Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"Don't 'respect' those who have other religious beliefs ... LOVE them!"

Day #83

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, and the result was 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).  

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 no longer celebrated the Passover and had forgotten what God had done for them. 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. God would keep His promises to His people!

As we live in this world as followers of Jesus Christ, we are being told that we must "respect" those who worship other gods and who practice other religions.  Others say 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 wars between nations should not be fought over religion, the question is how to respond to people who do not believe the Bible, who do not believe in Jesus Christ and who do not know the God who reveals Himself in His Word and in His Son.  What should we do?

In view of what we have seen as we have gone through the books of I and II Kings, what does GOD say?  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 continue to 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."  Does God tell His people to have a feeling of deep admiration for those who worship other gods?  "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 others 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?  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, loving people enough to share the Gospel with them, which alone is the power of God unto salvation.

God calls us first to love HIM, and secondly, to love those around us who are spiritually dead.  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 blinded 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 fail to love God or them!  I pray that you will join with others around you who are convinced of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that you will love God and love others enough to be engaged in proclaiming the one true God to the world around you.  

"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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