By Rev. Ken Silva,
Apprising Ministries, August 6, 2005
Psalm 36:1 – "An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes."
Did you know that God the Holy Spirit felt that this bit of instruction was so important that He would inspire the Apostle Paul to quote it again in Romans 3:18b? Obviously the attitude of “fearing” God is so important to the believer’s understanding of God that it needs to be reiterated. And yet the question is, does the Evangelical church actually heed the call to fear the Lord anymore?
Sadly, this is a message I never wanted to have to write. As one who loves Jesus and His Church it pains me to share this with you. But who with any amount of discernment could possibly deny that the Evangelical church has lost much of that fear of God right before our very eyes! Truly we are witnessing a “falling away” that is taking place in our midst.
Case in point is the recent issue of The Quarterly Journal, published by Personal Freedom Outreach (a leading and very much-needed counter-cult/discernment ministry), that devoted virtually the entire publication to discernment issues within the Evangelical church!
A representative sample from this publication would be the article by G. Richard Fisher "Do You Need A Faith Lift?" It’s right next to his article debunking Gregory Boyd’s latest book of heresy called Repenting Of Religion. I mention this because “Evangelical” theologian and pastor Boyd’s previous book dealt with his teaching open theism. This heretical theology says that God actually doesn’t know all future events.
Haven’t heard that one yet? Seems until we human beings exercise our “free will” each day, God doesn’t know exactly what the future will hold for us.
He doesn’t? Perhaps Boyd missed this verse of Holy Scripture – "In him [Christ] we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his [God’s] will." (Ephesians 1:11, emphasis added). I bring this up because in the aforementioned article about Faith, Fisher quotes leading Evangelical pastor Chuck Smith as teaching:
"God has a work that He desires to do, and God is simply looking for people who are in harmony with what He desires in order that He might show Himself strong on their behalf." (The Quarterly Journal, Vol. 25, NO. 3, July-September 2005, emphasis added, p.5)
Here is an example of the “falling away” in its infancy. On one page of The Quarterly Journal we read about Boyd who is clearly a proponent of open theology. Then on the adjacent page those words from Smith amazingly enough could easily have been stated by one who also holds to open theology.
So here is the contemporary Evangelical picture of our Creator that has now emerged: Poor ol’ God! He’s just waiting up there to see if any of His delightful little creatures, just might be inclined to put aside some little piece of time in their “abundant lives,” that they would possibly be willing, to maybe – if it’s not too much trouble for them – even consider acquiescing to Him, and get “in harmony” so that they would perhaps help their “Lord” with some annoying menial task He is trying to accomplish amidst their “worshipping” Him, so that “He might show Himself strong on their behalf.”
Can you see the problem yet? The Church – which by definition is “all those who are called out of the world to worship God through Christ” – is now bending so far over backward to please that world – that our message has actually gone from Theocentric (centered on God) to anthropocentric (centered on man), and as such, is now exactly opposite from the message of the Bible.
This lunacy has got to stop! The time has arrived where those of us who truly love our Lord and our fellow man must begin to take an honest look at something which is so sadly lacking in the true Church of Christ today – even within the Evangelical camp – that it is nearly unforgivable. What is so appallingly absent would be our own esteem for the dreadful and awesome majesty of the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and completely sovereign Yahweh El Shaddai – the LORD God Almighty as revealed in Holy Scripture.
In his book The Holiness of God, which I highly recommend, noted Christian theologian Dr. R.C. Sproul writes:
"If God is the Creator of the entire universe, then it must follow that He is the Lord of the whole universe. There is no part of the world that is outside of His Lordship. That means there must be no part of my life that is outside of His Lordship. His Holy character has something to say about economics, politics, athletics, romance - everything that we are involved with."
This is a concept that has been completely lost within our society, which as a result has ended up perverting what it really means to be independent. The Bible says - "Fear the LORD your God, serve him only" (Deut. 6:13) and "Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD." (Ps. 34:11) Dr. John W. Baigent offers this comment on the phrase “the fear of the Lord: [it is] that way of life which springs from a reverent acknowledgement of the holiness of God.” (New International Bible Commentary, p.579, emphasis added)
He then refers the reader to the following verse of Holy Scripture – "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge." (Prov. 1:7) A little background study into the word “fear,” the Hebrew word yare, will reveal that it means, “to be afraid” [and] “to stand in awe” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, p.79). In this latter sense to “fear the Lord” is to stand in awe – fear – as in reverence.
However there is another aspect of this word yare as in “to be afraid” of. You need to understand that if you personally do not have a saving relationship with the Lord God Almighty, by His grace alone – through faith alone – in Christ alone – then you do have much to fear. Fear as in “be afraid; be very afraid. The Apostle Matthew quotes Jesus of Nazareth as saying – "be afraid of the One – [Almighty God] – who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28b, emphasis added) And, it must never be forgotten, that Matthew is personally standing right there as the Master speaks.
