Why Be Rational in Religion?

I was talking with someone the other day regarding coming to the services. The person explained that he was going to a denomination right now because his child liked going to this place. That is when this thought crossed my mind. Would I leave any other major decision in my life up to a child? If I were to go buy a car for the family, would I let the child decide which dealership to go to? Which model to drive? If I were buying a house or looking for a job, would I put that decision solely in the hands of my child? Granted they might get some input, but children are just not equipped to make those kinds of important decisions. Now take the fact that the soul is the most valuable commodity that man owns today and then ask yourself, “Would you put the decision for what to do with your soul in the hands of your child, merely based upon your child’s likes and dislikes?” This seemed to me to be a very irrational thought. However, I then immediately realized that people are often very irrational when it comes to matters of religion.

Take for example the popularly used sentiment, “I just feel it in my heart.” This is one of the all time great irrationalities of religion. This is used to justify just about every sort of practice known to man on the planet. However, take this same sentiment into the corporate boardroom and put it in front of a CEO and a board of directors for how to spend money and you will get laughed out of the business. Take a few salesmen and set them before potential clients and tell them to say, “You need to buy my product because I feel in my heart that it is right for you” and they will leave empty handed. The soul is much more valuable than any amount of money to be spent by a business or any product to be sold, yet people often sell their own souls short in matters of religion by expressing this inadequate measurement of truth.

Another great irrationality is this, “If it was good enough for my mother and father, it is good enough for me” or “That is where my family goes, so I just go with them.” This is one that I know people use in religion but seldom use in every day life. For example, when someone is asked why they believe a certain doctrine, they might give this sentiment. However, when it comes to the type of job one has, or the type of car one drives, or the house one lives in, it just isn’t good enough. How many would abandon their new cars for the old broken down jalopy that their parents drove years and years ago. How many would abandon their new houses for the old kindling row houses of yesteryear? If anything, Americans live by the principle that parents should create a better life for their children, yet, when it comes to religion that evidently doesn’t apply. Again, the soul is so much more valuable than houses, cars, and jobs. Why should we not hold religion to the highest standard of rationality?

How many times have you heard this one, “It doesn’t matter what you believe.” Whoa! Now there’s one that you better not take with you to driving school. That sentiment is just not going to pass there. “I know that sign says ‘STOP’ but it just doesn’t matter what you believe.” When is the last time you told a police officer that after he stopped you for speeding. “Officer, I know I was doing 80 in a 35, but you know, after all, it doesn’t matter what you believe.” I think that you will find a deaf ear when that ticket is written. And don’t even try this one in a court of law. “I know I wrote a hot check, judge, but after all, it doesn’t matter what you believe.” I am sure you will hear the judge reply, “30 days, and if you don’t believe that it is wrong after that amount of time, you can have another 60.” However, when it comes to religion, this ranks in the top five excuses for not doing what is right. How much more valuable is the soul! Yet we don’t hold those who claim to care for it to the high standards that we hold our driving instructors, law officers and judges.

Each of these sentiments represents a different flavor of irrationality. It is obvious to all that regarding matters of practicality that these sentiments would never by able to pass. However, when it comes to religion, people expect the irrational. So they excuse themselves in irrational ways. However, the religion of Jesus Christ is NOT irrational. In fact, when Paul went to preach the gospel to others, the scriptures say that he “reasoned” with them (Acts 17:2; 18:4; 18:19; 24:25). We are admonished by Paul to “prove all things” 1 Thess.5:19. John tells us to “try the spirits” (John 4:1). In dealing with matters of religion, we are to “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11). None of these things involves the types of excuses that are given above. And when it all boils down to it, that is the bottom line, these are just excuses. The religion of Jesus Christ is not irrational as popular culture would have you to believe. God desires us to think and act correctly in regard to His word. There is nothing more valuable or important than one’s own soul (Matthew 16:26). We should apply the same exacting standards of rationality toward it as we would toward any other matter of importance in this life. “Come let us reason together, saith the Lord�” (Isaiah 1:8a).

