The Outsider

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It’s as if he were speaking a different language—
The man who fully believes in the authority of God
To judge the creature man at the end of his life,
Declaring his eternal fate.

He builds the fact of his subjection to God
Into his life and into his thoughts.
It shapes his minutes and hours and days,
And he says “no” to things that
The others accept without reservation,
And “yes” to things they so reject
For, to put it simply, he does not have in mind
Only his own thoughts and feelings and desires,
But is striving to fit into his mind also
The very thoughts, feelings, and desires
Of God Almighty, which he considers
More important than his own.

And most who are not doing the same will
Pay him little attention if he does not press them too much.
Not knowing what to make of him,
They will keep their distance,
Even if they find him generally likable.
They will not ask questions, but will remain
Disengaged from what engages him
As if that could not possibly be for them, too.

They have learned simply to ignore him—
To block him out just as they would
Any man on the street who was speaking, say,
Hebrew or Greek.

I must say with great consternation that this lack of concern with accountability to God seems as prevalent in the churches as on the streets. It’s as if practically all of them were built with a view to consoling the member with some twisted religion in which there is no yoke and no burden and no learning:

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-29. ESV.

They’ve built themselves a culture in which it’s not really expected that each Christian is in training, and is operating on a pass/fail basis. They relieve themselves of this pressure by whittling down God’s requirements to the most microscopic scale imaginable, and cutting loose from his sternness while hoping for a God who is only kind:

22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.

Romans 11:22. NIV.

So many are not willing to believe in a God who would cut anybody off for failing to behave as required—and especially among those who go to church. But this is exactly the sort of people Paul was writing to, demonstrating to us that the religion, in its “official” forms, has indeed been corrupted since then, with so many today finding it a foreign thought that God would draw the line with people over their behaviors.

They just ignore those passages, and emphasize any passage they can find that talks about grace and such, as if God were not also stern. And so they misunderstand the very God to whom they claim to be eternally devoted. And when you try to tell them about it, they have to find a way to shut you down. Many of them will ignore you if they can get away with it, and if you press them, they’ll push back—whatever it takes to maintain their self-deception over the nature of God.

And people like this almost never turn themselves in; they almost never come clean and admit that they’ve been cheating the scriptures in their minds, and ignoring the half of it. They are stubborn about it, and refuse to see what’s right there in front of them. And they will be shocked (even though deep down inside, they know better, and are not listening to themselves, either) when they discover in person that God and Jesus are not like they think:

21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!

Matthew 7:21-23. NIV.

They do not want to consider themselves “evildoers”. Nor do they want to get their heads around the fact that Jesus considers it evil to claim to be his follower while not submitting oneself wholeheartedly to the will of God. It’s all one big hypocritical lie, and they’re caught up in it, refusing to come clean. But Jesus will have the last word, it says here. And what will the hypocrites do about it then? Who will save them from the condemnation of Jesus?

A Little History

God had set apart the Hebrew people to be his “chosen people” out of this world. But it wasn’t just so that they could have their own camp. No, he did it knowing that out of those chosen people, he was going to do something yet further; he was going to call out of them those who really loved him and sought to do his will. This would be the real kingdom—the eternal one. These would be the real children of Abraham—not mere members of a camp or a culture or of a genealogical lineage, but of wholesale reliance on God and submission to his will.

And that’s where Jesus came in, calling the true believers from out of the Jews. “Come out from them and be separate” was the command, just as it had been for the Hebrews to come out of the world and be a special people. And those Jews who didn’t do his will were rejected and condemned by Jesus in 70AD as he had their temple and nation destroyed by the Romans.

Meanwhile, Jesus had called the Gentiles to turn to him, too, because the purpose of calling out the Hebrews as a separate nation had finally reached its fulfillmentand Jesus was here, not to call people to join another human camp, but to call them out of this world and into the next—into that Heavenly Jerusalem, that Holy City.

