Today, we are living in what is known as the “last days.” That is to say, we are living in the final days of the church age. Although there is still one “age” yet to come on this planet earth, i.e. the kingdom age, what must capture our attention at this moment is the fact that the age in which we are now living is rapidly drawing to an end. This assertion can be easily verified by looking at some well-known scriptures. These passages describe what these “last days” will look like and some of the events which will occur in them.
In II Thessalonians 2:1-3 we read: “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition...”
Here we learn that two important events must occur before the second coming of Jesus. They are: “the falling away” and the revelation of “the man of sin.” Even though there are two signs mentioned here, for now we will concentrate our discussion on the first sign, the great “falling away.”
Some have tried to use this verse to justify a “pre-tribulation rapture” by teaching that the Greek word which is translated “falling away” can mean “departure.” Thus they argue that the church will have “departed” before the second coming of Jesus.
But the actual Greek word here is “APOSTASIA” which literally means “apostasy.” This departure is, in fact, a departure from the faith. It is a falling away from both the teachings and the person of Jesus Christ. This apostasy is a turning aside from the true message of the gospel and from a genuine relationship with our Lord. This is certainly not the same thing as the rapture.
It distresses me to embark on the following discussion. It is a continual grief to my heart to speak, write, or even think about this subject. However, it seems to be important to do so in order for the reader to have a clear understanding of where we are on God’s timeline.
The sad fact of the matter is that today’s church already has apostatized. It is right now falling further and further away from the Lord. It is extremely far from His designs and intentions. All evidence points to the fact that we are right now in the middle of the fulfillment of this important prophecy. We are the generation which is actually witnessing exactly what the Bible predicted.
I will not deny that there are a few bright spots in the church today. There are some who still love the Lord. There are a few who are faithfully doing His work. But, in general, the condition of most of today’s church is lamentable. She is literally wallowing in sin, darkness and confusion. This condition seems to be only getting worse.
How can I say such a thing? Am I being judgmental? I don’t think so. I am merely being observant. I have not been out digging around seeking to find out about these things. The stories which give evidence of this fact simply come to my ears.
What I am going to state here is common knowledge. Yet for those who have not yet understood the situation, it seems needful to present some evidence of this fallen, apostate condition. It is necessary to cite some statistics.
1. The incidence of fornication (sex outside of marriage) among believers today (this is true of the church in most parts of the world) is no different from the world. In other words, promiscuous sex is as rampant among professed “believers” as it is among those who have no faith.
One small evidence of this comes from a man who was an elder in a “renewed” Methodist church. He told me that during his 22 years as an elder, only three couples married there without having had sex with each other before the wedding. Two of these were his own children.
2. Adultery is statistically as common in today’s church as outside of her.
3. Divorce, to our shame, is more common among church goers than among those outside the church.
4. The church is increasingly condoning activities which the Bible says are sin. For example, homosexuality is being accepted as normal and inoffensive. I recently saw on television a ceremony of two gay pastors getting married with the congregation “worshipping” and weeping together. Their wedding bands were tied with ribbons together in an open Bible. This is something which grieves the heart of God.
5. A popular Christian psychologist in the U. S. stated a few years ago that through his experience counseling believers, he found that 50% of the men who sit in the pews on Sunday morning are addicted to online pornography, along with at least 30% of the pastors. These numbers could actually be too low.
6. The number of preachers and other church leaders who are involved in adultery and other sexual sins with members of their congregations is astounding. It came to my attention recently that a church in a nearby town discovered that three of their pastors were involved in adultery with women in the congregation.
One of them was having sex with 14 different women in the group. It is increasingly common for churches to overlook or even justify such actions on the part of leaders instead of condemning them.
Another man, who graduated from a famous conservative theological seminary in Texas, said that every single one of those who studied with him, with whom he later had contact, admitted to being involved with extramarital lovers in their congregations. Such hypocrisy played a large part in him leaving the ministry. These examples could go on and on.
7. This list of more obvious sins of course does not include such things as lying, hating, greed, gossip, backbiting, jealousy, leaders using their gifts and positions to enrich themselves, taking advantage of others, pride, arrogance, strife, contentions for influence, fame, and/or power, not repaying borrowed money and an almost infinite number of other such sins. These are so common that in the church almost no one takes notice or even considers them sin anymore.
I don’t mean to dwell on this disgraceful situation. It is only to show how the church has fallen away – apostatized. She is not holy as her maker has commanded her to be. He said: “Be holy, for I am holy” (I Pet 1:16). We are also warned that without holiness, none of us will see the Lord (Heb 12:14).
No doubt many will insist that, although visible holiness is absent, the holiness God is speaking about exists somewhere in His mind. Somehow He thinks or imagines that we are holy even when we are not. If this is the case, then God has lost His mind or perhaps has become senile.
In today’s church, sanctification, which really means “being made holy,” has been reduced to a mere “being set apart.” From my observation, what most seem to be getting ready for and are being “set apart” for is God’s judgment.
He warns: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal 6:7). And, “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people” (Heb 10:30). Further we read: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).