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Who Will Be Saved?

The question of who will be saved has occupied the thoughts of many throughout the ages. There are some people today who believe that everyone who has ever lived will be saved. There are some today who believe that a majority of people who have lived on the earth will be saved. There is, however, in contrast to these teachings, what Jesus said about the subject. In Matthew 7:13, 14 we read, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Jesus clearly states that the majority of people who live upon the earth will be lost. He said that there would be “few” that find the way that leads to life. Who will be saved? Who will be lost? The Bible gives us the answer to both questions.

First, the Bible teaches that no one who is separated from God by sin will be saved. Every single person conceived by man who has ever lived upon the face of the earth has sinned. In Romans 3:23 we read, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Sin is doing things in our life that are against God and are against His will. In essence when we are sinning, we are saying to God, “I don’t want to be like you.” So God in His infinite justice allows us to make that choice. He allows us to choose not to be like Him, but he also warns us concerning the consequences of not being like Him. He says in Isaiah 59:2 “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” It is not God’s fault that we are lost; it is our fault. It is because we have chosen for sin to be in our life. When we sin against God, we separate ourselves from God and when we allow that separation to exist throughout our whole life, we earn eternal separation from God. This is also known as spiritual death. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.” And death is where we will be eternally if we do not do something about the sin that is in our life. Those who choose to harbor sin in their lives, for their whole lives, will not be saved.

No one who fails to know God will be saved. In 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9 we read of God’s vengeance. The text says, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” Notice that there are two categories of people who will not be saved. The first are those who “know not God.” In order for one to know God, one must come to a knowledge of Jesus. In John 1:18 we read, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Jesus has declared who God is to us today. Today, no one can come to a knowledge of God except through Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6) This means that no one will be able to enter heaven except those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Those who choose to remain ignorant about God will not be saved.

No one who fails to obey the gospel will be saved. The same passage that we looked at in 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9 shows another category of people who will not be saved. These are those who fail to “obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Hebrews 5:9 we read, “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Jesus saves those who render their allegiance and their obedience to Him. This means that we have to know what the gospel says and that we must obey it without reservation. To start walking in a right relationship with God, one must hear the word of God (Romans 10:17), believe it (John 3:16), repent of sins (Acts 17:30), confess Jesus as the Christ (Romans 10:10) and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). This is God’s plan for man’s salvation. We must be obedient to it if we want to be saved. Moreover, we have no right to alter or change in any way God’s plan for man’s salvation. Paul wrote in Galatians 1:8, 9 “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” Those who choose not to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, whether they choose not to become a Christian or whether they choose not to remain a faithful Christian, will not be saved.

Notice from these three things who WILL be saved. The saved are those who have turned away from their sins, come to know about God and His Son Jesus, and have obeyed the gospel in becoming a Christian and in remaining faithful to God. These are the ones who will be saved. If you, dear reader, need to become a Christian today, contact someone within the church of Christ who can help you do that. If you are saved but haven’t been living faithfully, then get yourself back in a right relationship with God. The message of salvation is the same for all men. It does not change from year to year, from country to country, or from person to person. If anyone is going to be saved they must obey the same gospel that was preached and taught by Jesus and His apostles some 2000 years ago. When that message is taught, God is glorified and souls are saved. There is no other way for anyone to be saved.

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Reviving Our Plea for Unity

It was based primarily upon the writing of Thomas Campbell in his “Declaration and Address” from which the greatest modern plea for religious unity has ever been made. To summarize that document, Campbell states that in order to have religious unity, men must abandon all humanly divided religious organizations, all humanly created creeds and articles of faith, all human innovations and opinions, all human rites for entrance into the church, all human doctrines, teachings, and practices resulting in religious division; and unite upon the truth that the New Testament is the sole authority for organization and practice for Christians living the Christian life; and upon the truth that the New Testament contains the sole constitution that we must follow in regard to the worship, practice, and terms of entrance of the Church; and upon the truth that nothing should be taught or practiced but that which is found within the New Testament as authorized by Jesus or His apostles. This is the basic plea upon which Campbell and many others acted to unite the then divided religious world. The churches of Christ exist today upon this same basic plea for unity.

