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Posts Tagged ‘Self-deception’

The Associated Press welcomed us to January 9 with this bit of news: “The Washington National Cathedral, where the nation gathers to mourn tragedies and celebrate new presidents, will soon begin performing same-sex marriages.”

We aren’t surprised. Its denomination, the Episcopal Church (the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America) has been a leading voice for decades for professing Christians who reject the Scriptures. In 2003, for instance, the Diocese of New Hampshire elected the Rev. Gene Robinson, an openly homosexual priest lauded for his “long-term committed relationship,” as Bishop.

What is particularly disheartening is the scriptural justification put forth for performing same-sex marriage. The Very Reverend Gary Hall, the dean of the cathedral, maintained that “performing same-sex marriages is an opportunity to break down barriers and build a more inclusive community ‘that reflects the diversity of God’s world.'” The article goes on to say: “‘I read the Bible as seriously as fundamentalists do,’ Hall told the AP. ‘And my reading of the Bible leads me to want to do this because I think it’s being faithful to the kind of community that Jesus would have us be.'”

The Rev. Hall lives in a state of self-delusion. He doesn’t read the Bible seriously at all. A serious reading of the Bible reveals homosexuality as the height of human rebellion against God and as a judgment from God:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:24-27)

The only sexual relationship which God condones is between a man and a woman within the bond of marriage (Matthew 5:27-28; Matthew 19:4-6; Hebrews 13:4). And the only homosexual whom God receives is akin to the only thief, the only liar, the only adulterer, the only murderer (or whatever sinner one may be) whom God receive: the one who repents of his sin and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Christ who voluntarily suffered divine justice on behalf of those who would repent and believe upon him (2 Corinthians 5:21). To bless homosexuality is to scoff at the cross of Christ.

The AP story closes with this: “‘For us to be able to say we embrace same-sex marriage as a tool for faithful people to live their lives as Christian people,’ [Hall] said, ‘for us to be able to say that at a moment when so many other barriers toward full equality and full inclusion for gay and lesbian people are falling, I think it is an important symbolic moment.'” Rev. Hall will find himself applauded by millions of Americans for his bold declaration seeking to aid homosexuals “to live their lives as Christian people.” The general public usually applauds those who condone what God condemns. The world loves apostates.

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Often persons think that being a member of a local assembly of Christians makes them right with God individually. If that were true, the apostle Paul would not have admonished: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV). Just because we are associated with others who are following Christ does not necessarily mean that each one of us is following Christ individually.

The Bible clearly tells us to “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). If anyone in an evangelical church is asked whether he has repented of his sins and believes the gospel, he is likely to answer in the affirmative. One cannot help but question the sincerity of a person’s repentance and belief if that person is known to sin without concern. Far too many professing Christians miss worship on Sunday because they had rather hunt or fish or even do work that is not required to be done. Church members make ungodly statements on Facebook, fail to return things borrowed, fail to acknowledge all their income when paying taxes. In these and many other ways, professing believers reveal the insincerity of their repentance.

Thomas Manton (1620-1677) gave us this warning: “If an unregenerate man should leave off sin under fear of death or hell, it would not be out of hatred to sin, but out of the fear of the punishment, as the bird is kept from the bait by the scarecrow.” Similarly, William Gurnall (1617-1679) wrote: “Take heed thou prayest not with a reservation, be sure thou renounces what thou wouldst have God remit. God will never remove the guilt as long as thou entertains the sin. . . . It is desperate folly to desire God to forgive what thou intends to commit. Thou hadst as good speak out, and ask leave to sin with impunity, for God knows the language of thy heart, and needs not thy tongue to be an interpreter. . . . Hypocrisy is too thin a veil to blind the eyes of the Almighty. Thou mayest put thy own eyes out, so as not to see Him; but thou canst never blind His eyes that He should not see thee.”

Someone may immediately protest: “You have no right to question the genuineness of my repentance and faith in Christ just because I attend worship irregularly or because I make some comments you disapprove.” The purpose here is not for any of us to examine anyone else. The purpose before us is to examine ourselves. Paul wrote: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” We need to ask ourselves: “Do I truly repent of my sins? Am I really trusting in Christ? If I am, what does my life say about my profession?”

