As far back as what lead up to the murder of Abel by Cain (Genesis 4), Fallen Man has developed and has adopted his own ideas and traditions (Matt. 15: 9) concerning what Man believes that he can (or must do) in order to re-secure a relationship with God that was lost at the Fall.
As far back as the earliest recorded generations of Man, Fallen Man has developed and has adopted his own ideas concerning what Man can or must do to worship God and as He desires (John 4: 23).
As far back as the earliest generations of Man, Fallen Man has developed and adopted his own ideas and traditions concerning the purpose and the means to identify and to execute the post (after) salvation spiritual life.
When Cain’s offering was rejected and Abel’s offering was accepted, it led up to the first recorded homicide in human history. Man has been killing each other over “religious” disputes even since, with each side believing that it is they who have gotten it right.
Perhaps what makes “r-e-l-i-g-i-o-n” most appealing to the fallen nature in Man is that it a-p-p-e-a-r-s to provide Man with the means to restore, and then maintain, the fellowship with God that was lost at the Fall. In doing so, Fallen Man believes that he has addressed the concept of eternity that God has placed in the heart of every soul that He created (Eccl. 3: 11), and is now in line to received the earthly and heavenly blessings from the God/god(s) that the individual or group as identified as the true God/god(s).
But like everything else that God has established for good, the devil will make a perverted use of it in order to promote his own agenda. The devil’s agenda includes every teaching and practice that runs contrary to what God has established. Although contrary, such things are never-the-less designed to appear to have come from God.
In some cases, the devil flat out disputes what God has said (e.g. Gen. 3: 4), whereas in other cases, the devil puts his own spin (Gen. 3: 5) on what God has said. The one and only effective defense for this plan of attack is for one to learn exactly what the Word of God does say BEFORE the need arises (Matt. 7: 24-27).
The devil generates doubts and confusion by promoting the concepts of false religion. As far as the Christian Community is concerned, these false concepts of religion consist of the all “additives (Deut. 4: 2/Prov. 30: 6),” aka what Jesus called the “traditions of men ()” of His day, that “religious” authority has engineered.
These additives consist of false or irrelevant teachings coupled with accompanying practices that have been established to facilitate them.
In some cases these “additives” were/are the result of erroneously bringing what HAD BEEN a part of the Old Testament dispensation, forward into the Christian Community of the Church Age. Such things included, but are not limited to, holy buildings, altars, officiating priests, circumcision, and tithing, as the means to secure, restore, or retain salvation, and/or to worship God, here in the Church Age.
In other cases, these additives have come in the forms of confessionals, graven images, candle stations, and “holy” furnishings that facilitate the false teachings and practices that have been introduced into the Christian Community.
God is NOT the source of confusion (1Cor. 14: 33).
Paul, in his letter to the Galatians (Gal. 3: 1) identifies the source of confusion WITHIN the Church as demonic, having “bewitched” the local believers.
Paul in his letter to Timothy (1Tim. 4: 1) identifies the source of false teachings (and accompanying practices) WITHIN the Christian Community at large, and especially towards the end of the Age, as demonic.
Such doubts and confusion are the result of a direct attack on the “simplicity” of faith and faith alone in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the means to obtain and to retain salvation. By design, God's plan of salvation was made so clear that with the enabling power of God the Holy Spirit a child could understand it. It was/is via of "wisdom" of Man (Romans 1: 22), that the issue of salvation became complicated and confusing.
"Professing to be wise, they (Fallen Man) became fools (Romans 1: 22 NASB) italics mine."
Those who “continue” in the Word will be free from such “religious” bondage (John 8: 31-32). To continue or to “abide” in the Word means to know and apply what the Bible has to say about salvation and the post salvation spiritual life HERE on Earth. Once one knows the truth, it becomes easier to spot all the counterfeits and alternatives that Man-made religion and/or the devil promotes.
Those who continue in the Word will not perceive eternal security to be a “license” to sin, knowing that there are still other consequences that a born again believer can receive (Heb. 12: 6/Acts 5/ 1Cor. 11:/ 1Cor. 3: 12-15/ Rev. 2/Rev. 3).
Especially as of the 3rd century AD forward, the Christian Community has been infiltrated and compromised by all the “help” that “religious” authority WITHIN the Christian Community engineered.
The religions of the world (Psalms 96: 5) are the devil’s counterfeits and/or alternatives to God's plan for the human race. Christian “Religion,” as opposed to Biblical Christianity, is among the “religions” of the world. Christian Religion differs from the other religions of the world in that is DOES identify the ONE true God, but is similar the other religions of the world in that it promotes false means in addition to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to either obtain or to retain salvation. Christian "religion" has a never-ending list of sins or actions for which a soul could find itself is Hell, whereas Christianity has only ONE (John 3: 18/Rev. 20: 15).
Biblical Christianity both identifies the ONE and ON LY true God AND the ONE and only way (John 14: 6) to obtain and retain salvation. This John 14: 6 statement, made by the Lord Jesus Christ, excludes ALL of other means for ANYONE to receive salvation!
"Jesus said to him. I am *the (not "a') way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to (God) the Father but through Me (John 16: 6 NASB)."
Biblical Christianity identifies the purpose and the means to execute the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. Christian religion promotes several alternatives.
God never needed the “help” or the “input” of Man to do the work that is the exclusive domain of God. The atoning rituals that were performed on or around the altar by the Old Testament priests were symbolic of the actual work that would be later accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.
God, during the Old Testament dispensation accepted such offerings and sacrifices in light of the fact of what they symbolically represented. Once (Hebrews 10/ 1 John 2: 2) the sacrificial work of the Lord Jesus Christ took place on the altar of the cross, the Old Testament Temple, its rituals, altars, and officiating (Leviticus) priesthood had fulfilled their divine purpose (Matt 5: 18). All of Scripture was written and preserved for our e-d-i-f-i-c-a-t-i-o-n (2Tim. 3: 16), but not all of Scripture was written for our a-p-p-l-i-c-a-t-i-o-n, here in the dispensation of the Church Age.
Accordingly, such things, and the tithing practice that had been put in place to support such things, have NO function or place in the practices of the Church Age.
Old Testament tithing was NOT an option; it was compulsory. Church Age believers ARE to support their local assembly with their time, talents, and treasure (money), but such giving is NOT to be result of compulsion (2Cor. 9: 7).
If any given local church functioned in the way that God designed it to be, it would have all the logistical provisions it needs to sustain itself (Matt. 6: 33), and to fulfill the mission that it was given to do.
If, where, and when a local assembly becomes one’s primary source of spiritual edification (as it should), the advancing disciple will be self-motivated to contribute all that he can to sustain its presence in the community.
Making and keeping any given local assembly one that is in line with what the plan of God calls for is primary responsibility of the local pastor. Providing logistical support for the pastor and for the local assembly is the responsibility of the members.
