There are many who ask what happens when we die. The chart above is a good place to start.
I met a fellow this week who during his conversation with me said, “instead of looking at what we’re doing differently, we ought to be celebrating what the denominations are doing right.” He then cited the example of a denomination’s sound finances. As the conversation went on, he repeated this sentiment, the idea of “celebrating what’s right and ignoring what’s wrong. This has mass appeal in our ecumenical society.
When shown the passage; “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the SAME thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the SAME mind and in the SAME judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10 (emphasis mine), he swept it away as just a request Paul had and not a requirement of the Lord. [cf. 1Cor 14:37]. He said, “I’m not about logic and reasoning.” Then the conversation was over.
They tell us to JUST preach Jesus, His love and His grace. The thing is…we are preaching Jesus, His love and His grace, we’re just including the parts that they have left out. Leaving out key parts of the information is not to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Abram’s HALF TRUTH
Before we go on, let’s take a small detour back to the time when Abram (later changed to Abraham) was in Egypt [Genesis 12:10-20] when he was afraid the Egyptians would kill him to take his wife. He told the Egyptians the truth, that Sarai (later changed to Sarah) was his sister. Scripture tells us that she is the “daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife” [Genesis 20:12]. Abraham and his brother had married sisters. This made Sarah both Abraham’s wife AND his sister in law. So technically, he didn’t lie. However, we all know that the whole truth wasn’t conveyed. He told a story to protect his life but didn’t identify her as his wife. With that before us, let’s return to the main point.
JUST PREACH JESUS
When they say, “JUST preach Jesus,” they are saying to focus ONLY on His love and His grace which is to preach ONLY half of the truth. Just as Abraham told the partial truth about his wife Sarah, to preach JUST Jesus love, is to preach a partial truth about Jesus, that is, to preach faith only. James, using another example of Abraham, points out that no justification is by ‘faith only’. “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” [James 2:24]
God IS love, and we are saved by grace, but that’s only half of the story. [cr. John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8] There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Salvation is a gift of God, something none of us can earn. [cr. Romans 5:8-10] But we are not allowed to declare only half the truth, we must declare the “whole counsel of God.”
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. [Acts 20:27]
What does it mean to “preach Jesus?” To learn that answer we turn to Acts 8:26-40, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip approached the eunuch who was reading Isaiah while returning from Jerusalem. Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The eunuch invited Philip up into the chariot to guide him in the text. Philip then, beginning at the same scripture, opened his mouth and “preached unto him Jesus.” [v35]
This next part is extremely important, please pay close attention and notice who speaks in the very next verse. “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” [Acts 8:36] The eunuch spoke and asked about BEING BAPTIZED!!! How did he learn about baptism? How did he learn about water being the type of baptism? How did he learn that baptism was immersion? How did he learn that it was a requirement of salvation? Where did he learn the answer to each of these questions? The answer is simple, and we already read it in verse 35, Philip “preached unto him Jesus.” To preach Jesus it to “declare the whole counsel of God.”
To preach the Love of Christ is to talk about how to love Him…
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
John 14:15; cf. 1John 5:3
To preach the Gospel is to tell about obeying the Gospel…
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
2Thessalonians 1:8; cf. 1Cor 15:1-4; Rom 6:1-4
To preach the Grace of God is to include how one can fall from it…
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
Preaching anything less is to come short of salvation. Let us speak the truth about Jesus, His love and His grace and let’s do it with LOVE.
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: Ephesians 4:15
Do you remember that childhood game, Follow the Leader, also called the “copycat game”? It’s where a leader is chosen who becomes the “head of the line,” then the rest of the children line up behind the leader. The leader then moves around the playground going over, through or around multiple obstacles (sometimes jumping, skipping & hopping) and all the followers must mimic the leader’s actions. Any player who fails to follow the leader is out of the game.