The sad, inescapable truth is that we are in the middle of the fulfillment of an important, end-time prophecy. We are witnessing the great “falling away” – the apostasy that the Bible predicts.
Since it is clear to any honest person that the church is drowning in sin and uncleanness, the question arises: How did she get this way? Where have we gone wrong? A large part of the answer lies in the fact that the church has been deceived and robbed. She has received false and deficient teaching. She has been misled by many who have perverted and/or misunderstood God’s word and will.
They have watered down the gospel to make it more palatable and easy. They have twisted it so much that it no longer has any power to change people into Christ’s image. It no longer produces holiness and the other results which God is seeking.
Much of this distortion of the gospel has been propagated by today’s preachers and teachers who are seeking to produce “results.” Many want to fill their churches with members. They wish to be seen as successful. So they tailor their messages to be non-offensive and easy to take. They search for new techniques, doctrines, ideas, or practices which will attract people to their church or ministry.
They pervert the true gospel – if in fact they ever really understood it – to further their own ambitions and feed their own egos. Unpleasant subjects, such as conviction of sin and true holiness, are put aside so that no one feels uncomfortable or is offended.
One verse which accurately describes today’s error is found in I Timothy 4:1 where we read: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons...” Here we have confirmed for us that in the “latter times” there will occur a departure or apostasy from the faith. This error will be promoted by deceiving or “seducing” (KJV) spirits and the teaching of doctrines which have their origin in the realm of spiritual darkness.
Since it is undoubtedly true that this is even now occurring, how can we recognize these errors? How can we know if indeed, these things are happening among those with whom we fellowship today? How can we discern the times correctly and also avoid these same pitfalls?
To begin, perhaps it would be useful to examine what it means to be deceived or seduced. This is something which happens through the power (including thoughts, feelings, and teachings) of evil spirits. When we are seduced, we are enticed to involve ourselves in something which is not right. Many times we know, in our innermost being, that what we are believing or doing is not correct. But we let ourselves be persuaded because there is something in us which wants it. We secretly desire to do or believe something, so we allow ourselves to be convinced, even though on some level we know it is not exactly right.
As an example, we could consider some man or woman who is seduced to commit adultery. No doubt, they know it is wrong. But they have a carnal craving which is crying out to be satisfied. So they allow their mind to be persuaded, they let their feelings carry them along until they fall into sin.
In the same way, many believers allow themselves to be persuaded to believe certain things or involve themselves in certain practices because it appeals to something carnal within them.
Perhaps they adopt a belief system which excuses them from certain sins which they don’t really want to abandon. Possibly they accept certain teachings because they appeal to their intellect. Others embrace certain practices which give them good feelings. Still others follow along some line of teaching which assuages their guilt about things from the past which they have not really made right with God. Yet others simply go along with the beliefs and practices of their church because they want to be accepted by the group and enjoy the company of the others.
In these and many, many other ways, believers are seduced into practices and teachings which do not reflect the heart or the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Of course, in this writing it will be impossible to identify all the many ways in which men and women have been and are being turned away from the truth today. It is impractical in one writing to enumerate all the many errors. What we will do instead is to try to identify and discuss some of the more serious erroneous belief systems and practices which are common in the church.
Together with this, we will examine what the truth of Jesus Christ really is. The hope and prayer of this author is that through this examination, many will be led out of error and into the truth which will open up for them new levels of intimate relationship with their Savior.
Very few people will be deceived by something blatantly wrong. Therefore, the demonic, seducing spirits, instead of simply trying to invent a completely new false doctrine, will often just subtly modify something which is true. They twist and distort what Jesus and the apostles taught to create a new doctrine that is close to the truth, but not exactly the truth.
When people begin to accept these deviations, they are then on the road to serious error. The further along these incorrect lines a believer goes, the further from the truth he gets.
An analogy of this might be two roads which begin to slightly diverge from one another. In the beginning, they are quite close together, but after they get a thousand miles down the road, they can be very far apart. Small deviations in our understanding of the gospel can lead to great errors in our life as we move further along.
Therefore, our discussion of these things may not be easy. I will try my best to put things as clearly as possible. Yet since many of these errors are of long standing and deeply entrenched in today’s church, it may take some time, study, meditation, and prayer to return to what the real truth is. This will involve not only reading this message, but also demand that each reader sincerely seek the Lord for himself, so that they can hear from God and consequently understand His truth as He has presented it.
In order to try and simplify our investigation, we will divide our study into two parts. The first part will focus on how today’s church has deviated from sound doctrine. The second part will look at how we have strayed from the Person of Jesus Christ. No doubt these two things are intimately related, but in an effort to provide simplicity of understanding we will divide them into these two parts.
Paul writes: “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal 2:6,7). Here we have confirmed that many of the errors in the church are simply perversions of the genuine gospel.
In another place Paul surprisingly affirms that believers are easily duped. They are really gullible. Having little discernment, they put up with false teachers and false doctrines. We read: “For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted – you may well put up with it!” (II Cor 11:4).