In the Church Age, the people of God were NEVER instructed to build “holy” buildings, as they once did in the dispensation of the Old Testament. If buildings and its amenities that they offer become available, that’s fine, but they are not necessary to worship God, as He desires to the worshiped (John 4: 24). When more of a local assembly's resources are spent on buildings and tangible things than what is spent on doing the work that God commissioned it to do, there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
In some cases, many of the things and the activities that take place within such buildings throughout the Christian Community are no more than the "traditions of men" that Christian Religion promotes, and/or have nothing to do with the work that God commissioned (Matt. 28: 19, 20) His Church to do.
The last altar of atoning sacrifice that God acknowledged was the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, upon which the last and final sacrifice was made. The stated (1Cor. 11: 24, 25) purpose of celebrating the Lord’s Supper is for born again believers to “bring into remembrance” (NOT to reproduce) the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There were NO altars or Leviticus priests present when the Lord Jesus Christ introduced this ritual, and there are NO altars or officiating priests required now!
To the surprise of many Church Age believers, the Lord Jesus Christ (being of the tribe of Judah) did not qualify for the Leviticus priesthood of His day! The Lord Jesus Christ is now the "high priest" of His Church, being its Head. All born again believers are members of the royal priesthood (1Pet. 2: 9, 10) of the Church Age. Such "priests" of the Church Age represents him/her self before God as they approach the throne of grace (Heb. 4: 16) in Heaven, and represent God (and the things of God) before Man (2Cor. 5: 20) here on Earth.
This is quite different from the "officiating" priests that are a product of the various religions that they were established to promote.
Pastor-teachers are primarily ordained to study and to the teach the Word of God, fulfilling the internal half of the Great Commission (Matt. 28: 20). The position was not created for them to be the dispensers of the products of religion. From the very beginning of the Church Age, there were men trained and ordained to function as pastor teachers with the local assemblies, but the same can not be said for the "officiating priests" of Christian religion that didn't come on the scene until centuries later.
The 1John 1: 9 “confessional” that God designed is intangible, and is open 24-7. There is no function or place for a clergyman (1Tim. 2: 5) in the confessional that God designed.
1John 1: 9 confession is a private matter of prayer between the confessor and God. It is God who forgives sin, and He needs no help in the matter. He requires no additional payment (penance) for a sin debt that has already been PAID IN FULL by the shed blood of Christ.
There is NO place for graven images, idols, furnishings, or apparatus to facilitate the “religious” traditions of men in the places or buildings where the Church (that God designed) meets together to worship God.
Man is attracted to what the eye can see, but God is more interested in the intangible things that neither the congregation nor its clergy can produce independently of God (John 5: 5). God does NOT need any HELP to perform the Work that remains within His exclusive domain and that He has delegated to NO ONE.
God is present (Matt. 18: 20) wherever or however two or three born again believers gather together (Heb. 10: 25) for such things as corporate worship.
The early Church met in market places, private homes, open spaces, and in periods of persecution, secret hiding places. When so gathered, it engaged in the type of worship that God desires, without all the cathedrals, furnishings, apparatus, traditions of men, and pageantry that would later take center stage in many areas of the Christian Community.
The need to beg for financial support from its members, or to garner the financial support of outsiders by offering secular services, in order to sustain any given local assembly does NOT speak well of the spiritual condition of the congregation. Supporting one’s local assembly is NOT a burden, but a privilege and a desire of an advancing disciple.
The primary mission that God gave to His Church was/is to preserve and to proclaim the Gospel Message to unbelievers, and to make “disciples” (students and appliers of the Word of God) out of those who are BORN AGAIN.
It is for these reasons, and NOT on the basis of such things as convenience or family tradition, that an advancing disciple will choose to attend and to support a local assembly.
As long as such things as social engineering, political activism, environmental projects, and humanitarian work are consistent with Scripture, such things ARE worthy causes that any individual Christian or Christian congregation can/should involve itself. Such activities can be the means through which the stage is set for the engaging in the primary mission that God gave His Church to accomplish.
Never the less, there IS a problem when such things are not kept in their appropriate place of priority on the “things to do” list of any given local assembly.
How financial support is received, and what any given local assembly does with the financial resources it receives from the congregation is the responsibility of those in positions of administrative authority and responsibility' In the type of local assembly that God designed, the local pastor teacher is primarily responsible for ALL that goes on within the local assembly he serves.
Compromising with what the Bible has to say in order to retain or increase “membership” or to increase financial support of a local assembly is shaking hands with the devil.
Granted, the doors of any local assembly should be as wide open to unbelievers as were the arms of our Lord on the cross. At the same time, as welcome as the sinner should be made to feel welcomed, his/her sin should not. God DOES accept us just as we are at the moment of salvation, but that does not mean that the same God doesn't desire that the born again believer not grow in the knowledge (2Pet.: 18) and in the application (James 1: 22) of His Word.
Critics will take the position that hard-nosed Christianity is not reflective of the LOVE of God. However, the truest expression of love is in view when one does what is in the best interests of the one being loved. Compromising with sin is NOT in the best interests of anyone.
In the interest of generating support and/or unity, many local assemblies have closed their eyes to many activities that the Bible calls sin. Such local assemblies will receive the support of the devil, but should not expect the support of God, and should not be surprised if and when God shuts it down.
Keep in mind that the same Bible that promotes interpersonal peace with “all men (Romans 12: 18),” clearly points out that the true Gospel Message will be a sword of conflict (Matt. 10: 34-36) and a source of division WITHIN the closest of personal relationships , let alone the Christian Community, or the world, at large. The same, I believe, can be said for the life of true discipleship (Luke 14: 26), as it too will be source of division.
Friendship or fellowship with the world (worldly-minded individuals or groups) is to be in enmity with God (James 4: 4).
While being commanded to pray for, feed, and clothe our e-n-e-m-i-e-s, it should be for the primary purpose of ultimately ministering to their spiritual needs.
There are times that His true disciples will be “hated” by those who hold to human viewpoint (1Cor. 2: 14), the religions (Psalms 95: 6) of the world, and/or the religious traditions of men. This hated will be found inside and outside of the Christian Community at large.
There IS a place for such things as environmental, political, social justice, and humanitarian projects in the life of Church Age believers. But in the process of engaging in such areas of service, the Church is not to lose sight of the primary mission that it was given to accomplish.
Q.: For what will it profit a man (in eternity) if gains the whole world (all the earthly help that human good can provide), but forfeits his soul (Matt. 16: 26 NASB italics mine)?
The concept of “tough love” is a hard pill to swallow, especially when one is the type of person that wants to “help” or to “fix” all the people around them.
In some cases, it IS in the best interests of the one being denied overt “help,” if when in giving such “help,” one becomes an “enabler” or a “facilitator” of an activity that one involved needs to forsake. Doing what is in the best interests of others is the greatest expression of love that one can offer.
Our desire to “help,” is such scenarios, can easily get in God’s way of bringing about the change that God desires.
* * *
With the religions of the world, it is all about what Man has done, is doing, and/or will do in a sincere, but misguided attempt to make and to keep fallen Man “right” and “acceptable” in the eyes of God, or in the eyes of one of the false gods promoted by the Psalms 96:5 religions.
All the religions of the world (including Christian religion) have activities, rituals, and functions that they (not God) have assigned to their clergy. Such clergy, in of itself, is a product of the very religion that they have been ordained to promote.