And he said it again and again in various ways, and through various apostles and prophets, that that Holy City is only for the holy people, and not for the unrighteous ones. (If you doubt this, read Revelation 22 and 23 (opens in a new tab)" href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener" class="ek-link">Revelation 22 and 23 and listen to what the inspired words of the text are saying.) But so many refuse to listen to this, and presume themselves as fit for the kingdom, even though they are not diligent at obeying what Jesus says. And if you press them on it, they’ll turn the tables and call you “legalistic”, and accuse you of preaching a false gospel, even though you are showing them the very words of Jesus himself, whom they claim to follow. And they turn to their camps for support, who will cherry pick from the scriptures certain verses that seem to say what they want it to say, even while they reject the whole counsel of scripture.

And this is the lie—the game—the charade of their lives. And even though they may have many lovable qualities and practices about them, they have rejected that prime directive in the first and second greatest commandments ever:

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Luke 10:25-29. NIV.

Jesus had told this man how to be justified in Jesus’ eyes, and it involved wholehearted commitment and obedience and love. But the man was looking for a way out. Indeed, he was already a member of a camp that considered itself exempt from having to obey those two commandments, and he didn’t want to leave that camp to join Jesus instead.

And this is the way it still works today. The camps abound, in every possible flavor and disposition. Almost any kind of person can find a camp that aims itself as making people like him feel comfortable without having a wholesale commitment to obeying Jesus and living righteously as per Jesus’ own example and command.

And they do not listen, even to God, whom they call their Father, or to Jesus, who they will attest was sent by God:

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.

John 8:43-43. NIV.

And this is what I see today as I try to talk with people about what Jesus said. Most are quite unable to hear it. And I’m afraid they’ll never admit to the ugly truth about the state of their disobedient hearts, until they are standing before God’s throne, and it is out of their hands once and for all.

And while I’m at it here, I should go ahead and mention that some camps do acknowledge this accountability, but not as their primary raison d’être. No, they do it as a means to having power over their members, while running a church organization nowhere authorized in the teachings of Jesus or his apostles. I used to belong to a couple of camps like that, and I can attest to how counterproductive they are, even though they have got this one thing right about the need for accountability. The cheat they employ is this: The rank-and-file members are expected to obey God strictly, while the leaders and the church organization they run are not bound by such a short leash. Thus, they take advantage of people whose hearts are soft enough to obey, but whose minds are yet to uneducated in the scriptures to discern the cheats that are in play. And this sort of camp can shipwreck a great many people, just as such camps have done since that corrupt ones among the kings of Israel were doing this in Old Testament times.

The rebel Hebrew of Jesus’ day would insist that he was a child of Abraham, and even of God himself, even while standing face-to-face with Jesus, whose teachings they were rejecting. (John 8:31-59 (opens in a new tab)" href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener" class="ek-link">Read John 8:31-59.) And it is no different in the churches today, where a great many people are doing the same, and doing their best to ignore those few who are trying to point this out to them.

And it has always been this way with the unrighteous, as it was with Cain who rejected the advice of none other than God himself in a one-on-one counseling session, and sold himself out to Sin. (Genesis 4 (opens in a new tab)" rel="noreferrer noopener" class="ek-link">Read Genesis 4.)

Even to this day, the “Jews” reject Jesus in their camps, while millions of “Christians” do the same—each pretending to be right in God’s eyes.

It’s the ultimate lie, to dabble while pretending to be wholeheartedly about something. I say ultimate because the fact that you’re dabbling at all gives you some activity to point to when you’re put on the spot. There’s some evidence that you’re “doing” something, so you easily “justify” yourself on that account, even if you know that you’re ignoring some level of negligence at the same time. And in this way, you can pretend that you love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, even though you know better, and should know better. And you can fool a lot of other people this way, too. But not God. So really, at the end of the story, you need God not to be real—or else, not to be like the God of the Bible. Otherwise, you’re busted.

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