“Who has bewitched you?” Paul was seriously concerned that someone was leading the Galatians away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was pointedly questioning them, and strongly warning them to beware.
Beware being bewitched, Paul warned – understanding that there is not another gospel to be drawn away to, even if it appears that angels from heaven are presenting it. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn out of position in Christ. Don’t be misled by charm into evil doctrines. Don’t be fascinated, and deceived, by false representations claiming to be truth.
What is offered to bewitch the saints? What is offered to pervert the gospel? Emptiness. Things that beguile through enticing words. That cause us to question God and His goodness and His precious plan of salvation:
- Appealing to the flesh rather than the Holy Spirit
- Pleasing man rather than God
- Appealing to works rather than faith in Christ’s sacrifice for sins
- Back into bondage rather than freedom in Christ
- Glorying in the flesh instead of the cross
- Traditions of men rather than the truth of God
- Trusting in self rather than the Saviour
- The law rather than grace
Paul so strongly opposed false prophets, he put a curse on them! Read it yourself in Galatians chapter 1. Perverting the gospel is a serious crime in the kingdom of Christ. Those who attempt to bewitch followers of Christ anger God Himself. Jesus flatly stated that those who cause others to stumble in the faith would be better off drowned. Those who trouble the saints will bear their judgment, Paul wrote.
Paul warned the Galatians to not be otherwise minded. One of the Greek definitions of bewitched is to be put out of our wits. When someone is tempted to not obey the truth through false representations, they’re being pulled off the mark. And if we miss the mark, we also miss the prize. If we miss the mark by being bewitched, we risk tearing down the hedge of spiritual protection around our children, confusing and endangering them along with ourselves. What we reap, we sow. Beware being bewitched. And warn others with sincerity and humility to avoid the same trap.
If any within the Church are pulled off base by being bewitched, we are to lovingly restore them to the right path with meekness, exhorting them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free in order to escape being entangled with bondage. Jesus warned that if, having put our hand to the plow, we look back, we endanger our souls. Let’s watch out for ourselves and others lest the enemy devour any of us. Beware being bewitched.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I confess I struggle to open jars. If Ben isn’t home to open it for me, the jar sits on the counter, mocking me. So I sincerely ask for the Lord’s help: “You know I can’t do this alone,” wrestle it under hot water, whack it around the rim with a knife handle, use my blue rubbery piece to twist on the lid with all my might until I hear that satisfying pop and hiss of released pressure. Then I sing my victory song, “To God be the glory, great things He hath done!” All this, by the way, is true.
Reading the Bible a few mornings ago, I read a verse that shook my spirit to the core: “…they repented not to give Him glory” (Revelation 16:9). Under the severe wrath of God during end times, wicked men were suffering intensely, yet they refused to repent, choosing to blaspheme rather than call on His name for forgiveness. “They repented not to give Him glory.” Whoa. Immediately another verse came to mind: “…they knew God, yet they glorified Him not as God” (Romans 1:21).
I sat on the porch swing trying to absorb what God was working into my mind and spirit. Are we to understand that when we confess and repent, we give Him glory? that we recognize His honor, splendor, majesty, authority, worth, and preeminence, evoking amazement in our minds to confess Him as God?
Of course! “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He alone can forgive sin. It’s His glory to forgive us our sins when we humble ourselves, confess, and ask His forgiveness. It’s the hope within us! Jesus saves! To God be the glory, great things He hath done! The way is made, is well marked, and is open to all who will come and confess.
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Romans 10:10). This verse does not promote “easy believism” but offers God’s radical call to salvation. The word confess here means to gladly acknowledge and agree fully, publicly, openly by giving praise that God raised Jesus from the dead with a deep conviction of the facts; confessing allegiance to Christ as Lord and Master. Remember that Paul is writing this to those in Rome who responded in answer to the preaching of the Gospel for salvation in Jesus. Did you understand “death sentence” as you read that? Which is what they faced for confessing publicly that Jesus is Lord instead of Caesar being deity. And they faced mockings, loss of business, and loss of family if they professed to believe that anyone was raised to life after suffering Roman crucifixion. No, not easy. Rather, persecution for confessing this new life in Christ. And they gladly confessed.
“What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” We will only be able to enjoy God when we confess our sins to His glory. Then we can sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest!”
