Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
- Mark 1:14-15

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Today's Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? book by Walter Chantry

Despite numerical reports of the church’s success that paint a bright picture of health and growth, there is a stark realization that the church has little power in evangelism today.  Too many of God’s people are consumed with the modern thinking that being relevant, having intellectual and social respectability, and unity are the keys for evangelism today.

Walter Chantry says the problem with unity is that churches water down the Gospel by compromising the truth and trying to find "the lowest common denominator” in which all churches can agree upon.  The Gospel has been so diluted and the truth spread so thinly that the world can scarcely see it.   Peace and compromise are preferred over conflict and truth by churches not wishing to offend other denominations, their own missionaries, and even their own Sunday schools and other programs.  Why?  They believe unity is the key to success, and that the world will marvel and be won over by the combined power of their evangelistic efforts.  

Chantry speaks against the church that has forgotten its Protestant roots from Luther: “The evangelical wing of the Protestant church is saturated with doctrine and practices which have no biblical foundation.  Many teachings and habits touching the gospel are…the products of human invention and tradition.”  The Gospel message preached today not only cannot be traced back to the Reformers and their creeds—it cannot even be traced back to the Bible itself.  Modern evangelism has twisted the Gospel like the cults and Satan himself who use verses and half-truths from the Bible to deceive its listeners. 

Many sincere men are “preaching a dethroned Christ” instead of the true Gospel.  They get “decisions” for Christ that mean little to nothing because the overwhelming majority of those making the decisions fall away from the faith, giving evidence that they were never saved in the first place.  Slick marketing and manipulative questioning methods are modern evangelistic methods that have no Biblical basis.  Many of those making those preaching a synthetic Gospel as well as those making “decisions” will realize that they have been fooled when they hear the scariest words in the Bible from Jesus in Matthew 7:23: “I never knew you; Depart from me.”

We have inherited ways of preaching salvation that we assume to be correct but fail to be seen throughout historical Christianity and in the Bible.  They are modern inventions and traditions based on secular thinking that tries to improve the message of the Gospel to make it easier for people to make a “decision.”  Chantry challenges readers to look closely at the methods and message that Jesus preached and says, “Though the answers may be painful, you must ask yourself if your church, your evangelists, your Sunday School teachers, and you, yourself, are preaching our Lord’s Gospel.”

What I shared was the introduction to the book.  Chantry, with the main part of his writing, uses the example of how Jesus preached to the rich young ruler, and he compares and contrast with today's "quick fix" evangelism, which would look at the well-to-do, sincere, clean-cut young man and have him repeat a prayer and pronounce him saved in less than five minutes.  Jesus didn't do thatHe started by preaching the character of God, then preaching the law of God, and included the essential elements of repentance, faith, true Biblical assurance, and dependence upon God.  It is short but powerful book and I can give it my highest recommendation and hope you would read it too.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Assurance - How Do I Know If I Am Saved?

How do I know if I am saved?  That is a question of supreme importance and one that we probably take too lightly given its eternal significance.  Has God’s Holy Spirit truly transformed me or am I just trying to reform myself?  A person trying to reform himself will try to stop doing all the bad things they love and then try to do all the righteous things that they hate.   That’s just religion and it cannot save us.  All of that person’s “righteous” deeds would still be as filthy rags. Salvation is a supernatural work in which God the Holy Spirit transforms us into a new person.  Men are born depraved and sinful and cannot truly change their own lives and make themselves good.  Only God has the power to transform.

Fruits and Pruning

Jesus says twice in Matthew 17:16 and 19 that “You will know them by their fruits.”  Our nature determines the desires of our heart.  If our nature is evil, the desires of our heart will be evil.  When God transforms our nature, the desires of our heart will also be transformed from evil to good and it will demonstrated by the fruit in our lives.

John 15:5 says that believers are branches grafted onto the vine that is Jesus Christ.  A new branch may take some time before it can bear fruit, so new believers should not be frustrated when they do not see fruit right away.  God may have to do a lot of pruning in the form of discipline before the branch can grow and before any fruit can show in a new believer’s life.

This discipline is a test to see if we are truly a believer.  Are you being disciplined by God?  Is God pruning you and cutting you back as a gardener does his plants?  God loved Jacob, but hated Esau.  Esau became wealthy and he became a leader of many tribes.  Jacob, on the other hand, was disciplined by God.  He was corrected by God, just as a father corrects his child so that he or she will learn to do what’s right.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we won’t still struggle with sin and our sinful flesh that is still a part of us.  A Christian will sin and can even fall into bad sin, but a Christian will not continue in that sin as a lifestyle.  Fruits are about someone’s lifestyle, not one moment in time.   You might see a true Christian one day doing something stupid and sin, but if you followed him around for a month, you would see his or her true lifestyle.  The Christian lifestyle is about attempting to know God more and wanting to conform to what God wants us to be.  And over time, we will be more conformed to His character and His will as God sanctifies us and makes us holy.

