By Andy Alexander
Our service to God consists of two basic elements. First, we must be totally dedicated to Christ and second, we must worship him as he directs in his word. In teaching the Samaritan woman about worship that would please God, Jesus told her, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24). We must want to serve God and then we must search his word which is the truth, in order to learn the form of worship which he will accept from us (Jn. 17:17).
We must have our hearts in every part of our service to God, however, our devoted service must be accompanied with the truth as revealed in God’s word if it is to be acceptable to him. The Scriptures teach that a wise heart seeks knowledge and that we should devote our hearts wholly to God by walking in his statutes and by keeping his commandments (Prov. 18:15; 1 Kgs. 8:61). We are also told that putting the law of God in our hearts will keep us from slipping (Psa. 37:3 1; 119:80,111). Religion is to come from the heart, but it is to come from a heart that studies the will of God and strives to follow every command that God has given.
The New Testament is filled with admonitions for the Christian to study God’s word and be able to answer any man that asks concerning the hope that we have in Christ (2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Pet. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:15). We are also taught that the things that have been written can be understood when we read (Eph. 3:3-4). The reason they have been written is because, as Jeremiah the prophet said in the long ago, “I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). Man cannot find the way to God by the feelings of his own heart. God has to direct our steps and we must follow those steps with complete trust that they will lead us to him.
The foundation upon which most people have built their religion is their own heart. If something feels right in the heart then it is assumed that it will please God. The Pharisees practiced this same type of religion in the first century and Jesus Christ condemned it as vain religion (Matt. 15:9). This upset the religious leaders of the day and brought his crucifixion.
No one of sound mind would use this type of logic in any other realm of his life, but when it comes to religion, logic is thrown out the window and replaced with the feelings of the heart. For example, would you let a doctor operate on you because he felt in his heart that you had a brain tumor without ever taking an x-ray to verify his feelings? No doubt, you would seek another opinion. Now apply that same logic to religion. What would you think of a preacher who told you that it really didn’t matter what the Bible says, you just go by what feels right in your own heart?
The Scriptures warn us about following the feelings of our hearts (Prov. 28:26). Jeroboam devised a religion in his heart, but it was not acceptable to God (1 Kgs. 12:33). The Israelites were instructed to remember the commandments of God and not follow after their own heart and what they thought was right in their own eyes (Num. 15:39). Our religion today is no different, it must come from a pure heart that is following the commandments of God. Now, let’s apply this principle to religions that men have set up today.
The Methodist Church substitutes sprinkling for immersion and claims this is pleasing to God. How do they know this? By the feeling in their heart. God instructs us that baptism is a burial in water and all of us know the difference between burying and sprinkling (Rom. 6:3-4). If you claim there is no difference, then the next time your dog or cat dies, just sprinkle a little dirt over it and in a few days you will know the difference. Are we trying to please God or ourselves?
The Baptist church teaches that baptism does not save. God says just the opposite in his inspired word. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21). Read the context of this verse and you will find that Noah was “saved by water” and we in a like figure are saved by water. It is not baptism alone that saves, but the baptism of a penitent believer (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38).
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 7, p. 205
April 5, 1990