A new Archbishop of Canterbury, a position of prestige, tradition and responsibility dating from 597 A.D., was recently appointed; making him chief bishop of the Anglican Church of England. Yet this same man, in an apparent attempt at tolerant inclusion, was subsequently named an honorary White Druid as well. Disappointing? Certainly. Surprising? No. In this age of political correctness and universal acceptance, this mixing of profane and holy appears acceptable, even commendable. While any number of so-called Godly men minister in such a way as to de-bunk the gospel of Christ, making it a more acceptable story of a good man we can all appreciate and aspire to. Jesus knew this would happen. He warned us to prepare for times when many would turn from the faith - a time of false prophets and deceitful speech. Correspondingly an increase in wickedness will lower the standard of loving acceptance and genuine tolerance expressed in the gospels of Christ. (Matthew 5:44) "...but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matthew 24:10-13)
This is not a new phenomena. Truth has always been challenged. Our Old Testament forefathers dealt with men of like character throughout their journeys. For those who believe in all gods can accept anything and everyone except the man who says there is only one. "But there were also false prophets among the people (of Israel), just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them... Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of the truth into disrepute... these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up."
"This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings... by appealing to the lustful desire of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity..." (2 Peter 2:1,2,3,10,18,19) There will be consequences to this challenge of truth. "They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done." (2 Peter 2:13)
Fighting words? Maybe. But this battle is for the mind and soul of man. "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world... We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of Christ, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) Done in part by not conforming to the value-system of the world, rooted as it is in the cravings of a sinful nature - the lust of the eyes and boasting of what we have and do - we transform our minds through the words and example of Christ. (Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:16) The new millennium ushers in a time of struggle for Christianity; a struggle for its' soul. It's not the first time. We periodically experience times of debated self-examination. This is a natural, healthy process, though seldom enjoyable; as we are compelled to question and re-affirm who we are - what we believe - the reliability of our doctrine and possible fallacy of tradition. Largely responsible for our own chastisement, we have become lax in faithfulness and overly accepting of practices foreign to Christian principles; attempting to be acceptable in all things to all people, or stridently lashing out at those we don't understand, we turn from those who need us most.
Truth is - the gospel won't be accepted by everybody. We must strive to be relevant to all people in the situations we find them in (1 Corinthians 9:22), but Christianity is too exclusive in it's declarations to be totally acceptable or completely inclusive. Foundational truths of Christ are stumbling blocks to many. "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Jesus being, "...the exact representation of (God's) being..." "Salvation (being) found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven...by which we must be saved." (John 14:7; Hebrew 1:3; Acts 4:12) Believing him a prophet or good man embodying life's best ideals is not enough. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my father in heaven." What is that will? "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." (Matthew 7:21; John 6:29)
Much of the struggle will originate within the church itself; depicted as a contest of conscience between reasonable, tolerant, inclusive progressives and intolerant, prejudiced, unreasonable conservatives. Led by pastors, priests and theologians - deemed Christ's ambassadors - displaying a form of godliness yet denying it's power (2 Timothy 3:5), always learning but unwilling to acknowledge the truth (2 Timothy 3:2); they have become irrelevant to many and an excuse for others to avoid real commitment. They allow that he has a certain goodness, displaying the possibility of godliness in all men while disputing his unique God-likeness. His words, while commendable, have no pre-eminence over any others. Yet the scripture they are charged with sharing proclaims, "In the beginning was the Word,... the Word was with God, ...the Word was God...Through him all things were made;... In him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." - "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, ...full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-5,14)
In questioning much of God's revelation, such as Christ's virgin birth - laughingly impossible; his Sonship - no different than ours; miracles - at best mind over matter, at worse staged; his word - supremely good but not supreme; his death - like ours inevitable (if not in the particulars at least destined for all); his burial - highly suspicious; his resurrection - unacceptable; they offer a stripped down Christ. A Son of God little different than the rest of his children. Truly merely a form of godliness that denies God's power.
Why study the life of one no different than I am or believe in one no more a son of God than I can be? Why bother if - Old Testament prophecy was misapplied or inserted material was used to stage fulfillment in Christ? It's a lie! Yet many ancient manuscripts show the Old Testament to be essentially intact in its present form.
Why bother if - Mary wasn't a virgin? She lied to cover immorality. If an attempt was made to refute rabbinical claims that Jesus was the result of a premature union of Mary and Joseph or an illicit affair with a Roman soldier by making up an unbelievable story of Holy Spirit involvement in Mary's pregnancy - they lied!
Why bother if - Jesus' lifestyle (if not his life) was manufactured and his teaching, declaring a oneness with God in ability and desire to save mankind is fabrication at worse, embellishment at best?
And why bother if - He performed no miracles? His chroniclers lied. If they were staged, he lied. Even if people felt better as a result of positive thinking - it wasn't true. If these fundamental issues are untrue, what is there to believe in? Even those who condense Him down to love always and only defy scripture, which defines true love as obedience to his commands. (John 14:15; 2 John 6)
Was he merely misled or misrepresented, resulting in our being misled and misdirected? Was he deluded or deranged, leaving us open to the charge of following a madman? Was he a liar, making liars of us all? If so, his death was unnecessary, his burial final, his resurrection staged. His followers again lied. To what purpose? Material gain, fame, respect? Some church leaders did achieve these but the originators of these lies gained only a fugitive lifestyle, poverty and martyrdom. If there is no resurrection, no judgment, no reward according to our response to his word, then there is no difference between any of us and no over-riding purpose in doing better; no hope for the here-and-now nor for the here-after.
But what if - his birth, life and death was foretold by prophets of old? (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2; Isaiah 53, Psalm 22) He really was born of a virgin? (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-23) He actually did heal the sick and raise the dead? (Isaiah 35:5, 6; Matthew 8:1-13; John 11:1-44) His reason for being was to save sinners? (John 3:16; Luke 19:10; Luke 23:39-43) He miraculously fed the hungry, consoled the needy and directed the lost? (Matthew 14:13-21; John 8:1-11; John 4:1-26) What if he really was our substitute sacrifice on the cross? (Isaiah 53:7; John 1:29)
Was his death then for a purpose? (Colossians 1:19-20; Romans 5:10; 1 Corinthians 6:20) His burial an end and a beginning, a sign of more to come? (Matthew 12:38-42) His resurrection from the grave the planned completion of God's purpose and man's salvation? (Hebrew 7:27) How much difference would it make if he really has the power and authority he claims to have? (Matthew 26:64; 28:18)
It would change everything!
Will he return to gather us up to himself in anticipation of reward? (Matthew 16:27) Will there be a judgment day where we all appear before God either to be shown mercy through the blood of Christ or punishment as a result of our own ignorance and indifference to that sacrifice? (Ephesians 2:4, Hebrews 10:26-29)
If so, it must change everything!
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