And not only that, but the Bible has a very stern warning for all those who persist in their self-ish – sinful ways. "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God... It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:26-27,31) While it is true people do not like to think of God this way, it must be noted that, ignorance of any subject will never change the facts that surround that particular subject.
Here’s a quick synopsis of how we came to live in this age that has critically obscured our reverent fear of Almighty God. Satan finally succeeded in raising up what Dr. Walter Martin, who was widely recognized as the “father of modern cult apologetics,” called the Cult of Liberal Theology. And in an onslaught against the Body of Christ beginning just after the first World War the Devil started playing the heartstrings of mankind’s selfish sinful nature like a master violinist. A veritable symphony of tepid indifference and tolerance, which continues to serve the purpose of amusing the enemy of men’s souls, to this very day.
Satan’s puppets, his counterfeit prophets and false teachers, began to fill the pulpits of our nation to begin to make it seem as if the majestic and Holy God of the Bible Yahweh Elohim was more and more like man. The great and awesome I AM Who once told Moses – "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground" (see-Exodus 3:5) has been ever so gradually transformed into what evangelist Leonard Ravenhill once called “the mush God.”
You’ve all heard of him/her. The innocuous – bland and nonjudgmental “god of love” that all religions supposedly lead to eventually, because mankind is just so wonderful that he/she truly couldn’t possibly bear to part with any of us delightful little creatures. This halfhearted and lukewarm mush god of this age of Laodicea is the one invoked before public functions when some “minister” begins to pray: “O God of our fathers in yonder heaven; in your providence, show us Thy tender mercies – ‘bless our mess’....”
As we begin to trace this nonexistent mush god’s lineage back we find men like Harry Emerson Fosdick who popularized liberal theology; Norman Vincent Peale, known as the father of positive thinking, and Robert Schuller, the heretic of that colossal waste of money called the Crystal Cathedral, which he built to himself. That veritable shrine to the overt self-ishness and opulence of mankind that even rivals the Vatican City itself.
In his book Hard To Believe, Dr. John MacArthur talks about the exasperating influx into the Church of “psychologically man-centered evangelicals” (p.3). He says:
"It’s interesting how this trend has come into the church. I’ve been around long enough to have seen it arrive. It blossomed, I think, most pointedly through the effort of…[the] religious personality Robert Schuller and a book he wrote a number of years ago called Self-Esteem: The New Reformation… It was an effort to replace the biblical gospel with a new gospel. And it worked.
"In that book, Robert Schuller attacked the Protestant Reformation. Calling for a new reformation he wrote: “It is precisely at this point that classical theology has erred in its insistence that theology be ‘God-centered’ and not ‘man-centered.’” So, according to Schuller, the first thing we have to do is put an end to classical, God-centered theology and replace it with man-centered theology.” (ibid., emphasis added)
Have you ever heard anything so foolish? By its very definition the word theology means “the study of God.” MacArthur goes on:
"To define man-centered theology (an oxymoron), [Schuller] wrote further, 'This master plan of God is designed around the deepest needs of human beings - self-dignity, self-respect, self-worth, self-esteem.” (ibid., emphasis added)
This sounds like self-ishness to me. Dr. MacArthur is right when he says:
"For Schuller, the pearl of great price is self-respect and self-esteem. He went on to say, 'Success is to be defined as the gift of self-esteem that God gives us as a reward for our sacrificial service in building self-esteem in others. Win or lose: If we follow God’s plan as faithfully as we can, we will feel good about ourselves.'” (ibid., p.4, emphasis added)
Is that what God really wants for us? To make ourselves feel good in our sin; to become complacent in our walk with Jesus, and to just stay in the “playpen” of Christianity our whole lives? Doesn’t anyone lament the pathetic weakness of our Christian witness today, where our words simply end up bouncing off arrogant sinners like the proverbial b-b’s off a brick wall? Doesn’t anyone weep anymore for the millions whose final destination will be eternal torment in a literal place that Jesus Christ of Nazareth Himself called Hell?
We are now about to uncover the real reason that we are in the quagmire of sin in which we find ourselves here in 21st century America. As stated previously, it is because the Evangelical church itself has all but surrendered the awesome majesty and holiness of the Lord God Almighty for a god of mush.... And if you wish to understand these times in which we live, then you must first come to recognize this incontrovertible fact.
This kind of unpalatable rubbish from Schuller we have just looked at, pure uncut skubalon, has even infiltrated the Evangelical community through his devotee Rick Warren and the so-called Purpose-Driven Church. Point of fact, it would truthfully be more proper to call it the Pragmatic Church. This fatally flawed view of mankind’s true nature is in reality the root reason why we see such a lack of reverence for God that we have become systematically indoctrinated into accepting in our generation. However, it is abundantly clear that you sure won’t find a mandate for this kind of “theology” in Holy Scripture.