During play, if you were one of the kids towards the back of the line you couldn’t actually see what the leader was doing, so you had to watch and mimic the child immediately in front of you. All the while singing…
Following the leader,
the leader, the leader
I’m following the leader,
wherever he may go.
I hope kids are still playing some version of the game today. It’s games like these that can teach kids some very valuable lessons for when they get older and us too. Do you see the hidden truth in this game?
Children’s games with big lessons
As silly as it may sound, the FOLLOW THE LEADER game resembles our walk as Christians. We have our leader who is Christ….
Mt 10:32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
And we follow Him in the Gospel, which is His death, burial & resurrection [1Cor 15:1-4]…
Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Then we continue to follow Him all through all the obstacles of life…
1Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
However, since we are towards the back of the line, in a figure, we are to follow others who are following Him…
1Co 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
BE A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST
Following others who follow Christ is following Christ. “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:” [1Thess 1:6]. Paul also said to the Philippians, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample” [Phil 3:17]. Paul is still urging us today, “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me” [1Corinthians 4:16].
But we’re not to just follow someone who SAYS they’re following Christ, they must be actual followers whose actions can be compared to those things we learn from the Scriptures. “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” [Phil 4:9; see also 2Thess 3:7].
In a mature church, there will be Elders who are following Christ, these we are also to follow. “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation” [Hebrews 13:7]. Not as leaders who make up new things to follow, rather as examples. “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” [1Peter 5:3].
What are we to do if there are no good examples to follow? We can follow Christ and His righteousness because we have His word [1Thessalonians 1:6]. “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness [1Timothy 6:11]. It was so important that Paul told it to Timothy again in his second letter. “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” [2Timothy 2:22].
Some will make the excuse that the only folks they have aren’t very good examples. That’s no excuse. Peter asked Jesus about one of the other disciples. (the context is about sacrifice) Jesus replied, “what is that to you? You follow me” [John 21:21-22]. Whether the others in the church are walking right or not is no liberty for us to walk unworthily [cr. Eph 4:1; Col 1:10; 1Thess 2:12]. WE FOLLOW CHRIST regardless how the others are following.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: [John 10:27]
Being a follower of Christ is no game, but remembering a child’s game can remind us of mighty lessons. “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children” [Ephesians 5:1].
Besides, our LEADER wants us to be reminded of the purity of little children, “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 18:3].
…ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ [Eph 3:4]. The beginning of a year is a great time to press reset, and to evaluate how our year went and to plan for the next. James reminds us that our plans should first be aligned with God’s [James 4:12-16]. The only way to know the will of the Lord is through a continual study of His word.
As we’re making our resolutions, let us include the reading of God’s word. There are several reading programs available. Whichever one you choose, here are a few suggestions…
Tips on Reading the Bible Daily
1 – Start today — there is no better time. This time next year will you be wishing you had started today?
2 – Schedule it. Find a time that works best for you. I like reading in the morning, but you decide what’s best. A friend of mine cannot read the bible at night, as the things he learns excites his mind preventing sleep. Others might find that it calms the mind, allowing God’s word to comfort. Whatever time you pick, just do it. Nothing ever gets done until a deadline is set.
3 – Read for the sake of understanding, instead of just trying to plow through that days reading. Before you begin, say a prayer, asking God for wisdom [Jas 1:5]. Then read, allowing His wisdom to grow inside of you.
4 – Keep a Bible handy, EVERYWHERE. We have bibles placed throughout the house, in our cars and on our phones. This does two things. First, they act as reading reminders as we go about our day. Second, having the bible within reach allows us to pick it up during those moments of waiting. It’s amazing how much time we spend in waiting rooms, or simply waiting for someone else.
4.5 – Replace some of your Facebook time. The average person has five social media accounts and spends around 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day. This 100 minutes is accumulated over the course of the entire day. Reading at pulpit pace, aloud, not too quickly, it only takes 960 minutes to read the entire New Testament. This means that you can read the NT in just 10 days using our social media time. I’m not telling you to give up Facebook, but what if you just used SOME of your social media time to read the bible on your phone? You’re already looking at your phone anyway.
