Faith musings from the seat of a forklift.
It goes without saying that lying is a bad thing. In the shipping industry, lying can be the difference between getting your freight to its intended destination, and a heavy handed fine by the Transportation Safety Administration. That is to say, it really just shouldn’t be done. Unfortunately, lying is far more common place than it should be. This includes the church.
The church lies?
Yes, but perhaps not as some would believe. While I’m at it, let me mention it isn’t really the church so much as the sinful people in the church.
There are some rather popular beliefs going around, some have been around for a few decades, others are more recent, that are not supported by scripture. The use of scripture to justify these beliefs is sketchy at best, and diabolic at worst. In truth, I’ve written upon these in the past, and am repeating myself to some great degree. However, it is my belief that it is best to expose false teachings within the church, and help the church to be the witness to Christ Jesus and his resurrection that we are supposed to be. To that end, here are those beliefs and why they are wrong. Suffice to say, they are all lies.
1. You must give your heart to Jesus, or make a decision for Christ.
This is one of the worst statements I have ever heard. In truth, I am quite aware of the passages of scripture used to justify this line of thinking. They are Joshua 24:15 and Revelation 3:20. Let me start by saying that these two verses are not even remotely related. Neither of them is about salvation, and only one of them is about repentance. Let’s look at them individually.
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
In the Lutheran church, we say that context is key. To that end, let us consider who these words were spoken to. This is called knowing your audience, and this will also apply to the passage from Revelation. Who was Joshua speaking to? Let me assure you that he wasn’t speaking to non-believing, unsaved heathens. In fact, if you go back to the very first verse of Joshua 24, you plainly see that Joshua is talking to the people of Israel. He gives them the word of the Lord, reminding them of their history, including how God had led them up out of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan. Many of those whom Joshua was speaking to had been children at the time of the Exodus, and would well remember the events of that time.
After he reminds the Israelites of their history, and God’s hand at work on their behalf, he then challenges them. His challenge is to put aside those “gods” that their ancestors served in Egypt and beyond the Jordan. When they declared that they would serve God, he spoke against them, saying “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good”. The people then responded with “No, but we will serve the Lord.” Thus binding themselves to God’s command, as they had been witnesses to God’ had at work during the Exodus. Not once was salvation even mentioned. Forgiveness? Yes. Salvation? Nope.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
It is sad that so few really read their Bibles. If they did, such foolishness as “asking Jesus into your heart” wouldn’t be a thing in the church. The fact of the matter is that the heart is not a consideration here. Many are those who’ve tried to argue with me, saying that the “door” spoken of is the door to the heart. For whatever reason, they have become convinced that the heart is implied. How thoroughly wrong they are.
How dare you speak like that?
Pretty easily. In fact, it is easier to believe that Joshua 24:15 is about salvation, than it is to believe that this has anything to do with asking Jesus into you heart. No, Joshua 24:15 isn’t about salvation, nor is this verse about asking Jesus into your heart. Let us try again, and we can do so by looking at whom this was written to. Context is key, and it bodes well to know your audience.
And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
While we can nit-pick the idea of the angel, it is should go without saying who the audience of this section is. Specifically, it was written to a church, and as it is directly related to what is written in the twentieth verse, it is very telling. The church of Laodicea had some serious issues. It would seem that wealth and prosperity had become quite common for them, and yet they were spiritually bankrupt. Scripture seems to indicate, and history tends to agree, they had become quite complacent in their faith. In some respects, it was the Joel Osteen church of the Bible.
The catch to this is that because they’d become complacent, and thus, they had strayed from the teachings of Christ Jesus. Yep, very much like Joel Osteen. To that end, the point of Revelation 3:20 was about Christ and his teachings in the church, not asking Jesus into our hearts. Like I’ve already stated, there is nothing in that verse, implicit or explicit, that deals with the heart, not even remotely.
I can’t help but think of the Prayer of Jabez when I consider this section of scripture. Indeed, I wonder if modern Christianity isn’t becoming too materialistic.
2. The Sinner’s Prayer.
I’m just going to say it, magic has no place in the Christian church. Not now, not ever. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” is nothing less than a magic spell. I have covered this in more detail in previous posts, but I will say right now that there is not a single bit of scripture that supports this concept. Sadly, this so-called prayer gets tied directly into the first issue. Indeed, one of the lines from that prayer is “please come into my heart”. As I have already belabored, there is no scriptural support for asking Jesus into your heart. Indeed, I have a book of Bible Teachings by Joseph Stump, copyright 1917, and these things are not found in it.
Is there anything that is close to the Sinner’s Prayer? Yes, but not exactly. The closest we get is from Luke 18:13, where it reads “‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” However, that is not the full verse, and the context is not about salvation, only forgiveness. However, to fully understand this, you must go back to Luke 18:9. Again, context is key. Not only that but Christ Jesus was speaking a parable to his disciples, and explaining to them forgiveness.
Simple truth, the Sinner’s Prayer isn’t scripture. In fact, it is actually a violation of the Second Commandment. Here is how that is explained in the Small Catechism:
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.
What does this mean?–Answer.
We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.
The Sinner’s Prayer is a form of witchcraft, in which the person saying it is attempting to strong arm God into letting them into paradise. However, Salvation is a gift of God, and it is not something we can wrest from God or otherwise take credit for. As it says in Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”. To that end, even the faith by which we believe is a gift from God, this means that we can’t say that prayer, nor can we ask Jesus into our heart. Like I said, this whole concept of the Sinner’s Prayer is tied to the first issue.
