Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Devaluing of Eternal Life

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

This particular Scripture is possibly the most well known one in the New Testament because it succinctly and powerfully presents the redemptive plan and purpose of God the Father. If you look closely you can see so many Spiritual elements in that one verse. God, God's love, God's grace, God's Son, faith, hell, and eternal life, all wonderfully unfurled against the backdrop of a sinner's question. Spurgeon said it was the one verse that could be preached every Sunday morning until Jesus comes. Now the scripture teaches (Heb.2:15) that sinners are subject to bondage all their lives because of a fear of death. Look at the world and notice that everything people do centers on extending and enjoying this earthly life. People exercise to enjoy and extend this life. People try and eat healthy to enjoy and extend this life. People take medication to enjoy and extend this life. People take vacations to enjoy and extend this life. People reduce stress to enjoy and extend this life. The entire mind set of lost people is to enjoy and extend this life. And now it has taken hold of the church.

The average local assembly lists a host of "ministries" that center on enjoying and extending this life. Exercise ministry, stress reduction ministry, finance ministry, single ministry, couples ministry, etc.. Where is the eternal life ministry, dedicated to the study, embracement, and preparation for the life to come? One of the basic truths in God's Word is that we are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God. Think about the implications of that truth. But the church by and large has relegated those type of Biblical teachings to some type of metaphorical imagery and not practical, lived out truths that have a priority in our lives. And along comes the new evangelicals. Call them whatever you want, neo-orthodox, neo-evangelical, neo-liberal, neo-fundamentals, or more recognizable as purpose driven, seeker sensitive, and emergent movements. These streams of "Christian" thought encourage new and culturally reflective behavior that claim to be more effective in reaching the world Spiritually, but in so doing they have been stripped of the Spirituality they claim to be spreading. And like those who rejected Copernicus, these new evangelicals have rejected the Christ(sun) centered theology of the Bible and have embraced a man(earth) centered Christianity. They reject a Spiritual theology and embrace a carnal theology. And ultimately they completely devalue eternal life for an earthly life and they openly and proudly admit it and proclaim that God Himself desires us to mix with the world.

What does it take to receive eternal life? I mean think about it, what does it take to receive eternal life, because if you get that wrong you've lost EVERYTHING! Jesus said, "Count the cost" (Lk.14:28) before you become a follower of His. Count the cost? What cost? We've been taught that salvation costs nothing, but that is not what Jesus said. Yes, there are no works involved in becoming a follower of Christ, but there is an enigmatic "high cost" for every true believer. Jesus also added, "he be of you that forsaketh not all that he has" (Lk.14:33) cannot become a follower of His. We have so devalued what it means to become, by faith, a follower of Jesus Christ that these statements straight from God's mouth seem archaic and legalistic. How many sinners, if just before they recite the sinner's prayer, are asked "Are you ready to forsake all?" would repeat that simple, meaningless, and vain repetition? Oh no, they want to go to heaven and also have Jesus help fix their earthly problems, so they say the magic words and - poof! - it's painless and quick. No cross bearing, no forsaking, no persecution, and no counting the cost, and indeed many times they're counting the dollars!? And then we start out on a project to convince them that they are saved. As Jesus passed Matthew He calls out "follow Me" and Matthew leaves his tax station and begins to follow Christ. Now imagine others running up to Matthew as he walks with Jesus and they keep telling him "You know, you are following Jesus!" over and over to give him assurance. He would think they are crazy, he knows he's following his Lord.
But today we are attempting to convince people who obviously are NOT following Christ that they are. Salvation, the born again experience, completely devalued and sifted into a drive thru religious window that fits neatly into our busy lifestyles with little if any change, much less any PASSION.

