A certain father set his small son on the table. Walking to the other end of the table he told the little boy to come to him, promising to catch him when he got to the end. The little boy believed his daddy, so he begin/started out confidently. When he got to the end (of the table) he jumped, expecting to land in his daddy’s arms. Instead, the cold-hearted father stepped back with his arms folded together, unmindful of the pain, injury or even worse that would befall him. Deceived — and by his own father — the little lad fell to the floor. This father is like the devil, who promises good things to those who listen to him, but in the end pays the wages of death (Romans 6:23).
Many people today are in a similar situation and don’t even realize it. They confidently go along in life, not realizing how near the precipice they really are, hoping to be saved in the end. Hope is very important in the Christian’s life. Paul lists it together with faith and love. To hope that God will be merciful in the end, yet not seeking His forgiveness nor serving Him in this life, is to deceive one’s self. The Apostle Peter refers to a live hope (1 Peter 1:3-5). This hope is based on a clear evidence of forgiveness of sins and power unto victory in one’s life. This results in a real determination to faithfully serve God.
TRUE REPENTANCE AND BELIEF.
A very popular Scripture today is “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” (Acts 16:31). This is a wonderful promise of God through which He offers salvation to all men. However, the emphasis must be placed on believing as much on how and whom we believe. How do the Scriptures say we shall believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? The first stop outlined by Jesus Himself is through true repentance, “repent ye, and believe the gospel,” (Mark 1:15). John the Baptist also preached repentance as a prerequisite for believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and entering into His Kingdom. He told the people, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand… Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his path straight,” (Matthew 2:2,3). This agrees very well with the message preached by the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost, which says, “Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall received the gift of the Holy Ghost,” (Acts 2:38).
Christ taught that self-denial will come with true faith (Matthew 16:24,25). We must die to our own will and wishes in order for the will of Christ to be born in us. To die is not pleasant, but to teach a crown without a cross or a birth without travail is deceptive. This deceptive spirit teaches that salvation is effective for every sin by merely believing. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that one must repent before forgiveness is received.
What is repentance? True repentance is realizing that our sinful condition has separated us from God and seeing ourselves as sinners condemned to die. We feel sorry for our sins and as we see them and ourselves in the light of God’s Judgement of sin they become exceedingly sinful to us (Romans 7:13). We hate our sin, yet are bound by it and in faith turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. As we believe His promises and accept Him as Lord, He forgives and frees us from the law of sin and death, and we become children of God. We can then say with the Apostle Paul, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” (Romans 8:1).
The person who really believes on the Lord Jesus Christ believes on Him not only as the Redeemer and Savior, but also as Lord. To accept Him as Lord is to willingly submit to everything He asks of us. Only as we do this can we claim to really believe on and love the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:15,21; 15:10).
ONE WAY OR MANY.
We have been told by some that it doesn’t make too much difference how we believe or worship God, or what church we belong to, because it is just like a wagon wheel with all the spokes leading to the hub. The spokes are likened to the different ways of believing and living and the hub to Heaven, our final goal. But let us examine this by the Word of God.
Jesus warned that false Christs and false prophets would arise and try to deceive even the very elect (Matthew 24:24). The Apostle Paul referred to “false brethren” already in his time. The Apostle Peter writes of false teachers who, because of their own evil desires, would teach false doctrine(s) and draw the elect away from the way of the truth, and cause them to return to the bondage of sin (2 Peter, chapter 2).
Jesus did not promise many (sheep) folds, but one: “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be once fold, and one shepherd:” (John 10:16). He did not offer to construct more folds for the “other sheep”, but to bring them to the one true fold where they could be cared for and protected from false shepherds and the cold, deceptive winds of false doctrine(s).
We don’t read that each of the Apostles believed as they pleased after Jesus’ return to Heaven or that they started separate organizations for worshiping God and preaching the Gospel. Rather, they “…continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14; 2:1, 42-47). Later on when differences of opinion arose among them they did not decide to go their separate ways and each believe as seemed right in his own eyes, but met in Jerusalem to consider the matter and come to a conclusion that “seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to them,” (Acts 15). This was a great consolation and greatly strengthened the various congregations or groups of believers as the decisions were brought up to them.
The Apostle Paul writes that we are as a body (not bodies) with many members functioning together (Romans 12:4). The unity of the body and of the faith is stressed in the fourth chapter of Ephesians with verse four and five telling us that, “There is one body, and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism”. In verse seventeen he warns not to walk as other Gentiles walk. Why would he express this concern if it made no difference what one believed (as long as he believed in Jesus) or how one lived or what baptism one was baptized with or what faith one lived by if all (of the) spokes led to the hub? It is true that all spokes lead to the hub in a wagon wheel, but this is not a valid illustration of the Scripture is the body with one goal, one purpose, one spirit, one Lord (head), one faith and one baptism under the one God who is above, through, and in all.
Great care must be taken to be certain that one belongs to the church that “teaches the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:17). Some have been found “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Where this is the case those who are not well-grounded on the Word of God may easily be led astray and deceived.
All doctrines must be based on the Word of God and not on traditions. There are often traditions that are treasured and kept. These must always be weighed carefully to see if they agree with the spirit and intent of the Gospels. To base a doctrine on a tradition or a commandment of men which is un-scriptural has long been one of Stan’s deceptive tactics. (See Mark 7:7-9.) To teach part but not all of the truth can be equally as deceptive. Part of the Great Commission includes the injunction: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” . Upon this we can claim the promise in the remainder of the verse, “…and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” (Matthew 28:20).
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