One week later…
We celebrated the Firstfruit–Christ’s resurrection–last Sunday. Today we need to be cultivating fresh fruit.
In a meeting recently I made a remark similar to this:
“I don’t care if an individual walks an aisle, says a prayer or makes a decision, if that experience doesn’t result in different behaviors, different actions and reactions.”
I’m not sure that everyone in the meeting agreed with such a straight-forward assertion–that regeneration naturally results in repentance.
I do not know when “easy-believism” took serious root in our nation. Some state that it was born out of the tent revivals of the 1800’s. Others claim that Billy Graham and the traveling evangelists of the 1900’s are to blame. I suppose it does not matter. What does matter is that the whole gospel is not always proclaimed.
Allow me to define what I define as the “whole gospel.”
- We are sinners.
- We cannot save ourselves.
- We need a Savior.
- The Savior has come.
- His name is Jesus.
- We must receive Him, believe in His name (combination of belief and trust).
- We must prove our belief by our actions (looking like Jesus/growing in grace).
Do you recall the “Lordship” debate which raged within Christendom in the early 1990’s? In a sense, John MacArthur ignited the discussion with his book The Gospel According to Jesus (Zondervan, 1988). Have you read the book? I picked up a used copy on a visit to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois. After reading it, I simply could not understand how any Christian could contradict MacArthur’s conclusions.
Meditate upon these quotes:
“Our Lord’s words about eternal life were invariably accompanied by warnings to those who might be tempted to take salvation lightly. He taught that the cost of following Him is high, that the way is narrow and few find it. He said many who call Him Lord will be forbidden from entering the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matthew 7:13-23). Present-day evangelicalism, by and large, ignores those warnings. The prevailing view of what constitutes saving faith continues to grow broader and more shallow, while the portrayal of Christ preaching and witnessing grows fuzzy. Anyone who claims to be a Christian can find evangelicals willing to accept his profession of faith, whether or not his behavior shows any evidence of commitment to Christ” (p.21-22).
“Repentance has always been the foundation of the biblical call to salvation. When Peter gave the gospel invitation at Pentecost, in their first public evangelism of the church era, repentance was at the heart of it. ‘Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins’ (Acts 2:38). No evangelism that omits the message of repentance can properly be called the gospel, for sinners cannot come to Jesus Christ apart from a radical change of heart, mind, and will. That demands a spiritual crisis leading to a complete turnaround and, ultimately, a wholesale transformation. It is the only kind of conversion Scripture recognizes” (p.167).
“The idea of daily self-denial does not jive with the contemporary supposition that believing in Jesus is a momentary decision. A true believer is one who signs up for life. The bumper-sticker sentiment, ‘Try Jesus,’ is a mentality foreign to real discipleship–faith is not an experiment, but a lifelong commitment. It means taking up the cross daily, giving all for Christ each day with no reservations, no uncertainty, no hesitation. It means nothing is knowingly held back, nothing purposely shielded from His lordship, nothing stubbornly kept from His control. It calls for a painful severing of the tie with the world, a sealing of the escape hatches, a ridding oneself of any kind of security to fall back on in case of failure. A genuine believer knows he is going ahead with Christ until death. Having put his hand to the plow, he will not look back (Luke 9:62)” (p.202).
MacArthur was accurate in his description of “the gospel according to Jesus” as well as his critique of much of modern-day gospel preaching. There is indeed “a cost of discipleship.” Jesus suffered to both save and transform His people for the glory of God. Believing in Jesus is the first God-ordained step of a life devoted to walking with Jesus.
Passion produces change.
We celebrated the Firstfruits–Christ’s resurrection–last Sunday. Today we need to be cultivating fresh fruit.