What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The letter to the Colossians presents us with a good example of the warning here. The church members had been presented with something that looked attractive, something they were told would enhance their worship of God, but it was actually a pagan idea. Contrary to the sales pitch they were hearing, they needed to get it out of their lives, out of their worship of God, or it would eventually lead them completely astray.
They were being deceived by something that appeared right. It seemed so good, and it indeed had its positive qualities, in a way. Paul, though, could see that death waited at its end. The people, apparently, were deluded into thinking about it an entirely different way.
Humanly, God has given us multiple ways to express our personalities that have nothing at all to do with sin or necessarily, with His way. But there is only one "Way," and that is His. When it is alloyed with other ways, it is not improved by any means. The Word of God is pure, and when things are added to it, it is not made stronger or enhanced. Added things actually make it worse; it is made weaker.
We can express our personalities in things like fashion. Look how many different designs there are to clothing. The same applies to furniture or automobiles. Their makers change them on us every so often to make them appeal. People buy things that appeal to the expression of their personalities. The same is true with houses and yards. Look at the landscaping varieties that there are—hundreds of different flowers, bushes, and trees that we can put in our yards to express a little bit of the beauty of God in our own way. Food and drink are other examples of variety in personal expression.
But in terms of morality and spirituality, the Way is extremely narrow. "Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, . . . [yet] narrow is the gate and difficult is the way way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14). This is the principle we are dealing with in this case. In Colosse, the Christians were victims of yet another attempt to syncretize something moral and spiritual—but humanly devised—to God's Way.
In this case, it was a philosophy of asceticism and the worship of demons, which they were being told would enhance their worship of God. It appeared to be so spiritual, but it was effectively cutting them off from the true Object of their faith and their Source of power to overcome—Christ.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Three)
"Way" can be understood both as a narrow, single issue within one event or an entire package of values within a course of conduct. The proverb's point is that humanity is frequently driven by blind self-deception or ignorance. It often has no absolute certainty regarding right and wrong because its standards have been merely absorbed and never seriously compared against God's. How do ours compare?
This is a fair question because, since our calling and the fact that we are no longer blinded, we have the opportunity to make a fair assessment of this. In one sense, God is challenging us in this proverb either to defend our body of beliefs and practices, or to drop them and change to His. He is also warning us in advance that our way of life—if it is wrong—is going to kill us.
Any system of ethics and morality is by definition an expression of religion because religion, again by definition, is a way of life containing some measure of worship. Worship is merely a respectful response to one's god. A system of morality concerns itself with values and the way one lives, even as God's moral code does. The major overall difference is that His way works because it leads to life, even though in a given instance it may appear more wrong than ours.
Because these principles are true, they lead to the fact that each one of us is technically the god of our system of values and its way of life in opposition to the Creator God, if our code of conduct is not in alignment with His. We are serving, and thus in a limited way, worshipping ourselves.
Law, therefore, is codified, enacted morality. Whether it is God's or man's does not matter. The difference is in what they produce. What does man's law produce on earth? History makes this obvious: confusion, warfare, constant competition, pain from all the collisions of values, and ultimately death.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment
Some of the Christian churches of this world have a doctrine titled "Eternal Security," and some, a few maybe, "Extreme Eternal Security." This essentially postulates that once one has accepted Jesus Christ's blood, salvation is assured. This doctrine almost makes Christian life seem as though it is a walk in the park.
This doctrine was one of the central themes of the Protestant Reformation, as theologians like Martin Luther and John Calvin moved to reject doctrines that they considered "Catholic." The central theme of this doctrine claims that the called individual has absolutely no part in the salvation process. That is the one they call "Extreme Eternal Security."
Belief in this teaching was one of the major reasons why Martin Luther rejected the book of James. He called it "an epistle of straw," seeing it clearly rejected eternal security. James makes it clear that a person's works are important to his salvation, because he states that "faith without works is dead." Dead faith will not lead to a resurrection to life.
We can learn from this that rejection of clearly-stated biblical truth is not limited to the man in the street. People considered great, like Martin Luther and John Calvin, got things wrong too. Even though it may have been pointed out to them by others, they rejected it in favor of what they had devised.