Matthew Henry (1662-1714) provides counsel as applicable today as when he penned his thoughts: “By repentance we must lament and forsake our sins, and by faith we must receive the forgiveness of them. By repentance we must give glory to our Creator whom we have offended; by faith we must give glory to our Redeemer who came to save us from our sins. Both these must go together; we must not think either that reforming our lives will save us without trusting in the righteousness and grace of Christ, or that trusting in Christ will save us without the reformation of our hearts and lives. Christ hath joined these two together, and let no man think to put them asunder. They will mutually assist and befriend each other. Repentance will quicken faith, and faith will make repentance evangelical; and the sincerity of both together must be evidenced by a diligent conscientious obedience to all God’s commandments. Thus the preaching of the gospel began, and thus it continues; still the call is, Repent, and believe, and live a life of repentance and a life of faith.”

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A danger for many Christians is they worry they do not believe in Christ intensely enough. They worry that their faith is not strong enough.

The Bible, though, does not speak of the quantity of our faith. Faith is a resting, a trusting in Christ, a belief that Christ died upon the cross in the place of the repentant sinner. Christ took upon himself the wrath of God and counted the believing sinner righteous. The apostle Paul writes: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV). We do not have faith in our faith; we have faith in Christ.

Unfortunately, this is not the greatest problem facing the church today. A far greater problem is the great number who take salvation for granted. They are certain that God will accept them after death because they’ve responded to a call to be saved or perhaps decided to join the church or to reform their living. When questioned about their coming to Christ, they may respond with something like this: “I recognized that I was a sinner and destined for hell, so I asked Jesus to come into my heart.”

I hope they are simply stating poorly what took place. Being right with God is not merely a desire to circumvent hell, and “asking Jesus into one’s heart” is a most unfortunate, not to mention “unbiblical,” phrase. Where is repentance? Where is faith? Where is the cross? Where is the atoning death of Christ in this understanding?

I fear that multitudes who have responded to an invitation to receive Christ and have subsequently joined a church are living in self-deception. They’ve not repented of their sin. They’ve not believed upon the crucified Christ as their only hope of being right with God. Their lives are much like their unchurched neighbors. They pay their bills, mow their lawns, vote on election day, and obey the laws. They know nothing, however, of forgiveness and justification because they really do not know Christ. They simply want to avoid hell.

Nothing is new, of course. In his Alarm to Unconverted Sinners, seventeenth-century English minister Joseph Alleine wrote:

All of Christ is accepted by the sincere convert; he loves not only the wages, but the work of Christ; not only the benefits, but the burden of Christ; he is willing not only to tread out the corn, but to draw under the yoke; he takes up the command of Christ, yea, the cross of Christ.

The unsound closeth by halves with Christ: he is all for the salva­tion of Christ, but he is not for sanctification; he is for the privileges, but appropri­ates not the person of Christ; he divides the offices and benefits of Christ. This is an error in the foundation. Whoso loveth life, let him beware here; it is an undoing mistake, of which you have been often warned, and yet none is more common.

Jesus is a sweet name, but men “love not the Lord Jesus in sincerity.” They will not have him as God offers, “to be a Prince and a Saviour.” They divide what God has joined, the king and the priest; yea, they will not accept the salvation of Christ as he intends it; they divide it here.

Every man’s vote is for salvation from suffering; but they desire not to be saved from sinning; they would have their lives saved, but withal would have their lusts. Yea, many divide here again; they would be content to have some of their sins destroyed, but they cannot leave the lap of Delilah, or divorce the beloved Herodias; they cannot be cruel to the right eye or right hand; the Lord must pardon them in this thing. O be carefully scrupulous here; your soul depends upon it.

The sound convert takes a whole Christ, and takes him for all intents and purposes, without exceptions, without limitations, without reserve. He is willing to have Christ upon any terms; he is willing to have the dominion of Christ, as well as deliverance by Christ; he saith, with Paul, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Any thing, Lord. He sends the blank to Christ, to set down his own conditions.

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