In the last sharing, I wrote that those whose professed faith did not express itself in a new lifestyle, marked by hatred of sin and works of loving service to God and others, will be lost.
The tragic idea in the church today is that one can be a Christian without being a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. It reduces the gospel to the mere fact of Christ’s having died for sinners, requires of sinners only that they acknowledge this by the barest intellectual assent, and then assures them of their eternal security, when they may very well not be born again. This view distorts faith to a point beyond recognition, and promises a false peace to thousands who have given verbal assent to this reductionist Christianity but are not truly in God’s family. Among many of these individuals are those who were shared a gospel message which is devoid of true faith (which includes commitment) and repentance – all that is required is a verbal assent, perhaps accompanied by ‘a sinner’s prayer’.
There is no doubt that the motives of those who have fallen into this profound error have been good – many of them may desire to ensure ‘salvation’ to as many as possible – they may even seek to preserve the purity of the gospel of justification, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. They probably know that adding works to faith is a false gospel and they rightly want to avoid this. But the end result is that preserving the true gospel is precisely what they have not done. They have warped the gospel, and in some instances, utterly destroyed it.
It may be beneficial for us to ponder on the following:
– there is no justification without regeneration. Jesus said, “You must born again” (John 3:7)
– faith without works is a dead faith and no one will ever be saved by a dead faith (James 2:20)
-the mark of true justification is a perseverance in righteousness – to the very end. Jesus told His disciples, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22)
-faith in a Jesus who is Saviour but not Lord is faith in a Jesus of one’s own devising The Jesus who saves is the Lord – there is no other – and it is He who said, “Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,”, and do not do what I say?” (Luke6:23
-if one wants to serve Christ, “he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow (Him)” (Luke 9:23)
-Holy endurance of the Christlike sort is an expression not of pride, but of humility; not of defiant self-reliance, but of ready obedience not of the tight-lipped fatalism in a bleak, uncaring universe (like the Stoics), but of resolute, though often pained and aching submission to a loving Lord, of whom it has been truly said, “Christ leads me through no darker rooms than He went through before”
-“without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14)
-“Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistle is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned (recall the refining fire in Malachi 3).
God has joined faith and repentance as the two facets of response to the Saviour and has made it clear that turning to Christ means turning from sin and letting ungodliness go. Biblical teaching on faith joins commitment and communion; it exhibits Christian believers as not only knowing facts about Christ, but also coming to Him in personal trust to worship, love, and serve Him. If we fail to keep these things God has joined together, our Christianity will be distorted.
Simple assent to the gospel, divorced from a transforming commitment to the living Christ, is by biblical standards less than faith, and less than saving, and to elicit only assent of this kind would be to secure only false conversions. It offers false security to people who revel in the sins of the flesh and spurn the way of holiness. By separating faith from faithfulness, it teaches that intellectual assent is as valid as wholehearted obedience to the truth.
Real salvation is not only justification. It cannot be isolated from regeneration, sanctification, and ultimately glorification. Salvation is the work of God through which we are “conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). Genuine assurance comes from seeing the Holy Spirit’s transforming work in one’s life, not from clinging to the memory of some experience.
Grace does not change a person’s standing before God and yet leave his character untouched. Real grace does not include “the Chrisian’s liberty to do precisely as he chooses”. True grace instead teaches us “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age “(Titus 2:12). Clearly, grace does not grant permission to live in the flesh; it supplies power to live in the Spirit.
The gospel Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience, not just a plea to make a decision or pray a prayer. Jesus’ message liberated people from the bondage of their sin while it confronted and condemned hypocrisy. It was an offer of eternal life and forgiveness for repentant sinners, but at the same time it was a rebuke to outwardly religious people whose lives were devoid of true righteousness.
What is disturbing is that some Christians today seem to take pride in never challenging the lifestyle of anyone who claims to be a believer (perhaps in the ‘quest’ of not being judgemental or critical). But Jesus Himself reproved the Pharisees as ‘broods of vipers, white-washed tombstones with dead bones within. There is a place to correct in love and in kindness; it need not be tantamount to a judgemental spirit. There may also be a place to rebuke, when the situation calls for it, and when being responsible implies the need for it.
What was unheard in the church only a few generations ago is now commonplace. Divorce and immorality are epidemic among Christians today (recall Malachi when God declared that He hates divorce). Churches even offer the right hand of fellowship to unmarried couples openly living together, and the list goes on. And why not? If repentance, holiness of life. and submission to God in obedience are all optional, why should we expect Christians to differ from unbelievers in their life and behaviour?
Many today are conditioned to believe that because they recited a prayer, signed on the dotted line, walked on aisle, or had some other experience, they are saved and should never question their salvation. Some are even told that if there is any doubt about their salvation, it comes from the devil. But the fact is that the Bible encourages us to examine ourselves to determine if we are in the faith (2 Cor.13:5). The Apostle Peter wrote, “Be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you” (2Peter 1:10). It is in order to examine our lives and evaluate the fruit we bear, for “each tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44). There is of course the caution in not being introspective in a negative unhealthy manner that gives room for the devil to manipulate.
Brethren, show ourselves truly grateful for His mercy and grace by the thoroughness of our commitment to Him henceforth, for hoiness means giving our all to God as God has given, is giving, and will give His all to us. This ought to be the essence of the response of those who are truly ‘born again’.