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Mere Christianity?

Dr. James White often refers to what he calls the “mere Christianity” movement where people try to make Christianity as small as you can make it.  In the 2000 years of the Church, orthodoxy has been the standard for what is deemed as Christian.  I grant you that at times this has not always been clear and sometimes people made non-essentials as essentials of the gospel.  In our day, mere Christianity has come to simply believe that if you affirm Jesus, you are a Christian.

I have been following a blogger for some time who I have seen him drifting this way.  His view is that Jesus is what matters yet it seems to me that he does not care what people believe about Jesus so long as they say they love Jesus and desire to follow Him.  While this blogger seems to affirm that the Bible is the Word of God (though I’m not sure if he holds to inerrancy or infallibility), he often muddles the water by using the liberal “red letter Christian” mantras.  It is as if this blogger makes Jesus someone that we should merely copy (and by that I mean be a hippie and be focused on “peace and love man”).  This blogger even has been writing about how he has seen Jesus in a Muslim friend of his and how this Muslim has taught him more about Jesus than many Christians.

This is the mere Christianity movement.  There is no focus on the doctrine of Christ nor about His atonement.  There is little emphasis placed on His perfection for our salvation.  There is nothing said about His death, His resurrection, His ascension to the right hand of the Father where He lives to make intercession for the saints.  There is nothing said about His coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead.  In fact, mere Christianity makes Jesus just someone that we should copy and imitate to have a better life.  Jesus becomes nothing more than a “great teacher” along with other “great teachers.”  Jesus’ own declarations are ignored.

I don’t assume that someone is a Christian simply because they name the name of Jesus.  Jesus Himself said that many would come in His name (Matthew 24:4-5).  John the Beloved wrote that many antichrists had come (1 John 2:18).  Antichrists are false christs.  Paul the Apostle issued curses on those who preach a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).  Thus we can see that there are false christs and false gospels.

Not everyone who says Jesus is truly His (Matthew 7:21-23).  Jesus said that those who are His are those who hear His words and put them into practice, who build their lives on His teachings (Matthew 7:24-27).  A disciple of Jesus is one who abides in His teachings (John 8:31-32).  This means that the disciple not only reads the Word of God (and not merely the “red letters”) but they study it as well.  I study God’s Word to know God, to love Him more and to obey Him better all by His Spirit and His grace.

So many claim Christ but they don’t even know the first thing about Him.  They don’t know His Word.  They don’t read His Word.  They don’t study His Word.  They don’t care to study His Word nor do they truly care to know Him because Jesus doesn’t fit our views when we read and study Him.  The perfect Son of God is not like us in that He is absolutely perfect, holy, blameless, and His ways are beyond our ways.  We seek to imitate Him (1 Peter 2:21-24; 1 John 2:6) but we recognize that He alone is perfect.  He is perfect for our salvation (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Because He remains forever perfect, He now stands before the Father in our defense (Hebrews 7:22-25).  As we abide in Jesus through faith (Romans 5:1; 1 John 2:24-25), we find that He is faithful to wash our sins away (1 John 1:7, 9).

The mere Christianity movement wants to place Jesus among others.  Jesus is far above all others (Colossians 1:15-20).  Every knee will bow to His glory alone (Philippians 2:5-11).  This includes all false teachers, all false prophets, all false religions.  Jesus is not equal among others.  Jesus is God (John 1:1, 18; Romans 9:5) and He is to be worshiped as God.

The mere Christianity movement has to dethrone Jesus to make Him equal among others.  For example, the Muslim view of Jesus is not at all equal with the biblical view.  The Quran teaches that Jesus is not God, that He is not even the Son of God.  Yes Islam says that Jesus is the Messiah but they deny His divinity and the Quran condemns to hell those who would say that God is a man or has a son.  The Quran falsely believes that the doctrine of the Trinity includes Mary.  The Quran denies that Jesus died for our sins.  Most Muslims believe that Jesus didn’t even die on the cross but rather Allah made someone else to appear as Jesus on the cross such as Judas.  While Islam teaches that Jesus will return, they believe that He will return and set up an Islamic kingdom on the earth.  The Islamic confession of faith is focused on Mohammad and not on Jesus.