A Christian will sin and even fall into bad sin, but a Christian will not continue in that sin as a lifestyle.

A Christian will have setbacks, but will grow over time.  It is not just that on the day I was saved that my life was changed; my life was changed and still continues to change.  There must be an awareness that you have changed, even in a new believer. 

2 Corinthians 13:5 says we are to “Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith.”  It is a healthy thing for a Christian to do and we must continually do this.  Those who are true Christians will examine themselves and see how they don’t measure up to God’s Word.  This will cause them to recognize their own shortcomings and continually repent.  However, people who don’t see their sin and think that they are good show that they are not Christians because they were never converted in the first place.

A Christian has a new relationship with sin.  Before, he loved sin.  Now, he hates it.  Sin now convicts you to repent of it and not continue in it.  Repentance is brokenness over sin and a desire for obedience.  One of the greatest evidences of conversion is not perfectionism, but brokenness.

One of the greatest evidences of conversion is not perfectionism, but brokenness.

I highly recommend prayerfully going through those verses from The Gospel – part 7 – Salvation on the tests to know if you’ve been saved.  It also includes much to read on the subject of repentance and brokenness.  There must be a change of purpose from pleasing ourselves to pleasing God.  Paris Reidhead said that repentance is the key to assurance and that it is a “180 degree change from ‘I am going to do what I want to do and please me’ to ‘I am going to do what God wants me to do and please him.’”

“Suppose that a person has 1,000 sins and he purposes to abandon and flee from 999 of them, but he cherishes one that he hides in some closet of his mind and makes provision to indulge that one sin.  Such a man who thinks himself to have repented is either criminal or crazy because repentance to be real has to be entire and not partial.”
Charles Spurgeon

“Am I broken enough over my sin?” is a question I ask myself.  When I mess up and ask God’s forgiveness I sometimes wonder if I am broken over my sin or if I am just paying lip service and praying the prayer so I can get forgiveness.  We must examine ourselves and our motives.  Being broken means that you are most concerned with your relationship with God; paying lip service means that I just want to get into heaven.

Christians will sin and struggle with sin at times.  Paul had the most dramatic transformation of anyone in the Bible when Jesus came to him at the road to Damascus, but even he was frustrated with the sinful nature of his flesh.  “I do not understand the things I do.  For what I hate to do, I do.”  We can take comfort in that Paul struggled like we do with sin.


A love for other believers and a desire to be with them is evidence of being a Christian.  We are not to love this world.  The world is everything that contradicts Christ and His teaching and makes Christ’s teachings burdensome or oppressive to us.  We must choose to keep away from all things and all people and any kind of entertainment or activities that we know will make God’s Word seem burdensome or oppressive to us.


Spurgeon said that for repentance to be real, it has to be permanent and not temporary.  If it is just for a period of time—a few days or weeks or months or years—it is clear evidence that the repentance was not real.  Hebrews 3:14 shows that perseverance is a test of salvation: “For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

The message we heard can give us assurance…or not.  If all you heard was, “God’s got a wonderful plan for your life,” or come “have your best life now,” then you have cause for concern and self-examination.  If you heard a series of questions skillfully designed to lead you into a decision, then you have cause for concern and self-examination.  It is impossible for spiritually dead men to make a “decision” anyways.  Jesus isn’t some little, weak person begging you to make a decision so He can come into your heart.  Know instead that the Creator of the universe commands men to “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15) in order to be saved.

Mark 4:16-17 says, “In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy;  and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.  If you receive the message with joy and not brokenness, you will fall away and not persevere because you were never saved in the first place.  Too many people, instead of salvation, have an emotional experience (read about two examples—one one of them my own—here). 

If you hear the message of the Gospel and understand who God is, who you are, and how unworthy we are of all that God did, then you can have assurance.  Only the true Gospel message that leads to brokenness and repentance can save you.

“For, the more a soul grows in grace, the more that the believing man rests in Christ and drinks into His Spirit, just the more dissatisfied does he become with all his fruits; his holiness does not please him; he finds defects in it; he finds it mixed and impure; and the longer he lives the life of faith, he gets more and more keen-sighted in detecting blemishes…”
Andrew Bonar

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  We are accepted by God the moment we believe—that is our assurance; that is our peace.  Andrew Bonar said, “Will you not now stand still, and once more examine Christ crucified, Christ’s finished work, to see if that cannot yield you the present and eternal peace which alone can satisfy the soul?”  Bonar said we get our assurance by “what we believe about Christ; not about what we know about our act of faith.” 

“Will you not now stand still, and once more examine Christ crucified, Christ’s finished work, to see if that cannot yield you the present and eternal peace which alone can satisfy the soul?”
- Andrew Bonar

We can have assurance in the fact that Jesus paid the full penalty for our sin and that God’s justice was satisfied.  Bonar said, “This is faith rising into assurance while simply continuing to behold its glorious object.”  Our glorious object is Christ and we have assurance that Jesus paid it all through the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Nebraska's Ron Brown Faces Backlash for Comments on Homosexuality

Wow, this story has got some sportswriters fired up and has gotten bigger than I thought.  Many people are demanding that Ron Brown resign from his job at the University of Nebraska because of his comments on homosexuality.  This last article I read by ESPN's Rick Reilly has some incorrect information about Christianity that I would like to comment on. 

