Saturday, January 5, 2013

Five mistakes not to make

So many people in my life claim to be followers of God.  I truly hope that they all are Christ's followers.
I posted something on facebook the other day, something that was simple, and people I did not even know thought it was important enough to comment on, ridicule me, even post scripture (twisted and messed up) to criticize other people.  I did not post scripture, then I tried to correct it, then I just deleted the whole mess because it was too convoluted to untangle.  I made one of the 5 mistakes Christians should not make!  I knew better, but it seems like there is a need for a refresher. I hope you can learn from my mistakes!

Mistake #1 – Valuing your tradition over your Salvation or believing that you’re saved because of your tradition

John 8:42-44“Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.’”

Our first example comes from a heated exchange between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees — the religious leaders of their day. Jesus tells them that He speaks the words of His Father, while they speak the words of their father, the devil.
These religious people felt they were saved because of their bloodline and because of the traditions they followed. They felt these things made God their Father. Many people believe this today. They feel because they were raised in a Christian home, have 'Christian' views, or because they attend a church, that they’re saved.
But Jesus refutes this by saying, “If God were your Father, you would love me…” The requirement for being a child of God is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
1) Jesus says “you”. Not your parents, or friends, your political party, your special group, or your church but “YOU”. No one can have a relationship on our behalf. You alone must put your trust in Him to be saved.
2) Jesus says “me”. It’s not where you were born, how you feel, what you think, what amount of education, money or privilege you have, red state or blue state, or even what church you attend, or what your pastor says that makes you a child of God. It’s a belief and a trust that Christ came from the Father to pay for your sins (John 3:16).  RELATIONSHIP.
God wants a relationship with you. There is no magic prayer that will save you, it is only the surrender to this relationship, giving up your rights to follow Him, that will do.John 1:12 tells us that “all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” 

Later, Jesus takes all of the tradition of the Pharisees and boils it down to two simple guidelines:
Matt 22:3-40 "Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
This is all the tradition that we need.

Mistake #2 – Believing, or acting like, you’re saved because of your good (or lack of  bad)behavior

Luke 18: 10-19 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.'
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
 Here we see the Pharisee thinks he’s saved because of his good behavior. This is probably the reason most people today believe they’re saved. Most people feel that they’ve lived good lives or that they follow the traditions of their church AND they have said a special prayer AND they do good deeds.  Nonetheless, they believe they are justified because of their actions, but Jesus refutes this by telling us that it’s not the Pharisee who is justified (declare innocent from sin), but the tax collector. To be justified Jesus tells us we must be humble about our condition. We must realize we’ve sinned and call on God to forgive us.

**The Pharisee compared his behavior to the tax collector, but the tax collector compared his behavior to God.**

 Romans 3:23  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It’s “the glory of God” that we fall short of. Our behavior is compared to God — not other people — and all of us fall short when held to this standard. But Romans 3:24 tells us that we can be saved because we’re “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” 
When we find ourselves comparing ourselves to each other we are on dangerous ground!

Mistake #3 – Believing, or acting like, you’re saved because of your works or deeds

 Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
 Jesus is talking about who will be able to enter the kingdom of heaven. Here we find people who believe they’re saved because of good works they do. Again this is something many people do today.
Jesus refutes this by saying that He won’t accept their works.  God’s glory is the standard we’re held to, and it’s perfect. So unless our offering is perfect, it falls short of His glory. When we try to offer good deeds to atone for our sins, God rejects that because the sacrifice is stained with sin, and falls short of His glory.
Where our works are stained with sin and rejected, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is perfect and is accepted. When we repent and come to Christ to be our Savior it means we’re relying on His sacrifice to make peace with God on our behalf. When we do this God credits Christ’s perfection to us and we are justified.

Mistake #4 - Assuming that other people follow Christ just because they say they are Christians, or are a member of a 'Christian' group, or can quote scripture.

Many millions of people claim to be Christians, very few actually follow Christ

Mathew 7: 13-23  “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

Don't make assumptions about the condition of someone's soul.  Most of the people I meet everyday are people who claim to be Christians. I am sure that some are, and some are not.  Am I really too busy to find out for sure? To get to know them or seek them out?  How will I know them? I will know them by their fruits, and their testimony. 

2Timothy 1:8-12 "So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News. That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to himuntil the day of his return."

Christ followers have a testimony.  Lots of people can have good deeds, religious tradition, and behave politely in mixed company, but only Christians have a testimony.  You can tell when they speak, they light up, they tell you about God's mercy to them, how He has worked in their life, and their relationship with God.  They can tell you that they met God as a teen, or a child, or an adult.  They can tell you how God has challenged them to grow, through the good and the bad.  The most telling thing I have found about a testament is that it is filled, not just with victory and success, but with self realization through the purificaiton of the Spirit -aka trials and tribulations and how God is working through those times to heal them and to purify them.

Mistake #5 - Trying to discuss Biblical principals, beliefs, or morality, with people who are NOT Christ followers, lost people, or a lost and dying world.

Understandably you will want to share your FAITH with the lost, but your FAITH is about your relationship with God, not your traditions with your church, or your political affiliations, or abortion, homosexuality, the death penalty, gun control - I could go on forever.   The first 3 mistakes are rooted in belief that salvation, or a worthy life, come through good deeds, tradition and behavior. Mistake #5 is also rooted in those three things.  ALL LOST PEOPLE believe one, or more, of those three lies.  Discussing Biblical Principals with the lost is a waste of time, even with people who claim to be Christians.

  Matt 7:6 "Don't waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don't throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you."

 Matt 10:14-23  "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.  Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues.  On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say,  for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.  Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.  You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another."

The point is this - the Gospel is for the lost and we should be sharing it with them! Biblical study is for Christ followers because it takes the relationship to understand the inspired Word.
The Bible isn't something you quote to the lost to try to make them better people. Lost people can not stand under the Law. That bears repeating: 

Lost people can not stand under the Law

 The wages of sin is death - placing unbelievers under the law results in DEATH. They can not stand under it, they can not survive the burden, it alienates them from God. Colossians 1:21 "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior."
As Christ followers we should know this because we were there too!

The only way we can stand before GOD is because JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF stands in OUR rightful place, PAID our debt!  
Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

It is only by God's grace that I am saved.  I am not perfect, I did not earn it, I can not do good things to make up for the bad.  God has been gracious to me, that is the only way that I can stand before Him.  It is the relationship, which He engineered,  that sustains me, in that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me.  I love Him, because He first loved me.  Praise God.

Did you figure out which mistake I made?


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