Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy [theology] that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 1 For if Abraham was declared righteous by the works of the law, he has something to boast about but not before God. For what does the scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his pay is not credited due to grace but due to obligation. But to the one who does not work, but believes in the one who declares the ungodly righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness. 2
THE SCALES OF JUSTICE
A recent poll indicates that a majority of churched Americans hold the belief that heaven is a reward for good deeds. Personal sins and meritorious acts will be weighed on a set of scales by the God of the Bible Himself. This reckoning is considered a determination of one's final destiny. In Western culture this fits the very icon of justice - and blind faith.
I consider the day to day reality of this kind of belief to be a martyrdom. A martyrdom of doubt, or sacrificing for a cause which denies the certain knowledge that you and, those you love, will be together in heaven. On the other hand, a Muslim with a better grasp of his sacred text in Sirah 9:111, has a sure way to heaven. He has a guarantee of salvation when he suicides for Islam. The effect of which he hopes to make heaven his day to day reality. These two views of religion and God maintain widely differing ideas of the eternal state and what is expedient, I admit, but a parallel means of obtaining a heavenly end may be noted - that of what man may do for God.
Further similarities exist between the Muslim who follows radical Islam and the American who follows populist Christianity. The soon-to-be-gone Muslim, true to his teaching, earnestly believes God's reward is carnal pleasure now in exchange for his jihad (a struggle by heart, tongue, hand, or sword to please God and lead a virtuous life. 3). As he is taught, the American, who has only a hope and no assurance of heaven, sincerely believes God will reward him with a measure of health, wealth, and happiness now in exchange for his jihad.
The religious American and the devout Muslim share much in common. Both focus on the here and now. Also, under the threat of expulsion, radical Islam and popular Christianity have expositors who put upon the supplicants a pay-as-you-go duty to give them God's money, as the tithe or zakat. Each religion reveres and maintains the bones of the same dead patriarchs. Mutually, they are a stipulated assortment of communal postures, prayers and ordinances to gain the favor of God. The followers of each believe that the question of heaven is answered by death. At which time a just God is obligated to give them what they deserve. They share in the belief that heaven is a reward.
GOD SAVE ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS! From those who pronounce God as a four syllable word; religious garb and rings that need to be kissed; from those who pronounce sin in a high nasal pitch; from those who film themselves screaming your praise and wiping their mouths and foreheads with the same cloth; from greed and the prosperity gospel; from those who film themselves healing in huge sports arenas not hospitals; from killer martyrs and their bombs; from those who film themselves separating the head from the body of an innocent kidnapped victim; from those who pride themselves as your 144,000; and those who accumulate vast records of birth and death in order to conscript and baptize the dead into a non-Christian heaven.
But first and foremost, save the lost from those who, through ignorance or by design, insult Your Son and Your untold grace by following a false hope in religious humanism to teach SALVATION BY CHRIST IS IN CONTINUED FAITH. Only because Your justice was completely satisfied in the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ, may we believe the Good News that SALVATION IN CHRIST IS FOR FAITH to release us from the law of sin and death.
Copyright 2007 David Coulon. All rights reserved. Use with credit.
1 Col 2:8 NET (brackets mine, this writer) NET
2 Rom 4:2-5 (verse omission mine) NET
3 Microsoft Encarta