Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
Don't Be Misled
“See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many’” (Matthew 24:4). Deception is defined as acts to propagate beliefs that are not true, or not the whole truth (as in half-truths or omission). Deception can involve dissimulation, propaganda, and sleight of hand, as well as distraction, camouflage, or concealment. There is also self-deception, as in bad faith. In the context of Scripture, bad faith is understood as taking a position that is either known to be false or is false but believed to be true. In either case, the one holding the position is self-deceived. It is interesting to me that Jesus, when speaking of the time period just prior to His return to this earth, said more about deception than He did anything else. In Matthew 24, He warns against being deceived three different times (Matt. 24:4-5, 11, 23-24). There are at least 25 instances in the New Testament where the biblical writers warn against being deceived. This is why it is crucial for us to understand not everyone who claims to speak for Christ actually does. In fact, I would venture to say no one speaks for Christ as He has already spoken for Himself in His Word given through His Prophets and Apostles. The warning is clear: Don’t be misled.
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone”(Matthew 24:36). As of this writing it’s nearly an hour and twenty minutes past doomsday and the Church is still here. I am referring to the second doomsday prediction of Harold Camping—his first doomsday prediction came in 1994. He’s now 0 for 2. Maybe the third time—if there is a third time—will be a charm. I doubt it very seriously. The Bible is crystal clear on this point. Although we may be able to discern the general time of the end (Matt. 16:3) we will never be able to pinpoint the day and hour. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. Camping joins a long line of date setters, all of whom have seen their predictions fall flat. By the way, Camping says his predictions are based on taking direct quotes and stories from the Bible and applying them to numerological formulas. I guess he missed this one: “But of that day and hour no one knows.” Or maybe he just didn’t include himself in “no one.” After all, he is someone, right? The sad part is his gullible followers who expended their life savings spreading a misguided and thoroughly false prediction.
That being said, what can we know about the time of the end, specifically the return of Christ? First of all, we know He is coming again. We’ve got His word on that: “I will come again and receive you to Myself” (John 14:3). Even the angels present at His ascension confirmed the promise of His return to earth. Luke writes, “They also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:11). Jesus is coming again. Secondly, we know that when He comes it will be business as usual for the world. Jesus said, “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:37-39). In other words, most of the world won’t even be looking for or otherwise expecting His return. But just as judgment came suddenly and without warning in Noah’s day so it shall be when Christ returns for His own. Then the Day of the Lord—doomsday—will come. This is why Jesus stressed, “For this reason you also must be ready” (Matt. 24:44). Finally, although His return will come upon an unsuspecting world it should not take Christians by surprise. Paul wrote, “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief” (1 Thess. 5:4). In other words, if we are discerning, we will know His return is near.
Personally, I believe we are living in the last of the last days. I think the prophetic evidence is overwhelmingly clear. But I dare not set any dates other than to say I’m surprised the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is still here. I’ve been expecting the return of Christ for His Church any day now—and it may very well be today. Only God knows. That is why He stresses readiness. In the military we train to go to war. We work hard to maintain a constant state of readiness so that when duty calls all we have to do is respond based on weeks, months, and years of training. The same thing should be true in the life of believers. We must be ready at all times for at any given time Christ may call us home. “We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober” (1 Thess. 5:5-6). Well, it’s now nearly two hours past the doomsday deadline and the Church is still here. But she could very well be out of here at any moment. Therefore, “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15) before it is too late.
“Thus says the Lord God, „Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; […] They shall live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons, forever; and David My servant shall be their prince forever” (Ezekiel 37:21, 25). Modern Israel is 62 years old today. It was on this date—May 14, 1948, when against all odds, the world witnessed the rebirth of a nation—a sovereign fulfillment of millennia old prophecy. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement that captures the essence of all that is Israel: “On this Independence Day we mark two of the Jewish nation's miracles: The miracle of revival and the miracle of building. The miracle of revival, because I am not familiar with any other nation in history that was scattered all over the world and lost control of its destiny but still managed to return to its homeland and rebuild its sovereignty there. The other miracle is building: What we have built in this land since the State of Israel's inception. Israel is quickly becoming a regional economic superpower and a global technological superpower. In this world of knowledge in the 21st century our possibilities are endless: In science, medicine, technology and art. In each and every field, the forces of genius within our nation break out and create a magnificent country. We are not here by chance. We are here because this is our land. We've returned to our land, to our city - Jerusalem - because this is our land, this is our city.” Israel is a nation whose history is like no other. And it is painfully clear God’s promises to her are eternal and irrevocable. Indeed, Israel is a thorn in the side of those who believe her to be an accident of modern history, particularly to those who hold to the heretical position known as Replacement Theology.
