Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Watered-Down Gospel

Received this from Greg Laurie today. In lieu of the "prosperity gospel" that is so rampant in our world, I think that this is a timely thought. I always remember that as we follow Christ we don't ask "God, what can you do for me?" but we say, "God, you've done it all, what can I do for you?" Will you endure hardship For Christ?

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
—2 Timothy 2:3

Without question the greatest life to live is the Christian life, because God takes a life that was empty, aimless, and, worst of all, headed for a certain judgment and then turns it around and transforms it. He forgives all our sin, removes our guilt, and literally takes residence inside of us through the Holy Spirit. Most importantly, He changes our eternal address from a place called hell to a place called heaven. This all comes about as a result of the power of the gospel proclaimed and believed.

Yet some have believed what I would describe as a watered-down version of the gospel, a gospel that promises forgiveness but rarely mentions the need to repent of your sin, a gospel that promises peace but never warns of persecution, a gospel that says God wants you to be healthy and wealthy and never have any problems to speak of, a gospel that says you will so find the favor of God that a parking space always will be available for you. But that is not the gospel of the New Testament.

The Christian life is not a playground, but a battleground. Not only is there a God who loves you and has a plan for your life, but there is also a devil who hates you and opposes God's plan.

I am not suggesting that once you become a Christian, you will be sick, poor, and miserable. But the essence of the Christian life is knowing and walking with God. It is about sticking with Him when the sky is blue and also when it is filled with clouds. It is about pressing on. Jesus made it clear that storms will enter every life. But as we seek to know and follow Christ, we will find happiness as a fringe benefit.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fully Surrendered?

“All you have to do is ask Him into your heart today. There’s nothing more you have to do,” the preacher said. Is that really what the Bible teaches? Where is that found in the pages of Scripture? Simply ‘asking Jesus into your heart’ is a line of thinking has done indescribable damage to Christianity in America.

Americans have been exposed to this heresy for well over a century. If we go back to the late 1800s, Dwight L. Moody was one of the first to invite people, who believe in Jesus, to say “the sinner’s prayer.” Some fifty years later, evangelistic crusades popularized the practice of “believing and saying the sinner’s prayer” during altar calls. The sinner’s prayer started to be published in different pamphlets, brochures and books, making it more widespread in its use. Yet, nowhere in the New Testament does it say, “believe and say the sinner’s prayer” to be saved. In fact, the Bible "repent" & "be baptized" many more times than believe. ‘Easy-believism’ was not a known by the first century Christians (see Pagan Christianity by Viola & Barna, p. 190-191), who believed in Christ, repented of their sin, and were baptized, and often at the cost of their very own lives.

Jesus preached that we are to abandon our lives for the sake of following Him. Yet, our culture redefines Christianity to accommodate whatever form of faith the believer wants to follow. American Christianity is characterized by half-hearted, lukewarm, indifferent, uncommitted, mediocre believers. Only 17% of Americans are in church on any two Sundays a month, as revealed in an extensive 15-year study of worship attendance of over 200,000 American congregations by David Olson, Director of the American Church Research Project. Not even 2 out of 10 Americans regularly attend church! Easy-believism produces Christians who are comfortable with God, but not committed to God.

Christian authors are boldly confronting this heresy. David Platt, author of Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, describes how Christians must be willing to abandon anything and everything for Christ. Craig Groeschel, in The Christian Atheist, confronts Christians who believe in God but live as if He doesn’t exist. Richard Stearns, in The Hole in our Gospel, urges Christians to leave behind worldly success for a life of significance and sacrifice for Christ. Francis Chan, in Crazy Love, says that our religious complacency must come to an end with tangible, radical solutions. It’s time to join them in confronting ‘easy believism’. (By the way, all of these aforementioned books have been or are studies at Oakwood right now!)

Simply put, we have to change the way we think. People think: “Can I get a divorce and still go to heaven? If I’m having sex with someone and we’re not married, can I go to heaven? Do I have to be baptized in order to be saved? If I commit suicide, can I still go to heaven?” These questions, and others like them, indicate a condition of the heart. They clearly indicate that we’re more concerned about getting to heaven than in loving the King. John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” We must change the way we think.

Jesus clearly said that to follow Him, we’re to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him. He said that if anyone is to save his life, he will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Him will save it. Jesus called the disciples to abandon their careers (i.e., fishing, tax collecting, etc.), and to reorient their lives completely around Him. He wanted their desires and dreams to be consumed by His. The disciples left every thing that was certain behind for what was uncertain. They sacrificed safety for risk, security for peril. Christ’s demands are no different on our lives, and it’s necessary to bring that truth into our minds as Christians. We must change the way we think.

Do American Christians live this way? No. Jesus didn’t really mean that we are to abandon all for Him. We twist His words into a more comfortable version— of a faith that brings us comfort and pleasure, while pursuing the American dream. The goal of the American dream is to make much of us, yet the goal of biblical Christianity is to make much of God. Dietrich Bonheoffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Will we?

I believe that all American Christians should be challenged to once and for all surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Yes, even the ones in Enid, Oklahoma. If anyone will systematically move through the Word of God and pray and allow the Holy Spirit to transform their lives into the image of Christ, the most amazing and life-changing things will happen. They will be most like the One who was completely surrendered to the will of God, and they will do mighty things for the King. Just think what we could accomplish for the glory of God in advancing the kingdom of Christ by actually living surrendered lives! Will you pray with me for people who are more fully surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Will you fully surrender to Him?