In today’s Church climate, preachers bend over backwards not to minister “condemnation.” After all, Jesus came not to condemn the world, but to save it through his death on the cross (John 3:17). Fire-and-brimstone preaching is out, and the feel-good gospel is in. Unfortunately however, in this very shift we see the tendency of human beings to swing from one extreme to the other. It is time for the pendulum to swing back into the middle.
From a very popular passage in the Old Testament, we see God’s blessings upon those who obey the Law.
Deuteronomy 28:1 If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God…
We like to hear this kind of preaching. However, the Old Testament also prescribes curses for disobedience to God’s Law:
Deuteronomy 28:15 However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you…
The entire chapter of Deuteronomy 28 is a list of blessings and curses. It is interesting that only the first fourteen verses deal with the blessings while the remaining fifty-four verses describe the curses. Nearly four times as many verses teach about the curses than the blessings.
Fortunately, we are taught that we are no longer under the law. Jesus Christ suffered on the cross to bear our sins and make us righteous in God’s sight if we believe on him. There is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
The question therefore is: what does it mean to believe in Jesus? What is the evidence that we are in Christ Jesus? Let us deal with this very important question.
How do you know that you are a true disciple of Jesus Christ?
Luke 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
We like the nice warm feeling from hearing such encouraging words.
However, Jesus did not always “encourage” his disciples. Sometimes he would warn them and rebuke them. In today’s climate, such warnings and rebukes would likely be interpreted as “condemnation.” Pastors almost never warn and rebuke the way that Jesus did; they almost always have a “word of encouragement” for the flock, even if they need to be rebuked. The Lord forbid if the church loses people because of a warning or a rebuke from the pulpit. That would be anathema in the mega-church mentality of today. Who would pay for the church building and for the salaries and support the missionaries? (Perhaps this current model of the Church needs to be re-evaluated.)
After Jesus encouraged his disciples by assuring that the Father was pleased to give them the kingdom, he said the following:
33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
What could Jesus have possibly meant by that? That certainly does not sound like the prosperity message so popular today which assures us that God wants all His children to be millionaires. Jesus also said:
Luke 14:33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
Then he compounds our confusion and increases the conviction by saying:
Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
It appeared that among the crowds that followed him there were people who called him, “Lord,” but did not obey him. It is the same with the big crowds that follow Jesus in our churches today. Many of not most of them do not do what Jesus said. Are such followers really “saved,” especially those who have been going to church for years?
Repent or Perish
Look at other words spoken by our meek and gentle Savior.
Luke 13:1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Few if any pastors or evangelists today would dare to say, “Unless you repent, you will all perish.” Today it is fashionable to be gentle and tolerant and not to judge. Political correctness has also invaded the Church.
On one occasion Jesus rebuked his disciples for failing, of all things, to perform the miracle of casting a demon out of a boy. Astonishingly, Jesus expected them to perform the miracle successfully.
Matthew 17:14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” 17 “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.”
If anything, the love that Jesus had for his disciples was tough love, not the nice feeling which passes for love today. He did not coddle his disciples the way we coddle believers today. It would behoove us to interpret the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13 in light of how Jesus displayed love to his disciples. If we were to love the disciples and teach them the way Jesus did, some of these “disciples” would leave our church. This may be one way the Lord separates the wheat from the chaff.
Amazingly, Jesus also rebuked Peter for sinking while attempting to walk on water after Jesus commanded him to come. This is how Jesus trained the future leaders of his Church.
Matthew 14:30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
John 6:66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
The style and substance of his teaching caused many to stop following him. (Did Jesus change his teaching because of this? No. Would we change our approach if it happened to us?)
Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Today there is also talk about loving Jesus and being intimate with him. Let’s see what Jesus said about loving him.
John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
To put it in the vernacular, love is not just a feeling. Truly loving Jesus results in loving obedience to his commands. How many of those who say that they love Jesus still cling to their sins? In the body of Christ today the sins of immorality, marital unfaithfulness, pornography, fantasy lust, complacency, laziness, bitterness and unforgiveness, to name just a few, are not uncommon. According to a survey taken by the magazine Christianity Today, 40% of the pastors surveyed have visited a pornographic website. Over half acknowledge that they can be tempted by internet pornography. Shockingly, 37% of them are now struggling with pornography. Moreover, pride, greed and materialism among full-time servants of God in some circles are also approaching epidemic proportions. And sheep will model what they see in their shepherds. Does a believer truly love Jesus if he or she is involved in any of these sins?
Hypocrites & False Teachers
In Luke 11, Jesus had very harsh words for some Pharisees and experts in the law. Six times he condemned them to “woes.” He said that such men would be punished “most severely” (Luke 20:47). This punishment would be in the eternal fires of hell. But these people were hypocrites, we say in reply.
Is it possible there are hypocrites in the Church now? Today there are ministers of high regard in the body of Christ who are men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain (1 Timothy 6:3). They want to get rich and are eager for money (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you… 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.
But because we desire to be loving and tolerant, we do not judge such false teachers in our midst. (See Lee Grady for an exception to this reservation.)
Matthew 7:15 Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
Many no longer want to exercise discernment regarding false prophets because the Bible says “do not judge.” However, if we have first removed the plank from our own eye, then we are qualified to judge (Matthew 7:1-5). Jesus did admonish his disciples to watch out for them. This command requires us to exercise discernment and to make sound judgments.
Today there are prophets galore who speak forth blessings upon the Church. We enjoy hearing them. Some of these prophesies may in fact have their origin with the Spirit of God. But why are there so few prophecies that warn or rebuke the Church?
In Jeremiah Chapters 25 and 26, the prophet prophesied destruction for Jerusalem by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar because the people would not repent and turn away from their evil practices. Upon hearing his prophecy, the officials of Judah wanted to put him to death. Our flesh is not massaged when we hear a prophecy that involves judgment and not blessing.
The Israelites were God’s people in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament God’s people are found in the Church of Jesus Christ. Has the Church repented and turned away from her evil practices? No, we have not. Yes, there is a righteous remnant within the Church. But for the most part the Church has not repented of her sins and of her lukewarmness. There are even homosexual churches. How has this come about?
The fault can be placed largely at the feet of our leaders. They do not teach, love, and rebuke us the way Jesus did with his disciples. In today’s culture of bigger-is-better we fear that we will lose people if our message is not gentle and encouraging. Yes, encouragement is needed at times. However, discipline is also necessary. What father does not discipline his children? Because there is little discipline in the Church, most believers remain spoiled, immature, and weak in their witness for Christ. As an example, the soaring obesity rate due to lack of discipline regarding eating in the general population is seen also in the bulging waistlines of believers as well. This epidemic is but symptomatic of the corresponding lack of spiritual discipline which pervades the Church.
Let us prophesy to the Church right now:
1 Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
Hebrews 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
James 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Acts 26:19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.
Those who truly believe in Jesus and are truly in Christ are repentant and holy; by the Spirit they are able to put their sinful nature to death. They obey the commandments of Jesus Christ with their deeds. The blessings of Deuteronomy 28 are for them in spirit.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.