And yet mere Christianity says that since a Muslim claims to love Jesus (the Jesus of the Quran and not the Jesus of the Bible), then they are “saved.”  If a Muslim denies the Quran’s teaching on Jesus and embraces the biblical view of Jesus then I would submit that they are not a Muslim but a Christian.  Of course, true salvation requires faith and repentance in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38-39; 3:19-20; 17:30-31).

One final point.  The mere Christianity movement especially detests evangelism.  After all, the evangelist is preaching that Jesus alone saves (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and He alone is our mediator before a holy God (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  The evangelist preaches that faith and repentance are necessary for eternal life (Luke 13:5; John 5:24-25; 6:29; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 5:13).  This goes against the mere Christian view that all religions are essentially good so long as they love Jesus.  It also goes against the postmodern mindset that there is no absolute truth since Jesus Himself claims to be the truth of God (John 14:6).  When religious people are confronted with their sins and with the truth of Jesus, they always strike back with a vengeance.  I have witnessed this myself. People don’t mind if you preach a peace and love Jesus but the moment you preach that a person must repent, they quickly turn on you.  People love Jesus but the Jesus they create in their own images but not the biblical Jesus.

I am often confronted by the biblical Jesus as I read.  I am confronted with my sins.  I am confronted with my lack of being like Jesus in all I do.  I am confronted with how wonderful Jesus truly is and the more that I study Him and the more that I seek Him, the more I find that I am not like Him, that He is God and worthy to be praised, and I will never truly grasp Him in this life.  Jesus is simply too wonderful, too mighty, too holy for me to perfectly understand but what I do know is this: He died for my sins (1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 3:18) and He is coming again in glory (2 Timothy 4:1).  I long to see Him and worship Him forever.  I will continue to preach the biblical Jesus and preach against the false christs of this world.

So What Happened To My Emergent Friend?

Back in 2007, the emergent movement was going strong.  While some were beginning to predict its ending, most emergents were crying that this was going to be a mighty movement that would have lasting impact on churches.  

And then the bottom fell out.  

The emergent movement is all but dead now.  The reasons for this are many but mainly the emergents finally confessed to who they really were: liberals.  This led to them leaving evangelical churches or simply making so many liberal statements (such as Brian McLaren) that no one would take them serious anymore but liberals.  Today, emergents still exist but they are not in liberal churches where they belong.  Others still continue to preach their emergentism but no one listens to them but liberals.  For all this, I am thankful.  They did enough damage while claiming to be “progressive evangelicals” so I rejoice that they are now in their liberal churches among liberal folks though I do pray they come to salvation in Christ alone. 

I had a friend who got swept up in the emergent movement.  In fact, it seemed he was heading to the top as one of their leaders.  He was young, intelligent, and yet he had the zeal of a fundamentalist.  He seemed perfect for the emergent movement.  He had grown up in a conservative home with a father who loved the Lord and preached the gospel.  When I became a disciple, he and I became good friends.  We spent many nights praying, talking theology, witnessing, and singing hymns.  Life pulled us apart for a while until we begin to talk through e-mails and he revealed that he was emergent.  He even started an emergent youth camp (the differences was that they had no worship service, no preaching per se but they would paint, burn candles, chant, etc.).  My friend earned his doctorate during this time from a liberal seminary.  

My friend is the picture of the emergent movement.  He is a shell of what he use to be.  He doesn’t pray, doesn’t evangelize, doesn’t enjoy listening to music that honors the Lord, doesn’t read the Bible much at all (though he said he studied a bit for his degree).  He doesn’t rejoice in people repenting of sin.  He doesn’t baptize.  He is not concerned at all with the things of the Lord.  His interest now is beer, women, liberal causes such as homosexual “marriage” and fighting for human rights in the world.  Oddly, he is silent about Christians suffering in the Middle East as a human rights issue.  He uses social media to spur on people not toward godliness (Hebrews 10:24) but toward liberalism.  He never mentions the Lord Jesus (unless it is about a liberal cause that he feels Jesus would be apart of) and he never speaks about God in terms of actually knowing Him.  