Whatever system you decide, let the word of God dwell in your hearts.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. [Eph 6:17]
We all know, that on the night of Jesus betrayal, He implemented what is commonly called the Lord’s supper: “He said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. 20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” [Luke 22:15-20; cr. Matthew 26:26-29]
A most important topic but, have you ever considered what ELSE He taught at that last supper? When we read all the gospel accounts regarding the supper, we find 5 other topics of discussion.
1 – The Hurt of Betrayal Among them. [Matthew 26:20-25] As they sat down for supper, Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.” They all wondered aloud, “is it I?” Jesus goes on to say, “woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.” So many lessons could be drawn, but one question keeps haunting me, “Is it I?” Could we betray our Lord? The Hebrew writer expresses this idea when he wrote about “crucifying afresh” the Son of God when we fall away. [Hebrews 6:6]
2 – The Value of Service. [John 13:3-17] While the twelve are all still there, Jesus humbles Himself and washes each of the disciple’s feet, INCLUDING JUDAS. Jesus tells them, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” He is not commanding us to perform a ritual of foot washing, (that was a custom of that day), rather He is demonstrating service toward one another. To love one another. After this example He said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” [John 13:36]. The lesson is clear, have we such a love for each other?
3 – The Promise of Comfort. [John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13] At this supper He was telling them about His coming departure. As they wondered where He would be going, and how they might follow Him, He said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” He then spoke about a Comforter who would come to “guide them into all truth.” He was speaking about the revelation of the New Testament scriptures, brought to them through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Today, we have the complete word of God. Can we still find comfort in them, just as the Apostles? I’d say we can.
4 – The Need to Bear Fruit. [John 15:1-8] As He was telling them of the Comforter, He also gave an illustration about being profitable disciples. He spoke of “bearing much fruit.” Connected with His word, and the words the Holy Spirit shall speak, the disciple can abide in Jesus, and He in us. Just as a branch bears fruit when attached to the vine, we too can bear fruit when attached to Jesus through His word. But there was also a warning, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” What a terrible thought, to be cast away and burned for failing to bear fruit. We can only bear fruit through obedience to His word. [cr. Matthew 7:21-29]
5 – The Power of Spiritual Unity. [John 17:11-23] Prior to their departure to the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to the Father in their presence. He prayed, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” Some today have the false notion that unity is found in just getting along and overlooking sin. This can never be right. Spiritual Unity is also called “fellowship.” Scriptural fellowship with God is achieved through heartfelt obedience to the Word of God. Jesus said it this way, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” [John 14:21]. Do you and I love Jesus? Then we shall keep His commandments and have spiritual fellowship.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. [1John 1:7]
What an amazing supper that must have been. These are the final words of the Master to His disciples before He is betrayed and crucified. They are important words with valuable lessons. Let us study them, learn from them and apply them into our lives.
…to sit on a throne in Jerusalem
On Thursday, President Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This had been a broken campaign promise of each of the last 3 presidents dating back to the 90’s. With this announcement comes renewed interest in Jerusalem and the supposed 1,000-year reign of Jesus.
Jesus is not coming back…to reign from Jerusalem.
The doctrine that Jesus will reign on a throne in Jerusalem for 1,000 years prior to the Judgement is called “PREMILLENNIALISM.” To understand it requires a lot of squinting and taking very complex liberties with the Biblical Record. As a result, answering this error has been just as complex. Fortunately, it has a very simple solution.
Before we look at the answer, a little bit of background is necessary. Premillennialists hold many variants, but this is the one held by most: Jesus will first come invisibly, unknown by all except the righteous in an event they call the “RAPTURE.” Following this will be a 7-year period called the “tribulation.” After the 7 years the battle of “ARMAGEDDON” occurs and Jesus will visibly return to defeat the forces of evil and to establish His kingdom, physically upon the earth in Jerusalem, and reign as King for 1,000 years from Jerusalem. After this ‘millennium’ Jesus will raise the wicked to face the judgement.
