As I’ve mentioned in at least two of my other blogs (if not more) it is clear that Jesus reserves His harshest words for religious hypocrites.  Paul does something similar in Romans 2.  To make it perhaps more relevant I’ve changed a few of the words while attempting to retain the spirit of them.

But first of all have a good read of the whole chapter – there is nothing untrue about any of it.  None of it is abrogated by Jesus’ death on the cross even in the context of what later chapters say.  The key word is “continue”.  If you continue in sin and refuse to repent of it you will suffer punishment no matter what your experience has been or what you think you have believed in the past.

Starting in v. 17:

“You who call yourselves Born-Again Christians are relying on the Bible and you boast about your special relationship with Him.  You know what He wants; you know what is right because you have been taught by your pastors.  You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness.  You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God.  For you are certain that the Bible contains all the knowledge and truth that is required.

“Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself?  You tell others not to steal, but do you steal from the Government in tax evasion or your employer or the Church by not contributing to it’s programs or God by not bringing Him your tithes?  You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery every day with your eyes?  You condemn idolatry, but do you watch TV programs and DVDs glorifying pop bands and models and take selfies all the time?  You are so proud of knowing the law but you dishonour God by breaking it.  No wonder the man in the street blasphemes the name of God because of you.

“Being baptized by full immersion in water or in the Spirit has value only if you obey God.  But if you don’t obey God you are no better off than anyone else.  And if the man in the street obeys God’s law, won’t God declare them to be his own people? In fact the average joe who keeps God’s law will condemn you born again believers who have been baptized in the Spirit and possess a bible but don’t obey Him.

“For you are not a true disciple just because you were born of Christian parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of full immersion baptism.  No a true Christian is one whose heart is right with God.  And true baptism is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit.  And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”

And if you think I’ve gone too far just read on further into the New Testament – 1 Corinthians 13, Hebrews 6 & 10, 2 Peter, Jude.  There is no shortage of places where mere religion, no matter how holy sounding, is condemned as useless before God.

But if your heart condemns you, remember that God is greater than your heart and He knows all things.

Matters of the heart

Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within you.

Immediately before that in Luke 17 there is a passage about 10 lepers that are healed.  I protested to the Lord about some of this:

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

“What is with You here Lord?” I practically shouted out while driving my car to work the other day and listening to an audio bible on my smartphone.  “You told them to go and show themselves to the priests.  They were obeying You and yet You commend the one who doesn’t and reprimand the ones that do what You told them!”  On top of that they were obeying the law also.  What did they do wrong?Sheldon_Cooper

I don’t know if you watch the Big Bang Theory.  I don’t actually, just seen an episode or two (no really).  Well anyway in it there is this character called Sheldon.  He is very bright but has no cop on at all.  He can’t see why the most obvious things are wrong.  No matter what you say to him he will take it up literally and answer according to exactly what you say, truthfully every time (I watch it just to experience the cringes).  When I thought of it, my reaction to that passage was a lot like the way Sheldon might have reacted.

Any child with any sort of manners would think it obvious to give thanks to the one who made him well.  Why didn’t the others respond from their hearts instead of just religion?  Had their religion made them miss the obvious?



Being thankful for what Christianity has brought to our societies

I’m doing a course in biblical interpretation at the IBI and this came up during it.  I thought I’d post it here for others to see also.  All comments are welcome.

First this from a bible school textbook:

  • “We are under the new covenant and not under the old covenant thus we are not under the law as the terms of the covenant.
  • Also we are not Israelites preparing to live in the Promised Land with God dwelling in the tabernacle or temple; we are Christians with God living within each of us.
  • We do not approach God through the sacrifice of animals; we approach God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.” (Extract from “Grasping God’s Word” by Duvall & Hays Chap. 19.

We have access to the results of generations of the Lord’s people operating in the abundance of His grace that has been given to us as a result of the death of Christ and through their (and our) faith in Him has resulted in many blessings being released into the world.

As a result of the prayers of the saints and the gracious action of God in our societies here in the West (and elsewhere) we experience innumerable blessings:

  • good governmental systems;
  • justice systems based on a good moral basis[1];
  • freedom from slavery;
  • law enforcement;
  • business in an environment of trust[2];
  • access to hospitals, nursing, doctors;
  • education
  • a legacy of Christian inspired classical music, literature, art, etc. for nearly everyone in our societies if they want it.

Resulting from the Christian understanding of a rational God we have

  • technologies that our ancestors couldn’t even have conceived of impacting the military, medical, communications, computing, transport and other areas.
  • We enjoy a lifestyle of luxury arising from free trade and corporate business cooperation that even their kings in their wildest imaginations had no idea could be had;
  • We enjoy the exotic produce of the land and sea from all over the world delivered to our door if we want it[3]

our material comforts are in another league to theirs.

