February 15, 2004
Pastor Brian Shimer
"In Christ we have the 'Real Thing'"
RICK MATHES IS A WELL KNOWN PRISON MINISTRY LEADER.
IN AN ANNUAL TRAINING SESSION, A MUSLIM IMAN, A ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND RICK, A PROTESTANT, WERE TO PRESENT THEIR BELIEF SYSTEMS.
Rick wrote: "I was particularly interested in what the Islamic Imam had to say.
The Imam gave a great presentation of the basics of Islam, complete with a video. After the presentations, time was provided for questions and answers.
When it was my turn, I directed my question to the Imam and asked:
"Please, correct me if I'm wrong, but I understand that most Imams and clerics of Islam have declared a holy jihad [Holy war] against the infidels of the world. And, that by killing an infidel, which is a command to all Muslims, they are assured of a place in heaven. If that's the case, can you give me the definition of an infidel?"
There was no disagreement with my statements and without hesitation he replied, "Non-believers!"
I responded, "So, let me make sure I have this straight. All followers of Allah have been commanded to kill everyone who is not of your faith so they can go to Heaven. Is that correct?"
The expression on his face changed from one of authority and command to that of a little boy who had just gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He sheepishly replied, "Yes."
I then stated, "Well, sir, I have a real problem trying to imagine Pope John Paul commanding all Catholics to kill those of your faith or Pat Robertson or Dr. Stanley ordering Protestants to do the same in order to go to Heaven!"
The Imam was speechless.
I continued, "I also have problem with being your friend when you and your brother clerics are telling your followers to kill me. Let me ask you a question. Would you rather have your Allah who tells you to kill me in order to go to Heaven or my Jesus who tells me to love you because I am going to Heaven and He wants you to be with me?"
You could have heard a pin drop as the Imam hung his head in shame."
(received via email)
I was impressed with how this Christian pastor clearly communicated the Gospel to this Imam. He presented the difference between Christianity and Islam - a difference found in Jesus. He alone is the "name given under heaven by which all people can be saved." He alone is the "way, and the truth and the life," outside of whom there is no access to the Father.
Somehow in this era people read verses like those I just quoted from Acts and John, and still believe that there are other ways. Sometimes people will say that someone is saved who is Islamic or Hindu or in a cult movement. But how can one be in salvation and outside of Jesus? We have to be in Christ for it to be "just as if we have never sinned". We have to be hidden in the Rock to be saved.
If someone told you they wished to drive to Montana, but drive along the Oregon Coast on the Highway 1 to get there, wouldn't we say, "That's nice, but you will never get there?" Directionally we are clear-minded, but spiritually we get muddled.
Jesus came to provide the way when there was no way. Jesus is the Real Thing, the only pass through the mountains. Compared to Jesus all other so called "ways" are simply counterfeits.
Are you understanding this? Are you clear that there is only one Head to whom we must all be connected? There are not many paths leading to God - that is pure Hindu belief. There is one path and God desires everyone to get on it -- "that none would perish".
At the end of chapter one, in verse 28, Paul states this goal, saying:
"We proclaim Him…" (not anyone nor anything else)
"admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom," (God's good news is for everyone. All need to be warned and taught! Not just a select few who can learn the "mystery"! This action of preaching, warning and teaching is done with all God's wisdom)
We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, (And then the goal): "so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ."
Paul wants people to become perfect in Christ. They are declared holy by God, but from that place of calling they can enter into the Christlikeness God intends. When Paul uses the term perfect, he does not mean flawless perfection. The word actually points toward a goal. Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:48), "You shall be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect," and used the same word. It means to be made complete or mature.
When Peter first met Jesus, Jesus changed his name to "rock". With Christ Peter never lived up to this name, but after the resurrection, we see a whole different man. He became mature through the agency of God's Holy Spirit, as He drew near to Jesus, remained connected to the Head, listened and obeyed. And this new improved Peter, boldly spoke, witnessed and wrote of the Lord.
God has a goal that you and I would be like Jesus. God's desire is for each person who trusts God to be made like the Son. This means the fullness of the fruit of God's Spirit will be active in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. It means that we will be slow to get angry, slow to speak and quick to listen. It means we will be people who are teachable, for that is a sign of wisdom. We will live as God's friends, forgiving those who wrong us, praying for those who persecute us. We will be a people who are willing to lose all rather than deny our Lord. It means we will be a people who live not by sight but by faith in God and a people who love one another, by this the world will know that we are Christ's disciples. As Eugene Peterson said, "To be mature is to be basic: Christ, no more, no less."
(Galatians 5:22-23; James 1:19-20; Proverbs 9:8-9 & 12:1; Psalms 25:14; Matthew 6:14-15 & Romans 12:19-21; Matthew 5:44; Hebrews 10:34 & 11:26; 2 Corinthians 5:7; John 13:34-35; Colossians 1:28, The Message)
So how can we gain such maturity? There is only one way: "stay connected."
