Trust

Throwback Thursday ~ In God We Don’t Trust: 3 Ways Bible-Believing Christians Don’t Trust God

Originally published September 28, 2018

“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.

Movies

Coming Attraction: “By What Standard?” A Founders Ministries Cinedoc

Dangerous ideologies like Critical Theory and Intersectionality are gaining inroads into the thinking of some leaders, churches and organizations. These ideologies are even being promoted among some evangelicals as reliable analytical tools that can assist our understandings and efforts in gospel ministry. The result is that, in the name of social justice, many unbiblical agendas are being advanced under the guise of honoring and protecting women, promoting racial reconciliation, and showing love and compassion to people experiencing sexual dysphoria. It is time for Bible-believing Christians to stand up and say to those who are promoting such agendas,

“Whose standard of justice is being followed? God’s, or this world’s?”
“To what authority are we submitting? The Holy Scriptures, or worldly ideologies?”

Have you seen these kinds of dangerous ideologies making their way into your church or denomination? Founders Ministries is developing a resource, due out this fall, that has the potential to impact thousands of churches and Christian leaders with the biblical perspective on race, intersectionality, feminism, sexuality, and social justice.

It’s a documentary movie, or “cinedoc,” called By What Standard? God’s World…God’s Rules. I’ve had the privilege of looking over the trailer for the movie for the past few days before its public release, and every time I watch it, my anticipation increases. I think this is going to be a powerful tool for churches to use to educate themselves about how to scripturally handle these mammoth issues the world is throwing at us.

You’ll hear from pastors and teachers you know and love for their fidelity to Scripture such as Tom Ascol, Josh Buice, Tom Buck, Voddie Baucham, Owen Strachan, Albert Mohler, and many more, men unafraid and unashamed to boldly proclaim the truth of God’s Word.

If you’d like, you’ll also have the opportunity to partner with Founders in making this film a reality by making a financial contribution to the project. And you can sign up for e-mail updates on how the project is going.

Are you as excited as I am? Click the link below and see the trailer for yourself! Then come back here and leave a comment with your thoughts!

Click here to watch the trailer.

Church, Obedience

Neo-Pharisaism

 

Has anyone ever called you a Pharisee? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been called that name by professing Christians from all walks of life. And let’s not try to sugar coat it, when somebody uses that term, it’s not meant as a compliment. It can be anything from rage-fueled “Christian profanity” to a well-intentioned but biblically misinformed attempt to quash perfectly scriptural words or actions  – but it’s a pejorative term, whatever the motive behind this name-calling might be.

The Bible first introduces us to the Pharisees in the gospels, during the ministry of John the Baptist, and right away, it’s clear that anybody who’s truly on God’s side of the aisle is going to have a problem with these dudes. “You brood of vipers!” is the first sentence spoken to or about the Pharisees.

But why? Why was this group of respected Jewish leaders and Bible scholars consistently painted in such a negative light by John, Jesus, and the Apostles?

Because the Pharisees were the false teachers of Jesus’ day. They were teaching the false doctrine of legalism – the idea that Jews could earn right standing with God by obeying His laws. And because they didn’t want to even come close to disobeying God’s law, they came up with their own man-made laws that were way more restrictive than God’s laws. The Pharisees required the people to obey those man-made laws and said people who broke them were sinning.

It was kind of like having a pool in your back yard with a fence around it. The pool was sin. The fence around it was God’s law. The Pharisees came along and put an additional fence around the perimeter of the property, keeping people out of the back yard altogether. Only God didn’t say we couldn’t use and enjoy the yard, He just said, “Stay out of the pool.”¹

And then Jesus arrived on the scene and put His foot down – God’s law reigns supreme, not man’s law. For those who follow God from the heart, His commands are not burdensomenot a yoke of slavery. And by burdening the people with laws God had not commanded, and setting those laws on equal footing with God’s laws, the Pharisees were the ones in sin.

But this just didn’t compute to the prideful, hypocritical, self-righteous Pharisees. They were so set in their ways and ensconced in their power and position that they doubled down on their false doctrine to the point that their self-deception led them to view simply obeying God’s law as written – nothing added, nothing taken away – as sin.

This is why we see the Pharisees losing their cotton-pickin’ minds over Jesus and the disciples plucking and eating (harvesting and threshing to the Pharisees) kernels of grain on the Sabbath, and Jesus healing (“working”) on the Sabbath, both of which – eating and doing acts of charity – were lawful.

