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DANGEROUS PARALLELS–ANCIENT ISRAEL AND MODERN CHRISTIANS
“I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” –Romans 9:1-3
Paul is speaking through the Holy Spirit to us today in these passages in Romans. The entire evangelical Christian world, the millions who call various churches their own, who inhabit the membership rolls and pews and chairs of the thousands of church buildings throughout our affluent and modern countries, must look at these powerful and important Words from the Lord again. For we, the privileged, the entitled—those who call themselves Christians and consider ourselves lights to the world and leading the procession of God’s people—may be lost ourselves, and in danger of being cut off from the Kingdom when Christ comes to call His own from the four winds.
How can I say this? The parallels between the situation in Israel during Paul’s time and the situation of the modern western affluent churches in our time are striking and frightening.
The Jews relied on their spiritual pedigrees, their traditions, their adherence to principles and religious laws for their salvation.
So our modern churches talk about salvation by faith, but in actuality, practice a salvation that it earned by church attendance, Bible study, tithing, and “having a personal relationship with God”. There is little understanding of what salvation really is, and much unbelief among those who are claiming to follow Christ. There is the problem of sin hidden–sin not confessed and forsaken–and the Body of Christ is weak because of these things.
We trust in our creative worship, thinking that somehow if we just present ourselves with better music, and take up artistic endeavors for God with more gusto, and sing louder and hold our hands up higher, that He will be pleased with us.
We trust in our well-crafted and delivered sermons, our well-designed and acoustically-pleasing sanctuaries, our well-trained and well-paid staff, our well-striped parking lots and well-lit meeting rooms.
We trust in our many books, and our vast curricula, and our audio tapes and our media.
In other words, we trust in our own work—the work of our hands—to bring us closer to God.
This sin is the essential sin of Adam and Eve, and of Cain. It is as old as man. It is not new to God, and He is never fooled by such clever little pretenses.
Just as it didn’t fool Him when the Jews tried it, over and over and over again through thousands of years of history, so He is not fooled by modern affluent Christians, who try to bamboozle Him with this religious nonsense.
It is just another way of earning salvation. It is just another way of creating a religious front that covers up the inside of the cup and dish that are filthy and full of greed and corruption.
Why are we in this situation? How did we progress to this point?
Brethren, many of us have been seduced by the world and its charms, and have adopted the world’s ways into the churches. Just as the Jews had succumbed to their ideas of what would impress God and earn them His favor, so have we.
But in the meantime, we are disobedient to the most basic commands of Christ.
We don’t love others, and we don’t take care of one another’s needs in the Body. We don’t give up our lives for Jesus, and walk the narrow, unpopular road, taking up our crosses daily to live against the current of godlessness and evil within our society. We don’t understand salvation as obedience to Christ, but we think of it as license to live a good life now, and to have all the things we’ve wanted.
We are like the Israel of Paul’s day, who prided themselves on looking good, on doing the right things, on being regarded as spiritual in the eyes of the world, yet who were spiritually bankrupt in God’s eyes, having the form of religion without God’s power and glory being revealed.
This is a call to repentance from dead religion. Many are estranged from the churches now because they see nothing in them that differs from the world. And so they have more discernment than many who inhabit the pews. Perhaps they are more honest than we are.
God’s salvation is by faith alone. Is there anything in your life today that requires faith? Does anything in your church life reflect complete and utter dependence on our Father and His power? Or is it all about us? Is it all about presentation, and performance? Is it all about making ourselves feel good about how spiritual we are?
God’s true believers, those who trust Christ, are dependent wholly on Him for everything. The do not trust in themselves or their religion. Even if that “religion” happens to be what we consider enlightened, entitled, and privileged modern, affluent Christianity.
The time has come to separate ourselves from this charade. God’s chosen are “children of the promise” –Rom. 9:8
A promise is future. We live now in daily dying, dying to ourselves, our religious ways, our ideas and plans and goals and dreams. We live now looking forward to the City whose Builder and Maker is God.
God’s chosen live in tents now, preferring to suffer with the children of God than to live lives of luxury and comfort on earth. Children of the promise do not look for their best life now. They look to let Christ live His best in us now. His chosen live by faith, and walk by faith, not relying on religious pretenses or pedigrees.
Leave your own efforts, and the ridiculous and embarrassing parade of evangelical religion.
Be saved and obey the Lord Jesus, coming out of the world, not striving to copy and emulate its ways.