As a young man I remember the godly influences in my life. There was the one armed preacher Cicero N. Godard who preached fire from the pulpit! He would not hesitate to speak of the dangers of hell fire, the need for righteous living and that Jesus is the only way of salvation. He was very direct in his communication. He wanted you to be very clear that a sinful lifestyle is in no way acceptable to God. He wasn’t received very well by other preachers in the community. In fact he was labeled as “judgmental” and “out of touch” with people today. How ironic that I got my commission to preach under this man’s ministry at the age of 14.
Then there was a preacher by the name of Elder E.V. Mc Gee. In his church I learned the basic of Christianity. I learned of the Old Testament God who was feared and respected even among nation that did not worship him. I sat and listened as a call to holy living came from the pulpit. Fear and reverence for an awesome and terrible God were the standard among the believers. You were always challenged to do your best to please God at all times.
Then my uncle Ted got saved and I saw in him a dedication to God such as I had never seen before. At the crack of dawn he was up and at the church praying. He never ever ceased to pray every single day without fail he was there…crying out to God. He still serves as an inspiration to me to this day.
I also learned that this same awesome and terrible God loved me. He loved me so much that he sacrificed his one and only son to die for me so that I may live eternally. I came to know and understand that Jesus loved me and gave himself, so that I would be saved from the eternal flames of hell. I was taught that in gratitude and love for what God did for me I should be willing to serve him the rest of my life.
I often think “Where are these lessons in our churches today?” As I grew into manhood I watched as society changed. Sadly with that societal change so did the strong and essential messages of the church change. The gospel message of our sinfulness, danger of judgment to hell, and provision of a savior began to get dim. Paul addressed this issue in Galatians 1:6-9. It seems that many of the highly visible preachers have taken to a more tasteful more acceptable gospel….the gospel of self gratification.
This is a gospel that has everything that we could ever need. It has health, wealth, perfect marriage, better jobs, prosperous businesses, a God who loves unconditionally (even if you continue to practice sin), grace, mercy, forgiveness all the things that are of a positive benefit to mankind. This approach to Christianity seeks not to benefit and serve God but seeks to serve the “believer” in this way of Christian living. The problem is this gospel has stripped away the very important elements that give the gospel its power.
I call this new line of religious thinking “Neo-Christianity.” Neo of course means “new” form or revival of an old one. One of the characteristics of Neo-Christianity is that it is devoid of theology. In fact it tries to place those who possess biblical knowledge in the category of arrogance or Gnostic. If you know and understand scripture they say your too “deep” and “it doesn’t take all of that.” First the bible encourages us to be knowledgeable of the word (2Tim 2:15, 1 Tim 4:16, 2 Tim 3:16, 1 Pet 3:15, ) This discouragement of reading and studying the scriptures has created an opportunity for people to form their own opinion about the bible.
This way of thinking has been coupled with an attitude of “relativism” which is the idea that some elements or aspects of experience or culture are relative to, i.e., dependent on, other elements or aspects. So people have begun to create God, scripture and their life experience to their own liking. This of course is a violation of God’s second commandment not to create a graven image (Exodus 20:4) God is who he is and has never changed (Hebrews 13:8) but Neo Christianity seems determined to put everyone’s fate in their own hands or in the hands of their own personal God.
Because most Neo Christians don’t read or study scripture and scarcely if ever attend church they have little or no understanding of who God is in his entirety. By confining themselves to the teachings of certain T.V. preachers, they have only limited knowledge of the true and living God. The preachers of the Neo Christians appeal to the part of man that wants to “feel food” and uses all the language that is associated with something positive such as “God has a wonderful plan for your life” or things like “You need to find your destiny and purpose in life.” I wonder if God had a wonderful plan for the disciples. Let’s see how their lives turned out after they gave their lives to Christ.
Peter-crucified with his head downward.
Matthew – arrested in Ethiopia and there nailed to the ground with short spears and beheaded.
James-push over a cliff and beaten with a club.
Bartholomew-Beaten to death with a whip.
Andrew – was crucified on an x-shaped cross.
Thomas-stabbed with a spear.
Matthias- stoned and then beheaded.
Paul-tortured then beheaded by Nero.
St. James (son of Zebedee) – beheaded by King Herod.
Philip was crucified.
