Promises and Secrets
A website for those not afraid to examine their beliefs, compare them to the real world, and make sure they fit.
Most people let other people make their faith decisions for them and don't even realize it.
We make decisions every day. What to wear, where to go, who and what to believe, what to eat. Everyone does it. Behind every decision is some thought, or at least a habit developed by making the same decision often.
What do you think?
Why did you put on the clothes you are wearing today? Are you going to eat breakfast? Do you believe in God?
As of this writing, I am a 69-year-old male living in Washington state. My mother has finally consented to come and live with us as things are becoming difficult for her to do on her own. I tell you that so you will get the context of what this page is about.
While sitting in the living room in front of the fire, my Mother and I began to discuss why people do the things they do. Since it was Friday, Preparation Day, we had been discussing the Sabbath, the Israelites in the desert, and resting on the day. The conversation turned to decisions people make and what causes them to make them. My mother, I'll call her Mom from here on, made a statement that opened my eyes as to something I have written about in these pages, but now see in a slightly different light.
Now, Mom is not a Sabbath-keeper. She has always heard that Sunday was the sabbath and was surprised that I believed differently. I explained the history of the day and why I believe it is still the day God set aside for us. The subject moved to our grandkids, my wife and I have 12 of them, and the older ones have graduated from college and have found jobs. I mentioned that some have jobs that require them to work on the Sabbath and, while they agree that the Sabbath is a command from God, they still work on the Sabbath when required. I made the comment that it was disobedience to God's commandment. We discussed that for a bit. That was when Mom made the statement that opened my eyes.
"My way or the highway..."
She said (paraphrased), "If my children were hungry, and I had a chance to get a job that made me work on Saturday, I would tell God to go to ..." You get the idea. Now, people say things like this all the time, so I asked her if she really meant to say, "When I need something, God's rules don't matter." She said yes, that's exactly what she meant.
Well, we continued the discussion, and I asked her if she knew what that might mean. If God sets up rules, and they interfere with the way she wants to live her life, would she break the rules? "Yes." Does she know the consequences of living outside the will of God? "What consequences?" Oh, things like going to Hell or the Lake of Fire? "Oh, he wouldn't do that if I am a good person. After all, it's His fault that my kids were hungry. He should have done something about it."
More common than you think
And, there it is. My pages talk about robots, our will, history, Sunday, the Romans persecuting the Jews, and other things. But, suddenly there it was. The whole concept of "If my life isn't going the way I planned it, it's God's fault, so He doesn't matter any more. I did it His way and it didn't work. Now, I'm in charge."
Sure, the theology and psychology of this stand sound different in the books and lectures, but Mom's outlook explains all the different churches, religions, even Bible versions. For most people, the Bible is a guidebook of advice for living life. They seem to think of it as a TV commercial - "Try our product and your life will be awesome!" Now, if we see a commercial like that, but the product isn't something we are interested in, we change the channel or go get a glass of iced tea. Worse, if we buy it and it doesn't make our life awesome, we throw it away.
Deciding without thinking...
This brings us to the topic of Decisions. Mom has explained this attitude to me in several ways. She has outlived two husbands and has always been in charge of her life. No one tells her what to do, and especially what she can't do. She says she talks to God all the time, reads the Bible, and sometimes she even sees a picture of Him in her mind. She knows that she is not perfect, and that she is a sinner. But, that's where it ends.
Hell is not a real place for her. She does not see God as a maker of rules. She especially does not see Him as an enforcer of the consequences of disobeying the rules. She does not think of Him as one who promised that He will punish those who disobey. She thinks of Him as the One who makes everything go right. If He doesn't, then He has failed. No, really, that's the truth. She feels that when things go right God is good, but when they go wrong, God is bad. If God is being bad, then His rules are out the window. She had decided what is good and bad for herself. There is no consideration of consequences because she decides for her life and chooses her own consequences.
Not just Mom...
At a Bible study the other day, a friend expressed her thoughts about the flexibility of the definition of disobedience. We were talking about the Christian world doing what God directly said not to do. When I explained about mixing paganism and Christianity when celebrating Easter and Christmas, she bristled. Briefly, she defended her position by saying that she will continue to celebrate Christmas because that was her way of teaching people about Christ. When I asked if that meant even disobeying what God said in Deuteronomy about "mixing the two", she said yes, but denies that she is disobedient. She feels that each person has their own way of doing what God wants, and one of hers is through Christmas, even if the Bible says that she is wrong to do so.
Now, while I understand what she is saying about intent and motivation, I can also see where she has made a very important decision. She has decided that her will is more important than God's clear instructions (Deuteronomy 12:3-4,30-31,
3 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. 4 You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. (Deuteronomy 12:3-4)
30 and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, "How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same." 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. (Deuteronomy 12:30-31)
9 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there.
and Jeremiah 10:2
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.
). That is a form of idolatry. Basically, she has decided to disobey God in order to do what she feels is right for God. That is a long version of "The end justifies the means". Well, at least she is willing to stand behind her decisions, even if she may not be aware of the consequences of her actions. And, from what I see in modern Christianity, she is not alone.
Who is deciding for you?
Stepping back, this appears to be the same kind of thinking the world uses - with one exception. Mom doesn't go to church. All her decisions are her own. The majority of the believing Christians in the world go to church - at least occasionally (Christmas and Easter, you know, the major "Christian" holidays that aren't even Christian). They believe what they are told by the pastor. He is deciding for his congregation. That's much easier than learning the truth for themselves. Their most important decisions are made by the leaders of the church they attend. Those decisions were based on information the pastors learned in Seminary from others who believe what they were told by their teachers. And so on.
Told what to "decide"?
This goes back to the earliest days of the "modern church" after the Sabbath-keeping, faith-filled, God-fearing Apostles had died - some horribly because of their faith. The world hated the Jews, and the Romans persecuted anyone who acted slightly Jewish. Even the Pharisees persecuted anyone they considered a follower of that "criminal", Jesus. As a result, people accepted the offer of safety from Roman persecution if they would join their pagan worship (Sunday, Easter, Christmas) and not do what the Jews did.
That has been passed down through the ages to the pastors of today. Yep. It's that simple. If people feel their life and/or family is threatened, many will disobey God if they don't have faith.
"What?!? Don't have faith?" That's what happened in the early church starting in the second century after the original apostles died out (see Early Christians and Sunday for a little history on this and the actions of the early "Church Fathers"). Remember, the Apostles died because of their faith. They didn't break the rules just because things weren't going their way or their families were threatened. They stood for God and His will because He is the One in charge. They died taking a stand for what they believed, and Jesus told them what to believe.
The current philosophy is that since God "should have fixed the problem", they don't have to listen to His rules any more. They can bend them or remake them to match their decisions. If things are fine and there is no threat, they will just listen to the pastor. The problem here is that the word of God has been so tweaked that it no longer says what it says - rather, it no longer means what it says - so we just pick a church that does it our way and 'Voila!', straight to "Heaven".
Decisions. We make them even when we are not aware of it. Go to work. Buy a car. Teach our children. Cheat on taxes (stealing). Disobey God (idolatry). People do it every day without even thinking. Keep the Sabbath? "Naw, I'm too busy and that's Jewish. Besides, pastor Bob said I don't have to."
Who is making your decisions? Are you sure?
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