The greatest harm that man can do to the ways of God is to tinker with the training environment of faith that God sets up.
Mankind is constantly trying to replace the spiritual training program of a walk of faith with God, with empty religious practices that homogenize, sanitize, and nullify the environment of situations and circumstances whereby God can interact with faithful believers.
This occurred throughout the Bible. It starts with the lethal contrast between Cain and Abel. Cain wants to change the rules to suit his ideas. Cain wants to do things his way, with deadly tragic consequences.
In the New Testament, replacing God’s ways with our ways is one of the underlying causes of the lethal differences between the Jewish religious rulers…and Jesus…which culminated in the crucifixion of Jesus the Son of God.
There is no basis for the extreme outcome of the crucifixion of Jesus the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for the sins of man…if there are not stubborn and hard-hearted hypocrites sitting in the seats of power as religious and political rulers in Jerusalem.
The religious leaders of that day, and Jesus and His disciples, are in two totally different realities…two different character-building programs…two different spiritual “training camps” that are worlds apart. This difference is what fueled the tension that finally resulted in the crucifixion of Jesus.
The Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and lawyers did not submit themselves to the spiritual equivalent of the grueling two-a-day August workouts that typically lead up to the start of the high school football season, orchestrated by a demanding coach getting his team into top physical shape to be winners on the football field.
The ministry of Jesus Christ exposed the fact that they had not gone through God’s spiritual training program. Otherwise, they would have recognized the voice of God their divine Coach during the Sermon on the Mount. They would have been conspicuous within the listening crowd of people, with heads nodding up and down in agreement with what Jesus was teaching, walking in amongst the audience patting people on the back and encouraging them to listen to what Jesus was saying.
Instead, Luke 11:52 reads: “Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge; ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.”
The ministry and teaching of Jesus exposed the fact that these religious leaders were outside of the uncompromising environment of faith that God sets up for the benefit of all.
Jesus exposed the Pharisees and scribes as unskilled and untrained players, posing as qualified players in the starting line-up on the field, and they killed Him for this (Mt. 27:18).
When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John the Baptist at the river Jordan, John said “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth, therefore, fruits befitting repentance” (Mt. 3:7-8).
In other words, John the Baptist said “show that you are genuine athletes prepared for real play on the field, and not just pretenders and frauds wanting to wear the uniform during the game, and wanting to walk around campus wearing the varsity jacket during the week.”
The context of situations and circumstances in which God sets up faith and trust to operate, is not a matter to be taken lightly. God and Lucifer are in a constant spiritual battle over who controls the territory of the environment of situations and circumstances.
The Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt, and the method of preparation for them to be able to conquer their promised land, is a straightforward biblical example of this concept.
God took Israel out of the context of Egypt and into the Sinai desert. God changed the environment altogether. In the desert God had more exclusive access and control of outward situations and circumstances to craft lessons of trust and reliance upon Him. The external issues for the Israelites in the desert were narrowed down to the basics…food, water, and getting the memory of Egyptian idol worship out of their thinking.
In the desert God was able to get the undivided attention of the Israelites, and to get them trained in the spiritual areas of trust and reliance upon Him, so that they would follow Him and Joshua into the all-important impending military battles.
God did not want the Israelites to be terrified at the first sight of warfare. God wanted the Israelites to march forward into battle with determined resolve and courage, for their own benefit and welfare. God’s demanding and challenging training methods with the Israelites, at the very real risk to Himself of becoming temporarily unpopular…proved to be of the highest championship quality.
Lucifer, by contrast in this environment of the Sinai desert, had fewer tangible outward opportunities to work with. The usual glittering worldly temptations and allurements were not present in the desert. Spiritual military “boot-camp” provided fewer openings for Lucifer to operate within.
One of the fallacies that should be addressed as we approach the upcoming end-times is the idea that just because we are born-again Christians, God is satisfied with spiritually out-of-shape and overweight players on His team.
This idea of a soft brand of Christianity is not biblical.
Every born-again Christian will be raptured when the time comes, regardless of what shape we are in. The thief crucified next to Jesus, who that very day would be in paradise with Him, with no future opportunity to live out his new faith on earth, tells us that salvation is entirely by grace through faith… and not conditioned upon works.
But the idea that Jesus Christ will not set up a rigorous training environment to get us all into top spiritual shape before the end, whatever particular eschatology the end-times may entail, needs some serious re-thinking within contemporary Christendom.
This current environment of earth is a one-time, non-repeating event. The end-time is the last “football” season for all eternity. Jesus Christ will not allow His team to go out with a losing final season, because we were out-of-shape, unprepared, and poorly coached.
The perfect, divine coach Jesus Christ unselfishly loves each one of us too much to allow that to happen.