When I first came to know the Lord in 1972, the state of the church was interesting. I was meeting people who had a very evident relationship with the Lord, while others seemed to be hung up on certain doctrines. A large group of professing Christians though were living out something very shallow and heartbreaking.
There were many who seemed to 'get' the Gospel message and responded to it. At the same time, there was this large group which seemed only to focus on evangelism, yet, not many in the church actually practiced doing evangelism. This is very interesting, yet strange to my thinking.
What was the problem? Perhaps it was due to a shallow understanding of the Gospel? Churches that had this thinking would emphasize evangelism, but never really talked about how evangelism was done. In theory, the only Biblical concepts these people knew about was 'getting saved' and 'telling others about Jesus'. So what is missing from this concept? What was the evident weakness of all this teaching and understanding of Christianity?
Three things come to mind. One is, like I mentioned above, was that the understanding (and appreciation) of the Gospel is weak. Many of these people view sin as things like smoking, cussing, dancing, drinking, and a few other obvious vices. What is missing is the real understanding of sin. Sin is not necessarily the outward things that we do, although those things many times are symptoms of our sin, but all our sin starts in the heart. The need for the Cross doesn't really make sense to these people, for they do not necessarily practice sins that are open and obvious, and thus, they are not really that bad.
In the Bible, we learn what sin is from knowing the 10 Commandments; God wants nothing to be more important to us that He is, we are not to make a 'god' or 'idol' to suit ourselves, taking God's name in vain is sin, we must keep the Sabbath day holy, we are to honor our parents, we are not to kill anyone with intention, we must be faithful to our spouses, we must not steal, we must not lie, and we must not want something so badly that belongs to someone else.
But sin goes deeper. In Proverbs 6, we see a list of things God considers an abomination. A lying tongue, a proud look, hands that shed innocent blood, are some examples. Throughout the Bible, there are other descriptions of sin like being angry with your brother without cause, and evil thoughts.
So, this large group of professing Christians tends to neglect the heart issues, but focuses on the things that are obvious, that they consider as sin. So, if a person belongs to that group and doesn't drink or smoke, then they really are a pretty good guy. Really? Has that person looked and seen the pride in his heart? Has he dealt with his anger or lust? Probably not because those things are hidden in the heart. He misses seeing them as sin. Or maybe he really doesn't think they are there.
The second thing is that there is no understanding or belief in the doctrine of sanctification. Many times, these people are so strong on making sure everyone knows the verses about how we are saved by grace alone. We all would agree with that, but in this case, they totally ignore the doctrine of sanctification. They hold onto the doctrine of grace and ignore the rest of the Scriptures at the expense of their spiritual growth.
A church that believes this way thinks like this; We need to get people saved, then they need to go out and see other people get saved. That is their only goal and aim. And it is not so much that people get saved from their sins, but it is more that people can now have a way to escape hell.
There is no need for training or discipleship. They claim to know the Bible, but, it is only head knowledge. They don't use the Bible except when it comes to the weak Gospel they are familiar with and the verses associated with that.
Jesus said, "All authority has been given unto Me. Therefore go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you..." Matthew 28:18-20.
He didn't tell us to just tell people how to be saved. We are to teach and disciple them as well. That is how the sanctification process works in our lives.
The third thought is, they lack the power of the Holy Spirit. They are powerless because they are not trusting in Him. They know about Him and believe in Him, but He is not an active part of their lives. Most of this is due to ignorance, but some of it is due to fear.
The Holy Spirit activates God's word and gives us the lenses to see God in His word. The intent of Scriptures connect and we can use the word of God by applying it to our lives. We feed upon God's word and we grow spiritually as the Holy Spirit illuminates His word to us. He also gives us the power and the boldness to do evangelism and the wisdom to know how to communicate the Gospel message in a correct way that will minister to people.
A lot of Scriptural insight seems to be missing from his group. For example, Scripture can be taken out of context and they can build their own doctrine out of that. One time, I was skimming through a book that covered the reasons why the spiritual gifts are not for today. The author used Paul's words of how certain spiritual gifts 'edified' the believer. The author took the word 'edified' and used it to mean 'being puffed up'. So, the author took Paul's explanation of using the spiritual gifts to edify oneself or the church, to mean that the person using the gift was puffing himself up! Friends, this is not right discernment of God's word. We have to be very careful to communicate the correct meaning of the words the Bible writers used and keep everything in context.
So, to sum it all up, here is what this belief system entails:
1. Weak or wrong understanding of sin and the Cross
2. Little or no understanding or practice of sanctification
3. Little or no understanding or active trust in the Holy Spirit for power in sanctification and living for God's glory
This is what I see in a large part of the body of Christ. Perhaps we should be praying for the church in America as well as our own local churches.