Sunday, June 8, 2008

Is it well with my soul?

Is it well with my soul? As professing Christians we’d like to think so, and certainly the false religionists would like to think so as well. The hearts of sinful men are hopelessly and incurably religious so much so that even when men think themselves to be irreligious they are still found to hold to superstitions and vain imaginings of a religious nature deep within their heart of hearts. Sinful man is also a master of self deception. This self deception causes men to hold to various forms of the one false religion of human merit and achievement which stands over and against the one true and pure religion of God’s merit and achievement in Christ which is commonly known as Biblical Christianity.

Self deception is a frightening and spiritually fatal delusion and we can see from scripture that humans are found to be under its deadly sway both individually and corporately. In Matthew 7:21-23 we find the terrifying passage wherein the Lord is rebuking a group of humans who proclaim Him as Lord, but whom He denies having ever known. Clearly the Risen Savior’s omniscience isn’t in question here so it must be understood that He is not claiming to not know who these people are, rather He’s proclaiming that He never knew them in a personal, saving covenantal relationship as their Kinsman Redeemer. What are these lost souls guilty of? What has brought eternal condemnation upon them? In its context the passage tells us that they are guilty lawbreakers; in fact they are condemned as being lawless. “But”, the professing Christian might argue, “Christians are no longer under the law, we are set free of the guilt of the law in Christ Jesus.” This is true, but this truth only applies if the person claiming Christ is an actual true, regenerate, invisible church professing Christian as opposed to a false, unregenerate, worldly, carnal, convenient, cultural, visible church professing “Christian”. The former group is obedient to the commands of Christ and the latter group is disobedient. The difference herein is literally the difference between daylight and dark and inspired scripture teaches this stark and profound truth over and over again (Luke 6:46).

Corporate self deception is just as pernicious and deadly, perhaps even more so, than individual self deception. Unregenerate sinful mankind is in a constant state of fear and denial and he has discovered that “group think” often eases the guilty, nagging conscience that his Creator placed within him which ever wags an accusing finger in his face declaring: GUILTY! GUILTY!! GUILTY!!! False religion can indeed offer temporary solace, soothing the guilty conscience of sinful man. All the various streams of the one false religion offer the same empty promises to their deceived adherents – do this or that; follow this teaching or the other; keep the rules; be “moral” and “kind”; abstain from “evil” and do “good” that you might earn favor and enter into paradise as your reward. This is, as previously mentioned, the foundational premise of every form of the one false religion of human merit and achievement. It says, in effect, you can be good enough to merit rewards in the afterlife. And isn’t it interesting that even the false religions admit the afterlife; the Creator of man has stamped eternity in man’s heart and try as he may he simply can’t escape it! Of course Christians have few qualms about the deception running rampant outside the professing church, but inside the church? Surely not! Yet the One True and Living God tells us in His Holy Word that even so-called Christian churches that claim His name can be fraught with error and filled with self deception. In Revelation 3:1 we find that Sardis is DEAD and a little further along in Revelation 3:17 we discover that Laodicea, while thinking herself to be high and lifted up was in God’s eyes wretched, miserable, blind, poor and naked! These are frightening examples of corporate self deception run amok!

So what is the Christian to do? If he can’t trust himself knowing the heart is desperately wicked above all things, and he can’t trust in church leadership since he might find himself in Sardis or Laodicea where can he turn? The simple and straightforward answer is the eminently objective and forthright Word of God, the Holy Bible in fervent prayer and all humility.

Many people read books but The Holy Bible is the only book in the world that reads you.

Many people mark their books but The Holy Bible is the only book that marks you.

True Bible believing Christians are to welcome God’s Word and be quick both to HEAR and to DO His word by faith. In fact true Bible believing Christians not only HEAR God’s Word, they RECEIVE it with all joy! True Bible believing Christians RECEIVE God’s Word by faith and they DO God’s Word by faith and the doing is the evidence of the receiving (James 1:22; John 14:23-24; John 15:14; 1 John 2:3-4). According to the Holy Bible we know that we’ve come to know Jesus Christ IF we keep His commandments! By this we can infer that if we profess to know Him and don’t keep His commandments then we make Him out to be a LIAR! This is the gross sin and damnable error of the aforementioned group we found in Matt. 7:21-23; they made Jesus Christ out to be a liar by practicing lawlessness which is against His commandment! This is no light matter. This is a matter of the utmost importance. This is a subject for deep, personal examination in the light of inspired scripture (2 Cor. 13:5).

