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Friday, April 26, 2013

Traditional Faith

Genesis 22, John 8 

When we see God at work, His reality is easy to confirm. Many choose not to see Him because they do not want to admit He is God and alter their paths in life. There are those who do choose to acknowledge Him. Many of these people follow Him and become like Him; they see the Light, believe in the Light, and He enables them to do His will. A warning, though, must go out to those who have chosen to see the Light but not trust enough to allow Him to work the Christ-changes in them. These persons will not pass the test. 

Consider Abraham. He was a man born as all men are. He owned slaves, camels, goats, and sheep. He was a nomad and had one wife. When God called to Him, a voice foreign to his ear, he chose to hear, listen, and heed His voice. You can take note of someone without listening. Ask any parent; this occurs often. We can listen without acting upon what was said. It takes a humble person to heed and follow someone who is unknown. This requires acknowledgment that the One speaking is greater than you are and is worthy of your dedication. Abraham acknowledged God as being the Creator of everything, the Sustainer, and Provider. God told Abraham he would be the father of nations. He promised that Abraham’s people would be the children of God. On this, Abraham followed Yahweh. Abraham listened and heeded.
This did not occur once in Abraham's life. God tested Abraham a couple times, as He does in our life. God takes us to a trial to find out how much we trust Him instead of how much we trust in our image of Him or what we consider is the “right” way. When God told Abraham in Genesis 22 to go to the mount and offer a sacrifice, Abraham went then with his son, Isaac, and two of his slaves. They packed their donkey and walked to the mountain. When they arrived, Abraham climbed the mountain without a sacrifice to offer. God had not told him yet what to offer. When they had finished arranging the altar, sticks, and wood, Abraham still did not spot a replacement sacrifice to offer instead of Isaac. Abraham took Isaac, bound him, and laid him on the altar. There were many cultures at this time in history that appeased their gods with human sacrifice. Abraham spotted no other potential sacrifice, so offered what he had, Isaac, his promised and only son. At the point of sacrificing Isaac’s blood and life, God stopped Abraham's hand and showed him a ram caught in the branches (vs.10-12).  
What was God doing here? He was testing Abraham; we acknowledge that. What was He testing and teaching? God wanted to know how much Abraham loved Him. Was it enough to offer his son to Him? This testing was not everything God was doing though. God was working out for Abraham, right in front of him, in a very close and personal way, that the way of sacrifice that his ancestors followed was not the way of sacrifice to God. He tested Abraham on two fronts: 1) Was Abraham willing to give back to God that which he had desired the most, a son? 2) Was Abraham ready to have his belief system changed into obedience to God? 
Often times, we come to God to do things as He always did in the past. Tradition does not dictate God's ordained method. Tradition is man's interpretation of what God told them to do. We must come to the point in our hearing and heeding where we actually listen to what and how God wants things said and done. Consider the church fathers, when the disciples of the original apostles of Jesus began correcting and teaching how to be church in their respective cultures, they had to determine what Jesus said on a thing and put it into practice. If Jesus did not speak specifically on the subject, they checked the writings of His apostles for their teachings on it. If the apostles had not written upon it, then these disciples/apostolic fathers had to decide the message of the word or action, its intent, and then apply it to the culture of the time. An example of this kind of topic is infant baptism 
We do not read of babies being baptized in the time of Jesus' ministry or during the lives of the apostles of Jesus. We do read of it coming into practice in the late 2nd century and becoming common in the 3rd century. What changed? The idea that the act of baptizing makes one saved from sin and eternal damnation. With this idea came the idea that everyone must be baptized to avoid hell. At this time in history, people did not live to an old age. A vast majority of babies died young. To make sure a loved child would not go to hell, parents would have their child baptized within the first eight days of his/her life. Did Jesus teach this? No, Jesus taught a person must acknowledge and trust in Him, confess their sins, and receive His forgiveness to become followers of Him. Baptism in the name of the Trinity was a symbolic dying to your old life of sin and being born into your new life with Christ. Baptism does not save you from hell. 
How does this affect us now? Just as Abraham had to go to the altar and prepare to sacrifice his son, which was a norm for his time, we have areas in our lives that are the norm for us and are taken into our belief system. What could those norms be? Tolerance of alternative lifestyles, abortion, promiscuity, living together before marriage, and accepting that every faith leads to the same God are a few of these. It is not an exhaustive list. How does each of these lead us to follow our faith as Christians more? People say if we are not tolerant, we do not love everyone as God does. Nonsense, we love everyone but we do not condone their sinful living. If we truly loved women, then we would support their decision to decide what to do with their own body. That is also nonsense. It is a horribly violent act for a woman to be abused and raped. If she should perchance become pregnant, that crime against her resides with her in visible form. I agree rape is a very, very difficult and life damaging thing to have occurred, but killing an unborn child would also leave her with mental and emotional scars.  
These are extremely difficult issues we face in life. As Christians and people with senses and the ability to decide right from wrong, we can figure out what we should do , who we should follow, and how we should react. When we do not, God will “check” us and show us which traditional belief, what we have taken into our worship and religious life from the culture, should be changed and how, so we can truly show God to the world through our words and our actions. This is the test for us. We must recognize God, listen to Him, and heed what He tells us. It is only by doing this we can find what God would have us do in our daily lives as Christians and children created by the Father. It is the one way we will be able to determine the distinction between tradition and godly ways. Remember, tradition can bring parts of the culture into our way of being with and following God. As long as we walk closely with God, He will take us through the trials. From the trials, we will come to recognize and be acquainted with Him better. It is through these growing times we can truly discern and worship God and we can learn better how He wants us to act in a world where tolerance of lifestyles and victimization occur every minute. We must choose to follow, hear, and listen to God every day and every moment. What is standing in our way of worshipping and following Jesus completely and correctly?