What if we as Christians took this personally, as Daniel did when he prayed, confessing Israel’s sins to God’s glory? (Daniel 9) “If My people, who are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). What if we took Him at His Word, called on His Name, confessed the sins of our nation, seeking His mercy, love, and grace as we pled His forgiveness for the lost and the healing of our land? And presented our repentance for our own lukewarmness within the Church? For His glory. To God be the glory. We know He can do great things when His people seek His face for His glory. And our victory song, “To God be the glory, great things He hath done!” will be a powerful and good confession!
Spontaneous combustion. What else would have caused the bush to suddenly burst into flames in the middle of the desert? Well, perhaps the breath of the One Whose breath brought the stars into being. Alright, point well made. At any cause, the flames caught the shepherd’s eye. The Lord’s question, “May I have your attention, please?” was answered with a yes.
Duh, you say? Of course a bush burning in the middle of the desert would get him to look and explore. He must have been bored nearly to death out there herding sheep after his high life at the center of Egyptian government. Almost anything would have gotten his attention at that point.
The Lord saw that He had Moses’ attention. Wow. That statement in Exodus 3:4 caught my attention. God asked for Moses’ attention by starting a bush ablaze, and when He had it, He spoke to him of an approaching lifestyle change. God wanted to use Moses to get Pharaoh’s attention and then lead His people to freedom. I AM, within a burning bush, asking “may I have your attention, please?” Mission accomplished.
God tried to get Saul’s attention, but he wouldn’t heed. “May I have your attention, please?” God asked once more, and knocked him off his horse with a blinding light from heaven. It worked. Speak of an approaching lifestyle change. God used Paul to get the attention of the Gentiles across the then-known world, and ours, today.
God has had a plan in place to arrest the attention of the world since before its foundation. The basics of that plan are that Jesus is God, Jesus came to earth as a human born of a virgin, He lived a pure and sinless life, He died for our sins on the cross, He rose again to life, He returned to heaven, and He’s coming again to judge the earth. Believe with all your heart, and you’ll be saved.
“May I have your attention, please?” He asks of those whose hearts are right with Him. He wants to use you and me to get the attention of the lost just as He once attracted us. No burning bush, most likely, and no blinding light from heaven. But the still, small Voice still whispers, “May I have your attention, please?” A yes response could be an approaching lifestyle change. What will the answer be?
“My brothers are out there! Go testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment!” The rich man in hell was in full evangelism mode, wasn’t he? He knew first hand of the torments awaiting the lost, and his five brothers were lost. He was so passionate about them hearing of the way of escape that he wanted Lazarus to go back from the dead to warn them.
The answer of hope hadn’t meant anything to him while he was alive. He was unconcerned about his eternal life and that of his five brothers. Death made a stark change in his perspective. Suddenly he saw things as they were. And they were unspeakably and inescapably horrible.
The answer to his desperate cry for someone to go to his unsaved brothers was that the Word of God was proclaimed each Lord’s Day in the churches. And the Word of God is available for any who want to read it. Let those who need salvation, find it in the house of God. Sound a bit harsh?
Maybe, but it’s the truth. The plan of salvation is out there. But how shall they hear without a preacher? Or if we don’t carry the answer to them of the hope within us? Are we passionate, as passionate as a man in hell, about testifying to the lost that they may escape that place of torment?
Paul said that love constrains us to take the gospel message to the lost. So does love push us out to witness to the lost? Is that the passion behind our answer? Love doesn’t want anyone to be lost. Love is what brought the plan of salvation to mankind from before the foundation of the world. Love drove the man in hell to beg that his five brothers be warned about the eternal sufferings in order to avoid the place he found himself.
Hope. The hope that is within us.
Hope of eternal bliss. Hope that we have obtained through believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that the lost desperately need to hear. Hope that everyone in hell wants their living loved ones to be told. Hope that we must hold out to everyone who crosses our path. Because love is the passion behind our answer of hope.
People who want to know why we’re Christians don’t always phrase their question with the words “What is the reason of the hope within you?” However the approach is worded, we’re to be ready with a meek, love-in-truth answer.
Not always have I been ready with the reason for our hope. Now I am. Let’s look at this together.
According to Webster, a religion is any specific system of belief, worship, and conduct involving a code of ethics (morality) and philosophy (a worldview).
