I’ve spent the better part of the last decade of my life contemplating the mysteries of the Lord. When Christ saved me in my early thirties, I noticed two immediate changes within myself. First, a crushing brokenness over my sins to the point which I had never experienced before. And second, an overwhelming hunger to know Him more. As I continually began to read of the supernatural workings of the Lord in creation as well as human salvation, it drove unapologetically to the study of anthropology. The study of man. The study of myself. All of the sudden, I began to see all the little evangelical white lies that Id grown to love begin to crumble like dust.
It seems that many modern day Christians live more in a bubble of pithy Christian cliché’s that are aimed at puffing us up rather than examining the Biblical doctrine of man. Many cling to sayings rather than scripture. One pastor put it best, saying, “We live in a culture that can quote more from things that they’ve read on the back of a Christian t-shirt rather than the scriptures.” I know this to be quite true because I was at one time, one of these self deceived people. However, when I began to study the scriptures for myself, I not only saw the lies that are engrained in Christian pop culture, but I also understood what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote of Satan as an angel of light.
“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” 2 Corinthians 11:14-15.
Far too often Satan is depicted as some hideous demon that only promotes extreme lies about God. But the truth is that he leads many to the broad road by playing on their ignorance and only ever so slightly bending the truth of scripture. Here are some very common untruths that so many people inside of the church by into today.
1. God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Handle
Although this sounds great, it is inaccurately phrased. Many people love to cling to this promise when they or a loved one are entering into a time of great hardship. The only problem is that this is not a promise that God ever made. The saying is most likely taken and wrongly interpreted from a verse in 1 Corinthians.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13.
Before attempting to apply meaning to this verse, one must do an examination of what the Apostle Paul is saying. First off, Paul is talking about temptations, not hardships in life. Consider the countless believers through out the ages who were beaten and martyred for their faith in Christ. Their stress due to facing death must have been overwhelming. The temptation to recant their profession of Christ in order to escape death must have been great.
Yet how is it that they stood strong in the face of such a trial? How is it that they didn’t cave in under the weight of this great burden? How is it that they did not succumb to the surmounting temptations? I can assure you it wasn’t due to anything in themselves. It is never the power of man that overcomes a trial or temptations, but rather the power of Christ upon the man.
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13.
The scripture never says that God will not give you more than you can handle. A more accurate statement would be, “God will never give you more THAN HE can handle.” Because it is only God’s power within a man that allows us to overcome the world.
2. Good People Go to Heaven
Again, it sounds nice. And the saying gives us comfort that we are deserving due to our character. The problem is every man’s perception of what is good is subjective. When we buy into the message that all good people go to Heaven, we must therefore ask, what is the measuring stick for determining good? One man may say he is good because he doesn’t yell at his wife like his neighbor. Yet the neighbor may consider himself to be good because he doesn’t cuss and swear like the first man. And so the measuring stick of righteousness becomes man. The word of God paints quite a different picture.
“But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12.
Paul said it plainly, that if a man measures his level of righteousness by comparing himself to others in the world, then he has no understanding of the plight of man in light of the holiness of God. The reality is there are no good men. Jesus pointed this out in his conversation with the rich young ruler, quite comically I might add.
“And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good.” Matthew 19:16-17.
We notice immediately that the rich young ruler didn’t consider Jesus to be the Lord, but rather just some good teacher. He didn’t consider Christ to be God, but merely a moral man. The young ruler called Jesus “Teacher”, and he asked Christ to teach him how to do good in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded by asking why it was that he thought Jesus could teach him about doing good? Basically the point Jesus was getting at was this. Jesus was in essence saying, “If you think that I am merely a man and not God, why is it that you think I can teach you about good? Mortal man does not know good, because there are no good men except God alone.”
In Romans chapter 3, Paul says that no man is good. Paul presses the point even more by saying that no man even seeks for God. Why do men not seek God? Because in Ephesian 2, Paul writes that men are spiritually dead. We are incapable of choosing to follow the Lord aside from Him first supernaturally changing our hearts, because dead things cannot bring life to themselves.
As the Psalmist writes in Psalm 58:3, we are wicked from the womb. In the book of Galatians chapter 3, Paul writes that all men are under the curse of sin. And that if man thinks he can attain his righteous standing before God by keeping his commandments, then he better be prepared to keep every one perfectly. Because merely breaking one commandment one time makes us criminals in the courtroom of God.
“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Galatians 3:10.
The law of God was never meant to save us, as so many think. The law is powerless to save. If anything, the law was given to condemn us and show us our sinfulness. The law is powerless to save because we are incapable of living up to its standard. And the law is just that, it is the standard of God. It is the true measuring stick of righteousness. It is the picture of the only good man.
“Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins.” Galatians 3:19.
When we compare ourselves with other fallen sinners in the world, it is easy to justify our own righteousness and entitlement before God. However, when we come face to face with the standard of God, no man measures up. Therefore the scripture rings true that no one is good, not one. Therein lies our hopeless state as well as the beauty of the Gospel.