The legalist Pharisees saw Jesus and His followers as antinomians – those who were a threat to the people of God by preaching license, disobedience, and “everybody can do what’s right in his own eyes.”

My how the pendulum has swung in the other direction.

Today what we have is antinomians calling some of Jesus’ followers Pharisees because these modern-day antinomians believe that striving to obey God’s Word as written – nothing added, nothing taken away – is legalism.

Is it wrong to label everyone an antinomian who has called a brother or sister in Christ a Pharisee? After all, antinomianism is heresy. It’s a pretty serious charge – not one that should be casually and superficially flung around. Well, so is the charge of legalism, which these folks are leveling every time they call someone a Pharisee. If they’re going to dish out charges of heresy, they ought to be man or woman enough not to cry foul when that same charge is leveled against them.

But the truth is, among average Christians, there are very few actual full-blown legalists or full-blown antinomians. As with nearly every other aspect of Christianity, there’s a spectrum of antinomianism and legalism with heresy on either end, and the majority of Christians falling somewhere in the middle. Most genuinely born again Christians hover somewhere around that sweet spot in the middle that we would call obedience to Scripture, but we all have a general fleshly tendency toward legalism or antinomianism. And furthermore, we can tend toward one or the other in various issues in our lives. There are issues in my life in which I tend toward antinomianism out of fear of man, or because I want to give in to the desires of my flesh. And, there are issues in my life in which I tend toward legalism out of pride or a lack of trust in God. We can all fall into the ditch of antinomianism or legalism depending on the circumstances and our personal weaknesses and sins.

So when I say that Christians today who call their brothers and sisters in Christ Pharisees are antinomians, I don’t mean that the vast majority of them are full-on heretics who think Christians can go out and sin as much as they want and nobody has to obey Scripture. Honestly, I’ve never even met anybody like that. I’m talking about Christians who tend toward antinomianism when it comes to the specific area of ecclesiology. What does that look like in the life of the church? Often, it takes the shape of overlooking sin instead of dealing with it biblically in order not to make waves or hurt someone’s feelings. It can also find itself in those who get on the bandwagon of the latest Christian – or worldly – fad, method, celebrity, or worldview, and chiding those who rightly deem it unbiblical. A few examples I’ve experienced or been told of:

Do you expect Christians to be at church every week unless Providentially hindered? That’s legalism. You’re a Pharisee.

Dare to speak up against false teachers? That’s legalism. You’re a Pharisee.

Think worship should be reverent and orderly rather than evangeltainment hoopla? That’s legalism. You’re a Pharisee.

Do you believe it’s sin when women preach/teach the Scriptures to men or hold unbiblical authority over men in the gathered body of Believers? That’s legalism. You’re a Pharisee.

Have you ever asked why your church doesn’t practice church discipline? That’s legalism. You’re a Pharisee.

Do you warn your friends in apostate churches of the false doctrine they’re being taught? That’s legalism. You’re a Pharisee.

But who’s really the Pharisee today? Well, just like in Jesus’ day, it’s people who might (or might not) know Scripture, but they’re not handling it correctly. Sometimes, it’s well-known Christian leaders protecting their position and power. Sometimes it’s the people in the pew who like the status quo in evangelicalism, their church, or their family just fine, thank you very much, and they don’t want you bringing the Bible in and messing everything up.

Who’s today’s Pharisee? It’s often the person calling other Christians Pharisees.

As you might expect, the legalist Pharisees of Jesus’ day had hundreds of very specific, clearly defined laws you had to obey: You could only walk so many steps on the Sabbath. You had to wash your hands in a certain manner. You probably even had to fold your underwear a specific way.

Our modern-day antinomian-leaning “neo-Pharisees” have just a few nebulous, loosely defined rules of which they, not Scripture, are the final arbiters:

  • You can’t be unloving.
  • You can’t hurt people’s feelings.
  • You can’t rock the boat.
  • Why can’t we all just get along?

And though it was relatively easy to count the number of steps you took on the Sabbath or make sure your underwear stacked up at a 90° angle so you could stay on the right side of the legalistic Pharisees’ rules and regulations, it’s much harder to tell whether or not you’re obeying the neo-Pharisees’ laws.