Did not Jesus—Christianity's Founder—say very clearly that the way to life is difficult and narrow? Why are there so many warnings and admonitions not to turn out of the way if a successful conclusion is virtually assured as soon as one begins?
John W. Ritenbaugh
Does Doctrine Really Matter? (Part Four)
The churches of this world generally teach that all a person has to do is to believe on Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, intellectual and even emotional beliefs on their own produce the static, idle faith that James speaks about—dead faith. However, in one who is truly called by God—an individual who has living faith—his belief galvanizes into a conviction that will produce righteous works. These works ultimately produce the "much fruit" that will glorify God the Father (John 15:8).
Just what is the faith that Jesus Christ is looking for? It is a faith far greater than we might imagine. It is faith, not just in individual truths or doctrines, but in an entire way of life—the righteous, holy way that God Himself lives. God wants us to accept and follow the whole package of Christian living that He reveals in His Word.
Granted, it is very hard to do. We live in one of the most sinful, evil, corrupt, self-centered societies of all times, and our patience and conversion are being severely tested. The world wants us to come out of the narrow way that protects us, teaches us, and prepares us for our future. It is pushing and enticing us to accept the broad way that will pull us down to failure and destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).
But the life that God has called us to is truly awesome! In John 17:3, Jesus declares the kind of life we have been chosen to live by faith: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."Living this eternal life gives us the ability to know God: how He thinks, makes decisions, shows His love, feels for others, extends mercy and forgives, etc. In other words, living God's way now allows us—as much as is humanly possible—to know the mind and ways of God. It is in God and His incredible way that we must have faith.
Because our calling and potential are so tremendous, God gives us a warning to consider in II Peter 2:20-21:
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
Once we start down this road, we have committed ourselves to following it to the very end.
For this reason, Paul challenges us in II Corinthians 13:5 to examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith. He tells us to test ourselves to prove that Christ lives in us. We will not fail the test if we draw close to Him and truly work to make the changes we need to make as individuals to take on the very nature and life of God.
Then, when the question arises, "When the Son of man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" the answer will be a resounding, "Yes!"
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Will Christ Find Faith?
Abraham was drawn by faith to a land that he would afterward receive as an inheritance, the Promised Land, a type of the Kingdom of God. What if he had refused to step out?
What God has recorded of Abraham's life reveals that how he responded illustrates a path, a way of trust that will lead us to our inheritance. It is the "narrow way," the difficult way that leads to life. That way would have existed even if God had not revealed it to him, but Abraham's following that way in faith proved that his heart was one with God's. God expects us to follow the same trustful attitude that motivated Abraham's actions.
Abraham's obedient response suggests that no proud, stiff-necked rebel will be in the Kingdom of God. No one wrapped up in himself will survive this difficult path, only those who by faith are humbly submissive to God's will. In short, God's calling begins severing us from a number of important negative worldly and carnal factors. At the same time, it also attaches our loyalties, our responsibilities, and our purposes in life to God and His Kingdom.
In biblical terminology, we are transferred from death to life; from fleshly minded to spiritually minded; from Israelite or Gentile to Abraham's seed; from uncircumcised to circumcised in heart; and from the world to the Kingdom of God. It is essential that our severing from the old way be as complete and continuous as possible because, despite what happens to our heart in our attachment to God and His way, the world and carnality remain as constant threats, almost like magnets drawing us back toward them.
From this arises our need for faith to wage the Christian fight so that we do not backslide to where and what we were before. We see this in a small way from Abraham's life; his breaking away was not as smooth as it appears on the surface. Genesis 12:1 contains God's original charge: "Now the LORD had said to Abram: 'Get you out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you.'"
God was severing Abraham from his country, his kindred, and his father's house. Our severing rarely involves a physical separation from the nations of our birth, but it almost always involves a spiritual division from our natural families. Frequently, this severing causes strained family relations. It appears that it caused Abraham problems as well.
In Luke 14:26-27, Jesus admonishes all who desire baptism to consider well what He says:
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
As our calling begins, problems do not generally arise because the uncalled family members hate us outright. Instead, they love us in their carnal fashion, but our desire to obey God upsets their sense of family unity, loyalty, and responsibility. A related factor irritates them: They understand that we are rejecting many, if not virtually all, of the spiritual values they taught us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Seven)
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