Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

Years ago there used to be a television program called “Truth or Consequences”. I can’t vividly recall the details of this show, but I do remember it was popular at the time. Recently “truth or consequences” of a spiritual nature has been our focus as we strive to teach the young people how important it is for them to make the right choices.God’s word from Genesis to Revelation can be viewed as a lesson in truth or consequences. Of course, we all know Adam’s failure to heed the truth of God’s warning in the Garden of Eden and the terrible consequences that resulted. While some may try to deny that the Genesis account of Adam’s disobedience is a historical fact, nevertheless, none can deny that all of creation “groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” Romans 8:22.

The question is why does mankind tend to think that they can somehow beat the odds (consequences) by ignoring and/or defying truth (reality)? Perhaps Romans 1:21-22 holds the key to that question. It reads, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” In these two verses we see four tendencies that lead to destruction. Their failure to glorify God; ingratitude; evil imaginations and spiritual darkness.

To glorify God means to honor Him by humbly yielding, in faith, to His will. Glorifying God means that anything good or noteworthy in your life (or as a result of your life) is credited to God, not to self. To live a life that glorifies God is to live every day with a conscious awareness of His awesome holiness, power, divinity, and sovereignty. A life that glorifies God is a life that recognizes it has no right to demand self-serving agendas, personal exaltation, self-fulfillment or worldly acclamation. It is a life that has surrendered to the Lordship of Christ and exists solely to bring honor to Him. Obviously, such a life is one that is led by the Spirit and possesses a heavenly perspective rather than an earthly perspective with its burdensome allurements, propaganda and temptations.

We may ask ourselves, “Whom was Adam seeking to glorify when he disobeyed God and partook of the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Self or God?” The answer to that is obvious—self! If glorifying his Creator had been Adam’s priority, obedience would never have been a point of contention on Adam’s part. He would have immediately expelled the serpent from the garden since it was his responsibility to guard it against intruders. Obedience would have been as natural to him as breathing: bringing honor to God would have been his greatest joy. Adam’s decision to disregard the truth (God’s warnings) in no way negated the consequences thus proving that no matter how intelligent or infallible we think we are, the truth as well as the consequences remain unchanged.

This verse (Romans 1:21) joins thanksgiving with honoring God. Giving heartfelt thanks to God is a natural result of knowing Him. And knowing Him is the result of glorifying Him because as we begin to honor and glorify God, we become compelled to focus on who God is–His attributes and character.

Nowhere in scripture is it recorded that Adam either glorified God or was grateful to the Lord for all that was lavished upon him. Rather, Adam was discontent and obviously longed for independence from God. His justification in Genesis 3:12, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” reveals Adam’s ungratefulness and self-centered, rebellious attitude. His response to God reveals his lack of fear towards God, his failure to honor Him and an appalling absence of love or concern for Eve. Adam gambled with the truth, and regardless of his excuses and anger, he had to pay the consequences. Even if Adam had sincerely repented (which is nowhere recorded in scripture) he still would have reaped the consequences in this present world.

The third clue in Romans 1:21 that reveals why mankind tends to make wrong choices is “vain [evil]imaginations”. The Amplified version puts it this way, “Because when they knew and recognized Him as the God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God, or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and godless in their thinking—vain imaginings, foolish reasoning and stupid speculations—and their senseless minds were darkened.” Therefore, the digression from truth begins with failure to glorify Him as God, failure to give Him thanks and then our minds become godless and, yes, “stupid”. (Let’s face it, without God’s perspective, wisdom and truth, we are indeed “stupid”—especially when we think we are smart!)

As Adam neglected to glorify and thank God, his empty mind filled with godless and vain imaginations. It is in the mind of man that temptations originate. The battle with Satan is either won or lost in the mind. In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 we read, For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”.

Concerning the mind Christians are commanded in Colossians 3:1, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” In Philippians 2 we are told to have the mind of Christ and in Chapter 4 we are told what to think upon. The consequences of our failure to keep our minds on the Lord results in a darkened heart.

Is it possible for a person who knows God to disregard the truth and suffer the consequences of a foolish, darkened heart? Absolutely! Look again at verse 21, “Because that, when they knew God…” These were people who knew God yet made the wrong choices because of their priorities. Hebrews 2:3a, written to believers, states, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?”Neglecting our salvation occurs every time we choose the world’s ways over God’s ways. 1 John 2:15-16 tells us, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

This leads us to the question, what about the church in the world? We have all undoubtedly heard the quotation, “The church may be in the world, but it is not part of the world.” If that were true, then why are so many Christians failing to make a distinction between that which is of God and that which is of the world? In other words, why are so many believers choosing consequences instead of truth? It would appear that the world has better options, solutions and answers than the truth—God’s Word. The fact is, the modern church employs the same methods the world does to draw people to itself. Rather than being separate from the world and lifting up the Truth (Jesus) as the early, pre-Constantine church did, it has embraced the world’s ideas of “success” by employing the world’s methods of advertising, entertainment, materialism, music, fund-raising, etc. The consequences are a world-weakened church that will not be able to stand in the days to come if it fails to wake from its slumber and repent.

