Friday, July 3, 2009

What's Wrong With Christianity?

“As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God…”

Let me start by saying that Christianity is not all bad. (And by Christianity, I mean the organized religions of the world that recognize Christ as Savior and the Bible as the Word of God.) The Christian religions have much to offer that is good. Among other things, they teach people to have a moral compass, and that is a good thing. But Christianity is unable to answer the most important question of all -- what is the purpose of human existence?

Christianity, as it is represented by the major organized religions of the world, has no soul. It is an empty shell. It makes God into a narcissistic being whose main interest is in hearing the words, “I accept Jesus.” It completely ignores the fact that God is creating something.

God is, first and foremost, the great Creator. He creates. That’s what he does. His job description is: Creator. But if all it takes to be saved is to accept Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, then what is God creating? Nothing! If God is content to see us continually fall short of His standard of righteousness because He credits us with Jesus’ righteousness, then what is God creating? Nothing! And if the only purpose for even trying to obey God is to get blessings from Him in this life, then what is He creating? Nothing!

It’s no wonder that so many people have rejected Christianity. It’s no wonder that so many people are atheists. At best, the god that Christianity worships is little more than a genie in a bottle. Say the magic words, and he’ll let you into heaven when you die. At worst, he’s a monster who consigns people, whose only crime is being born in the wrong place at the wrong time, to suffer for all eternity in an ever-burning hellfire.

But God is neither a monster nor a genie. He is the Creator. And His creation is not finished. He created the earth and He created man to inhabit the earth; but that is not the end of His creation. Human beings were created in God’s image and in His likeness for a purpose. God is creating something in human beings for a purpose that is far greater than the popular concept of “going to heaven” when one dies. It is a purpose that is far greater than blessings of health, wealth and emotional fulfillment in this physical existence. It is a purpose that is far greater than anything that the churches of this world teach.

The churches don’t teach it because they don’t know it. The preachers and teachers of this world’s so-called Christian religions have no idea what God’s purpose is for mankind.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

The Invisible Things of God

God is not finished with His creation. There was the physical creation of the material universe; but now there is a spiritual creation underway, which was begun in parallel with the physical creation of man. The physical creation is only a type of the spiritual. The spiritual work of creation cannot be seen -- it is invisible to the human eye -- but it can be understood by seeing the physical.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead… (Romans 1:20).

The physical creation was designed to mirror the spiritual -- to help us comprehend the spiritual. The biblical account in Genesis of the creation of human beings is filled with clues to God’s awesome purpose.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… (Genesis 1:26).

First, notice the use of the words “us” and “our.” God is not a single being. John tells us that in the beginning there were two God beings.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

So in the beginning, there was the Word, who later came to earth in the form of a human being, Jesus Christ. And there was the head of the God family, whom Jesus called The Father. The great heresy of the Trinity doctrine is that it limits God to a single being that embodies three persons. But God is not a single being. God is a family.

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named (Ephesians 3:14-15).

God is the name of a family of beings. In the beginning, there were two God beings in the family. And these two members of the God family said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

Now, what can be understood about the God family from looking at the physical creation? In the Genesis account we see that God made everything after its kind.

And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:12).

And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:25).

God made the families within the plant kingdom and the animal kingdom to reproduce after their kind. A seed from a rose always produces another rose. A seed from a fruit tree always produces another fruit tree. You can mix fruit trees to get new varieties of fruit trees, but they will always be fruit trees. You can’t get a rose from a fruit tree, nor can you get a fruit tree from a rose.

And it’s the same with animals. They always reproduce after their kind. Horses reproduce other horses. Dogs reproduce other dogs. You can breed new varieties of dogs, but you can’t get a horse from a dog. Plants reproduce after their kind, and animals reproduce after their kind.

But God did not make man after the plant or the animal kind. He made man in HIS image and in HIS likeness. God made man after the God kind! Can you grasp the significance of that? GOD IS REPRODUCING HIMSELF!

Now that is a bold -- perhaps to some even shocking -- statement. But before you dismiss it as foolishness or even blasphemy, consider the fact that Jesus was accused of blasphemy for making a similar statement. Jesus said, “I and my Father are one.”

Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God (John 10:31-33).

This group of religious Jews thought it blasphemy for Jesus to call God His Father. They understood the nature of the family relationship that the terms “Father” and “Son” imply.

Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him [Jesus], because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18).

These Jews were shocked and offended by Jesus’ bold statement. But Jesus was simply telling the truth. God was His Father. “Yes,” some will say, “but Jesus truly was the Son of God. We are mere human beings.” Notice, however, Jesus’ reply to his accusers:

Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? (John 10:32-36).

Jesus answered His accusers by quoting from Psalm 82:6, which reads, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” Yes, we are mere human beings. But we “mere” human beings are God’s children – that is, we are made in His image with the potential of being born into His family.

The Bible is filled with passages that speak to this potential of being born into the God family made possible by the Holy Spirit. Below are listed but a few of them:

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God (Romans 8:14-16).

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father (Galatians 4:4-6).

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not 1 John 3:1).

So then a person who is led by the Holy Spirit can truly say, as Jesus did, “I am a son of God.” And a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit can truly say, as Jesus did, “I and my Father are one.”

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him (John 14.23).

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me (John 17:20-23).

God has created human beings for the sole purpose of one day being born into His family to be just like Himself and Jesus Christ! The Bible speaks to this astounding purpose with remarkable clarity.

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).

For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren (Hebrews 2:10-11).

And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together (Romans 8:17).

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8: 29).

How is God Reproducing Himself?

