Intolerable Tolerance

2 Corinthians 11:3-4

11 But I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treacheryyour minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus different from the one we proclaimedor if you receive a different spirit than the one you received, or a different gospel than the one you acceptedyou put up with it well enough!

1 John 4:1

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Matthew 24:4

“And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.”
Ephesians 5:6

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”

One thing that tops the chart for me as something I detest is being lied to.  We can excuse deceptive behavior by calling it a white lie or giving it a righteous spin by saying it protects the one being deceived, but it is far more painful to discover the truth later on than to face the truth from the beginning.

Lies have a way of growing over time and the harm done to the deceived multiplies in intensity, as well.  Deception is evil, yet we can play a role in willingly allow it without noticing and the church can be one of the most affected.

We do not want to be judgmental, but we can be lulled into lies by believing the best in the name of grace – without discernment.  The religion of tolerance has slipped into the church and mouths are silenced by the theme of acceptance to all.  This might at first blush seem exclusive, until we see that there are absolutes in God’s Word.  Living in a relativistic world where anything goes allows evil to thrive silently.

God will grant us wisdom to recognize false doctrines if we ask Him.  Motivation to be purposeful in discernment concerning the newest revelation comes from a desire to maintain a pure devotion to Christ.  To “put up” with false beliefs is to accept them.  Over time the convictions we held can be replaced by whitewashed “enlightened” viewpoints if we aren’t careful to hold on firmly to the true Gospel.

We are not called to be pious, self righteous or judgmental, as we are reminded that we have blind spots, too.  But we are not called to compromise, either, in the name of grace.  Grace is undeserved favor, but it does not placate or permit someone to remain in sin.  Finding balance between abusing grace in the name of liberal freedom and strict adherence to fundamentalism that imposes expectations beyond the written word is challenging, but not impossible.

No one has perfect doctrine, but we all continue to grow in our understanding and relationship with God.  Some beliefs we have held onto need to be debunked if they do not line up with the Word of God and some need to be held onto tenaciously.  God is faithful to speak to us through His Holy Spirit and to guide us into all truth.  We have a choice whether we are going to allow ourselves to be deceived or be like the Bereans, searching out God’s truth.

The church needs to speak the truth with grace.  May we endeavor to do so passionately, but never let go of love in the process.  If the church becomes just like the world in the name of tolerance, we lose our effectiveness and souls, as well.

Lord, forgive us for our lackadaisical compromise.  We are so needful of You to open our eyes to see our own hypocrisy. Wake us up to zealously cling to Your Word and help us to not tolerate sin but to love the sinner.

Tradition’s Grip

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Mark 7:5-9

5 The Pharisees and the experts in the law asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with unwashed hands?” 6 He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.’ 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” 9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

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.

“Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds. The most powerful ones are those we can’t even describe, aren’t even aware of.” – author unknown

Traditions can be precious when they are founded on the word of God and there is genuine understanding in keeping them.  They can also be a hindrance to our faith that pulls away from sincere love of God if we are not careful.  Bound to them by duty and not conviction is a prison which does not inspire ardent joy that we can have in Christ.  Imposing convictions as duty on others is also once again vain tradition.

That does not mean that some traditions are not worth keeping, but it is a personal decision that must be made by each soul wandering through this adventure called life.

When I was first saved, my eyes were opened to many traditions I had been following, blindly.  We do not have to be a religious person to live according to traditions.  We might not even recognize the control certain belief systems have over us and that we are ascribing mental ascent to them.

The Pharisees probably get a bad rap because of their religiosity, but I wonder how they got there.  It frightens me to think that I could drift away from a simple life hidden in Christ and become religious, instead.  Yet, it I am honest, that is the natural progression if we are not mindful.  The Pharisees were upset when they saw that the disciples were not subscribing to the ritual washing before eating.  It was shocking to them.  But where did this ritual washing come from?

At the root of the purpose of ritual washing was holiness.  Sounds good.  But was it mandated by God?  There were prescribed methods of cleansing after someone had been made unclean in the Old Testament, but no example of the exact application the pharisees were insisting on was ever commanded by God.  Their intent might have been self righteousness or religiosity, or it might have been as devout as wanting to be pure in God’s sight.  But God did not command it.  Going beyond what God has said is not being a super Christian – it is disobedience to God.  He commands us in several Scriptures to not add or subtract from His word.

