Following the Mainstream

When you ask someone what religion they are, or what religious organization they are affiliated with, many times the answer is, “I’m a Christian.” Today, you almost need clarification on what it means to be a Christian. The popular trend today is called, “mainstream Christianity.” But what does that mean? Is there a “lesser stream Christianity?”

The word “mainstream” is defined by Webster’s dictionary as, “a prevailing current or direction of activity or influence.” In other words, anything to do with the current thoughts and opinions of the majority. It’s whatever is popular in the culture or in mass media at the moment. It makes one wonder; would Jesus have called Himself a mainstream Christian.

If He were alive today, would He be more interested in a Christian rock band or singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? Would He be interested in what the popular belief in the world is or would He take a stand for truth? Would He think it’s ok if you are a homosexual, living in sin, cussing, drinking, smoking, or going to places you shouldn’t be going, just as long as you love Christ?

The Jesus I read about in the New Testament would not have stood for any of these things 2000 years ago. And if He would not stand for anything like that then, what makes one think He would stand for them today? Yet too many churches and “Christians” are accepting these things today because society and mass media has deemed them OK. More and more people are becoming accepting of these things because they don’t want to hurt feelings, be called narrow minded or a bigot.

It is interesting that Jesus addressed this very issue during His ministry. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt 7:13-14). Sometimes there is the easy path because that’s what everyone else is doing, the mainstream way. But then there is God’s way, the path of life.

Try going against the current (mainstream) isn’t always the easiest way. But if Jesus stood for truth no matter what the consequences were, should we do less?            

Exceedingly Magnificent

“David said, ‘My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the LORD shall be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all lands. Therefore, now I will make preparation for it.’ So, David made ample preparations before his death.” (1 Chron. 22:5).

We see in the text that the temple of the Lord was to be “exceedingly magnificent.” God did not plan to build some shack or throw up a few bricks and call it His house. David spent the last days of his life gathering the materials together for the magnificent temple the Lord wanted built. The finished product truly was “exceedingly magnificent.” As the queen of Sheba observed, “the half has never yet been told” (1 Kgs. 10:1-7). The kingdom and the temple and everything about Solomon’s rule over the nations was exceedingly magnificent. However, we sadly know it did not last long. Solomon became a compromiser and presumed he could allow idols in his house without having any effect on the nation. It was not long before exceeding magnificence gave way to magnificence. Then on down to good until it became a nation that was called by Jeremiah a “degenerate vine.” When Israel and the leaders of God’s people stopped expecting “exceedingly magnificent” service to God and even started to take away from the glory of the temple to pay off the nations roundabout (1 Kgs. 14:25-28:15:18.19: 2 Kgs. 16:8-17: 18:14-16: 21: 3-7: 25:13-16: 2 Chron. 24:7). Instead of a hallowed perfect place full of exceeding magnificence and glory as the house of the Lord, it became a trading tool and was desecrated by God’s own people, long before Nebuchadnezzar pretty well finished the job in 586 B.C. (2 Kgs. 25:1 3-16).

Under Zerubbabel, the people returned and rebuilt the temple, but it was never again as it had been (2 Chron. 3o:23: Ezra 1:1-4: and chapters 5, 6). How did such a beautiful place lose its exceeding magnificence? The people of God began to compromise with the nations round about and to settle for mediocre service to God. They became satisfied with polluted service (Mal. 1).

Does God Expect Our Best?

Can The Same Thing Happen To The Lord’s Church (Temple) Today?

The Lord’s church is likened to the temple today in 1 Cor. 3:16. God still expects His temple (spiritual Israel), to be exceedingly magnificent. One cannot help but be impressed with the emphasis God has always placed on service to Him and that which man offers to Him as worship and honor. God will not take even magnificent service; HE WANTS EXCEEDINGLY MAGNIFICENT SERVICE (Col. 3:23). He wants the very best we have and will not tolerate anything less. Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 15:58, “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…” God does not expect more than we are able to do, but He does expect us to do everything we have the ability to do and to give our best to Him.

Paul talks of our physical bodies as being the temple of the Holy Spirit in 1 Cor. 6:19. God has given specific instructions on how we are to keep ourselves pure and holy. He expects us to do no less than obey His precepts exactly as He has given them (Eph. 5:11: Gal. 5:19-26).

Considering these two examples, let us ask ourselves if we think God will accept us selling out and compromising with the world in any way? If He wanted His physical temple kept “exceedingly magnificent” then would He accept less of us today in the church?