3 Simple Answers
FIRST, it contradicts the prophetic Word of God. If this theory is true, then God goofed when He told Jeremiah, “Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” [Jer 22:30;]. This was a prophecy regarding the last king of Judah, Coniah (also called Jeconiah & Jehoiakim). This man is also found in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:12. No descendant of this man, which would include Jesus, could sit on a physical throne in Israel. At Pentecost, Peter preached, by the Holy Spirit, that Jesus was on a throne and that throne is in Heaven. [Acts 2:34, Psalm 110:1, Mt 22:44; 1Co 15:25; Eph 1:20; Heb 1:13].
SECOND, it has been promised that the next time anyone sees Jesus it will be very visible and incredibly loud. Just before Pentecost in Acts 1, Jesus ascended into heaven. As the Apostles stood gazing at the clouds, 2 men in white apparel said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” [Acts 1:11]. Later, the Apostle Paul wrote: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God:” [1Thessalonians 4:16]. The context continues into chapter 5 where it points out that the arrival of Jesus will bring destruction [5:3].
THIRD, all of mankind will be raised to face the judgement at one time. When premillennialists say that only the righteous will be raised, they’re in direct contradiction of Jesus. He said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which ALL that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (emphasis mine) [John 5:28-29]. Paul thought that everyone, the just and the unjust, would be raised at once [Acts 24:15].
I would encourage everyone to continue to study the truth about the 2nd coming of Christ, but I believe these are sufficient proofs. Sometimes the best answer is the simplest.
Bonus answer: Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.” [Mark 9:1]. If His kingdom has not been established already, there are some very old folks walking around!
You’ve heard someone say this before, “If it’s my time to go there’s nothing I can do about it.” It’s usually said just before they participate in some risky activity like, skydiving or free climbing (when a person climbs a mountain without safety equipment). Another way they might say it, after surviving some calamity, “I guess it just wasn’t my time to go.” The question I ask, is it scriptural?
The root of this idea may be found in Job 14:5, “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.” The popular interpretation is that God has already determined when each individual person is going to die, and it can neither be prevented, nor quickened.
A New Testament passage seems to be making the same assertion in the Lord’s parable of “The Rich Fool.” In this parable, the rich man is found with an abundance of wealth and decides he needs to build bigger barns and take it easy. Then, God says, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” [Luke 12:13-21]
Is this what the scripture is teaching? Has God already decided that some will live to be very old, whereas others are going to die young? If this is true, does this teach us we can live a reckless life?
Isaiah wrote, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD.” [Isa 1:18]. We need to use our heads and examine the scriptures to find out if these things are so.
My grandfather used to answer folks who said these things by asking, “Why don’t you go out and play in traffic? If it’s not your time to go, you’ll be alright.” Or he would ask, “If I bring you a rattlesnake will you play with it?” While certainly not authoritative, these questions do make you reconsider the position.
What’s the Bible say?
When we go back to the beginning in the garden, we discover some interesting things about this subject. The punishment for eating the fruit from the KOGE tree was death. Yet, when they ate of it, they didn’t die immediately. The reason for this is necessarily inferred that Adam & Eve had eternal life prior to eating and lost it afterward. This is confirmed by the passage, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;” [Romans 5:12a].
In another passage God said, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” [Psalm 90:10]. If we made doctrine based on single passages, why don’t we ever say that people live a minimum of 70 years, or maybe 80? Because observation tells us otherwise.
In the proverbs, one could lengthen life by keeping the commandments of God, “For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.” [Proverbs 3:2]. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote, “…time and chance happeneth to them all.” [vs 9:11b]. When we look at “the whole council of God” we come to a better understanding of these things, so what is it?
The conclusion of the whole matter.
