Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Calling People to Repent and Believe the True Gospel

My heart is burdened for the many professing Christians who have never experienced the second birth (1 Pet. 1:23). They are all tragic victims of a subtle yet potentially fatal deception. Unless they are confronted with the truth, they will one day hear the most terrifying words anyone could ever hear when Jesus says: "I never knew you; depart from Me" (Mat. 7:23). These precious souls have either been led astray by a false gospel or manipulated to make a decision with unbiblical methods of evangelism. The blame must fall on church leaders who have discarded God's blueprint for building His church and have created their own. These men have discovered they can gain a larger following by making the Gospel more appealing and more inclusive. By broadening the narrow road, they have found out they can build bigger churches for themselves. Little do they know, they are helping Satan plant his tares among the wheat (Mat. 13:38-40). The devil loves to see false converts deceiving and being deceived in the name of Christ.

The strategy of Satan has been consistent for 2000 years. He continues to raise up false apostles, who influence false teachers to teach false gospels about false Christs for the purpose of producing false Christians with a false hope. The apostle Paul saw this happening and warned us. The same serpent who deceived Eve by his craftiness also sends deceivers to preach another Jesus and a different gospel (2 Cor. 11:3-4). Satan hates the Gospel of grace and has been using men filled with religious pride to pervert the message ever since it was first announced. That is why Paul informed us that the Gospel he preached was not according to man's traditions or philosophy. He received it directly from God through a pure revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11-12).

Some church leaders feel that the best way to win more people to Christ is to exchange God's Gospel for an "easy to believe" gospel. This watered-down version of the Gospel is hardly worth living for and certainly not worth dying for. Yet, it is gaining popularity within evangelical circles and must be exposed and confronted. The three major areas of compromise include: 1) the Christ of the Gospel; 2) the promises of the Gospel and 3) the response to the Gospel.

The Christ of the Gospel
There are some Christian leaders who have found the Gospel is easier to believe if they present a generic god without holiness and a partial Christ without authority. They say you don't have to make Jesus your Lord as long as you believe He is your Savior. Such a teaching is foreign to the Word of God. Paul said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved" (Acts 16:31). Jesus Christ is repeatedly and resolutely revealed in Scripture as our Master, our Creator, our King, our Ruler and our sovereign Lord. Paul addressed Jesus as Lord over 200 times in his 13 epistles.

Still others deny that Jesus really is who He said He is. This is a fatal mistake because Jesus declared, "Unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins" (John 8:24).

Jesus made it clear that He is the only way to the Father when He announced, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me" (John 14:6). The very words of Christ declare that He is the only valid object of saving faith. Yet there are some popular pastors and evangelists who foolishly teach that sinners can be saved apart from Jesus Christ. Why would anyone deny, discredit and dishonor the Lord Jesus this way? Might it be so that they can loved and admired by a greater number of people?

The cults deny the Christ of the Gospel by teaching that Jesus is not the eternal God of the Trinity. Mormons, for example, teach that Jesus is a created being (conceived by a physical sex act between God the Father and Mary) and is the elder brother of Lucifer, who became one of many gods.

There are other false religions who uphold the name of Jesus Christ but deny He is able to save sinners totally and completely. The Roman Catholic Church is the greatest offender by requiring sacraments (1129), indulgences (1498) and good works (2016) for the forgiveness and remission of sin. Catholicism also blatantly denies that the blood of Jesus purifies all sin (1 John 1:7). A safety net called Purgatory is provided for Catholics. This fictitious place is said to purge away the sins that Christ failed to purge (1030). The numbers in parenthesis represent paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Those who believe the Jesus of the Gospel will trust His righteousness, not their own; His finished work on the cross, not the Catholic Mass; His power to keep them, not the sacraments; His blood to purify sin, not purgatory; His Word to guide them, not the traditions of men and His grace to save them, not their merit. Those who do not trust Jesus need another gospel to tell them what they must do to be saved. Whenever Jesus is dethroned, denied or diminished, the promises of the Gospel can never be realized.

