By Dr. Richard B. W> Ing
One of the most insidious and dangerous deceptions today is the new doctrine of salvation being promoted in the body of Christ in America and elsewhere. This false doctrine is drawing people into churches by the millions. The problem is - hardly anyone is being saved.
It is a gospel of blessings and prosperity. It goes something like this: “Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and He will bless you and give you everything you ever wanted in life.” It is a message of “I, I, I and Me, Me Me.” “Jesus wants you to have a good life and success in everything.” “He wants you to be well, rich, free from debt, healthy, wealthy, prominent, filled with peace and joy.”
This new gospel avoids any requirement of self-sacrifice and concentrates on fulfilling the desires of the flesh. It ignores the issue of sin and repentance and caters to the emotions. In order to entice people into church, the new wave of televangelists and pastors focus on short, funny sermons that avoid confrontation, conviction, judgment, exclusivity, scary, unbelievable messages. Instead, they give what the audience wants to hear – mostly humorous, light and uplifting sermons. Take a survey and find out what the people want and then give it to them is the new technique.
In addition, be casual. Wear shorts, slippers, T-shirts, informal leisure wear and be one of the guys. Emphasize a relaxed, informal, casual atmosphere with lots of music and fun. Go drinking with your male members and engage in sports to show them that religion can be fun and even pastors are regular guys. Everything is fine and God wants us to have a good time. Establish many different programs on how to succeed and have a better life that appeal to a wide spectrum of members. Have gatherings for the singles and some for the divorced. Make sure that you have something of interest for everyone.
Many large churches are built on entertainment, self-fulfillment and high self-esteem. The members remain carnal their entire lives and have no interest in self-sacrifice or denial. It is a false gospel.
THE TRUE GOSPEL
The true gospel is directly opposite. In Luke 9:23-26, Jesus said,
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.
The true gospel speaks about giving your life to the Lord in order to follow Jesus into heaven. Jesus said in Matthew 10:34-36, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” Jesus said further, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followed after me is not worthy of Me.” Verses 37-38 Salvation can cause family rifts and even require your life.
In the episode in Mark 10:17-22, where the rich, young ruler asked Jesus how to attain eternal life, Jesus replied, “Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross and follow Me.” The young ruler was unwilling and he walked away. Jesus then said to His disciples, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” Mk. 10:23. Why then should Christians expect riches from God?
The Lord said in John 12:24, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” The ticket to heaven can cost you everything. “He that findeth his life shall lose it]: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” V. 39. Again, in Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus said,
… If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross; and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Indeed, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Perhaps a man does not know how great a treasure it is to escape hell. One can hardly know what hell is like if no one preaches about it. The modern gospel avoids talking about hell and damnation. After all, it makes one queasy and uncomfortable. How can one know of the inestimable value of saving your soul from hell if the church no longer speaks about hell? If one knows of the horror of eternal torture and the hopelessness of being thrown into the fires of hell, what would he be willing to pay for a ticket to heaven?
Jesus told two parables in Mt. 13. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” In the next verse, Jesus talks about a man who found a pearl of great price and sold all he had to buy it. The complete surrender of all possessions is the essence of salvation. “I give up everything. I deny myself. I offer my life, both in terms of death, if need be, and in terms of obedience in life.” The pearl of great price is the saving grace of Jesus Christ that we are hopelessly undeserving of, but that we can claim as our own by denying ourselves, picking up our cross daily, and following Him. That is the true gospel.
A HARD MESSAGE DELIVERED BY MORONS - THE CROSS OF JESUS
The apostle Paul was once a much-heralded student of Gamaliel, a brilliant Jewish teacher of his day. He knew the law inside and out; but when Paul (Saul) met the Lord on his way to Damascus, he met truth head on. Ac. 9:1-18. He now knew the truth and when he set out to preach the gospel of salvation it must have been a scary thing. He had to drop all the wisdom and intelligence he possessed, in order to preach a doctrine that he knew was going to be rejected by most and mark him an idiot. But he had no choice. He was now the messenger of God.
In 1 Corinthians 2:1-2, Paul said, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Paul determined not to use his own wisdom and intelligence to convince people about Jesus. He would preach only a crucified Jesus, which is foolishness to those who perish, but the power of God unto salvation to those who believe. 1 Co. 1:18. That’s the true gospel of the kingdom.
