1 Peter 4:3-6 “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.”
The pagan lifestyle consists of wild living; living for self with no regard for others. The pagan attitude is ‘if it feels good – do it’! Pagan religion is ‘any god but God’. The end result of this spiritual pathology is the idolatry of self and the worship of your own image. Peering into the mirror of delusion, blindness follows; “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)
Don’t be fooled. Paganism isn’t only practiced by those who never go to church or those who are in trouble with the law. There are many who live wild yet outwardly respectable lives. Any victim of sexual abuse by clergy, any traumatized refugee from a cult-like organization or any person who has been left swindled of hard earned savings by a white collar sociopath will tell you that wildness can dress in religious or business ‘garb’ and have a gentle yet fake smile.
The Bible warns us about such ‘wild ones’; “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” (2 Peter 2:1-3)
What is the common factor between a wild one who dresses well, dons religious vestments and speaks of God and a wild one who is blatantly red in tooth and claw with open antisocial tendencies? Both have no fear of God yet the former is far more dangerous than the latter because he or she is hard to recognize. Damage done by those who can mimic pro-social attitudes is hard to detect right away. A lifetime of pain and victims can be cleverly covered over by pious words and self-serving gestures of good will and works.
What is the mark of a person who has a healthy fear of God? Scripture tells us: “The fear of the LORD [is] to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.” (Proverb 8:13) The Forerunner Commentary states; “Proverbs 8:13 defines the fear of the Lord as “to hate evil.” This definition suggests the kind of conduct the proper fear of God produces in practical application. If we hate something, do we not take steps to avoid it?” The essence of being pagan isn’t the outward appearance – it is a matter of the hidden things of the heart!
Jesus tells us; “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. ‘For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man . . . ‘” (Matthew 15:18-20) The vicious curses and vain teachings of a pagan preacher are just as much a mark of the wild lack of a fear of God as the murderous uncontrolled threats of a criminal bent on immediate hurt and harm. Both kinds of behaviour are heaps of abuse that beset innocent and vulnerable people.
People may be fooled by outward appearance but God is not; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:9,10) Scripture tells us that even on this earth there is a balance to all things; “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Galations 6:7,8)
Jesus is coming again and we will all stand before Him whether we fear God today or not; “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) Anyone who truly believes this will act with appropriate fear of God; “For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” (2 Corinthians 5:7-9)
A wise man once summed up life in this way; “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13,14) Anything else is pagan and faithless!
Praise the Lord!