Editors note: this article also appears in both the Sentinel Echo newspaper, Friday edition, weekly, London, KY and the Saturday edition of the Corbin Times-Tribune. It is a part of the teaching/evangelism efforts of the church of Christ who assemble at 415 North Mill Street, in London, KY.
Steven Harper will be preaching at the congregation the week of October 17th thru 22nd in a gospel meeting.
Our Euphemistic Society
By definition, a euphemism is 'the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt.' The use of euphemisms is on the rise, too - a direct result of the growing acceptance of the idea that situation ethics is the preferred standard for how we treat one another. The common thought in society nowadays is that one should never say anything that might be offensive or hurt someone's feelings, even if you have to lie. The problem with this thinking, though, is that more and more people seem to be 'offended' at words that clearly describe the action, person, or object and we are left to use terms that are vague and, often, outright confusing.
Inherent in this increasingly acceptable practice are dangers from being unclear as to what is meant by these 'inoffensive' terms. If someone is offended that a sign warns against exceeding a certain weight limit on an elevator, do we just say 'Please Do Not Overload' and hope they know what that means? Is it really wise to prohibit certain pharmaceutical companies from stating that certain medicines will adversely affect individuals of certain races because someone might think it is a racist plot? Is it even logical to allow someone to get their photo ID with their face completely covered because someone is too afraid to state the obvious? [How, exactly could they be identified?] These and more are some real examples that are happening right now! Why can't we just use common sense and be clear?
Let's take a minute and consider some things that are of a lot greater importance than elevators, medicine, and photo IDs. Let's take the time to consider some things that are not being stated clearly in pulpits or in Bible classes that may be leaving a false impression, or at least the wrong impression, about the seriousness of some spiritual matters. Some of these serious matters are now being substituted with 'less offensive' terms that really do not make clear what the truth of the matter is, much less the consequences of certain behaviors or beliefs. If we sincerely seek to know what God would have us to do and if we sincerely want to go to heaven and bring others with us, we need to be clear - not vague - on terms that demand a clear understanding.
'Accept Jesus.' - One of the most frequently-used terms or phrases regarding salvation is the call to just 'accept Jesus.' Now, what does that mean? Does that mean you accept there once was a man named Jesus? Does it mean you accept He was a good man and dynamic spiritual leader? Does it mean you accept His claim to be the Son of God? Does it mean you accept His authority? Does it mean you accept Him as Savior? We need to know what is meant by the phrase 'accept Jesus' because these and other explanations are what you will hear if you ask for clarification.
The first problem with this term is that it is found nowhere in the Scriptures. God does not ask you to 'accept' Jesus; God demands obedience to Jesus. God's word plainly says that His wrath will be poured out on those "who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (2 Thess. 1:8). Obedience means a lot more than merely 'accepting' Jesus; it means submission to His authority in all things, for Jesus Himself said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me" (Matt. 28:18). Obedience means much more than merely 'accepting' Jesus; it means actively striving to do His will while simultaneously denying our own desires (Titus 2:11-12). Anything less than complete obedience is unacceptable to God and we in no way can call Him our Savior (cf. Heb. 5:9).
'We Need To Just LOVE.' - Many times, this will be the response when you try to make the previous point of God's demand for our complete obedience. For some reason, many people have gotten the false idea that obedience is completely irrelevant and if we all just 'loved' then God would throw open the gates of heaven and let the masses in for all eternity. But I have a question: What do you mean by the term 'love'? That may sound nit-picky or like I am being facetious, but I am deadly serious. What do you mean by that?
Do you mean I just should close my eyes to sin and never tell someone they are headed for eternal destruction? Do you mean I should never point out error? Do you mean I should just 'agree to disagree' when I find that what my neighbor practices doesn't agree with Scripture? Does it mean I just sit around talking about how much I 'love' God and Jesus Christ, but never actually get around to obeying their words? Does it mean I talk about the need to 'love your neighbor' or 'love like Jesus loved' but never actually lift a finger to demonstrate it in deed? Tell me, please, what do you mean when you say I should 'just love'?
I will wholeheartedly agree that we need to love. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37); love of God is, without a doubt, a necessity to pleasing Him. We should also love one another as Jesus loved us, for my Savior said as much (John 15:12), and He said that by doing so, the world will know that we are His disciples (13:34-35). Obviously, to not love one another in this way would not be acceptable to Jesus, so I cannot argue with the statement. But here's where we must dig a little deeper; what does it mean to love one another as Jesus loved us? And what does it mean to love God and Jesus Christ? Let's let the Scriptures tell us, shall we?
Jesus said plainly, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). According to the words of Jesus, love means nothing if we do not keep His commandments. [There's that pesky old requirement for obedience again!] In the same way, John reminds us that 'love' of one another means nothing without action demonstrating its reality (1 John 3:17). In other words, we cannot truly love one another as Jesus loved us unless and until we act on our words and prove it by our deeds. [John had just appealed to the demonstration of Jesus' love in the prior verse as the basis for what he said about our demonstration of love versus word only; v. 16].
Do we need to love? Absolutely! But let's be absolutely clear on what that means; it means obedience to the words of Jesus Christ and it means active demonstration, and not just mere talk. If you truly think you can 'love' without visibly demonstrating it, try that on your spouse for 30 days and see what happens!
'We Are Saved By Faith.' - Some might recoil in stunned confusion when I, a believer, question the meaning of this, but I want to make it clear that the confusion is not due to Scripture, but because of men who have created false doctrines regarding salvation and who have twisted Scripture, ignored certain Scriptures, or who have plainly redefined terms. Unfortunately, this is one of those times when what should have been a plain, easy-to-understand statement has been made confusing by men who have agendas and doctrines to defend, rather than simply accepting the entirety of Scripture.
What do you mean when you say 'faith'? Do you mean a simple mental acknowledgment that a man named Jesus once lived? Is it a mere mental, intellectual acknowledgment that Jesus is the Son of God? Is it merely a matter of trust, or a feeling? Is it, as the dictionary and so much of the world defines it, 'belief without evidence'? Is it a leap off a cliff with an inexplicable trust in God that He will keep you from falling? What, exactly, is 'faith'? Again, let's let Scripture tell us.
Faith, according to God, is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). Faith, according to God, has substance [it is based on something real] and it is based on evidence that brings about an intellectual conviction that the evidence points to the truth of the matter at hand. It is not 'belief without evidence'; it is belief because of evidence!
Faith is also more than just the mental acknowledgment that certain facts lead to an inescapable conclusion; it is action based on that conviction. Consider the numerous examples of Hebrews 11 that demonstrate faith was more than mere words and more than a mental decision; these people acted "by faith" and that is why they were praised by God! Belief in God alone or in Christ alone will not save us; we must act on the words of Jesus whom we say we believe. Without that kind of faith, it is impossible to please God, of that you can be sure (Heb. 11:6).