External or Internal?

   by Rayola Kelley

One of the challenges of Christianity is to make sure we do not resort to making our Christian life a religion of rituals of dead-letter practices of dos and dont’s; or a soulish religious experience that depends on the intellect, feelings or blessings to define truth or reality. Both types of religious practices are external and will make the individual not only indifferent to his or her fruits but to the Person of Jesus Christ.

I say all of this because there are various movements in Christendom that are designed to coerce people to operate in the external by only testing outward actions rather than inward dispositions. These “winds of doctrines” blow away from the simplicity of Christ into the realm of outward show, piousness and self-righteous arrogance through such practices as keeping the Law, observing the Sabbath or practicing the Jewish feasts. In fact, I recently read a statement by a proponent of one of these moves that stated if Christians did not practice the Jewish feasts they were in idolatry or in ignorance.

To me this person’s statement summarizes the spirit and mentality operating behind these various false doctrines. None of these practices can save you but they can take you away from the One who does save thus becoming a sick, perverted substitute. They basically put the salvation of man back in his own hands, advocating that man has something to do with making himself righteous and acceptable to God

As any fundamental Christian knows man cannot make himself righteous, for man’s best is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). And it was for this very reason Jesus came and died on the cross, becoming sin so we could be made the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). This brings us down to the righteousness that is acceptable to God, which is Jesus’ righteousness. This righteousness is not manifested in our lives through meaningless, idolatrous, self-righteous actions but because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5).

The problem with these “spiritual” detours is that they always lead people into blatant heresy. For example, the heresy that follows on the skirts of these detours is that the church is now being referred to as Israel. Even the Apostle Paul clearly distinguished Israel as the natural branch and the church as the wild olive branches in Romans 11. The main key of this chapter is that both types of branches must be part of the same vine, meaning Jesus Christ, to insure salvation. It is Christ who makes us one in Spirit and body and as a result there are no Jews or Gentiles where He is concerned but children of the Living God (John 1:12;15;1-8; Galatians 3:28).

These false doctrines and detours also become sick perverted substitutes for the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:9-20). As you listen to people spew out this new gospel, you realize salvation hinges on you agreeing and complying with the heretical beliefs rather than knowing Jesus. You are warned about stepping over some kind of line if you do not agree and dare to refer to it as being a false gospel. Sadly, when you try to point out or confront these people about promoting another means of salvation they deny they are preaching another gospel and declare you just don’t understand the greater truths of God. When you ask them where Jesus fits, they not only show that they do not really know Him but they actually have to scramble in order to tack Him on to their agenda to hide the fact that He is indeed missing. This type of philosophy is not advocating Jesus “plus” some type of works to obtain salvation but man’s works “plus” Jesus.

GSM continues to encounter this blatant error. I want you to know we have not made this heresy our cause but those who advocate it have made it theirs with Web sites, heretical newsletters and an onslaught of accusations against those who dare to disagree. We have had these people personally criticize and attack us because we refuse to vary from the faith that was first delivered to the saints. Our goal at GSM has remained consistent—to be obedient to our commission. But like the New Testament writer Jude, we did not find the liberty to preach the Gospel, we are forced to spend a great deal of time trying to defend the true Gospel with the hope of pulling someone out of the fire of eternal judgment (Jude 3, 23). Needless to say, this robs us of valuable time. People are going into a Christless eternity because soldiers of the cross are kept busy trying to maintain the purity of the Gospel.

The fact we spend time and energy debating about such vain matters truly reveals the spirit behind these moves. The Spirit of God’s heart is the salvation of souls but the spirit of the world (Satan) robs, kills and destroys (John 10:10). Therefore, tell me what spirit is behind these debates?

Jude 3 said it best: “Beloved, whom I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Emphasis line.) Notice how Jude refers to Christians as saints and not Jews or Gentiles!

I say this because the advocates of these detours put strong emphasis on titles. They insist believers make up the “Commonwealth of Israel”. The Bible is clear about Israel and the church. And when all is said and done, it will not matter what title you cling to but whether you are truly identified to Jesus as a blood-bought saint.

As you study scripture you will see God’s will is to break the mold of such external practices by identifying man’s real problem and to make Christianity an internal matter. After all, the real problem is not that man lacks correct titles or actions but that he lacks the right heart.

Jesus made this statement in Matthew 15:18: “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.” What Jesus was saying is that man’s real problem is not a lack of the right titles or of “so-called” practices, but rather who he is that keeps him from God’s acceptance.

This concept must be carried out in every area of our lives. It is not what we know that gives us insight into spiritual matters, but who we know. It is not what we feel is right that counts but what we know is right according to Spirit and truth. It is not our ability to argue or cleverly twist scriptures that makes us Scriptural authorities on a subject but it is our testimony of Jesus Christ that gives us the ability to discern and the authority to overcome (Rev. 12:11).

This brings us back to the real matter of our spiritual life, the heart. It is our heart that determines the type of person we are, not external issues that have no eternal value. God made this statement in Ezekiel 36:26: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you to walk in my statues and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”

Obviously, God is the one who must do an inward work before we can even begin to do what is right. He must give us a new heart and spirit to walk the walk.

This brings us to a hard reality–it is God not man who does the internal, lasting work. Man can only work on the external and this is why many quickly embrace spiritual detours. Man wants some say in his spiritual accomplishments so he can glory in his own strength.

The Word of God shows us that the origin of such outward displays of piousness on man’s part is the sin of pride. God is the only one who can save, change and make a person acceptable. He is the one who will receive the glory for any lasting, righteous changes. Therefore, every bit of righteousness and success in our Christian life will be God’s doing and not our own weak, sick, pathetic attempt to make ourselves righteous by doing certain rituals or hiding behind titles.

It is God alone who gives us the heart we need to serve and glorify Him. As Ezekiel tells us He gives us a heart of flesh, replacing our stony, indifferent heart. A heart of flesh is a heart that is inclined towards God. It is a heart compelled by the Spirit of God, walking in obedience to His perfect will and growing in godliness. It is a heart that has tasted the depths of God’s mercy, the working of His abundant grace and has experienced His incredible deliverance and liberty.

Saints beware! True faith is being undermined by useless detours and endless heresies. People are falling away from the pure faith because they have not been established on the right foundation (1 Cor. 3:11), aligned to the only spiritual cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6-8) and submitted to the only head of the body or church, Jesus Christ (Col 1:17-23)

Take this time to examine your life before God. Is your life a flurry of external activities or is it an internal exercise of choosing to fall more and more in love with the Jesus of the Bible who is becoming your all in all? Keep in mind, if Christ is missing in your religious activities, the heart of Christianity is missing and most likely your life speaks of a dead religion, another gospel, a different Jesus and a wrong spirit.

Accept the real challenge of Christianity today– get back to the simplicity of Christ and never allow yourself to stray from it.