I’ve had a couple of rough weeks. Yes, the normal annoyances. A bathroom with bad grout that should have been fixed a few years ago but has been held together with duct tape and superglue. I love my contractor but trying to get him to call me has been frustrating. The dryer is squealing loud enough to raise the dead. My ancient and creaky dog is having more and more difficulties getting in and out of the house. Fortunately, no accidents IN the house. For now. But what has really discouraged me is two people I care deeply about have walked away from the faith into faiths that make no sense to me at all. Allow that to be an explanation for some of the posts that are coming because writing about why I believe what I believe in comparison to the paths they have chosen helps me to remember why I believe what I believe.
God has been impressing me with a few things through this. One of these things is that the coming of Yeshua was a sea change in the way we relate to God. Have you ever heard the term ‘sea change’? I love it. Google defines it as “a profound or notable transformation”. And that’s what Yeshua was. A mind-blowing sea change. I’m still coming to terms with the immensity of this. A 180 degree change in direction doesn’t even come close to describing it and a 360 degree change only brings us back to where we were so that won’t do either. The other point God has been driving home is that sin is a problem but it is only the physical expression of the real problem. It’s the symptom to the sickness. Kind of like red spots and measles. You see the spots and you know that you have the measles. So what is sin the symptom of? Pride. Rebellion. The idolatry of making yourself greater than God and in a position to dictate to him. So let’s talk.
Who is God? “He is here: the One who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals His thoughts to man, the One who makes the dawn out of darkness and strides on the heights of the earth. [Ha-Shem], the God of Hosts, is His name.” Amos 4:13. Isn’t that an amazing verse? The Creator who lists among his accomplishments that he reveals his thoughts to men.
So he created everything AND as a bonus he reveals his thoughts to men. What do men do with this? “But they, like Adam, have violated the covenant; there they have betrayed Me.” Hosea 6:7 God sums mankind up succinctly in Genesis 8:21. This is after God has destroyed the world with a flood. The only ones left are Noah and his family. You know, the righteous ones that God saved. God says “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intent (strong inclination, desire) of man’s heart is wicked from his youth…” (Amplified Version) It is the heart that is the problem. His intent is evil. God is not focusing on man’s actions. He points to man’s heart. Wicked even from youth. All of them. All of us. Even the righteous ones. So what can we conclude? Remember, sin is the symptom of the sickness. And what does God say? Sin is the outworking of the wicked heart. It is a betrayal of God and it is imbedded in our very nature, even in the nature of the most righteous of us.
And the consequences of this rebellion as evidenced in its outworking in sin? “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12 Rebellion, betrayal and sin are punishable by death. Death is not the natural outcome of life; it is the natural outcome of rebellion and sin. Talking to someone who says they don’t have a problem with sin? Wait to see if they die. Young people don’t worry so much about death in our society and that’s mostly because they can expect to live a long life. The young when faced with death mourn. Watch them at a funeral. They know it’s not natural. Especially when it’s someone their own age. Talk to the old people and get a perspective on what happens as you age. Death stalks you as you get older. For those who say it’s a natural part of life, it’s not. “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11.
We see sin and we are tempted to call it the problem and it IS a problem but you cannot cure the measles by cutting off the spots. You have to remove the source, the virus itself, in order to no longer have the measles which cause the spots. We are taught to ask God to help us stop sinning. It’s not wrong to ask that but you’re asking him to remove the spots. We need to ask him, beg him, plead with him to change our nature. To change the nature that is twisted out of true. The plumb line in your soul that doesn’t hang straight. The ruler that is bent and crooked.
This is why Yeshua had to come. Nothing in God’s dealings with man up to that point was able to change our nature. Moses and Jeremiah plead with the people to circumcise their hearts to God. It’s a symbolic way to dedicate themselves from their innermost being to God, not just in the external displays of behavior. They speak in the present tense to the people. They say “Circumcise your heart.” The problem is the people never could and never did. But we see how this will have to work in Deuteronomy 30:6 when Moses says “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love Him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live.” Here Moses speaks in the future tense. He says “This WILL happen someday.” And the amazing thing about it is Moses says God will do it. Not the people. Not you. Not I. God will do it and if God says he will do it, you can take it to the bank. The result? You will live. Not die. Live.
And that’s our only hope. God will do it. God did it. Yeshua came and died for us. He can change our nature. You can take that to the bank. And now we can live if we follow him.
One of the persons I mentioned is now a Muslim. According to Islam, Allah has a serious problem with sin. The Koran flat out says Allah hates unbelievers and will punish them with everlasting fire for sin. There is no loving call to the sinners to come to faith; just an angry god full of threats. Become a Muslim and say “Oops, didn’t understand. Sorry!” and you’re forgiven. No penalty to be paid. No consequences involved. So how seriously does Allah hate sin? Not too seriously, I’d say.
The other one got into something called Orthodox Kemetic. I had to look that one up. This is a New Age revival (and reinterpretation) of the Ancient Egyptian religion. I’ve been dismissed as being ignorant, out of date in my information and ethnocentric. Right. I’m the one with the degree in Archaeology and was headed for a career in Egyptology. They follow a woman (yes, she has a Masters in Egyptian Philology [language] from a respected graduate school) who believes she was crowned Pharaoh in the Temple of Luxor by the Egyptian gods. But apparently to hedge her bets, she’s also high up in Haitian voodoo and is a Wiccan priestess. If she’s not sure who her god/gods is/are amongst these competing religious systems, how can her followers be sure of what she tells them about god(s)? Under the Egyptian religious system you hope for the best when you die. Your good deeds are balanced against your bad deeds and if your good deeds outweigh the bad, you go to paradise. Bad news though if your bad deeds outweigh the good. Your soul gets eaten by a supernatural cross between a crocodile, a hippopotamus and a lion. Ouch. Of course with all the liberties they have taken in this revival of the religion, they probably changed that part. It seems to be that fluffy I’m-all-right-you’re-all-right philosophy. That’s what happens when you have the authority to decide what does and does not constitute ultimate truth. Only one person communicates with these Egyptian deities and she’s the source of truth for them. And the king of Egypt, to boot.
These two differing religious systems typify the problems with all the systems of religion set against the God of the Bible. I’m going to tell you why in future posts and I expect you to check me out. I’m not the king of Egypt and God does not speak only to me. He reveals his thoughts to all of us through his Word and we are responsible to listen. We are also responsible to talk to each other about what he says. We’re responsible to talk to those who are far away from him. Why? “Tell them: As I live”—the declaration of the Lord God—“I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live. Repent, repent of your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel?” Ezekiel 33:11
I am worried about these two people. They claimed to be believers before this happened. What was their relationship to God truly? I don’t know. They have walked away from me and I am no longer a part of their lives. Yet they are never out of God’s mind and they are always in his sight and his heart. For my part, I am reminded of the words of John Bunyan. “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.’ Pray for them.