Saturday, October 17, 2009
Should We Examine Ourselves?
Besides the "fake it till you make it" popular practice in the church (that God will sanction us if we just pretend long enough; detailed in a previous posting) there is another modern application of hypocrisy among us that is much more serious. It is the idea that mere words can suffice for salvation when reality is not present. For instance, I can claim that I am saved, say a prayer, and then I am, you see, whether God agrees or not. The idea here is that it is what comes out of human lips that matters. Thus, we can claim salvation and live like the devil, etc. and have a "ticket to heaven".
To haul this practice into the light is to touch a sacred shibboleth of modern evangelical Christianity. Yet the Scripture is clear that salvation is not merely a matter of words or self-claims. In fact, this is specifically warned against.
2 Cor 13:5 (KJV) Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves...
1 Cor 11:31 (KJV) For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
2 Cor 13:5 (Wey) Test yourselves to discover whether you are true believers: put your own selves under examination.
2 Cor 13:5 (NRS) Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test!
Consider what would happen if people took the Holy Spirit seriously and started truly testing themselves, to see if they were in the faith. Why, we would put them into a "new members class" to teach them that human words and thoughts are more important than fruit in keeping with repentance (Mat 3:8), wouldn't we? We would have the deacons visit them and cajole them into the group-think hypocrisy: "Sure you are saved--you said a prayer, didn't you?" "Don't test yourself... that is doubt, brother!" "That is the devil talking! Just kid yourself that you are saved no matter what! Delude yourself into the kingdom. Yeah, God will really like that. It is 'faith'..."
Eph 5:6 (NIV) Let no one deceive you with empty words...
Mat 15:7-8 (NIV) "You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'"
1 Tim 1:6 (NIV) Some people have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk...
Luke 6:43-44 (NIV) "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit... Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?"
"Why? Because I was told by the church that this was the way to be 'saved'! They did not guide me to the reality of 'Christ in me', but rather to mere words and playacting. I was coached into hypocrisy as the way to Christian faith!"
1 Tim 1:6 (Wey) Some have drifted away, and have wandered into empty words.
2 Tim 3:5 (GLT) ... having a form of godliness, but denying the power of it; turn away from these.
Mat 18:6-7 (NIV) "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!"
Which are we more inclined to be zealous for, the "form of things", or the reality?
If a brother or sister comes to us--having "tested themselves" as the Holy Spirit encourages (commands?), will we coat things over? Will we lead them to appropriate lamentation, weeping, and repentance, or will we encourage them into further hypocritical delusion? For let us be honest here: it will be easier to just give them a little homily and set them back to their faking, will it not? If we attempt to help them towards true repentance and true salvation, we risk spitting right into the devil's eye. We might even be kicked out of our church by "those claiming to be serving God" for breaking the collusion of hypocrisy that has become the status quo among us. Really, now, what would you do tomorrow if someone came to you who doubts his or her salvation? Will it be "mere words" or real spiritual birth we are most interested in?
The answer to this question has a lot to do with our own spiritual reality. For if we are serving ourselves, we will surely coat the thing over... But if we are serving God, then we will not try to please men--even ourselves.
And real birth--spiritual or physical--can be a messy affair... It is much easier to play with dolls.
Gal 1:10 (GLT) Am I now seeking human approval, or God's approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
2 Cor 10:7 (NIV) You are looking only on the surface of things...
Do we care, do we weep, over the countless souls being led to hell by the church via the "new gospel" of playacting as a means to salvation?
A prophet once made this pithy comment...
Mat 3:7 (NIV) ..."Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"
In this case--salvation by self-claim and "mere words" and human encouragement against all Scripture and reality and common sense--the one who warned us was Jesus Himself:
Mat 7:21 (NRS) "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."
Is there any ambiguity in this? Yet we think we can make "professions" that impress God and then go off and live our lives as if Jesus--the perfect expression of the Father--was kidding or wrong.
Titus 1:16 (NRS) They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
If our deeds do not match our words, then woe unto us. Better for us to say the wrong thing and later change our minds and do the right thing... than to be flippant in our religious "commitment" with words--and then NOT do what we said we would...
Mat 21:28-31 (NIV) "What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?" "The first," they answered. Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you."
If we are truly born of God, then we will produce real fruit. Not fake fruit. The trouble with fake fruit is that while it can look just like the real thing on the outside--it cannot reproduce itself. It cannot "bear after its own kind". It is artificial and hollow and lifeless. Regardless of how much energy a church puts into this sort of playacting and "claims" of making converts of the same sort, it is all a sham. Underneath are "dead men's bones" and "every sort of impurity" (Mat 23:27).
Of course, all this is academic, yes? The hypocrites died off as a breed in Jesus' time, right? What, us, hypocrites?
Mat 23:13 (NRS) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them."
Mat 23:15 (NIV) "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are."
We need to take Jesus' warning seriously: "Beware of the yeast..." Just what are we encouraging in others? He requires "truth in the inner parts" and worshippers who will "worship in spirit and in truth". He hates faking and phoniness and guile--apparently worse than any other sin!
Luke 16:15 (NIV) [Jesus] said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight."
Let us not trifle with this, for many among us are positively encouraging the sin of superficial hypocrisy among the brethren.
Let us examine ourselves--our teachings, our example, our emphasis--lest we come under the most severe of judgments.
Gal 6:7 (NRS) Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.
Luke 3:9 (NIV) "The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."
2 Pet 1:10a (NAS) Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you.