Replacement Theology originated early on in church history, shortly after Gentile leadership took over from Jewish leadership. It teaches that the Christian Church has replaced Israel in the purposes of God. In other words, Israel (the people and the land) forfeited their position as God’s chosen people because of their unbelief. Therefore, the Jewish people have no future, no hope, and no calling in the plan of God. Furthermore, the promises, covenants and blessings ascribed to Israel in the Bible have been taken away from the Jews and given to the Church, which has superseded them. However, it has always amused me that those who hold this heretical position are quick to claim replacement of Israel as God’s chosen people, but insist the Jews are still subject to the curses found in the Bible. The hostility of the early Christians towards the Jews is reflected in the writings of the so called early Church Fathers. For example, Justin Martyr (c. AD 160) in speaking to a Jew said: "The Scriptures are not yours, but ours." Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon (c. AD 177) declared: "Jews are disinherited from the grace of God." Tertullian (AD 160-230), in his treatise, "Against the Jews," announced that God had rejected the Jews in favor of the Christians. Such statements reflect theological and spiritual arrogance. Paul wrote, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardness has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:25). Clearly, God is not finished with Israel and the Jewish people!
There are 77 references to Israel in the New Testament and none of them refer to the Church. Try replacing the words, "the Church," where Israel is mentioned and the passage is rendered unreadable and silly. Psalm 105 has a seven-fold affirmation of God's promises of the Land to Abraham. This is an everlasting promise, as was Genesis 12:1-3. Last time I checked, “everlasting” meant everlasting! Jeremiah 31:35-37 speaks of the everlasting nature of God's promises to and for Israel, the Jewish people, which is as sure as the sun that shines by day and the moon and stars that glow in the night. Last time I checked, the sun still shines and the moon and stars still appear at night. The end-time prophecies, which speak of the return of Israel to the land and its restoration, have overwhelmingly been fulfilled in Israel and the Jewish people in the past 120 years. (See, Isa. 11:11-12; Ezek. 37:1-14; Ezek. 36; Ezek. 35:1, Isa. 43:5,6; Jer. 16:14-16; Isa. 60:9-11; Isa. 49:22-23). It has always amazed me that one could turn a blind eye to the overwhelming scriptural evidence in support of Israel and God’s everlasting covenants with the Jewish people. Thankfully, Replacement Theology will not thwart God’s plan and purpose for Israel and the Jewish people! “From the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:28-29).
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form”(Colossians 2:8-9). I have written on numerous occasions regarding the fact that we live in an age of remarkable theological and biblical confusion. This should come as no surprise as Jesus said on the Mount of Olives that deception would be one of the primary signs we are living in the last days. He said this three times in Matthew 24. If He says something once, it’s important. But to say it three times means it is seriously important. “See to it that no one misleads you” (Matt. 24:4). “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many” (24:11). “For false Christs and false prophets will arise…” (24:24).
