The Relevance of Christianity

There are some who claim that “Christianity needs to change” and that biblical teachings are “outdated and irrelevant.” However, neither of these claims are correct. It is not Christianity that needs to change; rather, sinful, unbelieving hearts are what need to change by the regenerating and transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, if people actually believed the dire predicament of the human condition and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and truly put into practice the teachings of Jesus (without “tweaking” them according to their own preferences), there is nothing more practical and relevant than Christianity.

Our world is ravaged by selfishness, pride, disrespect, xenophobia, greed, deception, slander, hatred, violence, immorality, and the like. All of this is a result of original sin.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. ~ Romans 5:12

This corrupting and destructive power of sin can be likened to Gollum and the ring in, The Lord of the Rings. The ring, like sin, distorted his original nature and being, poisoned his mind and perception, and created a love and addiction to the very thing—his precious—that was destroying him.

The term “progressive Christianity” is both erroneous and deceptive, as well as stating, “making the church relevant.” So-called progressive Christianity ignores the reality of what the Bible calls sin—in all of its forms. The same for those who claim to promote relevance. The tendency, really, is to try to “have one’s cake and eat it too.” Often, these are mere attempts to gain God’s heaven apart from renouncing sin and yielding to Christ’s lordship. These remind me of the words in U2’s, “The Wanderer”:

“I stopped outside a church house
Where the citizens like to sit,
They say they want the kingdom.
But they don’t want God in it.”

This is why we are seeing so many churches and movements, feigning the name of Christ, all the while endorsing goddess worship, homosexuality, abortion, rebellion against any authority, rejection of the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, dismissal of holiness, etc. Many profess to condone these in a spirit of love; however, they misunderstand the true concept of what it means to love. Genuine love does not dismiss the seriousness of sin and its consequences, truth, or justice.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? ~ Micah 6:8 (ESV)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth. ~ John 1:14

[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:6

Furthermore, we are told:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ~ Galatians 5:16-24

The truth of the matter is this: if people truly believed on Christ, renouncing sin and selfishness, and surrendered to the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures, we would see a cleaning up in politics, wholesomeness, in Hollywood, homes being restored, and peace in our streets and communities. Again, Christianity does not need to change, people do. If people were to accept Christianity’s effect throughout the ages, they would see that it is far more relevant and productive than what it is given credit for.

Preach the Word and Contend for the Faith!

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is truly amazing—and undeserving! To think, our sin (which is both an affront to the holiness of God and injurious to others) separated us from God and created for us a horrible hell-bound destiny; yet, the Son of God willingly bore our sins to deliver us from our depravity and bondage to sin and darkness; to reconcile us to God; to prepare us a home filled with genuine love, peace, joy, and purity—a place where there will be no death, sorrow, sin, or perversion of any kind (see Rev. 21:1-4, 27). And why was He willing to do this for us? “For God so loved the world…” (see John 3:16).

We will never fathom the horror the Son of God experienced in order to secure our redemption and pardon. The Holy One took upon Himself the sins of the world, facing the wrath of God against mankind’s murders, lies, thefts, rapes, perversions, pride, gossip, hypocrisies, etc. As if the scourging, beatings, and mockery was not enough, He was pierced by thorns, spikes, and a spear; furthermore, the Father turned His face from the Son He so dearly loves. The Son died in loneliness and with a broken heart which cannot be described.

This is the Gospel: Christ died for our sins (which have separated us from God), He bids all to repent (to turn from sin) and to die in Him, and to be risen with Him in new (transformed) life.

Somehow the church, in undisciplined zeal, began to compromise the Message to get people to come to church so they might be saved. Gradually the compromises have become more about building bigger congregations rather than God’s kingdom. Many churchgoers are more concerned about offending the congregations or the lost than they are of offending God. Furthermore, as the compromises have increased, so have the justifications of permitting all sorts of sins, perversions, and idolatries to find harbor in many churches—the very things Jesus was crucified for!

We are told to “preach the word” without compromise or apology—even if that means others turn and walk away. We are to plant the seeds, but it is God alone who will cause those seeds to burst forth with life.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching. ~ 2 Timothy 2:1-3 (ESV)

Elsewhere we are told to contend (fight fiercely) for the faith (the Gospel). That is, protect it from those who would ravage, twist, and pervert it.