I will start by saying this: the Bible says that any sex outside of marriage (Biblically defined as a union between a man and a woman) is sin.  This includes homosexuality.  Here are a few verses that address homosexuality specifically:

"'You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination."  
Leviticus 18:22

"If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death.  Their bloodguiltiness is upon them." 
Leviticus 20:13

"For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error." 
Romans 1:26-27

Brett Major is an openly homosexual man who is referred to in the ESPN story as a "devout Christian." He came forward to make a "decision" for Christ during a speech made by Ron Brown himself. Here is the story of the event:

"'I think I was 11. He was such a dynamic speaker. And he was a Nebraska football coach. We idolized anybody that had anything to do with Nebraska football. I just sat there and went, 'Wow. He's cool and he's Nebraska football and he believes in God.' And that's all it took for me.'

At the frenzied peak of his speech, peppered with Huskers football stories, Brown called any listeners who were ready to devote their lives to Christ to come stand with him and join his 'team.' Brett Major came forward. Ron Brown took him by the hand."

It seems that the young man made a sincere decision to become a Christian and listed in the article are many good deeds that the young man has done.  So what's the problem? 

There are two main problems with this young man's claim to be a Christian: the "decision" itself and the Biblical test of obedience. Brett Major's "decision" is described in the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:

In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy;  and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.
Mark 4:16-17

The Bible says that in order for someone to be saved, there must be repentance (a brokenness over one's sin and turning away from sin) and belief (a turning to Christ).  If someone receives the word with joy, it shows that there was no brokenness and that they did not truly repent.  The word Gospel means “good news,” but man must first be broken with the knowledge of his own sinful nature and depravity versus God’s holiness and righteousness before he can understand his need for Christ’s sacrifice. 

The story also says that Brett "idolized anybody that had anything to do with Nebraska football," and his focus was more on Nebraska football and on Brown than on Jesus Christ.  He gladly received this message with joy, not brokenness. 

The other problem with this young man's decision is that he is openly living in sin by professing to be a homosexual.  He said in the article that, "I decided I wanted to live a Christian life from that moment on," but the Bible says that living a Christian life means obeying Christ.  Jesus tells us in John 14:15 that, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." Now he has done many great deeds and sounds like an upstanding citizen, but that is not enough to get someone into heaven.  

The article says that, "There are millions of Christians who think Brown is wrong on homosexuals."  The problem in this country is that most people who claim to be Christians are not.  Making a decision or repeating a prayer does not make one a Christian.  Most people prefer to follow a "god" that they have created of their own imagination; an idol that does not punish sin, who is loving, will tolerate sin, and will forgive everyone, regardless if they repent or not.  This "god" is more like Santa Claus than the God of the Bible. 

There is a claim in the article that people are homosexuals because they are born that way.  That is not true.  If someone is born with a bad temper, that does not legally excuse them for beating somebody up.  The same is true with homosexuality.  Man is born with a sinful nature and some people have stronger feelings of lust than others, but this still does not excuse them for the sin of homosexuality.

Brett Major also says this: "I couldn't care less, I know God doesn't make a mistake. He didn't put me on this earth to be banished to hell."  God the Father gives all men free will to choose whether to follow Christ or not.  However, we are born with a sinful nature and cannot "choose" to follow Christ unless the Holy Spirit transforms us and causes us to repent and turn from all that the Bible defines as sin.  Those who cling to their sin and do not repent and believe in Christ will indeed go to hell.

The bottom line is that homosexuality is a sin.  It does not matter what the majority of those who claim to be Christian think, it does not matter what future laws are passed, it does not matter what Ron Brown thinks, and it doesn't matter what I think; it matters what the Bible says.  Brett Major is right in saying that "I don't have to report to Ron Brown at the pearly gates."  However, he will report to a holy God who hates sin, and who is righteous and must punish sin.  I pray that he will repent and believe in Christ.

If you would like more information on becoming a Christian, click on the Gospel links at the top right of the page.

Note: I would like to say one thing to professing believers and teachers of the Bible.  I don't know Ron Brown and I don't know the exact message he said that caused Brett Major to make a superficial decision for Christ.  I do know that we must make sure that we are truly preaching the Gospel to others, not "God's got a wonderful plan for your life, who would like to say a little prayer to let Jesus into your heart?"  That language is great in getting people to make a decision, however it is not found anywhere in the Bible when referring to salvation.

Know this, Jesus does not beg, plead, or ask men to say a little prayer and accept Him into their hearts, He commands sinners in Mark 1:14-15 to "repent and believe."  If you preach a gimmicky salvation message that is not Biblically based, you will be most severely judged by Almighty God.