Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Biblical Belief, Action and True Discipleship

Nov 19, 2012

The trouble with so much of Christian preaching today is we are getting many people up for a big fall. We are giving folks a limp-wristed and watered-down gospel which is really no gospel at all, and as a result, millions of people who think they are Christians are nothing of the kind.

Tragically many people who have been fooled into thinking they are actually the blood-bought redeemed of the Lord will discover on that day that they never were. They will then hear the most horrific words ever uttered: “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:23)

But the even greater losers in all this will be those sham pastors, preachers and teachers who have led their flock astray on this vital issue. All those leaders who told their people that as long as they put their hand up at a meeting decades ago, that is all they need, will have a lot to answer for.

The wonderful doctrine of salvation freely available by grace has been turned into a justification for sin, compromise and carnality. Taking any biblical truth and denying other clear biblical truths is a recipe for disaster. Yes indeed, we are saved only by grace through faith.

But if we are not living a life of obedience and increasing holiness, then we prove that we have not really been saved. Yet millions of disobedient and unholy people think they are Christians and think they are headed to heaven when they are not.

How we can miss this truth really beggars belief. As I say, irresponsible church leaders will have to give an account for this. But everyone who names the name of Christ of course should not rely solely on what they receive from the pulpit. They have an obligation to seriously search the Scriptures and learn for themselves.

And it is quite clear that the Scriptures teach that those who continue in sin and disobedience are not of Christ, and will not spend eternity with him. Those who wilfully continue in sinful living and plain disobedience to the commands of God are not true children of God. There are plenty of such passages, but let me mention just three of them.

Consider Galatians 5:19-21: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Did you get that? These people “will not inherit the kingdom of God”. I repeat: “will not”. How much more clear does this need to be? Paul is speaking in black and white here, with no shades of grey.

Or consider Ephesians 5:3-7: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.”

Not one of these folks “has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God”. Once again, we have a crystal clear teaching here. Those who practice such things are none of his.

Finally, have a read of 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were.”

These people will not “inherit the kingdom of God”. It is that simple. How many more times must we read such explicit teachings in the Bible? And here for example it is stated quite clearly that those who are practicing homosexuality will not inherit God’s kingdom.

Yet we have plenty of pastors telling us that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, that it is God’s gift to people, and that it is all just hunky dory. These false prophets are leading many astray, and they will receive sure judgment for their deception and lies.

All these texts – and many others like them – make it perfectly clear that being, becoming, doing – and not doing – are all as important as right beliefs. Indeed, they go together. It is not enough to say “I believe in Jesus”. It is not enough to say “I went forward in a meeting years ago”.

We must be showing that our profession of faith is matched by a godly lifestyle – by a life marked by obedience, a hatred of sin, and growth in sanctification and holiness. For without holiness, no one will see God (Hebrews 12:14). A desire to be Christlike is a sure sign of truly being a real disciple of Christ.

Yet many do not have such a desire, or want it. We sadly have preachers today telling people sweet lies – just what they want to hear. Believers today have itching ears, wanting to hear what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.

Indeed, just this morning I read this in 2 Timothy 4:1-4: “I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

So there are millions of churchians today who have fooled themselves into thinking they are the real deal when they are not. The reason why such folks are not believers and will not enter into God’s presence is simple: God is holy and pure and hates sin. Only those who share in those characteristics can share in fellowship with God.

As J.C. Ryle put it, “A crucified Savior will never be content to have a self-pleasing, self-indulging, worldly-minded people.” And as he also said, “Obedience is the only reality. It is faith visible, faith acting, and faith manifest. It is the test of real discipleship among the Lord’s people.”

And remember the words of Ravenhill: “Partial obedience is disobedience!” We must be pressing on to obedience in all things, holiness as a way of life, and the pursuit of godliness as much as possible. Those are the indications of someone who has really been born again.

Yes, justification is free and a once-off gift, but sanctification is a daily process which demands our all, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. As C. H. Spurgeon rightly said, “You will not gain holiness by standing still. Nobody ever grew holy without consenting, desiring, and agonizing to be holy. Sin will grow without sowing, but holiness needs cultivation. Follow it; it will not run after you. You must pursue it with determination, with eagerness, with perseverance, as a hunter pursues his prey.”

Or as John Stott wrote, commenting on the Ephesians passage: “Holiness is not a condition into which we drift. We are not passive spectators of a sanctification God works in us. On the contrary, we have purposefully to ‘put away’ from us all conduct that is incompatible with our new life in Christ, and to ‘put on’ a lifestyle compatible with it.”

So do not let anyone deceive you my friends. If you are living in known, unconfessed sin, and have no interest in obedience or growth in godliness, then the chances are real good that you are not one of His. It is much better to be asking ourselves hard questions now, than to be asked much harder questions by the righteous judge of the universe when we one day stand before him.

