Everyone has a story to tell. One that is passed down from generation to generation. One that is told numerous times by the story teller, at times to the exhaustion of his hearers. But when the story is life altering, the story teller could care less. He loves, I dare say, lives to tell his story. This is my story. My testimony of the grace of God upon my life. It is a brief account of how God called me by His Word from darkness into newness of life. And by God’s grace, it may be your story as well.
I grew up very involved in church from a very early age. From the time I was an infant, my parents were instrumental in modeling how the church should be priority in our lives. I was surrounded by people like my parents and church family who loved the Lord. And our family was usually among the first people to enter the church building and one of the last to leave.
I was morally a good kid. And when it came to the youth group, I was present every Wednesday night for Bible Study as well as in attendance for each yearly youth related camp. I memorized weekly Bible verses, was baptized at age thirteen, and professed to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
But it wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that I realized I wasn’t saved, and that if I had died I would have spent an eternity in Hell, separated from God. I had religion. I had morality. I had church attendance. I had walked the aisle, said the prayer, and had been baptized. But I was no more saved than if I’d been an atheist.
Truth be told, my religious check list was pristine. In fact, if you would have asked me how I knew that I was saved, I would have pointed to my morality, my baptism, and my involvement in the church. I would have told you that I knew I was saved because when I was thirteen years old I said a sinners prayer asking Jesus into my heart, and I was baptized.
In my mind I was saved. There was no love for the Word of God within my soul. I had no true repentance in my heart. And my knowledge of God was not much deeper than the watered down Bible stories we read our children. I had no understanding of divine atonement or propitiation. I had no understanding of the attributes of God such as His Sovereignty, His Holiness, His Immutability, or His providential governing.
In short, I was a modern day, living picture of the man that Jesus spoke of in Matthew chapter 7.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” Matthew 7:21-23.
I heard a sermon preached on this passage of scripture in my mid thirties. And the preacher’s exposition of this text haunted me for weeks after hearing. The man in the text of Matthew 7 that Jesus spoke of was one who would have boasted of his religious checklist as his justification to why he thought he was saved. He was a man who would have emphatically professed Jesus Christ as his Lord.
In a more modern day context, this man in Matthew 7 was one who would have been seen regularly in church, he would have been know around town as a very moral person, and he would have had the date of his baptism written in the back of his Bible.
On his death bed, he would have been self assured that he would enter the Kingdom of Heaven based on how stellar track record. However, upon breathing his last breath, he enters into the presence of God. Even standing before the Lord, he confidently begins to recount the many religious things he did during his life.
But the response from Jesus was shocking. The Lord responded to this self righteous man, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”
Reading the description of this man was as if I was looking at my own reflection in a mirror. All of my years of church activity and attempts at morality were as the prophet Isaiah said, “Filthy rags before God.” Isaiah 64:6.
I became broken over my sins. But this time, my brokenness was heartfelt. For the first time, I was disgusted by my past self righteousness and desired more than anything to live my life chasing the knowledge of Christ, and to serve Him on mission.
Something was different. My desires had changed. I wanted to know Him. My salvation resulted in an insatiable craving for the knowledge of God. And the more that I saw of His beauty through scriptures, the more this hunger grew.
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2-3.
This is but a glimpse of my testimony. I often look at the salvation that the Lord has given and marvel at His grace towards such an undeserving person as myself. The Lord used many factors in His great providence to lead me out of spiritual darkness and into His light.
First and foremost, it was the preaching of the Word of God that led me to the knowledge of the truth. It was the faithful exposition of Matthew chapter 7 that the Lord used to awaken my dead soul. It was not the eloquence of the preacher nor the charisma of a man, but strictly the reading of the Word of God.
I didn’t walk down an aisle nor did I repeat a canned “sinners prayer.” I didn’t sign a card and neither did I respond to an altar call. It wasn’t the emotional music played at the end of the sermon nor the passionate plea of the pastor that drew me to God. And I didn’t invite Jesus into my heart as if He needed an invitation from a former enemy of God such as myself. I followed none of these man centered tactics that are so very popular today.
It was God and God alone through the speaking of His Word that breathed new life into my soul. It was the preaching of the Word that led to salvation.
“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Romans 10:17.
Some may ask why do I share this portion of my testimony? My reason is two fold. First, as the old hymn goes, I love to tell the story. I believe that is one of the telling marks of someone who has truly encountered Christ. Once you have truly tasted the grace of God, you never get over it. You can’t stop talking about it.
You own salvation is the most amazing thing to you. Consider the disciples of Christ. They had their flaws for sure. But once they saw the risen Christ, they spent the rest of their earthly lives telling others about it.
After the conversion of the Apostle Paul, he retold his own testimony more than once throughout the scriptures. Paul pointed to his own fallacy of believing in His own religious works and morality.
“I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.” Philippians 3:5-9.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he did not hold back from sharing the most shameful of his sins with them. He considered himself to be the worst of sinners, undeserving of the grace that had been given to him.
“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:9.
But Paul was not ashamed of His past, because his former weaknesses only served to magnify the power of the saving grace of God to bring the spiritually dead back to life.
“So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.
It is the same with us today. When God turns a heart of stone to flesh, it is all the more reason for the person who is a new creation in Christ to have a deep desire to testify to the greatness of God, boasting only of their weakness and bringing full glory to God.
And secondly, the reason for sharing this testimony is so that God may use it to lead others to the knowledge of Himself. As I began to grow in sanctification and listen to many sermons, I began to notice a difference between preachers.
There were many popular preachers that I heard that were very captivating and even entertaining to listen to. But there was little to no depth. And there were other preachers who seem to have a seriousness to their message. There was an urgency in their voice. As if they were preaching fervently to men who were teetering on the edge of eternity. I was immediately drawn to such preaching.
Their message was not jovial nor did they employ cute Christian games in order to try and keep the attention of their audiences. It was apparent that the message they spoke was delivered as being life or death. It was no laughing matter. The demeanor of preachers who hold a high view of God and approached their exegesis with a serious tone exemplify the reality of the Gospel.
As one preacher rightly said, Jesus must be everything, or He is nothing. The supernatural salvation of the Lord produces in the new man an urgency and a seriousness when it comes to matters of God. It is not a Christianity molded by the opinions of men nor one that is cautious of withholding certain Biblical truths for fear of hurting someones feelings. Spurgeon once said that the person who loves you the most is the one who will tell you the truth, even if it is offensive. This is the Gospel.
Have you truly been saved? Or are you as I once was, lost in a sea of your own self professed morality and religiosity? Do you have a untamed passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a seriousness to the message that you proclaim? Are you growing in Holiness and the knowledge of Christ? Or does you quest to know Him consist only of Sunday morning in the pew?
Do you know Jesus? Better yet, does Jesus know you? According to Matthew Chapter 7, that will be the question to be answered when you stand before the Lord. The lost man will passionately proclaim “Lord, Lord, I know you!” And Christ will respond to many, “But I didn’t know you.”
Seek Him, while He may be found. And know that if you sincerely do begin to seek the Lord, you did not do this in and through your own power. There is only one seeker, and that is God. Because in our flesh and sins we want nothing to do with God (Romans 3). That is until He breathes new life into us. You see even in the seeking of Christ we deserve no credit for that. Because the only reason man seeks God is because God has first regenerated His heart and given Him new desires.
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:9.
Do you have a new passion for Him? If there has been no evident change wherein you begin to hate the sins you once loved and love the righteousness of Christ you once despised, then there has been no salvation. Church attendance cannot save, nor can Baptism. You must be born again, where you believe the Gospel and spend the rest of your life repenting of you sins and proclaiming the glorious Gospel.
My story began with brokenness. There was nothing in my deeds nor my past track record of religious activities that merited favor with God. I was, and still consider myself to be as Paul said, the least deserving of grace. My story begins with a resurrection. The moment my eyes did open and I couldn’t look upon myself for worth of any kind, but only to Christ. And my story is one that is only beginning, and will go on into eternity never ceasing to be amazed by the majesty of Christ our Lord.
Truth be told, this is God’s story. One of many stories about His grace and saving power. I just happen to be mentioned in this account as a means to magnify His glory through the telling of His redemption of sinners such as I. Every story is either a story of His mercy or His justice. But all stories, in some way, serve to point to Jesus. Even yours.
I pray that Jesus is that treasure in your field this day, and that like Paul, all external efforts at salvation are as garbage to you. This day, if you do know Him, take a moment to stand in awe of the miraculous work that is your own salvation. And let that reality spur you on towards living radically for Christ. Salvation is by faith and faith alone in Jesus Christ. Repent and believe the Gospel. For it is the power of God unto salvation.
In this brief video clip, Dr. John MacArthur and Dr. R.C. Sproul discuss the true purpose of the church. The church is not primarily for unbelievers, but for the edification and building up of the saints so that they may be equipped to go out into the world and reach those who do not believe. The church is for the sanctification of the body, not for the entertaining of the world.