And sadly, indeed there undoubtedly was a “new reformation” – a new descent into the metaphysical cults of the New Age Movement and the Mind Sciences. As MacArthur further points out in Hard To Believe:
"In this new reformation of self-esteem, the first thing required is to pull God down from His supremely elevated place so you can then lift yourself up, replacing God-exalting theology with man-exalting self-esteem psychology. [And] to pull this off requires altering and misinterpreting the Bible and the gospel for the grand purpose of making people feel better about themselves, so they can fulfill their dreams and realize their visions." (ibid., emphasis added)
But here is what the Bible actually says about God – "But He is unique, and who can make Him change? And whatever His soul desires, that He does. For He performs what is appointed for me." (Job 23:13-14) The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths." (Psalm 135:6) And, "There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand." (Proverbs 19:21)
Men and women – we must never forget that this is God’s world and we are only His guests – whether we like it or not. This is not Alice In Wonderland and you can’t just hold your breath until you get your way! Holy Scripture further informs us – "In [Christ] we also were made [God's] heritage (portion) and we obtained an inheritance; for we had been foreordained (chosen and appointed beforehand) in accordance with His purpose, Who works out everything in agreement with the counsel and design of His [own] will." (Ephesians 1:11, Amplified Bible).
Let me share one last bit of insight from Hard To Believe. MacArthur tells you why this putrid self-esteem psychology is so damning to men‘s eternal souls:
"Maybe the most amazing statement in Self-Esteem: The New Reformation is the following: 'Once a person believes he is an ‘unworthy sinner,’ it is doubtful [says Schuller] – if he can really honestly accept the saving grace God offers in Jesus Christ.' So, if you want to be saved, according to this new gospel you cannot believe yourself to be an unworthy sinner.
"How twisted is that? How contrary to the truth is that? But it is just this sort of man-centered, self-esteem gospel that eventually became the seeker sensitive movement, which has hijacked so many churches. It’s kind of a quasi-Christian narcissism, or self-love, that is characteristic of false teachers: according to 2 Timothy 3, which reminds us, “Dangerous times will come, for men will be lovers of themselves.” (see 2 Tim. 3:1-2) (ibid., emphasis added)
G. Richard Fisher, whom I mentioned before, further develops this for us as he writes:
"...in his excellent and perceptive book, The Biblical View Of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, Self-Image, Dr. Jay Adams points out that: 'The self-love movement that was begun by humanistic psychologists has already had a significant impact on the church. ... You cannot simply ‘add’ the insights of this new teaching to your set of existing Christian beliefs; if you add them, you must modify or subtract many of the beliefs you already hold. ... You are choosing between two divergent views of man, his problem, and how to solve it.'” (http://www.pfo.org/jakes.html, emphasis added)
Then Fisher further points out the fact that Jesus, in John 17:17, did not say, "Sanctify them by building up their self image," but rather "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (ibid., emphasis added).
Can you see it now? This is the only way so much nonsense and rubbish has found its way into the Evangelical community. For the only manner by which we could have come to embrace surreptitious teachings that elevate men’s books of “tradition” (i.e. Evangelical-ism) to equality with the Bible – thereby subtracting from Christ’s Gospel – is to follow the sinful pride of the unbelieving human heart as it has been so masterfully played by the Devil through mankind’s innate penchant for the worshipping of self.
And in fact, it is indeed from this very same polluted stream of the occult – the Mind Sciences – and the New Age Movement – that the insidious cult of the Word Faith Movement draws its own brand of spiritual poison. Perfidiously luring the undiscerning in with their own simple message of self-esteem, which is then lightly sprayed with a shiny veneer of Christian terminology in an attempt to pass it off to the unsuspecting and largely indiscriminate masses as “biblical.”
That is – until its ultimate source is finally revealed through brazen heretics who strut across stages in huge “churches” spitting out the vilest of blasphemies – such as this from Benny Hinn:
"Then [William Branham] said… The Lord did not say to 'ask,' He said command Me. And this is what Branham did. God promised it and the evangelist commanded [God] to do it… You can tell God what you want. You just express [the force of] your faith in what you want. … You can tell God what you want.” (G. Richard Fisher and M. Kurt Goedelman, The Confusing World of Benny Hinn, p.156, emphasis added)
Can you imagine this kind of arrogance and unmitigated gall emanating from the mouth of Moses! Or how about coming from the Apostle Paul? And just for your information William Branham, of whom Benny Hinn spoke so highly, actually denied the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and was:
"...a poorly educated man [who] had no formal Bible education. His ministry [as the supposed prophet of the end time] was proclaimed with alleged supernatural manifestations and empowered by a spirit being." (http://www.watchman.org/profile/branpro.htm)
Branham also taught that Eve’s sin was becoming pregnant by Satan himself. So I’m guessing that this wasn’t really revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. One is left to wonder whose “end time prophet” was he really?
