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Bible Study – The New Testament and Evangelical Beliefs – Part 5

Today, I am going to take a little break from Matthew and jump to the book of James. It is only a few pages long but it is full of direction on how we must be “doers” and not just “hearers”. I think we need to take a good hard look at this little section of the Bible today.

Again, I hear many evangelicals say that actions don’t matter – all that matters is grace, and that if we confess “Jesus is our Savior” with our mouths, that is enough to get into heaven. Now let me make this very clear – we DO need to accept Jesus as our Savior. We DO need grace to get into heaven. By all means! But the point I am trying to make is that actions are also important, and that the teaching that we are to get into heaven by grace alone….without any work on our part….is incorrect.

In my search for answers, I found James to be quite enlightening. Many people focus on the gospels which are so important, but if you go further into the New Testament- into the letters of Paul, John, James, etc., it really clarifies things. This is where it clarified for me that actions do in fact matter.

“But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” James 1:22

It doesn’t get any clearer than that. But let’s keep going:

“But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who ACT – they will be blessed in their doing.” James 1:25

These passages clearly refute the beliefs of some evangelicals who say that our works on this earth don’t matter, and all that matters is grace. These passages also directly apply to those evangelical preachers who turn a blind eye to Trump’s immoral behavior. They are not “doing”…they are not standing up and saying that Trump’s behavior is unacceptable.

“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” James 2:10-11

Let’s think about that for a moment. Some of the evangelicals and even other Christians constantly speak out against abortion. But these same people are quiet about Trump. Some even give Trump a “mulligan” for his adulterous affair with Stormy Daniels. Now, read the above passage again. Clearly James is telling us that this kind of behavior is wrong. We have to call out ALL sin, not just the sin that “fits” into our little box. You can’t pick and choose.

Going on, James clearly states that faith without works is dead:

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” James 2:17

Then James makes a statement that should make everyone think long and hard. He states that even the demons believe that God is real….and they shudder:

“Even the demons believe – and shudder.” James 2:20

Then he goes on to reiterate that works are a part of accepting Jesus fully:

“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone…For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.” James 2:24-26

Now, as we read the next verse, let’s think about the evangelical preachers who are giving Trump a “mulligan” and who teach that we don’t have to act or to follow the Ten Commandments:

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” James 3:1

Kind of scary, huh?

Now think about the obvious hypocrisy that we are witnessing in some evangelicals today. Remember, they jumped all over Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, but now these same evangelicals are mysteriously quiet about Trump. Also, a recent poll showed that during the Clinton administration, the percentage of evangelicals that said that moral behavior of a President wasn’t important was in the 20s. Today, under Trump, that number is in the 70s. What happened? Is it hypocrisy, or do the rules change depending on whether you are a Republican or Democrat?

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of PARTIALITY or HYPOCRISY.” James 3:17

James is very clear. These teachings and behaviors of evangelicals who still support Trump are not in line with true Christianity. My hope is that they will read this, pray about it, and return to the only path that leads us to Jesus.

I implore preachers like Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, Andrew Wommack and others to rethink what they are teaching and to call out Trump on his immoral behavior.

I will close with this:

“Anyone then who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it commits sin.” James 4:17

Have a wonderful weekend! God bless!

 

 

 

 

Bible Study – The New Testament and Evangelical Beliefs – Part 1

I have decided to do an in-depth bible study of the New Testament regarding current Christian beliefs in the United States today. I think this is desperately needed these days. This series of blogs will probably end up in a book at some point. I really want to see exactly what Jesus taught us along with what the disciples said about following Christ.

The reason I decided to do this is because I am seeing a movement in this country, particularly among the evangelicals, where the belief is that you are saved purely through grace. I have heard evangelicals say many times in the past few years that “we are not saved through works”. They go on to say that it makes no difference what we do in this world. All that matters is that we believe that Jesus is our Savior. Some evangelicals, such as Andrew Wommack, go on to actually say that we are no longer under the law (the Ten Commandments). Today, as a result of these beliefs, we have a group of evangelical Christians that support Trump even though he has admitted that he never asks for forgiveness and leads a highly immoral life.