When Ball Becomes Baal — ” Have you considered that you may be teaching your kids to worship sports?”
In My Place Condemned He Stood –“If on the cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was not satisfied, how was it then appeased?”
Your God is Too Small — “Unbelief is a withering sickness that ultimately destroys faith. And what is the remedy? Waiting on the Lord.”
Is the Bible Enough For Us? — “The sufficiency of Scripture means that the words of Scripture are, and have been throughout salvation history, ample revelation from God for people to know him savingly, answer life’s most important questions, and carry out his will in their lives.”
How The Church Gets Justice Wrong — “Although God’s Word is not a manual for cultural transformation, good theology creates a horizon for reimagining our relationships with one another as well as with God.”
Predestination Destroys Legalism — “If salvation is by Christ ALONE, it leaves no room for boasting or trusting in ourselves, even a little. It strips us bare and forces us to abandon all hope in our own wisdom, will-power, efforts or rules.”
Weekdays around five PM at the Parish household are quite hectic. This is the time when I usually roll in from the office, and the kids are all home from school. I am asked very often how we juggle raising five children. I tell people its no different than when we had one child. The difference is that the daily routine changes. And our daily routine is a well oiled machine. Let me paint a brief snapshot.
When I come in from work, I drop my briefcase, kiss my lovely wife, tussle the hair of our four boys who are usually doing homework, and I grab my two year old daughter Haven. While Lacy is cooking and answering homework questions, I bathe Haven and put her in her PJ’s.
Once bath time is over, I place Haven in the midst of her baby dolls near Lacy (who by now is finishing dinner) and usher all four boys upstairs for their showers. When the boys are squeaky clean and in their pajama’s I herd them back downstairs towards the kitchen where Lacy has supper on the table.
We grab Haven and all sit down to have dinner. Ok, let me rephrase that. The kids sit down to enjoy dinner while Lacy and I take turns refilling drinks, getting ketchup, cleaning spills, and dishing out second helpings. Once dinner is over and the dishes are clean, we begin to reach the home stretch of the evening.
At this point, the kids will brush their teeth and get in bed. This portion of the night takes a considerable amount of time. Trying to get four boys into separate beds without one getting up is like playing a game of wack a mole.
Once the boys are securely in bed, I travel from room to room to talk to the boys about their day and doing a night time family devotion with each of them. And then, I make my way back down stairs, exhausted from the day and our routine and ready for bed. By this time it’s in the 8 PM hour. Not a perfect routine, but it works for us.
Last week my seven year old son Luke tried to ask me a question in the midst of our nightly routine. “Daddy, can I ask you a question?” said Luke. “Sure buddy”, I responded. “Right after I give your sister her bath.” Luke approached me again after bath time. “Daddy, now can I ask you a question?” Just as I was about to answer, my phone rang and I had to take the call.
After the phone call was over, it occurred to me that we were running behind on the Parish family routine due to the extended conversation. I totally forgot about Luke’s question until the next morning.
“Morning buddy”, I said as Luke was eating breakfast. “What was your question you wanted to ask last night?” Luke responded, “I wanted to ask if you would take me to play in the park this weekend.” I told Luke “Absolutely, but why didn’t you ask me last night before bed?” His response broke my heart. Luke said “Because I didn’t think you would answer me.”
In all the business of trying to stay on top of our nightly routine, I had failed to listen to my son. Luke didn’t continue to ask me because he did not believe I would hear him, much less answer his request. I told Luke that I need to apologize to him and repent, because I want him to know that daddy had let things get in the way of actually taking time to listen to the cries of my his heart.
When it comes to prayer and communing with God, a great majority of Christians struggle in this discipline. And a big reason for our lack of prayer is due to unrecognized unbelief. It is not that we don’t believe in God but rather, much like my son Luke, we don’t believe that God hears or that He will answer.
God is not an absentee father. He never grows to busy or exhausted. And He never forgets His children. There is not a prayer or request uttered from a child of God that is not heard or left unanswered. If we love our children yet in our fallenness can at times neglect them, how much more attentive is our good and perfect Heavenly Father to His children?
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13.
We don’t petition God with prayer like we should, and one reason is because we don’t think God is attentive to our requests. Why do so many feel this way? Why is it that believers neglect to cry out to God in their times of need? And furthermore, why is it that many who do cry out in times of need doubt if the Lord actually hears their requests?
It is because sometimes, our prayers are not answered in the way we want. And when our prayers are not answered in the way we want or if we are not immediately rescued from the trial of which we are praying to be saved from, then unbelief sets in.
Have you ever prayed for God to rescue you from a trial or hardship, only to be left with no visible relief in sight? After continuing to pray day after day for a solution and waking each morning to see that we are still knee deep in the trenches, we can wrongly begin to feel like my son and just stop praying. Because we have not received the rescue we had prayed for, the assumed conclusion for many is that God isn’t hearing us.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Consider Jesus prayer the night before He was put on trial and crucified. Jesus prayed to God the Father that the cup to which He was to endure might pass if there was any other way.
“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:41-42.
On a side note, Jesus was not praying that God the Father would spare Him from the horrendous beatings or the agonizing pain of the crucifixion as some insultingly preach. Jesus was by no means fearing the whip or the nails. Christ was about to endure the full cup of God the Father’s wrath being poured out fully upon Him.
Jesus prayed that if there was any other way than having to endure the wrath of God and separation from the Father, then let it be so. But God didn’t take the cup of suffering away. Jesus prayer was not answered in the way that He’d hoped.
God the Father answered the prayer of His Son, only not in a way that would spare His suffering. The Lord answered, but His answer was no. The Lord did not spare His son from the trial, but rather strengthened Him to endure it. The most bleak hour of human history was when the Son of God was crucified at the hands of sinful men and God’s wrath was poured out upon Him.
But as hopeless as this may have seemed to onlookers in this day, it turned out to be the most glorious event ever. God the Father predestined that His Son would suffer and die, incurring the full wrath of God and providing the necessary atonement for the sins of His people. Through the cup of wrath that was not spared, Jesus defeated death and sin for all of His children, past, present, and future.
“But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him.” Acts 2:23.
For all who are children of God, all things in life work for our good and His great glory (Romans 8:28). This however does not mean that we will be spared from suffering. In fact, we know that it is our calling to endure suffering as our Lord did.
When times are good, petition God with prayers of thanksgiving for His common graces upon your life. And in the midst of trials and tribulations, make your requests known to God. It may be His will to spare you from the trial. But as was the case with Jesus, it may be His will for you to endure the hardship set before you.
When we do not get the answer from God that we were praying for, it doesn’t mean that He didn’t hear. It just means His answer was NO. And although we may not understand at the moment, we can rest assured that His no is much better for us than had we received an affirmative yes. We can rest assured that as followers of Christ, God hears and answers all prayers. May we never doubt His goodness or cease to call upon His name.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6.
Each weekend, I will be posting a Weekend Roundup in addition to my regular weekly blog posts. The Weekend Roundup will be a summation of internet links to the weeks best articles and videos from other Christ centered ministries. It is my prayer that the Lord would use these posts to aid you further into your love, adoration, and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
In the video below, Todd Friel of Wretched Radio gives an in-depth review of the new movie “Paul; Apostle of Christ.
Creeds, Confessions, Catechisms, and Covenants in Corporate Worship — “Why should Baptist churches use the historic, ecumenical, orthodox creeds in corporate worship? These creeds provide biblically faithful and understandable defenses and explanations of the Trinity, the hypostatic union of Christ, and other central tenets of the Christian faith.”
Hearts Set Aflame with Certainty of the Resurrection — “A Christian is not a skeptic. A Christian is a person with a burning heart, a heart set aflame with certainty of the resurrection.”
10 Most Significant Discoveries in the Field of Biblical Archeology — “Here are the ten most significant discoveries in the field of biblical archaeology.”
Six Things Every Christian Needs to Know About Sanctification — “Though oft-neglected, understanding sanctification is vital for a thriving Christian life.”
Change the Way you Think About Weakness — “Christian Hedonism changes the way you think about disability and weakness.”
A few weeks ago, my oldest son Andy and I ran a 5K. It was actually the first he had ever run. We didn’t train for the run in the weeks leading up to the race. I just thought that we would run it for fun. However, as we drove out to the run on Saturday morning, it became apparent that Andy was bound and determined to win the race.
I gently attempted to remind him that there were going to be people there who had trained for the run, and that we should probably just pace ourselves. But my words fell on deaf ears. As unprepared as Andy was to actually run this race competitively, he was blinded by his ambition and determined to win a medal.
We took our mark behind the starting line with all the other competitors, and as soon as the whistle was blown, we all took off. I was planning on keeping pace with Andy as I didn’t think he would be able to run very fast. But to my surprise, he bolted ahead of the pack. In fact, he was running in second place to a grown man who apparently had done many of these races.
Andy was running as fast as he could. From way behind I could see the excitement on his face as he realized how well he was doing. All the preparation and training that I had told him were necessary to win a race did not seem to be needed by my twelve year old future olympian.