Author David W. Bercot, in his book, WILL THE REAL HERETICS PLEASE STAND UP, writes this about the early church, “The first Christians lived under a completely different set of principles and values than the rest of mankind. They rejected the world’s entertainment, honors, and riches. They were already citizens of another kingdom, and they listened to the voice of a different Master. This was as true of the second century church as it was of the first.

The work of an unknown author, written in about 130, describes Christians to the Romans as follows: ‘They dwell in their own countries simply as sojourners.… They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time, they surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men but are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned. They are put to death, but [will be] restored to life. They are poor, yet they make many rich. They possess few things; yet, they abound in all. They are dishonored, but in their very dishonor are glorified…. And those who hate them are unable to give any reason for their hatred.’

Because the earth wasn’t their home, the early Christians could say without reservation, like Paul, ‘to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ (Phil. 1:21). Justin Martyr explained to the Romans, “Since our thoughts are not fixed on the present, we are not concerned when men put us to death. Death is a debt we must all pay anyway.’

A second-century elder exhorted his congregation, ‘Brothers, let us willingly leave our sojourn in this present world so we can do the will of Him who called us. And let us not fear to depart out of this world,… deeming the things of this world as not belonging to us, and not fixing our desires upon them…. The Lord declares, ‘No servant can serve two masters.” If we desire, then, to serve both God and Money, it will be unprofitable for us. “For what will it profit if a man gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?’ This world and the next are two enemies…. We cannot therefore be friends of both.’”

Imagine, if you can, what these early, much persecuted Christians would think if they were to visit our churches today? How would we be able to explain our defensive, idolatrous attitudes towards our church and/or denomination, popular TV personalities and so forth rather than Christ? What would they think of our emphasis on food, fun, picnics, parties and sports instead of being the salt and the light in a lost world? Would they point an accusing finger at our unholy so-called “Christian” music? And how could we explain to them that God’s Word isn’t relevant today for our lives but humanistic psychology with its ungodly emphasis on self-esteem is?

Of course, we could perhaps dazzle them with our love for Jesus (of our own imagination and liking). Perhaps we could impress them by quoting a handful of our favorite verses taken out of context—even though most Christians have never read the entire Bible or bothered to learn the Word of God and how it applies to their daily life. Our love for money and our belief that Jesus came so we could be rich might make us squirm, but we definitely would have a hard time explaining why we so much resemble the self-serving, lukewarm Laodicean church of Revelation Chapter 3.

Whenever we take our eyes off of the real Jesus and put them on the world or the brand of worldly Christianity bandied about today, we are setting ourselves up to choose a lie over the truth. The result is delusion, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11. The world toys with our affections, promising fulfillment and happiness. Yet Galatians 5:24-25 declares, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Sometimes that may require walking out of a worldly church to walk with Christ in Spirit and Truth on the narrow path.

As we look back through the centuries that are filled with unspeakable sorrow, suffering, death and destruction to the Garden of Eden, we ask ourselves how Adam could have so easily disobeyed one simple commandment from God. The key is, once the mind is filled with self-centered, vain imaginations and the heart is darkened, making the wrong choice with its devastating consequences is inevitable.

The good news is it was in that paradise lost that God gave the first promise of the coming Redeemer. In Genesis 3:15 God told Satan, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Hope, brighter than the sun, pierced the darkness of man’s darkened heart and mind—a hope that continued to shine down through the ages until the appointed time. Hope shined forth from the brightest star in the heavens upon the birthplace of a newborn babe lying in a lowly manger. Hope gripped the trembling hearts of shepherds who faithfully kept watch over their sheep. Hope guided three wise men from the East to the Promise of God.

This month as we reflect on the hope of eternal life given through God’s promise in the Garden of Eden to those who believe, let us draw near to Him, giving Him honor and glory, for He alone is worthy. Let us remember to thank Him for His unspeakable gift—the Lord Jesus Christ who alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. May we seek to always have the mind of Christ—that in every choice we are faced with we will have the power to choose the Truth rather than the consequences!