Fallen Man is predisposed to have a closed mind towards the things of God, but an open ear to the all of the alternatives that are promoted by human viewpoint, Man-made religion, the devil and his forces of evil.
Fallen Man is inherently, by nature, “hostile – Romans 8: 7” towards the God of the Bible. Making matters worse, while being naturally hostile towards the one true God, and the things of the one true God, Fallen Man, independent of God, is incapable of understanding the things of God (2Cor. 2: 14).
Human beings come into this world with an open ear to the voice of the fallen sin nature that was passed down to him/her.
If/when one is born again (John 3: 5, 7); the sin nature (and its potential influence) does NOT go away (Romans 7). It remains in the wings off center stage throughout the course of one’s post salvation spiritual life, waiting for opportunity to re-take control of the thought processes (and subsequent actions) of the born again believer.
Throughout the course of each and every day, born again believers choose to be and to remain in fellowship with God, or we choose to sin. When we sin by thought, word, or deed, we step outside of fellowship with God. Born again believers NEVER lose their salvation, but are side-lined in the post salvation spiritual life until the fellowship with God is restored.
Every time a born again believer sins, he/she falls out of fellowship with God. He/she will remain out of fellowship with God until he/she confesses (1John 1: 9) the sin(s) that caused this breach in fellowship to take place. These periods out of fellowship with God can be as brief as the few seconds it takes to confess the sin, or they can be as long as the rest of one’s post salvation spiritual life here on Earth.
There is no such thing as a “little” sin in the eyes of God (James 2: 10).
Confessing (1John 1: 9), but not forsaking (John 8: 11) what the Bible calls sin will result in a born again believer spending much of his/her post salvation spiritual life going around and around in a “revolving doorway,” going in and out of fellowship with God, but never moving forward in the plan of God.
* * *
God places the concept of eternity in the heart of e-v-e-r-y soul that He creates (Eccl. 3: 11). Those who choose to reject this God-given concept become atheists. Atheism, the belief that there is no god at all. Atheism is choice that a soul makes.
Those who accept the Eccl. 3: 11 concept of eternity are then faced with the issue of identifying who the one true God is, among all the false gods of the Psalms 96:5 that are identified and promoted by the many Psalms 96: 5 religions of the world.
There is a popular, but false, concept being promoted that we all worship the same God, but refer to Him by a different name, and/or worship Him through different means. Rather or not this concept originated with Fallen Man or with the devil could be debated, but without a doubt, the concept is certainly promoted by the devil and those who do his bidding.
"Kissing cousins" with the concept is the idea that because of the “merciful” and “forgiving” attributes that the God, there are multiple "ways" to Heaven. This of course is in direct contradiction to such verses as John 14: 6. If just believing therein the existence of "a" god, or if just believing in the existence of the God of the Bible punched one's ticket to Heaven, then the devil and his demons would qualify (James 2: 19/Job 1: 6/Matt. 8: 29).
The devil, better than many who claim to be Christians, if fully aware of the ONE and ONLY "way-John 14: 6)" for Fallen Man to enter heaven (John 3: 3). This is why the devil promotes the Psalms 96:6 "religions" of the world, and why he opposes the true Gospel Message. This is why he promotes all the "additives" of Christian Religion, and opposes Christianity.
Just as a physically dead man can NOT do anything in the natural realm, a spiritually dead man can NOT to do anything in the spiritual realm. A spiritually dead soul can go through (or be put through) the rituals of religion (including Christian Religion) and still be as spiritually dead as the day he/she came into this world. As the Lord told the very religious man (Nicodemus), one must (not an option) be born again (John 3: 5, 7).
It is God that (Titus 3: 5) regenerates the spiritually dead spirit at the moment one is born again. It is God who (Eph. 4: 30 NASBN"seals" (marks for identification/baptizes) the soul as a child of God the moment he/she is born again. God does NOT need the "HELP" of either human clergy or religious ritual to complete the process. God does not need the HELP of the one born again, or the HELP of human clergy to retain the eternal life (John 3: 16) that born again believer has received at the moment he/she has been born again (Romans 8:1).
Here in the Church Age, one is not in a relationship with the God of the Bible until one is first born again (John 3: 5, 7).
To be born again, one MUST personally believe (place his 100% trust and confidence) in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is NO ROOM in the soul structure of a born again believer for any of the additives that Christian Religion would bring into the mix, as this would reduce the 100% trust and confidences principle. If any of these additives were required, then the claims of Jesus Christ were not 100% true, but require the input of human HELP.
John 14: 6 makes null and void ANY of the “other” ways and means, regardless of who or what it is that promotes them.
“Jesus said to him, “I am the (not “a”) way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me (John 14: 6 NASB).”
The Lord Jesus Christ is “the” way, not “a” way among others!
Take faith in Jesus Christ out of the picture, as the false Psalms 96: 5 religions of the world do, and one becomes one of the NO ONES being spoken of in John 14: 6. Add to the Gospel Message the additional "requirements" promoted by many Christian Religions, and one can longer claim that his/her trust and confidence is based on 100% on the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Salvation in the spiritual realm is like pregnancy in the natural realm. Either your 100% pregnant, or you are 100% not.
Because of the fallen nature that we come into this world with, the ability to understand the Gospel Message is, in itself, a gift that comes through the pre-salvation Work of God the Holy Spirit.
Here in the Church Age, it is God the Holy Spirit that arranges for the opportunity of each soul to be presented with the Gospel Message, by one means of another. Here in the Church Age, God the Holy Spirit often makes use of advancing disciples to communicate the Gospel Message to others, but it is the Work of God the Holy Spirit that enables the recipient of the information communicated to understand it.
It is NOT for advancing disciples to argue or pressure anyone to respond. Salvation comes to those who choose to use the free will that God gave them to choose to believe.
The earliest generations of Fallen Man, God used the oral teachings that were passed down from Adam and Eve, and the Message of the Stars (Psalms 19/Romans 1: 20), that revealed and/or spoke of God’s plan of salvation.
As the generations passed, more and more information concerning God and the plan of God were revealed to Man through the many Old Testament prophets.
At the same time, the devil promoted many false religions and religious concepts (Psalms 96: 5).
From these “religions” came the idea of there being more than one God/god, and more than one means through which Fallen Man could receive earthly and heavenly divine blessings.
“Religions” are the products of fallen Man. Such Psalms 96:5 religions identify false gods as being the ONE true God, or in some cases, being one among many gods. Many such religions promote the idea that there is only one true God, and that we all worship the one true God, but address Him by different names and worship Him differently.
Scripture (e.g. John 3: 18) teach that, as of the Church Age, if one chooses to reject the Person or the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, he/she is headed for what the Bible calls the lake of fire (John 3: 18/Rev. 20: 15). Such followers are NOT condemned so much for what they chose to believe, but what (the Gospel Message) they chose NOT to believe, in the process. If one truly believes the Gospel Message, one disbelieves what the Psalms 96: 5 have to say, and vise versa.
One can sincerely believe with all one's heart that 1 + 1 = 3. but that does not make it so.
