Archive for February, 2011

Can We Really COEXIST?

February 14, 2011

Syncretism is the attempt to reconcile contrary beliefs. In every generation, there are those who try to bring together the major religions of the world by suggesting they all pretty much say the same thing and lead to the same God. For example, have you seen the bumper sticker that reads COEXIST? The letters represent symbols of various world religions and philosophies.

The letter “C” is a half crescent moon representing Islam.

The letter “O” is made into the universal peace sign.

The letter “E” is adorned with the symbols for male and female. When used together, the symbols can refer to transgender lifestyles.

The letter “X” is made into the Star of David representing Judaism.

The letter “I” is dotted with a five-pointed star within a circle, commonly found in pagan worship and Wicca which bows to Satan.

The letter “S” is cleverly adapted to represent Tao and Neo-Confucian philosophies.

The letter “T” is obviously representative of the cross in Christianity.

Altogether, the bumper-sticker message is clear. All religions and philosophies are basically the same. Get along. Find the common ground. Coexist. The problem is the belief systems represented by the symbols are contrary. Can we really COEXIST? Not unless you want to sacrifice intellectual honesty.

As Christians, we move away from the biblical meaning of the cross and the orthodoxy of our faith when we engage in religious syncretism.

Words of Forgiveness

February 13, 2011

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

The three most amazing words that Jesus spoke from the cross are “Father, forgive them.” Did you know his words fulfilled Old Testament prophecy? Isaiah 53:12 makes the following Messianic prediction. “For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Centuries before cruel malefactors drove nails into the hands and feet of Jesus and hoisted him upon a cross between earth and heaven, their forgiveness was foretold. Amazingly, the scribes and Pharisees were too busy scheming and plotting against Jesus to read the Isaiah scroll and make the connection between him and the Messianic prophecies.

Jesus also practiced what he preached about forgiveness. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” A couple of verses later he says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:12, 14-15).

This does not mean that God’s forgiveness depends on our ability to forgive others. No, we cannot earn God’s forgiveness. But it does suggest that we are in no position to ask for God’s forgiveness if we harbor an unforgiving spirit in our own hearts.  

Peter once asked Jesus, “‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Matt. 18:21-22). Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus put no limits on forgiveness.

How can we forgive others who have wronged us? Bitter feelings are real and hard to cleanse from our hearts. It’s easier to live by the old motto, “Don’t get mad. Get even!” While it might be easier to live that way, it’s also more toxic. Someone once compared holding a grudge to drinking battery acid and hoping that it hurts the other person.

The only way I know to forgive the way Jesus did, to live the way he taught us to live, is to leave room for God’s wrath. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul writes, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:19-21).

Nemesis, the goddess of revenge and retribution, was among the many deities the Romans worshipped during the reign of Tiberius Caesar (Acts 28:1-6). Jesus’s gracious words of forgiveness from the cross were in direct contrast to the pagan ideologies of the day.

Ron Jones is a pastor whose greatest passion is to introduce people to Jesus Christ through anointed biblical preaching that transforms lives.

 

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