We live in a world that by and large rejects the God of the Bible. You can see it increasingly in the way that Christians are being persecuted in many parts of the world, yet so few people seem to care. You can also see it in the way that the Bible is being rejected or ignored or even mocked in our Western societies. Christian values are being rubbished and efforts are being made to reduce the influence that the Bible has on the general population in many countries. Unfortunately in many parts of the world it seems as though the church is not helping stem this concerted effort. However there is one factor that people fail to grasp when they reject God and His word.
The factor is this. When you reject God and His word, you distance yourself from His ongoing protection and blessing. When we cry, “I don’t want anything to do with you God!” He respects our freewill and allows us to go our own way. We saw that principle in Romans chapter 1 where three times it is said that when people rebelled against Him He “handed them over” to do what they wanted to do. In previous blogs we saw what that meant for the modern-day issues regarding abortion, false religions and inappropriate sexuality. When people turn their backs on their Creator they think they will find greater freedom. However the opposite is true. They come under greater bondage than they ever imagined.
What would happen if we really believed God’s word in the Bible to be true?
What if we seriously accepted God’s word as really being His revelation of His will to humankind? It would mean that we would seek to live for example, by the 10 Commandments given by God to His people. If humans with God’s help made every effort to obey the commandments there would be much less delving into false religions. YHWH would become more central in people’s love and devotion. There would be honour given to parents and more care exercised by their children towards them. There would be much less of social evils such as murder, adultery and theft. Human conversations would not be filled with defaming, critical, destructive, inaccurate comments on fellow humans. Humans would be deeply grateful for all they had been given in life and would not be desiring or planning to take what belonged to other people. What a wonderful world it would be.
Simplicity? Naivety? Or human possibility?
Some may laugh at such apparent simplicity and naivety. But that is because they do not take God seriously. They cannot imagine the world ever being any different, because they cannot imagine that they themselves could be radically different. Indeed many don’t ever want to be different. But change IS possible. You see, if people are set on pleasing God in their everyday lives, He promises to help them do so. We see that promised in the Old Testament in Ezekiel 36:26-27 to those in the New Covenant who would be open to God, And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. God would change His people by giving them His own Spirit, and He would motivate and empower His people to do His will. There would be a radical change within them and in their outward behaviour.
We see the same concept in the New Testament in Philippians 2:12-13, Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Christian believers (who in the New Covenant) have received salvation freely through faith in Christ. But they have to work out the implications of their salvation. They have to work out in their everyday lives what God us working in them. Again it is a case of His people allowing God to motivate and empower them to live according to His will.
This gives a completely different scenario. If God Himself is inwardly helping His people by His Spirit to be motivated and empowered to do His will, then what was once in the realm of human impossibility (change), now becomes possible through the love, mercy and power of God. Persecutors like Paul become the preachers. The outstanding examples of immorality are radically changed to become highly moral people. People are changed by the power of God.
A warning to the modern day church. Don’t water down God’s word
There has been a tendency among those in church leadership in recent years to try to make it easier for outsiders to be attracted to the Christian church. One of the ways they have attempted to do this has been by diluting the teaching of the Bible to make it more “palatable” to those outsiders. They have tried to “soften” God’s commandments by suggesting that the world is evolving, so the church has to adapt to the changing or evolving culture. So they say that the “old fashioned” and restrictive commandments need not be taken seriously in a more progressive, more mature world.
But as Jesus said, God’s law can never be changed. He Himself as He lived on earth lived by the dictates of the law. He said that He had come to fulfil the law, not to abolish it, Mat 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. And in this context He issued a stern warning to those who refused to take God’s commandments seriously, Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Christian ministers and teachers are responsible to God for how they live and for what they teach. It matters to God! Immensely! By contrast the Christian teacher who obeys God’s commandments and who encourages others to do so are honoured by God, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Mat 5:19.
On the one hand then you have many in the church weakening the commandments of God and teaching that people no longer have to obey them in their original force. On the other hand you have God saying that His commandments will always remain in force. They cannot be diluted or ignored. But what He promises to do for those who want to love Him and obey Him, is to work within them by the power of His Holy Spirit to strengthen them to be more able to obey those commandments. Quite a difference! One is man’s way which is in fact the way of rebellion against God and His law. The other is God’s way which is the only way that leads to victorious Christian living by the grace of God. As I mentioned in my previous article, those who deny the power of God are often those who have not experienced His power in their own lives. They have little concept of the incredible transforming power of God as His Holy Spirit works in the lives of those who are open to Him. They cannot visualise or imagine the people they know being changed to any great degree. But as many of us have discovered in ministry, when people respond to the gospel of Christ they become different. As Paul wrote in 2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. New! Brand new! By the power of God!
Hopefully in forthcoming articles we will see what it will take for the church to become what it is meant to be, the dynamic agent of God in helping bring transformation to individuals, and to societies in ways we cannot at the moment begin to imagine.
Blog No. 138. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Friday 31st January 2014