When it comes to religion many, if not most, people believe man can set his own standard. If it makes you feel good and is done sincerely out of a desire to praise God, then it is acceptable. Does this work in any other area of life?
Can a team decide what the standard is in baseball? If a team decided to put 25 men on the field and claimed it seemed like the best thing to do, would it work? How would the umpire respond?
How about basketball? Can a player wear special shoes that are spring-loaded to give him an advantage for a jump ball or getting a rebound?
What if a NASCAR team decided to use a specially formulated fuel that boosted horsepower by 100% and cut fuel consumption in half?
You get the point. Sports leagues and associations have rules that govern their competitions. They even have standards for practice, pay, recruitment, and behavior outside the game.
If each player or each team decided to follow their own rules, chaos would reign.
Yet, this is exactly what we see in religion.
If you investigate the various denominations in your community – attending, asking members, searching their website – you will find various activities of “worship.” Some have instrumental music with a choir singing. Others have drama performances. You can find “worship” that includes dance, karate, clowns, or a rock concert.
Leaders of worship include ordained clergy, women, and, now, homosexuals. There might be one leader or “praise teams” that get everyone jazzed up. In some assemblies it might be a spontaneous eruption from an attendee or the hooting a hollering of the preacher caught up in the “ecstasy of the Spirit.”
The New Testament presents a rather clear picture of the worship of the church. We see teaching, giving, praying, singing, and the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2; Acts 20:7; cf. Matt. 26:26-29). Warnings are given about chaotic worship that deviates from the intended purpose of honoring God and building up men in the faith (1 Cor. 14). Simple, sober, reverent.
There are a number of ideas about what the Bible teaches regarding the forgiveness of sins. Many, including Baptists churches, teach all you need to do is believe and you are saved. Roman Catholicism teaches you are christened as a baby and saved, then later will believe after special classes. Calvinists teach you are either saved or lost solely by God’s choice and those who are saved will come to believe at some point in their life.
The Bible teaches there are essentially five things involved in having your sins washed away. First, you have to learn the gospel in some way – hear the word (Rom. 10:17; cf. Acts 2:14). Second, you must believe Jesus is the Christ (Acts 8:36-38). Third, you must repent of your sins (Acts 3:19). Fourth, you must confess Jesus is the Christ (Rom. 10:9, 10; cf. Acts 8:36-38). Fifth, you must be baptized (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Gal. 3:26, 27; Rom. 6:3, 4; 1 Pet. 3:21).
Jesus summarized the plan of salvation in Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
The Standard Matters
When playing baseball or basketball, the rules matter. When racing in NASCAR, there is a standard that must be strictly followed or face disqualification – even if you “won” the race.
Paul penned this truth to Timothy. “And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Tim. 2:5). He was not giving Timothy sports advice. He was telling him that following God’s commands matters – it is essential to salvation.
When each church or preacher or believer can set his or her own rules, chaos follows. There is no stability or confidence because over time the “rules” change as men and culture changes (i.e. homosexual leaders). People end up confused and might give up. Many simply choose to find the standard that pleases them and live in a delusion that all is well.
Whether worship, salvation, or any other issue biblical issue, the standard matters – that’s why we have the Bible (1 Cor. 2:7-13; cf. Psa. 119:105).
Let us not fall into the trap that we can set our own standard in religion. Rather, we must accept God’s word as the only standard and strive diligently to follow it. By doing so, we will be crowned at the finish.