I have news for irreverent heretics and proud blasphemers such as the likes of Kenneth Copeland – Joyce Meyer – T.D. Jakes – and Joel Osteen – the latest hero of lukewarm syrupy sweet self-centered hogwash that tries to pass itself off as biblical. Here is what God’s infallible – inerrant Word really says:
"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction." (Galatians 6:7-8a)
No, Christ’s Church doesn’t need to be deceived by these man-centered puppets as they dance for their father the Devil. As these are the false prophets and false teachers whom God the Holy Spirit had already warned us would come –
"The time will come when people will not listen to the truth. They will look for teachers who will tell them only what they want to hear...." (2 Timothy 4:3)
Is that previous warning we received from our Lord through His Apostle Paul not enough to convince you? How about Peter? Will he do?
"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping." (2 Peter 2:1-3)
When you get the chance, read the rest of that chapter. But let me caution you; you certainly will not find any self-esteem promoting Tweety Bird of a mush god there. No, here in the pages of Holy Scripture, you will find the dreadful and awesome – majestic and glorious – I AM – Yahweh Elohim – the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. And lest we forget, Christ Jesus of Nazareth Himself, as quoted by the eyewitness John son of Zebedee said:
“I tell you the truth,…before Abraham was born, I AM!” – “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I AM – [Yahweh Elohim in human flesh] – you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:58; 8:24)
Permit me to share with you what God feels about all the compromise, arrogance, and greed within His beloved Church in this era. And I certainly do not need any “revelation knowledge” to do it, as His view is found right within the very pages of the Bible itself. In the Gospel of St. Mark, we will find the Apostle Peter’s recollection of a particular event that I wish to bring to your attention. And as you may also remember that Mark was Peter’s close associate.
I’m also going to combine John’s account with this one here in Mark so we will be able to get the full picture. Mark 11:15 – "On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there." John tells us that – "He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves..." (John 2:14) "and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts." (Mark 11:16)
Then John informs us Jesus – "made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables." (John 2:15). To those who sold doves he said, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (John 2:16)
"And as he taught them, he said, 'Is it not written: ' My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.' The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching." (Mark 11:17-18)
The Apostle John will now give us the clincher – His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:18). Do you see it now? “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Jesus was angry at what was going on in His Father’s House – compromise – arrogance – and greed.
And this is the current state of our Lord’s Church right now in America:
COMPROMISE – enter Robert Schuller: "This master plan of God is designed around the deepest needs of human beings – self-dignity, self-respect, self-worth, self-esteem."
ARROGANCE – here is Kenneth Copeland: "When I read in the Bible where He (Jesus) says, 'I AM,' I say, 'Yes, I am too!” (http://www.watchman.org/reltop/unbiblcl.htm). Did you know that Copeland even taught that it was possible that even he could have atoned for the sins of mankind? Now that’s the height arrogance!
GREED – you may insert any one of hundreds of “ministers” here: “For your donation of $50 – or more – I’ll send you some little trinket or bauble worth less than 1/5 of that price!” Have you been to a “Christian” bookstore lately and seen those prices? Well, the time has arrived to throw these “pirates” out of God’s House as well – once and for all!
If you listen to the preaching of any of the Lord’s true voices who are filled with His Holy Spirit you will hear – "What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God....Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord." (2 Cor. 6:16a-17) I’d like to ask you what possible motive could I have to teach like this other than – “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
As Paul once asked – "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ ." (Galatians 1:10) Am I gaining riches? Am I after a huge following by telling people only what they want to hear? Am I trying to exploit you with stories [I] have made up?
God’s true spokesmen have always defended His Name, and His glory, just as Jesus did when He threw those other pirates out of His Father’s Temple. Listen to what the Holy Spirit says to the “purpose-driven” pragmatic Church Growth Movement –
"When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand,
To trample My courts?
Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me.
The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.
Your... appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you;
Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear." (Isaiah 1:12-15)
The Scripture also says – "there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain." (Titus 1:10-11) And –
"In the very same way, these dreamers... reject authority and slander celestial beings... these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; ...They have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; ...These men are blemishes... who feed only themselves... They boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage... These are the men who divide you." (Jude 8,10-12,16,19)
In his book The Other Side Of The Good News, Dr. Larry Dixon also points out that:
"Robert Schuller says he hasn’t preached on hell for 40 years. Schuller says he wants his theology to 'emphasize that we’re ‘saved’ not just to avoid ‘hell’ (whatever that means and whatever that is), but [we’re saved] to become positive thinkers inspired to think God’s will for our lives and [to] dream the divine dreams that God has planned for us.” (p.20, emphasis added)
Hmm – Revelation 3:16 comes to mind. By the way, Dr. Dixon was quoting from Schuller’s book My Journey, which he wrote in 2001. Can you imagine?
