What's gone WRONG with today's professing Christianity? Do you know the way to make Christianity REAL in your personal life?
"WELL, here is the way I look at it," said an old gentleman with whom I was discussing the Bible. Then he proceeded to give me his personal interpretation of the passage in question which, however interesting, did not agree with the context! Nor with many other definite, clear scriptures in the unbreakable Word of God. But this man was not alone.
How Much Do Human "Opinions" Matter?
This man's thinking is representative of literally millions of other people in every part of the globe. They are — in the main — honest and sincere people. But they have the notion that the Bible is a book which can be freely "interpreted" by any professing Christian — just as long as one is sincere in his ideas. This notion they apply, in like manner, to the WAY in which they worship God. Each person, they feel, is free to have his own concept of God. As long as one is honest in his ideas, they can see no harm in it, they reason. Do you agree? Can you see that this idea has led to confusion — to the veritable Babylon of denominations that is today's professing Christianity? Atheists and agnostics quite often accuse Christians of "creating God in their own image." In countless instances, this is absolutely true! In every nation, city and family there are different human ideas of what God is like. "My concept of God is a very personal and sacred thing to me," many people say. Yes, their own personal, human, and in most instances, FALSE concept of God seems "sacred" to them. But IS IT? Can man sanctify anything — make anything sacred and holy? Or is this within the province of God ALONE? All these questions can be answered if you will prove to yourself — which you can — that God is a very real Spirit Personality who presently and actively GOVERNS the entire universe from His throne in heaven! And, if you prove to yourself — which you can — that the Bible is, old-fashioned as that may seem, the directly inspired REVELATION from that God of spiritual TRUTH. It reveals the purpose and laws of life and the true nature of God which man otherwise COULD NOT find out for himself. You, personally, need to prove, believe and OBEY Jesus Christ's inspired statement: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4). If you would like definite, practical help in proving these most basic fundamentals of true Christianity, then read our free booklets: "Does God Exist?" and "The Proof of the Bible" and a vital supplementary article, "Seven Proofs God Exists!"
Let Christ Introduce the Father
The clearest revelation of God's nature and purpose was given by Jesus Christ. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" (John 1:18). Jesus came to "reveal" God the Father (Matt. 10:27). Above all else, Jesus revealed God as the over-all Ruler of heaven and earth. He proclaimed that man was not to seek his own ways and devices, but was to "live by every word of God." Jesus taught us to pray: 'Thy kingdom come, thy WILL be done, as in heaven, so in earth" (Luke 11:2). He continually taught OBEDIENCE to the law and will of God. When a young man asked Him the way to inherit eternal life, Jesus answered: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt. 19:17). Jesus continually prayed to God the Father as a definite spiritual being having POWER to intervene in this world and to heal the sick, raise the dead, and carry out His immutable Word. Jesus said: "I go unto my Father, for my Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). Yet Jesus received God's Spirit without measure (John 3:34). God so completely directed Jesus' every thought and action through the Holy Spirit, that Jesus said, "He that has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Do you grasp the significance of that statement? The nature and character of God was manifested so perfectly in the life of Jesus, that if the Father Himself should be manifested as Jesus was, His thoughts and actions would have been no different. Jesus surrendered totally to the RULE of God and let the Holy Spirit direct His life completely. Even when facing an agonizing death on the cross, Jesus prayed: "Not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). God revealed Himself through Moses, Daniel, all His prophets and apostles, and through His own Son as Creator and present RULER of heaven and earth. This is the first and foremost attribute of the true God proclaimed from Genesis to Revelation. Do you acknowledge God's RULE in your concept of God and in the way you practice it?
What Do YOU Worship?
The Apostle Paul was inspired to utter a poignant truth which applies to you. Study it carefully. "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye OBEY; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" (Rom. 6:16) When a choice has to be made between following the ways of your friends and family, or obeying what you have found to be the will of God, which course do You follow? Do you take the easy way out and follow men? Do you serve and thereby WORSHIP the ways of men more than the ways of God? Don't "kid" yourself — for you CAN'T fool the Creator God! Are you like the Pharisees who rejected Christ because they "loved the praise of men more than the praise of God?" (John 12:43) God seems far away to some people, and their friends seem so close and so important. Which do YOU worship? Which do you OBEY? Haven't you, in effect, become a literal servant to the customs and ways of this world? Don't you, personally, nearly always CONFORM to the latest ideas, fashions and pressures of men whether you fully agree with them or not? On the other hand, how often do you take time to really STUDY and come to UNDERSTAND what the BIBLE has to say about the customs you practice, the way you conduct your business, how you treat your wife, how you treat your children and other vital phases of your life? If you had to give up your job — your only present source of income — in order to obey some point of truth you found in God's Word, would you do it? Would you exercise FAITH, as Jesus did? Would you rely on God's many promises to "supply all your need"? (Phil. 4:19) Would you in this matter worship God — or MAMMON?
A FALSE Christianity?