I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~ Jude 3-4

Indeed, we are to preach and exhort in a spirit of love and compassion. However, how contemptible and deplorable to water down the Gospel message, lest we offend those who mock, trivialize, and trample the exceeding grace that Jesus Christ offers! What a mockery of the offense and scorn He endured on our behalf!

Oh people of God, let our hearts be revived for His sake, and let us preach and contend for the true faith entrusted to us. For those who respond in repentance and faith, praise God! For those who reject it, let them walk away and entrust them to God. As the Bible declares:

Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy. Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. ~ Revelation 22:11-12

Regardless of people’s response, let us be faithful to Christ and the Gospel message He has entrusted to us. To dilute the message to soften the sting ultimately does more harm than good—and we must give account.

Spiritual Humility or Veiled Unbelief?

There is a movement within Christendom which often prides itself in its humble confession of not knowing things with certainty. Its leaders essentially agree with pagan philosophers who pondered as to whether we can really know anything at  all, and team up with unbelievers who argue that Christians are arrogant when they feel certain about biblical teachings. Yet, the Bible states repeatedly there are things we can know with certainty.

  • Be still, and know that I am God. ~ Psalm 46:10 (ESV)
  • To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight. ~ Proverbs 1:2
  • So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ~ John 8:31-32
  • And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. ~ 1 John 2:3

Make no mistake, a person can be wrong about something although he is convinced he is correct; however, is God pleased with church leaders who feign humility when they claim to not be certain about essential Christian doctrines? Is He impressed by persons impersonating shepherds of His flock, all the while causing the sheep to turn up their noses to the very Words that would nourish their souls? The Bible tells us,

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. ~ Hebrews 11:6

Biblical faith is not a hopeful shot in the dark. Rather, it is trusting the very words of God—even when we do not fully comprehend. For example, Abraham was declared “righteous” when he believed God’s words that he and Sarah would have a son in their old age. This did not make complete sense to Abraham; in fact, he laughed at the thought. However, he was certain this child would be born because God said so (see Gen. 15:1-6; 17:15-17).

This is the real issue of these leaders within this movement—unbelief in the trustworthiness of the Bible. Many things these men publish either oppose clear biblical teachings or call the Bible into question. They profess to believe in Jesus, yet question, reject, and deny the very words Jesus testified as being the very truth (see Luke 24:44-45; John 17:17). These men promote various practices—in some cases, even New Age occultism—claiming the Bible is “outdated” and needs to “get with the times.”

They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. ~ Titus 1:16

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~ Jude 4

Friend, let me ask you: when it comes to the Word of God, if you declare not really knowing and understanding it, is this genuine humility or merely a disguise to unbelief? Do you believe the Bible is truth or not? Do you believe the God who created the universe and overcame death is capable of preserving His Word for us? Beware of false shepherds who actually scatter the sheep, thus, sending them into grave danger.

At This Point, Do You Walk Away?

In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus miraculously provided food for over five thousand people. Wow! So far, so good. At this point, Jesus is cool and life is good. It’s sort of like today, is it not? Jesus is cool and all is good if He is dishing out blessings, grace, encouragement, and forgiveness.

When Jesus and His disciples departed from the area and crossed the sea, we are told that the next morning many of the people also crossed the sea and sought after Jesus. Again, so far, so good. They are seeking after Christ. Like today, it is good when people are seeking after Him. 

When they found Him, Jesus confronts them with their motives. They were not seeking after Him, but for His blessings. They did not desire Him; rather, they simply wanted their needs met (see vs. 25-27). This is still like today. Many people do not truly desire Jesus, but the luxurious life televangelists promise, or peace of mind of going to heaven, or a healing, or warm fuzzies during a church service.

Beginning in verse 35, Jesus states that He is the bread of life, and He will provide life to those who come to Him. Furthermore, those who believe in Him He will resurrect in the last day. Here, the people began to grumble. Driving home the point of dependence on Him, Jesus says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (vs. 53). Ah, this demand and this exclusivity is too much, but Jesus does not budge from His position. We then read:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. ~ John 6:66 

Today, talk about Jesus’ deity and exclusivity; talk about the cross, repentance and renouncing of sin, holy living, and sound theology. Furthermore, take out the lights, the programs, and excitement, and watch the masses turn away. Mind you, this does not necessarily mean people will stop attending church. We are forewarned,

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. ~ 2 Timothy 4:3-4

When the Gospel message begins calling you to turn from sin, to deny yourself, and to surrender unto Christ wholeheartedly, do you continue to follow and pursue Christ or do you, at this point, turn back and no longer walk with Him?

