A man from another religion once asked me, “I’m willing to join your religion (Christianity) but what’s in for me?”. I responded that he would go to heaven instead of hell after he dies. (This is taking into account that he becomes a Christian who follows and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and his commandments in the true sense). Here’s how the rest of the conversation went on:
Man : “Is that all you have to offer?”
Myself : “Yes, aren’t you looking forward to everlasting life?”
Man : “Yes but I thought there some benefits more than that”
Myself : “What benefits are you referring to?”
Man : “I mean aren’t you Christians going to give me financial benefits for joining your religion?”
Myself : “No, but we can help you find a job if are unable to get something yourself”
Man : “Alright, I don’t need this religion”
Myself : “Okay fine, I see you made your choice because financial benefits is all you are after!”
Man :”I’ll be able to handle it from here”
Myself : “If you anytime again have thoughts about this, do reach out to the preacher of a church.”
Before all of that conversation started this same man was able to tell me the key principles of the Gospels, he also said he believed in the existence of Jesus and also his holy resurrection! Yet, somewhere down the line, his heart was attracted to the vanities of this world and in his case; the lust for wealth.
Indeed I now realize, ‘the love of money is root of all evil’ (refer 1 Timothy 6:10). I’m not saying you shouldn’t work to sustain yourself or your family nor count yourself a sinner just because you have some wealth. Here the key thing is that you should never be so attached to money that you forsake the Lord God and his commandments!
As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22)
In the case of this man or even I can say in the case of even of those who call them Christians but don’t like it, the deceitfulness of riches choke the true understanding of the Word of God, and so it proves unfruitful ie there is no action nor faith in line with the Word of God. But the love of money is just one of the vanities of life. Some people love to party, excessively that they miss out on praying and reading the Bible, let alone being at Church. Some people want to be famous so bad, that they willing do evil deeds be it violent or sensual just to be showing up on TV, the newspapers and social media in general. While some just want to laze around when it comes to God but are super active in the things of the world such as their jobs, their social status and friend circles, that they miss out both on prayer and good works which have been ordained by God for them.
Make it your choice to reject the vanity of the world and instead follow the Lord Jesus in the true sense of the Word!
Verses for reflection:
- For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. (Mark 8:35)
- For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36)
- And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. (Matthew 10:22)
- For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
- Seek the Lord while He may be found; call to Him while He is near. (Isaiah 55:6)
- So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows. (Psalm 61:8)
- I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments. (Psalm 119:60)
- As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So he got up and followed Him. (Matthew 9:9)
- And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him (Mark 1:20)
- And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. (Luke 19:5)
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
Jesus appeared on earth to take away our sins!
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (1 John 3:5)
The prophet Isaiah prophesied about Jesus coming as the Lamb of God to take away our sin. Let’s read Isaiah 53:6-11 which goes as follows:
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
It is Jesus who take away your sins and not your good works. Your good works are simply your duty towards God. You duty does not make atonement for your sins. It’s Jesus who set you free by his death on the cross and by his resurrection. Happy are those to who put their mind to Jesus above anything else in this world!
Jesus came to earth for you and me. His purpose was and is to reconcile us to God and save us from our sins. God himself sent his Son Jesus to save us.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16-18)
For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11)
Salvation is free for all those who believe in Jesus the Son of God. You never have to pay for it. As Jesus has once and for all paid the price for your sins. Therefore hold on to Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
No matter how bad you are. No matter how many mistakes your made. If you are willing to repent and believe in the Gospel there is hope for you through Jesus Christ.
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:35-40)
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)
One thing that our current generation of Christian lacks is having deep respect for our spiritual teachers. I consider those who teach us the principles of the Christian faith as spiritual teachers even if they do not claim any such status. Some of them rather use the term ‘workers in the Lord’s vineyard’ which is fine enough for me.
Back in the early centuries of Christianity it was difficult to gain access to teachers of the faith. This was because the Roman Empire heavily persecuted the preachers of the Gospel. Persecution by death to be precise! Yet time and again there arose teachers who risked their lives to help other Christians learn the teachings of our faith.
