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    “See to it no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

    « On Legalism and Pharisees | What is Faith? Part 1: According to the Gospels »

    Pragmatism: A Little Leaven

    “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.

    I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:10-13)


    Lately God has been revealing to me how simple His word is and how dissatisfied people are with it. With sincere, well-meaning hearts and good intentions, they have decided that His word is not enough to draw people to Him and He needs our help.


    Ages-old traditions, innovative ideas, and marketing strategies are just a few examples of the good ideas people have had for God.


    We find “good ideas” for God in the Old Testament when the freshly-freed Israelites worship the golden calf in a festival for Jehovah (Exodus 32:5-6), when Jephthah makes a hasty oath to God to sacrifice whatever comes out of his house first if God helps him, and it ends up being his daughter (Judges 10-11).


    We find additions to God’s word in the New Testament when Jesus blasts the experts of the law for multiplying the people’s burdens (Luke 11:46) and when Paul writes to the Galatians,

    “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

    But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!...Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men?

    If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:6-12).


    Obviously, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). More modern examples of additions to God’s word include many Catholic doctrines, and the Book of Mormon. Modern examples of good ideas for God up for recent debate include Youth Ministries, Purpose Driven strategies, and the modern mission’s movement.


    What everything boils down to however, is not so much the motive behind an action or idea, but whether it lines up (obedience) with God’s word. God will not tolerate disobedience for long because it is rebellion to Him, and causes harm to His creations (both ourselves and others).


    The Israelites never totally abandoned their worship of God, but they gradually added worship of other false gods (Ezekiel 8) and it usually ended in the Israelites becoming slaves to other nations, enduring poverty, oppression, war, and famine.


    God always sent His prophets to warn the people and try to get them to change their ways. Sometimes they did (Haggai 1-2), but typically they had to learn the hard way that God would hold them to their covenant with Him.

    “And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 7:3)


    Remember, the Israelites still worshipped Jehovah, but they worshipped those other gods/goddesses alongside Him.


    But God is faithful and good to provide us explicit details when He calls us to a task. There are numerous examples of this, take Ezekiel for one. God told him what to eat, how to make it, how to lie down, and for how many days (Ezekiel 4-5).


    God gave explicit instructions to Moses on a regular basis, Joshua during his battles, Gideon, David, etc. He will equip us to whatever task He’s called us in His own way and His own time so that we and others will know it was He and not us. The Old Testament is filled with examples of God’s directions that end with “that you may know I am the Lord” (Exodus 10:2 is one).


    One problem with our good ideas and additions is that they just might work (How many practitioners does Catholicism, Mormonism or any other religion based on the writings of men have?), at least according to our own standards.


    We tend to assume they won’t if it isn’t God’s will, but we can know His will by reading His word and He will not call us to something contrary to His word. We may get converts, more tithes, more volunteers, more people praying and going to church, etc. but is it worth it in the end if the beginning premise is false (this is pragmatism in which the end justifies the means, but it is unscriptural and in fact counter-scriptural.


    Moses produced water from the rock the second time in disobedience to God’s command. It worked, but Moses was forbidden from entering the Promised Land because of it, Numbers 20:1-13)?


    God did not call Joshua to Jericho and let him take the city any old way or the way Joshua saw best. Do we suppose we could stand before God one day and justify our disobedience to Him by the fruits of our labors?

    “All your good deeds are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

    “The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?” says the LORD” (Is. 1:11).


    Keep in mind in Ezekiel 8-10, the synopsis goes; God showed Ezekiel the idolatry of the people in His temple. Then God sent angels to destroy the idolaters (and these were Israelites, God’s special people), and finally His glory leaves the temple.


    We cannot disobey God in one area to obey Him another (like sacrificing one part of God’s word to make disciples, for example). That is exactly what the Pharisees were called out by Jesus for!

    “You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone” (Luke 11:42).


    Notice, Jesus did not deemphasize what they were doing (that was important too), but what they were not doing which was equally important. Elsewhere Jesus told the Pharisees

    “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27-28).


    God’s definition of unclean is not the same as ours. The gospels are full of examples of Jesus challenging the popular notions of what was clean and unclean.


    In rhetoric/debate if evidence “A” is false, but evidence “B” is true, the premise or conclusion “C” will be false. In math, if you add a negative to a positive number you have the possibility of three different outcomes, depending on the value of the negative and positive numbers.


    If the positive number has a higher value than the negative, the positive number will be diminished. If the values of both numbers are the same, they will cancel each other out giving a “zero” or neutral answer. If the negative has a higher value, the positive will be overwhelmed and the resulting answer will be negative.


    None of these are acceptable outcomes when it comes to the lives of other people. We cannot compromise, even a little, with God’s holy word in order to entice (dare I say tempt) non-believers. Like the wise builder, our foundation must be sure (Matthew 7:24), our soil good (Matthew 13:8; Mark 4:8; Luke 8:8), or we will end up doing more harm than good,

    “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough” (Galatians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 5:6).


    “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men” (Matthew 5:13; Luke 14:34).


    The Christian walk/relationship with God was designed by Him to be simple, but we have aggrandized and packaged it into organized services, ministries, callings, and positions. If we take a look at the world and its other religions we should note if we look the same and then make sure we don’t,

    “Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues;” (Revelation 18:4).


    More reading on this subject:



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