by Clarence W. Fell
Many people have been taught that what they believe and practice does not matter as long as they are sincere. Let's compare this idea to some Bible passages.
21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father in heaven.
22 "Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?'
23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!"
Jesus says that just because a person thinks himself to be a Christian does not make him one. There is more to being a Christian than just getting involved with some religious group. We must learn from the Bible what God requires of us if we hope to enter the kingdom of heaven.
In Revelation 3:1 we find a situation similar to the one in Matthew 7:21-23. Jesus said to the church in Sardis, "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead."
The church in Sardis had a good reputation among men. People admired and looked up to the church at Sardis, but God's judgment of Sardis was completely opposite. God said they were dead. In verse two He tells them that there is still hope. In verse 3 He tells them to remember what they had originally received, return to it, or suffer the consequences. Even though they look religious in the eyes of men, God did not approve of them.
II John 9 - 11
9 "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the father and the son.
10 "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him;
11 "For he who greets him shares in his evil deeds."
Our beliefs and practices are regulated by Jesus' teaching. Transgressing the doctrine of Christ means to go beyond what Christ taught, to do something that is not authorized in his teaching. This can be illustrated by using the speed limit. On the interstate system there is a minimum and maximum speed. We are authorized by law to travel at any speed between the minimum and maximum. When we do this we are abiding in the teaching of the law. If we travel at a speed less than or greater than what has been authorized, then we have transgressed and gone beyond the teaching of the law. We are guilty of lawlessness.
In religious matters it is the same. If we fall short of doing the will of God (James 4:17) or add to His will, then we have failed to abide in Jesus' teachings. That is what John taught in Revelation 22:18,19 when he wrote, "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book: and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the book of life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
Changing Godӳ word does not mean that people actually rewrite the Bible. It means that people twist the meaning of the scriptures around to suit themselves. Peter warned us that some people twist the scriptures to their own destruction (II Peter 3:16).
If you follow a teacher that twists the scriptures you will suffer as a result. Jesus said, "If the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch," (Matt.15:14).
"But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does."
James teaches that those who look into the perfect law and continue in it will be blessed. To continue in the law simply means to obey it. Let's take it a step further. How important is it that we continue in the perfect law of liberty? James said, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all," (James 2:10). Obviously, James considered it an important matter to closely follow the perfect law of liberty.
"Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.Լbr>
If sincerity is the only requirement God has, then why did Paul tell us to follow the pattern of his example? (see also I Cor. 1:1,2) The fact that Paul spoke by inspiration tells us that it was God's will for Paul to teach others to follow the pattern of the New Testament. At another time Paul taught, "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle,"(II Thes. 2:15).
Paul consistently taught that it was important to follow the Bible pattern. When changes were introduced Paul strongly opposed, saying, "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from him who called you into the grace of Christ to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed," (Galatians 1:6-9).
The problem Paul spoke against was not the teaching of an entirely different gospel, but rather a "perverted" gospel. The specific problem was an unauthorized blending of the Old and New Testaments. The Galatians were misusing the inspired scriptures.
Does it Matter?
Don't take my word for it. Search the scriptures and get a Bible answer. That is the only answer that will count in the day of judgment. Check out the verses listed below and see what the Bible teaches.
I Sam. 15:22-33
Prov. 3:5; 14:12; 28:26
Matt. 5:17-19; 7:21-23
Matt. 15:9, 13, 14; 28:18-20
John 8:32; 12:48
John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10, 14
John 15:4-6; 17:17
Acts 2:42; 17:11
Rom. 10:1-3; 16:17
I Cor. 7:19
Gal. 1:6-9; 3:15
Phil. 3:16,17; 4:9
I Thes. 5:21
II Thes. 1:7-9; 2:15; 3:6
I Tim. 1:3
II Tim. 1:13; 2:5
James 1:22-26; 2:10
II Peter 3:16
I John 2:3-5, 24; 4:1, 5:2,3
II John 6, 9-11
Rev. 3:1; 22:14
So, what did you discover? Do the things you believe and practice in religion matter to God?