Who Are The Hyper-religious?

Friday, July 12, 2013, 9:02 a.m. – the Lord Jesus woke me with the song “Hear my Voice” playing in my mind. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (NIV):

Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

We know what it is

Paul said that since they knew what it was to fear the Lord, they tried to persuade others. This came on the heels of his statement concerning us all appearing before the judgment seat of Christ, and us each receiving what is due us. Thus, to fear the Lord must be directly related to our eternal destiny and us having to face God one day, and some people facing the reality of eternal punishment apart from God. Yet, the fear of the Lord entails so much more than just concern over where we will spend eternity. To fear the Lord means to take God seriously, to take his words seriously, and to take our sins seriously. It also entails reverence, respect, awe, obedience, devotion, commitment, love, dedication, and fidelity, et al. When we truly understand who God is, and who we are in relation to God, what God requires of us in thought, word and deed, and how that relates to our eternal destiny, then it should instill within each one of us a strong desire to see others come to know Christ, too.

Pride in what is seen

Paul was under enormous scrutiny and condemnation from those who did not accept the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Many went to great lengths to try to discredit him and to try to destroy his ministry. This concerned Paul greatly, not because he had an ego trip and he needed human strokes (compliments) in order to keep going, but because these false teachers of the gospel were trying to lead new believers away from the true gospel and away from pure devotion to Christ to something that had the appearance of the gospel, but was not the true gospel at all. If they could discredit Paul in some way, then they could allure these young Christians to follow them and their gospel instead, or so they thought.

Paul referred to these false teachers of the gospel as those who took pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart, and the same is true today, and not just among those who teach a false gospel, but among those who accept, tolerate and/or comply in some way with the false gospel of humans. Performance is still important, even among those who make claims to religious liberty and freedom from the confines of works-based salvation. The church of today is still very much led by man-made religion. Appearance, stage presence and public performance is central in many churches. “Worship” services are often nothing more than stage productions geared toward attracting the world to the worldly church. And, the church is run and is marketed just like big business.

So, many take pride in what is seen rather than, or at least over and above, what is in the heart. How this translates to today is that the gospel is diluted so as not to offend people with the truth of the gospel, so that people feel comfortable in the church. The goal appears to be to appeal to human flesh, to entertain, and to make church fun so that people will want to come back. That is why the stage and the performance (what is seen) is often the major focus of church and where a large part of the money is often or frequently allocated. When we dilute the gospel in order to not offend the people of the world, whom we are trying to “reach,” we are taking pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. For if we truly cared about people’s hearts and their relationships with Jesus Christ and their eternal destiny, we would tell them the truth so that Christ could set them free from slavery to sin, and so they could be free to love, honor, value, worship and obey their Lord Jesus.

Out of our minds

Paul and Timothy were accused of being out of their minds. So was Jesus, and I’m most certain that many of the prophets before them faced similar accusations. One commentator (NIV Study Bible) suggested that “Paul’s enemies were probably asserting that he was suffering from religious mania.” This brought to mind a modern phrase, i.e. “hyper-religious.”

Based upon my limited research on this subject so far, if I were a psychiatrist in the time of Jesus and Paul, and the prophets before them, I would diagnose them all as hyper-religious, because by definition it seems to be related to those who think God is a God who will one day judge us and will condemn some people to hell, who experience God on a personal level, who trust in God to lead them instead of using their own intellect, who believe God speaks to them through his word directly, and who display passion and commitment to God, and certainly would include those who preach the full gospel of salvation. Yet, Paul did not let that accusation bother him, but rather he embraced it, saying that if they were out of their minds, it was for God. Amen! I would rather be among the “insane” truly living for God, rather than be among the “sane” living only for the world and its pleasures.

Christ’s love compels us

In answer to these accusations of the apostles being out of their minds, Paul asserted that it was Christ’s love that compelled them to preach the full gospel of salvation, because Jesus died on the cross, taking upon himself the sins of the entire world, so that we would no longer live for ourselves, but for Christ who died for us and was raised again. And many of us today, who take God, his word, and our sins seriously, and who believe that God will one day judge us all, and that many people will face eternity in hell (eternal punishment) without God, are also compelled by Christ’s love to reach as many people as possible with the gospel of Jesus Christ before the day of judgment. And, yet, some of us, too, may be accused of being out of our minds, or of being hyper-religious, just because we are doing what Jesus did, and what he has charged all his followers to do, and that is to make disciples (followers) of Christ of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all of Christ’s commandments.

The old and new

The goal of our service to Christ as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to which he has commissioned us all, and has equipped us for his service, is to see people saved from their sins and walking by faith in Jesus Christ their Lord. Our goal is not just to hear that someone prayed a prayer, or that they made an intellectual assent to acknowledge what Jesus Christ did for them in dying for their sins, but to hear a testimony of faith proclaiming that, in Christ, the old way of living for sin and self is gone, and that Christ has transformed hearts and minds away from sin and toward obedience to Christ, and toward walking in his righteousness. This is all from God, it is the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and this is not self-generated, lest we should boast. Yet, faith involves cooperating with the Spirit of God in this heart and life transformation, i.e. we must choose to daily die to sin and self and to follow Christ Jesus in obedience (cf. Lu. 9:23-25; Ep. 4:17-24; Ro. 6; Gal. 2:20, et al).

So, knowing what Christ requires of us as part of believing faith, we are obligated to then share this knowledge and understanding of the truth of his gospel with those he brings into our lives, so that they, too, can be in genuine faith relationship with Jesus Christ, and can have true hope of eternal life with God in glory. We, thus, serve as Christ’s ambassadors, as though he were making his appeal through us. In other words, he uses human instruments to get out his message of salvation to the masses. So I, too, implore you on Christ’s behalf: “Be reconciled to God.” God had Jesus take upon himself all our sins so that we could be free from slavery to sin and free to become the righteousness of God, i.e. to daily walk in Christ’s holiness and righteousness in his power and strength within us. So, let us honor God by forsaking our sins, and by walking daily in his truth, sharing the full gospel of Jesus Christ with as many as possible, even if it means we are accused of being “hyper-religious.”

Hear my Voice / An Original Work / July 9, 2012

Based off Psalm 27

The Lord is my great salvation.
He’s the stronghold of my life.
When my enemies attack me,
My heart will not fear at all.
Though a war break out against me,
Confident in Christ I’ll be.
Of the Lord, I ask that I may
Live with Him eternally.

Hear my voice, Lord, when I call you.
Merciful to me You’ll be.
Though my relatives forsake me,
My Lord God will receive me.
Teach me Your way, O my Jesus.
Lead me in Your righteousness.
I will sacrifice to my Lord.
I will sing with joyfulness.

I am confident that I will
See the goodness of the Lord.
All the richness of His blessings,
My Lord has for me in store.
He asks me to be of courage;
To be strong and to take heart,
Patiently as I wait for Him,
And from Him to ne’er depart.