Here in the Church Age, once presented, each and every soul chooses to believe (place his trust and confidence) or disbelieve is atheism, many gods, false gods, one or more Man-made religions, or the Gospel Message. Such verses as John 3: 7, 18 clearly teach that disbelief in the Person and the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ results in one spending all of eternity future in what the Bible (Rev. 20: 15) calls the lake of fire.
If one chooses to believe in the Gospel Message, he/she disbelieves in the teachings of the Psalms 96: 5 religions of the world. If one believes in the teachings of the Psalms 96: 5 religions of the world, he/she disbelieves the Gospel Message.
Choosing to disbelieve in Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ results in eternal condemnation (John 3: 18), and results in one spending all of eternity future in what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15).
Virtually all of the Psalms 96:5 religions concur that God/ god(s)are appeased through rituals, good deeds, and/or good behavior. This IS the commonly held belief of human viewpoint, regardless of which God/god(s) one chooses to identity. It was/is generally accepted that appeasement generated earthly and heavenly blessings, and that offending God/god(s) generated earthly and/or eternal wrath from these same God/god(s).
Partnering with the secular Roman Emperor (Constantine), what had been the local Christian assembly in Rome, created a religion (Roman Catholicism) that would become the official “religion” of the Roman Empire. This local assembly was one of local assemblies that had been established during the period of the Apostles. This is the same local assembly to whom that Paul wrote his letter (Book of Romans).
This partnership elevated the local church in Rome to a position of great political, military, and economic power WITHIN the vast territory of the Roman Empire.
This would result in the first large split in what had been considered to be a united Christian Community. The existing churches outside of the Roman Empire did NOT acknowledge the Papal authority that was established within and promoted by the Roman Empire. This was the first major division in what had been Christian Community on a global level. Many local Christians assemblies in the Middle East did not, then or at any time in the future, acknowledge Papal authority.
Unfortunately, it was through this new found “religion” of the Roman world that many Old Testament products and practices were brought back into the Christian Community, as well as adopting many Pagan practices after putting a “Christian” spin on them. Some (not all) of these products (holy buildings) and practices did find their way into the Christian Community outside of the Romans world, as well.
IN either case were such things ever designed to be a part of the Church that God had/has in mind for Church Age.
At the time of the Protestant Reformation, many (but not all) of these products and practices were brought to light and identified as being among the “traditions of men” that had found a home in the Roman Church. There were political supporters of the Protestant Reformation who were in it for other reasons, but the true Reformers only desired to purge the Roman Church of all the traditions of men, in order to return the Church to its Biblical roots.
With neither the Roman Catholic nor the Protestant side being willing to settle these differences, the Christian Community was then divided, once again. There was then the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Protestant Church that would itself subdivide into many separate “denominations” throughout the course of its own divisive history.
As it has been correctly stated, the work of the Reformers is not complete. There still remains to be many traditions of men that are entertained within the Christian Community at large.
False teachings and practices W-I-T-H-I-N the Christian Community at large, and will only increase (1Tim. 4: 1), here in the End Times. Once these traditions of men become accepted as having come from God, they have the support of the many cultures and nationalities that embraced them. The longer they remained, the more resistant those involved are to remove them.
While being very quick to identify the false teachings and practices taking place in the “Church down the street,” Christians aren’t so quick when it comes to identifying and addressing the false teachings and practices taking place in their own.
If one is going to experience the John 8:32 freedom, there is the need to be able to distinguish between what are the practices and the products of Christian Religion, and what are the practices of Christianity.
The various Christian religions, in opposition to Biblical Christianity, promote such things as sacraments, rituals, good deeds, and good behavior, as the means to obtain and/or to retain salvation.
While some rituals, good deeds, and relatively good conduct ARE a part of executing the post salvation spiritual life, such things have never been, are not now, nor will they ever be the means to be either obtain or retain salvation.
Salvation is an unmerited, unearned, undeserved, irrevocable G-I-F-T (Romans 11: 29/Romans 8: 1) that the God of the Bible, without human help, bestows on the “people of faith.”
Here in the Church Age, the “people of faith” are those who have been what the Bible calls “born again.” See John 3: 5, 7. 9, 16, 18; Romans 8: 1.
People for a variety of reasons, such as familial, cultural, political, or social pressure can choose (or be compelled) to go through (or be put through) the motions and participate in the products and practices of any given religion, including Christian religion, and yet still find themselves in what the Bible calls the lake of fire.
Heaven is NOT for those who had been “good enough,” as NO fallen man has ever been good enough. Heaven is not for ultra “religious” ones, as many ultra “religious” souls will hear the words, “…depart from Me…(Matt. 7: 23 NASB).”
“Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy (speak for you) in Your Name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform miracles? And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness (things contrary to Scripture).” -Matt. 7: 22, 23 NASB italics mine.
Note that this group were acknowledging Him as “Lord,” and were presenting what they thought was evidence of their relationship, but were told to “depart.”
There is NO doubt in my mind that if the Rapture (1Thess. 4: 17) should take place in the middle of a worship service WITHIN the Christian Community, there are going to be many, who, like the many of Matt. 7: 22 who thought they had secured a relationship with God, finding themselves left behind, sitting in the pews and/or standing behind the pulpit with a shocked or dumbfounded expression on their faces, as the "true Church" that had been among them suddenly disappears.
The “Church” that will be raptured (no matter where the individuals members are at that split second), consists of every born again believer who is alive on the Earth at the moment. The rest of the Church, consisting of those who have departed over the course of the Church Age, will also be there in the air with Christ (1Thess. 4: 16).
Being a member in good standing with any one denomination or local assembly here on Earth does NOT mean that one is a member of the Church that God designed. Participating in a local assembly or ministry, providing it is the type of local assembly that God designed, is a part of one’s post salvation spiritual life, but is NOT the means to either obtain or retain salvation.
One becomes a permanent “member” of the Church that God designed the moment he/she is “sealed” (identified) by the Work of God the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4: 30) that immediately takes place the moment if/when one is born again.
There is NOTHING, through human effort or religious ritual that can take the place, finish, or add to this exclusive work of God the Holy Spirit. God does NOT need any HELP to do this.
The Biblical guarantee (Romans 8:1) of a home in Heaven is for those who are born again (John 3: 5, 7, 18).
The rewards (1Cor. 3: 12-15) and the privileges (Revelation 2/Revelation 3) of Heaven are reserved for those among the born again believers who chose to identify and then execute the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. Every born again believer has eternal life and a home in Heaven, but not all born again believers are going to be the recipients of the rewards and/or the privileges that are stored up for those who engage in discipleship. Advancing disciples do NOT serve God in order to be rewarded or privileged, but God has made it clear that He intends to reward and privilege those who "overcome" and produce divine good during their time here on Earth.
What all of these Psalms 96: 5 religions have in common is that they all either identify and promote a false god, or they promote false Gospel Messages as the means to secure a relationship with the ONE true God of the Bible.
With the exception of identifying a false god, there is NO difference between the basic beliefs and customs of the false religions of Psalms 96 and Christian Religion. Both groups believe that they are going to be rewarded for what they have done (or refrained from doing) in order to appease the God/god of their own choosing.