False theologies, religions, and other belief systems have been around since sin entered the world. Some of these belief systems are so well package that even some in the Church are deceived. A recent article appearing in USA Today drives this point home: “More U.S. Christians mix in 'Eastern,' New Age beliefs.” Did you know that many theologically conservative churches offer “Christian” Yoga classes to their membership? Or how about this—a Bible professor at a Christian university in Minnesota says there just might be “common ground” with Buddhism and Christianity when it comes to “meditation.” I doubt the kind of meditation he has in mind is that found in the Scriptures. Eastern religions with their practice of meditation and self-revelation are considered to be exemplary and valuable in today’s society. Yoga and other meditative practices are heralded for their “positive” physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. But what many believers fail to realize is you can’t take something pagan and dress it up in Christian lingo and make it “holy.” In other words, there is no such thing as Christian Yoga. There are several reasons I could offer in support of this, but suffice it to say, Yoga is thoroughly Hindu and cannot be divorced from it or its pagan gods. Yoga postures are designed to form one's body into the likeness of man, animals, birds, insects, snakes, fish, and many more--all of which are revered as gods in Hinduism. Therefore, the words of Christ and Paul serve as a strong warning to believers: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception.” Elsewhere, Paul writes, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God (your body) with idols?” (2 Cor. 6:14-16). These are all rhetorical questions, meaning the answer is obvious—NOTHING! Christianity has nothing in common with this garbage! Therefore, if you are thinking about doing “Christian” Yoga, don’t. If you are already involved with it, stop! Repent of your sin and ask for and receive God’s forgiveness. Run from “the elementary principles of the world,” and pursue a pure devotion to Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).
Many Christians have been duped into thinking there is nothing wrong with Yoga and other Eastern meditative practices, all of which are designed to put the practitioner into an altered state of consciousness. According to one apologist, “believers who think they’re just exercising are being swept into a [false religious system].” Authentic Christians are to stand against such evil. We do this by running to the Word of God and resting in and believing His warnings and promises. Regardless of how physically, emotionally, and spiritually positive something might seem on the surface, if the Word of God says it’s evil, then it’s evil and is to be shunned and avoided. All pagan practices are inherently evil. “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them… Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:11, 15-16).
Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:8). I cannot recount the number of messages and Bible studies I have heard regarding Christian stewardship. As far as I can remember, each of these messages and studies centered on the so-called principle of tithing—giving at least ten percent to the work of the Lord through the local church. However, as one studies the New Testament, one quickly discovers no required amount or percentage for giving to the Lord‟s work is specified. I‟m sure at this point many of my fellow chaplains and ministers are shouting heresy! But, an honest look at Scripture will reveal that I am no heretic. Furthermore, understanding what the Bible really teaches concerning stewardship is both God-honoring and liberating!
The Old Testament principle of tithing is one of the most misunderstood teachings in Scripture. We have read and heard “ten percent” for so long that we have concluded this is what the Bible teaches. Many are surprised to learn the Old Testament required giving of three tithes which totaled about 23 percent annually. So, instead of ten cents out of every dollar, now you owe twenty-three! This system is similar to many modern taxation systems throughout the world today. These tithes were used to fund the national government of Israel, public festivals, and welfare. Giving to the work of the Lord, on the other hand, was not regulated as to amount. The Bible says, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, „Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution‟” (Ex. 25:1-2; see also 35:21; 36:6; Prov. 3:9-10; 11:24). This same principle of free will giving is evident in the New Testament. In his second letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul writes, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). In other words, our giving is to be planned and done cheerfully. Anything less is considered “grudgingly or under compulsion.” Elsewhere, the Bible says our giving is to be, “as he may prosper,” indicating no required amount or percentage but that all giving to the Lord is to be free will and completely discretionary (See 1 Cor. 16:2). These passages, taken in light of other passages such as Luke 6:38, Acts 4:32-37, and 2 Corinthians 8:1-6, clearly teach we are to give proportionately and sacrificially. This means we are to give both “according to [our] own ability,” and “beyond [our] ability and of [our] own accord” (see 2 Cor. 8:3). We are to give according to what we have, yet sacrificially. Finally, we are to give voluntarily. This is important as I believe much of what we hear today concerning stewardship lends itself to giving by compulsion, manipulation, and intimidation. Free will giving, on the other hand, has always been God‟s plan and should not be confused with Old Testament tithing.
Therefore, the question is, if free will giving is God‟s plan then why is so little said about it from pulpits and in Bible studies? I believe there are several reasons. First of all, I believe many are simply ignorant of what the Bible actually teaches. Secondly, many preachers and Bible teachers believe that unless we guilt believers into giving at least ten percent of their income to the Church, God‟s work will simply go unfunded. Finally, and perhaps even more telling, we simply don‟t believe God who said He “is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Cor. 9:8). If we understand and apply this principle, our giving will be with such joy and enthusiasm that we would eventually have to be restrained from bringing more gifts! So, give. Give cheerfully. Give in proportion to how God has blessed you, yet sacrificially. Such giving is pleasing to God. It demonstrates whether or not I believe Him. And ultimately, it honors Him! “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38).
