J. R. Jeyabalan
The carpenter carefully lays the ruler for the third time and cuts the wooden board too short! The country’s politicians set the budget plans and the estimates are overshot year by year. Europe stretches out a huge bailout umbrella worth billions and sets conditions which no one is able to meet. Miscalculations and wrong measures! Even Christian organisations and churches are not exempt. There are big churches, free churches and assemblies which are increasingly liberal. We feel there is nothing wrong to hold liberal views and use faulty measures in the areas of faith and belief as it is invariably practised in some measure in all churches today. Do we deal with wrong measures in the area of belief, ethics and morals? The word measure comprises many different aspects.
When God Measures
Here ‘measure’ is used in the sense of appraising or evaluating. In everyday life, when we measure or weigh fruits or vegetables, the measures cannot be changed. Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity (Lev.19:35). It is indispensable for the Christian to weigh or measure his life using the unchanging, absolute norms stipulated in God’s word. This, of course, applies even to his/her marriage, family, church and the society he/she lives in. The Bible is the only legitimate standard that needs to be applied to measure the good and the useful, the bad and the substandard, if we are to enjoy God’s bountiful blessings.
Our Christian life is questionable and unreliable if we apply another standard to our life. We read in James 1:22-24 “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves… if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror and immediately forgets what he looks like.” We identify our deviations from God’s word and receive help and correction. The Bible is the users’ instruction manual and the best counsellor for our life (Rom.7:12;1Tim.1:8). Let the Bible measure our life, our manners and our actions. As Christians, we must not change or readjust the biblical standards. The Apostle Paul exhorts,“… stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter” (2Thess.2:15 cf. 3:6).
Misapplication of God’s Word
Another aspect of measure is ‘the faulty measure,’ the reasons for which could vary. One can unwittingly use a false standard – the right standard could be lying upside down or the wrong standard was used unknowingly. Sadly, this is happening in many churches and Christian organisations. God’s word is seldom used as the standard. The Bible has become one among many books. Substandard Christian magazines, books and TV shows have displaced the Bible from everyday Christian life. Unscriptural preaching with stories to entertain the congregation are like ‘noisy gongs’ and ‘clanging cymbals’ in many churches.
Some pastors, having graduated from theological college, have lost faith in the Bible (if they ever had one in the first place!) and therefore for them the Bible is not the absolute authority. They cannot take the words of the Bible literally, nor can they teach their congregation how to use the Bible as the compass for their life’s journey (2Tim.3:16; 4:2).
Even during the times of the Corinthians, worldly and social influences made the churches compromise biblical standards. Immoral practices, indecent life-styles, unnatural relationships, unbiblical worship services, and wrong teachings were some of the areas of compromise. The Apostle Paul reminded the church in Corinth eleven times of the godly standards with such words as “Do you not know?” (1Cor.3:16). They did have the standards, but they applied the measures wrongly. Jesus admonished the learned in Israel (Pharisees and Sadducees) with the words “Have you not read?” (Mk.12:10, 26). How many Christians today know what is written in the word of God and how many read the Bible at all? As Christians, how much of our behaviour is influenced by worldly norms and social values that are in conflict with the word of God? Alas, how often we fail to notice that we have deviated from God’s ways! We need to measure our life anew and validate it against God’s word. It is wrong to readjust God’s word to the world’s standards. Many Christians are afraid they would be misfits in the world, if they do not dilute God’s standards.
Changing God’s Standards
What about us? Have we measured our lives using wrong standards and then justified ourselves with ‘intellectual’ reasoning? Are we guilty of not taking the Bible seriously? What is our stand against adultery, fornication, live-in and premarital relationships, envy, feud, greed, etc.? (Gal.5:19; Eph.5:3; Col.3:5). Is our Christianity a mere display of religious parochialism or legalism, or is it a demonstration of a life that reflects and radiates the life of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible? While we are absolutely free from the law, Galatians 5:13 says, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”
Violating God’s Laws
The last aspect of measure is impudence (arrogance, conceit, insolence). It is possible for a ‘Christian’ to handle the Bible presumptuously and arrogantly. For many, the Bible is unattractive as they find that its rules and laws are rigid, harsh and forbidding. That is why they fall short of godly standards.
Justifying same-sex marriage, denying the truth of God’s judgement and eternal condemnation and substituting one’s own standards of ‘righteousness’ are examples of audacity in the church today. Jesus speaks of the strait gate and the narrow way that lead to salvation. Today’s preaching is on the wide gate and express-way that offer quick solutions and instant blessings, but lead to eternal destruction. In church conferences, the ‘baptised’ people from various denominations are considered believers. It is widely believed that all those who were baptised by someone somewhere qualify to be believers. Here the Bible is not the standard, but the church or baptism register is. But the Bible says that only those who are ‘born again’ (born spiritually) by accepting Jesus Christ personally as their Lord and Saviour are saved from sin and death. Mere water baptism, of whatever mode, can never save anyone from sin (Jn.3:36; 3:5-7; 1:12).
Rejecting God’s Standards
Do churches contradict God’s word deliberately and conscientiously under the guise of permissiveness – anything is permissible so long as there is love and unanimity? Certainly, the Bible refers to love as the greatest and it also declares that God is love (1Jn.4:16; 1Cor.13:13). The Bible also affirms that God is holy. A loving and holy God expects His redeemed people also to be loving and holy (Lev.11:44; 1Cor.16:14; Eph.5:3; 2Tim.1:9).The love of God does not legitimise an ‘all are saved’ theory and annul hell, but makes a way out. (Jn.5:24).The love of God does not neutralise God’s standards (the Bible) and legitimise sin, but work sin us to will and to act according to His good pleasure (Php.2:13).
The love of God does not abolish the difference between the believer and the unbeliever, but creates a true union of genuine believers in Christ Jesus (Jn.17).
Most of the problems of our times are rooted in our outrageous interpretations of God’s word. Our society bypasses God’s goals by framing its own laws and destroys itself. It is a life without an absolute measuring standard.
Someone has coined the following phrases that aptly describe how measurements are handled and the way life is lived without applying the absolute standards and principles God has laid down in His word:
Politics without principles
Prosperity without work
Business without morals
Pleasures without conscience
Education without character
Science without concern for human beings
Service without sacrifice
Get measured up by Jesus Christ and rise to the holy standards of God. Let us apply God’s word to our life.