Saturday, November 26, 2011

How Do You Know that You Know God

I was listening to some recent stats on the percentage of people in America who claim to be Christian. The number was staggering. 82% of Americans claim to be Christian! I must say, that is astounding. Perhaps Jesus was prophesying about America in Matt. 7:21 when He said, "Not everyone that says to Me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven." Really America? Over 8 out of 10 people claim to be Christian. Yet, at the same time we have more sexual promiscuity, more corruption, more materialism, more hedonism, more homosexuality, more divorce, lower views of Scripture, lower views of sin, lower views of hell, and higher views of ourselves than at any point in our history. In addition to this, we are killing unborn babies at an alarming rate, all the while saying we love Jesus! Homosexuals are bent on destroying the institution of marriage, not to mention the church and religious freedom along with it and we cower in fear and go along with it as if God were asleep. We marry people of the same sex, ordain people who have made the homosexual choice, and allow them to become members in the church. Yet, all these people claim to know God. They claim they have a viable relationship with the eternal Son of the living God, Jesus Christ. Does a claim to be something make it so? Are there norms that transcend mankind to which we can look that will help us know when a claim to knowledge is true or false? Do we have an obligation to confront these issues or does God allow us to bury our head in the sand? Can we do as we please?

If it is true that many people will falsely claim to know Christ, does the church bear any responsibility to identify them? Jesus Himself said many people will come to Him at the judgment and claim to have known Him and they will even point to their works as evidence of that knowledge. Yet, despite the existence of works, Jesus will soundly reject their claim to knowledge of Him as patently false. They will be ushered into certain judgment and condemnation. Do you know Jesus? How do you know that you know Jesus? Is your knowledge based on what your parents told you when you were a child? Have you listened to some pastor who doesn't even know the gospel convince you that all you have to do is say a prayer and go to church and this is how you know and love God? This is not the gospel! It is a lie from the very dungeon of Hades! It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb. 10:31) God will not be mocked! God is not the tender old grandpa in heaven whose eyes you can pull the wool over. He knows the wickedness that lies in the center of our heart. No, He does not sympathize with our wicked disobedience! He commands you to repent of it. He does not "understand" you, that you are more attracted to the same sex than the opposite sex and therefore He "feels" your conflict. He demands you submit to His will now, today, immediately, or suffer His wrath. You are already under His divine wrath as you walk in your sin and rebellion every day. We convince ourselves that God is like us! He understands our wicked rebellion as mere imperfections! Sin is no longer a wicked vice that we freely choose to endulge. It is an accident. It is a mistake, kind of like misspelling a word. Opps, I got it wrong. God understands. Such a frippery view of sin is indeed sinful itself. Do we really know God? How can we know that we know God? It isn't by some internal witness alone! Nor is it by some emotion floating around in our hearts and minds. Some people think they know God because they have a moral standard and hate it when particulars of those standards are violated. Others think they know God because they punish themselves for their own sin as if that could ever win them favor with God. They think God sees how much they hate themselves for sinning by the punishment they inflict upon themselves and therefore God knows they must love Him. Such thinking is veiled self-righteousness.

Jesus said that those who "do the will of my Father in heaven" will enter heaven. The one who knows God loves God. And he who loves God keeps His commandments. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15) But we don't do this! We want to embrace abortion and love Jesus even though He forbids it and in most cases the activity that created the problem to begin with, unlawful sexual intercourse. We embrace homosexuality and claim to love Jesus. We embrace divorce right along with the rest of the culture and claim to love Jesus! I heard about one woman who was going to leave her husband without biblical cause and the church initially was able to convince her otherwise. A year later, she left him anyhow. In leaving him she said, "Last year I was bibled out of it. That isn't happening this time." In other words, her church used God's word to keep the marriage in tact. But now, the Bible isn't enough to get her to honor her covenant of marriage. And she claims to "love" Jesus. Jesus said not so! Jesus thinks such people are wicked hypocrites when they call Him Lord and do not do what He commands! (Luke 6:46) Jesus says those that are in covenant relationship with Him as Lord do as He commands. It has nothing whatever to do with human emotion. People reading this post from other cultures may find my remarks somewhat confusing. In western culture, especially in America, Christians think they love God because they have warm and soft emotions about Him. That is their measure of whether or not they love God. How they live is completely incidental to their love for God. But this is not the biblical picture at all.