“Imagine there’s no heaven; it’s easy if you try. No hell below us – above us only sky.” (from "Imagine,"John Lennon)
Sound familiar? Can you imagine Robert Schuller, this so-called “minister” of the Gospel, sharing teachings that have far more in common with the secular humanist philosophy of John Lennon of the Beatles than they do with the theology of Jesus Christ of the Bible.
But Christ Himself said – "I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him." (Luke 12:5, emphasis added) God desires His true children to defend His Name and to exalt Him once again to His rightful place of glory over all the earth!
Now listen to one of the Lord’s true voices, His prophet Isaiah – "I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple… 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.'” (Isaiah 6:1,3b)
The great preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards, author of the classic sermon "Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God," was right when he said: the reason we find the [idea of God’s holiness and] hell so offensive is because of insensitivity to sin; we simply don’t hate sin as God hates it ."(Dixon, p.196, emphasis added)
Herein lies the reason that so few Evangelical Christians are willing to take a stand against the ill-conceived worldly ideas of C. Peter Wagner, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren, who has even resorted to using secular business models as part of his church growth strategy. However, we must acknowledge the historical truth that the more professing Christians lower the standards of biblical holiness to please the carnal and unregenerate man, the more the Holy Spirit pulls away from a church, which always leads to a deficient view of God’s fearful and awesome majesty.
The resulting lack of fear and reverence before Almighty God, and desensitization to sin, is exactly why more and more Protestant Evangelicals are succumbing to a fear of popery, and are instead trying to embrace the Church of Rome once again. And, this is also the very same reason why so many Christians are too afraid to publicly condemn the utter excess and blasphemy of the Copelands and the Crouches and the Hinns of the Word-Faith Movement.
We need to listen to the Voice of God the Holy Spirit, as He attempts to warn us that fear of man will always prove to be a deadly trap. The Bible says - "The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be kept safe." (Proverbs 29:25) We praise our precious Lord Jesus, Who is rallying His remnant, who will be able to say that we have been warned to prepare for the coming wrath of our holy God against these sins.
As it has been well stated elsewhere – “He who wants to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come into conflict with it.” What you must understand is that no one really likes to be critical, but when something is dragged into the Lord’s Church that doesn’t belong there, the Christian is required to confront it. So I am in fact going over this for the sake of unity in the Body of Christ.
The real truth about those detractors who would have the insolence to attempt to plant contention in our Lord’s Church from the outside – the ones who are actually causing division – is found here in Scripture:
"For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." (Jude 4)
Regardless of the prevailing philosophy of the culture one finds themselves in, the Bible clearly says that a true minister of God – "must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine." (Titus 2:1) In fact, the pastor is to – "Command and teach these things" (1 Timothy 4:11), to then faithfully – "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage –with great patience and careful instruction." (2 Timothy 4:2) And, we must also – "Watch [our] life and doctrine closely" (v.16).
From my heart I must tell you, as an example, what has bothered me all along about the Southern Baptist way of doing things, and that is, what I see as an apparent lack of commitment to commanding and teaching from the pulpit. I decided long ago that I would make the commitment to Jesus, and that I would properly teach His people, regardless of “the way it’s always been done” in Southern Baptist circles. Most of the preaching I have heard there is simply the same message over and over and over – Christ Jesus died on the cross for our sins.
Of course this is absolutely true. But whoever said that He didn’t? Most certainly this is the very heart of the Gospel message, and should always be preached boldly. However, in times like these – especially with such rampant compromise and full-blown apostasy growing so rapidly within Evangelicalism – we will need to adhere to the following admonition. And, many of my Southern Baptist brothers should also take heed, and begin to lead their flocks out of that playpen of the Christian faith. For this is what the Lord says:
"Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity" (Hebrews 5:13-14 and 6:1).
Undoubtedly one of the most important things we are to do as the Church of the Master is to teach other Christians how to reach people for Jesus in the world in which they find themselves. As this is a critical part of the very reason that God leaves us on the earth after we are adopted into His family. We are undeniably left here to be witnesses for our precious Lord – Jesus Christ of Nazareth – to everyone that He brings us into contact with.