First, mankind does not have an eternity to live on this planet. This is what is meant when scripture says his days are numbered. There’s a finality to this carnal world. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” [2Peter 3:10].
Second, it is true that God knows the end from the beginning, [Isaiah 46:10]. This is foreknowledge, not predestination. He may know how long each of us is going to live, but we don’t.
Third, if you haven’t already figured it out, our lives are short, especially when you compare it to eternity. “whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” [James 4:14]. Since we have no idea how long we’re going to live, nor do we know how long the earth shall remain [Matthew 24:36] …
…We ought to take every day a lot more seriously. In the 2 Peter passage it continues, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,” [vs 3:11].
We all think we’re going to live a very long time on this planet and we have eternity in our hearts [Ecclesiastes 3:11]. The reality is that we’re going to live a very short time here, and eternity elsewhere. God wants us to live that eternity with Him, I hope you do too.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” [John 14:2-3]
via Biblical Insights, April 2005, pp 20,21
There’s a proverb that says, “a wise man learned from the mistakes of others; a fool learns only from his own.” When asked to prepare a short treatise on my conversion, I jumped at the opportunity to do so. There was a time in my life when I was a lost person who thought he was a saved person, just like Cornelius (Acts 10) and the “many” of Matthew 7:21-23. Anything I can do to help other people who are either personally deceived, or are working with those who are, 1 will always do.
Reared a Good Calvinistic Baptist
My immediate family didn’t attend any church regularly until I was about 12 years old. We began attending church when an associate pastor of the local Baptist church moved across the street from us and invited our family to join them at services. Perhaps realizing that it was not wise to neglect the spiritual development of their children, my parents agreed to go, and my active spiritual life began. Having not really been involved in church earlier in my life, I really knew almost nothing about the Bible. I developed a strong spiritual interest, and I was eager to learn all that I could.
In my late teen years, I began to play guitar professionally in a Christian rock band. Also, I took a job working at the local Christian bookstore. Part of my job requirement was that I’d be very well read on the inventory within our store. As a result, even at the young age of about 18 years old, I had read probably hundreds of books on theology, doctrine, and Protestant church history. I probably understood Calvinistic theology and Premillennial eschatology as well (or better) as the Baptist Church staff I attended. My reading would have been essentially what those in mainline protestant denominations or evangelical churches embrace.
I distinctly remember the day that I told my family of my desire to go to seminary and become a Baptist pastor. They encouraged me in that, and said that people had prayed for generations that a preacher would arise out of the family. The Baptist Church of which I was a member also encouraged me, and I began to do a considerable amount of work within the congregation. Ultimately, I began doing preaching work at Baptist churches, presentations before youth groups, and worked as an assistant to the Sunday school director.
While I was working with the Baptist Church, I was also attending a Baptist University in preparation for my seminary studies at Dallas Theological Seminary (Ground Zero for the modern Premillennial eschatology movement). It was fairly normal for me to give “faith only” invitations, work at evangelistic rallies, deliver sermons and messages, and teach classes involving sometimes intricate areas of Calvinistic theology and eschatology.
To be completely honest, most people attending Baptist churches don’t really know their theology. Baptist theology is deeply rooted in Calvinism, yet most Baptists would deny they are Calvinistic. The entire basis of “once saved, always saved” is that you cannot be lost, because you did nothing of your own accord to be saved in the first place! I was a little unique in that my reading schedule at the bookstore had resulted in me not only knowing what I believed, but also having a thorough understanding of exactly why I believe it. Further, I was extremely zealous and evangelistic in teaching the “truth” of Calvinism, and all that it contained: original sin, the impossibility of apostasy, unconditional predestination, etc.
Although churches with Calvinistic theology are perceived as teaching “faith only” salvation, in truth they teach “nothing only” salvation. A genuine Calvinist would tell you that you have done absolutely nothing for your salvation — you were unconditionally selected before time began by God. A common Calvinistic line is “you did not choose God; God chose you.” Because this essentially makes all evangelistic activities pointless, this element of Calvinism is generally forgotten.”
