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“This really is actuallyliterally true,” I found myself urging the ladies to whom I was teaching a Bible lesson.

It was a surreal moment. There wasn’t a woman in that room who would have denied the Bible’s inerrancy or trustworthiness. All of them wholeheartedly agreed with the passage we were discussing and, if asked by anyone, would have said unequivocally that they believed the truth of it.

But there was just this…this thing…nagging at the back of my heart. Why…why did I get the feeling I needed to dig down under their profession of belief in God’s Word and convince them of the gut-level truth of the passage?

I believe these ladies and I were a representative sample of average, genuinely regenerated, Bible-believing Christians. But when I look out across the landscape of denominations and churches and ministries made up of average, genuinely regenerated, Bible-believing Christians, there’s a disconnect between what we say we believe – even what we’re convinced in our hearts we believe – about God, and the way we do life and church.

We’re not living out what we say we believe.

We don’t truly trust who God is, how He works, or what He has told us to do (or not to do) enough to simply take Him at His word and do things His way. And most of the time, we don’t even realize it.

We trust profession over fruit

If someone has walked the church aisle, prayed a “sinner’s prayer”, been baptized, attends an organization that calls itself a church, or simply declares herself to be a Christian, we trust that she’s truly been born again – despite the fact that she follows a myriad of false teachers, gets angry at or argues against the plain reading of God’s Word, lives as a practicing homosexual, runs her life by her own feelings, opinions, and experiences rather than obedience to Scripture, or her behavior is otherwise completely indistinguishable from that of a non-Christian. When it’s our grown children or other deeply loved ones, we cling even more desperately to the belief that “she’s saved because _____”, and she’s safe from an eternity in Hell, regardless of everything we can see in her life to the contrary.

But that is not God’s way. God’s way is that if it walks like a lost duck and quacks like a lost duck, we are to treat it like a lost duck. Yet, we don’t do that. We hide behind “Only God knows the heart,” or “Maybe she’s just backslidden or a ‘carnal Christian’,” when the Bible teaches nothing of the sort. Yes, God is the judge of whether or not someone is ultimately saved, but God has not called us to be the final arbiter of salvation. He has called us to lovingly urge sinners to repent and believe the gospel regardless of their church pedigree or claims of being a Christian. Those who repent and pursue holiness, though imperfectly, are the ones who are genuinely saved.

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:16-21

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13

Do we trust the profession faith of someone whose life screams, “LOST!” over God’s Word that teaches us that saved people bear fruit in keeping with repentance and pursue holiness?

We trust man-made solutions over
God’s prescribed methods

Nowhere is this clearer at present than in the social justice movement. Even professing Christians are dreaming up all sorts of ways to right real and perceived wrongs against sexual perversion minorities, blacks (What about other ethnic minorities?), and women. It’s only natural that the world would come up with man-made solutions to these problems, but the church is embracing the ways of the world instead of applying the ways of God.

The world’s solution to the “problem” of sexual perversion not being embraced and celebrated is to socially and legally force dissenters to comply. Financial reparations from people who never owned slaves to people who have never been slaves is the solution to racism. Replacing men in power with women in power will end sexism. Many in evangelicalism are aping these humanistic ploys by accepting the idea of “gay Christianity,” insisting on fabricated “diversity” in congregations, ministries, and denominational leadership, and allowing women to serve as pastors and in other positions of teaching or authority over men in the church.

Again, coming up with our own solutions is not God’s way. God’s way is for us to understand what is sin and what is not, and how to biblically deal with sin.

We need to trust God’s word that there’s a difference between sinfully hurting someone and hurting someone who’s sinning. Just because someone’s feelings have been hurt doesn’t mean she has been sinned against. If I call someone names or treat her unkindly because she is a homosexual or a certain ethnicity or a woman, I am sinfully hurting her. If people are hurt when I humbly, lovingly, and kindly teach what the Bible says about homosexuality or repenting for the sins of my ancestors or the biblical role of women in the church, and call to repentance those who believe and act unbiblically in these areas, they are hurt because they are sinning.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6

We also need to stop viewing sin as systemic – as though racism, “homophobia”, and sexism were living, breathing beings we need to conquer – and start trusting God’s way of holding individuals responsible for their own sins. What is God’s way for us to deal with an individual who is, according to God’s Word, sinning?

