• johned@aibi.ph

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Eternity 45 - The Appearance of Wisdom

Colossians 2:23 (Weymouth) These rules have indeed an appearance of wisdom where self-imposed worship exists, and an affectation of humility and an ascetic severity. But not one of them is of any value in combating the indulgence of our lower natures.

What is this "appearance of wisdom" and how is it an impressive but thoroughgoing sham? Why don't the ascetics actually get anywhere much spiritually? And why is the meek and humble and lowly and well-regulated life of a Buddhist monk not a path to salvation?

We need to make some very careful distinctions here - between nice people and saved people, between religious people and born-again people and between improvement and total rebirth.

Zen Buddhism is an excellent method of self-improvement and its self-control is certainly better than rank materialism and sexual licence. The problem is this, self-improvement methods face the insoluble problem of human mortality and corruption. They make a better passenger on the Titanic - but the ship is still sinking.

Christianity is more blunt, it acknowledges the case is hopeless and that we are helpless in the face of sin and death and that we need a Savior who can totally transform the nature of our life and give us life, righteousness, and immortality.

Jesus said "Unless a man is born again he cannot enter the Kingdom of God". Cannot means just that!

Our un-born-again human nature known as "flesh and blood" cannot enter the Kingdom of God no matter how much you beat it , starve it, deprive it or discipline it.

Its gone wrong, its very nature has been corrupted by sin and brought into "bondage and decay". Its completely unsuited for heaven.

A wise man can read every book in the theological library and yet never know salvation. Nicodemus was a scribe and the "teacher of all Israel" but his learning did not get him into heaven. (John 3).

No amount of expertise, and no amount effort can turn the old man into a new man and get us born again. You just get a very well-educated and thoroughly disciplined old nature - which is well suited for life here and now, but appalingly unsuited for life in the hereafter.

By the way, that is no excuse for ignorance, the Christian should be educated and wise as well as saved!

Given that, salvation is not obtained by getting wiser and wiser and better and better and more and more humble and disciplined until finally the old nature becomes like Jesus.

In Christianity the new nature is created to be like Jesus from day one. And that is the big advantage.

The appearance of wisdom operates because its advocates are people who are well-disciplined and well-educated and are certainly extremely admirable. I wish more Christians were as such!

It is very convincing to the watching world when a serene and simple Buddhist monk is contrasted with a raucous, materialistic televangelist.

And here is where the distinctions come in. The Buddhist monk is far nicer, probably better educated and certainly more self-controlled, by every external measure the Buddhist is the wiser of the two. But the monk is on a sinking ship while the awful preacher is on one that will stay afloat.

This is not due to their respective levels of personal virtue (in this case the Buddhist monks is far higher) but due to that which they have placed their trust in.

Its like being stuck on a desert highway in pouring rain with your car broken down and two cars pull up at the same time and offer to help. The first is a Mercedes driven by an elegant scholar but its almost out of petrol. The second is a pick-up truck full of fish driven by a chap called Peter that has a full tank and will get you all the way home. World religions give you a little progress - but they don't bring you all the way to heaven. Christianity does, Christianity works.

Niceness and wisdom do not necessarily indicate the possession of the ability to save.

By rising from the dead as predicted Jesus proved to the watching world that He "had the full gas tanK'.

He alone has proved that He has the victory over sin and death and that His words can be trusted to give eternal life.

Every other philosophy makes claims but Jesus offers demonstrated proof.

The Jesus of Nazareth, salvation-by-faith system for attaining eternal life, is the one that works, and its the only one that works. Because its the only one that creates a new nature within us.

As a university chaplain I once spoke with a drug rehabilitation counselor who was opposed to Christianity and he said "I've just completed my research on heroin addiction and I'll give you this - conversion to Christianity is the only thing that gets people off drugs for good."

When faced with powerful addictions - only Jesus works, when faced with real needs for personal change - only Jesus works - because only Jesus can create a new nature within you.

All other systems try to redeem the older nature - and fail. They are philosophies that have the appearance of wisdom but are of no use against fleshly indulgences.

Only Jesus offers the gospel of being born-again into the Kingdom of Heaven and personal access to the transforming power of God the Holy Spirit.


John Edmiston


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