My Beliefs Radically Changed
I met a young lady who was attending the church of Christ in the neighboring town. We started dating, and I agreed to visit her church on Wednesday evening. When I got there, I was astonished to find that I disagreed with almost the entirety of their doctrine and theology. This was clearly not the “faith only salvation,” “once saved always saved,” unconditional Calvinistic theology that I embraced so dearly. In fact, I had determined that my new goal was to convert the entire congregation to the “truths” of Calvinism, and committed to attending their midweek Bible study every week until I had succeeded.
Because I was now attending their Bible study, the church there began a new Bible study on denominational error. As our study went along, we evaluated characteristic error taught within various denominational churches. Much of the error we were studying were things that I held very dearly as true.
Perhaps the very first element in my theology to fall was the idea that denominations were acceptable. Within most denominational churches, it is often accepted as a good trait that there are so many different churches to choose from. That way, people can always find a church that they agree with. Of course, the problem with this is it sets man as the ultimate arbiter of truth, rather than the scriptures. God’s expectation of us is that we conform ourselves to the truth of the word of God, not that we just move around until we can find people who agree to ignore the same portions of scripture (see Rom. 3:4).
Much to my surprise, I found myself completely unprepared to deal with the rather pointed questions I was being asked about my beliefs. What about men with long hair who claim to be godly? (see I Cor 11:14). This was problematic for me because I was a long-haired hippie type playing in a Christian rock bank. When asked about the frequency of which we observed the Lord’s Supper at the Baptist Church, I could only reply that we did so quarterly, four times a year, for no other reason than “that’s just the way we do it” (see Acts 20:7). When asked why I didn’t teach baptism was essential to salvation, I would rely on passages such as John 3:16, while admittedly ignoring passages such as Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38. I did not understand the principle of homogeny of scripture (John 10:35; Acts 15:15), and was genuinely surprised to learn that I had significant holes in my Bible knowledge.
I had preached. taught. and performed concerts in and around Baptist churches for years. I was attending a Baptist University. I had at this time read extensively on doctrine and theology. I had been formally educated in Biblical languages. But one thing I had not done was actually read the Bible much. Amazingly enough, I had logged thousands of hours in studying about the bible, but comparatively little time actually in the Bible itself I began to see where my studies had almost systematically avoided large segments of scripture. You can imagine my shock when someone read me James 2:24. I think I probably responded somewhat like Martin Luther. and thought to myself, “that just doesn’t belong in the Bible.” I was amazed that I had never seen that before.
I remember sitting in a Baptist worship service when the senior pastor’s wife went to the pulpit and proclaimed, “Many people are proud to be Christians. But I want you to know, that I’m proud to be a Baptist.” I remember exactly where I was sitting. I will never forget it. Never. I was absolutely devastated. I remember thinking to myself, “This is so wrong! We have a woman preaching about how proud she is that we have divided up the body of Christ. I just can’t do this anymore.” I determined right then that I would not be a Baptist pastor. Instead. I changed my plan to pasturing a nondenominational evangelical church. I was making progress, but I still wasn’t there yet.
My plan to “convert” the local church of Christ was not going as I had intended. Instead, I found major tenets of my theology being shot down one right after another. Clearly man had a free will, as God had given men many occasions to make a choice. It was also evident that the Bible taught about a faith that did not save. Even with my Baptist Church invitations, I appealed to Romans 10:10 which teaches the necessity of confession. For years I had managed to miss that faith plus confession did not equal faith only. Our salvation was not unconditional, but was very conditional upon an obedient faith.
And then I had the night at the church of Christ that I will never forget.
I was sitting on the back row, when someone in passing read I John 3:15: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” This was the straw that broke the camel’s back! I remember feeling somewhat shell-shocked at that passage. I had to have been visibly stunned. I turned to the person next to me and said. “Do you realize that this passage says if you are a murderer, you don’t have eternal life?” She said, “Of course, everybody knows that.” I replied, “You’re wrong — everybody doesn’t know that.”