In the Old Testament we have seen what a lack of respect was shown by God’s own people when they sought to be like the nations round about. When they started compromising and trusting in other nations for their protection, instead of in God, they began to offer to the heathen, the treasures of the temple (that which God intended for service to Him).

We have an “exceedingly magnificent” plan of salvation. Let’s not try to downplay it or give folks the idea they can please God without obedience to this “magnificent” plan.

We have an “exceedingly magnificent” Savior. He is to be honored and glorified. Let us not accept any doctrine which would lower Him to the level of a mere man. He alone is worthy to be our Savior.

We have an “exceedingly magnificent” church. Matt. 16: 18 tells us the Lord would build His church. It belongs to Him. He has only one (Eph. 4:4; 1:22, 23). It has a duty and a charge (evangelize, edify, and practice limited benevolence). No one dare sell it out in its work or function. No one calling themselves a Christian can afford to do anything less than serve Him in His church and grow according to Heb. 5:12-14.

How could Israel, sink so low as to offer polluted sacrifice on the altar of God? How could Ahaz even imagine, much less follow through, on removing the bronze altar and setting up an altar to an idol in the temple itself?

Folks, it did not happen overnight! It was gradual, just as departure from the Lord is in our personal lives, and in the church. The church at Laodicea in Rev. 3 was confident they serve the Lord properly, but they did not! They were not “exceedingly magnificent” in service to Him. They were blind to their own error, just as many at Corinth and Galatia were. They had grown to accept any old service to God as good and lost their zest for excellence in service to God.

When a Christian only comes occasionally to worship IS THIS EXCEEDINGLY MAGNIFICENT service? When one sings half-heartedly, let’s his mind wander during prayer and the Lord’s Supper, gives with little or no thought or purpose, and listens or sleeps through the lesson with no intention of it changing his life, can we call this “exceedingly magnificent.” What is the difference in that type of service and worship to God and what was done in Malachi 1?

When Christians, (whose bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, 1 Cor. 6:19), socially drink, dress immodestly, hardly pray or study, refuse to be hospitable, murmur, backbite, complain, curse, gamble and use tobacco or other drugs, can we call this “exceedingly magnificent?” To ask the question is to answer it.

We as Christians must realize God is a jealous God and will accept and indeed demands, of those who use His name that they do things exactly as He says. There are no other options.

We do not have the right to tamper with the law and change it to fit our needs or passions. We cannot change the Word to accommodate someone who will not submit to His will.

We live in a world where people grow satisfied with the “status quo.” Average is good enough for some. We know that a business satisfied with average, will soon go out of business! We know that salespeople who are satisfied with doing the minimum, will always be floaters and unstable. Employers are always on the search for people who have pride in what they do and give attention to detail. These types of folks are getting harder and harder to find. The Lord’s church should be full of them. but sadly, many Christians have become satisfied with lazy service to God. Rest assured, God notices how we serve and will not accept anything from us but that which is “exceedingly magnificent.”

What Does Silence Teach?

When engaged in discussions of the Bible, we often hear the statement, “But the Bible doesn’t say we can’t!” Supposedly this proves that if something is not specifically condemned in the Bible, then it is acceptable. People will go to all sorts of lengths in use of the silence of the Scriptures to prove their pet doctrine is acceptable to God. What we should instead be asking is, “Does the Bible say we can?”

We need to remember that silence has never authorized anything. It does not authorize your child to do that for which you gave no permission, nor does it authorize us to do something for which God has never given permission (Heb. 7:14). Yet it seems that even people who understand this principle are still intent on using selective silence of the Scriptures. By selective silence I mean, one will use silence of the scriptures to condemn those who might practice something with which they disagree, such as those who use instruments of music in worship, but then argue from silence of the Scriptures for something they want to do or teach.

An example of this might be found in the wedding feast at Cana (Jn. 2:1-11). It is argued by those who might want to approve the use intoxicating beverages, that history teaches us wine (of the intoxicating type) was used extensively by the Jews and others in their feasts. The next point in the scenario is that Jesus turned water into wine. Therefore, because the Scriptures do not refute the conclusion, Jesus must have approved of the use of intoxicating beverages. Although I did not put it in such terms, the scenario equates with what is called a syllogism. A syllogism is defined as, “an argument of a form containing a major premise and a minor premise connected with a middle term and a conclusion.” It is also defined as “an extremely subtle, sophisticated, or deceptive argument.” If you look closely at the claims made by those making the argument above, you see the subtle deceptiveness in their argument. They reason from silence of the Scriptures and say that Jesus made intoxicating wine out of the water. The Greek word is “Onios”, a generic word that can or cannot mean an intoxicating beverage. Just because the English word “wine” appears in this passage does not necessarily indicate an intoxicating drink. And there is nothing else in the passage to indicate that the people were, in fact, intoxicated. Therefore, their argument is flawed.