“For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame…But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation” (Hebrews 6:4-6, 9). As a Southern Baptist Chaplain, I must admit, the title I have chosen for this article is a little misleading. After all, Southern Baptist are not historically known for bestowing false hope. We are better known as “People of The Book,” and as a missions minded group committed to reaching the whole world for Jesus Christ with a sure hope—Jesus Christ! By Bestowing False Hope, I am referring to a time-honored Southern Baptist tradition that I have come to detest—the altar call. As I have studied the Gospel message in the New Testament and the issue of altar calls—or walking the aisle to receive Christ—I have concluded it is a Southern Baptist distinctive not worth keeping. I know many of my SBC brethren will disagree with me on this and that’s okay. But when we consider the ever increasing numbers of people who previously walked a church aisle but are now fallen away, or backslidden as we like to call it, one can only conclude these folks were given a false hope based on their response of walking the aisle at the end of a church service and “praying to receive Christ.”
One would be pained to find any biblical evidence that the traditional altar call—or invitation—was a part of the worship of the early church. There is not one single verse of Scripture that shows the church issuing an altar call for hearers to come forward to receive Christ. In fact, I am convinced the altar call confuses the physical act of walking the church aisle with the spiritual act of conversion. Walking a church aisle is not required for salvation. Repentance and faith are (Mark 1:15). To suggest one must respond via an altar call confuses and deceives people about their spiritual state. I know several people who responded to the preaching of the Gospel by walking forward at the end of the service but whose lives now give ample evidence that conversion did not take place. Oh, they may have prayed to receive Christ. Many even followed through in “Believer’s Baptism.” But the sad reality is there is no evidence of a changed life—the one key indicator the New Testament teaches one can expect to see if conversion has indeed taken place—“things that accompany salvation.” This “Southern Baptist Distinctive” is often how people are deceived into thinking they are Christians when in fact they are not. Any message that fails to demand repentance and belief is no Gospel message at all! Coming forward at the end of a church service to “accept Jesus” and then being encouraged on that basis to feel assured of salvation without repentance and faith accompanied by evidence of a changed life is tantamount to bestowing false hope. It results in people who are “enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,” but who do not possess this heavenly gift or the Holy Spirit. They may have an intellectual perception but understanding the gospel is not the equivalent of regeneration and conversion. It is amazing that some can see and hear the amazing truth of the Gospel, respond positively and yet remain eternally lost. It saddens me as a Southern Baptist to know that my own convention has been guilty of bestowing false hope. Therefore, may all of us who claim Christ be careful how we invite others so that both our message and the required response are clear, biblically sound and straight-laced!
Now, for those of us who were saved as a result of walking forward at the end of a church service, do not fear! It is not the walking forward and praying to receive Christ that saves. It is repentance and faith—not a onetime decision but an ongoing condition. This ongoing condition is faith in action. It is the ongoing evidence that I possess new life in Christ. It is demonstrated fully in a changed life—no longer do I embrace my sin but I now embrace Christ. It is a faith that forsakes sin and continues with Christ, no matter how hard! I still sin. And sometimes I may sin grievously. But the key indicator is that I do not continue in sin. Paul wrote, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). By “work out your own salvation,” Paul means we are to constantly evaluate our lives to see if God is indeed working in us, “to will and to work for His good pleasure.” The absence of such working should cause one to seriously consider the very real possibility they may not be truly born again—no matter what church they are a member of, how many church aisles they walked down, or how many times they may have been baptized.
Messages from Heaven
“Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail” (Jeremiah 7:8). Deception has been a problem for humankind since the serpent deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-7). However, the Bible indicates that as the return of Christ draws near, deception will increase significantly. In Matthew 24, Jesus, when answering the disciples’ question about His Second Coming and the end of the age, warned them repeatedly about deception: “See to it that no one misleads you” (24:4; see also verses 11, 24). Paul warned against this last days deception as well: “Let no one in any way deceive you” (2 Thess. 2:3). In Revelation 13, we are warned about the great deception that is coming, literally in the flesh, known as the Antichrist: “And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform” (Rev. 13:14). Paul calls this great deception that is coming, “lying signs and false wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9). Deception is ever present but the days are coming and have come when many will be deceived by these “lying signs and false wonders.”