It might seem silly to us today that such a rule as ritual washing was ever made, but the same spirit behind those traditions is at work today in the body of Christ.  Members of a church subscribe to certain beliefs that are based on traditions rather than God’s word. They might even be worthy traditions based on wise principles, but man-made, nonetheless.  The danger is in judging others who do not participate in the same liturgy as another.

I personally did not feel led by God to participate in a certain ministry at a church I attended.  Most other parents did.  The persecution was real.  If we are not careful, we can spin our wheels worrying about all of our traditions in the church while the unsaved all around us will perish, not wanting to get involved in our circus of religious confusion and traditions.

God has impressed upon me certain convictions that the Holy Spirit within me inspires me to follow.  They are not blind leadings, but clear impressions from the LORD.  The difference between tradition and conviction is relationship.  But even convictions can become a stumbling block if we impose them on others or put them above God’s word.  Following Christian fads is not our holiness – God is.

Lord, thank You for relating with us – sinful mankind – so that we might know You!  Thank You for not having commands which are burdensome, but a light ad a guide to us.  How amazing it is that you speak to us!  Help us to recognize when we begin to idolize traditions and to walk in purity and genuine faith in You.  I love You, LORD!

Under the Influence

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1 Kings 11:4

“When Solomon became old, his wives shifted his allegiance to other gods; he was not wholeheartedly devoted to the LORD his God, as his father had been.  6 Solomon did evil in the LORD’s sight; he did not remain loyal to the LORD, like his father David had.  9 The LORD was angry with Solomon because he had shifted his allegiance away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him on two occasions  10 and had warned him about this very thing, so that he would not follow other gods.  But he did not obey the LORD’s command.”

This passage should humble us all – the wisest man that ever lived turned away from the LORD.  Should not his wisdom have guided him to avoid wicked influences?  Compromise is subtle – we often do not notice or perceive that a slight alteration is chipping away at our integrity and commitment to God.  It is not enough to simply have moral ideals – the life in Christ must be a loyalty which makes us shudder at the thought of indulging the flesh with something that would pull us away from our God.  But unfortunately, we cave in to “minor” influences.  PG-13 movies that have “some” curse words, which we trivialize because we can “handle” them.  The problem is that the slope is headed downward – not up.  Decisions are made one by one, but add up to an avalanche over time.

We need to be vigilant with every influence in our lives.  There are many sources which influence us – media in multiple forms – including television, internet, social media and e-mail; and peer groups, which include people in many different environments; friends, family, peers at work, and at church (oh yes, there, too!).  Vigilance does not mean shunning, but rather setting clear boundaries that you abide by.  Sometimes folks around us can resent our boundaries, citing them as legalism, but it becomes sin to us if we violate our own consciences to appease those around us.  While it is uncomfortable to maintain your convictions, consider it a test – do you really believe in what you claim you do?  A little persecution presented by peers snubbing or labeling us is a pretty mild test.

Fame and riches were part of Solomon’s downfall.  Perhaps he thought he was invincible or that the wisdom he had enabled him to handle all of those temptations.  Not so.  Bad judgment call.  We will all be tempted, for sure.  We will have our decisions to make, one by one. Stay sober – do not allow yourself to go under the influence.  Stay in the Word of God and be alert.  Remember that we do not ever “deserve” to sin, or to choose to violate God’s commands out of comfort or pleasing others.  The price He paid was too high for that casual, liberal application of the costly grace given to us.

Hold fast to the convictions God revealed to you.  Don’t allow people to define for you what your standards should be.  Hold fast.  The visual of an anchor helps me in this regard.  It is unmovable, fixated where it needs to be and though it is so small, it is capable of holding in place large vessels.  Small decisions matter.  Guarding ourselves from negative influences in our lives is essential, but we cannot stop there.  Instead, we must be the bold, positive influence that the world needs – not in a harsh, judgmental way, but in a godly confidence that helps sheep around you see that they, too, can exert their power to choose to protect and guard righteousness in their lives.

God, wake us up and help us to be faithful.  We need You to keep us grounded in Your word, walking blamelessly before you!