Photo By Dan Gold
This is a topic that I have been wanting to discuss and write about for some time. The issue I am raising is with the modern church and with the current state of contemporary Christianity, primarily in the West. Since I became a Christian some 13 years ago I have noticed a very troubling tendency amongst those who claim to also be Christians. This tendency is to pick and choose the aspects we like about God, Scripture, Christ and the Church. This is not an issue exclusively with Christianity, but it is an issue with human beings in general. We tend to stay away from things that make us uncomfortable and look the other way when we don’t know how to deal with something. Deep inside we know something is off or wrong, but rather than confronting it, in our cowardice, we look the other way.
Over the past couple of days I listened to two very impactful sermons given by John MacArthur (Why Does God Allow So Much Suffering and Evil)and R.C. Sproul (The Wrath of God in Preaching). These two men have had a tremendous impact upon my life over the past year or so and these two sermons deeply moved me and troubled me. After listening to the both of them I felt now was the time to write about this topic of à la carte Christianity.
I have spent a considerable amount of my life and time in church over the past 13 years and I must confess, embarrassingly so, that I do not recall much at all if ever, hearing a sermon preached about Hell. I suppose some pastors have mentioned it in passing, but none of them have actually taken the time to really dig into the heart of it. We as members of the modern Church love to talk about God’s grace, His mercy, His Love, His patience, His tenderness, His… you get the point. Don’t get me wrong these qualities and attributes of God are immensely important. However are not all of God’s qualities and attributes immensely important? Should not His wrath, Righteousness and Justice also be emphasized? Are we not painting a half picture of the nature and character of God when we focus solely on the pieces we like and ignore the ones we don’t? In so doing this, are we not actually creating an idol, a false God? Clearly by misrepresenting God in this way we are not representing or worshipping the God of Scripture, as His nature and character is on full display within it.
Why do we feel so uncomfortable with talking about Hell? I suppose the most obvious answer is because Hell makes us feel uncomfortable, but that is the whole point! We are not supposed to like the idea of eternal suffering, punishment, destruction, damnation and separation from God in outer darkness. Speaking about the doctrines and realities of Hell should cause us all to fall on our faces and repent of our sins before a Holy Holy Holy God. If it is our desire as Christians to see people get saved, don’t you think we should be letting them know what they need to be saved from?
Christ Himself while He was on this Earth spoke of Hell more than He did of Heaven. He wasn’t afraid of offending anyone, He was only concerned with the truth. If He is our model and whom The Holy Spirit is sanctifying us to become more like, than shouldn’t we also be willing to discuss Hell? Here are some very sobering passages from Scripture spoken by Christ:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” – Matthew 7:21-23 ESV
Earlier he says this:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” – Matthew 7:13-14 ESV
I think so often we forget when reading scripture that it is God breathed. That means these are God’s words, not mans. Even more obvious and to the point is Christ, the Son of God, speaking these things directly out of His mouth. Jesus says that many are on their way to destruction and many who call Jesus Christ Lord are condemned. How can this be?
What concerns me with à la carte Christianity, is the pervasive deception that it instills in those who practice it. I must confess that it deeply deeply troubles me with how many supposed “Christians” in our churches today are not Christians at all. They have not been born again, nor adopted into God’s family as sons or daughters. They think they have though, because they raised their hand, said a simple sinner’s prayer and go to church every single Sunday. By our modern standards of measurement, they meet all the criteria and qualifications for salvation. However, are these God’s standards? Do you think when we go before the judgement seat of Christ, that He will have a clipboard and will check to make sure you and I marked all the correct boxes? Or do you think He will look at us and say, “who are you?” What a dreadful and terrible thing it will be for those of us who go before the Lord believing we are destined to eternal Glory with Him and He looks dead in the eyes and says, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
I believe what Jesus is getting at here is the importance of our relationship with Him. Once we accepted His work on the cross, what did we do with it? Did we simply say thank you and keep living our lives the same way as we did before? We are justified before God by putting our faith and trust in the person and works of Jesus Christ. Have we actually done this? Are we currently doing this? Have we seen the fruits of the Holy Spirit at work in us? More importantly have others around us seen the fruits? Our lives should look radically different if we are truly regenerate and born again.
If we accept Christs free gift of salvation, but our understanding of Christ is a false one, then are we accepting the true and actual gift only the Jesus of Scripture offers? Or are we accepting the gift of a false God in whom we feel more comfortable with? Also, how can one be truly saved if they don’t understand what they are being saved from? I don’t see how one can be. After all, if you don’t know what you are being saved from, then why do you need saving?
This topic, yet again, enforces why theology is so incredibly important. I must admit that I have only recently begun to fall more and more in love with theology and the Bible. The more time I spend in Scripture the more and more I fall in love with Jesus and the God of the Bible. I can’t seem to get enough honestly. Do you not find yourself falling in love more and more with someone as you begin to know more about them? I feel that way about my wife. The more I learn about her the more my love for her grows and I thank God for bringing us together. Why should the God of Scripture be any different? Actually, shouldn’t the God of the Bible be even more so?
When we pick and choose the things we like and disregard the things we don’t when it comes to God, we are committing heresy, blasphemy and worshipping a false God. These are very serious sins and will lead us to destruction if we don’t repent of them.
When we learn more and more about the character and nature of God, His glory is only magnified, not diminished. When we behold Him for who He truly is, our hearts leap and respond in worship like never before. When we get to things that make us uncomfortable or difficult I think it is important to remember the issue is not with God, it is with us. If there is an aspect of Christianity that we do not like, maybe the issue has to do with the utter depravity and wretchedness that lives within our own hearts. I can promise you the issue is not with God!
When we profess our faith and trust in Christ we must trust wholeheartedly in His sovereignty. There will certainly be times when we do not understand why things happen, but we trust and know that the heart of God is good. That when we are born again, adopted into God’s family as His children, He is now for us and not against us (Romans 8:31).
One final point in regards to à la carte Christianity is this… that when we do this, we miss out on the richness of our new found lives in Christ. We don’t get to experience life to the full (John 10:10). We not only rob God of His glory, honor, worship and the devotion He so rightly deserves, but we actually diminish the work of Jesus. We belittle Him and actually play God ourselves in trying to determine what is right and wrong. It goes right back to the garden in Genesis. The first sin that entered the world has been behind every single sin every since, we just cannot seem to escape making the same mistake over and over and over again.
We need to preach, teach and read for ourselves all of scripture. We must not spend too much time focusing on certain verses, books or testaments for that matter. God has given us 66 books for a reason, and if one of them was irrelevant He would have given us 65.