I have read the New Testament many times, and I believe these evangelicals are only partly right in their beliefs. Yes, we need grace to be able to enter into heaven because we are all sinners. That point is very clear in the Bible. But I think they have gone astray in their belief that our actions have no impact on are ability to get into heaven. From what I have read in the Bible, there are many, many passages that counter this belief. And I believe that this false belief system is why we are seeing the division and hypocrisy in the Christian faith today. I feel compelled to do this because I don’t want to see people led astray through these evangelical beliefs that aren’t quite correct. I am afraid that what I am seeing today will lead people to leave the church. So I want to delve deeply in what is actually said in the Bible as opposed to the erroneous teachings of some evangelical preachers. This is what I am going to focus on in this multi-part bible study.

Today, I am going to start in the gospel of Matthew.

Let’s look at Matthew 5:19.

“Therefore whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus is telling us here that He expects us to act…to work at being righteous. So let’s apply that to today. The idea that we don’t have to do anything – that actions don’t matter – is debunked in this passage. We have to work every single day to do what is right. Now, as far as the President who leads an immoral life, Jesus clearly says that if a person’s righteousness does not exceed that of the Pharisees, he/she will not enter heaven. Trump’s “righteousness” clearly does not exceed that of the Pharisees.

The next section in Matthew addresses the Ten Commandments. Instead of saying that we don’t need to follow them, Jesus actually made them stricter!! The following is just one example:

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’…but I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement.”Matthew 5: 21-22

So yes, we must follow the Ten Commandments. Andrew Wommack is clearly wrong in his teaching. In addition, as you can see, Jesus is once again calling us to action.

I encourage you to read Matthew 5 and pray about it. You will see how Jesus is telling us that we must follow the commandments with even stricter rules.

Moving on to Matthew 7 – Jesus never said that it would be easy to get into heaven as per the following passage:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are  many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

Think about this. If being saved was as easy as saying “Jesus is my Savior” without any requirement to follow the law or to do good works or to work toward righteousness, it would be fairly easy to get into heaven. If that was the case, the above passage, which Jesus said himself, would be a lie. But we know it’s not a lie because Jesus said it; therefore, the belief that actions don’t matter is the lie.

The final passage today is Matthew 7:21. As I read this passage for the millionth time, something hit me. Something I had never seen before.

“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.”

Read that again.

“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.”

In order for someone to call Jesus ‘Lord, Lord’, they have obviously said that they have accepted him as Lord and Savior. Jesus is saying here that not everyone that says “Jesus is my Savior” will enter the kingdom of heaven! Think about that. It is only those who do the will of the Father. He is saying that those who will enter heaven will not be the ones who say the words but the ones who ACT on those words. This is where I think some evangelicals are missing the mark. They SEE someone who SAYS the words, and even if his/her actions don’t match up with his/her words (for example, Donald Trump), they still believe that person is saved. This passage refutes that belief. Jesus is clearly saying that it comes down to actions, not words. Anyone can say “Jesus is my Savior” but the real test of what they truly believe will show in their actions or their lack of actions. Jesus has more to say about this which I will address in a future blog.

Have a great day. God bless!

 

 

 

 

 

What is True Christianity?

It’s funny how God gets His message across to those who believe in Him.

Yesterday, I wrote a long blog on a subject that has really been bothering me, but I didn’t publish it. It was way too long, and I went off on tangents, so the whole thing was messy. I decided to think about the subject a little bit more. I decided to write a week’s worth of short blogs.

The subject has to do with Christianity. You see, over the course of my life, I have run into so many people who focus mostly on John 3:16. They believe that all they have to do is to say “Jesus is My Savior” and they are guaranteed entrance into heaven. These people believe that it doesn’t matter what they do or how they act – they can sin all they want to, but it doesn’t matter. They say the words, “Jesus is My Savior” and they believe that is all that needs to be done.

I’ve thought for a long time how people like this came to believe this way. I thought that maybe the idea that they don’t have to follow the Ten Commandments was appealing because it means it would be easier to get into heaven. Well, yeah, if you can still get to heaven even if you continue to live in sin, wouldn’t you want to believe that – I mean that makes things a lot easier doesn’t it? Sad thing is, it just plain isn’t true, and Jesus himself said so. I will explain this in greater detail below.

Another concern that crossed my mind – are these people just listening to their preacher every Sunday? Do they ever just open up the Bible and read it themselves? Hmmm…well, that is a possibility.

Yesterday, part of what I wrote had to do with the suggestion for everyone to open up their Bible and read it. Especially read the entire New Testament. It puts John 3:16 into context.

