"Have Your Cake, and Eat It Too!"

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

Frequently we encounter people who want to take both ends of diametrically opposed propositions. They insist upon holding mutually exclusive positions; they cling to both segments of "either-or" propositions. When we encounter such individuals, we sometimes tell them they want to "have their cake, and eat it too." Quite obviously one cannot have his wish in both instances. There are religious people who find themselves precisely in this predicament -- wrestling with this quandary.

The Lafayette, Indiana church has been publishing recently in its bulletin a section which they call "College Student Profiles," in which they give information regarding college students who attend the services of that congregation. One young brother, according to a bulletin that came to me January 16, 1971, "feels the Church should not fall into tradition." "He is also against religion 'being pushed on an individual.'" This young brother "is a member of the Church of Christ because it follows the teaching of the Bible more closely than any other church he is acquainted with."

A young lady about whom the Lafayette church recently circulated information "does not believe in an established religion. She feels it is not necessary to your salvation whether you attend every Sunday. She also feels that membership in the Church is not mandatory. However, Sara feels each person should have a personal relationship with Christ."

The religion of Christ is an "established religion." Jesus said, "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18). The young lady referred to in the Lafayette bulletin also feels that "membership in the church is not mandatory," though Christ is "the Savior of the body" (Eph. 5:23), and all the saved are added to the church (Acts 2:47).

The most interesting thing about this young lady's religious concepts (and I devote this attention to them only because they are so typical of the ideas of many) is that she still "feels each person should have a personal relationship with Christ." She does not think it important whether you attend services regularly, nor whether you belong to the church or not, and she positively is opposed to any "established religion," yet she insists that you should have "a personal relationship with Christ."

Such a person is but a different kind of idolater. She creates a god of her own choosing, serves him as she sees fit, and maintains her "relationship" with him upon her own terms. Such a god is not the God of the Bible. Jehovah will either be God of all in your life, or He will not be God at all in your life! (See Matt. 22:32-40).

Recently I heard a gospel preacher remark how strange it is that people's gods always agree with them. They are always confident that their god will approve their own conduct. If they do not want to be a member of the church, they are positive that membership is irrelevant with God. If they are opposed to "organized religion," they are sure God has no use for it. If they are indifferent toward the usage of mechanical instrumental music, they assure us that God is not as concerned about it as some brethren are.

Such self-deceived people have created a god in their own image. Paul speaks of certain pagans who "exchanged the truth of God for & a lie, and worship and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever" (Rom 1:25). The young lady who was profiled in the Lafayette bulletin quite obviously has made her own mold for God, and she is determined to reshape Him and press Him down until He fits her god-model.

Such was the kind of re-creation of God that Brother M. F. Cottrell attempted a few years ago when he wrote Refocusing God, the Bible and the Church. For centuries the pagan philosophers have maintained that man made God in his own image, rather than God making man in His image. The modern god reconstructionists among us are guilty as charged by such philosophers. The man who insists "Well, my God would not do this or that" without consideration for what He has said is worshipping a god of his own creation.

The young lady referred to in the Lafayette church bulletin cannot have a "personal relationship with Christ" without church membership and without what those of her ilk call "an established religion" unless she is determined to become a real "God-maker" and create a god to her own liking. When one seeks a "personal relationship with Christ" upon his own terms, such a person has not humbled himself under the might Hand of God (I Pet 5:6), and is not likely to do so until some significant change is wrought in his or her disposition. And "social reform" and elimination of "environmental pollution" will not effect such a change.

But gospel preaching will! But until real Bible repentance occurs in that person's heart, there is no chance for "'a personal relationship with Christ." The young lady may as well decide whether she prefers a scriptural "relationship with Christ," or does she prefer to maintain her aversion to any "established religion," regular attendance at worship, and membership in the blood bought body. But she cannot have both ends of mutually exclusive positions, and at the present, she is attempting to maintain such an untenable and impossible position. Indeed, she cannot have her cake and eat it too.

February 25, 1971