12 May 2014 by Rev Dr Steven Kau-
It was reported in the BBC News 27th April, 2014 that the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is reported to have said to the Sunday Telegraph that Britain is now a “post Christian” country. The country that in the past had given us great evangelists and great men of God today is only a shadow of what it was. Many still identify themselves as Christians but in practice they are not. Like America, Britain today is but a shell of what it was far as Christianity is concerned. The visible Christian church is no longer a sanctuary for the people of God. Instead, it has become a huge mission field that needs to be evangelized. Churches are now filled with professing Christians who say they have faith but have never been born of God. This should not surprise us because of the parable Jesus gave describing the last days in Matthew 13:25-43. He spoke of a landowner who sowed good seed (sons of the kingdom) in his field but while his men were asleep, the enemy came and sowed tares (sons of the devil). Jesus said the landowner is the Son of Man and the enemy is the devil.
Today we have many tares in our churches because church leaders are not protecting the fields. Many have been growing their churches men’s way instead of God’s way. The self-serving strategy has produced some tragic consequences – the most serious of which is the false hope it gives to the unconverted tares. Some of the tares are victims of unbiblical methods of evangelism; others are victims of counterfeit gospels. These victims cannot tell you the essential elements of the Gospel or what God requires for entrance into heaven. Some know their eternal sin debt must be forgiven but very few know they also need the righteousness of Jesus and to be born again of the Spirit.
THE NECESSITY OF THE NEW BIRTH
Jesus told Nicodemus “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Only the triune God can bring forth life. Jesus said: “…just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.” (John 5:21) “It is the Spirit that gives life.” (John 6:63) God calls the spiritually dead to life through His Word. “In the exercise of His will, He brought us forth by the word of truth.” (James 1:18) God’s children are “born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23)
Saving faith comes from hearing the word of Christ. From it, we learn the essential doctrines of salvation: the attributes of God, the Gospel of grace, and the redemption work of Jesus Christ. When people hear the Word of God, enabled by the Spirit of God, to trust the Son of God, they become a child of God, all for the glory of God.
So how do we help the unconverted tares see they have been misled or deceived?
As believers, we should encourage everyone to test their faith for their own good as well as for the glory of Christ. Paul wrote: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test.” (2 Cor. 13:5) Peter exhorts us: “Be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.” (2 Peter 1:10)
I always love to hear testimonies of how our Sovereign Lord calls lost sinners to Himself. So, whenever I meet Christians, I often asked them to describe the events surrounding their conversion. The Full Gospel Businessmen’s meetings are an excellent source of such testimonies and I encourage all men to seek to attend their meetings nearest their work place. Coming back to a person’s conversion testimony, a red flag goes up if they say they became a Christian at the moment they were baptized, came forward in an altar call, repeated a prayer, signed a commitment card, join a local church or were born to Christian parents.
Speaking the truth in love, I explain to them that no one can become a Christian without conviction of sin, repentance, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21) Conversion is a very deep and visible work of the Spirit; that’s why we say it is life changing.
MANY BELIEVE A COUNTERFEIT GOSPEL
What about those who say they have faith in Jesus but show no evidence of a changed life. All of them may believe in the historical Jesus who lived 2000 years ago but few believe what He taught, what He commands, what He accomplished and what He is doing now. They may be victims of a counterfeit gospel, a watered down version that is offered by a generic god of love. This gospel offers “fire insurance” with no call to repentance (Luke 24:47). It is a “seeker friendly” gospel. It is a gospel of cheap grace which fails to instruct people to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions. (Titus 2:12)
The other counterfeit gospel which deceives people is the grace-killing gospel of works. First, introduced by the Judaizers, this gospel nullifies God’s grace by adding requirements for salvation such as circumcision, baptism, sacraments, good works, law keeping, penance or indulgences. (Galatians 1:6-9)
If we do not lovingly confront victims of unbiblical evangelism and counterfeit gospels, they may one day hear the most terrifying words anyone could ever hear when Jesus says, “I never knew you, depart from me.” These horrifying words will be heard by many professing Christians on the last day. (Matthew 7:22-23) Pastors who hold back the truth, because they don’t want to be labeled the “bad guy or holier than thou,” or damage their image as a “nice guy” or scare away unbelievers or members who must be made “comfortable” in church, are condemning them to an eternal hell.
TWO WAYS TO TEST FAITH
Those who want to test their faith now, before it is too late, can do it in two ways – objectively and subjectively. The objective test is this: Have you believed the objective truths of God’s Word? Paul wrote, “….after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed, you were sealed in him with the Holy Spirit.” (Ephesians 1:13) The Word of God is our supreme authority for knowing objective truth. We must believe the eternal Gospel as it is revealed in Scripture. It is the same Gospel today as it was thousands of years ago. If you are a Christian of several years and do not even own a Bible or read it regularly, I fear for you.
The subjective test asks the question: Is there evidence of saving faith? Genuine faith results in good works but a faith without works is dead. (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:17) This second test is subjective because there are different levels of maturity and growth as believers walk with Christ.
The apostle John gives us a portrait of what God’s children look like in his first epistle. They who are born of God are adopted into His eternal family to walk in the light (John 1:6-7); keep His commandments (2:3-5); love not the world system (2:15); yearn for the return of Christ so they can be like Him (3:2-3); live to please Him and avoid sin (3:7-8); love His other children (3;140 and use apostolic doctrine for discernment (4:6). Each of us must determine if this is a picture of how we look. If there is no evidence that any of these disciplines are visible in our lives, I seriously question if you are indeed a Christian.
In closing, there are several probing questions we can ask those who desire to test their faith. Have you renounced every false way that opposes the Gospel of grace? Do you live in thanksgiving and praise for being chosen and adopted into God’s eternal family? Do you prove to be Christ’s disciple by abiding in His Word? (God’s Word is Spirit and life. If you know nothing of God’s Word, and I am not talking of deep theology but the very basic tenets of faith, then stop right here; the rest does not matter.) Do you discipline yourself for godliness? Is prayer a regular habit with you? Do your friends, neighbors, and co-workers know that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior? (There is no such thing as a secret Christian; if are you ashamed of the Lord, the Lord is also ashamed of you, before the Father and the angels.) Do you have a desire to share Jesus Christ with others or are you ashamed of His Gospel? If you answer negative to all these questions, I seriously doubt you are a Christian.
A final thought, God’s children will know they belong to Him because “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:16) If this internal witness is absent in your life, you have reason to be concern. I don’t care if you have attended church for ten or twenty years. You need to go back to square one and really get saved, your eternal destiny depends on it.
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