---War on the gospel---
In our modern day (ambiguous term I know), we find a church that looks... well... vibrant. In fact, its been difficult for me to access any churchs website and not see this adjective pasted as the first statement you read, Such & such church is a VIBRANT, contemporary church, they read, and I feel deeply that this is all too true.
Programs litter their menu panel: they want their folk to get involved and this becomes the catch cry of the modern evangelical church. Get involved in a life group, get involved in the music team, get involved in the social activities; things ranging from yoga to line dancing. Just get involved is their 1st commandment. And so get involved is exactly what one does. We are told that the meaning of Christianity is an enriched life, much enhanced by community and Doing Life Together.
Sounds great, huh? I mean, what else would you ever want? The average persons mundane existence that they are plodding through day to day, is lacking something. And its this something that the modern church claims to have the answer for. Its a hole in the heart that can only be filled with Jesus, thus its a Jesus-shaped hole in our heart. Get along to one of these fine establishments and enjoy a sense of belonging and appreciation from likeminded people, who will share with us lifes journey.
Well, to be quite honest, it doesnt sound great. In fact it makes me feel ill. Sure, doing life, enjoying community and life enhancement all sound fantastic, hence why these churches are filling up fast enough to make progress graphs spike with glee. I just feel that I want to ask, Isnt there actually something missing with this picture?
Doesnt anyone else feel like this? I have tasted this kind of Christianity most of my regenerate life and consumed it well, like a good little boy taking my medicine. I realised this isnt actually going to fix my deepest problem, Yay, my greatest need.
And I feel like my deepest problem and greatest need isnt specific to me, but its the same thing the whole world over is suffering from.
Maybe its a good time to turn in our bible to Ephesians chapter 2:1-3
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.
Hmm, I think there is something this text is diagnosing in the heart of everything that is human, that might be closer to the truth of the real issue facing us all.
I'm told by the modern church that:
o I'm lost,
o I'm misguided,
o Ive followed a less-than-helpful path
o I'm broken,
o I've made mistakes,
o I m just a stray child of God,
This passage tells me:
o I'm dead,
o Ive followed the curse of this world ,
o Ive followed the devil
o I'm disobedient,
o I lived in the passions of my flesh
o I'm, by nature, a child of wrath,
Is there not an obvious difference between these two messages? And I know by this passage that its not just me suffering from the latter of the two lists ailments, because the final words of the passage are clear, like the rest of mankind. So why is there a discrepancy, I feel to ask?
Well the average reader at this point just might want to state that the modern church isnt totally incorrect in its diagnosis. And I heartily agree, this is where the deception starts, my friend. If I want to fool you, then I dont try and convince you of something you dont agree with. I simply and craftily convince you of something that isnt detectably disagreeable to your convictions, and yet still isnt the whole truth.
And thus the gospel propounded by the modern church is still partially true. I am lost, misguided, broken, prone to mistakes, and a stray child of God, but this isnt how the bible speaks of me. The bible tells me that I'm dead in my trespasses and sins, I have followed and swallowed the curse of the world, I'm of all things utterly disobedient, I live in the passions of the flesh and am, by nature, a child of wrath. Its so important to have that by nature, in there, because many times the sermon simply tells me that I'm really a good person deep down but have just fallen in a little dirt and messed up my inherent good looks. This is a corrupt and foul deception. The truth is that my nature was so defiant of God that I wilfully, volitionally, chose of my own accord, to sin and I loved it so much I sinned all the more. Not by some misguided mistake, or by following the less-than-ideal path, but because my nature was above all and in all, sinful. And I loved every moment of it.
So why the difference? Why does the modern church neglect to tell people these things and does this neglect constitute as an innocent and accidental oversight? Or does it reveal a distinct disregard for biblical truth in an exchange for public acceptance and appreciation?
Hmm, begs some thought.
Honestly: I dont know. I have my suspicions as to the motive for this desertion from the truth, and yet because its just a suspicion Ill leave it for another time. But decide for yourself. If you attend a church and are subject to its weekly pulpiteering, then ask yourself, Does this true gospel, so openly constituted in the New Testament, coincide with the supposed gospel being preached in my church?
And if the answer is an obvious no, I have only one piece of advice for you, RUN! Just leave. Dont pass go, do not collect $200, just find a church where you can hear the gospel in its fullness and accuracy and get there fast. Your eternal life depends on it.
If you answer, Well, I'm not really sure. Then its you I would like to address from here on in.