It takes courage to preach the true gospel of the kingdom. Those who do not understand will label you a moron; but those God chooses will find the message powerful and life-giving. For that reason, Paul took courage in the truth. “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Verse 4. He was clear that no enticing words of man’s wisdom would bring people into the kingdom of God. Only the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and the power of the true gospel could bring salvation.
Paul rejected clever public relations marketing techniques that used enticing words created by man’s wisdom and cunning, and instead relied on the wisdom of God. “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: . . .” Verses 5-6. How often today we hear televangelists and other preachers promote a prosperity message that distorts and twists the truth. They use enticing words generated by man’s wisdom and not God’s. As a result, few are actually saved, although many may join churches.
Paul knew that the wisdom of God was hidden in Him from the beginning of the world. The cross held the wisdom of God that only those who have been called to receive salvation can understand and embrace. In verses 7-8, Paul says, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” The preaching of the cross is a mystery, a hidden wisdom ordained by God before He created the world, to be the true gospel of salvation. Any other gospel is false and cannot save. As Paul said, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” 1 Co. 1:17. That is why messages of blessings and prosperity without the cross, or enticing words that we often hear on radio and television are insidiously deceptive. Multitudes have come into the church through a sinner’s prayer without hearing the true gospel of salvation and not having humbled themselves unto repentance. They are not saved unto eternal life.
As both Charles Finney and Maria Woodworth-Etter often claimed, more than fifty percent of Christians in churches were not yet saved – and that was more than a hundred years ago. One can only wonder what it is today.
Continuing on, Paul said, “But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” Verse 9. Natural man can never know the things of God unless the Holy Spirit opens their eyes and ears. Similarly, only those called by God will have ears to hear and receive the gospel of the cross and be saved. When His disciples asked Jesus why He spoke in parables to the crowds, Jesus answered,
… (B)ecause they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heat, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Mt. 13:13-15.
In verses 10-11, Paul remarks, “But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” Without the Spirit of God, no one would hear the gospel of salvation and understand and be saved. It is God that saves.
Jesus knew this. In John 6:37-39, He said,
All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
It is the Father who chooses and the Son will not reject those the Father sends. It is the same with us. It is the Father who chooses and the Holy Spirit that convicts those the Father calls. God never intended that we save people. He intended that we preach the cross. It is the message of the cross that allows the Holy Spirit to convict those He has chosen. It is the Father’s will.
We are not God. We cannot convict people and convince them to believe in Jesus without the Holy Spirit. Man’s wisdom can never do the work of the cross in bringing people into salvation. Why then do men change the gospel and substitute the wisdom and cunning of man instead? Is man God?
IN WEAKNESS, FEAR AND TREMBLING
The apostle Paul was not afraid of speaking in public. He was a man so brilliant that he was slated to be the high priest one day. He was used to giving wonderful words and enticing messages. He was no idiot to natural man. Yet, after Paul met the Lord, he dared not speak his own words. He spoke in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. “And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.” 1
Co. 2:3. He did not fear that people would hate him and resist him. He was unafraid of death and censure. He had already been through that. He feared that his own wisdom and words would creep into his preaching and steal away the power and glory of God. He feared that the Holy Spirit would not move to convict hearts if he gave a false gospel, tainted by man‘s reason. Worse, he feared that his preaching would displease the Lord.
We too, need to come in weakness and fear and much trembling when we share the gospel, knowing that we need to speak the truth in love. If we fear men and not God, we will surely deliver the wrong message. Yes, if we preach truth, many will be displeased and resist, criticize and even hate you. Things have not changed since the days Jesus walked the earth in the flesh - neither the people nor the true gospel of the kingdom and the resistance it elicits from those that perish.
THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS
Not all who attend church are saved; not all who say, “Lord, Lord, ….” will enter the kingdom of God. Mt. 7:21. Many there are who seek to enter in, but few there are that will. Many there are who will go down the broad way to hell. As John MacArthur says in his book entitled Hard to Believe, everyone thinks he is going to heaven - both those who are on the narrow path and those on the broad path. Those on the broad path will have a great shock when they die.
At the end of the age, God will separate the tares from the wheat and the goats from the sheep. Let us no longer spread a false gospel and entice people into church with promises of blessings and a better life on earth. Let us not be careless. As with the apostle Paul, let us preach the cross of Jesus in weakness, fear and much trembling lest we be found among the goats.