Today many growing Christian circles have become obsessed with meeting people's physical needs. It mirrors the growing list of Hollywood celebrities and rock stars that soothe their conscious by doing good deeds but reject God's Son which is clearly defined as the "spirit of anti-christ". When a church makes feeding the poor their priority it is humanism. Can you imagine a group of hungry, poor people and the church people approach you and ask you to donate some money and you reply "the poor you will have with you always". "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God". They would say you were heartless, but those words came from Jesus himself. When the needs of people become the focus it rapidly obscures God's Word and worse it morphs into the social gospel. And then compromise is not only practiced, it is trumpeted as God's will. Ultimately it overshadows and in today's Christian genre's it obliterates eternal life. "What should it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul"? Could He have been more clear? Jesus didn't die so hungry people could be fed, or poor people could get money, or even so sick people could get healed. "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners". Case closed!

Now let us look at the early church, what did they preach and what did the Holy Spirit commission them to do? Peter's early sermons centered on the resurrection to such a degree that the Sadducees took them into custody, today church leaders are pleasantly invited on talk shows. But in Antioch the Apostle Paul stood up and preached a Christ centered sermon that was mostly rejected by the Jews, and as they held out salvation to the Gentiles many believed. And the Scriptures correctly state, "and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed". Notice it did not say, "as many as needed help with their finances, or needed marriage counseling, or anything in this present life". By the way, as you will take notice, the Word was spread through preaching, not feeding the poor. The Word itself is powerful and all those humanitarian efforts are good but when not held strictly in conjunction with God's message of redemption they are worthless. So what is the devil's motivation concerning Adam's race?

Rick Warren, a nice and affable man, says that God told him that as long as he was striving to help people who were in need of earthly goods it was alright to join with anyone who would work together. Muslims, Hindu's, Jews, atheists, and even open and militant homosexuals were Biblically approved by God as true yokefellows in humanitarian efforts. Now this is not a new thought process, but it is new in evangelical circles. First, think about the message that sends the people who receive the aid. They realize this food comes from Christians, Muslims, Hindu's, and a host of other concerned people and so they are grateful to them and all their gods. Talk about your mixed signals! But what does Scripture say about that? Paul clearly instructs us to keep light from joining with darkness, that is Bible 101. The devil will let you feed people, he'll let you help the poor, he'll let you fight abortion, he'll let you rail against homosexuality, and all of these things are used of God as the means to an end. But when we leave out the main reason why Jesus came, to purchase eternal life for whosoever will, we are nothing but sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. And the devil waits for the well fed sinners to join him in hell.

Now eternal life can only be fully realized when held up against eternal death. Think about it. Imagine if you had been invited to a church and you heard the gospel for the first time. Now during the week you contemplated these things in your heart and you began to get serious about the question of "Who is Jesus Christ?". And on Thursday morning a car ran a red light and you were killed and instantaneously you "awakened" in hell. Forever. This is THE question of the ages, because if it is true than NOTHING else matters. If a person who dies without Christ spends FOREVER in a place of torture FOREVER and he stays there FOREVER consciously being tormented FOREVER, well, if that is true and we say we believe it, then what are we waiting for? Why are we not flooding the streets nightly handing out tracks? Why are not all evangelical churches open for urgent prayer every night? Why are we not purchasing air time on MTV to warn these young people? Why are we saving up God's money so we can travel around the world enjoying the sights of this passing world while millions starve? Where are the tears? Where are the all night prayer meetings? Where are the constant flood of overseas missionaries being sent?

You see, we ourselves have been caught in the hedonistic web of Martha's world and we no longer have the time to seek Jesus with "all of our soul, all of our mind, all of our stength". These emergent men have completely devalued eternal life in their teachings, but have we not devalued it in our lives? Well what is God saying to us? Let us be dilegent in confronting the miserable slide away from God's Holy Word, but, let us beg God to break us and reform us into His image, lighting a Holy Spirit fire that will urgently move us out of the life we've carved in this world and into the eternal life that God is calling us into...NOW!

"For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God".
ETERNALLY!!!!