What then are the aspects of this “other gospel” which seems to be so prevalent in the church today that is causing so many to be misled? Obviously it will be things which have a certain appeal to the natural man. They will be doctrines which remove anything offensive and make the gospel easy to take. They will be teachings which make no serious demands, include everyone, and encourage people to feel good about themselves and others. It is a gospel with little, if any, personal cost and many supposed benefits.
Let us start our investigation by speaking about the only partially true, greatly exaggerated and quite distorted “gospel of forgiveness.” Most churches today seem to be preaching this gospel. It goes something like this: If you will simply accept Jesus, all your sins (past, present and future) will be forgiven. You are thusly saved from hell and destined for heaven. Some day, when Jesus returns, your sinful life and nature will be instantly changed and you will get a mansion in heaven where you will live forever enjoying all kinds of pleasures.
What could be wrong with this message? Almost the entire church is preaching it. How can it be that such a “good” message is wrong? Is the author of this book some kind of hard-nosed, legalistic, unloving person who is trying to undermine what Jesus did for us?
Please remember as we proceed here that the partial gospel is merely, at the beginning, a small deviation from the true.
Perhaps we should note that the Bible does NOT mention any gospel called “the gospel of forgiveness.” Instead we find the “gospel of the kingdom,” the “gospel of Jesus Christ,” the “gospel of peace,” the “gospel of God,” the “gospel of the grace of God,” the “gospel of the glory of Christ” and, last but not least, the “gospel of your salvation” (Eph 1:13).
Yet today, what is almost universally preached is a message which focuses upon “accepting Jesus” and then receiving the end result of forgiveness. This seems to be the entire message. Now how and where can this be wrong?
We could begin by emphasizing as strongly as possible that Jesus is not craving our acceptance. He is not anxiously waiting up in heaven, wringing His hands, hoping that someone, anyone will accept Him. Then, He will not, if we will only “accept” Him – thus meeting His emotional needs – forgive all of our sins, past present, and future, later rewarding richly in heaven those who recognized His great neediness and accepted Him.
Of course no one states the gospel they are preaching in exactly this way. They use different terms and means of expression. Yet such conclusions are easily inferred from what is being taught today.
Just such an understanding is often arrived at by logical, thinking people who hear today’s watered down preaching and consequently begin to regard the gospel message as something weak, pathetic, and unattractive.
Next it should be stated clearly and assertively that Jesus’ primary purpose in dying on the cross was NOT to forgive us for our sins. That’s right. Forgiveness was not His main purpose. Instead, it was to save us FROM our sins!
Although forgiveness is certainly an essential and precious part of the gospel message, it is not the primary focus or intent of the gospel. Instead of merely forgiving us, Jesus died so that we could stop sinning! He was crucified to remove sin from us completely, not merely overlook it and/or forgive us.
God said to Joseph in Matthew 1:21 speaking about his betrothed wife Mary: “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” He did not say that Jesus would simply forgive His people for their sins, but actually save them from their sins.
Jesus came to create a holy, sanctified people who have been so transformed that they no longer sin! His purpose was not merely to forgive them and then let them go on sinning until He finally whisks them off to heaven.
Today’s “gospel of forgiveness” presents an easy, painless way to feel good about your eternal fate and present condition, but it is not entirely true. It is only a partial truth. Therefore, it does little or nothing to actually transform and save those who follow it. It does not set them free from sin.
Instead, it merely excuses them for their sinful condition. It is essentially a license to go on sinning, since it presents no hope of ever really being changed or freed from sin. Many actually believe that once they “accept” Jesus, their sin no longer matters to God or even that He can no longer see it. What darkness this is! Untruths and partial truths will not and, in fact, cannot set you free.
Obviously forgiveness is essential to the gospel message. Without forgiving us, God could not have communion with us. His holy Person could not interact with our sinfulness. Yes, God can and does forgive us when we truly repent. Yet, this is only one step toward His ultimate plan! What He really intends to do is transform us (save us) so completely that we become like He is – holy and sinless (I Pet 1:16).
If you are not being changed, if you are not becoming holy, if you are not being transformed more and more into the image of Christ, then His forgiveness is doing you very little, if any, good.
This may come as a great shock to you, but God cannot forgive sin (singular). That’s right. There is no verse in the New Testament that says God will forgive sin. You see, “sin” is a word which describes what we are. Sins (plural) refer to what we do. Yes, Jesus can and will forgive the wrong things which we do (our sins), but He cannot and will not forgive what we are. He has another solution entirely for that.
Jesus’ plan is to call men and women out of this world system, fill them with His own life, and then change them into His image. In order to do that He has to eliminate in us the old sinful life and nature. Forgiveness is certainly part of that process, but it is only a part. The other part involves the crucifixion of our old man. It involves the death of our sinful life and nature.
When people preach only a part of the gospel message, presenting it as the whole sum and substance, this is an error. It misleads people. It leaves them with a false impression of what God wants and is trying to do.