3. Baptism is something that we do by the command of Christ as an outward sign of an inward change.
If I had a dime for everything I heard that, I’d have more money than Elon Musk. This tired refrain has absolutely no basis in scripture at all. There is nothing even remotely close to this. Yes, it is true that Christ Jesus, at his ascension, said “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is recorded in Matthew 28:19~20. It is also true that Peter said in Acts 2:38~39 “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
However, let us stop for a moment. What did it say in verse 39 of Acts chapter 2?
For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.
Notice how it says “for your and for your children”. What an odd turn of phrase. Please note, this was spoke by the same Peter who later wrote in 1 Peter 3:21, when comparing baptism to Noah’s flood, ” Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.
Baptism is not about what we do. It is about what God is doing. Through baptism, God is saving us. That is also why Peter said that the promise if for our children (see next issue), and he even commanded the baptism of the whole house of Cornelius (Acts 10:48). There can be no doubt that baptism is about salvation, but it is not about an outward sign of an inward change, that is just narcissistic.
4. Age of Accountability.
This one I can keep brief. It doesn’t exist. There is nothing in scripture that even comes remotely close to this. As with baptism, if I had a dime for every time I’d heard this, I’d be wealthier than Bill Gates (I really need to reconsider what I listen to). There is nothing in scripture that even remotely suggests that such a concept exists. In fact, the very opposite is quite true. In Psalm 51, which is quite popular (from verse ten onward) with Christians, we read “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This was written by David, King of Israel when he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Note, he is not saying that his mother committed adultery when he was conceived. No. He is saying he was born sinful. Scripture is completely devoid of this doctrine of “age of accountability”, as well as its sibling, the elusive “isle of righteousness” that some claim is within us. You will never find either of these in scripture, nor even in the Apocrypha. You can look all you want, it just isn’t there.
5. The “Lord’s Prayer” isn’t in the Bible.
Let me just start by saying very plainly that this the worst lie ever. This lie is an outright denial of scripture. I have only heard this one twice, but I have heard it is said in many non-Lutheran/Catholic churches. I can not say what the purpose of this is. To my way of thinking, it is rather demonic to deny what scripture really says, and let me assure you that the Lord’s Prayer is in the Bible. It can be found in Matthew 6 and Luke 2. The only thing I might make note of is that Luke’s Gospel truncates it, but there could be any number of reasons for this. Regardless, it is there, and for anyone to say otherwise is a liar.
6. It is just a memorial.
The Lord’s Supper is so holy, we ought to give it full reverence. Unfortunately, it is often treated as a mere symbol. However, there is nothing symbolic about it. The fact that it is covered extensively by scripture is without dispute. We can easily start with John 6:51~53. Christ Jesus states that if we do not eat of the body and drink of the blood of the Son of Man, we have no life in us. Nor can we ignore Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, or 1 Corinthians 11.
I will not quote all those passages here. Rather, I will summarize them. In short, Christ Jesus took the bread, broke it, gave thanks, and then gave it to his disciples saying “take and eat, this is my body, broken for you”, and in the same manner, he took the cup, blessed it, gave thanks, and gave it to his disciples saying “take and drink, this cup is the new covenant in my blood, for the forgiveness of sins”. There can be no mistake. There is no symbolic language here. Christ Jesus never said it was a symbol, or other represents. He said the bread was his body, and the wine was his blood. We could haggle over what does “is” mean, but it would be an effort in futility. The fact that concrete, objective language is used in these passages (which I merely summarized, and I actually encourage the reader to look them up for themselves, not to merely take my word for it) leaves little doubt. Either it is or Christ Jesus lied, and that is unthinkable.
These six represent the worst lies found in the modern church. Not a one of them has any foundation in scripture. They are lies, pure and simple. Certainly there are doctrines of contention, such as the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, or Purgatory, just to name a couple. Yes, these doctrines are contentious, but there is better support for these than for the six lies already covered in this post.
Lies can destroy you, they can destroy your reputation, or even your church. Sadly, too many churches preach these lies as truth, often in ignorance. It matters not to some if you speak out against them, you will either be ignored, or called a heretic. I did not discuss the rapture in this post, as that is more of a doctrine of contention, yet I have been told that if I don’t believe in it, I am not a Christian. I can’t help but wonder how my refusal to not believe in something that I might not even live to see, and I believe scripture doesn’t actually support, affects my faith in Christ Jesus, who died upon the cross for the sins of all, and then rose from the grave, thus taking away the power of death, and granting all who follow him, everlasting life. Doesn’t matter. Not essential for salvation. However, lies can affect salvation. Even worse, when you are aware that it is a lie and continue to say it anyway.
Note, also, that I didn’t discuss confession and forgiveness. While there are some churches that argue that a pastor can’t forgive sins, scripture does indicate otherwise, but that is, again, more of an issue of contention than a lie. The contention being that of who can forgive sins. That might be a post for another time.
Lying on a shipping form will eventually get you into trouble with the Transportation Safety Administration. Lying about God’s word will have worse repercussions, including the possibility of an eternity in hell due to a lack of repentance.
My advice. If your church affirms the six lies I have written upon as being true, then you really need to get out of there. You are not going to be able to reform your church. Rather, find a church that affirms what scripture really says about these things. Don’t allow yourself to be deceived by smooth talk about personal relationship with Christ or blessings of abundance. Those aren’t in scripture either. Rather, look carefully at scripture, and what the church teaches. If you can not find out, or your questions are blocked or otherwise sidestepped, run. That is not a church, and you only do yourself harm by being there.