Different Is Not The Same
"Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither (here). But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us." Ezra 4:2-3
When I was growing up, we attended a church that was pretty conservative and we took a stand against a lot of things. Our pastor held the line and he was not for mingling with other churches who were "kind of like us but not really". I remember a particular evangelical event that was coming to the valley that involved a big-time speaker. The speaker desired to fill Veteran's Memorial Coliseum, which, back then, was home to my beloved Phoenix Suns. The place of the event caught my attention when he spoke about it, and I was excited to attend. However, the more my pastor spoke about it, the more I started to realize that we would not be attending this event. He spoke about the gospel being preached, so I could not understand why our church would not be attending.
I basically did not listen as well as I should have as I was disappointed that our church would not be attending. I later asked my dad about it on the way home, and he began to give me the 411, which I somewhat understood but not fully. My dad told me that this "evangelical" event was an attempt to unite all religions, groups and churches. The event organizers were willing to look past their theological differences with other religions in order to unite everyone. They sought to reach the world by looking past important tenants of the faith, so that everyone could get along for the sake of the gospel. I did not quite understand what this all meant as a little kid, but I did know that these people were not like us, although they appeared to be.
I have come to respect our pastor's view and stand on this issue. As I got older, I realized he was taking a stand for what was right. He was not willing to compromise to appease and reach the world. He knew the gospel was powerful in its own right, and it did not need men's help or compromise. He knew that which was different was not the same. He knew there were doctrinal issues that could not be compromised, and as our shepherd, he was not willing to expose his sheep to other religions that did not believe the truth of the Bible. Although I wanted to go to the Coliseum, I understood enough to know that this event was not on the up and up. I have tried to remember this as I have gotten older as a lot of things seem to be a good idea, but a deep dive will show that they are not quite aligned with the word of God.
We must be careful with whom we associate and who we invite to be part of our circle. They may seem to have good intentions, but the road to hell is paved with such. There is a difference in religions as they are only two options: faith in Jesus Christ alone, or the works of man. Israel's leaders, Zerubbabel and Jeshua, knew that these men were up to no good and did not have the same intentions that they had. They knew the people of Israel were doing the Lord's work and the other men had other objectives and did not have the intentions of serving the one true God. They did not succumb to their call and denied their help and continued on in the work God had called them to. It is sometimes so easy for us to become distracted with the allure of unification, but we must weigh the motives of others and see if they are of God or of their own desires and lusts.
Where are you today friend? Whom are you listening to? Whom are you watching? How about the church you attend? Is it of God or does it seek to unite all faiths? What is different is not the same, and we must draw the line in the sand when it comes to truth and what only seems to be truth. Be careful of whom is asking to help or of those who are asking help of you. May we may be harmless as doves and as wise as serpents.
Stay in the fight!