A prominent Canadian church leader recently commented: "The statistical columns reveal a nation increasingly Christian; the news columns reveal a mounting paganism." Yes, PAGANISM! For most of you reading this article have become almost completely PAGAN in the religious days you observe, the ancient Babylonian customs to which you conform, and the modern IDOLATRY of "conformism"! You are so desperately afraid of "what people will think" that you are almost afraid to take God seriously! You are too lazy and too afraid to earnestly STUDY the matter of whether God should RULE your life or not. Of whether the Bible carries real AUTHORITY. Of whether or not there is going to be a Divine intervention of the true GOD in human affairs before man annihilates himself with hydrogen bombs and rockets! You may have unwittingly made an IDOL of this world's society — the opinions and approbation of other people. You are afraid that they would think you were a little "odd" or "different" if you would begin to study the proofs of God — and of the Bible — and honestly face the BIG questions of life. A young minister recently wrote in a national U.S. magazine: "The majority of today's church members refuse to care. In this refusal, most remaining members and much of their chosen church hierarchy blandly acquiesce. How can a minister rationalize devoting his life to the organization which results in a superficial extension of society? How can he live with himself if he does?" The answer, of course, is that such people and such ministers have to "kid" themselves into thinking that they are "sincere" — and that this is all that matters. Chaplain Coffin of Yale University recently commented: "We clergymen are guilty of turning wine into water, watering down religion." But where is a "watered-down religion" going to leave you in the JUDGMENT? Where is it going to leave you in the GREAT TRIBULATION which God says is going to strike this earth before Christ returns — and is SOON to begin? Remember Jesus' indictment of the religious "hypocrites" of His day! "Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, this people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in VAIN they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:7-9). Yes, by following human tradition rather than God's LAW you can certainly worship God in VAIN! Your religion is for nothing, empty, vain, PURPOSELESS!
Be Willing to CHANGE
The most important thing in approaching God and studying the Bible is to have a surrendered attitude! God says: "To this man will I look, even to him that is of a contrite spirit, and TREMBLETH at my word" (Isa. 66:2). What about You? Do you tremble at God's Word? Do you respect the authority and power behind that Word so much that you are afraid to reject or disobey it? Do you grasp the great difference between this attitude and the type of human, carnal, argumentative attitude so many "Bible students" have? The very first prerequisite to real conversion and becoming a true Christian is to REPENT — to change your mind in respect to God and His ways. Jesus said: "REPENT ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Peter said: "REPENT and be baptized... and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). As shown in Romans 6:3-6, baptism pictures the death and burial of the old self. It is an outward sign that you realize that you are worthy of death — you are symbolically buried with Christ. Your baptism should symbolize your desire to have this attitude of Christ's — "Not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). Then, after receiving God's Holy Spirit, a real Christian should be willing to continually change — to "GROW in grace and knowledge" (II Pet. 3:18). He will "hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matt. 5:6). Such a real Christian will WANT to find God's way — whatever it is. He won't argue and debate over the precious Word of God! He will not be seeking his own way. He will be honestly, sincerely and zealously seeking GOD'S way. The Word of God then becomes profitable to that person, because it can correct and reprove him where he is wrong — and instruct him in righteousness (II Tim. 3:16). Thus he can be taught by God, and fashioned into the perfect spiritual CHARACTER God intends — finally to inherit eternal life in God's Kingdom! You are personally accountable to LIVE — not by your own ideas — but by EVERY Word of God! (Luke 4:4) These are things for you to think about — honestly and without prejudice. Are you willing to be shown new truth? Will you permit God's Word to correct you — to show you where you are wrong? Or are you bound and determined to CLOSE your mind to anything new? Will you blindly defend what you already believe without really looking into the matter?
Prove WHERE God is Working
As Jesus prophesied (Matt. 24:14), this Gospel of the Kingdom — the RULE of God — is being proclaimed as a "witness" to all nations. Thousands of you are coming to recognize this as the Work of God. Perhaps you have come to understand the end-time fulfillment of Amos' prophecy: "Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). You should realize who God's servants are — for they are the only ones who are proclaiming the definite, specific prophesied events now beginning to take place in world affairs! As this knowledge comes to your mind, God holds you ACCOUNTABLE for what you do with it. "Lip service" is not enough. God requires OBEDIENCE. "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (I John 2:4). In the title statement of this article: "You worship you know not what!" Jesus was speaking to a Samaritan woman (John 4:6-26). She had apparently been divorced and remarried several times, for she had "had five husbands." And her present union was adulterous! (verse 18) She had only a vague, "loose" idea of God and His Word. Jesus had to tell her where and how to worship God for, as He said, she didn't really know WHAT she was worshipping! Jesus said: "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (verse 24). Without realizing it, many of you readers are in the same boat as this Gentile woman! Perhaps you have been divorced from your husband or wife. Perhaps you are living in adultery. Probably you have only a vague idea of God, and only a very sketchy and incomplete knowledge of the Bible. You may have unquestionably followed the religion you happened to grow up in. You probably have blindly "conformed" to the ideas and traditions — and the PAGANISM — of the human society around you. And you have not consciously realized that it is this very human society of deceived and rebellious men upon which God promises to pour out the SEVEN LAST PLAGUES! But now — through The WORLD TOMORROW broadcast, through The PLAIN TRUTH magazine, through this very article — God is calling you to UNDERSTANDING. There is no sane reason for you to worship God in ignorance. You can now begin — perhaps for the first time — to study your Bible with an open mind and heart. You should enroll, completely FREE OF CHARGE, for the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course. Even in reading this magazine, you should turn to the scriptures which are quoted and study them in your own Bible. As you hear The WORLD TOMORROW broadcast, you should get out your Bible — with pen and paper — and follow Mr. Armstrong as he expounds various Bible topics, noting down the supporting scriptural passages from other books and any unusual points or explanations he may bring out upon any chapters or verses. You can PROVE where God is working if you want to! You can UNDERSTAND the purpose being worked out here below. By having a surrendered attitude — by REPENTING both of your own way and perhaps of committing IDOLATRY in blindly following human society — you can come to know the true God. You need not worship God any longer "in vain" or in ignorance. Through the vital steps outlined above, you can and you MUST — for the sake of your very life — begin to obey GOD rather than man, and worship Him "in spirit and in truth."