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.