Within Calvinistic theology, once a person has eternal life, it can never be forfeited. I had already determined that man had a free will. Therefore, I knew it was within the realm of possibility for a Christian to choose to commit murder. And if that Christian could choose to commit murder, I John 3:15 said he would not have eternal life. “Once saved, always saved” was not true.
I spoke with a preacher at the church of Christ, and told him my concerns. He pointed out that I took passages out of context in order to support a position I had already decided upon. To avoid this problem. I read through the entire Bible in essentially one sitting over the course of three or four days. Thereafter, I went back to the Baptist Church and told them I was leaving. My final stop that day was for scriptural baptism (Titus 3:5; Col 2:12). I am now privileged to preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
In Genesis eleven, the story of the Tower of Babel, we read where God confounded the language of mankind. One of the lessons we learn from this true story is that language has the power to unify people. Sometimes for evil, but it can also unify people for good.
To be united we need to speak the same language, and equally important, we need to define the words the same way. Though we can use our smartphones to communicate with folks who speak another language, it’s challenging to communicate with people who speak the same language but use different definitions.
One of the complications of evangelism is the fact that the terms we use are defined differently in the denominations. It’s nearly impossible to communicate with another if we’re not speaking the same language.
So that we can evangelize more effectively allow me to provide a list of common Biblical words and what they mean to the person in a denomination.
CHURCH: A building where believers gather to worship, fellowship, have trunk or treat or play games.
What Does the Bible Say? The church is the ‘Called out.’ It is the group of people which God adds a person to when they have obeyed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. [ Acts 2:47]
The church is the body of Jesus Christ, and there is only one. [Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22-23, 4:4]
One must be in the church to be saved for Jesus is the savior of the body (the church). [Ephesians 5:23]
CHRISTIAN: Any person who believes in Jesus, but not necessarily an obedient or repentant person.
What Does the Bible Say? A Christian is what scripture calls those who have obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ and are faithfully following the doctrine of Christ.
WORSHIP: The feeling that one’s whole life pays homage to God. The activity one does to pay homage to God, as long as it feels good, includes mechanical music and is followed by a lunch. It is not necessary to follow the biblical pattern to ‘worship’.
What Does the Bible Say? Jesus said that the people who worship must do so in spirit and truth [John 4:24] which means that it is heart filled as well as scripturally authorized [Matthew 18:20]. He also said that it’s possible to worship in vain [Matthew 15:9].
BAPTISM: An outward sign of an inward grace.
What Does the Bible Say? Baptism is IMMERSION in water [Ephesians 5:26] which models the DEATH, BURIAL & RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ in obedience to the Gospel [1Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 6:1-4; 2Thessalonians 1:8]. It is an essential part of salvation for the person AFTER he, Believes that Jesus is the Christ, Repents of their sins, and Confesses that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God [Matthew 16:16-18; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Rom 10:10].
GRACE: The free gift of salvation that Christ gave by dying on a cross. There is nothing a person can do to accept that free gift…except believe (unless you’re a Unitarian who thinks every person is saved without believing). Repentance is also not required, unless you’re a member of the church of Christ, in which case that person must repent of believing that repentance is an essential part of salvation. However, if you don’t bring forth fruit of the non-requirement of repentance, then you probably weren’t saved in the first place.
What Does the Bible Say? Grace is the gift of God [Ephesians 2:8], through Jesus as the perfect sacrifice, becoming the propitiation of our sins [1John 2:1-2]. Everyone can access this gift through HEARING the Gospel, BELIEVING, REPENTING of our sins, CONFESSING that Jesus is the Christ and being BAPTIZED into Christ for the remission of sins. [Romans 10:10, 17; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:27].
LOVE: An emotion one must have toward everyone regardless of their lifestyle which does not judge or condemn, neither does it try to convince others to change.