However it was not long before I saw my son slow down to a brisk jog, followed by a very sluggish walk. I finally caught up to him and after he caught his breath, we finished the race together. Although neither of us won a medal.
Failure to properly prepare for anything will yield disappointing results. We can have extraordinary passion and excitement for the endeavor, but without preparation, passion alone cannot win the race.
Just as there are crucial necessities that are required in order to win a race such as having the right training, the proper running shoes, the correct attire, and so forth, there also are important elements that are needed, but often times neglected in our evangelistic efforts.
We can have an abundant amount of zeal and willingness to tell others about Christ, but without being properly equipped, our efforts will most assuredly fall flat. Here are five crucial elements that are needed in our evangelism.
It would be foolish to attempt to drive a car without having any gasoline in the tank. We have no power in and of ourselves to will or cause the car to move. And in the same way, if our evangelistic efforts are not fueled by prayer, then we are setting out to do what only God can do without God. Prayerless evangelism is not only foolish, it is the height of arrogance on our part. It is to say that we think we have the power and ability to save man by being convincing enough.
Jesus taught the disciples that they had the power to do nothing without Christ (John 15:5). As R.C. Sproul once rightly said, “That nothing that Christ spoke of is not a little something.” In Him we move and have our very being (Acts 17:28). If we are dependent on the power of Christ for the very breath we breathe, what makes us think we have the power to raise the spiritually dead with our words?
The Apostle Paul describes the lost man as one being in a state of spiritual deadness (Ephesian 2). The book of Romans in chapter 3 tells us that no man, in his fallen nature, seeks after God. He has a will, but that will is enslaved to the things of this world and completely dead to the things of God. Man’s fallen and spiritually dead will must be set free from the bondage of sin. And mere flesh and blood does not have the power to awaken what is dead. Only the Son of God can do this.
“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36.
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Luke 10:22.
One of my favorite chapters of the Bible is Ezekiel 37. It is a vibrant picture of how evangelism works. The prophet Ezekiel has a vision of a desolate valley of dead and dry bones. In the vision, the Lord speaks to Ezekiel who is standing in the midst of these bones. The Lord says, “Ezekiel, how is it that these bones shall live again?” Ezekiel responds, “Lord, only you know.”
In this we see Ezekiel’s utter dependance upon God. He knows that he has no power to bring the dead bones back to life. He acknowledges that it would take a supernatural act of God. When we neglect to pray for God to work in and through us in evangelizing to the lost, in essence we answer the question “How will these bones live” by saying to God, “No problem, I got this Lord.”
In Ezekiel 37, we find that Ezekiel merely has to speak the Word of God, and through his obedience in proclaiming the spoken Word, it is God who supernaturally brings what was once dead back to life. How can the spiritually dead be born alive again? Only the Lord knows. Therefore, we are utterly dependent upon Him and should precede our evangelistic efforts with desperate prayers.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6.
Far too often believers attempt to evangelize with their main concern being not to offend anyone. But when we preach the truth of the Gospel to unbelievers, the message will without question be seen as offensive.
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18.
If the message we preach is not foolish or offensive in some sense to unbelievers, then we are not giving them truth. It is impossible to candy coat the Gospel, because in doing so it is rendered ineffective.
It is not enough to merely tell people that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives. And it is not enough to describe to them a pitiful picture of Jesus knocking on the door of their heart, just begging to be let in. Not only is this a distortion of the Christ of scripture, but this type of evangelism actually elevates man above God.
In our evangelism, we must give them the bad news before they can appreciate the good news. No one in their fallen nature thinks that their sins are really that bad. And therefore, fallen man does not see his need for a savior. After all, if our message is that God loves everyone and just wants them to be happy, whats the big deal about a little sin?
Therefore, if we are to evangelize properly, we must point them to the the Biblical truth of God as well as the truth about themselves.
God is not a beggar, He is Holy (Isaiah 6:3). This is to say that God is so separate and pure, that He can have no fellowship with sin. Immediately a great dilemma is exposed. God is good, and we are not.
We are sinners and have broken each and every law that God has given. And according to the Apostle Paul, the curse of death is the apt punishment for not keeping each and every one of His laws (Galatians 3:15).
I’ve heard many lost people attempt to justify their sins and find comfort in their rebellion against God by quoting Romans 3:23, “For all have fallen short of the glory of God.”
But this verse was never meant to give the sinner comfort or find solace in the fact that everyone sins. Rather, the fact that all humanity has fallen short of the demands and standards of our Holy God should terrify sinful man. Because our shortcomings in sin have placed each person who is outside of Christ under the wrath of God.
It is not the love of God that presides upon the unbeliever. It is His unmitigated wrath.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36.
How do we point unbelievers to truth? By exposing them to the law of God, and showing them how in their rebellion, they are viewed as law breakers. There is no amount of penance, work, or begging that a criminal can do to escape his due penalty. The lost man has fallen short of the righteous standards of our Holy God and in doing so rightly deserves death.
This is why they need a savior. And this is why we point them to the finished work of Christ crucified. It is only in understanding the truth of our desperate depravity before God that we can rightly understand the person and work of Jesus Christ. That God the Father sent Jesus, His only Son, to live the perfect life that we couldn’t live, satisfying the demands of the law.
And through Jesus death, burial, and resurrection, He imputed His righteous record to all who would repent of their sins and believe the Gospel. Jesus took upon Himself the sins that should have buried us in the grave and in return gave us His righteous standing before God. Jesus Christ died in our place and for our sins. This is the Gospel truth.
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4.
It is true that we are to stand on the truth of the Gospel, no matter how offensive it may be to our hearers. However, our intention is never to hurt someone, but rather lovingly point out the danger of their soul in it’s fallen state. We are to speak the harsh truth of the Gospel in love.
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15.
We do not preach the Gospel to others as we stand upon a high mountain top with our cape of self righteousness flapping in the wind. And we are not to consider ourselves better than anyone else, because we are not.
Rather our approach in pointing out the truth should be one of humility and love. It is a message that tells the lost man, “Sir, I am no better than you. In fact, I was the chief of sinners. I deserved nothing but God’s wrath. But Jesus gave grace to a wretched sinner like me. He saved me from the justice of God and took it upon Himself. If you will repent of your sins and put your faith in Him, He can do the same for you.”
Truth and love go hand in hand in our evangelism. One without the other cannot stand.
The Gospel message is no doubt jagged in its content, but it is out of love that we deliver it to our hearers without sanding away any of it’s cutting edges.
The Gospel message is the power of God unto salvation. But unless this message has personally pricked us first, our efforts will seem forced and insincere.
Imagine that a great new steak restaurant had opened up, and in order to get the word out, the owner hired a few men who had never tasted their food to pass out flyers on the street. Having never sampled their steaks, the men begrudging passed out the flyers with little care regarding if people actually came to the restaurant or not.
Now consider that the owner of the steak restaurant took a different approach. Instead of merely giving these men a stack of flyers, the men were each treated to one of the best cuts of steak on the menu, cooked just they way they liked it. After the meal, the consensus among the men was unanimous that it was the very best steak they had ever tasted.
They now had not just heard about the product that they were telling others about, they had experienced it’s rich flavor for themselves. And in telling others about it, they could now speak passionately about the experience.
It is one thing to tell people about the grace of God. It is quite another thing to have actually experienced that grace and then tell others. When we truly grasp the implications of the Gospel, the dire straights that our sin had placed us in, and the great exchange that Christ made with those who place their faith in Him, evangelism is not merely a duty, but it is the Christian’s delight. And joyful passion in our evangelism replaces viewing it as a dutiful procedure.
“Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 43:3-5.
One of the biggest hinderances to evangelism is the believer’s lack of urgency. It is easy to become complacent in the comfort of our own salvation, and grow lazily satisfied at just gazing upon Christ in our own devotions, prayers, and church activities. The disciples experienced this problem after Christ had asended into Heaven before their very eyes.
After His resurrection and before His ascension into Heaven, Christ told the disciples to go and preach the Gospel to all of creation. This was the Great Commission. It was Jesus way of telling them that they were to be preaching the Gospel to the world until He returned. But in Acts 1, after His ascension, we see the disciples just staring up into the Heavens.
“And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10-11.
Basically, these angels were saying to the disciples, “What are you staring at?!? You were given a Great Commission to urgently pursue before the Master returns…so get going!” Jesus will return. And for all of those including our family and friends who are not presently known by the Lord Jesus Christ lies a dreadful day of judgement ahead in their future.
This reality should not cause use to rest easily in our own salvation, but to urgently plea with sinners to repent of their sins before the return of Christ. For He will not return as a gentle lamb, but vengeful Warrior King, bent on making war upon the wicked.
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” Revelation 19:11-16.
If one of my children were about to touch a hot stove or run into the midst of on coming traffic, I would be urgent in yelling at them to stop and run in the other direction, away from the danger, regardless of if it hurt their feelings. I would much rather their feelings be hurt than their life be taken.