The true, regenerate, born-again Christian will demonstrate – as a pattern of life – a radical Christ centered attitude that will reject this fallen world’s system with just as much zeal as it pursues personal holiness and purity. The true, regenerate, born-again Christian will exhibit an attitude of humble obedience to the Lord and the evidence of this humility will invariably be manifest in the DOING of His Word. In fact it can be argued from scripture that failure to DO the Word is evidence of not having RECEIVED the Word.

Let me interject something right here and now; I AM NOT ADVOCATING NOR HAVE I EVER ADVOCATED SALVATION BY WORKS! Salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and is the unmerited gift of God alone lest any man should boast. Salvation is of the Lord and Him alone. He alone seeks and saves undeserving and wretched sinners or else no one would be saved at all! The works I’m describing herein are the evidence and fruit of salvation; bearing fruit is the evidence of saving faith and it should never be thought of the other way around.

But what of the law? If Christians aren’t under the law, then why so much banter about the law, and lawlessness, and all that other stuff? What’s really going on with all these "obedience to commandments" passages and references to the law? The truth is that according to the Lord Jesus Christ not one jot nor tittle – literally the smallest pen stroke – of the law will by any means ever pass away. In fact the Lord claims that it would be easier for the world to pass away than for any portion of the Word of God to pass away. God’s Word is eternal, immutable and perfect. Everything He has declared will stand the test of eternity. God Himself created time and is outside time and stands uniquely, sovereignly, and preeminently over all things. His Word will by no means ever fail and His every utterance is an absolutely righteous and holy decree that will echo authoritatively throughout all eternity!

God’s Word speaks with an absolute authority to which all men are accountable. In the Bible the law of God is described as being “perfect”. True regenerate born again Christians are advised to diligently inspect the perfect law that we might, by God’s power alone, be conformed unto His perfect law which is for true believers the law of the liberty of Christ. In fact liberty in Christ is the perfect law (John 8:31-32) and in it is freedom from sin (John 8:34-36). He who is not found to be abiding in the Son is found to be enslaved to sin.

Friend, what is your estate today? The Holy Bible teaches us that it is possible to be self deceived about our true spiritual condition. Furthermore the Bible teaches us that it is possible for entire churches to be self deceived about the corporate spiritual health of the congregation, deacons, elders and even the pastor. Do you and your church manifest the change of heart that is evidence of a pure and undefiled religion, or is it a worthless religion of pagan idolatry? There are only two options since as we’ve demonstrated there are only really two religions. Which is your estate today? It’s so easy to underestimate the utter filthiness and wretchedness in our own lives and the gravity and seriousness of ALL of our sins and trespasses!

Are you separate from the world or are you friends with the world? Friendship with the world is enmity with God.

Do you by Christ’s power alone keep yourself unspotted from the fallen and perverse system of this sin sick and dying world or do you easily fit in?

Are you diligently on guard against the wiles and corruptions of the enemy, or do you fall in with the crowd and “go with the flow”?

Friend ask yourself if your religion is pure and undefiled because if it is not then you are likely self deceived and your religion is corrupted, worthless, empty and utterly futile and in the Lord’s eyes you are guilty of idolatry. Is it well with your soul?

A prayer: Lord teach us to be humble before you. Break us, shape us, mold us, make us oh Lord into your very image. Help us oh God to cling to the blood soaked cross of Jesus Christ and to be diligent to earnestly study, prayerfully receive and joyfully do your Word. Make us sensitive to our sin oh God! Reveal our hidden and secret sins that we might flee from them in holy terror and be found secure and at peace in Your everlasting arms of love. Amen.