For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 1st Corinthians 15:3.
I am troubled over the state of churches. I am especially troubled over the propagation of the gospel. Years ago, Oliver Greene chided his listeners by telling them that, "He was afraid that the devil had slipped some of them a substitute". When the Wesleys began their campaigns in earnest, when George Whitefield preached the gospel, when the Anabaptists of Medieval Europe preached, it was the devil's henchmen inside of the churches and speaking for the churches that withstood them.
I myself almost missed the grace of God by receiving a cheap substitute for true bible repentance and by infiltrating a good ministry. Like any zealot of any religion, I learned the phraseology of the movement I was in. I fasted, I prayed, I street preached, I went door to door, I led people in the "sinner's prayer". I could talk for hours about tiny nuances of doctrine.
Like a good Black Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah Witness, Buddhist, or any other sincere religious adherent, I had quit fornicating. I had quit drugs and alcohol. I did not have a new man. I did these things in the strength of the flesh. Because I no longer did those things so destructive to the flesh and to life itself, I was happier.
I learned the speech, the doctrine, the habits, and the doctrine of Fundamental Baptists. I never missed church. When I did sin, I dutifully confessed it in prayer. I mistook my consciousness of sin and the tenderness of my conscience for the doctrine of the two natures. In reality it was one nature, a very fallen nature seeking relief and fulfilment through religion. My life was proof of the Apostle Paul's admonition in Romans 2:15, Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.
One of my thoughts would arise and condemn me. Another thought would then arise and accuse the first thought of being all wrong. It would excuse that thought and me. The next thought would come along and accuse them both of being wrong. It was my thoughts that accused and excused one another. I mistook that for the war of two natures within me.
A sinner in such a state is more pleasing to the devil than a sinner in some other form of religion. After all, he did vow; I will be like the most High, Isaiah 14:4. It pleases the devil well to have sinners learn the forms of true salvation and worship, to have them partake of the house of God, and yet to be ignorantly lost in their sins. This is not the first time in history that churches have fallen into such decay.
Such decay is usually a prelude to revival. Revival comes when God enlightens certain men of God as to the blindness of their age. Revival comes when such men cry out against the prevailing theology of their day. Such men are resisted by the orthodox leaders of the churches. Even though the average Fundamental pastor is impotent to affect change in his community, he wars against those who would compel him to change. Fundamental churches of the 21st century are powerless to affect the communities wherein they meet. Revival will happen when good fundamental church members start getting real bible salvation.
If you examine the last 1000 professions made in your church, you'll probably see one of three scriptural outcomes.
Luke 8:12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They prayed a prayer and no one ever saw the least change in them.
Luke 8:13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. A big hubbub was made when these people made their profession but when one any little thing goes wrong or isn't quite what they want, they are gone.
Luke 8:14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. Jesus said that you can tell them by their fruit. These have no fruit.
Does your church have any people in it who demonstrate a sincere desire to unite with the house of God, live by the precepts of the word of God, mourn over their sin, and bit by bit become transformed by the word of God? Are these people there because you as a pastor, or your pastor found them out in the world lost without Jesus Christ and wooed them through the gospel until they sought Jesus Christ as a remedy for their sin? If you have such a family, and that family has been converted in the last 20 years, you have a truly unique church.
Invariably, when I ask that question while preaching at occasional preacher meetings, I will get refuted by someone who will tell a personal story of someone converted under their ministry. When I look into it, it always a 30 year old story. The soil with which we work today is distinctly different than it was 30 years ago.
A culture has formed within our churches wherein as many people as possible are persuaded, cajoled, pressured, tricked, and browbeat into praying the "sinner's prayer". In the early 80s a substantial fraction of those people actually tried church. In the last 40 years that fraction has shrunk until the average preacher has no real expectation of seeing such converts actually attend his church or ever acknowledge what took place.
This has led to a whole generation of preachers and apologists for this anemic gospel which has absolutely no saving power. Just as in Sodom a whole generation of children were raised who didn't know how babies were made and who ceased to ever see pregnancies or live births, our church members today rarely or never see changed lives. It is just generally accepted and understood that most people who are saved will never show the least evidence of it in their lives. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
Like frogs in a pond who lay thousands of eggs and who see thousands of tadpoles spawned, these religiously sincere soul winners will pray with thousands. What happens to those tadpoles? The vast majority of them become fish food. What differentiates the frog from our religious but misguided soul winner is that the frog has a much higher fraction of her effort become living frogs. Most of her effort ends up as fish poop at the bottom of the pond, but every year there are a few new frogs in the pond. These modern day soul winners can never point to new life in the churches because of their efforts.
Most of the victims of these religious activists become men and women who exhibit zero evidence of salvation, but are now secure from any threat of ever really being saved because someone once promised them life. Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life, Ezekiel 13:2. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage, 2nd Peter 2:19.
By the grace of God, and through the Black Creek Baptist Church jettisoning much of the last 50 years of teachings about the gospel and soul winning, we have a small but growing cadre of people whose lives have been utterly changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. They NEVER miss church other than for illness. Their homes are transformed, their families, doctors and in some cases social workers have expressed amazement at the changes in them. Whoever stocks the beer and cigarettes at the local convenience stores has noticed a slackening in sales.
Nevertheless, the ever-so-wise theorists of fundamentalism are sure that we go about it all wrong. We are accused of Calvinism. We are accused of destroying the simplicity of the gospel. We are accused of Lordship salvation. We welcome such people to come and see. We publish testimonies on our website (here). You'll see that we have a couple of sister churches who have awakened to the gospel.
At times I feel like Lot in Sodom. What he did caused babies to be born. Josephus wrote that Sodom has become so depraved that there were no children younger than 12 years old in the city. Yet, Lot was accused of doing it all wrong.
For those who truly desire fruit in their churches, we will be looking at how the gospel got so diluted in our churches, and what we have done about it today. Hint: All too often I here certain dispensationalists narrow the definition of the gospel to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as if naught else needed to be preached. What they miss is that Paul said; how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 1st Corinthians 15:3. We need to expound the scriptures from the law, the Psalms, the gospels, and from ALL of the epistles.
I lost some of you with that remark about ALL of the epistles. I hope that your theories bear fruit.
Luke 24:44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
Luke 24:45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
Luke 24:46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
Luke 24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Luke 24:48 And ye are witnesses of these things.