Attempting the Absurd

By J. L. Leifeste

There are some things which cannot be done. They simply are not sensible. Can a bird safely fly through a tree trunk? Can a fish swim through a solid stone? Can an elephant wrap its own trunk around its own body and lift itself into the air? Such ideas are absurd.

Likewise, it is absurd for men to invent their own religion. For thousands of years, people have been forming religions to please themselves. See Ex. 32:7-8; Num. 25:2-3; Deut. 4:14-24; Acts 17:22-34; and Rom. 1:18-25. Furthermore, people continue to form their own religions. Some people even start new religions similar to the Lord's church and call them Christianity. To follow man-made spiritual teachings is neither safe nor sensible. Man-made religion is not the truth, and distorted versions of Christianity are not the truth.

So, we must ask ourselves, “Is my religious belief truly from God?” If not, it is as ridiculous as trying to fly through wood or swim through stone. What religious belief is truly from God?

Some people think that the true religion involves only facts. Some think that they can be guided to truth through their feelings alone. The true religion involves both knowledge and emotion.

We must have knowledge. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:24). Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6). Belief (faith) which pleases God comes from hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17), and we must continue in His word to know the truth of salvation (Jn. 8:31-32).

We must also feel. Christian emotions must include brotherly love (Rom. 12:10), a tender heart (Eph. 4:32), joy in Christ (Jn. 17:13; Rom. 14:17; 1 Pet. 1:8), cheerfulness in giving (2 Cor. 9:7), hope, meekness, and fear (1 Pet. 3:15; Matt. 10:28). Emotion is even part of becoming a Christian, since the sinner must repent (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:37-38). Repentance means turning away from sin because we feel sorrow about the sins we have committed: “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation...” (2 Cor. 7:10). The scriptures show that our heart is not right if we have no feeling. For examples, read Matt. 13:15; Mk. 3:5; and Eph. 4:17-24. And as you read, notice that these verses also have a relationship to learning the truth. This is because correct emotions must be based upon knowledge of the truth. In religion, correct emotions and correct knowledge must be connected. They act upon each other.

In Romans 10:1-3, we see Paul's desire that more Jews would accept the truth of Christ: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. (2) For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (3) For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” They had a zeal (strong emotion) for God, but not according to the knowledge of His righteousness, which is revealed by Christ (verse 4). That knowledge of God's righteousness is the “word of faith” which the apostles preached (verses 5-8), recorded for us in the New Testament. That knowledge leads to a belief from the heart, which includes emotion (verses 9-10). See also Phil. 3:7-11.

Other scriptures show the special relationship of knowledge and emotion. Colossians 1:9-14 points to the blessing of being filled with the “knowledge of God,” which leads to joy and thankfulness. Ephesians 3:8-19 speaks of Paul preaching (delivering knowledge about) the “unsearchable riches of” Christ. And Paul prayed that those Christians would be so deeply rooted and grounded (firmly set) in love (which involves emotion) that they would gain more understanding of the love of Christ, a love which even surpasses knowledge.

Various denominations claim to be Christian, but teach and follow doctrines that were decided upon by mere men after the time of the apostles. What is the true knowledge and the right kind of emotion? The purpose of the scriptures is to reveal the truth (Heb. 2:3-4). They furnish the knowledge toward salvation in Christ and can make us completely equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:13-17). Searching the scriptures for knowledge can lead to the right kind of faith (Acts 17:11-12). It is essential to follow only the teaching of Christ and His inspired apostles and prophets, as faithful churches of the first century did. The inspired writers of the New Testament taught truth, not man-made religion (2 Pet. 1:16; see Jn. 21:24). In the apostles' time, there were many people who did not accept the truth. They had no love for truth (2 Thess. 2:10-12). And Paul knew that the time was coming when some Christians would not hold to the “sound doctrine” but would turn to false doctrines or “fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

The actions and words of many false teachers often show that their teachings are not pure truth (Titus 1:10-16). However, they still deceive many people who do not have sufficient knowledge, but follow their emotions. Other people seek knowledge without emotion. So we find many religions, divisions among those religions, and divisions among people who claim to follow Christ. Such things are against God's will. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; (5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism; (6) one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:4-6).

Those who want to be Christians should be certain that they are not relying upon emotion without proper knowledge, OR upon knowledge without emotion. Ephesians 4:13-16 shows the importance of being mature and stable in the true knowledge. This leads to the right emotions and helps the Christian avoid false doctrines.

When a person holds a religion without emotion, he does not fully believe it in his heart. Emotions based upon a growing knowledge of Christ's truth will become more steady and assured. But religions based upon false “knowledge” or deceptive emotions can be religions which change with the desires and imaginations of men. They often do change. Such religions, including beliefs which are wrongly labeled Christianity, are unacceptable to God: “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9).

We should not expect God to approve of our actions in worship or in daily life simply because they feel right. It is absurd to accept only part of the true knowledge, attempting to make our religion fit our feelings. Likewise, it is absurd to simply believe facts without feeling. To be acceptable to God, we must act from correct emotions, which must be based upon correct knowledge from the scriptures. Just as an elephant cannot lift itself into the air, we cannot lift ourselves into heaven by the power of our own knowledge or emotion. “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23; see Pr. 14:12).

“Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord; let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have surrounded me; my iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart fails me” (Ps. 40:11-12).

“I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps” (Ps. 40:1-2).

“Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; let such as love Your salvation say continually, ‘The Lord be magnified!’ ” (Ps. 40:16).

The correct knowledge of Christ and our correct feelings from that knowledge lead us to obey the gospel. See Rom. 1:5; 6:3-5, 16-18; 10:16; 16:26; 2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:2; 4:17. And the grace of God through Christ raises us to salvation. The true religion, the only religion which pleases God, has both correct knowledge and correct emotion.