When we present only the “easy,” more palatable parts of the gospel and leave out the ones which will cost us something, the ones which are difficult and the ones which seem “too hard,” then we deceive people with a partial truth and lead them into error. By presenting partial truth as the whole truth, we actually impede others from being pleasing to God. This is not the work of God, but has another, darker source.
Most of the time, those who preach the gospel of “forgiveness” leave out the message of the cross. It is just too offensive (Gal 5:11). But the truth is that in order to be saved from our sin (singular) we need to die. Only the dead do not sin. Therefore, the death of Christ must become real in our lives! The cross must genuinely operate in us every day. We too must be crucified! We must actually experience the death and the resurrection of Jesus in order to know what salvation really means. Such dying is neither pleasant or easy.
In Jesus’ day, when people saw someone carrying a cross, that person was never alone. Instead, he was always surrounded by Roman soldiers. Furthermore, he was not simply wandering around aimlessly hauling a piece of wood in the shape of a cross. He had a specific destination. He was going to die. He was going to be painfully crucified.
If we are going to follow Jesus and fulfill His will, we too must carry the cross (Mt 10:38, 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23, 14:27). There is no substitute. There is no alternative for the death of our self life. We too must be crucified. We too must die.
When Jesus forgives us, it is so that we can enter into communion with Him. Then, through this communion, His whole plan can work in our lives. This plan includes freedom from sin. This freedom only comes with our death. As long as our old life lives, it will sin. This is a simple fact. Jesus’ solution for this is to apply His crucifixion to our natural life and then replace it with His own eternal life. This is the real gospel message.
Such a glorious freedom from sin – which is effected by actually experiencing the death and resurrection of Christ for ourselves – is made possible by forgiveness. Yet, if we only focus on forgiveness and never go on to experience full and complete salvation from what we are through the cross, then we have been robbed and deceived.
Those who follow such a message will never be free from sin, never be transformed, and never be prepared for all that God has to give us in the future. They have been deluded by a partial truth which ends up being a serious error.
Every Christian should know that we are saved by faith. It is our faith in Jesus which justifies us in God’s eyes rather than any work which we could do or behavior which we could generate. Yet faith too has been corrupted in today’s church. What is being taught as faith today is a cheap, easy philosophy which is powerless to save anybody.
Today’s “faith” seems to be agreeing with some biblical facts or “Christian” ideas. For many, it is a purely mental exercise of trying to convince ourselves or someone else of things which are written in the Bible. Even worse, many try to believe and preach a bunch of nice little “Christian” philosophies which often are not even scriptural. This is a useless activity.
The result of this fallacy is that today’s churches are full of people who have only been convinced of something but not truly converted. They have never been convicted of sin, never really repented, and therefore, are not really being saved from who they are and what they do.
True faith, on the other hand, is the human heart’s reaction to the revelation of God Himself. When God reveals Himself then, and only then, we can believe. We read: “...and [Jesus] manifested His glory; and [then] His disciples believed in Him” (Jn 2:11).
And also: “These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him” (Jn 12:41). Further we are told concerning Abraham, the father of faith: “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision...” and then: “And he [Abram] believed in the Lord, and he [the Lord] accounted it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:1,6). The order of these things is important. First, God reveals Himself. Then, men believe.
As we see from the above verses, to really believe, we must first have seen something of God Himself. He must have revealed Himself in some way to us. This might be through His word, someone’s preaching, or any number of other means. But genuine faith can only occur when we actually perceive some aspect of God Himself. Our heart then responds to this by believing.
There is no doubt that we are justified by faith alone. Yet this must be faith in a living Person and not merely in some facts about that Person. If God has never been revealed to you, then there is no way that you can have believed in Him or consider yourself to be one of His children.
No one can ever be justified by believing truths about God. On the other hand, everyone and anyone can be justified by believing in the Person of God. This requires that they have perceived Him in some way. He has revealed Himself to them. Then, they have reacted to this revelation by believing in Him.
Believing in information, even if it is very biblical and correct, cannot save us. Only receiving and then believing in the revelation of the living God Himself will save us from who and what we are. To be considered a real believer, we must have had a genuine encounter with Him.
Please do not misunderstand the following affirmation. The real “word of God” is not a book. It is a Person. It is Jesus Christ God’s Son.
I believe and affirm that the Bible we have today is an accurate and true record of God’s speaking and revelation. It was inspired by Him. I am in no way disputing this truth.
Yet believing in a book, even when it is the Bible, cannot save us. We must believe in the Person of Jesus. In order to do this, He Himself must have been revealed to us in some way and we must have responded by believing. Then, and only then, can we be considered to be one of His children. It is all too possible for people to believe in a few biblical truths, but never actually have met Jesus Christ.
Many believers today are trying to believe in something which is not really real to them. They pick and choose some Bible verses which appeal to them and then try to “believe” them.
Some, for example, are imagining that they will soon be wealthy or healed. Others are “believing” they are forgiven for sins which they have not really confessed and for which they have not truly repented. Still others suppose that God does not see when they sin or perhaps doesn’t even really care whether they sin or not.
