People today follow all kinds of religious standards and have all kinds of ideas about what God will and will not accept when it comes to religious beliefs, religious practices, and moral conduct.
Some believe that as long as they live up to the Ten Commandments they are acceptable to God.
Some believe that if they live by the Sermon on the Mount or just the Golden Rule they will be acceptable.
Others think that as long as they are true to their own conscience they will be acceptable to the Lord. “Let your conscience be your guide” is the mantra of many.
One lady was heard to say, “I don’t know much about the Bible, but I know what I believe.” Therefore, “What I believe” was her standard.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it” is the standard of many, and becomes the justification for a multiplicity of religious beliefs and practices.
Political correctness and the constantly evolving preferences of contemporary culture serve as the standard for many, be it to justify same-sex marriage, so-called gender equality in the church (women preachers, women elders), or some other current issue.
“I believe God wants me to be happy” is the standard of those who want to justify their actions, regardless of what the Bible may say about those actions, be it a series of marriages, divorces, and remarriages in search of the “right” mate or some other matter.
Many adhere to the religion of their parents and ancestors. Theirs is a “hand-me-down” religion, with never a question or a doubt as to whether it is pleasing and acceptable to the Lord.
The Pope, the diocesan bishop, or the local Catholic priest is the authority for many.
The Book of Mormon, the writings of Charles T. Russell and Joseph F. Rutherford (for Jehovah’s Witnesses), and the numerous protestant creeds, church manuals, and catechisms authored by fallible human beings are the standard for many others.
For many, “My own mind is my own church” (to quote Thomas Paine).
But Jesus Christ, the Son of God, declared, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). He alone is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). God has made Him “both Lord (Ruler/Master) and Christ (Messiah/the Anointed One)” (Acts 2:36). He alone is the head of the body, the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18). Only in His name is their salvation (Acts 4:12).
Christ, in turn, delegated authority to His apostles. To them He said, “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Matthew 10:40). The apostles of Christ spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit guided the apostles into “all truth” (John 14:26; 16:13; I Corinthians 2:6-16; Galatians 1:11-12; Ephesians 3:1-7; I Thessalonians 2:13; et al).
(Note: For anyone today to take the preceding passages and claim for themselves such divine guidance as was promised only to the apostles is to totally ignore the context of the passages and the ones to whom the promise of divine inspiration was made and by whom it was exercised.)
The writings of the inspired apostles and prophets of Christ are found only in the New Testament. These writings set forth “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We are “not to think/go beyond what is written” (I Corinthians 4:6). “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (II John 9).
We are to “speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11). We are to “test all things, hold fast what is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21). We are to emulate the Bereans who “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). (Be assured, dear reader, that there are many things being taught and believed in religion today that are not “so”!) We are to make sure that “whatever [we] do in word or deed” is done “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (by His authority and to His honor and glory) (Colossians 3:17).
Now, of all the religious standards afloat in the world today, whose standard are you following one or more of the many mentioned in the first part of this essay, or God’s? Your destiny in eternity is determined by your answer.
September 10: LaGuardo Church of Christ, Mt. Juliet, TN
September 2, 2014