Promises and Secrets
A website for those not afraid to examine their beliefs, compare them to the real world, and make sure they fit.
Does it matter what church you attend? Do the actions of those around you affect your salvation? There are passages in the Bible that seem to say that it matters, but you seldom hear of them in sermons or Bible study sessions.
Salvation matters to those who believe.
What do you think?
People only seem to remember the parts of the Bible that speak to their issue, but forget the parts that either add to or contradict what they think it means or want it to mean.
Do others influence us?
Do you remember reading the passages in Mark 8:22-26
Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida
22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?"
24 He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around."
25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, "Don't even go into the village."
about when Jesus healed the blind man? Yes, He healed him, but how many remember what He did with the man before the healing, and then said to the man after that healing? And we all remember the statement that Jesus made to the adulterous woman when He prevented her stoning in John 8:1-11
1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
11 "No one, sir,"" she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
, but what happened after that?
We'll get back to these passages in a minute, but first, let's put things in a perspective. Lately, I have been wrestling with a very real problem and have not come up with a way that seems right for handling it. This past Easter season (2016) pointed out something very clearly to me regarding the worship of God using a method employed by the pagans. Yeah, yeah, but please hear me out. Having discussed it with the pastor of my wife's church about it, this is not just made up to be provocative here. First, let's get a little context.
The Old Testament has many passages in which God warns us not to worship Him in the way the pagans worship their gods. Lev 20:22-23,
22 " 'Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them.' "
Deut 12:4, 31,
4 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way.
31 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.
and Jer 10:1-2
1 Hear what the Lord says to you, people of Israel. 2 This is what the Lord says:
"Do not learn the ways of the nations
or be terrified by signs in the heavens,
though the nations are terrified by them."
all give clear instructions of what to avoid in methods of worship. God often warned the Israelites not to take wives from the nations they conquered because these wives would tempt them to worship other Gods (See Deut 7:2-4
2 and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.
). So, God said don't worship Him as the pagans do, and don't hang out with people who practice that way, or you will be persuaded to bend or outright break His rules, and He will get angry with you and destroy you. Now, how are we to take this "advice" and practice it in the real world?
So how do we apply that today?
Since many don't think in terms of the Old Testament, let's move to some scenarios that are more "to the point" for the "modern Christian". After all, we are not going to set up an altar in our home, furnish it with pagan gods we pick up at the flea market, then bow down and worship those other gods, right?
Just to referesh your memory about the blind man, let's see what the Bible says in Mark 8:22-26:
22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?" 24 He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around." 25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, "Don't even go into the village." (Mark 8:22-26)
An example of influence
Now, in Mark 8:22-26 above, some people brought a blind man to Jesus. Many read this passage and praise God for the healing. But how many notice that Jesus did not heal the man in the village where He was? In most of the other healing passages, the healing was given immediately and right on the spot. This time, however, they were in a village called Bethsaida. Where have you heard that name before? As a hint, look at Matthew 11:21
"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes."
. This village was where many miracles had been performed to display the glory of God and His Son. However, the people in that town did not get the message, and Jesus condemned them in this verse for their lack of response.
Back to the passage in Mark. Jesus took this blind man by the hand and led him out of the village! Why did He do that? For most, if not all of the other healings He did, Jesus just performed them wherever they were or He was. Why did He take this man out of the village? And, after the healing, he told him to go home, adding "Don't even go into the village." Why would Jesus say this? As far as we know, this man lived outside this village or the command from Jesus would not make sense. I offer the thought that if this man was hanging around with people in the village who had actually ignored the blessings of God (Matthew 11:21
"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes."
), he would be affected and possibly lose his blessings. There are some hints that the man's faith was already weak because Jesus had to perform the healing process twice.
A different kind of influence
The Adulterous Woman passage (John 8:1-11)
1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.
3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.
5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?"
6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.
7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."
8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
is well known to a lot of Christians, though it is not even in the earliest manuscripts, but do we really remember what was said and bring it all into context for the meaning of the passage? Many use this passage to ward off accusations or judgments by replying, "Judge not, lest you be judged", or "You can't say anything if you are a sinner yourself", or even, "Are you without sin?". These are good lessons to be learned from the passage, but what was the message that Jesus actually gave to the woman? When He said, "Then neither do I condemn you", He added "Go now and leave your life of sin."
Now if, after this episode, the woman went to the local golf course and started hanging out where the husbands gathered for a drink after the round, she would be placing herself in a position where she could get caught up in the same situation that Jesus prevented from happening. So, part of His advice to us is "Don't put yourself in situations that will cause you to relax your guard and fall into complacency."
Now, is anyone influencing us?
Now, with that context, here is my problem. With all of the OT warnings, and the advice of Jesus that implies action stated by these warnings, does it matter if you hang with people who knowingly do exactly what God says not to do?