My friend is just what the emergent movement was and is: liberal.  He has faith now only in himself.  He rejects the inerrancy of the Bible, rejects that Christ alone is the way to salvation, rejects miracles, rejects the Christian worldview.  My friend is nothing more than a liberal who is here now to just make the world a better place until we pass on to the great unknown.  He and I are complete opposites now on nearly every issue.  

My friend needs Jesus.  I have prayed many times for him to repent.  I have prayed many times that he would see the errors of his ways and submit himself to God.  Satan continues to feed him lie after lie and he keeps accepting them.  My old friend loves his sin and this keeps him from repenting.  He believes he has been liberated but he is now in horrible chains that will bind his soul forever in hell.  I do pray that he repents before it is too late (Hebrews 9:27-28).  

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/14/2014 at 5:09 PM

Strange Fire Review: Chapter 11

I am nearing the end of my review of Dr. John MacArthur’s book Strange Fire.  You can find the first post on this review here.  Now I will review chapter 11.

This chapter is on the issue of the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures.  In this chapter, MacArthur gives a biblical overview of the Holy Spirit and His work in giving us the Bible and also in helping us to understand, apply, and preach the Bible.  The Bible, for the disciple of Christ, is precious.  It is the believer’s weapon according to  Ephesians 6:17 and is the only inerrant and infallible book that God has given to His people.  The Bible is a remarkable book that God has faithfully preserved for us for 2000 years.

MacArthur begins by pointing to the sad story of liberal German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher.  Schleiermacher’s fall into liberalism in the late 18th century and he plunged many others with him with his liberal views.  As typical of liberals, he didn’t believe in the Bible anymore so he had to replace his faith with something else.  In this case he replaced it with Romanticism or subjective experience.  This has been the case for liberalism ever since.  Liberals are always replacing God with social causes and their seek to build their own heaven here (since there is no heaven over there).

MacArthur believes that charismatics have done the same by emphasizing dreams, visions, prophecy, etc. over the Bible.  MacArthur is clear that true disciples do not worship the Bible but love the Bible because God Himself has given us His Word.  We worship the God of the Bible and we love to read His Word because it faithfully reveals Him to us unlike subjective experiences.

I will add here again that I suppose there may Pentecostals out there who would reject the Bible but I have never met one who did.  Like any other movements, I fear that the Pentecostal movement is moving away from proclaiming the inerrancy of the Bible.  I would love to see Pentecostal fellowships such as the Assemblies of God or the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) or the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) come out and declare that the inerrancy of the Bible is something to be held and defended by all their ministers.  I fear that there are many now in the Pentecostal seminaries who do not hold to inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible.  I worry that pragmatism is now dominating the Pentecostal church and the Bible no longer is being preached as absolute truth.

That said, historically the Pentecostal movement has always held to the authority of the Bible.  Even the heretical United Pentecostal Church (UPC) holds to the authority of the Bible (though twisting it in many ways to teach their false doctrines).  I have heard many Pentecostals preach over the years and have fellowshipped with many of them and have seen a deep love for the Word of God.  I even once heard a “prophecy” given in an Assemblies of God church and one godly man stood up and said, “We must reject this prophecy because this man has spoken against the Word of God” and he proceeded to state how this was so.  He was obeying 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 in this case.

The Bible must be our final authority and it alone speaks for God.  Everything else must submit to Scripture.  We don’t need a new revelation from God but a fresh understanding of God’s inerrant and infallible Word.  2 Peter 1:16-21 is clear that subjective experience will never be the solid foundation for the disciple.  Scripture must be.  Jesus said that God’s Word cannot be broken (John 10:35) and therefore we must submit to the final authority of God (John 17:17).