This plea is not original with Campbell, as many historians in their human wisdom like to divine. Rather, this plea is founded upon the scriptures. It was the prayer of Jesus Christ that his followers be united as He and His Father were united (John 17:21). It was the practice of the apostles to be united in judgment regarding problems that arose within the early church (Acts 15). It was the instruction of Paul the apostle to the church in Corinth that they have the same mind and judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10). It was also the instruction of the apostle Peter that the followers of Christ would be of one mind (1 Peter 3:8). Additionally we find that strife and faction are strongly condemned in the scriptures (1 Corinthians 11:17-19; Galatians 5:15; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; James 3:14-16) and are listed as works of the flesh in Galatians 5:20. Based upon the teaching of the New Testament, therefore, it is with utmost certainty and conviction that we reiterate this plea for unity!

Many today have abandoned this plea for unity. Some have abandoned the standard upon which this plea was given; that standard is only those things authorized by the New Testament (Colossians 3:17). Some have abandoned the plea itself being content with the factions and divisions within the religious world and pleading for “unity in diversity” contrary to the teaching of apostolic tradition (1 Corinthians 1:10). Others have been responsible for creating new divisions and still others foment those divisions by dwelling on the catalyst of the division endlessly and needlessly to the neglect of other areas of Christian work and service. These dote about questions endlessly gendering strife (1 Timothy 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:23) and fulfill the works of the flesh through their dissention (Galatians 5:20). On the one hand there are those who have lost their love for the truth and on the other hand there are those who have lost their love for the brethren. Our brotherhood today needs a revival in this plea for unity. How do we do this?

As preachers, we must revive this plea in our sermons and our lives. When we preach on areas that involve church doctrine and practice, let us provide scriptural support for our teaching and let us demand of our listeners that we give it (Acts 17:11). Let us make plain the Bible teachings so that the listener understands it is not our own personal thoughts being spoken, but simply what is found within the scriptures. Let us call resoundingly for our denominational friends to leave their humanly devised organizations, names, practices, and doctrines and unite solely upon what is authorized in the New Testament. Let us learn as preachers to keep our studied opinions to ourselves and not to allow these opinions to engage the brotherhood in needless wrangling (1 Timothy 1:4). Let us have the humility not to insert our own personal pride into situations where those who are weaker in the faith need instruction and encouragement so as not to exacerbate their weaknesses (Romans 15:1ff). Let us include within each and every invitation that we make the need for the faithful Christian to remain united upon the firm foundation of the gospel (2 Timothy 2:19). If we do these things in every sermon we preach, we can revive our plea for unity.

Elders should demand preachers who preach scripture filled sermons and who rely upon the Bible and the Bible alone as the sole basis for their preaching (Acts 20:28). Elders should instruct members to expect plain Bible teaching from the pulpit and in Bible classes. Elders should develop programs that encourage all the members of the local congregation to invite their denominational friends to leave the divisive nature of denominationalism and unite upon the one true pattern of doctrine as found within the New Testament (Romans 6:17). Elders should reiterate the message of unity within the church upon every occasion and opportunity that they have and let the local congregation know what its mission is in that regard. These are things that will revive us unto unity.

Will some of these things result in confrontations with other religions today? Indeed they will. As hard as it is for our society to accept confrontation, the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about confrontation. In Thessalonica Christians were known as “These that have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). In Ephesus the craftsman who made silver idols of Diana said concerning Paul, “this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they are no gods, that are made with hands” (Acts 19:26). Indeed the works of Jesus and the apostles were things that “had not been done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). Why should we think that our delivery of the gospel of Jesus Christ should be any less messy today that it was for Paul and the other apostles?

The plea for religious unity among those in the early 19th century was also met with many opponents, yet those brave and courageous men stood forth and heralded the message from the rooftops that we could have religious unity based upon the truth of Jesus Christ. Why should we not want to do the same today?

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