Christianity is a religion – a system of beliefs, worship, and conduct. We often hear the statement that Christianity isn’t about religion, it’s about relationship. Christianity is a religion, the foundation of which is a vibrant, authentic relationship with Almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ. It is a worldview that speaks to every area of this life and the next.
Christianity is the religion of the New Testament Scriptures, a Judeo-Christian belief system based on the entire Word of God, the Bible.
There are different doctrines within Christianity represented mainly by denominations. Denominations hold to varying doctrines; they are not different religions. Denominations are generally doctrinally divided by their originators. Catholicism has its popes, Protestants who broke from Catholicism beginning with Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley, among others, and, in general, hold to the fundamental truths of the gospel.
Christianity has fundamental doctrines that all true Christian denominations attest, the majority of which are listed here:
- The Creator God
- Mankind created in the image of God
- The fall of mankind resulting in the sin nature
- The immortality of man
- Salvation by grace through faith in the sinless sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God – virgin-born, fully God and fully Man
- The Trinity
- The inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God
- Eternal reward or punishment for deeds done in this life following a final judgment
Teaching that differs from these fundamental truths is heresy and a falling away from the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3; Galatians 1:8&9).
The answer to why I am a Christian and not a follower of another religion or cult has two parts.
- Only in Christianity is God the God He says He is in His Word and,
- Only in Christianity does God do for me what He says in His Word He’ll do.
- All non-Christian religions and cults have either a distorted view or an outright denial of the Trinity. All are marked in their confusion of the Persons of the Trinity and their deviation on the nature of God, altering Him, diminishing Him, or denying Him altogether.
Another characteristic common to cults and non-Christian religions is the false teachings regarding the deity, Person, work of atonement, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, distorting or denying the second Person of the Trinity and Savior of mankind.
All cults and non-Christian religions grossly and painfully misrepresent the Holy Spirit, blasphemously denying His distinct place and Person in the Trinity.
The Bible is retranslated to match the erroneous beliefs of cults and non-Christian religions or it’s disregarded altogether. Words are redefined to fit false doctrines, or there is a claim of new, additional revelations that contradict and cancel biblical Scriptures. Thus the Bible is deliberately undermined and deceptions are reinforced to adherents of cults and non-Christian religions.
The only hope of eternal life is diabolically misrepresented to people lost and in desperate need of knowing the Lord and Savior of mankind as He is. Too many have swallowed the lie that we all believe in the same God. Any belief system that twists, perverts, or diminishes God from Who and What He is as He presents Himself in His Word does not know and serve the true and living Jehovah Triune God.
And so I am a Christian because only in Christianity is God the God He says He is in His Word.
- One teaching totally missing from all cults and non-Christian religions is the hope offered in the Gospel – the Christian message.
None teach the blessed hope of eternal salvation through faith in the blood of the everlasting covenant, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the spotless Son of God.
None teach that Jesus came to seek and save the lost.
None teach that He was God in human flesh, the one Mediator between God and man.
None teach justification and adoption through faith in Jesus Christ.
None teach redemption from the power of sin.
None teach the “come alongside” comfort of the Holy Spirit.
None teach the hope of heaven for eternity though having nothing within myself to earn that reward but that Christ in me is my hope of glory for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Rather the teaching is that I must save myself by performing good works required by the group I’m in, or through many reincarnations, or mantras, meditations, or deprivations. And then heaven is represented as a state of mind, or an interplanetary confederation, or a sexually deviant paradise, or non-existent.
The only hope of eternal life is diabolically misrepresented to people lost and in desperate need of knowing the Lord and Savior of mankind as He is. Not one cult or non-Christian religion presents salvation to its adherents as it is offered to all who come in faith as presented in the true Gospel message.
And so I am a Christian because only in Christianity does God do for me what He says in His Word He’ll do for me.
The conjecture floats that cults are populated by people hurt or disappointed by Christians or the hypocrisy of church attenders. As Christians, let’s live holy lives, adorning the doctrine of God, that we not be stumblingblocks in the way of the lost coming to Christ, those who need our answer of hope. We must plead that God will open the eyes, ears, hearts, and minds of those blinded by the false teachings of cults and non-Christian religions, that they might turn to Jesus. Let’s pray and live true to our calling as Christians so others may come to know Him as He is, that He may do for them what He says in His Word He’ll do for them.
