I have been a Christian since 1982, and over the past 30 years I have seen a great acceleration of the moral decline that was just beginning to really take hold in the United States when I was first saved. I am sorry to say that for the most part Christians have not handled this change very well.
One of the most disturbing trends that I have witnessed within the Christian community as a whole, is what I would call a ‘dumbing down’ to the culture rather than standing against it. More specifically I am referring to the move toward a more non confrontational approach to dealing with the proliferation of immorality, as the United States has moved away from the historic biblical worldview, to a more hedonistic (pleasure-seeking) approach to life.
Throughout history God has raised up men and women who openly stood in opposition to the moral rot of the culture, and the social inequalities they saw all around them. In addition, these men and women also confronted the weakness, and compromise which became embedded within the church.
Yet today far too many Christians imagine that confrontation with the darkness of the age is to be avoided at almost any cost. Far too many pastors have abandoned the direct proclamation of the truth, for more of a soft sell, life enhancement method of ministry. While I am convinced that while the intentions of most of these ministers are sincere, the damage that is taking place within the body of Christ in the West may take decades to reverse.
With this said, I would like to take a look at a few of the fundamental erroneous beliefs that have been perpetrated both within, and without Christianity in the West in recent years.
We must be careful not to offend the lost: Believers seem to be overly concerned that if they proclaim the truth they might run the risk of offending those who are not Christians, and thus hinder their coming to Christ. While we certainly must be wise in our handling of the truth, we cannot avoid offending the lost. The very nature of the cross of Jesus Christ is an offence to those who are blinded by darkness.
… But some people do not believe in him. To them he is, `the stone that the men who were building would not use. But now it is the chief stone at the corner.’ And to them he is also, `a stone on which people will hit their feet, and a rock that will make them fall down.’ They hit their feet on it, because they do not obey the word. It was planned that this would happen to them! (1 Peter 2:7-8 Today’s English)
You see Jesus causes people to stumble because man cannot come to God on his own terms. This is one of the most offensive ideas to the pride of the human heart. The very idea of humbling themselves before God is offensive to the self-righteous sinner.
People have been turned off to the in your face preaching of the gospel, so we should try to slowly divulge the gospel to them in non threatening terms. This belief has led to the seeker sensitive, Emergent Church movement that is actually doing a great deal of harm to the long-term ministry of the church.
While the idea of befriending sinners is certainly biblical the idea of compromise with the culture is not. The problem with this approach to the ministry of the gospel is that it has led to a life enrichment type of message. The lost are brought to believe that Jesus will enhance their lives. Rather than clearly proclaiming the truth, and calling for the sinner to repent, and turn from their ungodly lifestyle. This approach often could be summarized with the catchy phrase “God has a wonderful plan for your life.”
Unfortunately, when the lost do respond to this message, what they often receive as a result is what the Bible clearly promised would happen. They are confronted with persecution, tribulation and affliction for the sake of the word of God, and they are offended and fall away. (Matthew 13:21) What this actually does is causes people to follow Christ as long as things go well, but as soon as trouble comes these people fall away from the faith.
I have met many people who were raised in church, or who once professed Christ, but now are lost as a Goose. Most of these people fell away because they had trouble that came into their lives. This is clearly the result of a man centered, life enrichment type of message. Their motive for following Christ was not because they were truly sorry for their sin against God, but because they wanted to see what God would do for them.
Jesus never condemned sinners, so neither should we. While at face value this sounds very religious, and sanctimonious (smug) it is actually a very misleading statement. The premise with this assertion is that Jesus simply loved people where they were at, and left them alone to live their lives as they saw fit. While Jesus was merciful with the humble and broken He never allowed them to continue in their sin. Take for example the woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus through His strength of character, and mere presence defended her before her accusers. However you will notice that He never allowed her to simply stay in her sin.
John 8:9-11 (NKJV) Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
If you study the ministry of Jesus you will notice that when He ministered to the humble and broken He would show them a great deal of mercy, tenderness, and compassion. However when He confronted the self-righteous and hard hearted He rebuked them, and gave them the full extent of the consequences of their sin.
Sinners are already condemned: (John 3:17-18 NIV) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Apart from the salvation that is found through in Christ we are all condemned because we have all broken the laws of God, and as such deserve His justice. This is what makes the good news truly good news when we realize how merciful God has been to us.
The fact of the matter is that most people are actually self- righteous idolaters. Now they would never come right out and admit this because they are simply blind to the very idea.
They are self-righteous because they are relying upon their own human goodness, or understanding to sort the world out. In their minds their as good as the next guy, so why should they listen to anyone who would suggest otherwise, least of all some of Bible thumper.
They are idolaters because they have constructed a god of their own making. A god who agrees with anything they choose to do. In their mind god is just fine with whatever type of lifestyle they are engaged in. This is why they make statements such as “To me god is…” or “My god is…” or “My god would never…” You see their god doesn’t exist except in their minds. He is a god of their own making. Actually they are their own law giver, and whatever they imagine suits them is just fine.
You see a sinner loves sin like flies love manure. They just can’t get enough of it. The sinner is trying to find God like a thief is trying to find a police man. This is why sinners hate the truth of God’s word, because it shines the light on the darkness of their sin, and they will do anything to protect their addiction to sin.
Truth is hate to those who hate the truth. (John 3:19-20 NIV) This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 All those who do evil hate the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
People reject the truth because their deeds are evil, and they hate the light because it exposes this reality in their lives. The truth of the word of God is like drawing back the curtain in a dark room. As soon as the rays of the light shine in you can easily see the dust that was not visible before. The light did not create the dust, but merely reveals what was already present.
Our responsibility is to simply proclaim the truth. The Holy Spirit will then bring forth the transformation by using the word of God to bring forth conviction in the lives of those who hear. Just because people react with hatred or opposition is no indicator that the truth is not working in their lives, so we must not draw back in fear of their reaction, but simply speak the truth in love.
Philippians 1:27-28 (Phillips) But whatever happens, make sure that your everyday life is worthy of the Gospel of Christ. So that whether I do come and see you, or merely hear about you from a distance, I may know that you are standing fast in a united spirit, battling with a single mind for the faith of the Gospel and not caring two straws for your enemies. The very fact that they are your enemies is plain proof that they are lost to God, while the fact that you have such men as enemies is plain proof that you yourselves are being saved by God. You are given, in this battle, the privilege not merely of believing in Christ but also of suffering for his sake. It is now your turn to take part in that battle you once saw me engaged in, and which, in point of fact, I am still fighting.