We have to get this one right. If we don't, the result could be hell.
close to obeying his commandments." In other words, we can skip over much of the teaching of the Bible and not take it too literally.
But...that's not what the Bible really teaches. Yes, God loves the sinner as well as the Christian. After all, he went to the cross for the sinner. But loving them doesn't mean they get a free pass on their sins. If God "accepts" everyone regardless of their actions, why would he provide the Ten Commandments? The beatitudes? Why would there be so much teaching about our daily lives, consequences and personal interactions?
If God "accepts" every action just so you "believe" on him, why would he take the lives of so many people in Sodom and Gomorrah or turn Lot's wife into stone just because she took a second look (Genesis 19:24) or when Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark of Covenant (2 Samuel 6:6-7) from rocking over, why was he instantly killed?
God's standards are very high for people that call themselves Christians. His standards for those entering his presence are even higher. He cannot tolerate sin in his presence. He requires sanctification. That's not a word you hear too much today, but it's probably the most important thing to learn about being a Christian.
I suggest that you read the entire first chapter of Isaiah for your Bible reading today. Parts of it sound a lot like America today. I would like to center on Isaiah 1: 13-16
Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations-- I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong.
"Oh come on Debbie....the Old Testament doesn't count. We live under grace in the New Testament."
Hum.....study your Bible dear. The New Testament simply made things easier by allowing us to talk directly to God and to skip the sacrifice routine. It did not wipe out all the teachings of the Old Testament.
I don't want to get into the argument about when sanctification happens or if it totally comes with salvation or not. I personally believe that we are given all the tools we need at conversion to take our spiritual journey. But...I also believe that a lot of people find the first bench along the road and instead of taking a small rest, they pitch their tent and immediately begin to build a house. (Hebrews 5:11-14 6:1-8)
Your spiritual journey is about changing you. Once you become a Christian, there's a lot to do. You don't just join a party. It's not about meeting once a week to enjoy music that will leave you feeling like you want to dance or hyperactive like you've just left a rock concert. It's not your pastor's job to give you an inspirational pep talk so you feel good about yourself. His job is to help you see the areas of your life that need changing so you can walk into the presence of a Holy Righteous God.
Your spiritual journey is about preparing you to stand in front of a holy God and present Him with the gift of your life. It's about God looking at the changes you have made and saying, "Well Done! You've been a faithful servant. You've learned your lessons. You've learned a lot about your God and you "deserve" to enter the kingdom of heaven. Your graduation party is ready for you. Now that the work is over, come on in and enjoy the fruits of your labor!"
That in a nutshell is the goal of your spiritual journey. That's sanctification. Let's take a look at an article from the Holman Bible dictionary by Lorin L. Cranford. She defined Sanctification as "the process of being made holy resulting in a changed life-style for the believer."
She goes on to say... The English word sanctification comes from the Latin sanctification, meaning the act/process of making holy, consecrated. In the Greek New Testament, the root hag- is the basis of hagiasmos, "holiness," "consecration," "sanctification"; hagiosyne, "holiness"; hagiotes, "holiness"; hagiazo "to sanctify," "consecrate," "treat as holy," "purify"; and hagios, "holy," "saint." The root idea of the Greek stem is to stand in awe of something or someone.
The New Testament usage is greatly dependent upon the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, for meaning. The hag- words in the Septuagint mostly translated the Hebrew qadosh, "separate, contrasting with the profane." Thus, God is separate; things and people dedicated to Him and to His use are separate. The moral implications of this word came into focus with the prophets and became a major emphasis in the New Testament.
Wow! You may not have followed all the translations and root word stuff....but did you get the last two sentences? God is separate. Things and people dedicated to Him and His use are separate!
I want to leave this discussion today with two important questions.
1. How many times have your friends, family or co-workers singled you out and said..."His/her life is different. I know they are a Christian because...." If no one has ever said that about you, is your Christian life "separate" from the average life of a sinner?
2. How many times have you felt in awe while sitting in a church service? Does your church service reflect the HOLY Separate Righteous God? Or do you feel so comfortable with everything around you that there would be no difference if you were sitting at home, eating popcorn and watching TV? Is your church service "dedicated" to being separate?
The answer to these questions may determine why Julia Duin, religion editor for the Washington Times, writes, "Many evangelical Christians are slipping out or barely hanging on to their churches." Duin herself dropped out of church for a while and remarked that when she did, she was "surprised to find out how little (she) missed going to church."
If God has left the building....why would we want to be there?
God loves you,