That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Return to the Simple.

II Corinthians 11:2-4

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

My pastor read the above passage recently in church.  I had already started this blog post, and I was so encouraged that this verse was EXACTLY what I was writing about!!! You know how when you hear something or read something and there's that prick in your mind or heart that something isn't quite right?  Maybe you can't point out the exact verse, but in your heart you KNOW something isn't quite lining up.  This happens to me all the time!  I usually go to the Bible to see whether I'm on the right track or really off :).  Sometimes I'm off, and sometimes I'm right.  God used this verse to confirm in my heart that I was on the right track this time :).  The following is what I was writing the other day.  Hopefully it doesn't come across angry or condemning, as I certainly don't intend it to be that way.  I do try to keep my writing in the right spirit.  Please keep II Corinthians 11:2-4 in mind as you read.  

Doesn't anyone use the word "saved" any more?  I'm astounded by some of the things I read on "church" (I use that term loosely) websites.  Catch the Fire, Experience God's Love, Fulfill your Kingdom Purpose, Discover your God Potential... huh?  When I've read these things I get that heart-prick.  Something isn't quite right here. One thing I know for sure.  None of these phrases are in the Bible.

Maybe I'm old fashioned. Maybe I'm too simplistic, but I always thought Christianity, God, and the Bible went hand in hand.  Check out some church websites.  It doesn't matter what denomination you look at, Pentecostal, Methodist, Charismatic, Non-denominational (aka. "community"), and even a lot of Baptists. Look for how much Scripture is actually written out on their websites, or look for where they talk about being saved.  I mean REALLY saved.  Not this "experiencing God" stuff.  You might be surprised.   It seems like churches will talk about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING except the one thing that's important.  They'll have all kinds of information on their programs, seminars, staff, music, retreats, conferences, etc., but nothing about salvation. They may talk about God's plan for your life, or a experiencing Jesus, but they never say "Ye must be born again!" I've been saved for almost 24 years, and I've never been confused about what salvation is.  Apparently a lot of other people are... who knew?  Salvation has been replaced in many churches with a social gospel (and many other gospels).  To me it was always simple.  Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved... (Acts 16:30-31).  

There's not just the "what" to do to be saved, there's also the "why" of being saved.  Why salvation?  Why do we need it?  What is it for?  Many churches are giving alter calls where people are invited to come forward "if you want Jesus in your life" or "make a decision to follow Christ" or "receive the Spirit."  There's a glaring absence of something very related to salvation in these types of alter calls, and in the phrases I mentioned before.  SIN.  Without an acknowledgment of sin there's no need of Christ.  Sin is the "why" of salvation. Why do I need Jesus in my life?  Why would I want to make a decision for Christ?  Why discover my God potential?  What's the point?  To make me feel better?  To give me something worth living for?  No.  That is nothing more than preaching "another gospel" (Gal. 1:8).  Once you check those church websites for Scripture, check and see if they mention sin.  Look for a plan of salvation; one that mentions all men are sinners in need of a Saviour.  Look for where they deal with man's greatest need.  Simply put, man's greatest need is salvation.  Salvation is forgiveness of SIN through Christ!  Nothing more and nothing less.  It's simple!

There are many "other Jesus'" (II Cor. 11) in Christianity today.  Preaching any other salvation other than by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9) is another Jesus.  It seems like men (and women) want to make up ideas of what they "think" salvation REALLY is.  The simple Bible gospel of believe in Jesus is not good enough for them, so they start coming up with new words, new definitions, and new doctrines.  Here's a few examples off the top of my head of "other gospels" I've seen/heard of. If you click on each one, I've linked to an article that deals biblically with what is false about these teachings, so you can do the research for yourself.
1.  Lordship Salvation (make Jesus Lord of your life; give your heart to Jesus, etc.)
2.  Easy Believism (prayerism) (1-2-3 pray after me; no repentance)
3.  Election (only the "elect" are saved)
4.  Irresistible grace (if God has chosen you there's nothing you can do to "resist" His calling)
5.  No blood (the shedding of Jesus blood is not necessary for salvation)
6.  Baptismal regeneration (you must be baptized in order to be saved)
7.  Speaking in Tongues (some believe this is necessary to be saved)
8.  Works salvation (I didn't link this one because it is so broad)

The last one spans a whole gamut of beliefs from the Roman Catholic system of sacraments, to baptismal regeneration, to the idea that if you don't "do" certain things you will loose your salvation. Adding works is probably the common denominator in all of these false salvation teachings.  We often think of only the Catholics or other false religions (Islam, Mormonism, etc.) as adding works to salvation, but the truth is that many evangelical Christians do the same.  I've actually witnessed this myself, and I was shocked!  These were people who professed to be Bible believers, and essentially what they were saying is that we needed to "do" something in order to be saved, or "do" something in order to stay saved.  That is NOT the simplicity which is in Christ.

In my experience, this idea of "doing" something in order to be saved that is popular among evangelical Christians stems from a confusion of salvation and sanctification.  I believe this is mostly due to a lack of good teaching on the part of mature Christians and church leadership.  Salvation is by faith... PERIOD!  We cannot do one single, solitary good deed or action to save ourselves.  We are helpless in obtaining salvation through human effort, and yet we are free to accept salvation through the precious blood of Christ.  An evangelical Christian will not likely admit that they are adding works to salvation, in fact they may not even realize they are doing it.  However, if you examine the way they present or describe salvation that is often what they are doing.  For example, think about these phrases.
"Surrender your life to Christ."  
"Make a decision to follow Christ."
"Give your life to Jesus."
Surrender cannot happen unless you are first forgiven and saved.  It's impossible!  Following Christ is meaningless unless you have experienced His grace and forgiveness, which only comes through faith.  Sure Jesus wants my life, but what good is it if I haven't accepted His work on Calvary by faith?  Romans 12:2 is addressed to Christians, not to unbelievers.  None of these statements deals with the reality of what salvation is.  The forgiveness of sins.  The unbeliever only has one option.  Repentance and faith.  That's it!  He cannot live for God if He hasn't taken that first step to be saved.  Jesus never told anyone to surrender their lives to Him for salvation.  Instead He said things like Ye must be born again (John 3) and Repent ye and believe the gospel (Mark 1). I have been guilty of using some of the above phrases.  It's easy to slip into the habit of describing things a certain way without really realizing what the words actually mean. That's why I always try to use biblical phrases and Scripture.  It's simple, and it's right.

I am by no means saying ALL evangelical Christians add works to salvation.  It's merely something that I've noticed in certain situations in my life.  Certainly I've met and know many Christians who would never present salvation as works. I guess what really bothers me is that there's this trend to change the words of God.  There's this idea that the church needs to be marketed with catchy phrases, instead of using holy, inspired, true, pure biblical words and phrases.  To me this is not keeping the simplicity which is in Christ.  I see it as confusing and complicated.  It's like some sort of competition to come up with the best play on words or the best clever saying.  Maybe others don't view it that way.  I'm just speaking from my heart.  

I always wondered a bit about this verse. How could one know God and not be saved? All these other gospels make this verse make a lot more sense.  Many who believe a false gospel are so sincere.  However, just being sincere never saved anyone. We MUST be sure we are sincere about the right thing!  Perhaps the reason these people are not known by the Lord is because they have departed from the simplicity that is in Christ: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!

 Matthew 7:22-23

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

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