Christian Religion identifies the one true Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), but promote additional requirements and traditions of men as being a part of the process of obtaining, restoring, or retaining salvation.
This is NOT the kind of HELP that God needs, yet elements of Christian Religion, in varying degrees, can be found and are promoted in virtually every corner of the Christian Community.
From the devil’s viewpoint, the Psalms 96: 5 false religions “takes care of” the vast majority of the generations of Man, as the majority in each generation of Fallen Man chooses to place their faith (trust and confidence) is one or more of the false gods that these Psalms 96: 5 religions promote.
Scripture (Matt. 7: 13) teach that only a minority of each generation of the Church Age will choose to correctly identify and connect with the one true God of the Bible. I believe that many of those who identify the true God of the Bible will adopt the addition products, practices, and religious “traditions of men” that are promoted by Christian Religion (as opposed to Christianity) as the means to obtain or to retain salvation.
If these additional requirements are necessary, as several Christian Religions teach, then faith (trust and confidence) in the atoning Work that the Lord Jesus Christ claimed to have “finished-John 19:30 NASB) is NOT enough. This position is not only incorrect, it amounts to blasphemy, as it is an attack on both the integrity of Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Like a snowball rolling downhill, false religions garner greater and greater support as these teachings and practices become an ingrained part of the various cultures throughout the Pagan world.
Neither Judaism nor Christianity has ever represented a majority of the human population on a global scale. Scripture reveals that the Gospel Message will be preached to all the nations (Matt. 14: 14), but nowhere does it say that the majority will choose to believe it and be saved!
Granted, God desires that all men be saved (1Tim. 2: 4/2Pet. 3: 9), and has provided the means (1John 2: 2) for this to take place. What makes this divine desire a reality in our individual case is choosing to believe in a presentation of the Gospel Message. The same Gospel Message that assures believers of a home in Heaven assures those who reject the Gospel Message of an eternity in the lake of fire!
There are MANY things that God desires to take place in the spiritual lives of each and every one of us, but will fail to materialize as a result of the negative decisions that we make. There are many souls that will fail to make God’s desire a reality in their lives, and consequently (John 3: 18) will spend all of eternity future in what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15).
Matt. 7: 14, world history, and secular statistics all agree that it is only the MINORITY of each generation that will believe and be saved. Since only a minority in each generation will be saved, the reality of the situation is that the majority of each generation (and thus, the majority of the human race) will not be saved.
The devil does not have to do very much to keep this ball rolling, and is “wise” enough to quit while he is ahead of the game.
Each “religious” group usually provides enough zealots of their own to challenge any attempts by “outsiders” to present their followers with the truth concerning the identity of the one true God, and/or the one and only means to connect with Him.
In many parts of the world, rejecting one’s family or cultural “religious” beliefs and/or traditions can result in personal rejection, isolation, persecution, forfeiture of liberty, forfeiture of property, forfeiture of inheritance, and is some areas, forfeiture of life.
“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2Tim. 3: 12 NASB).”
The Bible (2Tim. 3: 12) teaches that all Church Age believers who choose to live a “godly” life (a life that God approves of) will (not might) be persecuted. The "godly" life being spoken of here is the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship that begins IF and when one is born again.
Church Age believers will be persecuted by the followers of the world religions (Psalms 96: 5) that have identified false god(s), and will be persecuted by those WITHIN the Christian Community that have adopted the “traditions of men,” and the products and practices of the various Christian Religions!
Do you experience persecution? If not, perhaps a 2Cor.13 :5 self-examination is in order!
The devil has NO issues with anyone who chooses to worship one of the many (Psalms 96) false gods that have come along throughout the course of human history. He has no issues with those who merely attend and/or go through the motions of Christian Religion, but are not born again, and/or do not identify and/or pursue the life discipleship. The devil is quite content to leave ALL of the above right where they are in the comfort of their ignorance.
It has been the long time stated (Isa. 13: 14) desire of the devil to establish a productive kingdom in which he is worshiped; his ways are used; and one that is independent of God and things of God. The world's state of affairs is a testimony of the devil's failure to do so.
The devil is more than willing to bless and/or promote anyone (Luke 4: 6) or anything (Psalms 96: 5/Matt. 7: 8) that advances his agenda and opposes God's. The devil has a very personal interest in opposing the plan of God, as this plan calls for his personal and permanent incarceration in the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 10). Like so many losers, he desires to take down as many with him that God allows (Rev. 20: 15).
He is especially well-pleased with the “help” that he receives from various sections of the Christian Community that are so involved in making the devil’s world a better place to live that they neglect the primary mission (Matt. 28: 19, 20) that they were given to accomplish. Its a win-win scenario, as the devil's world gains all the effort that such work produces while the plan of God, spelled out in the Great Commission, is put on the back burner.
Granted, there IS a place for human good and humanitarian deeds in the earthly life of a Christian disciple, but only providing and protecting the earthly needs of anyone falls short of the goals of the marching orders and mission that given to the Church. No one is going to "get into your face" for providing food, shelter, and medicine to truly needed people. It is when the Gospel Message or Bible Doctrine is presented at the same the same time that we appear on the devil's radar screen.
I spend thirty years of my adult life protecting biological human life and tangible property in the capacity of a law enforcement officer. Never-the-less, at the appointed time, all the earthly lives of those protected will never-the-less come to their appointed ends, and all of the property that was protected will be left behind, and in its time, be gone, as well.
There in the Church Age, an atheist and/or a non-Christian can produce the same quantity and quality of human good as a Christian. Food, shelter, and medical services have the same value, no matter where it comes from. God uses the human good that is produced by both unbelievers and believers. The devil’s world will do the same.
What an advancing disciple will learn, is that it is wherever he/she finds him/herself throughout the course of any given day, it is THERE that he/she is to serve as Christ's ambassador, bringing glory to God via the divine good that God will produce through him/her (John 15: 5). This, and NOT the human good that both the Christian and the unbeliever produces, is what (should) distinguish Christ's ambassador from his/her worldly counterparts engaged in the same activities in the home, on the job, in own's career, or recreation.
What an atheist, or a non-Christian, can not do, is to be used of God in the production of divine good (John 15: 5) as, "...apart from Me, you can do nothing ( spiritual value in the spiritual realm)." John 15: 5 NASB italics mine. It is divine good that brings glory to God. It is divine good, symbolized as silver, gold, and precious stones in 1 Cor. 3: 12-15 that brings glory to God. The glorification of God was the reason that God created Man in the first place.
It hAs has been said, give a man a fish and he has been fed once. Teach him how to fish and he can continue to feed himself and others, as well.
The “fish” should be given to those who truly ARE in need of our assistance, but withheld from those who choose to let others feed them rather than help themselves. The same Bible that commands us to feed the hungry also tells us that , "...if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either (1Thess. 3: 10 NASB). There is a world of difference between those who CAN NOT, and those who WILL NOT work.
Regarding our earthly needs and the earthly needs of others, does not Scripture (Matt. 6: 33) teach that IF one FIRST seeks the kingdom of God, then ALL of his/her earthly NEEDS (not wants) will be given to him/her?
