The Bible warns us in many places that many who profess to be of the faith would fall away in the last days. The Church has always faced false teachings and false prophets seeking to infiltrate the Body of Believers to draw people away from the pure truth of God’s Word and the gospel of salvation. So what we are facing these days is in one way nothing new.
But I continue to be amazed by a phenomenon I see taking hold more and more these days—one that is subtle but very subversive. It is an attack on the very words we use to identify ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ. Words are becoming increasingly meaningless to many and we throw around words carelessly without taking the time to define the very words we use.
And the biggest challenge we face is the use of the word “Christian”. Ask 100 people to define what they mean by the word “Christian” and chances are you will receive at least 90 different definitions.
Last year I was at a Christian youth event where I had the chance to talk with about 150 young people who identified themselves as “Christians”. I asked why they thought of themselves as Christians, and almost every one of them gave the same ‘definition”: “Because Jesus died for my sins”. Being a member of the media, I just had to dig a little deeper. So I asked them “Why do you think Jesus had to die on a cross for your sins?” Most of them just shrugged their shoulders and didn’t have an answer for this crucial question. Only two of them said because of God’s wrath against the sin and rebellion of man. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a huge problem here!
A fundamental Christian doctrine is the sinful state of fallen man. The Bible is clear that all men are guilty of sin and rebellion against a Just, Righteous and Holy God. God has stored up His righteous wrath against sinners and since He is righteous and just, man needed to bear the burden of God’s wrath against sin and rebellion. So Jesus Christ—God in the flesh—became a man and bore the wrath of God against sin on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago. And by His sacrifice, man can be saved from eternal damnation from a righteous God who detests sin by the grace of God alone through our faith in who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished on that cross.
But is that the message our “Christian” youth are hearing these days? More often than not they hear a humanist “gospel” that is really no gospel at all. One that sounds something like this: “You’re a good person, but occasionally you do bad things. Invite Jesus into your heart and He will make you better and you will go to heaven to be with Him one day.” This is not a gospel—it is a mockery of God who is Holy, Righteous and Just. But this “non-gospel” is giving many a false sense of security and will lead many to hear the most dreadful words any man will ever hear when Jesus returns to judge all men: “Away from me you evildoers, I never knew you!”
Being a true Christian begins with recognizing that just one sin against a Holy, Righteous God condemns us to eternal separation from Him. We are not “good people” Jesus died to make better; we are desperately wicked sinners that need to confess and repent of our sinful nature and throw ourselves on the mercy of God, asking His forgiveness through the only one capable of delivering that forgiveness—Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And by the grace of God, through faith alone in Jesus Christ, we confess and repent of our sinful nature and become adopted children of God, secure in His love and mercy.
Every journey has a beginning point and a destination. And if you do not know your beginning point how can you ever get to your destination? It would be like dropping someone off in the Sahara Desert—not telling them where they are at–and saying “Go to Paris”. Without an understanding of where we are to begin with—and how to get to Paris—we are doomed even before we begin. Our starting point as men is we are hopeless, helpless sinners separated from God. Our destination is a place of forgiveness and a life holy and pleasing to God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And our road map is the Bible—the eternally true, sufficient Word of God.
Every measurable statistic and study shows that the world is becoming a more evil place—and that the beliefs and worldview of an increasing number of professing Christians is based more in humanism than it is in the truth of the Word of God. Barna Research studies show 25% of self-professed born-again believers believe all people go to heaven; 26% believe all religions basically believe and teach the same things; 40% believe Muslims and Christians worship the same God; and 60% believe the Word of God is not eternal truth. These are beliefs directly contradicted by the Word of God—yet professing believers accept them nonetheless.
So the next time you meet someone who professes to be a Christian, love that person enough to ask some probing questions about exactly how they define themselves as “Christians”. I would propose the following answer when you yourself are asked that question: “I am a Christian because I have confessed my sinful nature and rebellion against a just, righteous and holy God. I have thrown myself on His mercy and accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the only way to avoid the righteous wrath of God against my sins. I completely trust who He is—the only begotten Son of God and God Himself; and what He accomplished on the cross—taking the wrath of God against my sin and rebellion upon Himself in my place. And I follow the leadings of His Holy Spirit he has placed in me, confirming the truth of the Word of God—the Bible. I am committed to allowing God to direct my actions and growing in holiness as I await the return of Jesus Christ to judge all men and establish His everlasting Kingdom. By His grace and forgiveness, I will live with Him for eternity.”
Any answer less than that….well, think about it.