Jude was “cruelly put to death” by the Magi of Persia, or crucified.
James (son of Aphaeus) crucified or stoned
I don’t think that either of these brothers were ever promised “You Best Life Now.”
There are other things of concern in regard to the Neo Christian as well. For instance because of their preferred type of preaching that they sit under, they have little awareness as to the seriousness of their own sin. They believe that because God is so loving he will forgive them no matter what they do. They seem to have misunderstood 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 which says: “ 9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” You see when you are in charge of your own salvation you can twist and contort the word at your own will until you are comfortable with it. Unfortunately doing so is not of God!
Another misunderstanding of the Neo Christian is their unbalanced view of God. They are familiar with John 3:16 and quite often (usually to justify their practice of sin) as well as any scripture that displays God’s love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and kindness toward them. They seem to forget that God never changes and he is angry with the wicked everyday (Psalm 7:11-12) They also seem to over look Romans 1:18 “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” They don’t want to deal with his judgment that is coming (Rev 20:11-15)
In knowing this side of God it should give one a greater appreciation for his love, grace mercy and the greatest gift he ever gave us…the gift of his son Jesus Christ. What the Neo Christian should understand is that in order to receive the gift of God the will of man must die that the will of God may live in us (Galatians 2:20) No longer should we depend on our goodness to reach god because when measured by God’s standard we all fall flat on our faces! We must repent (Matt 4:17, Luke 13:3, Matt 3:2, Mark 6:12) and put our faith in Jesus for our salvation (Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5, John 14:6, John 8:12) everything else just won’t do.
So how do we deal with this well meaning but misinformed people we call Neo Christians? First of all tell them the truth in love. But what does that mean? Does that mean sugarcoat, twist, reshape or change the message to make it more palatable? No! It simple means love them enough to tell them the saving truth. You don’t go to a neighbor’s house that’s burning, gently and politely knock on the door and say “he there…how you doin? I was wondering if we could sit down for a minute so I can share something with you that you might be interested in…HUH!? That’s foolishness! Because you care about that person you are going to be alarmed and concerned about their safety! Your gonna yell, scream, beat on the door and make sure they get out to safety why….because you love them and care for them!
So what is the truth when it comes to salvation? Well first there must be an awareness of sin. Even the believer must deal with the sin issue. The 10 commandments make it very clear what sin is and how it keeps us out of heaven (1 Cor 6:9-11, Rev 21:8) and in fact send us to hell. Belief alone is not enough to save you. If I believe in a parachute but I don’t put it on, when the plane goes down I’m gonna die right? We must put on Christ! (Romans 13:14) He is our safety net! Coming to grips with our own sin can be a very sobering experience because we all want to believe that we are good people, but if Jesus said there is none good but God (Matthew 19:16-17) what makes us think we are good? Our own vanity and pride! So we must humble ourselves if we are to receive Christ.
We must have a biblical view of God, who he is, and what he requires of us. We cannot liv3e under the assumption that we can live in unrighteousness, in the sight of a holy and just God and he won’t deal with us. Think of it like this if your kid came home drunk and high cussing you out flipping you off and even fighting you would you turn to them and say “I love you so much, everything is wonderful I won’t even discipline you because of my love for you.” I would think not! God must give us justice! That means sin must be deal with.
The Cross of Christ is the liberator of our souls from sin. It eliminated the power of sin (Romans 6:5-6), the penalty of sin (Romans 6:23 a)and the presence of sin(1 John 3:2). It is this Jesus that must be preached and believed in. Not the Jesus that is concerned about your earthly affairs but of your heavenly future. God’s love for us ran so deep that rather than let us remain in our sinful state he offered a way for us to break free from what steals our very life both here and in the life to come. Repentance and faith are the key to receiving this wonderful love that the father has lavished on us.
There are simply four things that we need to consider…sin, judgment, repentance and faith in Christ. These four will do away with Neo Christianity which is a faith in and of its own but is neither biblical or a saving faith. True Christianity has and always will rest on the facts of mans sinfulness and inability to save himself, his impending doom outside of God, the coming judgment, the provision of a savior Jesus Christ and our need to repent and put our trust in Jesus. Doing so will change the heart toward God and his will and restore the believer to right standing with God. Then on to share this great story with our family friends and others as we have been commanded in the scriptures (Matthew 28:19-20)