Uncovering Unbiblical Christianity
How would you feel if you were sincerely participating in a contest, playing by the rules established by the sponsors, only to discover at the conclusion that you were disqualified from your just rewards for failing to fulfill the actual essential requirements? Would you feel misled? Deceived? Cheated? Would such an experience generate feelings of anger, resentment or vindictiveness? Such is going to be the experience of myriad “Christians” throughout America who are carelessly following misguided and unbiblical concepts of Christianity. The critical problem is that the eventual losses that so many will experience are not just temporal but eternal in nature.
Churches are filled with well-meaning believers who are innocently—but gullibly—accepting teachings and doctrines at face value without making an effort to know for themselves through revelation in the Word what is truly biblical. Whoever suggested that “Ignorance is bliss” coined a secular parallel for the biblical truth of “The blind leading the blind.” Ignorance is the chosen path of those who lack the will and fortitude to pursue and discover truth for themselves and then live by it. God’s precepts and ways are to be held inviolate. We will suffer the consequences for violating spiritual law just the same as when violating natural law only the consequences will be far greater. Violating natural law yields temporal consequences while the violation of biblical truth results in eternal losses. Rest assured that we will never be able to stand before the throne of God and offer ignorance of the truth as a plausible defense. Knowing and living by absolute truth is a personal responsibility. It cannot be made the culpability of the church or pastors even though the fullness of the Word and truth is very often elided in many churches and from many pulpits.
There is a serious epidemic of cognitive dissonance in the church today. This is a psychological condition wherein persons are simultaneously holding mutually contrary concepts or beliefs or are “confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values” (Wikipedia). Multitudes of Christians are painfully aware that spiritually and functionally the church isn’t what they sense it should be but sadly they are failing to act upon this awareness. Innumerable others are simply blindly following as if what they know of the church represents the highest of what the church was always meant to be. All of these persons are aimlessly navigating a spiritual minefield that will ultimately end in disaster for them.
Much of what is falsely being portrayed as legitimate Christianity today didn’t surface overnight. It has been in transmogrification since the origins of the church. False teaching and false doctrines were already rearing their ugly heads before the first generation of Christianity was history. Much of the content of Paul’s epistles was generated as an attempt to correct false teachings and improper behavior. Countering attempts at Judaizing the Gospel were uppermost on Paul’s agenda. We see this particularly illustrated in his letter to the churches throughout the region of Galatia. In this epistle, following the typical salutation, Paul launches immediately into a very concerned caveat regarding their understanding of the true gospel of Christ. His specific issue centered on their acceptance of the necessity of circumcision as part of the gospel and by extension an embracing of many aspects of Judaism as part and parcel to salvation. So fervently did Paul feel about any perversion of the true gospel of Christ that he pronounced curses on anyone—including himself—who would perpetuate such falsehood.
Today we are not principally concerned with the Judaizing of the gospel. However the aberrations we do see are just as devastating to the spiritual and eternal wellbeing of multitudes of sincere believers. The greatest corruption of the gospel we see today has to do with failing to fully expound God’s ultimate intention for man. The true gospel is a totally Christocentric message which is principally concerned first and foremost with that which is the heart of God from eternity past. God’s eternal ultimate intention has always been to bring his created ones fully into the image of Christ. The highest end of salvation is not about escaping hell or simply getting man into heaven. It is entirely about bringing all believers into the full stature of Christ. Any representation or proclamation of the gospel that fails to hold this tenet sacrosanct is by biblical definition “another gospel” which is in essence not the gospel at all.
Tragically most churches today represent an anthropocentric gospel that completely ignores or denies God’s awesome desire to bring all believers into the full stature in Christ. Persons are enticed to accept Christ as their savior on the basis of what he can and will do for them. This is entirely an anthropocentric or man-centered perspective and is an absolute denial of the biblical perspective of the gospel. I believe this deviation from biblical truth is going to redound to myriads of sincere believers forfeiting the full eternal inheritance that Christ died to give them.
Why has the church so abysmally failed to fully expound so wonderful a gospel? How is it that the church has been so derelict in setting forth God’s design from eternity past? Why is the modern presentation of the gospel so man-centered while ignoring what has been eternally in the heart of God? Although the answer to these questions is too complex to be reduced to a singular explanation, I do believe there is one outstanding reason for the church’s failure under which most other causes can be logically subsumed. For generations now too many churches have been representing a cross-less, costless gospel. A gospel filled with rewards and benefits sans any commitment, accountability or surrender. This aberration of the gospel has been carried out under the umbrella of man-centered church building rather than a Christ-centered building of the Kingdom of God.