Visions of “Mary” are nothing new. They have been appearing around the world for hundreds of years. However, in recent years, there appears to be a significant increase in these appearances. I believe these so called apparitions, claiming to be messages from heaven, are nothing more than a last days deception. It only takes a casual familiarity with Scripture to see that these appearances simply are not biblical. Take for example the apparition that began appearing in Conyers, Georgia on October 13, 1990. An apparition claiming to be the “Blessed Virgin Mary” began appearing to Nancy Fowler to give messages to the United States. For me, the first thing that comes to mind is Hebrews 1:1-2, “Although God spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.” Clearly, God is not speaking through Mary or anyone else today. On May 9, 1991, this apparition appeared and said, “Please photograph this statue [a statue of Mary] and distribute it freely to my children.” This is nothing new as nearly every “Mary” apparition through the years has requested a statue or shrine. But this brings several warnings from Scripture to mind. Here is one example: “So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female” (Deut. 4:15-16). These kinds of visions continue to increase around the world. The visions are often accompanied by prophecies about the last days, urging all men and women to, “love the mother of God and submit themselves to her.” But the Scriptures tell us that we are to love God and submit ourselves to Him: “Submit therefore to God” (James 4:7). One witness to an apparition reported, “I do not know exactly what she wants me to do, but this much I do know, that she will complete the good work she started in me!” This is pure blasphemy. Paul wrote, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He [Christ] who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). This kind of deception is what we can expect from a movement that fails to submit to Christ alone through the Scriptures alone. Jeremiah wrote, “Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail” (Jer. 7:8).
It grieves my heart to no end when I think about the countless multitude of people following after these “lying signs and false wonders.” Mary was not venerated in Scripture. She is not the “Queen of Heaven.” The only time that title is used is in Jeremiah chapters 7 and 44, both times referring to an Assyrian and Babylonian goddess, the worship of which Scripture seems to indicate will occur in the last days. This is not Christianity. Christianity, by definition, is a faith centered on Jesus Christ alone. Paul warns us to be careful so that we can avoid being deceived. He wrote, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). Furthermore, writing about these deceitful workers, he wrote, “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Cor. 11:14-15). Do not be deceived! These apparitions often said to be messages from heaven are nothing more than messages from the pit hell, designed to deceive and lead astray. Furthermore, they are another sign that we are indeed living in the last days just prior to the return of Christ for His Church. “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matt. 24:42).
A False Hope is No Hope at All
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God…And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation”(Romans 5:1-11). A major theme of the book of Romans is righteousness from God. It appears more than 30 times in one form or another and describes the state or condition of perfectly conforming to God’s perfect law and holiness—a standard man falls woefully short of according to Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But the true Gospel of Jesus Christ reveals that on the basis of faith—and faith alone—God will give His righteousness to ungodly sinners. Furthermore, Paul argues in Romans 5:1-11 that not only does God justify sinners on the basis of faith alone, but they are eternally bound to Christ, kept by His power and not by any human effort. Churches and groups that add to salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone—and there are a lot of them—are nothing more than false religious systems dispensing false hope, which is really no hope at all. According to Dr. J.C. Ryle, one of these so called churches, that boast more than a billion followers, is nothing more than “a huge organized idolatry.” Speaking of this same false religious system, Dr. John MacArthur describes it as, “a pseudo-Christianity…the best front for the kingdom of Satan.” I could not agree more!
With so much deception in the world today, one might rightfully wonder how to determine a false religious system from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). The Corinthian believers faced the same danger many face today—falling prey to satanic lies, thus abandoning simple devotion to Jesus Christ in favor of the sophisticated errors of false teachers and religious systems. A church that departs from the simplicity of the Gospel is no church at all but a false religious system that enslaves its followers, leading them straight down the “broad road that leads to destruction” (Matt. 7:13). Dr. Loraine Boettner, speaking of this same so called church that boasts more than a billion followers says, “The [miserable] evidence of [this church’s] steadily increasing departure from the simplicity of the Gospel, a departure so radical and far-reaching at the present time (1965) that it has produced a drastically anti-evangelical church. It is clear beyond possibility of doubt that [this religion] as now practiced is the outgrowth of centuries of error. Human inventions have been substituted for Bible truth and practice, [so that now, a false gospel is preached].” It is no wonder Paul wrote, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really no gospel at all” (Gal. 1:6-7). In other words, a false hope is no hope at all!
