Monday, July 28, 2014

"Why you should have no 'respect' for other religions …"

Day #213:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - July 29th

Scripture Reading:  II Kings 21 - 25 …

Manasseh and many of the other kings of Judah mixed the worship of the LORD with the worship of Baal and other gods, with the result being judgment.  God had already brought judgment on the northern kingdom of Israel and now Judah lay in the path of His just wrath.  Manasseh's father, Hezekiah, had been a relatively good king, but Manasseh rebuilt the altars to other gods that Hezekiah had torn down and added more.  "He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists.  He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking Him to anger" (21:6).  The people did not listen to God, so "Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites" (21:9).  Therefore, God determined to send them into captivity to Babylon, as the prophet Jeremiah foretold.

In the midst of these horrible days in the tiny nation of Judah, God sent a brief revival in the days of the reign of a young eight-year-old boy named, Josiah.  Josiah was the grandson of Manasseh, but "he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left" (22:2).  Josiah ordered that the temple be restored and as they did so, Hilkiah, the priest, found the Book of the Law, written by Moses.  "When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law he tore his robes. … 'Great is the LORD's anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book' …" (22:11,13).  God saw Josiah's heart and promised peace for Judah in his lifetime.

Josiah called the elders of Judah and Jerusalem together and assembled all the people and had the Book of the Law read to them.  All the people pledged themselves to make a covenant with God.  Josiah removed all the pagan priests and tore down the high places that had been rebuilt by Manasseh.  The the king ordered the people to celebrate the Passover.  "Not since the days of the judges who led Israel, nor throughout the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah, had any such Passover been observed!" (23:22).  God had told them to observe the Passover and the other feasts prescribed in Leviticus to remind them of who HE was and who THEY were … His chosen people.  The Passover reminded them of the need for an atonement, a payment to be made for their sins, and so pointed to the Savior.

The people of Judah, like the people of Israel, had forgotten about their God and had mixed the worship of God with the worship of the gods of the nations around them.  They were to be a chosen people, a holy nation before the LORD.  They were to make Him known to the world, but instead, they compromised what they claimed to believe and rejected God's covenant with them, trying to blend in with the world around them.  In the end, they faced God's judgment.  Even after the brief revival under Josiah, we read, "Nevertheless, the LORD did not turn away from the heat of His fierce anger" (23:26) … and the people were taken into captivity in Babylon.

"It was because of the LORD's anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end He thrust them from His presence" (24:20).  What God had predicted through the prophet Jeremiah came true:  "Judah went into captivity, away from her land …" (25:22).  Yet, God had also promised that He would bring them back.  Through Jeremiah and then Ezekiel, God gave hope to those in exile, and through the prophet Isaiah even foretold the name of a foreign king who would issue a decree for their return.  We will see later how God fulfilled that promise.  Meanwhile, there are lessons to be learned by those today who take the name of Jesus Christ upon us and who claim to worship the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

As we live in this world as "Christians," followers of Jesus Christ, believing in the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are being told that we must "respect" those who worship other gods and who practice other religions, and we must engage in interfaith dialogue so that we understand each other better and have peace among people of all religions.  While it is true that we do not believe physical wars between nations should be fought over religion, the question is how to respond to people who do not believe the Bible, who do not believe in Jesus and who do not know the God who reveals Himself in His Word and in His Son.  What should be our position?

In view of what we have seen as we have gone through the books of I and II Kings, what does GOD say?  Our position should be what GOD says our position should be … not what WE think it should be or what other people think it should be.  First, let me define the word, "respect."  This is the new "code word" that is being used by people in the interfaith movement.  They say that all people should respect the beliefs of others, while they hold to their own convictions.  That sounds good … but is it?  The definition of "respect" is: "a feeling of deep admiration for someone or some thing that arises from their abilities, qualities or achievements."  So the question is this:  Does God tell His people to have a feeling of deep admiration for those who worship other gods?  The answer is, "NO!"

That may sound insensitive, but let me follow that statement with this one:  God doesn't tell us to respect them, He tells us to LOVE them!!!  If I say that I admire the Buddhist or the Muslim or other religions for their beliefs, or that I admire the beliefs themselves, am I not denying my God and doing exactly what the people of Israel and Judah were judged for:  mixing the worship of the one true God with the worship of other gods?  Some might answer, "No, you are just respecting them." But in doing so, am I not DISrespecting God?!  If I give the impression that the worship of other gods is just as good as the worship of MY God, am I not rejecting my own God as the One who has revealed Himself as the ONLY God, and His Son Jesus Christ, as the ONLY Savior?!

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that "the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance, leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will" (II Timothy 2:24-26).  If this is what some are saying we should do, I whole-heartedly agree; but this is not "respect" as it is defined in the dictionary.  "LOVE" means telling people the truth, praying that they will hear it and turn from their false beliefs to put their hope in God.

That's what Josiah attempted to do when he removed the altars in the high places and called the people to celebrate the Passover.  He didn't compromise the truth, he proclaimed it and called people to respond.  Paul wrote, "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all … and He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again" (II Corinthians 5:14-15).  Love demands that we speak truth, not turning to the right or to the left, but rather, loving people enough to share the Gospel with them, which alone is the power of God unto salvation.

One interfaith ministry has now come up with a new title for their efforts to bring "understanding" among the religions of the world:  "Principled Pluralism."  Here is their goal (and I quote):  "To encourage respect in the public sphere for the religious identity of individuals and groups, to foster positive relationships and informed dialogue between people of different spiritual orientations and to forge partnerships among religious and other organizations in service to the common good."  We are being told that "principled pluralism and true dialogue respects each person as a child of God and deserving of respect.  Dialogue is the vehicle for building respect, and it does not assume that we all agree.  Rather, it holds out the promise of going beyond understanding to truly respecting the other person."

Such comments and such movements are part of Satan's deception in our world today and many are being deceived.  God does not call us to such "respect."  He calls us to something higher: LOVE … FIRST, love for HIM, and secondly, love for those around us who are spiritually blind.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "By setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blind the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (II Corinthians 4:2-4).

You and I who believe are not called to "respect" other religions or those who hold to false beliefs.  That would be to admire them and to fail to love God or them!  God calls us to love Him, to rejoice in the salvation He has provided in Jesus Christ, and to love people enough to gently and humbly speak the truth, praying that God would open the eyes of the blind and draw them to Himself through the work of His Holy Spirit.  I pray that you will join with others around you who are convinced of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be engaged in proclaiming the one true God to the world around you.  Don't be confused, distracted or deceived by the voices of those calling for "respect" for false teaching.  Such pluralism, "principled" or not, brought judgment upon Israel and Judah.  It will do the same today!

"O LORD our God, I confess that You alone are God and there is no other.  I worship You alone and rejoice in Your salvation through Your Son Jesus Christ.  Give me strength to stand firm on the truth You have revealed in Your Word and give me wisdom and grace to love those who may oppose me and Your truth, so that I may respond in humility and speak Your truth clearly, that those who are lost may be found and that Your Name might be glorified!  In Jesus' name, Amen"  

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