Men and women – the time has now come where will we need to recapture this within our hearts. God has chosen to use us to preach His Word to our fellow man. As the Scripture says:
"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:14-15a)
Those with eyes to see know that our Lord’s Church in this country is not exactly the most militant bunch you could ever find. Certainly, we must realize that our awesome God really doesn’t need us to deal with people. No doubt He could do this all by Himself, but He has chosen to use us instead. And, the reason is fairly well revealed in this Scripture – but we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (2 Corinthians 4:7)
However, for too long now the Christian Church has been preaching the Gospel without His all-surpassing power and that’s why rekindling our relationship with God the Holy Spirit is so important to His work in this postmodern world. Please believe me; if we as His true children continue upon this path He has placed us on, and if we as Christ’s Body continue to devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer, then Jesus is once again going to rest His power upon us. Can you see now why a bold stance against the destructive philosophies which lead to license in the seeker-sensitive mega-churches is so imperative for us?
It is critical for you to realize just how far away the Body of Christ in America currently finds itself from what true godliness actually is. As we ask the Lord to forgive us for our sin of complacency we will have to go back and examine for ourselves what the Bible itself says about salvation and what it means to be a Christian. And we will have to honestly admit that way too much of what the Evangelical church is now teaching concerning how a person is saved from the wrath of God... is in reality nothing but the wishful musings of mere men, and as such, can never lead to the changed life of the true Christian.
What is important to realize here is that it doesn’t matter one iota what the individual person may personally believe. For no matter what the intentions of the Bill Hybels and the Rick Warrens might have been – as honorable as they probably were – the absolute truth remains that the “user-friendly” churches undoubtedly end up adulterating Christ’s glorious Gospel, a fact that is quite clearly unmistakable to those who have eyes to see.
Before it’s too late, the Evangelical church must begin to reexamine the proper methods of church growth, and we must firmly address this issue of “self-esteem,” which is such a prevalent theme now in the defective “purpose-driven” presentation of the Gospel. The gross perversion of the subject of mankind’s worth, finds its root in our own lack of reverence for God Himself. How many times do you hear someone say – “Well, if I was God.” I must tell you, in all honesty, this is perhaps the most ridiculous statement a human being could ever make – “if I was God.”
Let’s take a moment to think this through: God is a self-existent Being of pure spirit Who spoke into being a universe of such immense proportions, that it is beyond our capacity to even measure it. We are speaking here of an all powerful Being Who is simultaneously sustaining this same universe – Who is everywhere present within it – and Who is also Personally involved in every event with every creature in the entire universe. I’m sorry, what was that you said? “If I were God…”
The other problem we will run into today is a severe twisting of this idea that mankind supposedly has a “free will.” Sorry about that – only two human beings in the history of mankind ever had a free will. They would be Mr. Adam and Mrs. Eve. And they handed mankind’s free will away when they chose to disobey God in the first place. After that occurred, the great Reformer of the Church, Dr. Martin Luther, was exactly right in his book Bondage of the Will – mankind does not have a free will. He is either a slave sold under sin, or he is a redeemed slave of Jesus Christ. And a slave - by definition - does not have any freedom.
Please follow this through, for the LORD God said – “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.” (Genesis 8:21) We need also to remember that this was spoken after the Flood. And here we have one of the clearest statements God the Holy Spirit gives us concerning the true condition of mankind’s sinful nature.
Now you can understand what the Apostle Paul is saying – "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin" (Romans 6:6) – and – "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature (the Greek is flesh). For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out." (Romans 7:18)
And then God further informs us – "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, emphasis added)
Thus mankind’s true state in this cursed creation – according to what the text of Holy Scripture says – is in fact, quite clear. As the Bible shows beyond question that: One is either a slave to sin in his own flesh, and fodder for Satan – or – he has surrendered himself to Christ Jesus of Nazareth and, as such, now belongs to Him. According to the Bible, there simply is no third position.
The truth is, the time has arrived where Evangelical ministers and pastors must once and for all leave behind this humanistic “self-esteem” psycho-babble which has crept into our Lord’s Church. We must start teaching the whole truth once again, a central part of which is that apart from Christ, we simply are not those delightful little creatures we human beings would like to think we are.
For here is what the Master Himself had to say about mankind – "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him." (Matthew 7:11, emphasis added) Do you see the incredible disparity here? Jesus of Nazareth says – though you are evil. Guess our Lord didn’t agree with Schuller’s assessment that mankind is saved “to become positive thinkers.”
The Apostle Paul also tells us in Romans chapter 8 that without the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, our basic nature is self-ishness, as our minds are set on the “flesh” – the “carnal” – set upon ourselves and what we want. The Scripture says – the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s Law, nor can it do so." (Romans 8:7, emphasis added)
In commenting on this verse the great Church Reformer and theologian Dr. John Calvin put it this way:
"...the will of man is in all things opposed to [God’s] will; for, as much as what is crooked differs from what is straight, so much must be the difference between us and God." (emphasis added)
Now here is some more truth in regard to mankind’s true unregenerate nature. Listen to what else Jesus tells us about our sinful human state –
"For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside." (Mark 7:21-23, emphasis added)
And yet, despite what Jesus just said, those fools who persist in teaching Word Faith theology still continue to tell us these things are caused by demons. Perhaps these “anointed of God” might ask Him for the desire to actually read His Word in context. Before you become so officious with your teachings about God, it would be a really good idea to actually know what He has said.
