Because of the overwhelming influence of unscriptural tolerance, coupled with the doctrine of prosperity, many ungodly customs have become commonplace among those professing to be “God’s children.”
As the time of the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ drew near, He left His disciples with what many now refer to as “the Great Commission.” In the gospel according to Mark, the commission reads “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16).
This seems to be the Grace Age answer to the great commission given to God’s creation on the fifth and sixth days, “Be fruitful and multiply.” As new creatures in Christ Jesus, we are expected to propagate the faith of our Lord and Savior.
For nearly two millennia, professed believers have set forth to do their part to spread the good news of salvation through Jesus’ name. Because of the great emphasis on converting the unbeliever, though, the message has often been watered down, altered, and even substituted in an attempt to make the message more effective. A “save them at all costs” attitude has permeated the annals of Christian history, sometimes resulting in forced conversions, and sometimes using tactics so mild that no true conversion seems evident. Either way, the denomination could report a great number of converts, and feel good about their effectiveness in spreading the Christian message.
But the new “believers,” being either forced or coaxed, provide a whole new dynamic to the further spread of the gospel. They too will heed the “great commission,” and go forth spreading the message. Each generation, then, could possibly see a further degradation of the essence of the message, having received, themselves, a watered-down, over-simplified, or even completely altered version of the truth.
Whereas Mark’s account seems only to highlight the idea of spreading the gospel, Matthew’s account relays the commission with a greater sense of responsibility on the part of the preacher. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:19-20). Here we see that we are not simply called on to inform the world about the saving grace and love of our Savior, but to make disciples of them. How is that different? It is completely different, in that we are not looking for a mere expression of a belief, but a total conversion of the believer.
To be sure, “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9). However, that is only a “birth.” From that point on, the Christian must learn the ways of the Master, totally conforming his or her life to His.
Today’s believers find themselves holding a view of what it means to be a Christian which has been influenced by preachers who are little more than motivational speakers. The “Come as you are” message, while not new, has created an environment within Christianity where the call to tolerance has overshadowed God’s call to righteousness. Because of the overwhelming influence of unscriptural tolerance, coupled with the doctrine of prosperity, many ungodly customs have become commonplace among those professing to be “God’s children.”
Historically, the people of God have often adopted the customs of heathen religions. Time after time, the children of Israel fell into idolatry through the influence of the surrounding nations. After Roman Emperor Constantine “converted” to Christianity, the “Church” began to spread the message, gaining converts throughout Europe, and ultimately throughout the entire world. One very effective tactic was the Christianization of local deities and customs. The religions of the world, being adaptations of the ancient Babylonian system, hold many similarities with each other. Since Satan cannot create, but merely imitate and pervert, some similarities can be seen with the true religion of Jehovah.
So God’s “commissioners” went forth to gain converts, and finding these similarities, they used it as a means to that end. Local deities were compared to “Christian” counterparts, and “Christian” symbolism was found in local customs. The result: a hybrid religion not unlike the one that emerged when the children of Israel formed golden calves and declared, “These be thy gods which brought thee out of Egypt” (Ex. 32:4; 1 Kings 12:28).
Today, these pagan traditions are seen in the statues of Catholicism, the icons of Orthodoxy, the customs of Christmas and Easter, the prayers to the saints, the practice of yoga, and in countless other practices and doctrines which permeate the modern Christian experience. In many sectors, Christianity is virtually unrecognizable from its beginnings. Add to that the numerous new versions and paraphrases of the Bible in recent years, and restoration of the faith which was once delivered to the Saints seems all but out of reach.
It is time for the children of God to put from us every idol, whether physical, emotional or spiritual. As my aunt, Sis. Imogene said in a recent Bible study, “We need to be de-calf-inated.” We must forsake the gods of this world: the god of sex, the god of covetousness, the god of self, and all other things which cause our hearts to be turned from worshiping the Father.
Make no mistake, “there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1Cor. 8:6). Islam’s Allah has no son, he cannot then be the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. Buddhism teaches many paths to God, but Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one could come to God except through Him alone. Many gods are worshiped by tribes of Africa, North America, and other parts of the world, but Jesus said, “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29).
We who believe in the Almighty, and in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, have a duty to separate ourselves from the customs of this world and its religions, and come under subjection to the Word of the Lord. First and foremost, that word declares that there is only one God, and one way to eternal life. While His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts, that is a condition which we are called upon to change. The Lord commands that we be holy and perfect, because He is. We must bring our ways, and our thoughts, in conformity to His with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2).