What Does the Bible Say? Love is PATIENT and is KIND [1Corinthians 13:4], but it also REBUKES (convince of right or wrong) and CHASTENS (discipline / instruction). “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” [Hebrews 12:4-11].
These are just a few examples of the many Biblical words that have been redefined by denominations. My intention is not to mock, rather it is to point out that there is only one truth, and that truth is God’s word. The redefining of these words is causing many to be lead astray. Effective evangelism recognizes that the world is speaking a secular language different from the language of the Bible.
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. John 17:17
There is much in the world of politics being called “FAKE NEWS.” Although that’s a kitschy catchphrase, the concept is hardly new. We can trace it all the way back to the very beginning when the serpent tempted Eve with his own FAKE NEWS on God’s command. “Ye shall NOT surely die.” [Gen 3:4 emphasis mine].
In Deuteronomy, Moses warned the children of Israel not to change God’s word. “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” [Deut 4:2]. In the New Testament, John as given the same warning in Revelation 22:18-19.
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. [Ecclesiastes 1:9]
As you can see, “FAKE NEWS” has been around a very long time and it’s especially troubling when it enters the realm of teaching God’s word. We are told, in Mark 16:15, to preach the “gospel” (which literally means ‘good news’), but today we have so many folks teaching a “FAKE GOOD NEWS” which Paul called a PERVERTED GOSPEL. [Galatians 1:7-9]. You won’t believe what people are teaching today about the Gospel of Jesus…
JUST ASK JESUS INTO YOUR HEART. This perversion is the most common “FAKE GOOD NEWS” that I hear. This alteration to the Gospel message follows the exact same pattern Satan used in Genesis 3 by just adding a simple 3 letter word…NOT. In Mark 16:16 it says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;” However, those being deceived are being told, he that believeth and is NOT baptized shall be saved. It’s as plain as day, Satan’s devices are being utilized by those promoting error, just add the word NOT.
“Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” [2 Corinthians 2:11]
ONCE YOU’RE SAVED, YOU’RE ALWAYS SAVED. Although this is a wonderful idea, it is nowhere taught in God’s word. It is true that a Christian can have assurance of eternal life, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” [1 John 5:13], but it never teaches that you can never walk away from it. This is the warning given by the Hebrew writer,
“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” [Hebrews 3:12]
GOD DOESN’T CARE HOW YOU WORSHIP IF YOUR HEART IS IN IT. Another way this “FAKE GOOD NEWS” is propagated is with this statement, “I DON’T SEE ANYTHING WRONG WITH IT.” Both statements place the speaker in the position of God!! Just because you can’t see anything wrong with it doesn’t make it scriptural. The only way you can know what God care’s about is if you read what He revealed. Do these people even know that it’s possible to worship in vain?
“But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” [Matthew 15:9]
GOD WANTS YOU TO BE HAPPY… Lastly, for the sake of this article, this piece of “FAKE GOOD NEWS” is probably the most deceiving. Everything about this statement sounds great. To argue against it poorly is to sound like you’re advocating that God wants us to be unhappy. What people forget is that sin almost always looks attractive. God’s word says sin can be, “pleasurable” in Hebrews 11:25; “enticing” in Colossians 2:4 & Proverbs 1:10. God has given us wonderful blessing to enjoy [1 Timothy 6:17], but Satan has taken these pleasures and perverted them with his lies to turn us away from serving God. Our Father in Heaven DOES want us to be happy, and has given us instructions through His word on how to have joy in this life.
“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” [2 John 1:9-11]
Friends, my hope is that all of you want to go to heaven to be with the Lord. I do too, but no one shall get to heaven by believing the “FAKE GOOD NEWS.” I know that you love God. He sure does love you, [John 3:16]. He sent His Son, Jesus, to reconcile us back to Himself and I know you love Jesus too. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” He is the only way. [John 14:4-15].