The Promise of the Gospel
Everlasting, never-ending, eternal life with the Savior is the glorious promise of the Gospel, yet the majority of professing Christians believe they can lose their salvation. This is because they do not know or trust the glorious Christ of the Gospel. Paul knew Him well, which prompted him to write: "I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day" (2 Tim. 1:2).

The eternal Gospel of our eternal God promises every believer eternal life and eternal glory in God's eternal kingdom (Rev. 14:6; Rom. 16:26; 1 John 5:13; 1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Pet.1:11). The Lord Jesus promises to lose not one that the Father gives Him (John 6:39). His promise to every believer is this: "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you" (Heb. 13:5). Neither sin nor anything else will separate a believer from God’s love (Rom. 8:38-39). This glorious truth is guaranteed because God’s forgiveness is given freely and completely at the moment of faith and is secured forever for all past and future sins (Col. 2:13-14). Everyone who believes the promises of the Gospel possess eternal redemption through the eternal Spirit who guarantees an eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:12-15; Eph. 1:14). God's promises to every believer are backed up by His eternal power (1 Peter 3:5). This is why Paul declared: "Your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:5). The world, through its wisdom, does not come to know God. Tragically many professing Christians choose to trust the wisdom of man rather than the promises and power of God revealed in His Gospel. Anyone who rejects the divine promise of eternal life has believed another gospel or trusted another Christ (1 Cor. 15:2).

The Response to the Gospel
Many Christians have substituted God's blueprint for evangelism with methods of their own in order to fabricate a greater number of decisions. Instead of following the biblical model for evangelism, demonstrated by the early disciples who were trained by the Lord Jesus, the modern church has invented its own traditions. Rather than calling sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, evangelicals are asking unbelievers to repeat a prayer, sign a card, raise their hand, come forward or "accept" (rather than trust) Jesus as their Savior. None of these modern traditions have any biblical foundation. Not only do they dishonor the Savior, but they often mislead souls into a false hope of salvation. No one has the right to lower God's entrance requirements into His Kingdom. Unless we evangelize God's way, we run the serious risk of deceiving people about their eternal destiny. True saving faith always involves repentance (Acts 20:21).

Biblical evangelism requires making disciples not decisions. This involves teaching people to observe all that Christ commanded (Mat. 28:18-20). His first command was to "Repent and believe the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). Repentance is a change in mind that is granted by God and leads to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim. 2:25). It results in turning from idols to God, from dead works to faith, from sin to righteousness and from the traditions of men to Christ and His Word (Acts 26:20; 2 Cor. 12:21; Col. 2:8; 1 Thes. 1:9; Heb. 6:1). The importance of calling sinners to repentance is also confirmed in the last command Jesus gave: "Repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations" (Luke 24:47). Remember, Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). Those who respond to the Gospel with repentance and faith will depart from the kingdom of darkness and follow the Light of the world (John 8:12). They will gladly get off the broad road to destruction and enter the narrow way that leads to life everlasting (Mat. 7:13-14).

Biblical evangelism also requires teaching people the attributes of God. The God who created us is also the One who will judge us. He is majestic in holiness (Exo. 15:11). Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne and He will not let sin go unpunished (Psalm 97:2; Rom. 6:23). He is sovereign, and everyone is accountable to Him (Dan. 4:35; Heb. 4:13). The Father demonstrates His love by sending His Son to die for His people (Rom. 5:8). God opposes the proud but extends His grace to the humble (Luke 18:14; Jas. 4:6). By His mercy He saves sinners from the eternal lake of fire (Titus 3:5). Modern evangelism puts too much emphasis on God's love and too little on His holiness and righteous justice. This is a stark contrast to first century evangelism. In the Book of Acts the word "love" is never even mentioned. Clearly without a true and balanced knowledge of God, sinners will not know Whom they have offended. Nor will they know Who condemns them with eternal punishment or Whom they must call on to be saved. The world is perishing for a lack of knowledge of God's glorious attributes.

May we all examine our faith and practice to ensure that it conforms to God's Word. Have we trusted the Christ of the Gospel and believed the glorious and infallible promises of the Gospel? Are we calling people to respond to the Gospel God's way? Let us all obey from the heart the doctrine to which we were delivered (Rom. 6:17).

by Mike Gendron of Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries

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