Let me state as firmly and adamantly as I can. Such “faith” is useless! Mental exercise is NOT faith. Repeating Bible verses – trying to convince yourself of something scriptural or any other kind of intellectual artifice – will do nothing to aid you in your walk with God. It is only by seeing Him through the Holy Spirit that we can have genuine, saving faith.
The kind of “faith” which so many have in the church today is merely imagination. Many talk about and even preach about things which are not real to them. These things may be scriptural and therefore true in an eternal sense, but they are not real in the lives of those speaking about them.
Therefore, much of today’s church is full of a palpable sense of unreality. This is the result of a false, imaginary faith which saves no one.
The precious truth of our justification by faith is also something which the demons have succeeded in misrepresenting to the church. As we have seen, true faith is not something merely mental. It is our response to God revealing Himself. When we respond positively, we become justified. But, if and when we refuse to recognize and obey what He is revealing to us, we become disobedient.
The fact is that God is revealing Himself every day, if not every minute of every day, to His children. The question is: How are we responding to this revelation? Are we recognizing it? Are we receiving it? Are we obeying His instructions and directions? Are we responding in faith? If not, then we are no longer living in faith and are no longer being justified.
Let us try to illustrate this with an example. Let us suppose that someone received Jesus five years ago. God was graciously and marvelously revealed to them and they believed in (“into” Greek) Him. In our example, we will insist that this person was genuinely and truly converted.
Now let us imagine that with the passage of time this individual begins to sin. Perhaps he or she begins engaging in sex outside of marriage.
No doubt, Jesus will be speaking to them about this sin. It is certain that He is not simply ignoring the problem or is unaware of it. It is even more definite that His own precious blood is not blinding His eyes to this offense against His holy nature. Instead, He reveals His displeasure to that disobedient child in various ways.
But let us suppose that this person does not respond positively to Jesus’ speaking. He shuts his spiritual ears and hardens his heart. His desire for sensual pleasure causes him to keep on sinning and resist the Holy Spirit speaking in his heart.
Can it be that God considers such a person just and justified? Is it possible that He still looks upon this child of His as righteous? Obviously not! How could it be possible that the holy God of the universe would not withdraw His presence from such an offense to His Person? Of course, this sin will cause a separation in the relationship between this individual and his Lord. The more this individual resists and rejects Jesus’ admonition to stop this sin, the greater the spiritual distance becomes.
You see, such a person is no longer walking in faith. He is rejecting what God is revealing to him concerning His thoughts and feelings. Instead of faith, his reaction to the Holy Spirit’s thoughts is rebellion and disobedience. Therefore, since this person is no longer responding to God in faith, he is no longer being justified.
James makes it very clear that dead faith does not justify us (Js 2:14-36). But what is dead faith? It is faith without the correct, positive response to God. It is a faith merely of the past. It is faith which is not operative today, right now. It is a faith without “works.” This word “works” means that we do what the Holy Spirit is directing us to do. We respond by obeying Jesus at this moment.
The “works” about which James speaks does not mean fulfilling some religious duty or engaging in some charitable activities. This does not indicate that we are obeying some Christian regulations, following some Christian leadership, or keeping some Old Testament law. Instead, these works are our response to what Jesus is revealing of Himself to us, right now, today.
If we do not do what Jesus is telling us to do at this moment, including stopping our sinful activity, then we are not walking in faith. Therefore, we are not being justified. Our faith is not living. It has died. Only genuine, up-to-date faith can justify us before God. The fact that we might have believed in the past, cannot hide or excuse the fact that we are not obeying by faith what He is revealing to us right now.
Yet I imagine that a large part of today’s church would not agree with this. Many would argue that since such a person already received Jesus, no matter what he does, he is still justified before God. They think that our actions after receiving Jesus cannot make any difference in our relationship with God or our eternal reward.
My dear brothers and sisters, such a person is in great darkness. It is tremendous deception! Such a belief reveals a total misunderstanding of faith, a complete misinterpretation of justification and, even worse, an enormous deficiency of knowing God personally, i.e. really knowing what kind of Person He is.
Such a doctrine is one which all the demons hope that you will believe. Once you accept such a teaching, you then stop being concerned about sin. You cease to care that much about pleasing your Lord. You imagine that sin doesn’t make any difference to Him or you.
Therefore, your life becomes the demons playground. They are “lovin’ it.” They can therefore induce you to do all kinds of things which hurt both yourself and others. Your life and actions begin to undermine your testimony and the faith of those around you. You become a wonderful tool in the hands of the prince of darkness to damage and mislead others. The very sin which Jesus died to liberate you from becomes your daily practice.
Dear friends, if this is your theology, you are in desperate, profound darkness. You are in serious error. You are in need of a new, face to face encounter with God and a deep thorough repentance.
Please understand that I am not speaking in the above mentioned example about a sinning individual going to heaven or hell. Our discussion here is whether or not a sinning Christian can consider themselves justified (being considered just) before God while committing known sin.
