Selling What You Don’t Own

Neal Pollard

One of the more ingenious and amusing entrepreneurial moves I’ve ever heard is the company that offers to sell you a star.  For a price, you can buy a star and name it for a loved one.  The company will send you a gift pack along with registering the star in the name of the one you, the buyer, designate.  I have never been able to figure out how that company earned the right to sell something no one will ever visit, hold, or otherwise show tangible ownership of.

When I think about some of the new, strange religious ideas along with some long held, established ones, it reminds me of the folks selling the stars.  Preachers and whole denominations offer salvation on their own terms, altering and subtracting from the Lord’s established will as if salvation was theirs to offer.  They urge people to pray a prayer or accept Christ in their hearts, guaranteeing them salvation by so doing.  Or they tell a seeker that the Holy Spirit will irresistibly come upon them, filling them and by so doing indicate an experience of grace.  Or they urge parents to sprinkle their babies, saving them from what they call inherited sin.  The problem in all these scenarios is that people are offering what is not theirs to give.  Christ has already established the plan that saves the lost person—hearing the gospel (Rom. 10:17), believing it (Rom. 10:10), repenting of sins (Rom. 2:4; 6:17-18), confessing Christ (Rom. 10:10), and being buried in water in order to enjoy the new life in Christ (Rom. 6:1-4).

The same things occurs with worship.  People claim to stand in the place of Christ and tell others what is and is not acceptable to God.  They propose changes in who can lead in worship (cf. 1 Tim. 2:11-12), how worship music is to be done (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), and when the Lord’s Supper can be taken (1 Cor. 11:23-26; Acts 20:7).  Some would say that dance, weightlifting, incense-burning, drama, and the like are acts of worship God will accept, though they do so without a scintilla of appeal to the New Testament.

When it comes to the will of God, He has exclusive rights over that.  Christ does not share His authority with anyone (Mat. 28:18).  He makes the rules and determines right and wrong.  Beware of anyone who is selling anything else (cf. 2 Cor. 2:17).

“CONTRADICT: THEY CAN’T ALL BE TRUE”

Neal Pollard

Kathy just called me and told me she saw this bumper sticker on a truck as she fought traffic on Wadsworth Boulevard.  How clever!  It uses the same religions that the infamous “Coexist” bumper sticker uses, including Hinduism, Daoism, Shintoism, Unitarian Universalism, Satanism, Atheism, Islamism, and Judaism. There is a website where these bumperstickers can be purchased (http://www.contradictmovement.org; warning: I do not endorse everything on this web site, whether message or method).

The “Coexist” campaign is meant to promote pluralism,  a theory or system that recognizes more than one ultimate principle. The very idea is contradictory.  The Koran says, “And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers” (3.85).  Shintoism says that humans become gods (kamis) after death, and they do not believe in absolute right and wrong with the soul losing individual identity and becoming part of one great guardian spirit (Japan-Guide.com; litesofheaven.com).  Atheism believes, since there is no God, that there is no judgment and no accountability to a higher power. Taking any number of tenets about conduct, salvation, our nature, deity, afterlife, and the like, one sees inescapable and frequent contradiction between these faiths and philosophies.  Yet, even without all of this, there is the exclusive truth claim of Christianity in Scripture.  The “Contradict” bumper sticker has a passage that says much.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).  Jesus speaks of an exclusive way, calling it “the” way and saying there is “no other” way.

The “Coexist” mentality is founded, for some, upon a noble enough desire, the desire for peace and harmony.  Yet, it seeks the wrong way to peace and harmony, letting mankind devise their own way for this to exist. We do not have that prerogative.  The Bible reveals God, the Creator, in a specific way, revealing His nature, His will, and His expectations.  With that, there is human accountability and an expectation that people will follow that way or suffer the consequences of disobedience.  Conflicting, opposing positions contradict one another, and they cannot all be true!

What Kind Of Religion Do You Have?

Neal Pollard

While people today want to emphasize “spirituality” over “religion,” that is not the biblical way.  By “spiritual,” people want to talk about a self-defined personal relationship with God, the way they feel, or their pursuit of some mystical or mysterious expression of the soul.  The Bible is much less abstract and more concrete in passages like James 1:26-27, and the result should be quite convicting.