What a terrifying picture we see at the return of Christ in Revelation. When we plead with unbelievers to repent of their sins, we are in much the same way asking them to turn away from their current path that will lead them to eternal destruction.
Preaching the Gospel to people in your life is not something that can be put off until tomorrow. It is an urgent plight. Because there is no guarantee that tomorrow will ever come. The Great Day of the Lord could come upon us at anytime. When Christ returns, there will be no second chances, and swift destruction will come upon the wicked. Therefore, our evangelism cannot be delayed.
“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3.
No one ever said running the race that has been set before the saints would be easy. But it is worth it. Evangelism is not merely an option, but it is a command given to every believer in Christ. And it is one that we must take seriously. This great task set before us is impossible if done in our own power. But what is impossible with man is made possible through Christ Jesus. Let us run this race with preparedness, perseverance, and joy!
Charles Spurgeon once said, ““Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” As harsh as his words may be, the truth of this statement should cause us all to evaluate the faith that we profess. When we are passionate about something or someone, we have no problem telling the world about it.
When our team wins the championship, we proudly bring the game up to anyone that will listen. When we are in love, we look for opportunities to talk about our relationship. If we see a great movie, have a wonderful meal, or enjoy a particular hobby, we freely tell others about our experiences. It is human nature to tell people about the things that we love.
Strangely, this truth seems extremely disconnected when it comes to many professing believers in Christ. There are those that claim to love Jesus and they faithfully attend church most every Sundays. But when it comes to evangelism or proclaiming the Gospel to others in their lives, they are completely silent.
If it is true that we easily tell people about the things that we love, why is it that so many who claim to be Christians have no desire to proclaim the Gospel to others in their lives?This should cause us to think hard about the words of Spurgeon.
The great German theologian Martin Luther said of the Christian and evangelism, “If he have faith, the believer cannot be restrianed. He breaks out. He confesses and teaches this Gospel to the people at the risk of his life.”
Leonard Ravenhill once said, “America is not dying because of the strength of humanism but the weakness of evangelism.” If the marching orders of Christ given through the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 is for all believer to go and preach the Gospel to all creation, then why are so many satisfied to merely attend church once a week with no concern for telling others of Christ? Is this not the apex of disobedience?
If we have no evangelistic heart to be about the mission of Christ and to tell others about the God who saved us, are we truly Christians? Do we have the same zeal for evangelism as did the examples of Godly men we see in the scriptures as well as historically? Or have some molded a form of Christianity carries no weightiness to it?
“My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long” Psalm 71:15.
Is it possible to be saved without posessing a deep desire to tell the world about Christ? Or does a person’s lack of evangelism expose them as imposters to the faith? As with anything pertaining to life and Godliness, we must let scripture be our authority in answering these questions.
“I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other. So because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of My mouth!” Revelation 3:15-16.
In college all of my friends would gather to watch the Alabama football games together. I had a friend named Josh who claimed to be an Alabama fan like the rest of us. However, Josh was always indifferent to how the team did that season. If they won, his emotions never got past merely saying, “That’s great.” And if Alabama lost, he was not despondent like the rest of us. It was really no big deal.
Truth be told, Josh claimed to be an Alabama fan, but he could have cared less about football, much less how the team actually played. Josh wasn’t hot with passion when they won. And he wasn’t so cold as to say he wasn’t a fan. He was merely lukewarm. And in being lukewarm, he really wasn’t a fan at all. It was an empty profession.
In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus is speaking to the church in Laodicea. It was a church with a profession very similar to Josh. They claimed to love Christ, but were lukewarm when it came to their passion. They were enamored with worldly pursuits such as wealth and material possessions. They claimed to love Jesus with their mouth, but proved that they were indifferent to Him with their lives.
The term ‘lukewarm Christian’ has been greatly misused as a way to describe someone who professes to love Christ but does not live for Him. Preachers have coined this term ‘lukewarm Christian’ in an attempt not to scare anyone, but instead gently prompt them to take their faith more seriously. But this is not the Biblical picture we see in Revelation at all.
Jesus says of this lukewarm church that He would rather spit them out of his mouth. When we spit something out of our mouths, it is because it is extremely displeasing. When my wife and I have attempted to give liquid medicine to our two year old daughter Haven, she will immediately spit it out of her mouth. She hates the taste and wants no part of it.
Jesus uses this same picture describing someone who is lukewarm in their faith. If we are not on fire for the Gospel, then we must see ourselves as lukewarm. It is impossible to love Christ and not have a burning desire to tell people about Him. There is no such thing as a lukewarm Christian. Consider the words of the prophet Jeremiah;
“But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” Jeremiah 20:9.
Sadly evangelism is a scary word to some within the church. The thought of sharing Christ or telling someone about the reason for the faith that lies within is the last thing they would ever want to do. But this was not the case with Jeremiah. He could no more cease to speak of God than he could prevent the sun from rising.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15.
To be sure, fear of talking to unbelievers about Jesus is very common. The disciples were closer to Jesus than anyone, yet after He was crucified, they didn’t run out to tell everyone that Jesus was the Messiah. Rather, they hid inside an upper room. They professed love for Christ, but didn’t want to be associated with Him for fear of rejection and persecution.
However, after Christ appeared to them in the upper room in His glorified state, their fear was replaced with a passion to evangelize. What was it that transformed these cowardly men who were afraid into fearless evangelist who were not only willing to openly preach the Gospel, but even to die for it?
It was that they finally saw Jesus for who He is. Savior, redeemer, and sovereign Lord of all. The crux of our problem regarding the lack of evangelism within the church centers around the knowledge of God. The more a person begins to delve into a study of the attributes of God such as His sovereignty, His omniscience, His immutability, and more, fear is replaced with passion. Indifference to evangelism is replaced by an urgency to proclaim the Gospel.
This is not to say that every Christian is called to be able to preach an eloquent sermon from the pulpit. Not all are preachers, not all are teachers. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, the body is made up of believers with differing gifts (1 Corinthians 12)
But evangelism comes in many forms. If we are truly passionate about the Gospel, then the topic will be a natural overflow into our conversations. Furthermore, all Christians are called to be priests in a sense. And a priest is one that proclaims the message of the Gospel to others in their lives (1 Peter 2:9).
It is absurd for a Christian to believe that he or she can merely live a life worthy of the Gospel without speaking of it. Good news is not something we live out, but rather something we tell others about. Only through our evangelism will the lost be saved.
“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?” Romans 10:14.
Hear the passion for evangelism within the words of Paul;
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24.
How startling is this statement? Paul considered all other pursuits in his life to be worthless when placed up against his passion for evangelism.
All things when compared to His passion for Christ were seen as worthless. No doubt Paul had things that he loved. He had very dear friends and like every man, even hobbies that he enjoyed. It is quite possible Paul had a love for working with his hands, as he was a tent maker by trade.
But Paul did not live for these things. His earthly passions couldn’t compare with his desire to preach the Gospel and tell others about Christ. His only goal in life was to testify the good news of God’s grace.
The question is, can we say the same today?
What would your family say was the overriding passion in your life? Would it be your hobbies? Your favorite sports team? Your family and friends? Or would they say that the love that predominantly shined brightest in your life was your love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ? It is no sin to have things in this world that we love and enjoy. The question is, do these other things surpass our love of Christ.
A great preacher once said that the thing which a person speaks the most of is their God. Are there things in your life that you are more passionate about than the Gospel of Jesus Christ? If so, repent of your lukewarm profession. When we truly grasp our hopeless state before God, that we were deserving of Hell due to the smallest of sins, yet Christ took our place, indifference becomes impossible.
When we rightly understand what Christ has done for us and we begin to grasp His grace, evangelism is not viewed as a duty, but a delight. We speak boldly of the things that we love. Does your profession of Christ reflect the passion within your heart? Or as Spurgeon said, does your lack of desire to speak of Christ expose you to be an impostor?
In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus speaks of a people who will stand before the Lord professing their love and allegiance to Him. Yet Jesus says to these religiously lukewarm people who had no true heart for Him, “Depart from me, I never knew you (Matt. 7:21-23).” The term ‘Lukewarm Christian‘ is an oxymoron. The two words themselves are a complete contradiction. Because a true Christian has only one temperature; passionately hot.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, and strength (Matt 22:36). The implications of this are staggering. This is to say that the love of God is the preeminent passion of our lives. It is a love that surpasses hobbies, sports team allegiances, friends, and even family. And I say again, the things that we are the most passionate about in life are the things that we love with all of our heart, mind and strength.
It is only possible to be hot or cold for Christ. There is no such thing as a lukewarm Christian. And our desire to proclaim the Gospel and be that royal priesthood to others in our lives can be a perverbal thermometer in measuring our spiritual temperature. A Christian that keeps quiet and speaks not of His Savior is a contradiction.
