By Hal Lindsey
On May 1, 1776, a man named Adam Weishaupt founded an organization that came to be known as “The Illuminati.” Today, there are lots of little covens of unconnected, devil-worshiping malcontents who claim the name “Illuminati.” And there is some evidence that the old organization may still exist. But for this discussion, you just need to know that they did exist, and they were formed as an angry reaction to the Church. They were the antithesis of Biblical Christianity.
In the beginning, they were not called “The Illuminati.” Their original name was the “Covenant of Perfectibility” — commonly referred to as “Perfectibilists.” And that was their theme. They believed that human beings could perfect themselves through morality and reason, along with a lot of screwball, secret ceremonies.
Even though they were the opposite of Christian, large numbers of churches today embrace the primary ideal of the Illuminati — belief in humanity’s ability to perfect itself. Such churches view the message of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins as old fashioned and irrelevant to a new generation.
They claim that regular evangelical Christians place too much emphasis on Who Jesus was and what He did. They choose to place their emphasis on what Jesus said. But when you read their websites, you see that they carefully cherry-pick the words of Jesus. I think they do that because if you look at everything He said, it leads you back to Who Jesus is (God the Son) and what Jesus did (died on a cross for our sins and rose again).
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible contradicts their message of salvation by good works. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” (NASB)
But if you quote from any of Paul’s letters, they shake their heads. Like the first century Christians at Corinth, they say with holy condescension, “I (am) of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:12)
They claim to espouse the Sermon on the Mount. But anyone reading that Sermon should start at the beginning. The first words of the first beatitude are, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 NASB)
It’s a tough passage to get your head around. Why “poor in spirit”? Does He want us to be spiritually impoverished? It’s easy to understand how material riches might get us into trouble, but what’s wrong with being spiritually rich?
Jesus started His message with those words for good reason — they are not an ending, but a beginning. We cannot start our journey with Him until we understand our spiritual poverty without Him.
God does not come to you, hat in hand, requesting that you share with Him your spiritual riches. He doesn’t need your spiritual riches. You need His. He longs to share those riches with you. But you won’t receive them from Him until you understand that you don’t have them within yourself.
In another part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20 NASB)
Imagine how shocking that would have been to the people listening to Him. They viewed the scribes and Pharisees as the epitome of righteousness. These people counted the leaves on their spices to make sure they were accurately tithing. (Matthew 23:23) They not only studied the law, they studied mountains of tradition that had been built up around the law. (Mark 7:3) To be completely certain they never called the Lord’s name in vain, they didn’t even say His name.
But Jesus said it’s not enough. Why? Because God is His own standard of goodness. He is the plumb line. Anything less than His level of righteousness is like a filthy rag. (Isaiah 64:6) In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 NASB)
Only God is as perfect as God. But Jesus is that perfect because He is God. He is God the Son. His righteousness measures up. We must receive that righteousness or we cannot be saved. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (NASB)
Jesus spoke of people being guilty of shocking sins like adultery (Matthew 5:27-28) and murder (Matthew 5:22) simply because of their thoughts. He was teaching us to think the right things. But He was also showing how egregiously we fail to meet God’s standards. Every person at some time has a lustful thought, is angry without cause, or fails to love his enemies. We can’t hope in our goodness. God’s grace is the only answer!
The words of Jesus point humanity to the Person and mission of Jesus. He said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10 NASB)
His message of grace is timeless. It is infinitely superior to any fashion or fad. The message of Jesus was Himself. So don’t be a grace-rejecting “Perfectibilist.” Instead, let Jesus do the perfecting in you. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 NASB)