Monday, October 19, 2015

Full of Grace

The grace of God is a wonderful thing. Given our human propensity to think and act selfishly, God's unmerited favor is the only way people can be saved. Jesus Christ paid our sin penalty on the cross so that our sins may be forgiven. God's provision of the cross makes it possible for us to spend eternity with Him. While our rightly motivated good works builds up treasure for us in heaven, it is not possible to earn God's favor for salvation. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9, NKJV).

One of the greatest statements of the Bible addressing the deity of Christ is John 1:14, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." The Son of God has the same nature as the Father and is characterized by grace and truth. In this Age of Grace, the Church certainly understands and has fully embraced the grace of God as His plan of salvation for His people. The more we consider God's grace, the more we can stand amazed by it. But, at the same time, the Church in general is increasingly falling short in embracing the truth about God. Thus the full gospel of Jesus Christ is being neglected in this final phase of the Church Age.

An increasing number of churches today are taking a "gospel-lite" approach that promotes a seeker-friendly, easy-belivism avoiding conviction of sin and our responsibility to live holy lives. Such an approach produces followers of Christ who are full of grace but deficient in truth. The neglect for the full counsel of Scripture is what you'd expect for the Church in the Laodicean era where people are lukewarm toward Christ. While it is admirable for churches to be seeker friendly, such a focus opens the door to compromise with a culture that hates the gospel of Christ. Taking such compromise to an extreme has given rise to what is referred to as the Emerging Church movement which embraces the heresy that people can be saved apart from Christ.

Heretical departures from the pure doctrine of God's Word among professing Christian churches is a sign of the soon return of Jesus. 1 Timothy 4:1 says, "the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons." The most common heresy is that there are multiple ways to heaven and that all faiths worship the same God. "Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'" (John 14:6). People can claim to be Christians but if they don't believe God's Word, they are only kidding themselves that they are really a follower of Christ.

The apostasy we are seeing in the Church today is the fruit of an ages-long assault on God's Word. You'd expect unbelievers to dismiss the Bible as not being true but increasingly the attacks are coming from so-called Christian scholars who are seeding doubt about the veracity of God's Word. A whole generation of Church leaders have been indoctrinated to embrace the view that the Bible is flawed as the story of man's search for God rather than being inspired and preserved by our Almighty Creator-God. It is significant that this questioning of God's Word was the very first deception recorded in Scripture that Satan used on Eve in the Garden tempting her to disobey God... "Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1).

Most of Christendom no longer has an orthodox view of Scripture. A consistent literal hermeneutics of God's Word is no longer used by most Christian Bible teachers. Instead, the Bible is often spiritualized to mean something other than what it actually says. Such practice leads to wildly divergent interpretations of God's Word which only reinforces those who claim that the Bible is not from God. Not believing what the Bible says has given rise to the false doctrines of Amillennialism and theistic evolution resulting in believers ignoring huge portions of Scripture. Why study Bible prophecy if virtually everything has been already fulfilled in history? And if the Bible does not mean what it says about our origins, how can you trust what it says about other matters?

When people have doubts about God's Word, they will not accept it as having any authority in their lives. Why bother to spend much time studying the Bible if it is just another book written by flawed men? Yes, the Bible was scribed by flawed men but it was inspired by our Creator God who is Almighty enough to have accurately brought us His Word (2 Timothy 3:16). The dumbing-down of Christians by not knowing the truth of God's Word has led to the Church embracing false doctrines and in general becoming lukewarm toward Christ.

The problem of neglecting God's Word is not new. The Apostle Paul addressed this issue in the Corinthian Church when he said, "I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). The average church goer has no desire to be fed with solid food by digging into the deeper things of God's Word. They are content with remaining a babe in Christ only being fed with superficial doctrines of Scripture. The difference between now and during Paul's day is that carnal Christians are becoming more the norm rather than the exception among professing Christians.

The danger in raising up a generation of carnal Christians who only know the grace of God but are ignorant of His truth is that many of these are likely kidding themselves that they really have a relationship with the Savior. Jesus Christ personifies the Truth (John 14:6) and anyone who has not embraced God's Word for what it is doesn't really know the Savior. "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead" (Luke 16:31).

The best thing we can do for fellow believers who have embraced false doctrine is to confront them with the Truth. Some will respond because the Truth resonates with those who know Him (John 10:27). In this day of growing apostasy it is increasingly important to be well grounded in God's Word in order to, "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15).

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