The text that teaches us how we can know if we have come to know God most clearly, in my opinion is 1 John 2:3-4, "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, I have come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in Him." It really is that simple. Anyone who says they know God while living a life that exemplifies commandment breaking is a liar. The homosexual who says I love God and practices the homosexual lifestyle is a liar. The person who says they love God all the while living with someone or practicing an on-going life of sexual immorality is a liar. The one who says He loves God and refuses to repent of His lying, stealing, adultery, drunkeness, etc. is a liar. I am not saying Christians never fall into these sins! I am also not saying that we should kick those who do in the head. If that were true, we would all require a swift kick in the head. If two people are dating and having trouble abstaining from sexual relations, Scripture has a clear answer for them: repent by getting married. Paul says in 1 Cor. 7:9 that if two people cannot control themselves in that situation, they should marry. But there are Christians who do not struggle with this at all. They have sex regularly, just like a married couple would, and think nothing of it. That struggle does not at all cause them to move to marriage in genuine repentance of such behavior. They think God understands this behavior. After all, they love one another. And these people think they love Jesus! There is a difference between Christians who struggle with sin and Christians who simply excuse it. Sex is a very powerful urge that is not easy to control. It can get out of hand before you realize it. Marriage is the only biblical answer for such a situation. On the other hand, there are sins that have no passionate component whatever. The sin of divorce is one such sin. Christian husbands and wives claim to love Christ and claim to understand the covenantal nature of marriage engage in divorce for ungodly reasons all the time. They make conscious decisions to reject the covenant, to reject the clear teachings of Scripture and in some instances, they reject the admonition and discipline of their church, preferring to follow their own desires as opposed to desiring what is right in the sight of God. They do this all the while claiming to love and know God. They do not! If they love God, they would repent of such sin and reconcile with the spouse God covenanted them to have. What is regrettable in many of those circumstances is that most churches do nothing to help these people avoid this sin. In fact, in some cases, the friends (Christian in word only) of these people support their wicked actions of sin and rebellion. In additon, the pastors and elders do very little. What can be said about friends who support illicit divorce all the while claiming to love and know Jesus? What can be said about a church that sits by and does very little to intervene? All the while claiming to be a church of Jesus? What can be said about a pastor and elders who witness such atrocities in the Christian community? All the while claiming to be called by God to promote and defend His Word! If a pastor can't lose a few congregants over the truth, how are we to believe He would die for the truth? All the while claiming to know and love Jesus!

Jesus said that people who take up a lifestyle of practicing lawlessness will experience eternal judgment. They will not enter the kingdom of God. He said that you should not call Him Lord unless you are doing the things He said. John said that those who claim to know God while living a life of commandment breaking are liars. They do not know God and they certainly do not love Him.

What is then is the duty of the church in such cases? First, it is to lovingly correct. Matt. 18:15-18 could not be more clear on this account. They church has a duty to go to anyone in sin and lovingly confront and correct them. It is not left to the church not to do this. She has no right to refuse this service. Christ commands it! If the person listens, the brother or sister has been won. If repeated attempts to turn the individual from the sin fails to produce results, the church must act to excommunicate the individual, treating them like she would any other unbeliever, loving them, but making it obvious that the Christian community rejects the individual's claims to Christ as invalid. The church is responsible to love individuals and seek their spiritual growth and well-being. In addition to this however, the church is also responsible to keep sin out of the body. She must not permit leaven to exist in her midst. Leaven speads to others. If the sin of promiscuity, homosexuality, lying, divorce, fornication, etc. are permitted to exercise free hand in the community, it won't be long before the church is filled with unrgenerate men and women. Such a condition is not actually a church. But this is precisely the condition of most churches in western culture and certainly in America. We allow celebrities to divorce their husbands, key members' homosexual children to participate, unlawful sexual promiscuity among the youth, malicious gossip among the old, along with hate, division and a multitude of other sin to prevail without lifting so much as a finger to address it.

Paul said that by declaring the full counsel of God, the blood of all men was cleansed from his hands. Pastors, those of you who turn a deaf ear to the existence of these conditions in your churches, all the while doing absolutely nothing to put them out or change them, the converse is true: the blood of these people is on your hands. If you are an elder and you do not understand this or you disagree, this is a sure indication you should not be an elder. Do yourself a favor, run, don't walk to church and resign immediately. The judgment for men who tolerate this kind of nonsense is going to be far heavier than it is for the rest of those who are not in leadership roles.

2 comments:

  1. Ed,
    That was a blistering rebuke to the visible church.
    When will we as a church repent? When individually we repent and submit to our Lord.
    Your blog was very well said.
    Kevin

    ReplyDelete

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