Interestingly, my mom told me this morning that today (August 28) is the feast day of St. Augustine. This saint was born in 354 AD and had a rather wild childhood, and he even left Christianity for a while. One day, as he wept under a fig tree, he prayed and asked God for help. Suddenly, St. Augustine heard a child’s voice say “Tolle Lege” over and over again. “Tolle Lege” translated means “take up and read”. He picked up a scroll and read Romans 13:13-14 which changed his soul, and he was converted. In St. Augustine’s own words:

“By a light, as it were, of security infused into my heart – all the gloom of doubt vanished away.”

Interesting that today is St. Augustine’s feast day – the same day that I have written this blog about reading the Bible! God works in mysterious ways.

I am concerned about today’s Christianity. I believe a section of it has taken a wrong turn. I have heard preachers, some very well-known, that make statements that I know are not biblically based. So, I am going to write short blogs over the course of a week and address some of these statements and ideas made not only by evangelical preachers but also their followers.

Several months ago, someone who I knew said to me, “I guess you think you know more than Franklin Graham?” She was upset because I had challenged her on some of her beliefs. My answer to her was “yes”. Why? Because I listen to God, not man, and I told her this. About a year ago, after hearing some of these disturbing remarks by the religious right, I decided to sit down and read the New Testament from beginning to end. Although John 3:16 is one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible, it must be taken in context with what is said in the rest of the New Testament.

The truth is this: No one is automatically guaranteed access into heaven. I know that is probably going to shock a lot of people, but just stay with me for a minute and meditate on this verse actually stated by Jesus himself in the gospel of Matthew:  “NOT EVERYONE WHO SAYS TO ME, LORD, LORD, WILL ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.” Matthew 7:21. It doesn’t get clearer than that! But He goes on, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me you evildoers.‘”Matthew 7:22-23.  Go back and read those verses again….and again.  This puts John 3:16 into perspective, doesn’t it? Yes, we can say that we believe in Jesus, but in the end, Jesus is the judge, not us. If we know for sure who is going to heaven as some evangelicals would have you believe, there would be no need for God. ONLY GOD knows what is in the hearts of men. Human beings CANNOT say whether someone is going to heaven or hell, and that includes preachers. Jesus expects us to turn our back on sin, and I think he made it very clear in these verses that you can’t fool Him. He knows our heart. Franklin Graham, Jerry Fallwell, Andrew Wommack, and others DON’T know what is truly in our hearts and therefore cannot judge. No human being can judge another. Remember, Jesus also said, “Do not judge, lest ye be judged”.

This drives home the point that by focusing on just one or two verses in the Bible, you can easily be misled. My advice to everyone is “Tolle Lege” (Take Up and Read). Don’t rely only on your preacher during Sunday service to teach you about God. Pick up your Bible and read it. It is the only way to true peace and to the absolute Truth.

 

Taking on Andrew Wommack….Again!

 

Yesterday morning, as I was channel surfing while eating breakfast, I once again stumbled across Andrew Wommack’s show. This time, he was teaching about prayer. I listened for a few minutes but was so disgusted by his remarks that I quickly turned off the television. Just now, I decided to listen to a little bit more of speech on prayer online because I wanted to address his remarks in this blog.

I was raised Catholic. Although I currently attend a non-denominational church, Catholicism is near and dear to my heart. I personally don’t believe there is any one “right” religion – I believe it depends upon what is truly in your heart and soul. Some of the finest people I have ever known were Catholic, so I’m sure you will understand when this man insulted Catholics during his show on Monday. No, he didn’t actually say the word “Catholic” – he actually said that he didn’t want to point out any one group, but he talked about how some Christians would use beads and say the Hail Mary repeatedly and how this wasn’t real prayer. Clearly, he is referring to Catholics. His attempt at saying he didn’t want to point out any one group was pathetic and just plain mean. We all know who he is talking about. He went on to say that some prayer is bad if it isn’t done “correctly”. He talked about how prayers aren’t answered because we aren’t praying the right way.

My rebuttal:

First and foremost, I would like to point out that Andrew Wommack isn’t God! He cannot say at all if someone’s prayers are right or wrong. Only GOD know what is in someone’s heart. Only GOD knows how someone was raised and what they were taught. Only GOD decides if a prayer is genuine or not. Andrew Wommack doesn’t get to decide how you must pray. If you reach out to God with all your heart and soul, He will respond. He doesn’t need anyone’s permission here on earth. Don’t be deceived by this man.