So the question is this: Are you trusting in Christ alone for your salvation or are you trusting in your church membership, your participation in your church, your confirmation, your baptism, communion, anything other than grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? Any church or religious system that goes beyond the simplicity of the Gospel message—grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone—is so far from what Scripture teaches that it is garbage, or to use the Greek word Paul uses in Philippians 3:7, it is “dung”. So my appeal to you is simple. If you are in a church that teaches you must do something in addition to believing, don’t just walk, but run as quickly as you can away from that church. It is a false religious system that will leave you eternally lost. Only by believing the true Gospel can one be saved and have the assurance of eternal life with Christ. Only faith alone in Christ Jesus yields true hope. Anything else is a false hope that will never satisfy. Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). This is not a simple acknowledgment that He is God but a deep personal conviction, without reservation, that Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). This “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” is that which results in justification by faith (Rom. 5:1)—a one-time legal declaration by God with continuing results. In other words, God declares the sinner no longer guilty but now righteous in His sight. This is the essence of reconciliation (Rom. 5:11) between God and sinners. So again, are you trusting in Christ alone for your salvation? If the answer is no, then you are still lost and facing an eternity separated from Christ and the joys of heaven—no matter what church you attend. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).
“Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these” (2 Timothy 3:5). It was twenty years ago this fall that I met some of the nicest lost people I have ever met. I know that statement sounds pretty judgmental if not downright cruel. But it is an appropriate statement when one considers the true Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures. I was in my first semester of college and faithfully participating in the life and ministry of the local Baptist Student Union. I noticed a couple young ladies who would come in and hang out in the lobby of the BSU almost every day. What intrigued me about these two ladies was they had very long hair, dressed modestly (they always wore a dress), never wore make-up, and seemed genuinely interested in mine and others’ religious experience. We quickly developed a friendship and a few of my BSU brethren and I accepted their invitation to attend their midweek “church” service on several occasions. It didn’t take me long to figure out this so called “church” was nothing more than one expression of unbelief after another. They had “a form of godliness, although they denied its power.”
The very first thing noticed was about this “church” was their woman pastor. This immediately brought to mind Paul’s instructions concerning pastors and church leaders. “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife…” (1 Tim. 3:2). “The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves…for it is improper for a woman to speak in church” (1 Cor. 14:34-35). Paul here is not suggesting women are inferior or that they can’t say anything in church, but he is giving us God’s instructions concerning church leadership, particularly the office of elder/pastor. The second thing I noticed was the whole service seemed to be quite disorderly. They would run around, shout, clap their hands, and carry on in such a way that one wondered two things: what they were drinking and what was coming next. But God’s Word reminds us, “All things must be done properly and in an orderly manner” (1 Cor. 14:4). One would assume this rule applies to worship services in the local church. After all this carrying on, the woman pastor would then proceed to “preach,” which consisted of nothing more than picking a chapter from the Bible and reading it with an extra syllable (“uh”) on the end of nearly every word. There was no verse-by-verse exposition of Scripture. This was probably by design as any verse-by-verse exposition would surely reveal the error and outright rebellion of their unbelief. Despite all this, the one thing that both irked and saddened me to no end was their focus on tongues and the magic words, “in the name of Jesus Christ,” that they insisted must be said over a person at his or her baptism in order for salvation to occur. They had “a form of godliness, although they denied its power.” They denied Christ’s finished work on the cross and His subsequent resurrection as sufficient for salvation. It wasn’t “salvation by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8) but rather words and experience that saved. The words, “in the name of Jesus Christ” said over you at your baptism and the experience of speaking in tongues was the necessary formula for salvation—never mind what the Bible actually teaches. But what is to be said of their so called experience of speaking in tongues? The Bible reminds us that Satan is the great deceiver “who disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). What better way to deceive than to give someone the false notion they are saved because of some ecstatic experience.
