In Sunday school children can get some pretty crazy ideas of what the teacher is trying to tell them. When talking about Adam and Eve some children think they were created from an apple tree; they might think that Moses went to Mt. Cyanide for the 10 commandments, or Solomon had 300 wives and 700 porcupines, and maybe even a godly person has only one wife and that is called monotony.
Personally I don’t know how many times I’ve taught on a subject and received confused calls and talks from parents about what on earth I was teaching their children. Some of it is pretty funny and some isn’t; so I’ve tried to have some fun with it myself. When asked what we do at youth group I like to tell people, we sacrifice chickens, chant and other weird things, you know whatever comes to mind at the time. Eventually people realize that I’m joking, well at least some of them do.
But just like children get some crazy ideas about what the Bible teaches, we sometimes get flaws in our thinking too. When I was an intern at a church in Redding, California, I was in charge of teaching the adult Sunday school class. It was there that I realized that it doesn’t matter how old you are, we can get some weird ideas about what the Bible teaches and what God calls us to know. For some of us these misconceptions come from being a young Christian; we haven’t been around long enough to know what the Bible teaches, and instead we have only what we’ve heard before we came to trust Jesus and what we have heard since then. So we need to grow out of those misconceptions and taring away those things that we come with.
But then there are those of us who have been around for a while and have read our Bibles and listen to multiple sermons and Sunday school lessons, yet we still get flaws in our understanding, because we add to it with our own ideas.
There are quite a few misconceptions or flaws that we have in our thinking about God’s teachings. I want to cover five of those flaws. Now I am not going to talk about things like the rapture, or speaking in tongues or predestination, because those things, in my opinion, are not vital to the Christian life. The five things that I want to talk about this morning are those things that the Bible is plain about and we need to have our minds right with so that we can move forward in our relationship with God.
But before we begin I want us to take a quick test, didn’t think you were going to do this, right? Below are five statements, I want you to either answer true, if you think the statement is true or false, if you think the statement is false. Take a couple of minutes to do that.
1: Theology is God’s way to show humanity who He is.
2: There are many paths to heaven and it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.
3: We don’t get to heaven by good deeds.
4: When we become a Christian, it doesn’t matter what we do.
5: Christians are not to judge.
So how do you think you did? Just to give you a heads up there were a couple of trick questions in there. Let’s see how well you did. If you answered True to the statement that, “Theology is God’s way to show humanity who He is,” then you’re Wrong. Actually theology is man’s study of God, but this idea goes beyond the term theology. You see we are products of Roman and Greek philosophy. One of the main thrusts of that philosophy is the idea that terms like good and evil are ideas, but that’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that God is love, He is mercy, He is justice. God gives our words definition,not the other way around. When God acts and tells us that this is good, his action becomes the definition of good. When God acts and tells us that it is love, his actions becomes the definition of love. So on and so on it goes. It’s who God is as at His being, and it by Him telling us that we understand who God is. It’s not the other way around, we don’t come up with an idea or a word and then say, “God this is who you are.” Instead we read God’s word and then try to understand what he has revealed. In Amos 4:13 God says, “He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the LORD God Almighty is his name.” and in 1st Corinthians 2:9-10 Paul says, “‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’—the things God has prepared for those who love him—these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” Why does this matter? Because we need to understand that we can’t know anything about God unless He reveals it to us. Two ways He reveals Himself to us is through His creation coupled with His word,. the Bible. If we have the flawed thinking that we define God, then we have a tendency to make God in our image, when in reality we are made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27).
Next If you answered False to number 2 you’re Right. Jesus words are very interesting in John 14:6 and later on in 15:5, he says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” and “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” These statements put Jesus in a category of his own. He really is the only one in all religions that makes it a point that only through Him can you get into heaven, all other ways are dead ends. Now on the surface most religions look like they say that they’re the only way to god or nirvana (heaven), but they all have loop holes. For Islam, people of the “book” can enter into paradise; the book is the Old and New Testament. For Hindu’s which ever god you serve as long as you please that god, you can enter into their “paradise”. Why’s this so important, because we live in a society that is in rebellion against God and part of this rebellion is to have a buffet style belief system where you can pick and choose what you want. Jesus’ words flies in the face of that because He says, that His way is the only way.
