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.”

How Many Roads Truly Lead to Heaven?

If we are driving to a location we have never to been before, we often use a road map to find the way. After opening the map (either paper or digital), we pick the route that best suits the purpose for our trip.

In religion, it seems many people have the same thought process when it comes to choosing a church. We hear them say, “After all, we’re all going to the same place, we’re just taking different roads to get there.” The question that must be answered is, “Does every road really lead to the same place?”

When we look at a road map, if we are honest, we must answer that question with a “No.” Oh, we can adjust our route and eventually arrive at the desired destination. But that means taking a different road from the one we started out on. In other words, “all roads do not lead to the same place.”

Jesus indicated there were only two roads. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus said, “…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.” Yes, there are different roads, but according to Jesus only one goes to Heaven, and it is narrow.

The Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well, immediately pointed out that her people worshipped differently from His (John 4:19-20). But notice, Jesus did not reply that both roads led to the same place — He said that one road was right, and the other was wrong (John 4:22), and that if she wished to please God, her worship must be “in truth” (John 4:24).

In Acts 15:1-31, the apostles disputed with some who believed in Jesus but taught error about what was necessary to be saved. Instead of concluding that there were different roads, they gave notice to the churches that one road was right and the other was wrong.

The idea of “different roads” is a “Red Herring” used by many to avoid a discussion about different religious teachings and practices. After all, many say, does it really matter if you are sincere? Indeed, it does. The Bible says that there are doctrines that God hates (Revelation 2:15), and that some doctrines are of demons (1 Timothy 4:1). Taking heed to doctrine is necessary for salvation (1 Timothy 4:16, 2 John 9), because obedience to God’s “form of doctrine” is what makes one free from sin (Romans 6:17-18). Even many who believe in Jesus are on the wrong road because they do not obey (Luke 6:46, Matthew 7:21-23).

Men may choose their own way, but that doesn’t make it right. Only God’s way is right. The “different roads” philosophy has led churches to abandon the question of what is right, and instead accept a wide diversity of belief. But we should not be ashamed to say that some beliefs are right, and others are wrong, because that is what God says (Proverbs 14:12). If people are on different roads, we must conclude they are not all headed for Heaven.

The Hope Of Heaven

The question has often been asked as to why the early church grew so rapidly. The answer, I believe, is quite simple. The Christian religion is a religion of hope. Hope was something many of that day did not have. Hope is more than wishful thinking. It is defined as “desire with expectation of obtaining what is desired”. You may desire something, whatever it may be, but realize the chances of ever having this desire come true is not realistic. The desire may be there, but you cannot hope for them. Expectation alone is also not hope. Most of us expect sickness to come from time to time, or expect to pay taxes, etc. We expect these things in life, however there is no desire for them, therefore we do not hope for them. Where there is desire and expectation there is hope, and such hope is necessary for us to live the Christian life successfully.

What the Christian hope is not:

It is not the “hope” that we are going to Heaven. Have you ever been asked, “Are you going to Heaven?” and your reply is “I hope so”. We can know if we are going to Heaven or not, no hoping about it. In 1 John 5:13 we read, “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” If one knows he has eternal life he knows he is a Christian and thus going to Heaven.

What the Christian hope is:

It IS the promise of Heaven with all the good things that are there. We ought to desire it, and we ought to expect it. If we don’t, we have no hope. Many Christians just desire Heaven but don’t expect it. If you don’t expect it, you are not diligent or don’t believe the promises of God. The basis of our hope is that we are children of God. The reason for our being children of God is God’s love. 1 John. 3:1 reads, “See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children”. We became God’s children by being born again. John. 3:3 says, “Jesus replied, Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again; he cannot see the kingdom of God”. No one except a child of God can have this hope of Heaven. Those with whom we come in contact in our everyday lives that cannot call themselves children of God are without hope. The Apostle Paul tells us, “At that time you were without Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). We know from scripture that Heaven is a prepared place because Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms, if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself so that where I am you may be also.” Heaven is prepared only for those who summit to Christ and become children of God.

Purity is a must

We know that as a Christian, we must keep ourselves pure and the hope of Heaven purifies our hearts. 1 John. 3:3 reads, “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” The stronger our hope, the purer in heart and life we will be. Likewise, the purer in heart and life the stronger our hope will be. Purity in the life of every Christian is necessary before we can have hope of “appearing with Christ in glory”. The hope of Heaven should cause us as Christians to rejoice. Matt. 5:12 tells us, “Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in Heaven.” The Christians hope is based upon the promises of Christ, and he has promised us Heaven if we obey him. Our hope depends upon the strength of our desire, and how badly we want to go to Heaven. It is also based on the strength of our expectation, and our faith in God who has promised us a place in Heaven if we have lived the kind of life we should. The Christians hope is worth more than the entire world, do you have it