Lost sinners: We share the gospel with that person. When God raises a sinner from death in her trespasses and sins to new life in Christ, He breaks the power sin has over her and enables her, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to obey His commands. He changes her from a creature who loves sin into a new creature in Christ who hates sin. If you want someone to stop being racist, sexist, or unkind to sexual perversion minorities, plucking leaves off the weed isn’t going to do it. You need the Master Gardener to pull that pernicious plant up by the roots and plant a rose bush in its place. If we really trusted God to transform the heart of a sinner like He says He will, we’d be out there sharing the gospel with everyone we know and we would stop relying on man-made solutions to sin.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-5,10

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27

✢ Saved Sinners: When a Christian sins, we go to her in love, humility, and kindness, and gently point out what God’s Word says about her sin and her need to repent. If she doesn’t immediately repent, we continue praying for her and calling her to repentance until she proves that she loves her sin more than she loves Christ. Then we regard her as a lost person in need of salvation and preach the gospel to her (see “Lost Sinners” above).

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1

God has never asked us to brainstorm solutions to these issues. He has already laid out in the Bible how we’re to handle problems and hurt and wrongdoing. We often give lip-service to His instructions, but we don’t trust that they will “work”, because, fundamentally, we don’t trust God to do what He says He’ll do in the heart of a sinner or a Believer.

We trust our own efforts over the power of God

It’s a good thing – a godly and biblical thing – to want unsaved people to know Christ and avoid an eternity in Hell. All of us who claim the name of Christ should have this burden for the lost.

But we have to sit down and really come to grips with the fact that salvation is all of God. If a person gets saved, it ultimately does not matter what lengths you went to in order to “get her saved”. Your efforts didn’t save that person. God drew her to Himself and gave her the gift of repentance and faith in Christ. He saved her. He knows whom He will save and when and under what circumstances. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing when it comes to salvation.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” John 6:63-65

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

The vehicle God has chosen to deliver the message of salvation to the lost is the preaching of the gospel.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:14,17

We have the joy and the duty to share the gospel with the lost, but our faith should not be in our ability to share, or our method of sharing, but in the power of God working through His Word that is shared.

Every Christian I know would agree with that statement. But do we really believe it? Instead of simply presenting the gospel to people as we go about our daily lives (as the Great Commission instructs us), pastors preaching the gospel, and elders and teachers teaching the gospel, we trust in our own efforts more than we trust God’s sovereignty in salvation.

We change our church services to be “seeker sensitive,” trusting in cool music and coffee bars and skinny jeans to make Jesus appealing to haters of God. We join cultural causes – like the aforementioned social justice movement – to get the world to like us, thinking, “If we can compromise with the world just enough, we can get them to like us, and then we can introduce them to Jesus, and they’ll like Jesus too.” Wives of unsaved husbands nag-vangelize – undoubtedly out of love and concern – thinking if they just keep trying, they’ll manage to come up with the exact right combination of words at the exact right time, and their husbands will get saved. We offer a dumbed-down gospel, simplistic sinner’s prayers, mood-altering music during the altar call, urgency, scare tactics, guilt – anything, anything, anything…as long as it’s the magic formula to get them through the gates of the Kingdom.

It is wonderful and godly to have that kind of zeal for people to know Christ, but zeal becomes the sin of presumption if it leads us to trust in our own efforts to save someone – especially if those efforts conflict with Scripture or alter the gospel – rather than presenting the biblical gospel, stepping back, and trusting God do His amazing work of salvation. Do we really trust God to be able to save someone through the simple proclamation of His Word?

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:1-2

 

If we truly took God at His Word, the visible church would look very different today. We say we want to see God at work in our churches, families, and the world, but, somehow, we think we’ve got to push Him along to make that happen. We over-complicate things and get lost in the weeds of programs and movements and methods and efforts instead of opening our Bibles, believing what God says to believe, doing what God says to do, and trusting Him to do everything else – in His power, in His way, and in His time.

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