The biblical answer – the true answer – is NO! It is not possible. Such sinful living is not by faith or through faith. Instead it is a rejection of the revelation of God. It is the opposite of faith – disobedience.
Without genuine faith, it is impossible for anyone to be justified. If and when we stop responding to the Holy Spirit, we are no longer walking by faith. Our faith becomes dead. Our “works” (our responses to His revelation) cease. Such faith does not and cannot justify us (Jas 2:17, 26).
Many in today’s church are also mistaken concerning transformation. Not a few imagine that the transformation of their souls is something which will happen when Jesus returns. They think it is something instantaneous. which will occur in the twinkling of an eye, as mentioned in I Corinthians 15:52.
The truth is that our transformation must be our daily experience right now. Instead of happening when Jesus returns, the transformation of the soul actually stops when He comes again. At that moment, our time for transformation is over. The time for salvation to work in our souls is “today” (II Cor 6:2) not tomorrow.
What will be changed “...in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye” (I Cor 15:52) is not our soul, but rather our body. A careful reading of the context of this verse will make this truth very clear.
As mentioned previously, Jesus came to change us in such a dramatic manner that we no longer sin. To accomplish this, the first step is for our sinful, Adamic life to die. This occurs when we actually experience the cross of Christ by the action of the Holy Spirit. Our death together with Jesus must become real to us every day. As we cooperate with Him, His Spirit will apply this death to who and what we are.
The next step is to fill us more and more with His life which we receive at the new birth. As His divine, sinless life grows up within us more and more, our own life diminishes. This is a process which takes time and attention. It is not an event. Although receiving Jesus’ life through the new birth is an event, the maturing of this life within us must go on every day.
Many believe that they could never stop sinning. So they give up and search for a doctrine which does not demand true holiness or makes it seem like something which only exists in the mind of God.
It is actually true that a human being cannot stop sinning. The only One who does not sin is God. But this is the whole point. Jesus’ plan is to put to death our own, sinful life. Then He intends to fill us to overflowing with His own sinless life.
When and if we are full of Him, we do not sin because it is not ourselves who are living any longer. Instead, it is Jesus who is living in and through us. How desperately we all need to be ever more full of the Life of God! This is the only way we can be free from sin.
This is the biblical process called “transformation.” In Greek the word is “METAMORPHOÕ” the origin of our word “metamorphosis (Rm 12:2). Metamorphosis refers to the process which a butterfly caterpillar undergoes when it changes from a worm into a butterfly.
First, it secretes a substance which forms around it and hardens into a chrysalis. Next, it spends a long time there inside in a dormant, deathlike state. When it emerges, it has changed so completely that it is hard to associate with the original caterpillar.
The first stage, the “worm,” is lowly and crawls along the ground or on plants. The second stage is a beautiful creature which flies freely in the heavens.
Our transformation is something which must be happening today. This is effected by our seeing and then reflecting Jesus’ glory (II Cor 3:18). If, by faith, we are perceiving, receiving and then reflecting Him day by day, we are being truly transformed and made ready for His second coming.
One consequence of the “gospel of forgiveness” doctrine is that very few Christians today believe that they will be judged. They do not think that there will ever be any negative consequences for their actions. They imagine that, no matter what they do after they “receive Jesus,” God will not punish them in any way.
Since they suppose that they have already been forgiven for all their sins – past, present, and future – they will only receive blessings from God, both now and in the hereafter. Perhaps some will get a lot of blessings, others perhaps fewer, but only blessings nonetheless.
This, my dear brethren, typifies the definition of what it means to be deceived. We read: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal 6:7). This verse was written to believers! If anyone thinks that they can continue sinning and their heavenly Father will not notice, care, or discipline them for their errors, they are seriously deluded. They have been deceived.
How can we be sure about this? Let us take a look at the Bible together. To have a proper understanding, we must begin by analyzing an important question. This question may seem unrelated at first, but soon you will understand how important it is.
The question is: How many unbelievers will be raptured? How many God rejectors will be caught up with the church when Jesus returns? Obviously, the answer is none. Not even one person who does not have eternal life will be “...caught up...in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thess 4:17). It simply will not and cannot happen.
Therefore, anything and everything which the scripture teaches will occur at that time (the time of our resurrection) will only happen to believers. All Bible verses which refer to this event can ONLY apply to Christians.
When we read about what will happen at the “second coming” and when we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, these things are, without a shadow of doubt, applicable only to us who have received Jesus and are His children. This is because no unsaved person will be there.
We read: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (II Cor 5:10). This judgment occurs immediately after the “rapture” or resurrection of believers. Here we will all “receive” the consequences of our actions on this earth (while ‘in the body’), whether they have been “good or bad.”
Again we are taught: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality” (Col 3:23-25).
No doubt receiving this “inheritance” is something which will happen when we stand before Jesus on that Day. So also, being judged for doing “wrong” and being “repaid” for this will also occur at that time. Here there is no “partiality.” No one is getting off easy or avoiding their just punishment because of who or what they are or were.
Now we will go on to investigate just what these just rewards or disciplines will be. But before we do, we must remember that these negative consequences will not be the same as those of unbelievers.