P.S. - Don't you just hate it when you come to a party, kick off your shoes, find a comfortable chair, and get ready to enjoy a good emergent/purpose/seeker rebuking and somewhere in the middle of the party we accidently step into the Holy Spirit's line of fire? They ought to give us a warning about these things!

7 comments:

Mike Ratliff said...

I was listening to John Piper's 9/11 interview today. In it he answered some questions sent in by some listeners. One of the questions was, "Doesn't God promise to remove the suffering of those who are His?" Piper's answer was, "Yes and no." God does indeed promise to erase our suffering in eternity, but for now, in this life, suffering is necessary in order for us to see the ravages of sin and why Jesus had to suffer and die. Suffering is used by God build our character as well. This focus you were writing about in which people say a sinner's prayer and live like they want and expect to get rich and have no problmes is not the salvation we read about in the Bible. I fear that most of those living that way are living a lie and are not regenerate Christians.

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

Kim T said...

You ask some very good questions. And give cause for some good questions. Thank you.

Asked: Where is the eternal life ministry, dedicated to the study, embracement, and preparation for the life to come?

Asked: How many sinners, if just before they recite the sinner's prayer, are asked "Are you ready to forsake all?" would repeat that simple, meaningless, and vain repetition?

Would anyone have had to assure Matthew that he was following Jesus, HIS LORD?
NO! it would have been ludicrous to assure him. He knew it. Everyone knew it. It was reality.

What does that mean for us today? The follower of Jesus knows he is following Jesus and that Jesus is LORD to him, and so does everyone else. It is reality.

Jessica said...

Amen and amen...

Sherry said...

Good post! Can I get an Amen on that? By the way Henry, do you travel? I would like to hear you preach.

Vee said...

Rick Warren, a nice and affable man, says that God told him that as long as he was striving to help people who were in need of earthly goods it was alright to join with anyone who would work together. Muslims, Hindu's, Jews, atheists, and even open and militant homosexuals were Biblically approved by God as true yokefellows in humanitarian efforts.[...][...]But when we leave out the main reason why Jesus came, to purchase eternal life for whosoever will, we are nothing but sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. And the devil waits for the well fed sinners to join him in hell.

Here's a meal... now go to Hell.

Without the salvation message that is what is happening.

Strong words yes... but I have just finished reading how there is a group of evangelicals calling themselves the Red Letter Christians. Their whole thing is that they live by the words of Christ that is found in Red Letters in some translations. These Red letters are the most important parts of the bible.


They are changing the Word of God into a different word, they are leaving things out! They talk about the sermon on the mount in a social here and now context failing to see the deeper meanings.

Very superficial if you ask me.

Anyway.... I could go on and on about it.

Great post by the way!

Loved it.

cawtrac said...

Wow, very timely, especially with the article that just came out in Time. I truly miss seeing the love of God shine through your face as you preach His word, the Truth.

Bless you brother

russn said...

As Jesus passed Matthew He calls out "follow Me" and Matthew leaves his tax station and begins to follow Christ.

When you look at the culture of the time, Jesus would have been seen as a Rabbi. "Come, follow me" was an invitation to be Jesus' disciple...to be like Him. Matthew (working as a tax collector) had likely been passed over as not good enough by other Rabbis....or he wouldn't have been a tax collector but would have already been a disciple of another Rabbi. Of course he's going to drop everything to become a disciple...but I would speculate that he doesn't yet truly know who Jesus is. Culturally, Rabbis were greatly respected, so perhaps the jumping up and leaving all was the appropriate cultural response when a Rabbi chose disciples...it was (perhaps) an offer you didn't refuse. It was later that Matthew came to understand who his Rabbi truly was.

The same can be said for any person who becomes a Christ follower - they will follow but not truly understand who Jesus is...at least at first. I've been a Christ follower for 20 years and continue to work to know Him better. It will be a relationship that will only be perfected when He calls me home or chooses to come again. Doesn't mean it isn't a growing relationship now; it just won't be perfected until then.