“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“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. 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?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
– Matthew 7:15-23
“’What are good thoughts respecting ourselves?’ Ignorance asked.
“’Well,’ Christian said, ‘the kind that agree with the Word of God.’
“’When do thoughts of ourselves agree with the Word of God?’ Ignorance asked.
“’When we see ourselves as the Word sees us, judge ourselves as the Word judges us. Here, I’ll explain further. The Word of God says that of all people just as they are, there is not one righteous, not one that does good. The Word of God also says that every thought of the heart of man is only and always evil. Also it says that the thoughts of man’s heart are evil from his youth. Only after we understand this about ourselves, when we know the state of our hearts, can our thoughts become good ones, because this is what the Word of God says.’
“Ignorance scoffed, ‘I could never believe that my heart was bad!’”
– John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress
Prior to the above quote from John Bunyan, Ignorance (a person’s name, not the condition) has answered Christian’s questions with circle logic. His heart and life are in agreement because his heart tells him so. And isn’t a heart that has good thoughts a good heart? Okay, my good heart produces good thought which means the heart is good and the subsequent life is good.
Some people cannot follow the fallacy of that argument, but then again, the modern church would never think that Bunyan, who wrote this book in 1678, was referring to them. No one will voluntarily associate oneself with a character in an allegory named “Ignorance”.
Ignorance first appears along the path taken by Christian and Hopeful to join them in their journey to the Celestial City. He is not keen on walking with them. They confuse him with their questions and their discussion of the Word. He has not admitted he has ever sinned. He has just figured out that the Celestial City is a great destination. He’s simply going to go there and walk through the gates. After all, he is a good person with a good heart who thinks good thoughts, all by his own definition. To tie him to the people Jesus describes in the Scripture above, he probably says, “Lord, Lord” a lot.
Why did I relate Ignorance with the modern church? There are far too many people who read the Word and are discomfited by it. They eliminate enough of the Holy Scripture until they are left with the comfortable parts. Julie of Cookie Crumbs to Live By recently wrote about other bloggers that are ‘frustrated’. The frustration is twofold. One frustration is that, in a politically correct world, Christians are singled out more than other religions in being silenced. An example of that, from my own experience, was several years ago in our Sunday school class. A school teacher spoke of her frustration during the Christmas season. The school forbid her from even having red and green streamers in the classroom. It was too close to celebrating Christmas and the birth of Jesus, but they could play the dreidel game and sing the dreidel song. That was Jewish custom during Hanukah. They could devote entire lessons to Islam, because it was cultural. Hindu celebrations were also allowed. Anything that could be carefully defined as cultural of ethnic customs. But you could be fired by placing red and green streamers in your classroom in December or mentioning Easter in the Spring.
The other frustration mentioned by Julie was that within the Christian community, the loudest voices seem to be shouting a form of Christianity that is so far from the Biblical text that it is unrecognizable. In my opinion, not judging mind you, but I think these loud proponents of a non-Christian Christianity say “Lord, Lord” a lot.
The discomfiture is a necessary part when we do as Christian says in the quote above and determine that we are indeed sinners in need of God’s saving Grace. We should never skip a chapter in the Bible or a question in a Bible Study Guide because it makes us uncomfortable. Those are the questions that help us grow in faith and become closer to Jesus. Jesus was not comfortable praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, while on trial, while being flogged, or while hanging on the cross. We can suffer while answering the uncomfortable discussion question in a study guide that no one will see but the one who wrote the answer.
Now, I am not condemning people who say “Lord, Lord”, nor, I think, was Jesus. My mother’s mother took care of me a lot growing up and offered more tender care than anyone else in the family. MawMaw was the only one who ever rubbed my tummy when I felt bad. Those nights were nights when I went off to sleep quickly. Other unnamed members of the family would hand me the enema bag and point to the bathroom. Even with an age of single digits, I knew the drill and could do it myself. But MawMaw would see something amusing and say, “Laudy, Laudy” a lot.
My wife snickered every time MawMaw said “Laudy, Laudy.” It seemed to be their private joke against the people that didn’t like either one of them so much. I would play with her great-grandchildren in the empty lot next to the house while MawMaw and my wife sat in the living room swapping stories and laughing. Even after MawMaw had a cerebral hemorrhage, and lost almost all her short-term memory, she only remembered one person by name, my wife. I rarely saw either one of those two ladies without a smile on their faces. When you show that much Love and Joy to everyone, you see a little bit of Heaven in their lives.
So, how do we resolve the frustration that Christians face today? We need to understand one basic theological point. God is in charge. We are not in charge. God placed all these obstacles in our path, or allowed them to be placed, to test our faith. I read in another blog recently. When we go before the Judgment Seat, God will examine our lives. Bringing up someone else’s sin will be inadmissible.
I will not be a spoiler and tell you about what happened to Christian, Hopeful, and Ignorance at the end of their journey. The Pilgrim’s Progress may be an old book, but it is short, and it is a good read.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.