Ok, maybe theres those who just cant see what the big deal is. Let me lay it out for you, shall I. For this well need to go to Romans. Lets look at chapter 1:16. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Its probably a real favourite in your Sunday school, I'm sure. People love to quote this verse because its one of those; pump your fist in the air and lets all shout together, Were not ashamed... Were not ashamed... Were not ashamed... and so it goes. But dont neglect to see what the text is actually saying. Paul is surely making an admission that he is not ashamed of the gospel, for (because) it is the power of God for salvation! Dont miss it now. It is trying to tell you and me that the gospel is the power of God for salvation. It doesnt say that it is A power, or it is PART of the power; no it is certainly saying that the gospel IS the power of God for salvation. Do you see the ramifications of this truth? There is no other power in which God has ordained for saving souls. He is bent on this one single means of reaching sinners with His most efficacious grace. The gospel is not one of the means of salvation and thus you can find salvation in the message on the back of your cereal box. No, this text is as clear as day. Without the gospel, sinners can not be saved and without the gospel, sinners will not be saved. Not because God is limited, but because its His eternal decree to save sinners one way and one way only; by His gospel.
So surely you can now see the danger in presenting only part of this gospel, and especially as many do, present the half of it as thought it was the whole of it. A half truth presented as if it were a whole truth is an untruth. -John MacArthur-
Therefore, if we are to be faithful to this text we must conclude; if the gospel isnt being preached in its fullness and severity then people arent being saved. The only means of salvation prescribed in the New Testament is the Gospel, and thus if there isnt the true, unadulterated, complete gospel being presented, then people are still in their sins. If only a half-gospel is being presented then dont be fooled, it isnt the true gospel at all, but another gospel altogether. And we read in Galatians 1:6-9 Paul saying that, I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Accursed- Strong's G331 anathema ἀνάθεμα, a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and if an animal, to be slain; therefore a person or thing doomed to destruction, used to mean a curse or a man accursed, devoted to the direst of woes)
Can you see from this text, the seriousness of the issue? There is indeed a war on the gospel in our modern times.
I can hear some objections fluttering through my mind as I write this.
Objection: But every week I see people getting saved in my church by saying the sinners prayer and coming to the altar call.
Ok let me deal with this, because I feel this is going to be the biggest thing people will struggle with. Experiential evidence suggests that people are being saved and thus the assertions I have made here cant be right.
Wrong. Sadly many modern churches that have altars filled each week with genuine seekers arent seeing people saved at all. I know how hard this might be to swallow, but I must implore you to search this out for yourself, and do not look for experience to justify your claim, look to scripture. How many altar calls do you find in the New Testament? Alright then, how many times did the apostles lead someone in a sinners prayer? Hmm, ok, well then where do these precedents come from? Just because people come to the front of a meeting and claim to be saved (or rather the preacher claims them to be saved), does that constitute biblical regeneration or salvation? No, of course not. Are they genuinely saved? Do they flee sin with all their might? Do they develop a strong fear of God and detestation for anything other than His will for their life? Do they experience a complete life change, as from death to life and darkness to light? Do they have an overpowering love for the Saviour and does He become most precious to them, more precious than anything or anyone else? Or do they come and go from altar to altar week by week and never quite become born again because they havent really experienced a full gospel?
Of course I believe people can be saved at an altar call, just like they can be saved on a bus or in a field or in a school cafeteria. But they are certainly not saved by an altar call or some sinners prayer. They are saved by Grace, through faith in the power and fullness of the gospel (Eph 2).
Am I perhaps saying that no one can be saved in these churches, then? No, of course not. Hopefully they have real bibles on their laps and therefore have the real gospel before them, if they will take the time to look and read. Or maybe they have been experiencing real preaching from another source; perhaps they download solid biblical preaching online or enjoy the podcasts of many sound biblical expositors. But theres one thing I'm sure of, and that's that people cannot be saved unless they have experienced the gospel in all its fullness.
So if you believe that the bible is the inspired, inerrant, plenary word of God then you must assent to this same truth. NO GOSPEL EQUALS NO SALVATION!
So does your church preach the whole gospel? When was the last time you heard your pastor preach on sin in such a way that your skin started to crawl and your blood boiled in utmost hate for it? When was the last time your preacher expounded a whole sermon on Gods wrath and vengeance and Holy anger? When was the last time your pastor preached on hell and its utter mind blowing, eternal consequences for the unregenerate? When was the last time your pastor preached the most holy truths of Jesus Christ in such a way that you felt like that great divine Jonathan Edwards did when he stated, I wish to lie low before God, as in the dust; that I might be nothing, and that God might be all, that I might become as a little child.