This is not to discourage the humanitarian work that many Christians embrace, but one should distinguish the truly needy ones, and not lose sight of, nor neglect, the primary mission of the Church in the process.
"For you always have (the opportunity to serve) the poor with you, but you will not always have (the opportunity to serve) Me (John 12: 8 NASB italics mine)."
In John 12: 8, Jesus was making reference to Deut 15: 11. It should be noted that Deut. 15: 11 not only stated that there would always be poor people, but that the people of God are to, "...freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land." This Old Testament principle (in its entirety) would have been well known to the people that He was speaking with when the John 12:8 incident took place. Jesus was not dismissing either the fact of poverty or the obligation to provide for the poor. Jesus was commending Mary for having prioritized His needs in performing her deed of service at the time, and for a future deed on the day His burial.
What He, I believe, He was teaching in John 12: 8 was that the opportunity to serve the spiritual issues (salvation/edification) of the people around us can be lost if we are not good stewards of what we have and when and how best to use them. While He did many things that provided for the immediate needs of many people, it was/is the spiritual needs of people that was always His priority.
The primary mission (aka the Great Commission) calls for the preservation and the proclaiming of the TRUE Gospel Message to unbelievers, and the making of disciples (students and appliers of the Word of God) out of those who have ALREADY been born again.
Like the one that we see in the mirror, EVERY person we interact with on a daily basis has spiritual needs that an advancing disciple can embrace. Some need to hear the Gospel Message in order to be saved. Others have already been saved, but need to hear an edifying principle of Scripture in order to take the next step in the individual plan that God has in mind. Being prepared to respond to these needs is the long-term objective of discipleship.
The advancing disciple will develop the discernment to know when and how to respond to the opportunities that God has arranged for him/her to serve the spiritual needs of those around him/her.
EVERY born again believer already has all the knowledge (The Gospel Message) that he/she needs to share with unbelievers. IF and as one progresses in the true post salvation spiritual life of discipleship, he/she will become more available and useful to God in serving the spiritual needs of fellow born again believers (1Cor. 12: 7), as well.
At the very least, EVERY born again Christian should have at least a resource that he/she can refer others to that are seeking guidance in the spiritual realm.
Serving the spiritual needs of others is an essential part of the post salvation spiritual life that is outlined in Scripture for the Church Age.
It is for the spiritual service to others that God has given to every born believer his/her spiritual gift (1Cor. 12: 7). What one’s spiritual gift is a choice that God made (1Cor. 12: 11).
Where one is to exercise his/he gift is actually easy to find out. All one has to do is to close his/her eyes, and reopen them, and there you are. The ambassador of Christ is to function in that capacity no matter where he/she is, or what else he/she may otherwise be doing. God will arrange for whatever changes in location there may or may not be throughout the course of one's post salvation spiritual life.
How and why one did (or did not) prepare oneself or respond to the spiritual needs of others is a part of the 2 Cor. 5: 10 “accounting” that EVERY born again believer will give to God. This accounting is NOT for the purpose of who gets in or is tossed out of Heaven (Rev. 20: 15). That issue was resolved the moment one was born again here on Earth.
It is the quality of one's post (after) salvation spiritual life that one must give an accounting of, resulting in the receiving or in the forfeiture of heavenly reward (1Cor. 3: 12-15) and/or privileges (Rev. 2/Rev. 3) that are reserved for born again believers who advance in the post (after) salvation life of discipleship.
Evangelism, that being the presentation of the Gospel Message to unbelievers, and the edification of fellow believers is the kind of spiritual HELP that the Church (and EVERY member of it) has been “commissioned” to take part.
Fallen Man has mastered the art of justifying their prioritization of alternative agendas, usually pointing to the undisputed "good" that they do for others here on Earth. Many individuals and groups contribute to making the devil’s world (Luke 4: 6) a relatively better place to live through all of the human good that they produce. The devil makes use all the “help” that such individuals and organizations have to offer. Establishing a productive kingdom that is independent of God has been the desire of devil BEFORE Man ever entered the picture.
On the other hand, the devil and the devil’s world (John 15: 19) HATES the ones who ARE born again, and especially those born again believers who go one to identify and advance in the post salvation spiritual life.
Beginning with the false idea that the purpose of the post salvation spiritual life is for the purpose of qualifying for a home is heaven, many who consider themselves Christians have no clue as to what the purpose of the post salvation spiritual life is all about. In truth, the post salvation spiritual life does not even begin until after the issue of salvation (going to Heaven) has already been forever settled.
The erroneous reinsertion of many of the Old Testament products and practices, combined with the adoption of many Pagan practices (after putting a “Christian” spin on them), is what opened the door to many of the products, false teachings, traditions of men, and false practices that were incorporated and endorsed by Christian Religion.
Such “help” God did not need and the devil has used to promote false teachings and practices WITHIN the Christian Community (Galatians 3/1Tim. 4: 1).
The details of God’s plan of salvation were made known to Man in stages over the course of human history. The individual members of each generation of Man were/are accountable to the extent of information that had been made available to them during each dispensation.
Here in the Church Age, all of the information (Gospel Message) that is ever going to be made available concerning God’s plan for the salvation of Fallen Man has already been revealed. The plan and the significance of the plan can be summed up in just a few brief verses of Scripture (John 3: 5, 7, 16, 18/Romans 8:1/Rev. 20: 15). Just a clear understand and application of the principles found in these passages alone will not only change the outlook of one's time here on Earth, but will provide one with the eternal life that one needs to experience eternity with God (John 3: 18/Romans 8: 1) and avoid the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15) awaiting all unbelievers.
It is upon the born again believers in each generation that the devil takes aim and fires his “fiery darts (Eph. 6: 16 NASB).” The intensity and frequency of these attacks go hand in hand with the extent that any born again believer advances in the post salvation spiritual life. The devil has no reason to attack the followers of the Psalms 96:5 religions of the world, nor has he any great interest in discouraging the followers of the alternatives that are offered, promoted, and practiced by those who follow Christian Religion (as opposed to Christianity).
By design, these “fiery darts” are not always detected, and are most successful when their true source is not discerned (1Cor. 2: 14).
Sometimes these darts are launched by the devil and/or his Eph. 6: 12 forces of evil (Galatians 3/1Timothey 4:1).
Sometimes these are launched by wolves is sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7: 15), promoting themselves as spokespersons of God.
Sometimes these darts are launched in the form of religious traditions of men (Mark 7: 7/Collosians 2: 8) that are erroneously promoted as having come from God.
Sometimes these darts are launched by spiritually blind teachers, leading their equally blind (Matt. 15: 14) followers astray.
These darts are fired every day in the secular entertainment world. These darts are fired every day out of the mouths of Fallen Man all around us.
We (should) expect such attacks coming from the devil’s world, but the most destructive ones are the darts that are launched from what a believer has come to accept as his/her primary source of spiritual edification.
Such darts can be launched from an apostate pulpit that promotes the religious traditions of men (Mark 7: 7/Collosians 2: 8), in lieu of accurate Bible Doctrine.
Knowing the net worth of these counterfeits, they are endorsed and encouraged by the devil.