I pray that many godly Pentecostals and charismatics would rise up and preach the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible.  This is not a side issue.  If we fail to stand on the Word of God, we will fail.  The Methodist are a case in point.  The rise of liberalism in the late 19th century doomed in the Methodist church.  Instead of remaining faithful to the Word of God, liberal Methodists rejected the Bible and today are left with a dying church.  Why?  Because they have no gospel.  When we reject the Word of God, we are left with nothing just as Schleiermacher was left with nothing.  The Bible faithfully reveals the gospel and if we reject the Bible, we are soon to reject the gospel.  We are then left with nothing to stand upon (Galatians 1:6-9) and we soon wander off into errors (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

May God give us an increase in those disciples who believe, preach, stand upon, and live the inerrancy and infallibility of the Word of God.

Are You An Evangelical?

Over at Denny Burk’s excellent blog, he writes about the term evangelical.  The discussion as of late has been what defines an evangelical.  Burk is posting in response to Rachel Evans and her piece on what she means by evangelical and what she doesn’t mean by the term.  If this is her definition of evangelical (you can read her post here) then count me out.  I agree with Burk on this one (as I normally do).

The term has become more and more harder to define.  There was a time when evangelical meant theologically conservatives who preached conversion through Jesus Christ alone.  Burk points out that historically evangelicals have held to four major points.  In my words those four points would be: the Bible as the sole authority for faith and practice, the centrality of the cross of Christ as our sacrifice for our sins, the necessity of personal conversion through faith in Jesus Christ and thus are born again by the Spirit, and lastly, being doers of the Word and doing good works to glorify the Lord God.  I would agree.  This is clearly the faith of Martin Luther or John Calvin or James Arminius or John Wesley or Charles Spurgeon or Vic Reasoner.  Sadly, more and more are calling themselves evangelicals while denying nearly all four points though typically the last point of good works becomes the point most will still stress such as emergents Brian McLaren or even Evans herself.

I personally am not a big fan of the term evangelical.  Again, it has become so mixed with various views.  Many liberals, knowing that liberalism doesn’t sell well, avoid calling themselves liberals but will instead call themselves “post-modern evangelicals” meaning that they deny the absolute truth of the Bible.  Some even refer to themselves as “post-evangelicals” meaning that they are not past being evangelical but refuse to be labeled an old-fashioned liberal.

My favorite term for myself is a disciple of Jesus.  After all the word disciple is the most common term in the Gospels and the book of Acts for Jesus’ followers.  Jesus Himself even taught His disciples to make disciples (Matthew 28:19).  He did not say for them to “make Christians” or “make Protestants” or “make evangelicals” but instead He said for us to make disciples.  The term Christian only appears three times in the entire New Testament and all three times are in derision of the disciples (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16).  The term disciple appear hundreds of times in the New Testament with nearly all of them found in the Gospels and Acts.

However, 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 makes it clear that Jesus is to be our focus.  Not titles.  Not labels.  No doubt we give out titles and labels to make life easier but a true, born again disciple of Jesus is one who is focused on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I agree with the four points made from Burk’s blog above about evangelicals but in the end, I am a disciple of Jesus and He is the One who gives us eternal life through faith in His name.  I pray that we are faithful to preach Him and Him alone (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).  After all, Jesus alone is worthy!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/11/2012 at 8:00 AM

Prayer Shatters Theological Liberalism

I have never known a liberal to be a person of prayer.  Now I can’t say that I have known lots of liberals but I have encountered a few here and there and the ones that I was able to ask about their prayer lives, it seemed they didn’t pray at all.  They counted prayer as a fundamentalist thing that we did to sooth ourselves.  I even met an emergent once who told me that he had replaced prayer with yoga.  Yoga as a replacement for prayer?