Many points taken from Josh McDowell and Don Stewart’s book, The Deceivers
Janet Reno, Attorney General during the Clinton presidency in the 1990’s, attempted to define a cultist after the Waco massacre at the Branch Davidian compound by stating, “A cultist is one who has a strong belief in the Bible and the second coming of Christ, who frequently attends Bible studies, who has a high level of financial giving to a Christian cause, who home-schools his children, who has accumulated survival foods, who has a strong belief in the Second Amendment, and who distrusts big government.” *
For our explanation of a cult, we’ll appeal to the late Dr Walter Martin, an acclaimed authority for nearly 40 years on major cult systems, whose definitive work, The Kingdom of the Cults, still is the go-to reference book for in-depth learning: “A cult is a group of people gathered about a specific person – or person’s misinterpretation of the Bible.” He adds that these misinterpretations, in spite of distorting the biblical truth, may contain other truths with biblical support.
A cult’s teachings oppose the historical, biblical Christian faith. Cult teachings:
- Promote man to deity
- Demote God to humanity
- Lessen or abolish sin and its effects
- Diminish the validity of the Bible
- Promote an alternative salvation
- Deny the Godhood of Jesus
- Proclaim that they’re the only true church
Two common teachings of “Christian” cults are that Jesus is not God and that salvation comes as the result of one’s works. Denying the deity of Jesus Christ allows denial of the efficacious work of His atoning death on the cross. Claiming that salvation comes through good works precludes salvation by faith in Jesus’ deity and atoning death. While claiming to be Christian, these cults deny fundamental Christian tenets and promote doctrines sufficiently off the mark, that, when believed and lived out, cause people to be lost for eternity.
As true citizens of the Kingdom of God, we may not see eye-to eye on doctrinal non-essentials. But to remove the central doctrines, the foundational beliefs, of the Christian faith, compromising the essence of Christianity, and substituting one’s own concocted teachings that contradict the Bible, makes one’s belief system non-Christian.
“Truth,” Henry St John stated, “lies within a little and certain compass, but error is immense.” And “Error is always dangerous; it cannot be harmless.” Those cults promoting that Jesus is not deity, and that salvation comes by works, traffic in immense, eternally dangerous error.
Regarding the deity of Jesus: “Unless one accepts the Bible as the ultimate and incontrovertible authority – traditionally defined in theological words as inerrant and infallible – the door stands wide open to the world of smorgasbord Jesus-ologies. Stated simply, where the Bible is reinterpreted, Jesus is reinvented. The Bible is very clear in the content of what it says about Jesus; the question is whether we accept that content as truth. We should be ashamed of giving in even just a little to scholars who think they can put God Incarnate into their own little boxes tied shut with politically correct ribbons. Such scholarship is cleverly disguised unbelief. If Jesus is not Who He said He is, then we lose little by not believing. If, however, He is the Savior and Lord of heaven, not to respond is to lose everything. The only way to be sure is to examine the Scriptures: study what Jesus said about Himself.” **
Regarding salvation through belief in the sacrificial death of Jesus: “I’m going to heaven and I believe I’m going by the blood of Christ. That’s not popular preaching but I’ll tell you it’s all the way through the Bible. And I may be the last fellow on earth who preaches it, but I’m going to preach it because it’s the only way we’re going to get there,” stated Billy Graham.
Every cult, belief system, and worldview that denies the truths of the Gospel is false and leads followers away from the Living God of the Bible. As witnesses to that Gospel, our testimony must be true and our prayers must be that those deceived by errors will see through the lies and be drawn to the truth of salvation through faith in the Son of God. May we each be ready to give an answer, for error is never harmless. May God give each of us the spirit of love, power, and clear thinking as we take advantage of every opportunity to share His Truth with those who need to hear.
*American Missionary Fellowship News March 1995
**Focal Point Winter 1996
Acts 8:1&4 “…And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word.”
Great persecution scattered Christians out of Jerusalem, and wherever they settled, they began to witness of the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Verse one tells us that these were not the apostles, but were “you and me” type Christians – those who heard the Gospel, gave their hearts and lives to the Lord, and told others about Him. Wherever they ran into someone, they talked about their Savior and Lord.
Albert Barnes stated that “It should be the great object of all Christians to make the Savior known. By our lives, conversation, and entreaties, we should speak to dying sinners that they be reconciled to God.”