Make it a life goal to get to know Jesus better and better,
so that you will recognize and flee from false belief systems. Here Paul warns against two dangers.
A. First Paul warns us against being carried off by people with "fine sounding arguments" (2:4) and "hollow and deceptive philosophy" (2:8). In general people are big on having opinions, but not large on checking these against the Word of God. There is only one safeguard to being led astray - spend more time knowing Jesus better and better.
How easily can we be led astray if we are not staying connected to Jesus through the Word and prayer. I remember when I was an immature sophomore in college, the occult industry was booming, and books on channeling were just coming out. I had a friend in the drama group I had joined who was very interested in these. She shared some books with me and I got hooked.
The book opened my mind to the occult. I became fascinated with their content. It was a "fine sounding argument." I was captivated by a hollow and deceptive philosophy, quite literally a doctrine of demons. A channeler claims to be bringing the message of a dead person to a living person or group. They buy into a reincarnation kind of theology. But they are not really consulting with a dead, departed person, but are communicating with demons. All they say are lies. At that time, I was not even aware there was anything wrong. I thought I was growing closer to God through such a means!
I began to walk down this perilous road until one night when I was speaking to my girlfriend Karen Koch on the phone. She was at school in Washington State, while I was in California. As I bubbled over about all that I was discovering about God through the books, she got really silent on the other end. The silence was deafening. I stopped talking. "What is wrong?" I asked.
She spoke very slowly and cautiously. She lifted up Jesus and warned me about deceptive and hollow philosophies. The warning shook me clear. I destroyed the books and did not return to them.
My condition reminds me of a friend of mine who this week found himself in detox at Providence Hospital before they could check him into the rehab program. There in Detox, he began to talk to the nurse about his condition. His blood-alcohol was 4%! He said, "Here I am a Christian! Can you believe it? And I had this little slip up and am here. Well, isn't that something." The nurse did not say a thing for a moment and then addressed him saying: "Sir, this is not a little slip up. You are killing yourself. Your blood-alcohol level is at this level, because there is too much poison in your system to be processed by your pancreas and liver! You are killing yourself."
My reading pursuit was poison. I had disconnected from Jesus -- and like a headless person I lacked life, direction and clarity!
Other false philosophies abound around us. There is a denial of absolutes in this age. People say that my truth and your truth are equal, just personal. But my truth is only truth if it matches what God says it truth. And your truth is only truth if it equals true truth. There is a place to check Truth with a capital "T". God has not left us without a witness for Truth.
Today people say that you need to tolerate any differences that exist between lifestyle and people, saying that all are equal. Whatever someone does we just can bless it. If we say something is "wrong" that means we are bigoted! Bigoted? How about Karen telling me I was wrong? Was she not warning me to save my life? Indeed.
In education today there is a philosophy that is prevalent. You cannot correct a child's math and tell him or her a problem is done incorrectly for you might damage their self esteem. So, Jimmy adds 5 and 4 and gets 10 and you say: "Well, that is very creative!" Cannot you just say, "Hun, the answer is…" Or how about "Let's work on that together." Today grammar and spelling are treated similarly. Are we so busy caring for esteem that we are not caring for education?
For the Colossian Christians many people were telling them to search for a secret knowledge or wisdom in addition to Jesus, or be circumcised in a special ritual in addition to Jesus. But Paul just lifts up Jesus in "whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (2:3) and "in whom all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (2:9). Jesus is the Real Thing. He is enough!
B. Second, Paul warns of people who are themselves led astray and sit in judgment upon how you are walking with Jesus in order to sway you into their ways. Notice the references in verses 16 and 18 are to not letting "anyone condemn you." Those who hold to certain seasons and those who worship angels, delighting in false humility (that produced by our own efforts), and are "puffed up with idle notions." Such people, Paul says, have lost connection with the Head.
Today people who worship angels end up with a very mushy God. As JI Packer said, "For many today God is no more than a smudge," (Rediscovering Holiness, by Packer, p. 69, ubp).
How do we gain maturity? Stay connected to Jesus-- through the Truth of God's Word and the clarity of Prayer. Stay connected to Your Head!
The very idea of losing connection to the head, reminds me of the Old Testament character of Samson who one day got up to fight off the Philistines after he had been deceived by that wily Delilah, saying: "I will do as before and shake myself free." His strength had been perverted in his mind. He no longer saw himself as connected to God's power, but as being powerful. "I will shake MYSELF free." And then there is the most ominous sentence in the Bible: "He did not realize the Lord had left him" (Judges 16:20).
That is a terrifying sentence. Do not fall into that same trap.
All that you have is from God. Remember everything was created by Jesus and for Jesus. Stay connected to your Head, Jesus. Stay connected. There is no excuse for not growing in Christ. No excuse for not reading and studying the Word. No excuse for not praying in life. No excuse for not practicing disciplines. Stay Connected! That is your safeguard against every scheme of the enemy. Even 5 minutes in the word will make headway. I warn you, my people, there are many out there who would love to lead you, even you astray. Stay connected.