Our understanding of the world and its astonishing variety and our exposure to knowledge about it and the universe through personal travel, education and TV, means that – if we had eyes to see it – we have been exposed to many of the miracles of God.

Here in the west we know little or nothing about persecution to the point of death.

That is not to say that every advance in Western society is directly attributable to Christians but I believe they are directly attributable to a Christian worldview – or on a more fundamental level – to God working through the revelation of His truth in the Scriptures to provide the basis for everyone’s thinking in Christian societies.  You only have to learn about the development of a society where some other basis is at work (e.g. animism, buddhism, islam or hinduism) to see the difference.

Not that many of those have been left untouched by the Christian worldview since the 19th century.

[1] At least originally – nowadays they are inclined to move to precedence but there is still an underlying Christian basis to the constitutions of the world’s major democracies which in turn determines the principles of justice used (e.g. innocent until proven guilty).

[2] That mightn’t seem to be the case but you only have to experience the difference between operating in a society where there is much less or no trust to see how important this is and how much we take it for granted.  Transparency International clearly show the relationship between trust (i.e. lack of corruption) in society and its prosperity.

[3] Tesco deliver to your door for just €5 more in nearly every part of Ireland.

Why Egypt welcomed Islam – a bit of church history

Or this could be titled “One of the reasons I hate religion”.

Until the 4th Century AD it often cost your life to be a Christian.  There were 10 severe persecutions of Christians all over the Roman Empire starting with Nero in AD 60 and ending with Diocletian.  You thought twice before becoming a Christian since there was every chance you could lose your life, possessions and loved ones if you did.

However that all changed when Constantine embraced Christianity around AD 318.  The Edict of Milan of that year legalised Christian worship, later it became compulsory to be a Christian!  Now, not only was there no state organised persecution, it was actually of great benefit to your career in any government post to be a Christian.  Add to that the fact that there was no separation between church and state and you no longer had to think twice before declaring yourself a Christian and everyone was doing it.

Both Jesus and Paul had warned about “wolves in sheep’s clothing” rising up from among them and not sparing the flock (Matthew 7:15; Acts 20: 29,30).  And so it turned out.  The next several hundred years are characterised by huge amounts of religion and very little true Christian discipleship.  The head of the “Roman” empire moved himself to Constantinople and was effectively taken out of the way so that another head could arise –  the Pope in Rome.  However he wasn’t the only “head” at that time, there were four of them:  The Coptic Pope based in Alexandria, Egypt; the Syriac Patriarch based in Antioch in present day Turkey, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch based at Constantinople as well as the Roman Catholic Pope based in Rome.

Each of these four heads divided up the Christian world based on 4 views of the divinity and humanity of Christ.  I can’t tell you what the different views were, I suppose I should know, everyone at that time seemed to know which side they were on.

What has this to do with Egypt welcoming Islam?  Bear with me, we’ll get there.

At one of the Councils in the middle of the 5th century the then head of the Copts led an army of his followers into Constantinople in an attempt to force their particular view of the nature of Christ down the throats of the others who had gathered there and so gain power over the Roman Empire.  In response the emperor of the day backed the Patriarch of Constantinople with a fleet and an army and imposed their view on them.  All of Egypt – 20 million people – was ruled by Greek Orthodox governors with the Emperor’s fleet in the bay at Alexandria to help keep them in line.  (See the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbons Vol. 4, Chapter 47).

Do you think God was pleased with all this bickering?  Well it would seem not.  About the beginning of the 7th century, Mohammed and his followers began to gain power.  They became fanatical and inspired by a religious zeal backed by direct revelation from above their armies quickly gained the upper hand over the bickering and divided Christians.  It didn’t take them long to leave Arabia and conquer a vast swathe of land, all of present day Jordan, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon, Iraq and Iran and parts of present day Turkey.    In the process the Patriarch of Antioch and all his followers came under Muslim domination.  There is still a remnant left today of that church in the region but not much.

An army of 100,000 fanatical Muslims drew up near the border with Egypt and stopped.  There was no way they were going further with 20,000,000 Christians in front of them.  Or was there?  Cue, the welcome.  The Coptic Egyptians saw this impressive army and thought they could do a good job of overthrowing their unwelcome Greek Orthodox overlords.  So they invited them in (see Gibbon’s History referred to above chapter 51).

Constantinople finally fell to the Muslims in the mid 15th century.

And that, my friends, is how Egypt welcomed Islam.  A sorry reflection on organised religion and no sign of the love of Christ anywhere.  This was the beginning of the Dark Ages which were dark at least partly and probably mainly because of  a great apostasy from Christ’s teachings even though there was plenty of so called “Christian” religion.