3. The Cross of Christ Proves the Great Value of Mankind
This is not only false, but it boarders on blasphemy. This saying promotes false the idea that God thought we were so valuable and worth having, that he resorted to sending His only Son to die so that He may have us. It places man as the center piece of the Gospel narrative. The fact that God had to send Jesus to die in order that we should live doesn’t show how valuable we are. In fact, it does just the opposite. Evangelist Paul Washer put it best in saying;
“The Cross is not a sign of our great worth, but of our great depravity. That we were so evil that the only way we could be saved is by God’s Son being crushed under the full force of the wrath that was due us.” -Paul Washer
Why did God send Jesus to die for our sins? Was it because God saw how worthy we were? Did He in some way value us so much that He had to have us? The answer is a staggering no.
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might display the surpassing riches of His grace, demonstrated by His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6-7.
God’s plan for salvation was driven by love, but birthed out of a desire to magnify His own attributes that He may receive glory. God is the center of the story, not us. The cross does not inflate how great we are, but it shows how great He is.
4. God Loves the Sinner, But Hates The Sin
Probably one of the most overused clichés in many Christian circles. The Lord is Holy, therefore He hates sin. But in our humanity, we naturally do not want to be the object of hate, especially when it comes to God. We like to think that Christ hates the idea or action of sin, but disconnect God’s wrath from actual people. Not only is this incorrect, but it diminishes the holiness of God while propping up the ego of man. Consider this verse below;
“The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” Psalm 11:5.
The Psalmist writes that the Lord “hates the wicked.” Notice the wicked is not a verb, but a noun. The wicked is a person. It doesn’t say the Lord hates violence, but rather THE ONE who loves violence. Again, the hatred of God is directed at the sinner himself.
“God is an honest judge. He is angry with the wicked every day.” Psalm 7:11.
Once again, we see the wicked is not an action, but a person. God’s redemptive love abides on those that are in Christ. Yes, they are still sinners, but they weep and mourn over their sins. They have been washed and sanctified by the blood of Christ. Those in Christ lead lives of repentance and have a yearning for Holiness. Therefore God sees not their sins, but the blood of Christ that covers them. And due to the work of Christ, God can declare them justified. However, for the person outside of Christ, the love of God does not abide on him, but rather he himself remains under the wrath of God.
“And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.” John 3:36.
5. Jesus Knocks on the Door of Our Hearts in Hopes of Coming In
This one is so popular that many preachers will actually say this from the pulpit. Ive heard people say “Jesus is a gentleman, and He would never force Himself upon a person.” The insinuation is that God waits for an invitation from man. It is to say that in the order of salvation, man must act first in order for God to do His saving work. The problems with this line of thinking are many, but for time sake I’ll focus on just a few.
For starters, we can go back to Ephesians 2, as I’ve already mentioned, where Paul described the sinner as spiritually dead. Romans 3 says we are incapable of seeking God in our unregenerate flesh. Jesus Himself says this in the Gospel of John.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” John 6:44.
It’s plainly clear what Christ is saying. No one in his own power can come to God unless God first draws him. Why? Because in his spiritually dead state, he only wants the desires of his flesh. He doesn’t want God, and therefore does not seek God. It takes a supernatural work of God drawing a man to bring him from death to life.
Some may say, “Yes God must draw man first. But God draws all men, and unfortunately some reject his drawing, hence not opening the door of their hearts.” Keep John 6:44 in mind, that God must first draw in order for man to come. Now consider this.
“All those the Father gives me will come to me,” John 6:37.
Read the verse above. It doesn’t say, “Some of those that the Father gives me will come. It doesn’t say “All those the Father gives me might come. It says “ALL those the Father gives me WILL come.” Behold, the power of God. If God wants to save a man, he doesn’t gently knock on the door of his heart waiting to come in. If this were to be allegorized correctly, the Lord kicks the door down. Because otherwise, due to our slavery to sin, the door would never be opened by anyone.
The saying stems from a verse in Revelation.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20.
In this chapter, Jesus is addressing the church in Laodicea, and He goes on to say that He will spit them out of His mouth as a rebuke of their complacent faith. Jesus is not the guest of our hearts, but the Lord over them.
Jesus Himself illustrates this truth in the book of Mark.
“The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his slaves instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return—in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!” Mark 13:34-37.
Jesus is not a pitiful beggar who is pleading with us to come into house. Jesus is the Master of the house. The knocking we see in Revelation 3 is not a plea to enter, but rather a warning that He is about to return. Jesus is saying to the church in Laodicea, “Im about to enter so be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19). And to the servant He finds obedient, He will find fellowship with him. But to the servant He returns home to find things not in order, His wrath will abide.
Why is it that we are so prone to quote clichés such as these rather than the Word of God? Maybe because many deem the truth of scripture too harsh. More than likely it is because the Word of God doesn’t really paint mankind in a positive light, and we feel the need to give it a slight makeover in order to present Jesus as more appealing. But as Paul said in Galatians, any deviation from the Gospel proves itself to be no Gospel at all. It is only when we begin to see ourselves as undeserving and hopeless that we can enter into a state of gratitude for the grace of Jesus. And in the end, we find that the scriptures open our hearts to a much bigger God than we ever imagined to be possible. Soli Deo Gloria.