You should now be able to see though, that our unregenerate sinful human nature is really not free at all, is it? And, in order to truly appreciate the mercy and grace of our loving God toward mankind, we must first recognize what we really are. For as Christ Jesus undoubtedly teaches us in Holy Scripture, rather than in any way being worthy of God’s gift of salvation, the truth is that we are actually creatures of evil who are in rebellion against our Creator. Which, I might add, is exactly Who the Bible reveals Jesus of Nazareth Himself to in fact be.
It is time for us to humble ourselves in obedient agreement with God the Holy Spirit, and finally acknowledge that our human nature is exactly what our Lord says it is. And here is the Apostle Paul once again –
"The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God... I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature... What a wretched man I am!" (Romans 8:6-8, 7:18, 24, emphasis added).
Not exactly your proto-typical postmodern Evangelical self-esteem teaching here, is it? O yes – we are all too willing to defend the so-called “honor and dignity” of man! But who among us is as ready to defend God’s honor and to protect the glory that is due to Christ alone for His coming to save us in the first place? Do you see the huge dichotomy here?
Don’t you remember the Bible says – "For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" (Romans 5:10) There is nothing here that says that man is inherently worthy and then God saves someone through their free will. No, in fact, it is really quite the opposite - "when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him."
The great Bible expositor Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse gives us the benefit of his insight from his classic commentary set on the book of Romans –
"The simple noun 'enemy'… comes from the Latin, inimicus. The Oxford English Dictionary carries a whole section of illustrations of the word 'enemy'used in connection with Satan as the archenemy, the great enemy, the enemy of mankind, or simply the enemy. But the primary definition is that of a hostile person who cherishes hatred, who wishes or seeks to do ill to another. The Anglo-Saxon word for 'enemy' has given us 'foe.' The Latin word for 'enemy' has given us 'foe.' The Latin word for 'enemy' has given us 'hostile.' The common German noun for 'enemy'has given us the word 'fiend.'
“The Greek word in the New Testament to describe us as enemies of God carries all these ideas and implications. Strange that mankind should bear malice toward a kind and beneficent Creator, but that is the heart of the of the doctrine here set forth. The original word is often used passively for hatred, odious, or hateful; but in its active form, as in our text it expresses the conscious hostility of one who hates or opposes another.” (Romans, Vol. 2, Chapter XXV, p.191)
So you see, that amazingly enough the above Scripture does not teach us that God considers us as His enemies. O no, the truth is, it is actually us who consider God, our loving Creator – Who has nothing but our good in mind – rather it is unregenerate mankind who considers God as our enemy!
For those willing to embrace what the Lord has revealed in Scripture about our true state before our Holy God, we need to help others to see the real questions they should be asking themselves: How can a man, who is under the just condemnation of a perfect God and deserving the penalty of death, possibly hope to be made righteous before Him? And, is there anything we can do to make ourselves worthy of Heaven? The Bible shows us in no uncertain terms that we must answer both of these questions categorically – absolutely not!
And this is precisely the problem with Schuller "disciple" Rick Warren’s “purpose-driven” ideas. In his skewed understanding of mankind’s true nature – anything but worthy of dignity and respect – his “theology” essentially ends up advocating putting a little band-aid over the most gaping of wounds. Until we come to understand the majesty and mercy of God – saving us in spite of our hating Him – we can never truly understand just how loving the LORD God Almighty of biblical revelation actually is!
Which is exactly why a true comprehension of justification is so crucial to a correct presentation of the Gospel. You must come to see that if you have this cardinal doctrine of the historic orthodox Christian Church wrong – then you are still on your way to Hell. Quite obviously this is not a small matter, nor is it simply some little side debate among theologians – quite adept at the art of splitting a hair down to its fine micro-particles. No, for this is the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and, it is the very reason He came into the world in the first place. And, as such then, this is what a true Gospel message must be about.
O yes, we all know this verse – "For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) However – “the rest of the story,” as the noted radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say, is found as we read the next two verses
"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the Name of God’s One and Only Son."
As anyone can plainly see, the unbeliever is already condemned to spiritual death in Hell. Now here is verse 36 of that same chapter, where our Lord’s cousin John the Baptist informs us that – "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him." This is what Dr. Larry Dixon is referring to as “the other side of the Good News” in his aforementioned book. The Christian is required by our Lord to tell people this truth: No amount of “smoke and mirrors,” not even the driving of purposeful pragmatic concepts into your philosophy of church growth – no matter how well-meaning they might be – can ever change this reality.
