Friday, April 25, 2014

The Teaching of the Two Ways

I realize it may sound narrow minded, arrogant, and perhaps even bigoted to some, but when you survey the possibilities for how human beings carry on their lives, it really comes down to just two paths. There are two roads that human beings may be found travelling upon and it has been this way since the beginning of humanity.

“You shall also say to this people, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.[1] Judah was facing a severe threat in the form of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. They turned to Jeremiah the prophet and to the LORD for deliverance. They were given one and only one choice. They could remain in the city and die, which would be the way of death, or they could leave the city and live, which was the path of life. God's anger had been kindled against the sinful behavior of Judah. I am always amazed at how often God's dealings with man in the OT is portrayed by atheists, skeptics, and liberals, as some sort of a monster, and how the wicked acts of men are entirely ignored. It used to be that when we saw the wrath of God reach such levels that we would immediately recognize the level of wickedness that led to that circumstance. For some reason, sin is dismissed and God is now a monster. God issued one choice to Judah: get out of the city and live or remain in the city and die. There was no other alternative. Life or death would hinge on one choice: stay or leave.

Do not enter the path of the wicked And do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; Turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness And drink the wine of violence. But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble.[2] Solomon gives us two paths here: the path of the wicked and evil men and the path of the righteous. The contrast could not be more pronounced.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.[3] Here we see once again that God has placed before Israel life and death, the blessing and the curse. Essentially, God has placed Israel in the position of one choice equaling two very different paths. Which path will they take? Have you ever wondered why God has not given us more choices? Why not three or perhaps a hundred paths? Why does it have to be blessing or curse, life or death, my way or death?

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.[4] There are two ways according to the Psalmist: the wicked and the righteous. The Lords the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked will perish. These are sobering words indeed. The Psalmist informs us that there is the way of the righteous with whom God is intimate and then there is the way of the wicked, whom God will judge. We do not see a third option. We see only two paths. We see two roads. We see two different states and no more.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and bwealth.[5] Our Lord Himself also instructed us that we cannot serve two masters. There can be only one. We either love God or we hate God.

He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.[6] Jesus said he that is not with Me is ipso facto against Me. The one that does not gather with Jesus, scatters against Him. In other words, there is no neutral territory. You are not partly for Jesus and partly for modern progress. You are not for Jesus in one area and against Him in another. You are either for Him or against Him. And if you are against Him in any area, you are guilty of scattering against Him.

There are two ways, one of life and one of of death;3 but a great difference between the two ways. 2 The way of life, then, is this: First, thou shalt love God who made thee; second, thy neighbour as thyself;5 and all things whatsoever thou wouldst should not occur to thee, thou also to another do not do.[7] This is a section from the Didache, an early document in the Christian Church aimed at godly living.

Modern evangelicalism has found itself in a state of mass confusion. In fact, it is an incredibly arduous task just to find the biblical version of Christianity within her numerous communities these days. There are more versions of Christianity than one can possibly count within the evangelical camp, let alone in those camps that are outside evangelical thought. Indeed, the situation is so dreary that I am not sure it is even appropriate to refer to evangelical thought in the singular.

Gone is the ancient teaching of two ways. The notion of black and white has faded so much into the background that we even have fools for ministers coming out and encouraging Christians to serve the "grey god" as opposed to the traditional God of the back and white. Black and white seems oddly familiar, oddly similar to something else I recently read. Ah yes, I remember now: there are two ways and only two ways. There is the way of life and the way of death. There is the way of hope and the way of despair. There is the way of righteousness and the way of wickedness. Black and white we used to call it. Now, we have so-called preachers, pastors if you will, condemning concepts put forth and revealed by the very God they claim to serve. Indeed, their version of God turns out to be a different god altogether.

The radically anti-confessional bias within evangelicalism has not served to protect the movement from contaminated versions of Christianity, laden with heterodoxy and immoral behavior, as many hoped it would. To the contrary, it has served to open the floodgates to the very demonic programs it was hoping to keep out. In fact, many, if not most evangelicals are looking for new and exciting ways to reinvent Christianity from nearly the ground up. They are looking for those parts of Scripture they can keep as divine and those they can reclassify as human. They are examining if one has to believe that Jesus is God and if one even has to know Him to truly be Christian. They are even investigating ways they can redefine marriage and permit gay sex within the community so that they can continue being "respectable" in the eyes of the culture. It is an embarrassing, weak, and dishonorable goal that many evangelicals have, but it seems clear to me that the movement will continue toward its inevitable end of becoming completely irrelevant as a religious entity. Indeed, the movement is very close to achieving that state at this writing.

Christian communities, real Christian communities have no choice but to begin to return to the God of the black and white. This intellectual nod to the significance of Scripture while we ignore it in practice must come to an end. The quibbles over the bible being the Word of God, over Christ being divine, over eternal damnation, over the exclusive claims of Christ, over confession of sin and of Christ being required for eternal life, over human sexuality, and other basic Christian dogma must begin to end in excommunication of the unrepentant one. The confessions and creeds must be revived and the Church must insist that her members openly confess and embrace the basic tenets, the cardinal doctrines of historic Christian orthodoxy or else. Only then will we regain the integrity and credibility that reflects the image of Christ in our midst.

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Je 21:8.
[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Pr 4:14–19.
[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Dt 30:19.
[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ps 1:6.
[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 6:24.
[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 12:30.
[7] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., “The Lord’s Teaching through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations,” in Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies, vol. 7, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 377.

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