“Liking” Jesus but Not the Church

There is a book entitled, They Like Jesus but Not the Church, (note: I do not endorse the author or the movement he is part of). Certainly the church is not perfect—far from! However, is the author correct? Jesus is not at all concerned with whether people like him or not. We are told in the Gospels:

But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. ~ John 2:24-25 (ESV)

People are fickle. They can like a person one day and betray him the next. Or they can be infatuated for a season only to have the infatuation replaced by the coldness of winter.

What does Jesus say about people’s thoughts about Him and His people? He tells His disciples (men who struggled with ambition, pride, anger, prejudice, fear, etc.),

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. ~ John 15:18

Elsewhere, He explains:

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. ~ John 7:7

A common complaint is churches are “filled with hypocrites.” As opposed to what? Politics? Hollywood? Realms where people are applauded and idolized—in spite of blatant hypocrisy! Furthermore, while hypocrites exist in many churches, there are also many wonderful, godly, honest, humble, and compassionate persons (but no one wants to give any credit to these). Yet, it is these that are just as much irritants to those who supposedly “like” Jesus. Notice what Jesus said, the world hated Him before it ever hated His people. And why does it hate Him? Because He testifies about it and its evil practices.

The apostle John declares,

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. ~ 1 John 4:19-21

And Jesus says plainly,

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me…. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. ~ John 14:23-24; 15:12

Jesus’ call has never been to follow His followers. Rather, He bids each of us to pick up our cross and follow Him. For someone to say he “likes Jesus but not the church” is merely a smokescreen concealing rebellion against the very One he claims to “like.”

A Score Is Being Kept

Politics and major businesses are filled with corruption and all kinds of wickedness. So much evil is applauded, justified, and covered up—all for the love of money and power. Nevertheless, the people of God are told:

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. ~ Psalm 37:1-2 (ESV)

Furthermore, we are told to:

  • Trust in the Lord, and do good (vs.3);
  • Delight in Him (vs. 4);
  • Commit our way to Him (vs. 5);
  • Be still before Him and wait patiently for Him (vs.7).

Although the wicked see themselves  as invincible and untouchable, and they boast, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1), and “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not see” (Ps. 94:7), the Lord is keeping score. He is keeping track of their lies, bribes, coercion, thefts, extortion, and murders. He is preparing judgment for their persecution of the righteous and silencing the cries of the innocent.

Like pins standing proudly at the end of a lane, God’s wrath is going to charge down:

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. ~ Psalm 1:5-6

Dear ones, the days might become difficult, but let us keep our eyes on the Lord and our faith anchored on Him. Trust in, delight in, commit your way to, be still before, and wait patiently for Him. In the end, God will preserve His own, and the wicked will face the horror of the consequences of their gross rebellion against Him.

Like A Tree Planted by Water

If you desire for your faith to grow, then you must dig into God’s Word. Furthermore, you must not simply read it, but reflect on it, believe it, and respond to what God reveals. Stop living according to the counsel, philosophies, and the ideologies of those who deny, reject, and oppose God and His Word. Truth will become clearer to you, as will the activity of God.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. ~ Psalm 1:1-3 (ESV)

Be Still and Know

Be still, and know that I am God. ~ Psalm 47:10 (ESV)

We are a busy and active race, constantly on the move, either being productive or wasting time with meaningless pursuits and practices. The distractions are endless, but all of this comes with a price: missing the voice and knowledge of God. Creation declares His glory (see Ps. 19:1-4), and God promises to be found by those who truly pursue Him (see Jer. 29:13).

Turn of the noise and take time away from distractions. Be still and know.

BEWARE of Wolves!

Jesus warns of false prophets who will “come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15). Externally they will have the appearance of being persons of God, but internally they are enemies of God. Jesus goes on to say, “You will recognize them by their fruits.” That is, we can recognize them by their actions and teachings.

