Greatly Distressed

Wednesday, April 22, 2015, 11:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “To Be Like Him.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 17 (selected vv. ESV).

Full of Idols

Nearly everywhere Paul went he had both those who received the message of salvation with joy, who then came to believe in Jesus, and those who rejected the gospel message and thus persecuted him. When he was in Thessalonica, and he proclaimed Jesus Christ in the Jewish synagogue there, some of the Jews there believed in Jesus. Yet, some of the Jews were jealous of Paul and of his influence among the Jewish people in leading many to faith in Jesus Christ, so they stirred up persecution against the brothers there. Paul and Silas were thus sent by the brothers to Berea. Yet, when the Jews from Thessalonica learned the apostles were preaching Jesus in Berea, they went there, too, and agitated and stirred up the crowds against the apostles. So, the brothers then sent Paul to Athens. Silas and Timothy were then instructed to join Paul as soon as possible.

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. ~ vv. 16-17​

I wonder what this would look like in our world today, in particular here in America. If Paul were alive today, and he came to America, what would he see, and what would trouble him in his spirit the most? What if he came into our homes first? What would he see that might trouble him, if he could observe what goes on in our homes when we think no one else is looking? What idols might he observe? – TV’s, video games, movies, sports, the internet, pornographic images, social media sites, and/ or private messaging with others with whom we are not married, which might be considered flirtatious, romantic or sexual in nature? What types of TV shows or movies might he observe in our homes? Would they possibly contain sexual situations or innuendos, or extra-marital romantic or sexual relationships? Would he observe habitual gossiping or overeating (gluttony)? Or are our idols more along the lines of our possessions, i.e. our cars, houses, furniture, or recreational vehicles, or our stocks and bonds, or whatever else might take the place of God in our hearts?

Paul was in the habit of visiting the Jewish synagogues wherever he went, where he also had the opportunity to share Jesus Christ with all who would listen. What if he visited our institutional churches here in America? What idols might he observe there? Would he see the body of Christ under the power of the Holy Spirit ministering to, encouraging and building each other up in the faith? Would he observe the body at work with all the parts functioning as the Spirit assigned them to do? Would he see people under conviction of the Holy Spirit, confessing and repenting of sin, humbled before God, with revival breaking out, and people coming to true faith in Jesus Christ by large numbers? Or, would he see a church under the control and influence of human beings who are following humanistic philosophy and marketing schemes, with man, not Christ, as the head, the Spirit not welcome, and sensuality and the flesh of man front and center for the purpose of entertaining the world? Would he, too, observe a diluted gospel for the purpose of making the message of salvation more comfortable, acceptable and pleasing to human flesh, the idol being the flesh of man?

When Paul was in Athens, he also visited the public marketplace. What might he observe in the way of idols if he would go out in public here in America, or in the US government? Have you ever noticed how many of our government buildings and national symbols are based off Roman, Greek and Egyptian gods and goddesses? What’s up with that? I thought we were supposedly founded as a Christian nation and with godly principles, or perhaps not. If we study the founding fathers and we study the layout, buildings and symbols in Washington, D.C. and in our government structures, we will learn that our government has been syncretistic (a union of different or opposing beliefs) from the very beginnings of our nation. And, I believe this would trouble Paul, not only that America has presented itself as one united nation under the one true God, and as a Christian nation, when clearly it is not, but that it has convinced the institutional church here to join with it in its hypocrisy.

Very Religious

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. ~ v. 22​

Probably 80% (+/-) of Americans claim some type of religious affiliation, and the vast majority claim Christianity as their religion. Would you then say that America is a religious nation? What did Paul mean when he said they were “religious”? Paul said that because they worshiped so many different gods. So, one could say that America is “religious,” too, not because we all follow the one true God, and not because we are all disciples of Jesus Christ, but because we are an idolatrous nation which is eclectic in our religions and idols of choice.

So, what do we think of when we hear the term “religious”? We should think of the Pharisees and Sadducees who were self-righteous and who were clean on the outside, and who followed all the right external forms of religion, but were full of wickedness inside. We should think of those who worship God in vain because their religion is man-made, which not only includes those who practice legalism, but includes all modern churches which are following the teachings and marketing schemes of human beings for how to live their lives and grow their churches and reach the world with worldly means for a worldly church. We should also think of those who honor God with their lips but their hearts are far from God.

The sad reality in much of today’s church, though, is that the term “religious,” which is considered a negative term, is often attributed to those who follow the teachings of Christ, who obey the commandments of God, who hold to the testimony of Jesus and to the teachings of the apostles, who teach the unadulterated word of God, and who teach that we must repent of (turn from) our sins if we want to see heaven and have eternal life. We are often tagged as legalistic. And, those who are living for the flesh and who are partners with the world are often considered those who are truly liberated and those who are the friends of Jesus. Those who want to water down the gospel to make it more palatable to the flesh of humans have thus taken the story of the Pharisees and of Jesus and have so twisted it to make it look like serious followers of Christ are to be equated with Pharisees while those Christians still walking in the flesh are equated with Jesus’ best friends and companions.

We Ought Not to Think

For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
~ vv. 23-31​

When we are merely “religious,” it is when we go through forms of religion, or when we follow after a man-made gospel, or when we pattern our lives and grow our churches according to human marketing schemes and humanistic philosophies, but Christ Jesus is not the head of our lives and we are not walking according to the Holy Spirit, but we are still walking after the ways of the flesh. Yet, God is not interested in our false worship of him or in our human-based efforts to try to grow his church. The buildings we often call “church” are not the church. They are just buildings, built by human hands, and God does not dwell within them. When we enter a church building, we are not in God’s house, and we are not entering into God’s holy presence. That teaching is based off the Old Testament and the Jewish temple. The organizations called “church” are also not the church. They are man-made organizations and corporations, which are often run just like any other business.

The true church (temple) of God is not made with human hands, nor is it built (developed) using human marketing schemes and church growth strategies. It is a living organism comprised only of those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, i.e. of those who have been crucified with Christ to their old lives of living for sin and self, have been transformed of the Spirit in heart and mind, and who have been given new lives in Christ, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6-8). Jesus Christ is the only Head, not humans, and not the US government. The Holy Spirit is the one who chooses humans for service and who assigns them their areas of responsibility within the body of Christ, and He is the one who gifts them for service. So, we should stop thinking of the church in the way so many do, and we should stop looking to humanistic teachings for how we should live our lives and for how to build God’s church. And, we should let God be God, and Christ be the Head, and the Spirit be our inspiration.

To Be Like Him / An Original Work
March 16, 2014 / Based off Scripture

Crucified you are with Jesus.
To be like Him, oh, you’ll be,
Because He died at Calv’ry,
So from sin you’d be free.
Oh, what joy He brings into your life,
Giving life with Him endlessly.

Oh, what plans He has for your life.
Share the gospel faithfully.
Show the people He loves them.
Now His witness you’ll be.
Tell the world of sin about Jesus,
How He died for them on a tree.

Purifying hearts, He saves them,
Who believe on Christ, God’s Son.
Turning now from their idols,
New lives they have begun.
Jesus saves from sin; we’re forgiven.
Over sin, the vict’ry He won!

When He comes again to take us
To be with Him evermore,
There will be no more crying.
Gladness will be in store.
Heavens joys will now overtake us:
We’ll be with our Lord evermore.