Amazingly we seem to perfectly understand that anything of value in life comes with a cost except when it comes to our Christian faith. Please do not misunderstand where I am going with this. I am not speaking here about how one comes into eternal life but what one’s response must be following the decision to do so. The shed blood of Jesus Christ is the only and eternal price for our salvation. A price that literally cost Jesus everything and one he was willing to pay in submission to the Father. However, the invitation to accept eternal life through that costly atonement comes with a requirement that cannot be denied or circumvented. That requirement is that we be willing to gladly relinquish our own lives in accepting what has been offered to us through Christ’s substitutionary death.
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me (Lk 9:23 NKJV).
This means that in no uncertain terms we are called to relinquish all sway over our own lives yielding them entirely to the will and good pleasure of our heavenly Father. It means that our lives are no longer ours to command. It means that we become entirely surrendered to the pleasure of God for us. It means that we are now committed to what Father God has always wanted for himself—many sons and daughters just like Jesus. The false gospel so often being proffered today seeks to attract persons to Christ for what they can derive from that relationship. A true biblical gospel calls persons to come and satisfy the eternal heart of God. Renowned pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer defined Jesus’ invitation to follow this way: “Come and die.”
If the church’s focus today is building its own kingdom, then it is going to serve up a gospel laced with alluring goodies designed to attract persons into its fold. Its facilities, programs, professionally elocuted sermonettes, multimedia worship, easy-believism theology and entire atmosphere are going to be designed to draw as wide and vast a membership as it can. When the focus is on the church versus the Kingdom, adding numbers of people to the roles—as well as money to the coffers—is the supreme test by which the church’s success is measured. It is most difficult for believers ensconced in the institutional church to accept that growing numerically is far from the biblical concept of a healthy church. Biblically, the church’s main thrust is toward maturing saints in the faith, not attracting persons of every ilk.
Modern Christianity mostly teaches that the church is the place you attract persons to in order to get them saved. Consequently the church’s composition is comprised of an admixture of persons whose spirituality runs the gamut from Satanist to Saints. The early church was far more discriminating understanding that the church by definition constituted the truly believing. In the beginning persons had to demonstrate that there was palpably a change of belief, a change of behavior and a change of belonging before they were embraced by the church. The church by biblical definition is a community of committed Christ-following persons who are entirely entreatable, accountable and correctable in persuasion. The surrendered and entreatable persuasion of the believers meant that all personal and interpersonal concerns and problems were willingly and gladly submitted to the redeeming discipline of the church. This process automatically placed all members in a mode of spiritual maturation leading to fullness in Christ.
Evangelism in the early church—instead of being carried out through church programs—was understood to be the providence of individual believers. The thought wasn’t about attracting new persons to the church but rather about exposing others to the attractive life of Christ as seen being lived out through the lives of believers. As the hearts of the unbelieving were stirred, they would begin asking believers for a reason of the hope within them. In the beginning, there were three principal characteristics which drew persons to Christ and ultimately the church:
- They witnessed the care and love with which believers treated one another
- They desired deliverance from demonic oppression and realized it was only available through the community of believers
- They saw the evidence of the resurrected Christ manifested in the lives of believers
The lost were able to discern the life of Christ within early Christians because the cross was a functional reality in believers’ lives. Today the cross is primarily relegated to the status of an ornamental symbol, or a superstitious amulet worn around one’s neck or the subject of theologically unsound hymns. It is the everyday reality of the cross of Christ in the lives of believers that brings them into the transformational life in Christ. The Apostle Paul clearly asserted that his life and message were indistinguishable.
And you know that the way we lived among you was further proof of the truth of our message (1 Th 1:5 NLT).
I don’t want anyone to think more highly of me than they can actually see in my life and my message (2 Cor 12:6 NLT).
For Paul, his life was his message and his message was his life. This same thought was expressed by Jesus when he said that persons would be known by their fruit. The absence of the cross as a functional reality in the lives of believers today removes the principal factor in the legitimate attraction of persons to Christ and eternal life.
A church that fails to comprehend and teach the imperativeness of the transformational life in Christ emphasizing the essential nature of the cross is in danger of preaching “another gospel.” If building the church supersedes the building of the Kingdom of God, it risks completely missing its biblical focus and calling. If attracting persons to the church in order to minister to them is its strategy, it is going to create a spiritual quagmire that will ultimately taint any ministry proffered. If fulfilling the heart of God and achieving the full stature life in Christ is one’s spiritual objective, it is time to become more discriminating, discerning and disciplined in what one believes the gospel to be and what constitutes the authentic body of Christ.