A life that is pleasing to God must be founded upon His truth and lived in obedience thereto. As the psalmist said, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm:119:105). There is a path along which we must follow Christ (Matthew:16:24); a path which Satan doesn't know and upon which he cannot touch us (Job:28:7-8; Isaiah:35:8-9); a path of God's protection and guidance, a path of obedient, loving service to Christ and to others--where love both lives and speaks the truth (Ephesians:4:15). How tragic (and unloving) to live an otherwise exemplary life of sacrificial service to others and yet fail to speak God's truth.
Mother Teresa [now deceased] provides the classic example of compassionate and charitable deeds divorced from truth. She says that her purpose is to bring her patients closer to the "God" in whom they already believe; so that a Hindu becomes a better Hindu, a Buddhist a better Buddhist, etc. (Vatican II says those of all religions are somehow saved through the Church.) She tells how to witness for Jesus:
One day they brought to our home a man with half his body eaten away. Worms crawled all over him, and the stench was so terrible....As I was cleaning him he looked at me and asked, "Why are you bothering?"
"I love you," I said...."For me you are Jesus coming in His distressing disguise."...Then...this Hindu gentleman...said, "Glory be to Jesus Christ." ...He realized that he was someone loved. ( New Evangelization 2000, Issue 9, pp 11-12)
Tragically, this "Hindu gentleman," though lovingly cared for physically, was left in his spiritual corruption with all of his superstitions and false beliefs intact. He was left in his sins to die without Christ, a Hindu who was "loved," but not loved enough to be told the truth that would rescue him from hell!
Time magazine asked Mother Teresa a number of questions in November 1989. Her answers were revealing:
Q. Here in Calcutta, have you created a real change?
A. [We've] created a worldwide awareness of the poor.
Q. Beyond showing the poor to the world, have you conveyed any message about how to work with the poor?
A. You must make them feel loved and wanted. They are Jesus for me...in disguise.
Q. What do you think of Hinduism?
A. I love all religions....
How poor must one be in order to become "Jesus in disguise"? And how much money or possessions must one acquire to cease being "Jesus"? This loving woman hides a false gospel under emotional slogans. She launches the ones she loves from a clean bed into a Christless eternity and is praised for doing so! It is wrong to preach about a future life in heaven while neglecting to help those who suffer in this present life. Yet is it not equally wrong to fail to prepare souls for heaven while caring well for their bodies on earth? Pastor John MacArthur visited Mother Teresa in Calcutta in August 1988 and reported the following:
We asked her questions that might reveal her spiritual state. Her answers were troubling: "I love and respect all religions"--an unthinkable remark in light of the hellishness of India's dominant religions.
"All my people die beautiful deaths," she told me. I am convinced Mother Teresa is providing false comfort to the dying." (Masterpiece, Winter 1988, p. 6)
Yes, we dare not just mouth doctrine but must live it. Don't forget, however, it is doctrine, God's truth, that we must live. Truth held in the head that is expressed only in words but not in deeds is hypocrisy. On the other hand, love without truth is sentimentality. Parents who fail to discipline their children (a veritable plague these days) do not really love them. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten," Christ says (Revelation:3:19). Must we not do the same if His love is in us?
How thrilling to know that God has a purpose for our lives. Yet many Christians sink into discouragement, discontent, depression, and despair, feeling that their lives are too difficult, unhappy, and meaningless. That should never be the case for any true believer. But what of the elderly, bedridden, or just ordinary Christians with seemingly little influence upon others?
A life that is devoted to loving and praising God (no matter how lonely and hidden from men's eyes) may bring a greater reward in heaven than that of someone who is on radio, television, writes books, and is known worldwide. Be true to God first, in all purity of heart-devotion to Him, in diligent study of His Word and in prayer "without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians:5:17). Trust Him to be your strength, to live His very life through you in the power of His Holy Spirit. Such a life of faith brings joy beyond expression!
Every life impacts others. It is not enough simply to "live a good life" without standing up for the truth and contending "earnestly for the faith" (Jude 3). Yes, our speech must be "always with grace" but it must also be "seasoned with salt" (Colossians:4:6). We must be kind, gracious, patient, loving, tender, compassionate. Yes, "love never fails" (1 Corinthians:13:8). But it would be a failure of love not to correct those who are straying from God's truth.
Neither the world nor the church likes correction. Many Christian parents fail to discipline their children, thinking they are being kind, sympathetic and loving by giving in to their whining demands. Parents thereby train their children to be disobedient, lazy, undisciplined, self-indulgent, lacking in concern for others, and contemptuous of authority. Paul taught his "son in the faith" to "endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy:2:3).
Of Christ it was said, "...who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross" (Hebrews:12:2). We can endure the persecution that comes from being true to Christ if we know the joy that awaits us. We can even know that joy now in the midst of trial. Christ's joy was not only in having us in His presence, but even more than that, in having done His Father's will. To know that we have been true to Him, that we have taken this talent of time and being, which He has entrusted to us (Matthew:25:14-30), and have used it to His glory, brings joy not only in this life but throughout eternity.
God has made us eternal beings. Every person ever born will continue in existence forever, either in the ecstatic bliss of God's presence (Psalm:16:11) or in the unimaginable horror and remorse of separation from Him forever. The choices we make, the manner of life we live, and our attitude toward God, His Word, and others, carry consequences not only for this life but for eternity. Life on earth is short; eternity never ends. That fact is awesome to contemplate and in itself should cause us to live by faith in Him.
We walk by faith. Faith is not a power to aim at God to get blessings from Him, but faith opens the heart to God's will and brings obedience to His Word. Knowing we are in God's hands and that He loves and cares for us doesn't guarantee that we may not be persecuted and even killed for His sake. But it assures us that He will be with us and will give us the grace to endure in His strength and with joy, whatever trial comes, so that He may be glorified in our bodies, "whether by life or by death" (Philippians:1:20).
[Excerpt from TBC June 1994]