Evangelism is one of the greatest gifts given to followers of Christ. It is an opportunity to speak freely of the great desire which resides in our hearts. But in order to do this, we must let our love for God press us deeply into attaining the knowledge of God. And the more we know of Him, the greater our fire for evangelism will burn. As Paul wrote, let us not be ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God to save (Romans 1:16).
“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.” Isaiah 12:4.
**Passing out evangelistic tracs is also a great way to evangelize. One of the best I’ve seen is one called “Don’t Stub Your Toe.” You can preview this trac for yourself and also order if interested. Ive placed links below.
Last week I was driving along the interstate when all the sudden, I saw police and ambulance lights flashing up ahead on the side of the road. It was apparent that there had been a horrible car accident. Immediately a sense of sorrow for those involved washed over me. As I drew closer to the accident, my knee jerk reaction was to slow down and at least try to assess what had happened, and what was going on.
I knew I probably should have just kept driving. I knew I shouldn’t have slowed down to look at the tragedy. But I just couldn’t help myself. Have you ever felt like this? You see something horrible as you drive along the highway and know that you should keep your gaze in front of you. But something in you just cannot resist to slow down and check it out.
Something similar to this happened to me this morning . I woke up to a beautiful Saturday morning. I got out of bed, grabbed my coffee, and clicked on the television. As I flipped through the channels, I came across a televangelist preaching to a crowd of hundreds, if not thousands of people.
I knew better. I knew that there was nothing profitable to be seen here. I knew that this program was nothing short of a tragedy. But that car wreck syndrome took over. I couldn’t help myself. So I slowed down, in order to get a look at what I knew would be a complete train wreck.
The program was a show called The Camp Meeting. And the preacher was a man named David Martin. It was immediately apparent that David Martin was an excellent speaker with a natural gift for captivating an audience and holding their attention. His voice was strong and commanding, and he was very comfortable in front of this large crowd.
He then began to tell a story. He said that he and his wife were sitting in a church service and the tithe was about to be collected. He went on to say that he felt God telling him to give one hundred and eleven dollars to the tithe. Reluctantly he stated that he began to make the check out when God supposedly spoke again, telling him to write another check for the same amount for a blessing to cover his family. And then a to write a third check for the same amount so that God’s favor would be on his business.
Three separate checks, each for one hundred and eleven dollars. He then “felt” God tell him to look down to the first scripture he saw in his Bible. As the story goes, David Martin looked down and saw the verse Deuteronomy 1:11.
“May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you!” Deuteronomy 1:11.
“Wouldn’t you like to have God bless your life a thousand times over in your family life and your business?” this pastor said. And so he went on to mangle this verse and rip it completely from its original context, stating that God was waiting to bless everyone in the congregation a thousand times over.
All they had to do was write a check in faith. Only the check couldn’t be for just any amount. David Martin asked his congregation to write three separate checks of one hundred and eleven dollars. One for themselves, one for their family, and one for their business. A sum total of three hundred and thirty three dollars from each family of which there were hundreds in attendance.
But the car wreck wasn’t over yet. This pastor then went on to look directly into the camera and present the same offer to everyone watching at home. He said that even I could receive God’s favor upon myself, my family, and my business for three separate checks of one hundred and eleven dollars written in faith to receive the favor of God upon my life.
As I watched this man preach I felt angry at how he was using God’s Word in order to fatten his bank account. I was greatly saddened at the sight of the hundreds of people in the congregation that were raising their hands and shaking their heads in agreement to his heretical request. And I was horrified that he had used Deuteronomy 1:11 in order to mislead so many people.
As he gave the closing prayer, this charlatan David Martin stood before hundreds and said, “The greatest thing that God could ever give you is his favor in blessing your life.” Seriously? What about salvation? What about the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What about the Lord opening our minds and hearts to know Him more deeply?
David Martin is a false teacher. He preaches a perverted, false Gospel know as the Prosperity Gospel. And countless people are deceived as a result of this movement. This travesty could have been avoided had this quasi preached utilized expositional preaching in order to expound Deuteronomy 1:11. Instead of going to this text in search of its original meaning, David Martin went to the verse with his own agenda and made the verse say what he wanted it to say.
I’ve used this example many times. Imagine that you had never seen the movie Rocky before. Rocky is a classic movie about an amateur boxer who lives in the city of Philadelphia and is training to fight the heavyweight champ of the world. But again, for the sake of our example, you don’t know this going into the movie.
We are late to the movie, and actually make our way into the theater midway through the film. As we sit down, we see the main character Rocky walking through the streets of Philly, tossing a little ball into the air, dressed like thug. Immediately after seeing this scene where Rocky just walks around the streets of Philadelphia, we exit the theater not waiting to see the rest of the movie.
As we exit the theater, I then use that short scene to craft my own interpretation of the movie by telling you that the movie was about a street thug who lived in Philadelphia and he had a passion to play hand ball. If you have never seen the beginning or the end of the movie, then its very easy to believe the lie that I have told you.
In the same way, when we approach the Bible with our own preconceived notions in mind without knowing the proper context of which they were written, we end up missing the true meaning of the scriptures we read. This false teacher David Martin did not expound on the background of the book of Deuteronomy. He didn’t tell his hearers of its historical context. And he didn’t shed light on the beginning verses of the book. He merely went straight to a verse where Moses spoke of God blessing His people, and made the verse mean what he wanted it to in order to attain his desired reaction from the crowd.
The book of Deuteronomy was written approximately forty years after the exodus of Israel took place. The Lord had used Moses to free His people from their enslavement to Pharaoh of Egypt, and now they were making the long journey to the land that God had promised them. They had received the Ten Commandments in Exodus and are almost ready to enter into the promised land after forty years of wandering in the desert. The book of Deuteronomy is the final words of Moses to the nation of Israel before the enter into the promise land.
In chapters 1-11 of Deuteronomy, Moses speaks to Israel in a harsh tone as he chastises them for their former rebellion against God. But there is also a charge given to the nation of Israel in these chapters. Moses tells the new generation of Israelites who are about to enter the land to be different from their ancestors who had ignored the commands of God, and to respond to the Lord’s grace with love and obedience. Moses reminds the nation of the Ten Commandments, because he knows that when Israel enters into the promised land there will be many in the new land who worshipped false Gods.
However, Moses was prohibited by God to enter into the promised land with Israel due to disobeying the Lord (Numbers 20:12). In the opening chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the nation of God’s original promise made to Abraham concerning Israel. He does this in the verse right before Deuteronomy 1:11.
“The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven.” Deuteronomy 1:10.
Moses is referring back to the original promise that God had made to Abraham in Genesis.
“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,” Genesis 22:17.
Abraham and his wife Sarah were older in age and past child bearing years. Not to mention Sarah was barren and unable to have children. But the Lord gave this promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:17, that from the seed of Abraham would come a nation that outnumbered the sands of the sea and stars in the sky. The Lord opened the womb of Sarah she gave birth to Isaac, from who the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, came from.
Back to Deuteronomy. After Moses had reminded the nation of God’s original promise to Abraham, he then says this is Deuteronomy 1:11.
” May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you!” Deuteronomy 1:11.
Is this thousand time over blessing referring to wealth and material possessions as the charlatan David Martin preached on television? Absolutely not. This favor of God refers to the continuation of the line of Israel, that they would continue to multiply. The blessing is that God had shown any favor at all to Israel and had called this rebellious people His chosen people. Not for anything they had done or given to earn this favor, but simply because God had chosen to set His love upon them.
“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,” Deuteronomy 7:7.
As I watched the closing of David Martin’s sermon where he wrongly used the promise of Deuteronomy 1:11 in order to get people to write him checks for one hundred and eleven dollars, they closed out the program with the worship team leading the congregation in a song with lyrics that emphasized the Holiness of God. As the credits began to roll, hundreds stood to their feet singing, “God, you are HOLY!” This made my stomach turn.
The whole program was an infomercial prompting people to believe that God was just like us. That the Lord is materialistic and His greatest desire is that we would have more wealth. And then they close out the service by singing of the Holiness, which is the separateness of God. So which is it? Is God materialistic like us or is He Holy?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8.
“When you did these things and I kept silent, you thought I was exactly like you. But I now arraign you and set my accusations before you.” Psalm 50:21.
I pray that David Martin is brought under great conviction. I pray that the Lord would open his eyes to the truth of the Gospel. If not, then he along with many that have bought into his perversion of Deuteronomy will hear the words of Psalm 50:21 ringing in their ears as they stand before the Lord. “You thought that I was like you, concerned with worldly treasures. But now I set my accusations before you.”
This morning I witnessed hundreds of people who worshipped God in hopes of receiving worldly possessions from Him. They did not love Him for the Gospel truth that. They did not worship Him because they saw themselves as guilty, desperate sinners who deserved eternal separation from God. And they did not worship Him because of the grace, mercy, and forgiveness that the Lord extended through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. They did not worship Jesus as Lord, for dying in our place and for our sins.