James indicates that one’s religion could be worthless (1:26).  This one may even think himself to be religious, but instead he is a forgetful hearer.  In context, he has forgotten what God’s word has said about bridling the tongue.  But, the principle applies much more broadly.  One can think himself religious, but in ignoring what the Bible says on a specific matter—ethics, morality, the plan of salvation, worship, etc.—this one deceives his own heart and possesses a worthless religion.  Notice that there is a concrete, objective way to measure this.

James indicates that one’s religion can also be pure and undefiled (1:27).  In keeping with context, this is a person who is a doer and not only a hearer of the word.  This person consciously reads and strives to apply what God has said in Scripture.  James gives a couple of examples of this in the verse, from compassionate care for the unfortunate to not allowing the world to taint us by its influence.  Regardless of the challenge or obligation, because we strive to follow the Word, we will have a religion that is unsoiled and unsullied. James says so.

I may think I have a certain kind of religious, spiritual life, but the Bible is a mirror that shows me exactly where I am.  I can claim or assert that I have a certain relationship with God or spiritual feeling, but does the declaration match the deeds.  That determines what kind of religion I have.

What Does The Bible Say?

Neal Pollard

Most people have very strong convictions, pro or con, about religious matters.  Many who claim to be religious form opinions and draw conclusions with very little if any biblical consultation.  How ironic is it to claim to follow God while ignoring and even rejecting His very revealed will?

Many religious people, church attenders and not, are guided by their feelings, desires, opinions, preferences, and consciences (cf. 2 Tim. 4:3; Prov. 14:12).  Perhaps they have a favorite preacher or other religious figure they implicitly trust.  Their religion may be submitted and subjugated to the message of the culture or even the media. It may be based on convenience and comfort.  Throughout time, man has attempted to serve God on his own terms and based on what he thinks is right.  Whether ignorantly or defiantly, he puts himself on a throne upon which only Jesus belongs (Mat. 28:18).

How long could religious error survive if potentially divided parties could lay aside personal interests and objectively study the sacred text?  So often, the religious world is divided because of man-made doctrines and traditions.  Instead of looking to the Bible to answer the important questions of time and eternity, men often come up with the answers they want and then go looking for Bible verses to support their predetermined views.  Consider that some of the most popular religious ideas—salvation by saying the sinner’s prayer, premillennialism, speaking in tongues, women worship leaders, once-saved, always-saved, and instrumental music—are not practiced or believed based upon their being taught in Scripture but instead their being the beliefs and views of mankind.  How thrilling it would be if we could unite every religious person in the desire to come to the text, the glasses of prejudice or sectarian beliefs removed, and let God tell us what to believe and how to live!  That is possible, but it begins with each of us humble, sincerely asking, “What does the Bible say?”

 

Staying On The Rails

Neal Pollard

Without A Belief In The Bible’s Inspiration…

  • Why would I read, meditate upon, or study it daily (or at all) to guide my life?
  • What will be the paradigm for directing and shaping my life?
  • From where will I draw my understanding of Who Jesus is, what He did, and how I must relate to Him?
  • How do I form my understanding of where I came from, why I am here, or where I am going?
  • Why would I trust or follow what it says to do in even a single case, circumstance, or verse?
  • What logical, ultimate constraint do I have from any behavior or act I desire to do, no matter how aberrant or outlandish society finds it?
  • How do we evaluate the content of any word, attitude, or action for rightness or wrongness?
  • On what basis would I accept absolutes, which I must (even if I absolutely deny the existence of absolute truth)?
  • Who or what will be my standard of authority?

One of the most famous movie scenes of all time depicts Dr. Richard Kimble, played by Harrison Ford, desperately running, orange prison jump suit, shackles, and all, as a derailed train caroms out of control, rapidly gaining on him, and threatening his life. The videography is spectacular, cutting quite an imposing figure.  A multi-ton mass of metal off the rail and out of control promises nothing but damage and destruction.  As long as the train is on the track, its weight and speed do not pose a threat.  If it is not, the prospects are frightening.