Jesus later warns that in the latter days “many will fall away” [from the faith], and “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray” (Matt. 24:10-11). Similarly, the apostle Paul warns, “evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). Paul, Peter, Jude, and John each warn of false teachers.

Again, the people of God are not left defenseless. Jesus tells his disciples, just prior to His crucifixion, that they would receive the “Spirit of truth” and He “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:17, 26). And He “will guide you into all the truth….He will glorify me” (16:13-14). Note, Jesus declares Himself as the truth, and God’s word is truth (see John 14:6; 17:17).

What’s the big deal? Jesus says,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” ~ Matthew 7:21-23 

It is vital that we understand mere outward appearances and professions of being a “Christian” can be dangerously misleading. Jesus says false prophets/teachers are ravenous wolves disguised as sheep of His pasture. Do not miss the serious implications of Jesus’ warning. He is emphasizing the real nature of false prophets—vicious, strategic, and deadly!

We are living in dangerous times in which many assume a person must be a Christian if they say they are or if something is labeled as “Christian.” Many feel they are “judging” if they question if someone is a Christian; however, there is a vast difference between judging and discerning. In fact, John (one of Jesus’ closest disciples) writes,

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. ~ 1 John 4:1

How are we to “test” others? What “fruits” do we watch or listen for to detect false teachers? Well this list is not exhaustive, most false teachings stem from one or more of the following:

  • Empty religion (works and activities void of God’s grace and inner workings)
  • Rejecting the authority and trustworthiness of the Scriptures
  • The condoning of behaviors God condemns (antinomianism)
  • Adding works to grace (legalism)
  • “Prostituting” the Gospel
  • Denying the Person and/or atoning work of Jesus Christ
  • Messages void of the necessity of the Cross
  • Salvation by any means other than Christ alone [1]

In our Western church culture people tend to focus on Jesus’ message of love and grace, but may we not dismiss His and the apostles’ warnings of the ever immenent danger of false prophets and their literally damnable teachings.

__________

[1]  Geno Pyse, BEWARE of False Prophets: Taking Seriously the Warnings of Jesus, the Prophets, & the Apostles (Rochester: GP&P, 2020), 71.

Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles each warn of false prophets and false teachers. In fact, Jesus and the apostles warn that these will go “from bad to worse” prior to Jesus’ return. Furthermore, the apostle Paul says there will be a great falling away (apostasy) from the faith. This book discusses some of the common teachings and/or practices of false teachers, and seeks to help persons to become better equipped to discern between truth and error. Study questions for group or personal study included. (184 pages)

Are You Following Ahab’s Bad Example?

Truth is not always pleasant, it does not always seem kind. However, truth is good and beneficial—like medicine—if we will not resist or reject it. Sadly there are many people who would rather perish feeling good than feel the sting of truth and actually become good and healthy.

In the Old Testament, we are told of the account of Ahab, one of the wicked kings of Israel. Preparing to go into battle, he requested that Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, to be his ally. Jehoshaphat agreed and came to help Ahab. Ahab called for false prophets to ask if he would have victory. They replied that the Lord would give him success. 

Jehoshaphat, a godly king, must have sensed something wrong, because he asked, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?” (1 Kings 22:7). Ahab’s response is astounding:

And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” ~ 1 Kings 22:8

Micaiah, a true prophet of God, was summoned. When he arrived, Ahab  asked if he should go into battle. Micaiah must have had a mockingly tone as he answered, “Go up and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king” (vs. 15). We are then told,

But the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” ~ vs. 16

Did you catch that? “Nothing but the truth,” Ahab demanded. So, Micaiah prophesied that Ahab’s army would be scattered in defeat. Ahab then looks over at Jehoshaphat and asks, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” (vs. 18).

Micaiah proceeded to tell Ahab that he would die in battle. Zedakiah, a false prophet, struck Micaiah, asking scornfully, “How did the Spirit of the LORD go from me to speak to you?” (vs. 24).

What was Micaiah’s reward for speaking the truth? Imprisonment. Yet, what he spoke would prove to be true: the army was scattered and Ahab was killed.

How do you respond to truth? How do you react when you are confronted with your faults and sins? How do you respond when a person of God shares from the Bible of something being wrong, but society says it is okay? Do not follow Ahab’s example. Truth is not always pleasant, but it can rescue you from many perils if you will yield to it.