They worshipped an imaginary genie in a bottle. As Paul Washer once said, “Isn’t salvation enough?” If God had taken away all of our earthly treasures such as family, health, and wealth, would we as Job be able to say that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD? God owes us nothing. His desire is not to make us wealthy, it is to make us Holy. And when we hear messages that promote worshipping the stuff He gives over the salvation He offers, it is a completely different Gospel.
For the life of me I cannot understand why television stations that profess to be Christians continue to allow false ministries like David Martin International to be broadcast. He is a false teacher, a charlatan, and a thief. The greatest blessing is not the stuff God gives, but the salvation He has given.
The lie of the prosperity Gospel is that is promotes worshipping the gifts and common graces God gives over worshipping the Lord Himself simply for who He is and what He has already done in and through the cross of Christ. Deuteronomy 1:11 reminds us today of the promise of God given to Abraham to multiply His people in spite of their unworthy state before Him. And it is a reminder of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ and His amazing grace towards sinners like us.
The greatest threat to Christianity is not the atheists who despises God’s Word, but rather it is professing believers who use it wrongly in their evangelism. It seems that we have become a culture that thrives more on quaint little antidotes and sayings about God more than the scriptures themselves. Far too often man tends to falsely comfort himself with such quasi religous sayings instead of seeking to ask, “Did God really say that?”
In 2010, Pastor David Platt came under fire for preaching against one of these popular Christian sayings. A Birmingham Alabama newspaper columnist wrote, “We’ve all heard the truth that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. However, Pastor Platt preaches that God hates the sin as well as the sinner.”
Pastor David stood before his congregation the following Sunday when referencing the article and said, “This is one of those times where a preacher can come under fire for preaching the Bible.”
The late R.C. Sproul was asked this question at a conference. “Dr. Sproul, what do you say when people use the saying, ‘God loves the sinner but hates the sin?” Dr. Sproul replied, “The Kingdom of God is not Mr. Rogers neighborhood.”
Does God really hate the sinner as well as the sin? Have we become so zealous in our hope for sinners to be brought to Christ that we have given Jesus a makeover in order to hide His wrath and make Him more appealing to the lost world?
We must be cautious in our evangelistic passion to reach lost souls that we not preach to them a different Gospel. If the Christ we preach is changed in even the slightest way, then it is no longer the Lord of scripture that we promote, but an anathema.
In order to answer the question of God’s love or hate for sinners, we must set aside our personal emotions or feelings about the matter and resort to God’s Word as the final authority on the issue. What does the Bible say about how God feels about sinners.
To be sure, there is a sense in which God’s love has been shed abroad on sinners. For we all fall short and sin daily, despite our best efforts. However, this salvific love God has for sinners is for those that have been called of God. God’s love is for the true Christian, who’s sins have been covered by the blood of Christ.
It is crucial that we distinguish between how a Christian relates to sin as opposed to a lost person. Someone who has been regenerated by Christ and has been given a new heart cannot tolerate sin in their lives.
Although they most assuredly will sin, it is not something that they seek after. When the true believer in Christ sins, it is mournful to them. They do not seek to entertain sin in their lives, but rather to put it to death.
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5.
The apostle Paul addressed his great hatred for the sins in his life. He looked at his own sin as something foreign to his new nature in Christ. Paul hated his sin, and longed for the righteousness of God in his life.
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15.
For the true believer, it is impossible for them to make a mockery of the grace of God, falsely thinking that because of their profession of faith that they are free to continue in rebellion against God, and that He is bound to just overlook their trespasses.
If there is a person who claims to be a Christian yet they can willingly and deliberately chase after what they know to be sin, then they prove themselves to be a liar and their faith to be a sham.
“Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins.” Hebrews 10:26.
So there is a sense in which God’s love is shown to the sinner in that Christ atoned for the sins of His people on the cross. The danger we get into is when Christians revert to telling unbelievers or false converts that God loves them but hates their sin.
Pertaining to those outside of Christ, those who have not truly repented of their sins and been born again, this is not true. No where in scripture is it written that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. In fact, scripture states the exact opposite.
“The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.” Psalm 11:5.
Notice it is not only the sin that God hates with a passion. The Psalmist did not write that God merely hates the acts of the wicked. Rather, the word “wicked” in this verse is used to describe a group of people. And God’s hatred is directed at them, not just their sin.
“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16-19.
Again we see in Proverbs that God’s hatred is directed at the one who commits these sins, not just at the actions themselves. All men sin, but the true Christians runs from evil practices of sin. The unconverted man runs towards sin with a great willingness to embrace it. These seven things that God hates are not just sinful actions, but the one who commits them.
“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” 1 John 3:9.
When speaking of the wicked, Job wrote, “Utter darkness is laid up for his treasures; a fire not fanned will devour him; what is left in his tent will be consumed.” Job 20:26.
Again, we see that it is not only acts of wickedness that God abhors, but the wicked perpetrators themselves. Those who may claim to be Christians, but persist in adultery, in hatred, in lies, in fornication and other acts of sin. They know that what they do is an abomination to God. But with their actions, they prove that their sin is more precious to them than their desire to repent.
These people do not hate their sin, but find ways to justify it, all the while claiming to be followers of Christ. They may attend church services, they may have been baptized, and they may be well respected in the community. But none of these things merit the grace of God upon their lives.
Jonathan Edwards said in his infamous sermon entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, “Some have imagined and pretended that God’s promises are effectual for a man in his natural state, if that man is truly earnest in his seeking and knocking. But it is visibly clear that God is under no obligation to keep such a person from eternal destruction, not even for one moment. It doesn’t matter how religious the man is or how many prayers he makes. Until he believes in Christ, God is not obligated in any way to protect him.”
Not everyone who thinks themselves to be a Christian is truly saved. Sadly, there will be many people who vehemently professed Jesus Christ as Lord while they had breath who will spend their eternity in Hell.
“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 7:21-23.
As R.C.Sproul once said, “It is not the sin that God will cast into Hell, but the sinner.”
Jesus said in Mark 1:15 that in order to be saved, a person must do two things; believe and repent. Professing believers have no problem with the belief portion of this verse. However, when it comes to repenting of our sins, not one time but as a daily practice, we conveniently forget this.
As Paul Washer once said, “Repentance is not a flu shot or something we do one time. Repentance is an ongoing and daily thing.”
If we are truly believer sin Christ, it is our mission to seek out and destroy any remnants of sin that remain in our lives. And we do this be examining ourselves daily. It is to look at our lives through the lens of God’s Word, and ask of ourselves if there is any sin that has not been put away.
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Corinthians 13:5.
It is the wayward sinner that abides under the wrath of God. Contrary to what some would say, the love of God does not abide on all people regardless of their spiritual condition. The stark reality is that those outside of Christ are heaping upon themselves the fearce anger and wrath of God.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” John 3:36.
It is not the love of God that remains upon the wicked, but the wrath of God. Unfortunately, there are many who will not preach this to their hearers. There are those who conduct their evangelism with sayings such as, “God loves you just as you are, He just wishes you would stop running from Him.”
When we tell sinners that God loves them just the way they are, what is being heard is that because God is so loving, there is no fear in sin. So why would anyone adhere to the Biblical mandate to repent? It is often said that because God is love He must forgive, therefore the more we sin, the greater His grace is upon our lives. But the Apostle Paul greatly opposed this false notion.
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? “Romans 6:1-2.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that when God saves a man, he literally becomes as a new creation. The implications of this are staggering. Salvation is not merely a decision man decides to make. It is a miraculous supernatural miracle of God in which God forgoes to make a person totally new. Their desires are different. The sins that they once loved, they now despise. And the righteousness of God that they once ran from, they now run to.
Does a Christian sin? Sadly, the do. But can a Christ persist in a practice and deliberate pursuit of sin. As the Apostle said, by no means. It is in a person’s practice of repentance that it becomes obvious as to if they are saved or not.
It is often said that as Christians, we are not to judge the salvation of others. It is true that only God can judge a person regarding the condemnation of their sins. However, it is false that Christians are not to judge. In fact, we can weed out false believers from true by inspecting the fruit of their lives.
Are they striving after Christ, or striving after sin? Is there a genuine desire for repentance in their lives? Do they hate their sin and long for Christlikeness? These are all fruits that Christians are called to discern in others.
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:16-20.
If your child were standing in the middle a busy street in the midst of oncoming traffic, you wouldn’t scream at him how much you love him in order to get him to realize his danger. Rather you would make the child aware of the danger by saying something like, “Get out of the road, or you will get hit by a car!”
We are to preach the wrath of God to sinners. We don’t sugar coat their grave condition or entreat them with false politically correct statements about God. We are to call them to flee from the wrath that abides upon them.
Because although it is a wonderful truth that God is love, the lost man does not reside under His grace. In his spiritually dead state, he is in great danger, and it is the fear of the Lord that leads people to see His great love. It is the fear of the Lord that leads to knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).
“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.” 2 Corinthians 5:11.