How many of us carry photos of our spouse, children, grandchildren, and pets with us? How difficult is it to draw a conversation around to our spouse, kids, grandkids, or pets? Not hard at all! It’s easy! Love makes it easy. Right?
And because we love the Lord, and have a God-given responsibility to spread the Gospel, it shouldn’t be hard to go about sharing Jesus. We just have to open the door. Just sow a seed….
So how do we go about it? Let’s look at some examples in Scripture.
- Jesus, at the well, said to the Samaritan woman, “Give me a drink.” Then He proceeded to tell her that He was Messiah.
- Philip said to the Ethiopian, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” And starting right there in Isaiah, the Old Testament, he proclaimed Jesus as Savior.
- Paul, in Athens, said, “That ‘Unknown God’ you have an altar for, I know Him and can tell you about Him!”
Each witness started where his audience was and went from there to the heart of the Gospel. You and I can do that, too. Where do we go during our day that we have opportunity to speak to someone of Jesus?
Walmart is a great place to strike up conversations.
- Buying dog food? Ask the person in the aisle with you what kind of pet they have. Great door opener. Don’t leave before asking if they know Jesus.
- Picking up a prescription? Strike up a conversation with the person in line behind you. Illness often opens people to your expressions of sympathy and kindness. Promise to pray for the person. Tell them that Jesus heals. Ask if they have a relationship with Him.
- Express gratitude to the soldier in uniform for service to our country. Ask if he loves the Lord.
- Does the woman in line ahead of you have a child in the cart seat? Start your conversation there. Let her know your church has a great children’s program and you’d be happy to see them there. Jesus loves children; the Bible tells us so! Find out if she knows that personally.
- Is the clerk wearing an engagement ring? Extend your good wishes and hope that they will be as happy as you and your spouse are. And let her know that Jesus is at the Center of your marriage and He wants to be the Center of hers, too.
When you’re in the doctor’s office, offer Jesus as the One on Whom we cast our cares for He cares for us. He’s the Friend you can tell your troubles to. Tell how prayer really works.
When you’re waiting for your car to be serviced at Grease Monkey, and someone comments about the nice day, agree, and give God the glory. It opens the door to ask about their walk with Him.
When you see a fish emblem on a car, ask about their relationship with the Lord. If they’re not attending church right now, invite them to yours!
At the park with your kids? Talk to them about their little ones, and find out if they need Jesus.
You can’t beat a hospital waiting room for reaching out with the comfort of Jesus to those who are concerned about a loved one or in trouble themselves.
All these approaches can work; I’ll vouch for that. And love makes the conversations easy. I can vouch for that, too. We love Jesus, and we love people. Hey! This works! Find out what works for you. Be gentle and be wise. And share the Love of your life with someone who needs to hear the good news of your Savior.
Don’t be afraid of fielding a question you don’t know how to answer. A fail-safe fall-back in this situation is to hand the person the church’s card. “Call my pastor. He’ll know how to answer your question. And he cares.” Make sure the service schedules are on the card. And point them out. With an invitation to attend.
As you prepare to run errands or keep an appointment, pray the Lord will open an opportunity for you to speak to someone about Him. And then wade in at every opening. If it goes no further than general conversation in which you speak of the Lord, you’ve done well. We never know how God will use our friendly smile, kind words, our mention of Him, or our church invitation and card for the good of a soul.
Albert Barnes put it like this: “Straightforward, humble Christian conversation is far more acceptable to strangers than we commonly suppose. Alone, approached kindly, most are willing to talk to you.”
Max Lucado said, “Never underestimate the power of a seed.”
It’s a joy to speak of Jesus with someone who knows Him. It is unspeakable joy to speak of Jesus to someone who doesn’t know Him and could come to a saving knowledge in Him because God used you as a vessel to work through. Eternity does not “await”: Eternity starts with the first breath God breathes into our lungs. What a privilege we have to change someone’s eternity! And more than a privilege – we are under orders: “Go, therefore,” and affect eternity for those within our reach. Head out with purpose.
Matthew Henry wrote, “Of those of whom we know nothing else, we know this – that they have souls.” Never-dying souls bound for eternity somewhere. May God use you and me to bring them to Him as we go about telling the good news right where we find people who need to hear.