All unbelievers will be judged later, when they stand before what is called “The Great White Throne” mentioned in (Rev 20:11). This event happens 1,000 years afterwards. Before His Judgement Seat, Jesus will only be judging His children, His family.
No Christian will lose his or her eternal life at that time. Please make no mistake about this. There is no room for doubt or discussion here. This is the only simple logical conclusion possible.
For example, if we suppose that someone could have done something to lose their eternal life or “salvation,” then they would not have been raptured and therefore could not be standing before Jesus’ judgment seat.
No non-Christian will be there at this time. No one who does not have eternal life will be there either. This would be impossible. Therefore, all events predicted by the Bible which occur at this time refer only to believers.
When we stand before Him to give account of our deeds, there will be both rewards and punishments. One of these punishments which the Jesus Himself predicts is to be “...beaten with many stripes” (Lk 12:47). This chastisement is for the believer who: “...knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will.” Verse 43 of this chapter makes it abundantly clear that this is something which occurs when the “Master” comes, i.e. when Jesus returns.
While some try to make the “servants” mentioned here be unbelieving Jews or some other such group, these will not be raptured and therefore cannot be the ones to which this verse refers! These can only be believers.
Furthermore, we are taught that the severity of these chastisements will vary with the degree of rebellion of each individual. It is written: “But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Lk 12:48).
Another negative consequence of sinning against God and not obeying Him while we are on the earth is missing the coming wedding feast and the Millennial Kingdom. Disobedient servants will be left out. Sinning believers will be excluded too.
The parable of the foolish virgins, with which almost everyone is familiar, clearly teaches this truth (see Mt 25:1-13). When the five foolish ones tried to enter in to the wedding feast, they were refused entry.
We can be confident that these virgins represent Christians for several reasons. First, they were “virgins” (II Cor 11:2). Second, they had some “oil” in the lamps which is a type of the Holy Spirit. Third, they were waiting for the Lord, the bridegroom. And finally, because only believers will be resurrected at that time!
Paul explains in his epistles, the fact that disobedient Christians will not inherit the coming kingdom of God. He repeats this truth three times in three different letters.
This is not an obscure or difficult to understand teaching. It is clearly taught by both Jesus, Paul and other apostles. It is “the gospel truth.” Please review I Corinthians 6:9-12, Galatians 5:1921 and Ephesians 5:1-5 which are a few passages that clearly explain this fact.
Not only will this discipline of missing out on the Millennial Kingdom be severe, it will be long lasting. This chastisement will continue during the kingdom age, or 1,000 years. Such a conclusion is logical, since it is this “Millennial” Kingdom from which they will be excluded.
Still another punishment for unfaithful Christians is explained for us in Matthew 25, verses 14:30. This is the well-known parable about the talents which God’s servants are given to use while He is away.
The foolish servant who did nothing with his talent was punished by being thrown into a place called “outer darkness.” In this place, the anguish of suffering produces “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
This place, “outer darkness,” cannot be the same as hell, or the lake of fire. Although many think that these two places – outer darkness and hell – are the same, no Bible verse affirms that they are. Instead, outer darkness is a place only for God’s rebellious children. All biblical references point to this fact. Nowhere are we told of an unbeliever being put there. In the Bible only believers suffer this punishment.
The word mistranslated in the New King James Version “unbeliever” in Luke 12:46 should read “unfaithful” according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Obviously, an unbeliever and a believer who is unfaithful are two different things.
The fact is that Jesus will judge, discipline, punish and chastise His disobedient children when He comes. It is written: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins [no more forgiveness], but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries [persistent, resistant sinners].”
“Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people’ ” (Heb 10:26-30).
It is indisputable from this verse that God will indeed “judge His people.” Anyone who chooses to ignore this truth is wilfully being blind and will suffer the consequences of this choice.
In this chapter, there is simply not room to discuss this subject in all the details necessary to answer everyone’s questions or doubts. Therefore, for a more detailed and complete discussion of this subject, I would like to urge the reader to refer to the book previously published by this ministry titled: Thy Kingdom Come. This book is available, without cost, simply by asking. Visit the website: www.agrainofwheat.com.
JUDGEMENT NOT HAPPENING TODAY
Many become deceived because they don’t see Jesus judging His children now, in this age. Consequently, they imagine He never will. Although sinning believers suffer some natural consequences of their unrighteous actions, they don’t see the hand of God descending from heaven to discipline them as they might deserve.
Therefore, they begin to imagine that it will never happen. They mistake this lack of apparent punishment for a lack of good sense or justice on God’s part.
As an example of this seeming absence of judgment, we read: “...but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb 13:4). It is an indisputable fact that today’s church is brimming over with fornicators and adulterers, both in the pews and the pulpits. Yet, we don’t see God’s judging these people. So, people begin to assume that everything is O.K. Possibly, God has changed His attitude and will never judge them. The problem is that they fail to see the future.
Our Lord has reserved His judgment for when He comes. It is at that time that everyone will receive the just rewards for their actions, whether they were good or evil.