Dr. John MacArthur once said, “Grace means nothing to a person who does not know he is sinful and that such sinfulness means he is separated from God and damned. It is therefore pointless to preach grace until the impossible demands of the law and the reality of guilt before God are preached.”
Truth be told, the God never said “God loves the sinner but hates the sin.” Rather Ghandi said this. When we mix our Christian beliefs with man’s opinions, it becomes a powerless and false Gospel.
In our evangelism and desire to see others be saved, let us not be ashamed of the truth of man’s spiritual state. Unless sinful man understands the bad news of his own depravity, it is impossible to marvel in the good news of the grace of God. Preach the full council of the Gospel. Tell lost men that they preside under the fearful wrath of God, so that they may come to know His amazing grace.
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most celebrated truth in the history of the church. Yet it is also the most misunderstood doctrine in modern day Christianity. Simply put, the Gospel means ‘good news.’ But what is this good news that we Christians call Gospel? Many believers would waste no time in saying that the good news of the Gospel is that Christ died for our sins. And although this answer is correct, it is an inadequate response. To say that the Gospel is good news because of Christ dying for the sins of man and then leave it at that is like dipping the tip of your toe into a vastly deep sea. The depths have still yet to be explored.
The real question we must ask is “Why is it good news that Christ died for sinners?”
When pressed, this inquiry would cause many to be left without an answer. To understand the Gospel, we must start with a look at God. Because without an understanding of the character and nature of God, it is impossible for man to know his plight. It is impossible to understand why the Gospel is such great news. And it is impossible to understand grace.
Of all the attributes of God, the one that all other attributes must be evaluated through is His Holiness. God is Holy. I’ve found that there are many faithful believers who have been in church all of their lives, yet that have no understanding of the Holiness of God. And if we fail to grasp this great, all encompassing attribute of God, our understanding of the Gospel will be greatly distorted.
To say God is Holy is to infer that He is set apart. It is to say that God is separate, and unlike anything that is in His creation. The late R.C. Sproul once asked, “Which is more like God, an angel or a worm?” His answer was neither. An angel is no more close to being like God than a mere earth worm. God is in a category unto Himself, and there is nothing that He may be compared to. The writers of scripture understood this truth.
“To whom can you compare God? What image can you find to resemble him?” Isaiah 40:18.
“There is none like You, O LORD; You are great, and great is Your name in might.” Jeremiah 10:6.
“For this reason You are great, O Lord GOD; for there is none like You.” 2 Samuel 7:22.
“There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God. 1 Samuel 2:2.
“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.” Isaiah 46:9.
There is no one like God. And there is nothing we can come close to comparing Him to. When Moses asked what God was like, God did not point to anything under creation to say “I am like this…or that.” God could not, because there was nothing like Him. God simply said “I AM.” And then one day God the Father sent His only Son Jesus to walk among men, in essence to say, “I am like Him.”
Again, most professing Christians would agree to this truth. But what is so surprising is that a great many misunderstand the Gospel because they fail to see that God is not like them. It is a great fallacy to mold an image of the Lord that dismisses His Holiness and makes Him like us.
The great dilemma of man centers around the Holiness of God. In Isaiah 6, we see a picture of the seraphim proclaiming that God is thrice Holy. This image is magnified in that these seraphim covered their face, because the Holiness of God was to great to look upon. And with two wings they covered their feet to hide the shame of their creatureliness from God. Yet we do not see this great fear and reverence for God in many modern day churches. Man tries to bring God down to our level and make Him to be seen as more of a buddy rather than standing in awe of His Holiness.
Isaiah, one of God’s prophets and one who would be considered a righteous man saw the Lord in a vision, and cried out that he was an undeserving man of unclean lips. The most righteous of men trembled before the Lord in seeing His Holy nature. In looking at the great majority of modern day evangelicals, I have to ask, “Why don’t we?”
The obvious question is, “What makes God Holy?” Among many of His attributes, one of the things that makes God different from us is that He has nothing to do with sin. All of the many purifying rituals mandated in the Old Testament were mere pointers to the Holiness of God. God cannot have anything to do with sin. God cannot have anything to do with impurity. He is set apart from all that is unrighteous.
“You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong,” Habakkuk 1:13.
If man truly understood the Holiness of God, then He would stand in great fear. Because if this is true, that God cannot co mingle with sinners, then where does that leave us? Most professing Christians say that the good news of Christianity is that God forgives sinners. And because God is a loving God He must forgive all of our trespasses as long as we try to do our best.
But there are two problems with this ideology. For starters, this way of thinking would make God a debtor to us. That is to say, since we are trying to do good, God now owes forgiveness to us. God is not in our debt and He owes us nothing.
And secondly, if God is Holy, He is a Just and righteous God. And if He is a God of justice, then God cannot forgive sin. This would make Him unrighteous. Imagine that someone committed a horrible crime against someone in your family. This person is arrested and tried in.a court of law.
The judge stands to give his judgement. And he says, “Although the crime committed was great, Ive examined the life of this criminal and he has done many good things, so Ive decided to forgive all the charges and set him free.” This judge would not be seen as righteous, but crooked.
By our earthly laws, when a crime is committed, there must be justice. When we have been wronged, we want justice. Our society celebrates justice. There are more CSI and Law and Order television shows than anything else on tv. We as a people love the idea of justice. Except when it comes to our view of God. And much of this confusion comes from a misunderstanding of ourselves.
Man does not consider his sin to as heinous as it truly is. We compare ourselves by ourselves. We know that we are sinners, but we can always think of someone that we consider to be a worse sinner than we are, and therefore feel as if God must be more pleased with our attempts at morality. When we compare ourselves to others that we consider to be far worse sinners, then prove ourselves to be ignorant and without understanding.
“But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12.
For us to properly understand ourselves and how great our transgresses are, we must examine God’s law. Revelation 21:8 states that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire. This does not dismiss little white lies or false truths told with good intentions. The scripture says “All liars.”
Most people that I have shared this with consider the fact that God would send someone to Hell just for lying to be an example of the punishment not fitting the crime. But again, we only have a problem with this when it pertains to God judging us.
Consider again our worldly court system. If someone lies to their spouse, they may have marital problems. If someone lies to the police, they may spend the night in jail. And if someone lies to the government, that is called treason. And the punishment for treason is death. Do you see the commonality here?
As the authority of the one trespassed against increases, so does the punishment. The sin stayed the same. It was a lie. The only thing that changed was the authority of the one who was sinned against. So if we agree to this in our system of worldly laws, how much greater should the punishment be when we sin against the God of all creation?
The Apostle Paul wrote, “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” (Galatians 3:10).
Paul didn’t say cursed is the person who does more bad than good. Paul said cursed is the person who does not uphold all of the commands of God’s law. We are criminals who stand guilty and fully deserving of spending an eternity in Hell due to the very smallest of our sins. One white lie was enough for God to sentence us to that eternal prison.
Jesus Himself said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48).
Our morality earns us no merits before God. The prophet said that our best works are like filthy rags before God.(Isaiah 64:6). We see the example of lepers in the Bible often. Leprosy was a terrible disease. The skin of a person would literally begin to rot away while they were still alive. Puss and terrible bloody sores were extremely common in leprosy.
Imagine for a moment that someone took a leper and decided to try and make him presentable by cleaning him up. The leper was bathed, perfumed, his sores were bandaged, and he was then dressed in the most beautiful white linen robes. He would look presentable only for a short time. Because in a matter of moments, the rot of his flesh would begin to overpower the perfume, and his sore would begin to bleed through the white linen, soiling it.
In the same manner, man cannot make Himself presentable to God by the greatest acts of morality. Because it is only a matter of time before our infectious sin nature will Marr our best works.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:20 “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” The scribes and the Pharisees were the most moral and righteous of men, and they paid careful attention to uphold the laws of God. Yet Christ has just said that there is no level of human righteousness that can entitle us to a right standing before God.
These statements were meant to be shocking. They were meant to drive us to despair. These statements were meant to drive us to take a serious look at our critical state before God. And cause even the most self righteous of us to look unto the Heavens and cry out, “What must I do to be saved?”
The good news of the Gospel not just that Christ died for our sins, but that God did not give us what we deserved. A price had to be paid for our trespasses. Our sins could not go unpunished. So God sent His only Son, Himself incarnate, to the earth. He was born of a virgin birth, He lived the perfect life that we could not live and died the death that we should have died. And three days later Christ rose victorious over death. On the cross, a great exchange took place. Christ took upon Himself the curse that was due us, and gave to the Christian His righteousness.
All of the wrath and fury of God that we desired was poured out upon the perfect Lamb of God. Jesus drank our Hell. The cup of God’s wrath was swallowed by Christ, every last drop. Therefore when God the Father now looks upon the sinner who has believed upon Christ and begun to repent of His sins, He no longer sees our transgresses, but rather He sees the perfect blood of His Son.And henceforth God can declare us righteous and still be Just and Holy. It is only through the shed blood of Jesus that God can have fellowship with sinners like us.