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12 Responses to Biblical Belief, Action and True Discipleship

  • Thank you for writing this and putting the (reverential) fear of God into me today.

    Ross McPhee

  • Bill, I hope you don’t mind if I cut and paste the whole article on f/b. Giving credit to you of course!

    Manfred Sollorz

  • Yes feel free Manfred

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, that article has cut me to the heart! Not because I fall into this category but because it describes so many of my ‘Christian’ friends. Bless you my brother, I wish that there were more like you and I could be more like you. Get to think of it, that means to be more like Christ! Amen!

    Manfred Sollorz

  • Thanks again Bill. You reinforced my prepared sermon for next Sunday when I speak on our inheritance from Eph. 1:11-14.Under the heading “warnings” I had all your 3 references about losing out on our inheritance. I wonder if there will be any flack.

    Joost Gemeren

  • Thanks Joost

    I will pray that instead it is well received.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Spot on, how true, So many so called ‘christians’, are living in sin and do not every realise it, let alone know it.
    Know the truth and the truth will set you free.
    Judith Bond

  • A very timely reminder! Of course, adultery comes amongst the sexual sins that God hates, but I find it is commonly overlooked or accepted in many of our church traditions. I’m thinking particularly of the increasing trend, both in Christian leadership and amongst rank and file believers, towards divorce and remarriage. We can debate what if any exceptions there may be, but the basic position in both Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching is abundantly clear: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery; and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Luke 16v18); and “…A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband…” (I Cor 7vv10-11)

    Terry Lewis, near London, England

  • It also concerns me that young people now consider it is a matter of ‘choice’ as to when they can ‘afford’ to get married. So they feel it is okay to make a commitment of sorts and live together and maybe even get engaged or even have a child, before they can put on the ‘big party’ they ‘need’ to pursue their ultimate desire to get married. I feel the Church has failed them by not exposing these ideas of needing a big production of a wedding and allowed it to get out of hand. It has become legitimised by the church not stressing the importance of marriage and the commitment to each other before God and friends as all important before establishing a life together and setting up a home. I am sure most Christians would prefer to be married first but the clear message of ‘marriage first’ is often neglected and allowed to be seen as a ‘choice’ considering your financial and other situations. Certainly the free use of contraceptives has blurred the picture, and taken the focus off the need to ‘tie the knot’ before taking the chance of children coming along. And because of contraceptives many are led to believe that intercourse is just for fun and somehow quite apart from the commitment of marriage and having children. However the very act of giving yourself to each other in a sexual act is already setting you up for commitment and emotional, physical and spiritual ‘marriage’.
    How can we reclaim what is fast being lost. For years I have heard people in the Church say things like ‘the world is changing so we have to change with it’. I maintain Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever, and His way never changes. It is our only sure foundation.
    Lesley Kadwell

  • I can think of one church that actually uses the slogan “Church has changed, check it out” as part of their advertising! No shocks when their ministers preach in favour of homosexuality.

    Mario Del Giudice

  • I think the watered down gospel that we hear preached today is fear of man from rejection without realising there cannot be both fear of man and God. I had a friend tell me the other day her Pastor was convicted of preaching a gospel that is simply “life enhancing” and so preached one of conviction and challenge. 2/3 of the congregation left. Would we rather fill the pews with people wanting to be gratified and left unchallenged in their sin or leave the pews empty ready for those actually seeking truth. The point you made about sin will grow without sowing, but holiness needs cultivation is also a good point. Where we can think we are right through faith and not sinning by our actions but how long until sin creeps in again and we are back on our knees needing the grace of God. The way to live a holy life is not just standing still but continually moving forward and furthering his kingdom, which I think is often forgotten and should be a challenge to us all.
    Denise Tadros

  • I realize that sometimes I fall into that category. Not all the time of course. I remember how I used to be addicted to pornography. I had tried so hard with my own power to get rid of it but it only ended up getting worse. But when I decided to stop trying and let God do the work it slowly but surely got better and I’m proud to say that I haven’t watch pornography in a long time through the power of the Holy Spirit. But the problem is that sometimes I still lust and I lose my temper sometimes. Though it might not be as terrible as it was before it’s still not good. Sometimes in my mind I try to justify my lust by thinking that at least I’m not watching porn but whenever this happens a wave of guilt comes over me. I thank you for writing this because this opened my eyes on the importance of obedience and it reminded me that maybe not soon but eventually I will be free from these sins in my life. It seemed impossible to get rid of porn yet look at what has happened. I believe that God will deliver me from these things the same way He delivered me from addiction.
    Jonathan Wong

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