Today is the age of grace. The coming Kingdom Age is the age of judgment. It is then that Jesus will discipline and judge His disobedient children. God will fulfill His word and judge His people. It is simply not possible for Him to do anything else.
Today in this age of grace, Jesus is showing us His undeserved goodness. But we should not deceive ourselves because of this. Instead, we must realize that this period of God’s goodness should lead us to repentance.
Paul warns us saying: “And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rm 2:3).
So, we must not imagine that God doesn’t care about our sin, doesn’t see it, or will forgive it without our repentance. Instead, moving in the fear of God, we should give ourselves to Him in humble submission so that He can cleanse and transform our lives today. In this way, we can be filled with His life and freed from sin. In this way, we will be ready when He comes and escape any punishment.
FALLING AWAY FROM JESUS
Not only has today’s church departed from the faith, they have also distanced themselves from their Lord. Many other things have become more important to them than their relationship with Jesus. Surprisingly, many of these things which substitute for Him in the lives of Christians are seemingly “Christian” things.
For example: For many their participation in their church and being accepted by the other members is more important than actually being pleasing to Jesus. For others, their pastor, together with his teachings, instructions and opinions, is more necessary than seeking God for themselves. Still others value studying theology and doctrine more than intimacy with the Lord Himself.
Why do I say such a thing? It is because in hundreds, if not thousands of interactions with professing Christians through the years, these things have become evident.
To begin, it seems that very few diligently and daily seek the Lord for themselves. Most seem to rely on others to do this for them. They don’t open their Bible very often or commune with God very much. They don’t prayerfully seek Him about things besides their own problems. Their passion is not to serve Him by serving others.
The evidence of this lack is that when you speak with many “believers,” their conversation is not about spiritual things. Their minds are not occupied with or full of revelation and experiences with the Lord. It is difficult to carry on a conversation with them about God or the Bible, since it is not very interesting or relevant to them.
It is completely true that our mouth speaks about what our heart is full of (Mt 12:34). Many, if not most, Christians don’t often converse about the things of God because their hearts are focused on other things.
For many, if they “fulfill their Christian duty” by attending church and being somewhat submissive to their pastor, they feel that they are right with God. Others might also add that “believing the right way” about a certain number of Bible doctrines also is part of this package.
But whatever details are required, many believe that if their group accepts them and considers them to be “good Christians” then they are right with God too. Without maintaining any real intimacy with God to know how He feels about the question, they simply rely on the group’s opinion to feel good about themselves.
But the truth is that this is very similar to Catholicism. It is “justification by church.” It is not true Christianity. It is an earthly substitute. It is false justification which is based on external standards and not upon communion with Jesus Himself who is the only One who justifies us.
Justification which results from our group or leader approving of us, is very convenient for our flesh. The natural man is very happy with such a device. In the minds of many, once they have satisfied the demands of their church, then they are free to pursue their own interests and desires.
Their work, their hobbies, their family and their entertainments can then fill their lives and occupy their minds, without their needing to worry much about what God might desire from them.
Thus, a nice “Christian,” religious framework often works to free us to please and serve ourselves without much concern for the kingdom of God and His work on the earth.
In this way, a greater part of today’s church has fallen away from Jesus Himself. They still have an appearance of godliness, but have no power (II Tim 3:5). Their own lives are not radically changed and those around them are also not greatly impacted either.
The form of “Christianity” which they practice has taken the place of Christ in the lives of very many who think of themselves as “good” believers. Their religion has become a subtle substitute for intimacy with Jesus.
This practice of following doctrines, groups, or Christian leaders has become epidemic today. In fact, it is often taught as the good and right thing to do.
But the result is that many believers’ hearts are actually far from God. They are going through the Christian motions but are not loving Him with all their soul, mind, and strength. Their church activities, pastor, etc. have become a substitute for Jesus Himself. The Lord Himself has said it: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Mk 7:6).
The result of this reliance and dependence upon religious props for our justification is that many have strayed very far from the genuine presence of Jesus in their daily lives. He is not their focus. He is not their “first love” (Rev 2:4). He is not their “all in all.”
They have fallen away or apostatized from Jesus in a very real way. Yet their religious practices mask this error by giving them an appearance of doing the right thing. They continue to feel right about themselves when, in truth, they are not right with God at all.
The unhappy result of all this error is that today’s church is without power. Very few are being freed from sin and transformed. Although in some countries multitudes are being drawn into various congregations, their daily lives continue to, in large measure, reflect the fallen nature.
The watered down, easy gospel might work to attract members to certain groups, even in large numbers, but it does little or nothing to advance the kingdom of God and fulfill His eternal purposes. It does not transform lives into the image of Jesus.
May God have mercy on us that we could repent of these errors before it is too late and find His grace to become pleasing to Him before He comes.
"Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself, alone. But if it dies, it produces much fruit!
He who loves his soul life, will have it destroyed. But he who has a deep aversion to his soul life in this world, will have it preserved [through transformation] into the eternal life of God. John 12:24-25