These darts are designed to appear to be what God desires and/or requires of us. Like ANY other counterfeit, they must appear to be the “real thing” if the plan of deception is going to succeed.
There were false teachers and prophets WITHIN the Old Testament community of God, and there are false teachers and “anti-Christ” people WITHIN the community of God (1Tim. 4: 1/1John 4: 1) now.
The last place that one would expect to find an antichrist is standing behind a pulpit, but by definition, anyone who speaks against the Person, the deity, the atoning Work, or the teachings of Christ, is Antichrist (1John 4: 3).
Denying the deity (divine nature) of the Lord Jesus Christ is antichrist. Denying the divine nature of the Lord Jesus Christ is a common thread found in the Psalms 96: 5 religions of the world. Some will go as far as acknowledging His miracles and that He was one of many prophets (spokesmen of God), but stop short of acknowledging His divine nature. Denying His divine nature is rejecting a key element of the Gospel Message.
Rejecting the significance of the completed Work that He accomplished on the cross is antichrist. Promoting a need to add religious rituals to” the finished (John 19: 30) Work of Christ is antichrist, as such activity amounts to an attack upon the integrity of the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The denying and/or rejection of the Person or the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ amounts to committing the ONE unpardonable sin, for which there will N-E-V-E-R be ANY forgiveness (Matt. 12: 32). Matt. 12: 32 speaks of the pre-salvation activity that God the Holy Spirit arranges for the presentation of the Gospel Message, and the He provides the recipient with the ability to understand it so that the recipient can make an informed decision. This choice is what results in the eternal salvation or condemnation of the recipient's soul (John 3: 18).
* * *
Prayer is communication. Prayers do not have to be audible in order to be heard by God.
Uttering prayers to the God of the Bible, and/or to any one of the many gods that are promoted in the name of the Psalms 96: 5 religions of the world, does NOT save anyone; UNLESS it is a prayer that contains a (Matt. 16: 16) confession of faith. A confession of faith means that one acknowledges the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ as the means of one's personal salvation. Peter's confession of faith of Matt. 16:16, and NOT on the person of Peter, was/is the foundation on which the Church was/is built. God the Father (and not Man) revealed this to Peter (Matt. 16: 17). The Church Age ministry of God the Holy Spirit had not yet come. Here in the Church Age, it is God the Holy Spirit who reveals the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus to each one of us. It is up to each individual soul to respond.
The ONE and ONLY prayer that “saves” anyone is the one that one makes him/herself to the God of the Bible acknowledging his/her personal faith (trust confidence) in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christs (Romans 10: 9)!
“… if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10: 9 NASB)."
No one can make this prayer in behalf of someone else while they are alive on Earth, or after they have departed.
With the free will that God has given to each one of us, our individual salvation or condemnation (John 3: 18) is in our own hands, once we have be presented with Gospel Message, or the opportunity to presented with it.
It is the responsibility of every disciple to develop a clear understanding of the unadulterated Gospel Message, as one cannot be used of God to pass along to others what he/she does not first possess and understand for him/herself.
By “unadulterated,” I am referring to the Gospel Message that has not been “added to” by religious authority.
The true Gospel Message becomes compromised whenever ANYTHING is added to having personal faith (trust/confidence) in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ in order to either obtain or retain salvation. Scripture (Gal. 1: 8/2Cor. 11: 4/1Tim. 2: 4) speaks of there being different Gospels (means of obtaining or retaining salvation) and a different "Jesus" preached WITHIN (Gal. 3/1Timothy 2: 4) as well as outside (Psalms 96: 6) of the Christian Community.
The only spiritual HELP that an advancing disciple can offer others is to be the willing and able type of disciple that God can use to present the Gospel Message to unbelievers and accurate Bible Doctrine for the edification of fellow believers.
The unspoken testimony of those who claim to be Christians, especially when the pressure in on, will either attract inquirers or repel them way from us as being one that has “something” to offer when it comes to spiritual issues.
It is the pre-salvation (before one is saved) work of God the Holy Spirit that works behind the scenes arranging scenarios in which unbelievers will be open to receive the Gospel Message, and that fellow believers will be open to receive an edifying principle of Scripture.
Presenting the Gospel Message or an edifying principle(s) of Scripture to anyone that God the Holy Spirit has not first prepared, will prove to be acts of futility. This spiritual fact of life can be most distressing to an advancing disciple, as the one he/she naturally would want to minister to the most (family & friends) will often be the ones that are most resistant (Mark 6: 4). Developing the ability to discern when God has so-prepared the individual is a necessity for those who desire to engage in evangelism. The obvious time that such preparation has been made is when the inquirer comes to the advancing disciple (1Pet. 3: 15) with a spiritual question.
The tole of the advancing disciple in such a scenario is to communicate.
In some cases the advancing disciple is used to be sower or of the seed (Gospel Message/Bible Doctrine). Is some cases the advancing disciple is used as the one who waters or cultivates the seed/tree that has been planted by others. In some cases, the advancing disciple is called to be the reaper of the grain or fruit. Only God knows where any given soul is at any time, and what their individual need(s) are. The sower, the cultivator, and the reaper ALL play a HELPING part in the process, but it is God that does the work (1Cor. 3: 6).
The 1Pet. 3: 15 preparation does NOT only involve having the right answer, but being the type of disciple to whom others will bring their spiritual issues and questions. The "holier than Thou" believer (Proverbs 21: 4) will turn off more people off than he/she will ever serve. Having a "holier than Thou" attitude is on the (Proverbs 6: 17) short list of sins that God hates! False humility is its kissing cousin.
While under the (hostile –Romans 8; 7) influence of the fallen sin nature, unbelievers are NOT in the frame of mind to be open to receive The Gospel Message. Born again believers out of fellowship with God are NOT in the frame of mind to be open to an edifying principle of Scripture. This natural hostility towards the God of the Bible, towards the things of the God of the Bible, and towards those who speak for the God of the Bible can become overt when individuals that God has not (yet) prepared are presented with the things (Gospel Message/edifying Scripture) of God.
It is God (and NOT the communicator) that convicts unbelievers of the truth regarding the Gospel Message. It is God (and not a fellow believer) who convicts a born again believer of his/her post salvation sin.
As a primary source of influence, Christian parents, by word and example, have a parental duty to establish a godly environment in the home, and to participate in a local assembly or ministry where the Gospel Message is preached and reinforced, and where edifying Scripture is taught and practiced.
Never-the-less, at the end of the day, one can lead the horse to water, but can NOT make it drink. Just as the horse must choose to drink the water that it is being lead to, so much the individual soul choose to take in the Gospel Message and Bible Doctrine to which he/she is exposed. The same child must later choose to follow the path that he/she has (or should have) been shown. The "turning out right" principle of Proverbs 22: 6 is contingent on the positive exercise of the free will that God gives to each and every individual soul.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22: 6 NASB)."
The “old” of (Proverbs 22: 6) is speaking of reaching and maintaining spiritual maturity, not physical age. Reaching and maintaining spiritual maturity is the result of choosing to learn and to apply the Word of God; a choice that every soul has to make on its own for him/herself. Many born again believers NEVER reach the stage of spiritual maturity, and many of the ones who do fall off the wagon several times along the way! It is then that fellow believers can use our HELP to clime back on board.