We have a lot to thank our Lord Jesus for the past teachers of the faith. Augustine of Hippo defended the Christian faith from pagan critics. Athanasius of Alexandria preached against the heresy of the Arians. St. Irenaeus gave canonical status to the gospels of Luke, Matthew, Mark and John which are now part of the Bible. Sometimes the teachers made Bible reading easier, for instance the Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton who helped develop the concept of assigning the chapters and verses of the Bible for easier study.
Cut back to today’s world. Most of the teachings of our faith are available free on the internet and on TV as well. In some places you still get free Bibles and Christian literature without paying anything. Now some people equate ‘free’ with ‘low quality’. Yet these are the ones are among the first to complain if the teaching series is available by payment only. They have made their minds to blame a teacher of the faith if he gives out the teachings for free or at a cost. They will accuse such teachers of having hidden agendas. Double standards indeed!
People make fun of teachers who preach against silly divorces saying that these are still ‘stuck’ in the middle ages. But when these people themselves undergo a divorce they rush to these teachers to pray for ‘reconciliation’ with their spouses. And poor teacher simply forgives those who made fun of him and then helps the person facing the divorce issue. Now when the divorce is averted, what do such people do? They never apologize for making fun of the teacher but only keep hugging their reconciled spouse. Selfishness indeed when the only point of these people is their own happiness!
Then we have people who ridicule the preachers who remind us that Jesus gave us authority to cast out evils spirits. They will make jokes about such preachers though there are Bible verses to prove that we have authority to cast out demons. Then all of a sudden when their own kids get possessed and when medico-psychological help fails, they then sheepishly approach preachers who can exorcise. Again the preacher forgives them of their stupidity and simply goes on to help them out. Couldn’t have their read the Bible first before making fun of those who preach deliverance?
One of the people I hate the most are those who bully their preachers into preaching only what they want to hear. For instance, the people won’t put in donations if the preacher starts speaking about being a bright and responsible Christian at home, school and work. Yet if the preacher speaks loads of blessings without any responsibility then they will praise him to the clouds. Economic bullying in action, I’d say. While some people simply walk out on preachers who preach against wrong doing or having lack of faith in Jesus. They simply want to be validated about the state of sin they are living in. Surely such people will receive their reward from God for their disrespect.
One must always respect a teacher of the faith no matter how odd their methods seem. Even if you do not agree with them, you can speak politely to them. There’s always the Bible which you can reach for yourself to get the right idea on the Gospel topic that was preached to you. You still have your own choices to make because its your own soul that you are responsible for.
Legalism is a fake version of righteousness. It affects men, women and children in various forms from the cradle to the grave. Even preachers entertain this without realizing the dangers of it.
First things first, legalism is not the same thing as righteous living, praying methods, living by faith, obedience to God’s will, desire for purity and genuineness in one’s relationship with God. The Bible doesn’t promote legalism. Legalism is not be confused with following the teachings of the Gospel. At this point its imperative to get a clear idea of what is legalism. Let’s start with the dictionary meaning:
Legalism : strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code ( Merriam-Webster online dictionary)
Now in Christianity legalism is the excessive and improper use of the law. By excessive, it means overzealous following of the laws of God while not giving glory to God. It can also promote self-righteousness as it makes a person focus more on self than the Lord.
By improper usage, it means that it stealthily becomes a ‘earn your salvation‘ technique instead of getting your salvation truly and freely from Jesus our Lord. This can make you very unsure of your salvation and thereby keep you dependent on the church authority structure to say whether are you saved or not. It’s good to obey church leaders but you must keep it balanced in the light of the Gospel.
During the course of my life I was unwittingly taught legalism though I didn’t understand it at that time. However, after a few years I realized that is an energy drainer. This affected my relationship with God and I was not sure of my salvation. So decided to re-learn the teachings of the Bible directly by myself and praying to the Holy Spirit to lead me. It’s a big relief to be out of it and be sure of one’s salvation that comes through Jesus Christ.
