At some point in your life you will almost certainly talk with someone who believes only select portions of God’s Word. They pick and choose which parts they like and then attempt to explain away the other passages as either irrelevant or uninspired. When this happens, they have adopted a religion of self.
Like all of us, their worldview has been firmly shaped by those who have influenced them the most, their inner circle of friends, the books they have read and the people of whom they have listened. By the time they reach their teen years they have figuratively purchased the land lot, performed the necessary clearing of rocks and debris, drawn out the architectural blueprint, dug the hole, and have even begun pouring cement to build a secure foundation. Before college, they have already allowed time for the cement to dry and have begun construction on the worldview house they will live in for the rest of their life. While some unexpected additions or delays may creep up, they will finish their worldview house. But what’s missing? God.
At this point it is hard to change a person’s preconceived ideas, but it is not impossible. Jesus declared in John 8:32 that the truth of God’s Word has the power and potential to set people free. Yes, this means demolishing our first home. But God, the Master-Builder, is fully capable of assisting us in joyfully building a new home built on a sure foundation. By recognizing the power the Gospel is having in our own lives [emphasis on the present tense], we are then capable of passionately and confidently sharing the truth with those around us.
Upon finding out that someone near to you willingly disregards certain portions of the Bible, you should know that they have chosen to build their house on a nice sandy beach. They went for the view when they were choosing lots. And, while it may look very nice from their perspective, ultimately, their house will not make it in the long run. It will flood, shift with the sand, and become infested in life-contaminating mold, eventually falling into the raging ocean.
Whether they have physically cut out portions of their Bible or not, the fact that these individuals have removed and denied passages exposes their pride. Their position that they themselves can determine what is and is not truth reveals the exaltation of self. They have, at that moment, placed themselves on a pedestal and have mentally removed God from His throne and replaced Him with an idol.
Do not be deceived. They have taken the place of God by replacing Him with their own god. They have selected verses that make them feel good and excluded those that convict or call for sacrifice and have thus created a god to suit their comforts. The only problem is that this god does not exist. They may continue worshiping with you in the same local church body but they are no longer worshiping the one true God of the Old and New Testaments. If this happens, love them and pray for them. However, guard yourself from falling into the same trap of exchanging the truth about God for a lie (Romans 1:25) or following after words that tickle the ears (2 Timothy 4:3).
The religion of self is the same temptation Adam and Eve fell into in the third chapter of Genesis. They believed the lie that they could only trust some of God’s Word. Satan was able to gain a foothold in their lives when he got them to question the goodness of God. Many today have become untrusting towards God because Satan has deceived them into viewing God as rival, rather than Father. Thus, when they come to uncomfortable passages or verses that disagree with certain ideas being advanced in our culture, they side with the world and not a loving Father.
This then has resulted in the religion of self. The exaltation of man above God. The belief that we can define our own reality for ourselves—totally independent of God. This way of thinking says, “I will believe the passages of Scripture I like; but the ones that call out my sin must go, because God could not have really meant what He said. My God would never want me to be unhappy.” It would honestly be better for them to write their own religious book, than to continue plagiarizing and misquoting the Christian Scriptures.
We will not always have the answers to every question. Even through Bible study and continual preaching (yes, in the Great Commission passage Jesus has called you to be a preacher – future blog coming) we may not always have an immediate answer to every possible question. However, we must endeavor to reach men and women no matter where they are at in life knowing that the only way they will come to hear truth is through people like you and me (Romans 10:13-15). Remember, this is a spiritual battle so prayer is ultimately your most powerful weapon to compliment the spoken Truth and the Holy Spirit’s work.