Resurrection Sunday was the first Sunday after Passover. Most feel that we should not keep Passover (well, we don't call it Passover even though we sort of keep the "supper" idea of it). However, Passover occurred in the week immediately before the real Resurrection Sunday, so we know when to celebrate the real Resurrection Day, even if we are never told by our pastors to celebrate the Passover itself.
That confuses me, in that we do not keep the Passover because it is too "Jewish", even though God said that His people (all believers in Him) should do it, and Jesus said to do it (Luke 22:19
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."
, well, He told the Jewish apostles to do it when they celebrate Passover), but we do keep a day that is not commanded, and even that one we do on a Pagan holiday instead of the right one.
Didn't God say not to do that?
The celebration my wife's church kept the weekend before I wrote this was Easter on March 27, 2016. Many say that Easter is just a different name for Resurrection Sunday, but in fact Easter has no connection with Resurrection day. Easter, a recognized and admittedly pagan holiday, is based on some concepts that revolve around the Spring equinox, so the day her church celebrated is chosen the same way the old pagans did since the time of Nimrod and his wife (think Tower of Babel days). This year (2016), the real Passover, the day that tells us when Resurrection Day is near, falls on April 22 - making Resurrection Sunday April 24.
Now, if we are really celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, shouldn't we be doing it around the time that God said to do it and not a month before, and call it what it really is - not add a pagan name? Well, as blatant as this is, that's not the description of the problem I am having.
Hang out in Bethsaida?
My question is, should we attend a church that not only does not recognize the Sabbath day, but "worships" God in a way He specifically forbids? I don't see myself moving toward their way of celebrating (we did not attend church that Sunday), but I did later ask the pastor why he did not inform the people of the church of the true meaning of what they were doing.
His reply was to let me know that he knew that the Roman Catholic church calculates this day incorrectly and that the Greek Orthodox calculates correctly based on the Passover. He said that, though the Romans choose the day incorrectly and the Orthodox choose it correctly, his church follows the way of the Romans. As a "clarification", he said that as long as the people are not aware of the truth, and do not know they are sinning, he will not clarify it to them because they would then become responsible.
How do I respond? We are responsible for our actions, especially when they contradict the clear instructions of God. The pastor is interceding between the people and God, much like the Pope is doing for the Catholics. Remember that Paul commended the Bereans because they did not take his word for his gospel, but checked the word of God to verify that Paul was interpreting correctly.
"Oops, my bad..."
If we follow those who do wrong, and do not check for the truth when warned, we are ultimately responsible. But, what of those who do not know they are following the wrong path? For those, we have warnings from both the New and the Old Testament (2 Peter 2:1-10
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them - bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) - 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority.
, Deut 13:1-5
1 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. 5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.
, Malachi 2:11-13
11 Judah has been unfaithful. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god.
12 As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD remove him from the tents of Jacob - even though he brings an offering to the LORD Almighty. 13 Another thing you do: You flood the LORD's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands.
, and my favorite (even if it is a "little vague") 1 Cor 15:33
33 Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."
). And for those who feel that everyone who ignores the Sabbath in favor or Sunday and keeps the pagan holidays are still pleasing God, there is Malachi 2:17
You have wearied the LORD with your words. "How have we wearied him?" you ask. By saying, "All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them" or "Where is the God of justice?"
. In order to purge the evil from among you, you have to recognize it as evil.
Malachi tells it like it was, and still is even today
While we are in Malachi, what about the passage in Mal 3:13-15
13 "You have spoken arrogantly against me," says the Lord.
"Yet you ask, 'What have we said against you?'
14 "You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.' "
? When we bring this up, many say, "We don't speak arrogantly against God!" Wrong. By denying the value of following God's Sabbath and His law, today's churches are saying exactly the same thing as verses 14 and 15 in this passage.
They claim that there is no joy in keeping the law - keeping it is boring and makes them sad. And by openly declaring that they do not need the law to be blessed, they display their arrogance by demeaning what God said they need. They want to be like the evildoers so they can put God to the test (work on the Sabbath, keep Easter, Christmas, celebrate Halloween) and think they get away with it because the world blesses them. They then give credit for those "blessings" to God and claim to be following Him while all the while denying Him.
Also see Romans 2:12-16
12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
. You cannot follow the advice of Paul to the Romans if you do not study and find out what God wants instead of listening to someone who will influence you to follow another god - or, in other words, a god whose instructions you have made up - whose instructions contradict those of the real God of Heaven.
Set the right course
We could claim to be "Christianizing" them by "trying to introduce them to the real Jesus", but first, you have to know who the real Jesus is, and make sure you are following Him. Then you have to make sure that what you are using is something approved by the real Jesus. Be ready to explain the real Him to those around you (1 Pet 3:15
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
). But how do you "Christianize" a whole church whose pastor is fighting you all the way, and all the while he is admitting that you are technically correct, but his church does not worship "that way"?
It must be done with "gentleness and respect", but also without avoiding the truth to save feelings.
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