God is reproducing Himself by developing within human beings His perfect, righteous character. He is instilling, within separate beings that possess free will, the ability to think as He does -- to always, under all circumstances, choose what is good and refuse what is evil.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:1-2).

But organized religion will tell you that this is impossible. The churches will tell you that it is impossible for any person to live according to the “good, and acceptable, and PERFECT will of God.” They will tell you that you should try to obey God, but that you will not be able to do it. They are unwilling to believe what God’s Word plainly says. They do not believe in the power of God to TRANSFORM his human creation. Paul describes them as “Having a FORM of godliness, but denying the POWER thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5).

They deny the power of God to do His creative work despite the overwhelming scriptural evidence of God’s intention, and His promise to do it. They do not see through the eyes of faith. They only see that it is humanly impossible to overcome all sin in one’s life. They do not regard the fact that “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).

Jesus came to earth as a human being to prove that a human being can, with God’s Spirit dwelling in him, live a perfectly sinless life. He came to set an example for us! We are told to follow in His steps – to do exactly as He did.

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth (1 Peter 2:21-22).

“But Jesus was God,” some will say. “How can we do what He did?” First of all, Jesus was human -- not superhuman. [For more information on the humanity of Jesus, please read the post titled, The Son of Man] He said, “I can of mine own self do nothing.” Everything that He accomplished He did by the power of God the Father dwelling in Him.

Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works (John 14:10).

In addition, Jesus promised the true believers that He would empower them to live their lives in the very same way that He lived His life.

As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me (John 6: 57).

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father (John 14:12).

The true believer is unified in Spirit with God the Father and Jesus Christ. Christ dwells in him, and he dwells in Christ. And the Spirit of Jesus Christ in him enables him to live righteously, even as Christ lived righteously.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).

A Fictitious Righteousness?

A righteous God requires righteousness from His children. Righteousness is an absolute requirement for salvation. The unrighteous will not inherit eternal life in the kingdom of God. The Bible is very clear about this fact.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

But where are the preachers of righteousness today? Christianity does not require personal righteousness of its followers. Churchgoers have been told it’s unattainable. They have been taught instead a false gospel of substituted righteousness – the idea that when God looks at you in your sins, He sees only Jesus’ righteousness. It is a gospel of salvation by forgiveness alone.

The “salvation by forgiveness alone” doctrine – also known as “imputed righteousness” -- is the most insidious heresy facing the Church today. It lulls people into a false sense of security. It promotes a fictitious righteousness. It makes people comfortable in their coexistence with sin. To an outsider the doctrine is absurd. It inspires atheists to mockery with such slogans as, “Why be good when you can just be forgiven?”

The purveyors of the imputed righteousness heresy deny that actual, personal righteousness plays any part in salvation. “One cannot earn salvation by good works,” they say. And there is some truth to that statement As with any false doctrine, the imputed righteousness heresy is a mixture of truth and error. It is true that no amount of future righteousness (good works) can make up for past sins.

What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness (Romans 4:1-3).

Abraham was not justified from his past sins by doing good works. He was justified by faith in God, who forgave his past sins. If anyone should doubt that forgiveness is the subject here, he has only to look at the verses that follow:

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered (Romans 4:4-6).

Now, forgiveness applies only to sins that are past (Romans 3:25). It is important to understand this because it means that Paul is using the word justification here to mean the beginning of a process. Justification simply means to be made righteous. The righteousness of a forgiven sinner is temporary. As soon as he sins again, he needs to be forgiven again. Forgiveness alone does not prevent anyone from sinning.

Forgiveness is only the beginning of the work of justification. It is the beginning of a process of being made righteous. Justification in the full sense of the word is about developing the character to live righteously.

For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified (Romans 2:13).

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (James 2:20-24).

The understanding that works are required for justification, and thus salvation, ought to be elementary. John the Baptist wouldn’t even baptize those who hadn’t brought forth “fruits [works] meet for repentance.”

But when he [John] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: (Matthew 3:7-8).

John knew that genuine repentance is always accompanied by “fruits” that signal a change of heart. In other words, a person who is truly repentant will exhibit a change in his behavior! Paul says exactly the same thing, except he uses the word works instead of fruits.

Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance (Acts 26:19-20).

Are works required for salvation? John the Baptist and Paul the apostle believed so. They believed that even the initial step of repentance had to be accompanied by works of righteousness. Otherwise repentance isn’t real.

By the same logic, righteousness isn’t real unless it is demonstrated by works of righteousness. That’s the message of Paul: “the doers of the law shall be justified” (Romans 2:13). And that’s the message of James: “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Faith produces righteousness.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Many preachers latch onto “Not of works” and say, “You see? Salvation isn’t by works. You can’t earn your way into God’s kingdom.” But they fail to quote the rest of the passage: “We are HIS workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Clearly, human efforts at righteousness apart from faith fall short of God’s righteousness. But just as clearly, faith produces Godly righteousness. Clearly, good works are what God intends for us, and what He is creating in the lives of the true believers.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:1-2, 4).

Why is there no condemnation to those who are in Christ? Is it because God overlooks their unrighteousness and pretends that He sees Jesus’ righteousness instead? NO! It’s because those who are “in Christ Jesus” have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them, which actually leads them to fulfill the righteousness of the law.

Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous (1 John 3:6-7).

This subject is too big to be covered completely in this brief essay. But I believe that there is enough information here to point those who are searching for the truth in the right direction. I will quote but one more passage and leave it to the reader to search out the many other passages in Scripture that illuminate this topic.

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Peter 1:4).

To quote the late, great Herbert Armstrong, “We are made to be partakers of the divine nature, until it becomes our own.”

“He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”


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