Another place that people like to argue from silence of the Scriptures is found in the discussion of divorce and remarriage. The reasoning goes something like this; divorce was well entrenched and quite rampant among the Jews of Jesus’ day. When Peter and the rest of the apostles preached to the multitudes on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), some of those who heard the message were obviously in this situation. Therefore, some of those who obeyed the gospel must have been divorced and remarried (this would be the minor premise). They obeyed the gospel and were not told they needed to dissolve that relationship after becoming a Christian (the connecting statement). Therefore, we should not tell those who are in unscriptural marriages to sever the relationship (the major premise). Once again, as with the previous example, we find that something is being argued from the silence of the Scriptures. When we look at Acts 2 & 3, we find nothing said one way or the other about the marital relationship of any of those 3000 that obeyed the Gospel. For all we know from what is said, they may have all been single. To conclude that some were in a second or third marriage is arguing something that is not stated in the Scriptures. To say that, even if some were in that position, they were not told to sever the relationship is also arguing something that is not addressed in the Scriptures. Therefore, we cannot use the silence of the Scriptures to approve unscriptural marriages.

The Scriptures tell us what God deems necessary for our salvation. Has He told us everything that was said or done by Jesus or the apostles? No, He has not (Jn. 21:25). Has he told us everything we need to know? Yes, He has (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet 1:3). To try proving something from what God has not said is to “whittle on God’s end of the stick,” and place oneself in the position of God. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29).

Salvation Is Not By Chance

Ever flipped a coin to make an important decision? What are the odds of making the right decision by doing so? Most would say it is 50/50. But research has proven that a coin has a 51 percent chance of landing on the side it started from. So, this means if you start with heads up, there’s a slightly bigger chance that a coin will land with heads up. Therefore, the result is not totally random. Yet, some people seem to be “flipping a coin” regarding their eternal soul. These people go through life taking a chance by not making the proper preparation. They are gambling with their souls.

Consider, if there were a coin (which there isn’t) with Heaven as heads, and Hell as tails. Would you be willing to “flip” this coin to determine your eternity? Some probably would try it and “hope” the coin landed with heads (Heaven) up. But this was not God’s plan for the determination for the eternal home of the souls of humanity.

Eternity is not a gamble

Eternity is not a gamble or a “flip of a coin.” God desires all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4). He has delivered a plan whereby man can have the salvation of his soul. In Acts 11:13-14, as Peter was making his defense to the Jews, he said, “And he (Cornelius, JC) reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.” This means that Peter was bringing the Lord’s “instruction” as to how Cornelius and those who heard those Words could be saved.

If heads on the coin is “saved” and leads to Heaven, the other side must be “lost” and leads to Hell. If action, (hear, believe, repent, confess Jesus as the Son of God, being baptized “into Christ”, and then remaining faithful) leads ultimately to Heaven, we can surely grasp that failure to obey, and inactivity (no action) is to be lost. Perhaps this is the idea being conveyed in 1 Peter 4:17-18 where he says, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER?

We should not take a chance

Could this be why Peter and the eleven, on the day of Pentecost were given words to direct the lost into the kingdom? Acts 2:40 shows this to be the case. The following verse shows how those that believed and received the words responded and what benefit they gained as a result. They were, according to verse 47, “added to the church”. They didn’t take a “chance.” They acted according to the word of God.

This requirement for action is not just applied to the lost. Those who have been saved by the blood of Christ in baptism, are also required to continue the “work” to remain ready for eternity. The Spirit had Paul remind the folks in Philippians 2:12 of this great need when he wrote, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Then, the Corinthian brethren in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 are told, “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

The parable of the lost sheep shows Jesus’ purpose for leaving Heaven and coming to live as a human. He said, “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost” (Matthew 18:11). And all are aware of God’s great love in allowing His Son to die on Calvary’s cross (John 3:16). But some don’t seem to be understand when Jesus died on that cross, He provided the means for salvation. Jesus told Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). In Matthew 11:28 we find Christ saying, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” No, friend, salvation is not a coin toss, nor is it by happenstance. One of two outcomes will occur, and this outcome is up to you. A person will be saved by doing what God teaches through His word. Or they will ignore God’s teachings and be lost for eternity. Make your choice today and do what God requires. The salvation of your soul is not left to chance.