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
This is the Gospel.
We are guilty sinners. And the God of the universe died in our place and for our sins. We strive to obey the law of God not because we are under the law, but because we are under Christ. Believers find the law of God as beautiful because we know the price that we paid for our sins. Unless we are first humbled and brought to our knees by a right view of the law of God, we can never truly be brought to faith.
This short excerpt that I have written on the Gospel is merely a glancing overview of this great truth that we shall spend an eternity of eternities exploring its rich depths and still never reach the bottom of the sea floor. As one great puritan theologian said, “The more I know, I realize the less I understand.”
We have been freed from the curse of the law which rightly condemned us by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Man is not saved due to his works, but only through the atoning and sacrificial work of Christ. The Gospel calls fallen man to do two thing; to repent of his sins, and believe the Gospel. And because of His grace towards us, this great Gospel should become the magnificent obsession of all professing believers.
“For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” Galatians 3:10-14.
I grew up as a huge fan of professional wresting. This was long before the product had become vulgar with swearing and vulgarity. Wrestling in the 80’s was basically a comic book that had come to life. There was nothing better than to wake up on Saturday mornings, turn on the television, and seeing Hulk Hogan preaching the importance of hard works and taking your vitamins. Or Rowdy Roddy Piper being put in his place by the charismatic Macho Man Randy Savage. To a twelve year old boy this was entertainment at its finest. These larger than life characters with their amazing athletic abilities and feats of strength constantly amazed me. And I was pro wrestlings biggest fan.
So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that the middle school I was attending holding wrestling practice for anyone who wanted to attend after school. I remember bursting through the door when I got home from school in a rush to tell my parents about wrestling practice. They were fully supportive. However, they asked if I would do a little research on exactly what middle school wrestling would entail. “Attend a collegiate wrestling match” my father said.
But being asked to study up on the sport that I loved was almost an insult to me. I saw no need to learn about collegiate wrestling, because I knew what to expect! The school would most likely have a wrestling ring like the ones on television, the coaches would give us cool character names, and we’d be taught the art of the body slam as well as how to fly off of the top rope like Super Fly Jimmy Snuka. I didn’t need to study any more about wrestling. I loved wrestling. And I knew all I needed to know about it, or so I thought.
When I finally attended my very first wrestling practice at the middle school, I was extremely perplexed. There were no wrestling rings with turnbuckles to jump off of. There were no announcers sitting in the corner with microphones ready to call the action. And there were no theatrics and cool costumes for us to put on. Instead, we were all gathered into a room with foam mats on the floor.
These dingy, blue wrestling mats had many circles strewn about in which served as our wrestling ring. We were not taught how to do pile drivers or power bombs, but rather how to take your opponent to the floor and pin him to the mat for a count of one.
I knew wrestling. I loved wrestling. But I soon realized I knew nothing about real wrestling. I only knew the popular commercialized version that was so popular among my friends at school.
As I begin to really study the sport, I saw that it had been around for hundreds of years. That the ancient Roman and Greek cultures would hold Olympic type games where wrestling was highlight of the event. The more I learned and participated in the real version of wrestling, the more I grew to love it even more than I did professional wrestling.
Claiming to possess any knowledge without a desire to study its truths is ignorance.
One of the most pervasive statements that I hear from many evangelicals when it comes to the topic of theology and doctrine is, “We don’t need all that theology, all that matters is that we love Jesus.”
Theology is the study of God’s Word. And doctrine is orthodox, Biblical teachings found all throughout scripture. To neglect the need for a deeper study of the attributes of God and claim that all we need is to love Jesus is a grievous error. It is a wonderful thing to love Jesus. But without knowing Him through a more intensive study of the Word can leave us worshipping a very popular and commercialized Jesus, but not the Jesus of scripture.
Sadly there are many professing believers that are enamored with the idea of loving Jesus, but they have no desire to know Him through a study of Biblical doctrine.
Without being grounded in Biblical theology, the Jesus we claim to love can easily become a God of our own creation. There are even churches that refuse to have a definitive statement of faith on their websites and instead state their beliefs as, “We love Jesus, We love People.”
Although these are fine statements, they tell me nothing regarding what they believe about God. It tells me nothing about what they believe about the perseverance of the saints. It tells me nothing about their view of the trinity. It says nothing of their view of the atonement of our sins through the cross of Christ. It tells me nothing of their view of the infallibility of the Word of God. Nothing about the depravity of man and the sovereignty of God. Nothing about their view of Grace.
It is not enough to know that a church or a person loves Jesus. We must know what they believe about Him through the scriptures in order to discern properly.
Without knowing the theology and grasp of doctrine that a church or person has, we are left to ask the question, “What Jesus are you referring to?” It is quite possible to profess a love for a Jesus that is loosely based on the teachings of the Bible, and to be so passionate about this Jesus that we neglect to see that we have in fact believe in a false Gospel.
All throughout the scriptures, the apostles were adamant that our faith be grounded not some untethered idea of love, but in truth. They were never proponents of basing our affections of God on what we feel, but rather what we know. When the Apostle Paul was training up Titus to be a pastor on the island of Crete, one of the first things he impressed him was the need for knowing sound doctrine.
“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Titus 2:1.
Notice Paul didn’t tell Titus to just rely on his love for Jesus. Paul knew that it is impossible to truly love Jesus unless we know Him through a proper study of biblical theology. Furthermore we are to teach our families doctrine. It is impossible for men to lead our families or even disciple our children properly unless we are teaching them theology and not just fluffy stories about the cute animals in Noah’s ark.
“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Titus 1:9.
On this side note of discipling our children, it boils down to asking what we want them to know about God. Do we want them to know the commercialized Jesus of the world that is all butterflies and love? Or do we desire that our children know the Christ of the Bible. Sadly, parents that neglect the study of theology do so because having a generic love of Jesus is not offensive to them. The belief in a Jesus void of theology makes us feel better about ourselves and makes for a cute bedtime story for the kids.
However, when study and teach Biblical theology, there will be blood. There will be God’s wrath. And we will begin to see ourselves as not only sinners, but heinous transgressors who rightly deserve the fires of Hell.
These are not popular views of God nor man. Many people avoid the study of theology because they prefer a version of Jesus that is all love but no wrath and a Christ that is begging sinners to repent instead of sovereignly demanding and brining to pass their conversion.
There is no doubt, a study of theology strips us of fluffy, man centered views of God. But when we begin to see God rightly through the Bible, our understanding of grace abounds. And our love for Christ is now anchored to solid truth and extreme gratitude.
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13.
Again, it is impossible to stand firm in our faith if we are not students of the Word ourselves. If we profess a love for God, to have a disdain for the study of theology is a contradiction. It stands to reason that if we love something, we want to know all there is to know about it. This holds true in relationships, hobbies, and everything that sparks a passion in our hearts.
It is very troubling that in the world, the things that we love we pursue in knowledge. However for some reason some believe it should not apply to our love for Christ. To claim we love Jesus yet have no desire for theology is to prove ourselves to be liars. Because that line of reasoning does not apply to any other passions in our lives.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean you have no ideas about God, rather it will mean you have a lot of wrong ones.” When it comes to your daily study of God’s Word, is it attained from reading uplifting devotions that stimulate positive feelings? Or is it grounded in the scriptures and in Biblical theology? When you are choosing a church to attend, is the deciding factor made based how relevant and funny the sermons are or how hip the worship band appears to be? Or is your decision based on the theological truths that are sung and preached?
It is a fine thing to love Jesus. But as Christians, we need to be able to tell the world which Jesus we love. If we claim to love Jesus yet believe things that are not found in scripture, then our version of Him is a modern-day golden calf.
“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15.
An untethered, etherial, love of some generic Christ was never outlined in Bible. Rather, Peter writes that we are to have a doctrinal knowledge of the scriptures so that we are able to give a defense to those who oppose it and a reason for our love for those that are curious.
The late R.C. Sproul once said, “Everyone is a theologian. Some people just aren’t very good ones.” All people have ideas about Jesus. But the only ones that will point us to the real Jesus are those ideas that are reamed from the scriptures. If you truly love Jesus, be sure that you are able to give reasoning that goes deeper than merely saying “He forgave me.”
Begin to emerge your study of God into topics such as propitiation and regeneration. Find a book on the attributes of God that will drive you to the scriptures. Contemplate the Biblical meaning of Holiness. Pick up a resource on typology. These may sound like scary academic words, but once you begin to study these doctrines, the scriptures will come to life in a whole new way.
True love for Christ begins with a knowledge of what He has done. I pray your love for Him is rooted in your study of theology, so that you may be equipped to give a reason for the hope that is within you.
Below I have placed links to some wonderful and easy to digest resources for anyone seeking to go deeper in their knowledge and love of Christ. As with any resource, these are never to take the place of your study of scripture, but instead be used to drive you to the Word and expand your understanding of it’s truths.