering: [Ex 29:39-42]; Day of Atonement: [Lev 23:28-31]. According to their logic, we should STILL HAVE ANIMAL SACRIFICES! If we still have animal sacrifices what then was the need for Jesus to die on a cross?! Surely, they have read Hebrews 10:10… “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

If the Sabbath day is to be observed because of the words ‘forever’ ‘everlasting’ ‘permanent’ ‘eternal’ [all of which are translated from the Hebrew ‘owlam’] then we ought also to keep all the Jewish holy days and feasts! Interesting side note, I met a lady this past week who intends on starting a “new” church that will do this very thing, KEEP THE JEWISH FEASTS because they were commanded to be kept ‘forever.’

Setting aside the admonition from Paul that if one keeps one part of the Law they are obligated to keep the whole law, and if they do, they ‘have fallen from grace’ that is, lose their salvation [Gal 5:1-4. (this particular woman has no salvation for she also said that she had asked Jesus into your heart, a primary error needing to be taught more accurately.)

The meaning of forever

We need to examine the meaning of ‘forever’ as well as the meaning of ‘throughout their generations’ as it was used in the Old Testament.

As pointed out above, the Hebrew word ‘owlam’ that is translated forever, everlasting, perpetual, eternal or permanent does not mean never ending rather it means ‘age lasting.’ In Jonah 2:6 Jonah says that he was in the fish forever, but he wasn’t, he was only inside the belly for 3 days!

Another example of ‘forever’ meaning ‘age lasting’ is with a righteous earthly king. It is said that these will have thrones established forever. “The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established forever.” [ Proverbs 29:14] Did they? Of course not, their throne only lasted as long as they were alive.

When God spoke about something being forever, everlasting, perpetual, eternal or permanent in the Old Testament He was limiting it to their generations, that is, He limited it to the Jewish age. The Jewish age stopped when Jesus died on the cross. The Sabbath, the feasts, all Jewish holy days and institutions were ‘nailed to the cross’ [Colossians 2:14].

‘shall surely be put to death’

Here is another problem that comes from ‘not knowing the scriptures.’ Are they going to keep ALL PARTS of the command to keep the Sabbath? You can read about it in Exodus 31:13-17;

“… Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant…”  [Exodus 31:13-17] [emphasis mine seb]

I know of no one today who advocates for keeping the Sabbath who will put to death any who don’t. Why follow it at all if you’re not going to keep it all? Which is the point Paul made to the Galatians, “o foolish Galatians” [Gal 3:1].

There are even more examples we could cite that destroys this foolish notion that the Sabbath, the feasts and the holy days be kept forever.

  • Will the Earth remain forever [Eccl 1:4; Ps 78:69; Ps 104:5]? Nope! [2Pet 3:10-12; Rev 20:11; Rev 21:1,4,23; Rev 22:5; Heb 12:26-27; 2Co 4:18]
  • Shall circumcision remain forever [Gen 17:10-14]? Better not. [Gal 5:1-4; Rom 2:28-29].
  • How about tabernacle candles or Tabernacle Shewbread [Lev 24:2-9]? I think not. [Heb 8:13-9:4]

This last one really freaks them out when I say I don’t follow the 10 commandments [Deut 5:1-29 Esp. v29]. Romans 7:1-7 explains how we are dead to the Law to be joined to the body of Christ!

Let’s abandoned all these attempts to bring back the Old Law, our High Priest and King has delivered to us a much better covenant.

ETERNAL LIFE

Under the better covenant of Christ, He promises eternal life. At the judgement, the last day of this physical realm, Jesus will separate all of humanity into 2 groups;

Mt 25:31-46 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left…And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

It’s at that time that those who have obeyed the Gospel will inherit “eternal life.”

Please, obey the Gospel so that you may enjoy the spiritual blessings promised in Christ. Ephesians 1:3