September 26

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Personalized Religion

An article in the September 13, 2011 edition of USA TODAY (p. 2A), was titled “More Americans customize religion to fit their personal needs.” To read it is to confirm what many of us have known for years; men push God off the throne and rule themselves. Or, to put it in Old Testament terms, “everyone [does] what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

The article quotes George Barna, author of a new book examining the state of religion in the U.S.

People say, “I believe in God. I believe the Bible is a good book. And then I believe whatever I want.”

People take what they want from the Bible and leave the rest off. For instance, people like the teaching about God’s love and blessings, but ignore the part about His wrath (Rom. 11:22). They embrace God’s grace, but reject the idea of keeping His commands—all of them (Jn. 14:15; Matt. 28:18). The Bible is treated like a religious buffet; pick and choose only what you like in the amount you like. Each man is his own god.

Some of the findings and statements noted in the article are stunning. Here are a few.

The folks who make up God as they go are side-by-side with self-proclaimed believers who claim the Christian label but shed their ties to traditional beliefs and practices.

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All the major trend lines of religious belief and behavior he measured ran downward – except two.

More people claim they have accepted Jesus as their savior and expect to go to heaven.

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Barna blames pastors for those oddly contradictory findings. Everyone hears, “Jesus is the answer. Embrace him. Say this little Sinners Prayer and keep coming back. It doesn’t work. People end up bored, burned out and empty,” he says. “They look at church and wonder, ‘Jesus died for this?’”

Wow! This is something faithful gospel preachers and Christians have been saying for decades. Denominationalism with all its allurements is religiously bankrupt. It has a strong appeal, offers this-world comfort and many distractions, but at its core is wholly without biblical foundation.

Look at the core appeal of denominations today. They offer youth recreational activities, various forms of entertainment for worship, and amenities that rival the best cruise ships. Think about it, the biggest, most active, churches in many cities are those that have a sports league with a full gymnasium, regular rock concerts for Jesus, and a café with gourmet coffee – maybe even a hair salon and bowling alley.

Did Jesus die so young people could play basket ball on Friday night or video games on Saturday afternoon? Did the Son of God shed His blood to provide disciples with a caffeine fix on Sunday morning? Can you imagine the Prince of Peace at a church “worship” concert swaying His hands in the air or doing a fist-pump or cheering on a karate exposition in His name?

The church for which Christ died is a spiritual institution with other-world interests (Acts 20:28). It is to uphold truth (1 Tim. 3:15). He died to save souls. Jesus commanded the apostles to go preach the gospel so men would become His disciples (Mk. 16:15, 16). He did not direct them to entertain the masses and mesmerize them with carnivals for Christ. The appeal of the Savior is the cross, not a cup of coffee (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

Those who are drawn by the social gospel are not fit for the kingdom of God. Their desire is for the material—this world, not the next. Churches that use the social gospel are not churches of Christ, but churches of men. They stand on the foundation of the doctrines of men, not the doctrine of Christ, and will be uprooted (Matt. 15:7-14).

Honestly, while some people are waking up to the reality of denominational vanity, most will continue to drink and remain intoxicated on the wine of the harlot. However, there are a few who are ready to turn to the milk of the word (1 Pet. 2:2). They are ready for spiritual sobriety and we can help them.


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