I sincerely feel like these are fair questions to be asked. After all youre eternal destination might depend on it. Are you really saved? Are you really born again? Do you have an assurance of salvation (a certainty beyond any reasonable doubt Rom 8:16)? If not then you are not regenerate. And the good news of the gospel is that you can be. Please go and have a look at these websites:
And for those of you who are starting to feel doubtful about their own church, I would encourage you to conduct a full investigation into whether your preachers and pastors are interested in preaching the gospel, or are they ashamed of this gospel in such a way that they are quite willing to damn souls to hell forever, so long as they dont need to relinquish their reputation. Its quite sickening to think that this actually goes on, but if were honest about it, we know it does.
So what can one do to guarantee their spiritual health in this matter?
1. Become born again. If you havent felt your guilt before God because of your sins then you are not saved. Please take the time to visit the website provided above that will help you ascertain what might be done to ensure your salvation. John 3:3 tells us that, ...Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." This is of utmost importance and your most immediate duty. Please take a moment to visit the websites above and get into contact with me about your journey to faith in Christ. Ill offer assistance wherever I can.
2. Study your bible. If you dont have a bible youll need to get one. It is the believers paramount priority, its more important for your health than your next meal. Bibles can be purchased from all good book stores and I would strongly recommend you ask for an English standard version. [ESV].
3. Know what the full gospel is. If you have no clear knowledge about what the full gospel is then you cannot be saved. But you can find this information in the bible. I would recommend you turn to the book of Luke in your New Testament and read from there to the end of the book. Once you have done that, go to the start of the bible and read the whole thing through. Listen to as much good preaching as you can. I can provide a list of free downloadable sermons online to anyone who wants them. This is so vital to understanding Gods word (My contact details are below if you want this assistance).
4. Find a good church. This is surely the most complicated step. But it is possible. Firstly pray to God that He would help you do it. I dont want you to be concerned with denominations at all; there is no real distinction among them according to what is a good church or a bad church. As long as they call themselves a Christian church, there will always be very, very good churches and then horrifically bad ones. So dont concern yourself with the denomination: Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, Methodist, Charismatic etc. They all have some great churches and dismal ones amongst them. You want to find a church that believes the whole bible and only the bible. They preach about Gods mercy and love continually and also the topics I listed a few paragraphs above, regarding Gods wrath and vengeance and hell etc. It all needs to be preached systematically and continuously to be considered the whole gospel. I would shy away from any church that is spending excessive time talking about money or numbers of people and gravitate toward a church that embraces you with open arms and really cares about your day to day life, while also taking pains to correct you if youre in error.
Be in no doubt that our modern day is seeing a war on the gospel and the church of Jesus Christ has a duty to take up arms and defend it with all her might. Dont sit comfortably in your seat (pew), stand and fight for this gospel. Laziness is not acceptable in this war and God will not honour the lethargic servant but deal with him in like manner to the lazy servant in Matthew 25. It was said in the story of a servant who did nothing with the talent given to him, Throw out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
What can one do in the battle for truth and the gospel?
1. Pray. We should be bending our knees before our most gracious God and plead with Him that He would pour out His Spirit without measure to the purification of His Sons most precious Bride. Revelation 19:7-8
2. Become proactive in the pursuit of holiness in our own lives and the life of our church. Dont be shy in speaking to your leaders and pastors about your observations of concern. Matt 18 spells out the biblical way to deal with a grievance, so go directly to the one who you think is causing the gospel work to be hindered, and be bold in the face of reproach for the gospel. Lovingly inform any who err in this matter the truth you have observed and always use scriptural backup.
3. Lastly, I think we can all do our part publically, whether it is online or amongst our friends and acquaintances. We can encourage brethren to stand firm on the gospel truths they know to be unchangeable. Join in the battle to stir up the lay people of churches all over the western world to stand for gospel purity and encourage people to be vocal where ever they see opportunity. Write letters or blogs, or just make comments on other peoples blogs, maybe get together with your faithful friends and have prayer meetings with this single focus: That the church of Jesus Christ will recover the true saving gospel. All for the Glory of Christs Name.
I do hope this article has been of some help to you, the reader, and I pray God will lead you in all truth regarding His plans for your life. Lets take up arms against the evil pervading in our day.
(If you would like to contact Craig Ireland you can do so via email: [email protected] or visit his website: http://preachworldwide.com/members/21/index.php )