This situation described in verses 17 and 18 of the Gospel of John cited above, which by the way, were spoken by Jesus of Nazareth Himself, tells us that mankind is hopelessly doomed apart from Christ. You need to know that unless you have been born again by placing your complete trust in the Lord through personal faith, you are condemned already for God’s wrath remains on you, as can clearly be seen in John 3:36.
And this is where the true picture of self-esteem begins in the actual biblical view of mankind. Which is why the Apostle Paul now makes the definitive statement – "What a wretched man I am!" Then, he is ready to ask the pertinent question – "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" And only now is he ready to share the Good News – "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (see- Romans 7:24-25)
Until we can get the unbeliever to see that their true nature – totally corrupt, degenerate and sinful, and without any power whatever to change on their own – they will never be able to respond to the Good News that Christ Jesus died in place of them. And then, as one places their complete trust in Him alone for their salvation – God the Holy Spirit crucifies their old nature – and creates a new one in them. This is what the Church means by regeneration – being “born again.” It is a literal event. And this entire process depends on Him in the first place. (see- John 16:7-9)
The Apostle Paul reminds us of the absolute truth that remains – "how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him." (Hebrews 2:3) And this great salvation is far more involved than: “Isn’t it cool! God loves you and He’s just waiting to help you to fulfill your purpose!”
As you should be able to see by now this user-friendly/deficient presentation of the seeker-sensitive evangel (which wrongly assumes they are seeking in the first place) is diametrically opposed to the actual Gospel message proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth –
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23) ... and "anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:38)
In other words – Christ Jesus of Nazareth would have you know that “the Christian faith is not about you - it’s about Me!”
Now you might ask: Wait a minute. You know, all this sounds pretty clear, how can anyone possibly misunderstand that? Well, trust me they do. Keeping all of this in mind though – one should now be able to see that if we in the Body of Christ are to have any impact for our Lord within American culture – we will first have to recapture the true vision of the absolute holiness and sovereignty of Almighty God for ourselves.
Chris Carmichael speaks the truth in his Mission Statement here at Christian Unplugged when he says:
"It is our belief, therefore, that professing Christians must 'unplug' themselves from these postmodern influences of relativism, pluralism and ecumenism, and return to the biblical model of faith. We advocate a return to spiritual discernment that only comes by God's grace through a thorough interaction with the Truth of God's Word. We must study, reflect upon, and understand the theology it represents and the doctrines it teaches; and we should ground this noble pursuit on the confession that God, through His divine power, 'has granted to us EVERYTHING pertaining to LIFE and GODLINESS, through the true knowledge' of Christ." (2 Peter 1:3) (http://www.christianunplugged.com/mission.htm, caps in original)
Let me close out this discussion now concerning the rapidly accelerating apostasy within the Evangelical church with these telling words from A.W. Tozer. And as I do, I ask you to consider, if you will, that Tozer is preaching this sermon in the mid-1950’s. I’d also like to ask you to carefully reflect on something else as well as you read. Do you really think that the universal Church of our Lord Jesus Christ here in America is stronger now than it was then?
You must also ask yourself do you really think that in this generation we are seeing the radically changed lives of Christians that we read about in the New Testament, and we have witnessed down through the ages in Church history? And are we Christians turning the world upside down? Or, have we in fact become even more worldly since then?
Tozer put his finger right on the problem, in his comments about the so-called “new” pragmatic methods of preaching the Gospel, which were just becoming popular back in his day. For truly this weak-willed compromise of biblical righteousness within the Church Growth Movement is not really new at all. Through the eyes of a prophet, Tozer could see the Willow Creeks and the Saddlebacks and the Lakewoods coming, and in his inimitable style he said:
"The old cross [killed] men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it. The old cross brought tears and blood; the new cross brings laughter. The flesh, smiling and confident, preaches and sings about the [old] cross; before that cross it bows and toward that cross it points with carefully staged histrionics – but upon that cross it will not die, and the reproach of that cross it stubbornly refuses to bear.
"I well know how many smooth arguments can be marshaled in support of the new cross. Does not the new cross win converts and make many followers and so carry the advantage of numerical success? Should we not adjust ourselves to the changing times? Have we not heard the slogan ‘New days, new ways?’ And who but someone very old and very conservative would insist upon death as the appointed way to life? And who today is interested in a gloomy mysticism that would sentence its flesh to a cross and recommend self-effacing humility as a virtue actually to be practiced [even] by modern Christians? These are the arguments, along with many more flippant still, which are brought forward to give an appearance of wisdom to the hollow and meaningless cross of popular Christianity." (Tozer On Christian Leadership, July 22, emphasis added)
Copyright © 2005 by Ken Silva. All rights reserved.
Next in this series: Why Fear Reveals Love
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