Legalism can happen in non religious settings such as work or college. Since, I’m speaking of legalism in a spiritual context, I will give you a few examples of how things can go legalistic in the religious world. Here we go:
- Lydia is trying to make ends meet for her little child. Her husband is working but is not getting enough due to the bad economy. So she decides to do part-time work as a nurse to supplement their income due to which she misses on a few church services. She is worried that her actions have jeopardized her salvation and keeps crying out. This continues until a preacher convinces her of true salvation and helps her with the timings of a church that has worship services all through the week.
- James is taught to always wear a tie to any church service as every man in church who doesn’t wear it is seen as not sincere about salvation. He keeps doing this regularly. One day he forgets to wear a tie and enters the church. He is then denounced by everyone in the church and eventually leaves it. He then enters another church where there is no requirement to wear a tie (to his pleasant surprise) and continues to go there regularly. (the first 2 examples are just indicative examples, the next one is a real one)
- I would attend a place of prayer where people got healed by the power of Christ. However, the preachers in the due course of time started acting legalistic and would say the following statements, “If you have AIDS or HIV its God’s Gift to you for sinning and God will NOT heal you” and would also say “I sense God is healing some person of this and this disease but I say to this person, come up and testify on the stage right now or you will LOSE your healing”. I was totally horrified at this legalism and started avoiding them lest I too learn their ways. As time passed by, many people stopped going to this place and started going to other places to get prayed over. However, the preachers over there are still adamant on their ‘God hates people with AIDS’ stance. (I mentioned this example in my earlier post; Learn to understand what comes from God and what comes from man)
A very sure way to realize legalism is at work is when things are added or removed from the actual wisdom and practices mentioned in the Bible. Basically these are rules of men and not of God.
This make me recall the words of a wise preacher, ‘The farther away from God you get, the more rules and regulations you’ll come up with in an effort to maintain what you once had. And what was once living will soon become mechanical and artificial. (Take the machinery out of the church.)’ No wonder, I say that your righteousness must come from Christ. alone. You must have the right attitude of the heart, not just good external actions.
Here are few scriptures on what the Bible speak about Legalism:
Isaiah 1:11 “The multitude of your sacrifices– what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
Isaiah 29:13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 23:1-4 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
Some videos on the reality of legalism. These make good sense, so are worth a watch as well.
Jesus had a lot to say about Satan. It’s strange that in some Christian circles the preachers and the congregations don’t want to hear about Satan nor his wicked plans when Jesus himself was highly critical of the eternally condemned liar. I find it odd and tragic in equal measure that certain people want to speak that Jesus is victorious but don’t want to mention whom he was victorious against. This brings to my mind the words of 2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
Some people want a ‘customized’ gospel as per their own hearts desires and they find preachers who are willing to ‘tweak’ the gospel for them. By reading 2 Timothy 4:3-4 we are already forewarned about this and must accept the entire teachings of the Bible and not just bits and pieces of it. About such deceived people, may the good Lord Jesus open their eyes before its too late for them. Amen.
Now here’s what Jesus said about Satan. I’ll put a (sub) header or explanation about the context for each of his words about Satan for the sake of clarity. Read on:
On the Jews rejecting Jesus as Messiah but still claiming eternal security by being descendants of Abraham.
John 8:4 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Jesus compares Satan to a murdering thief.
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Jesus explained the parable of the sower (Matthew 13: 1-23) and compared Satan to the seed eating birds.
Matthew 13:19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.
Jesus explained the parable of the weeds (Matthew 13: 24-29 and 36-43) and called Satan as the enemy.
He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.
When Peter advised Jesus against the will of God.
Matthew 16:23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
When the disciples were amazed that they could cast off demons in Jesus’ name.
Luke 10:17-20 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Jesus spoke to Simon Peter on how Satan wanted to claim Simon Peter for eternity but Jesus prayed against it.
Luke 22:31-33 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Jesus clarified that he doesn’t need Satan’s nor his henchman Beelzebub’s assistance to cast out demons.
Matthew 12:22-27 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub,by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.
Jesus mentioned that the lake of fire at the Final Judgement (Matthew 25:31-46) has been prepared for Satan and his angels and unbelievers too share in it.
Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
By reading this, I hope and pray that you don’t take the great deceiver of the world ie the Devil lightly and instead trust Jesus forever. May the the light of Christ always shine in your life. Amen.