The “godly life" spoken of in (2Tim. 3: 12) begins at the moment one is born again, and continues on throughout the advancing disciple’s post salvation spiritual life HERE on Earth. We know that this is not speaking of one experience in Heaven as there will be NO persecution of a believer in Heaven.
A “religious” life can (depending on which “religion” one chooses (or is chosen for him/her) begins as early as infancy. Contrary to what religious authority and the devil would have us believe, a religious life does NOT result in the (Titus 3: 5) regeneration of the dead spirit. A religious life does NOT result in the Eph. 4: 30 "sealing" of the soul. A religious life does NOT mean that one has received eternal life (John 3: 16). The (not "a") spiritual life results in all three!
There is N-O-T-H-I-N-G that can take here on Earth that can change either the location or the experience of a departed soul. That window of opportunity has closed. The departed souls that leave this world in the capacity of a spiritually dead unbeliever go to the Torments of Hades where he/she will remain until the Rev. 20: 13, 15 event takes place.
The spiritual life begins on the day that one is born again. As of the Church Age, in order to be born again (John 3: 5, 7) one must make a conscious decision to place his/her trust and confidence in the presentation of the Gospel Message, after having reached the age or stage of moral accountability*. The post salvation spiritual life (2Tim. 3: 12) here on Earth ends the moment the soul departs the body at physical death. The departed soul of a born again believer goes to Heaven (2Cor. 5: 8), where in an interim body (2Cor. 5: 1), he/she, among other things, awaits the Rapture (1Thess. 4: 16, 17).
2Sam. 12: 23 tells us that the departed soul of David's child, likely not having reached the age or stage of moral accountability, went to Paradise, where David himself would follow when his time came. Gen. 15: 6 tells us that during the Old Testament dispensation, individual souls were saved as a result of believing in whatever extent the plan of God had been known to each soul. Such information begins with the Eccl. 3:11 knowledge of eternity.
Here in the Church Age, the entire plan of God has been made known. If you have not yet had the opportunity to be presented with the Gospel Message, you have the opportunity to do so right now.
Every soul that God creates (in His likeness) has everlasting life, meaning every soul will continue to live on after departing the body. Life after death is NOT about IF, but about WHERE and HOW every soul will spend all of eternity.
The eternal life (John 3: 16) that one received the moment (if) one was born again, is what enables the soul with everlasting life to live with God in Heaven. The departed soul without eternal life, but with everlasting life that all souls have, will spend all of eternity future in what the Bible calls the lake of fire, following the Rev. 20: 13, 15 event.
There is NO soul in a corpse. There is no soul in the ashes of a cremated body. There is NO soul in the corpse on a death bed or in the location where physical death (and the departure of the soul) took place. There is NO soul in the corpse that is on display at a wake. There is NO soul in the casket at a funeral, no matter where or if a funeral takes place. There is no soul in the bodily remains that are buried or entombed at ANY cemetery or burial grounds, etc.. By the time that family and friends here of death, the soul has already departed.
What is left of the bodily remains (dust) of departed believer, that once was (past tense) the earthly abode of the now departed human soul, will be raised in resurrection form when the 1Thess 4. 17 events take place.
The omniscience (all knowing) and omnipotent (all powerful) God does NOT need our help to locate or to raise the human remains in resurrection form, regardless where the death took place or whatever became of it after the soul departed.
As for the departed soul, Scripture is clear as to where it is, and what the future has in store.
As of the Church Age, IF the departed soul left this world in the status of an unbeliever, he/she is presently in the Torments of Hades where he/she will remain until the Rev. 20: 13, 15 takes place. At the conclusion of the Rev. 20: 13, 15 events, the soul will be tossed into what the Bible calls the lake of fire, where it will spend all of eternity future, separated from God.
There is NOTHING that a soul in the Torments of Hades can do to be released from there or to avoid the lake of fire. There is NO ritual, prayer, or offering that can be made in behalf of the souls in Hades that will ever change either their present location or their destiny in the lake of fire. This is one of the many issued where Christian Religion and Christianity differ.
The souls of departed believers (in the Gospel Message) are in Heaven (2Cor. 5: 8), in interim bodies (2 Cor. 5: 1), awaiting the many future events such as the 1Thess. 4: 16, 17 event, when they will receive their resurrected bodies.
Again, God does not need our help for ANY of these events to take place.
One cats doubts on the significance of the work that the Lord Jesus Christ “f-i-n-i-s-h-e-d (John 19: 30 NASB)” on the cross by entertaining and promoting religious activity performed by human clergy as a requirement(s) to either obtain or retain salvation.
One is saved by believing (placing full trust and confidence) in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ (plus NOTHING). God requires NOTHING more, and will accept NOTHING less.
It was the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ that provided the means of salvation. It is the pre-salvation (before we are saved) Work of God the Holy Spirit that arranges the opportunity for us to be presented with the Gospel Message and it is the Work of God the Holy Spirit that enables an otherwise hostile and unbelieving soul to understand a presentation of the Gospel Message. It is the regenerating (Titus 3: 5) and sealing (baptizing) Work of God the Holy Spirit that gives life to what had been our dead spirit. Eternal life is a gift from God the Father to Fallen Man. It cannot be earned through human effort, nor can it be lost (once received), as this is the Work of God, and NOT Man.
The devil rejoices when it the very ones that should be edifying and watching over His flock are the ones that are leading them astray, filling them with doubts and confusion.
The first recorded “religious” attempt to please the God of the Bible took place between two sons (Cain and Abel) of Adam and Eve. One (Abel) understood the concept of the involvement of blood in an atoning sacrifice and offering, the other (Cain) did not.
God accepted the blood (animal) sacrifice/offering of Abel, but rejected the blood-less offering of Cain; even those BOTH had been sincere in their independent efforts.
Being sincere will get you nowhere when you are sincerely wrong!
When Cain’s “religious” offering was rejected, his “face fell” in disappointment, motivating him to later murder Abel. People have been killing each other over “religious” issues every since!
Religion consists of all that Fallen Man attempts to do in order to evade divine wrath and to receive earthly and eternal blessings from the God of the Bible or from one of the many other gods of the Psalms 96:5 religions.
The truth is that Fallen Man. independent of God, never had, does not now have, or will ever have the ability to regain what was lost at the Fall of Man. Such restoration is the Work of God.
As of the Church Age, Fallen Man’s ONE and ONLY part in the process of salvation is to choose to believe in a presentation of the Gospel Message. Nothing more, and nothing less.
Once (if) born again, the born again believer is THEN in a position to identify and to execute the post salvation spiritual life with the enabling power (John 15: 5) that God supplies. In doing so, the born again believer of the Church Age accomplished what God created him/her for in the first place. Man was created to glorify God in the midst of an ongoing conflict in the spiritual realm.
In conclusion, if advancing disciples are going to avoid the pitfalls of religion and human viewpoint, they are to learn when God allows us to take part in His Work (Matt. 28: 19, 20), and when God does NOT need any “help.”