Their laws, though few in number, are subjective, broadly interpreted and applied, and constantly changing. Charges of being “unloving,” for example, are not supported by Scripture passages in their proper context clearly defining biblical love, but are based on the personal feelings and opinions of the person leveling the charge. A “peace, love, and harmony” definition of “unity” is frequently prized over fidelity to Scripture. What was right last month could suddenly be wrong next week because it has upset someone.

It’s not easy to hit such a fast-moving target, and practically anything you say or do (even if it’s straight from Scripture) that rubs the neo-Pharisee the wrong way is going to break one of these rules – man-made rules that they insist other Christians keep or those other Christians either aren’t saved or are sinning. So while the quality of their rules is antinomian-ish, the application of their rules is legalistic. This is fleshing itself out in dozens of different ways in evangelicalism.

Case in point: progressive Christians who have taken up the social justice cause, particularly as it relates to race. One recent example – if you don’t see whiteness (whatever that means) as wicked and something you need to renounce, you’re not being loving to people who have darker skin than yours, and you’re hurting their feelings, and you’re refusing to get along with them. So because you’re breaking these laws the neo-Pharisees have made, you’re sinning at best and not saved at worst. But what is whiteness, precisely? How can I tell whether or not I’ve fully renounced it? What if I’ve fully renounced it in the eyes of one person but not another? Who is supposed to pronounce me absolved of this so-called sin? And daring to ask any of these questions or push back against these ideas can earn you the label of Pharisee.

Another example I’m hearing more and more people say they’ve been taken to task  about is tone. For some neo-Pharisees, it doesn’t matter how gently, kindly, and patiently you state a difficult biblical truth, if it hurts someone’s feelings or rocks the boat, you’ve been unloving and said it in a harsh tone. And you’ll probably get called a Pharisee.

But who is the judge of my tone or yours? One person’s “harsh tone” is another person’s “matter of fact tone”. One person’s “loving tone” is another person’s “spineless tone”. I once wrote an article about a certain false teacher about which I was told my tone was too harsh by some and too nice by others – about the same article! We all have different personal, subjective opinions about tone. The problem is that the neo-Pharisee is elevating her opinion about what constitutes an acceptable tone to the level of Scripture. Because if you use what she thinks is the wrong tone, you’re sinning.

So what is the solution to this messy morass of legalism, antinomianism, and neo-Pharisaism we suddenly find ourselves in in evangelicalism?

The Bible.

We must become good students of the Bible so we know exactly what it says – and doesn’t say. The Bible doesn’t condemn anyone as wicked based on the shade of her skin. But it does tell me I’m to love my brothers and sisters in Christ. It tells me that God shows no partiality and I shouldn’t either. The Bible doesn’t qualify which tones of voice are harsh and which are acceptable. When it talks about speaking the truth in love, it’s talking about motivation of heart – which only I can know and only God can judge – not tone of voice. Am I motivated by love? Does the Bible say we need to be faithful to the gathering of Believers or not? Does it really say women can’t preach to men or not? Is that person actually a false teacher according to Scripture or not? We need to know Scripture, so we can rightly obey Scripture, so that no one will actually be a Pharisee.

We’ve all got to do our best to present ourselves to God “as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) When I lean too far toward legalism, I need Scripture to pull me back to that sweet spot of simple biblical obedience. When you lean too far toward antinomianism, you need the Bible to bring you back to center on diligent biblical obedience. We need to help each other, iron sharpening iron, not call each other names.

Let’s get rid of Pharisaism once and for all and simply spur one another on toward holiness and obedience to God’s Word.


Additional Resources:

Sacrificing Truth on the Altar of Tone

What Does it Mean to “Play the Pharisee Card”?

Basic Training: Obedience: 8 Ways To Stop Making Excuses and Start Obeying Scripture


¹Pool photo courtesy of Protect-A-Child Pool Fence Company
Podcast Appearances

Echo Zoe Radio Guest Appearance: Potpourri

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I recently, once again had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with my friend Andy Olson as his guest on the Echo Zoe Radio podcast.

Click here to listen in

or watch the video!

Andy and I had a great time talking about all kinds of things from social justice to complementarianism, discernment ministries, leggings, and more!

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and follow Echo Zoe on Facebook and Twitter!


Got a podcast of your own or have a podcasting friend who needs a guest? Click the “Speaking Engagements” tab at the top of this page, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat!

Trust

In God We Don’t Trust: 3 Ways Bible-Believing Christians Don’t Trust God

“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.