It is interesting to note that nearly every verse they used to justify the necessity of speaking in tongues refers to the false gibberish of counterfeit pagan ecstatic speech found in the first century (and even today I might add). Not only this, but their proof texts for being baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38; 8:12, 16; 22:26) have nothing to do with words said over a person at their baptism. Instead, the phrase used in these passages indicated, for the new believer, it was a crucial but costly identification to accept—that they were identifying with the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that such identification may very well result in their execution for their faith. As far as words said at baptism, in the early church, baptism was always “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). That formula, which has no saving merit by the way, is the same formula for baptism the Church is to employ today. We are to “make disciples…baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [Christ] commanded [us]” (Matt. 28:19-20). If I add to or subtract from what the Word of God teaches about salvation and following Christ, what I have in effect done is deny the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. In so doing, one indicates they have “a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” They may be some of the nicest folks you will ever meet. But the sad reality is they are lost, having denied the power of the Gospel. The Bible says, “Avoid such men as these.”
Which Way Do You Choose?
"There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death"(Proverbs 14:12). A popular Country and Western song from the early 80’s, entitled, "How Can it Be Wrong When it Feels So Right," encapsulates the thinking of most today when it comes to truth. It seems most people are content to determine truth based on how they feel rather than on what God says. But such foolishness and short-sightedness is extremely dangerous, not only in this life, but the life to come. What we do on this earth—the decisions we make, the things we embrace, that which we treasure—has eternal consequences that will result in either reward or misery. Now don’t misunderstand. It is not the things we do that determine our eternal destiny. But they do demonstrate whether or not we belong to the King! Following Christ is not easy. In fact, it can be extremely difficult. This is why Paul writes, "Fight the good fight of faith" (2 Tim. 6:12). Salvation calls for knowledge of the truth, repentance, submission to Christ as Lord, and a willingness to obey His will and Word. We must choose wisely! As the writer of Proverbs says, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus concludes His "Sermon on the Mount" with a Gospel application—He presents two gates, two ways, two destinations, two groups of people, two kinds of trees, and two kinds of fruit; two groups at the judgment, and two kinds of builders, building on two kinds of foundations. John MacArthur, commenting on this says, "[Jesus] is drawing the line as clearly as possible between the way that leads to destruction and the way that leads to life." So the warning is pretty clear—some ways might appear to be a smooth, obstacle free, rose lined pathway—but in the end, it is the way of death! The way leading to destruction is not normally marked by a huge neon sign that identifies it as the way of death. That is why we need a standard by which to measure life and make wise choices. God has given us such a standard—the Bible. The Bible is truth. Every single word from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 is truth. Not only that, but Jesus Christ is the very embodiment of truth. After all, He did claim to be "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Since the Bible has proven itself to be of Divine origin and true in every respect, there really is no debate when it comes to truth. There is however, a choice. One may be completely convinced that a certain thing is right. They may feel its "rightness" with all their heart. The tragedy lies in that "its end is the way of death." Death here means not just physical death which we all will one day experience, but spiritual death and separation from God and the joys of heaven. Its end is an eternal misery and suffering that the mind of man cannot even begin to fathom—"But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).
I was looking at a certain group’s website recently. I’m not going to lend credence to this group by naming them here. But I will say they claim to be a fellowship of believers although they deny the truth of God’s Word. On their website is an article entitled, "Reading the Bible with New Eyes." What it ought to be called is, "Reading the Bible with Blind Eyes." Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." Satan has been so successful in blinding many to the truth that they cannot see and understand that they have chosen the way of death—that they are right now, this very moment, perishing! And it all started in the beginning, when he asked the woman, "Has God said?" He followed that question up with a blatant lie, "You surely shall not die!" The stakes are indeed high. The consequences of our decisions in this life are infinitely eternal, and time is quickly running out. Which way will you choose? "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Prov. 14:12).
You are welcome to leave comments and you don't have to necessarily agree with me. However, I expect a civil tone and charitable spirit. We can disagree with one another without being disagreeable. "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt." (Colossians 4:6)
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