The third statement is a trick one. It’s false that we don’t get into Heaven by good deed’s, because it’s by Jesus’ good deeds that we do get into Heaven. In Isaiah 53:9 says of Jesus, “He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone.” Adding to this, Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” So our good works, do not get us into heaven, but Jesus’ good works do. Why’s this matter? Because we need to understand that it’s all about Jesus when it comes to us getting into Heaven. It’s not because of how good we are, but instead it’s about how obedient and good Jesus was. When we understand that and how unworthy we are to receive this gift, then we can begin to have the compassion and mercy that Jesus had; because if He can love us this much, we should be able to love others the way He loves us.
Now number four is the other trick question, where three is connected. See when we understand that we don’t have anything to do with getting salvation, then we can get the wrong idea that nothing we do matters to God, so we can do whatever we want. Paul brings this up in 1 Corinthians 10: 23, “‘Everything is permissible but…” Paul writes, “…not everything is beneficial and not everything is constructive.” Our good deeds might not get us into Heaven, but they reflect the fact that we have accept God’s gift of heaven. Why’s that important? Because we can get into one of two extremes on this. When people begin to follow Jesus they can end up being totally free in the sense that they have no self-control. They dress the same way, because they can, they continue to gossip and slander people. They continue in sexual sins, but Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” Our freedom in Christ should be seen through the lens of God sacrificing Himself, so we should in turn become obedient to His commands and sacrifice ourselves back to him with how we conform to his will.
The other extreme is where people become obedient to the point of legalism. They begin to live their lives through the lens of having to be perfect and requiring others to be perfect too. But we’re not perfect, that’s why Jesus had to die, we are going to mess up. We are going to sin, but the key is what happens afterward. Do we continue to sin, or do we repent, confess our sins to God and move forward again relying more in the power of the Spirit? We need to take a balanced approach to our lives where we are not living for ourselves, yet we give ourselves room to make mistakes and to grow.
In the last statement the answer is true. “What?” You might say, “Christians are to judge?” Yes, but there’s a but. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:1-3, “If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!”
The idea that people get that Christians are not to judge comes from Matthew 7:1-5 where Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’” But there two different forms of judging. The idea that Jesus is getting at in Mathew 7, is people usually judge from a hypocritical position. They see someone doing something, they tell they to stop it, yet at the same time they’re doing the exact same thing. It’s like and alcoholic who drinks and drives, telling they’re 21 year old son not to go to bars, but the father shows no signs of changing his ways. Now it might be good advice, and we might think he’s trying to save his son from his problems, but it’s hypocritical. We can’t be doing something wrong and tell other people to not do it. We as followers of Jesus are to check ourselves, making sure that we are not doing what we judge others to be doing. Then on top of that we don’t beat people over the head with the judgement, but rather be constructive in how we deal with them. “We must speak the truth in love.” as Paul says. Why does this matter? Two reasons, because the main reason people don’t want to come to church and follow God is because they see His people as hypocrites. Second we need non-hypocritical people to live their lives in front of others, mistakes and all, so that we can speak the good news of Jesus to a world that is covered in darkness. And that takes people that are willing to be deemed intolerant bigots, because they are speaking the truth in love and from a not hypocritical lives of hissing our mistakes under a rock.
What do you think? Am I off base? Am I right on? Somewhere in between?
Well, my question for you today is where are you? Have you realized today some flaws in you thinking? Have you realized an area of your life that isn’t right? I hope so, because that’s the beginning of change and transformation. God doesn’t want to leave us where He found us, He wants to move us and transform us into the people that He intended us to be. The book of Hebrews tells us that as long as it is called today we should encourage and build each other up. Today is the day for us to turn to God out of our rebellion against Him. Today is the day that we move away from our own desires, our own understanding and get plugged into God’s desires and God’s understanding.
If today you have realized that you are in rebellion against God, or that you have had some wrong understanding of God’s word and of His desire for you life. I want you to now, in the quietness of your own heart, speak to Him, confess it and enjoy His forgiveness. You have never put your trust into Jesus, today’s the day, He’s the only way and He desires you. He has paid the price for you sin and rebellion and all you have to do is accept it, turn from your old life and turn to Him, because He will give you rest.