Second, it is of utmost importance to not compartmentalize religious groups – any group, really. I have been very active in the Catholic church, especially in my youth. Yes, there are some bad people, but there are many, many wonderful people in this denomination who believe in Jesus with their whole heart, mind, and soul. What about Mother Teresa? What about Padre Pio? Andrew – are you really saying that these two people, both of them Catholic and both who prayed the rosary constantly, were not really praying? Are you saying that their prayers weren’t heard by God? You’ve got to be kidding! And there are so many other examples! There are bad and good people in every religion. Judging an entire group of people based on the actions of a few is very dangerous. Remember, Andrew – the Bible also says “Do not judge lest ye be judged”.

Third, it is extremely important to realize that prayer will not always be answered according to how you think it should be answered. Sometimes what you are asking for is not God’s will for you. Andrew leads you to believe that if you pray a certain way, your prayers will be answered according to how you want them answered, and that is just not true. The key is that you pray, just as God taught us to, and then you submit to His will. His will may not be the same as your will, but you have to trust in Him.

I believe it is a very dangerous teaching to tell others that they must pray in a certain way or God won’t hear their prayers. If the prayer is truly coming from your heart and you believe in Him with all your heart and soul, He will listen, no matter how you pray.  Remember – Jesus himself taught us how to pray through the Lord’s Prayer. He wants us to pray – listen to Jesus, not Andrew.

Finally, Andrew tells of a story where a woman asks him to pray for her husband. Andrew said “no” because in his mind, this lady wasn’t praying the right way. This is horrible. We should all pray for one another, no matter what. It is not up to us to judge how someone else talks to God. Shame on you, Andrew Wommack!

 

 

A Plea to Andrew Wommack

Today I watched Andrew Wommack as he gave his talk on The True Nature of God. To be honest, I was disturbed. In fact, at one point, I was so upset that I called him a false prophet and I turned off the television. Later, after I had settled down a bit, I looked him up and watched it on line. Why was I so upset? In short, because he states that those who are saved are no longer under “the law” (The Ten Commandments). He claims the Ten Commandments are there only for those who are not saved.

Believe it or not, I actually had a dream about this last night. Was it a divine dream? I think so. I believe that God was calling me to clarify a few things this man said. After watching it on line, I believe there are things Andrew said that were true, but there were also things that I believe were misleading.

It is true that we are under a new covenant and that Jesus Christ died to save us from death. If we truly believe in Him, we are saved. The key word here is “truly”. I have seen many times in my life people who believe that all they have to do is say, “Jesus is My Savior”, and they are guaranteed to go to heaven even if they keep on leading a sinful life. Some people truly believe that by saying those four words, they have an open license to sin. By the way, I wrote a previous blog on this exact subject.

Now, Andrew does say later that if you truly believe in God, you would not hurt others, and this is my point. But by emphasizing that we are no longer under “the law”, I believe you are sending the wrong message. God still expects us to abide by the commandments, and he repeatedly says in the New Testament that if we love Him, we will obey His commands. Here are just a few examples that clearly show that Jesus expects us to abide by the commandments (taken from the gospels):

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but ONLY HE WHO DOES THE WILL OF MY FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” Matthew 8:21-23

Where did the ten commandments come from? God the Father.

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good – except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.” Mark 10:18-19

[Jesus said] “…those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” John 5:29

[Jesus said] “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent Him is a man of truth: there is nothing false about him. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?” John 7: 17-19

[Jesus said] “I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” John 8:51

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” John 14:23-24

[Jesus said] “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15

[Jesus said] “Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” John 15:9-10

These are just a few of the numerous times Jesus tells us in the New Testament to obey His commands. We do not have a license to sin because we say “Jesus is My Savior” with our mouths. The true test of our belief in God is what is in our hearts, and only God has that knowledge. I do believe that actions speak louder than words, and we can get a glimpse into what a person truly believes based on his or her actions. We are all expected to follow God’s commandments, not just those who are not saved. The above passages from the gospels are very clear about this. I challenge Andrew Wommack clarify this issue on his show. Too many people are misguided.

 

 

 

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