The fact is that all great prayer warriors in the kingdom of Christ were men and women of orthodoxy.  That is my experience.  Leonard Ravenhill, E.M. Bounds, George Mueller, John Hyde, Samuel Chadwick, Robert Chapman, Robert Mc’Cheyne, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, A.W. Tozer, Vance Havner, D.L. Moody, and so many others were men of great prayer not to mention the great women of faith such as Amy Carmichael or Catherine Booth.  And all of them were orthodox in their theology.  Some were Arminians while some were Calvinists but they were orthodox nonetheless.

One book that liberals love to read on prayer is Richard Foster’s book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home.  I was given this book years ago by an orthodox brother who was a man of prayer.  He told me that the book was a great book on prayer.  I must say that it was okay but not earth shattering.  For one, I enjoy books that quote lots of Scriptures on prayer.  Foster didn’t.  I enjoy books that give lots of examples from great saints of God such as E.M. Bounds or Oswald Chambers.  In Foster’s book, he quotes from the likes of Catholic mystics such as Thomas Merton or St. John of the Cross.  He speaks highly of contemplative prayer.  I found the book lacking.

Not that way when you read Leonard Ravenhill’s book Why Revival Tarries or E.M. Bounds’ The Weapon of Prayer or R.A. Torrey’s book How To Pray or Robert Brandt’s book The Spirit Helps Us Pray: A Biblical Theology of Prayer.  In these books you will find solid theology and practical tips from both the Scriptures and their own examples on how to pray.

I will say this about prayer, you can’t learn to pray from a book.  You can’t learn prayer by reading liberal or orthodox theologians.  You can only learn to pray by praying.  You can study every Scripture on prayer but in the end, if you don’t pray then what is the point of your studies?  As James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”  We must take the Scriptures and obey them (Luke 6:46-49).  We can memorize all the major passages on prayer but if we fail to pray, we have done nothing.  Prayer must be done.  Prayer is not an idle teaching.

I have seen brothers in Christ who have begun to study liberal theologians or emergent authors such as Brian McLaren and I have watched as their prayer lives dwindled to nothing.  Because their faith was attacked, they begin to slowly drift from a strong faith in God who can do the impossible to a “faith” in nothing.  They drifted toward Psalm 14:1.  I have seen disciples who begun to listen to Rob Bell’s podcast and they stopped praying.  They stopped evangelizing.  Why?  Because they begin to listen to Bell and buy into what he was saying above the Scriptures.  They begin to buy into the postmodern idea that there are no absolutes and they begin to cast aside the “old traditions” such as true praying and evangelism.  Personally I have never met an emergent who was a serious person of prayer.  I have never met a liberal who was known for their intense prayer lives.  But I have met countless of disciples who would qualify as serious people of prayer and who sought to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ because they A) took God serious (Luke 18:1; Hebrews 11:6) and B) they obeyed Jesus’ command to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) in the power of the Spirit (Acts 1:8).

How about you?  Do you pray much?  Are you a serious disciple of prayer?  Do you earnestly seek God in prayer?  Do you obey 1 Thessalonians 5:17?  Do you obey Romans 8:26-27?  Do you obey Colossians 4:2?  Do you obey Ephesians 6:18?  Do you obey Matthew 7:7-11?  Are these all Scriptures that are precious to you and feed your prayer life?  Are you studying other disciples such as Leonard Ravenhill or Charles Spurgeon on prayer?  Or are you wasting your time on theological liberalism that will never bring salvation or the presence of God?

What is amazing to me is that I have seen disciples who traded their strong prayer lives, their fasting, their evangelism, their passion for God and for His kingdom to accept emergent theology.  They went from strong disciples of Jesus to being liberals who had nothing in their souls to give to others and they stopped praying.  They stopped caring for the lost.  They stopped caring about helping others become disciples of Jesus.  They lost their joy in the process and today they write blogs about liberal points of theology and they waste their time reading books that will never make an eternal impact for the kingdom.  They no longer love Jesus.  This is the sad reality of dry, dead liberalism.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/24/2011 at 4:31 PM

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