The premise that the Bible is the Word of God from the mind of God through men provides an answer to all the above, weighty questions.  If one refuses to accept the Bible is what it claims to be (1 Cor. 2:11-12; Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; Jude 3; etc.), then of necessity he or she must choose an alternate guide for life.  It is fair to evaluate that alternative with equal criticism and scrutiny.  Wisdom would seem to suggest choosing what best explains the whole picture–our complex design, moral compass, appreciation for beauty, universe’s order, and more.  What we are talking about are the very biggest issues of life! They deserve our deepest thought and wisest choice.

 

COMIC-CON’s Courageous Conquerors

Neal Pollard

Since 1970, San Diego has been home to a Comic Book convention that has grown to international renown and is patronized by over 100,000 people per year.  This is where your comic book aficionados, sci-fi fans, and the like congregate to celebrate imaginary heroes from the entertainment world.  From Spider Man to Spock, these fictional characters are honored by attendees who dress, act, and talk like them.  It matters little if the patrons are 5’6″ and 300 pounds.  It’s a place and time to pretend.

This year, three stuntmen promoting an upcoming movie heard the screams of onlookers as a drunk, jilted woman had climbed outside the railing of the balcony of her fourteenth story apartment.  In her inebriated, distraught state, she intended to take her life.  The stuntmen sprang into action, scaling a fence and then racing up to her apartment, before stealthily racing out to stop her from what seemed to be an imminent jump.  They had been trained for lifesaving operations, but they typically used those skills for entertaining moviegoers (via http://www.abcnews.com).

When I heard about this, I thought about the wonderful opportunities you and I have, week after week, to assemble and study God’s Word together.  Added to that, hopefully, is daily time spent by each of us in the Bible in personal devotion.  While this time and effort is meant to spiritually strengthen and protect us, it is also training for the work we have to do as Christians.  If we are not intentional, however, we can find ourselves in some ways resembling New Testament Christians without doing the heroic things they did.  Or, we can undergo that continuous spiritual training without putting it into practical use to save those who relatively soon will head into eternity.  God needs us mustering the courage and conviction to put what we know into practice in order to save those in desperate need of rescue.  What will we do this week to reach out and help someone in need of Jesus?  Doing nothing, as a matter of practice, makes us, at best, pretenders.  Seeking to save the lost makes us heroes on an unparalleled magnitude!  May we so strive.

An Exhortation To White And Black Christians

Neal Pollard

I rarely modify the word “Christian” with adjectives like red, yellow, black, or white.  Occasionally, however, an event happens that threatens to divide God’s people of a racial nature.  The recently ended George Zimmerman trial in the death of Treyvon Martin is one such event.

It seems to me that so many children of God have reacted to the verdict in that trial along either political and, as often, racial lines.  Everyone from adherents of the NRA to those of the NAACP seems to have strong opinions and stronger reactions.  From such a long distance away from the facts of the case, many whose opinions are decidedly sympathetic to one side or another seem certain that either justice or injustice was served by the jury.

While forming an opinion about cases like this one may approach inevitability, there is a caution to be heeded.

We cannot allow the world’s division, whether due to politics, religion, race, or the like, to infect us and divide us.  That means that we should be very careful as we communicate with one another through the various means we use–Facebook and other social media, email, the Bible classroom and pulpit, and even our conversations with people.  Our passion cannot be rooted in these things that do not matter in eternity!  Eternal things ought to be our cause and obsession.

When I was a graduate student at Freed-Hardeman, Earl Edwards taught a course on missions.  He depicted the first-century scenario powerfully, asking, “Can you imagine Paul and the other apostles spending all their time picketing abortion clinics, lobbying Rome, or consuming themselves with the social causes of their day?”  His point was that the early Christians’ focus was on the living hope (cf. 1 Pet. 1:3).  They were not distracted by the causes and factions of their world.

Please be careful of rhetoric in defense of Zimmerman or lament of Martin that raises walls that Christ died to destroy.  While his focus was Jew and Gentile rather than black and white, his words apply to us today that Christ “is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation” (Eph. 2:14).  The wall of separation, in context, was the Old Testament.  But, the law represented that which kept the two groups apart.  Christ reconciles us in one body and makes us “one new man” (Eph. 2:15-16).

There will be no “white heaven” and “black heaven” (or whatever race comes to mind).  That being the case, we had better develop and maintain colorblindness on earth. Let the world be divided, if they will not submit to Christ. Let us be united, submitting to our Lord!