In the 1960s & 1970s, Pentecostal and some other evangelical churches used to teach the need for true and genuine repentance, the need for the empowering of the Holy Spirit in our daily Christian lives to enable us to live a victorious Christian life; the fact that Jesus could come at any time, on any day for His Bride “The Church” was also an important part of our learning.
The other doctrines were also taught of course, but only after the solid foundation had been laid in the lives of the new Christians. However, it is noticeable that over the past 30 – 40 years these aforementioned essential Christian Doctrines, have been gradually phased out to the point where it is extremely rare today to find a Church where these very important doctrines are taught. We were also taught that “The FEAR of the Lord was the BEGINNING of wisdom”
Today the emphasis in the church is on the doctrines of “Grace” and “Love”. God’s grace will cover all of your sins no matter what! God loves you so much that even if you disobey Him you will still be able to go to heaven because you believe that Jesus is God. This is an accurate picture of how the “Laodicean Church” is portrayed in the book of Revelation chapter 3.
But what does James say in Jas 2:19 “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” James is warning us that believing in Jesus as God, is not enough, there are other essentials required in our lives if we want to get to heaven.
I want to go through a few things that Church leaders and their parishioners should consider very carefully from the Bible.
- FORGIVENESS. – Mat 6:14&15 “For if you forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: v15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your sins”. Forgiveness is NOT an optional extra in our Christian life, if you want to go to heaven, you have to forgive.
David Guzik in his Bible commentary says this. “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: Forgiveness is required for those who have been forgiven. We are not given the luxury of holding on to our bitterness towards other people”. He continues “Neither will your Father forgive your trespasses: Jesus has much more to say about forgiveness (Mat_9:2-6; Mat_18:21-35, and Luke 17:3&4 So watch what you do! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. Luke 17:4 If he sins against you seven times in one day, and each time he comes to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you MUST forgive him.” Here, the emphasis is on the imperative of forgiveness – IT IS NOT AN OPTION.” Guzik says, and I agree.
Yet how often do we hear Christians say, “I will never forgive them for what they did to me”, or something similar.
You may ask me, “How can I forgive him / her, he / she killed my son / daughter / brother / sister / father / mother or whoever, or they raped me, or my sister etc?” What you have to realise is that it is Christ living in you who forgives, because you are DEAD. Gal 2:20 tells us it is no longer I that live but Christ who lives in me through the power of the Holy Spirit. If you are truly dead, and Christ is living in your body, then they have sinned against Christ.
The TRUE Christian will be able to hand it over to Jesus and allow Jesus to forgive on their behalf, because they are dead to hate, revenge, and all those feelings of the flesh. When we are prepared to allow Jesus to control us, then what happens in our life is over to him. How He will handle the situation is not our concern, He may even use the situation to bring that person to repentance and to salvation. On the other hand if the person does not repent, as Rom 12:19 says “I will take revenge; I will pay them back says the LORD”, but that is God’s prerogative, not ours.
- ABIDING IN CHRIST. John 15:6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” What does “Abiding in Christ” mean? Some versions have, “If anyone does not remain in Me”. Most Bible commentators agree, that these people were “True Christians”, but for some reason or other they have stopped their sustenance from the “True Vine” Jesus – see John 15:1 “I am the “True Vine”. So if we walk away from Jesus, literally, we are walking away from heaven.
There are many false vines in the world today, many counterfeit vines claiming to be Jesus, or claiming to have the “Truth”, which is actually their own “convenient” version of the God’s word, in which they teach, “God’s grace will cover your sins, so do as you please”. The end result of this teaching is that the branch dies and is cast into the fire because it is feeding on poison, lies, deception, half truths, error and heresy, instead of the True Word of God. Only the Bible gives us the True Word of God.
- THE INDWELLING HOLY SPIRIT. In the parable of the ten virgins in Mat 25 verse 3 we are told that “The foolish virgins took their lamps but did not take any oil with them”. So what was the parable about, and what was the end result? It is well known that “Oil” is one of the symbols used in scripture to signify “The Holy Spirit”. It is also well known that the lamp, or indeed any vessel or potters vessel in scripture often refers to a person. E.g. See Acts_9:15 “Saul, a chosen vessel unto God”, etc. The parable therefore is warning us of the need to maintain our bodies as the temple, or dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
1Co 6:19 “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself.” Our lives will either be filled with the Holy Spirit, or else our lives will be filled with the things of the flesh and of this world. If we are going to make it into heaven, then our lives must be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we realise that we are not our own, we are God’s, and if the Holy Spirit is in charge of our lives, then HE can change our habits, HE can change our attitudes, HE can change our desires, our ambitions, our goals etc.
- OBEDIENCE. Mat 7:21 “Not everyone who calls me their Lord will get into the kingdom of heaven. Only the ones who obey my Father in heaven will get in.” To obey means to do what God has asked us to do, and not to do what He has told us not to do. Obedience to the Lord is a sign of our Love for the Lord, see John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” If you want to get to heaven, you must do God’s will and obey God’s commands.
- HOLINESS. In 1Pet_1:16 Peter says, “It is written, ‘Be ye holy for I am holy’”, —- the only way we can be holy, is through the indwelling Holy Spirit being in charge of our lives; see the following:-
Gal 5:16-21 “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. v19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, v20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, v21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Sadly, our churches today are not warning people of the dangers of living in this way.
Many young people today, particularly those who live in “Western Nations” nations, who until twenty years ago would have called themselves “Christian” nations, live in sexual sin. Sadly, many people today who call themselves Christians, are not “True Christians”, as they continue to live the life of the world and of the flesh. Repentance means turning away from, and ceasing to do all these things, not continuing on in them.
- LOVE. I have probably left the most important for the last. We saw earlier that obedience to God was a pre requisite for entering heaven. When Jesus was tested by the Scribes and Pharisees in regard to the greatest commandment, He answered as follows
Mark 12:29-31 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. v 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ v 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.‘ No other commandment is greater than these.”
True love of God leads to true obedience to Jesus.
True love of God has complete trust in Jesus.
True love of God has a deep longing for Jesus.
True love of God is prepared to wait in obedience for Jesus.
True love of God will be looking for Jesus to come every day.
True love of God will pore over the teachings of the Bible every day.
True love of God will talk to Jesus every day.
True love of God will be full of Jesus, and will want to tell everybody.
I fear for many Christians today who do not Fear God, nor follow the above.
No wonder Jesus questioned in Luke 18:8 “when the Son of Man comes, will he find anyone with faith on earth?”
To say that any of the above requirements are no longer valid or required in Christianity today because of God’s love and grace, is the same as saying that God has changed, but see what Mal 3:6 has to say “For I am the LORD, I change not”. Or, it is the same as saying that Jesus is not the same yesterday, today and forever, but see Heb 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever”. If you say these scriptures no longer apply today, then we cannot trust anything the Bible says.
I suggest that we all need to consider these and other similar teachings of God’s word very carefully. Always take the safest path.