Our Incomplete Gospel…

Excerpted from John Bevere’s Driven By Eternity (Chapter 5: Pages 82-98)

OUR INCOMPLETE GOSPEL

Unfortunately, we only quote such Scriptures as, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9). So we tell people all they have to do is quote the magical prayer and they’re in. Yet, why don’t we also quote Jesus’ own words: “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke46). As we’ve seen, “Lord” means Supreme Master, it carries the meaning of Ownership. So Jesus is saying, “Don’t call me Master and yet still own your own life, better to call me ‘Great Prophet’ or ‘Teacher’ so that you do not deceive yourself.”

So now let’s reexamine Jesus’ statement with which we opened this entire discussion: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 7:21a, NIV).

As we’ve already stated, not everyone who calls Jesus Christ Lord will be in heaven. So that emphatically tells us just saying the “sinner’s prayer” doesn’t secure us heaven. Then my question is this, “Jesus, who will enter into the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus answers by saying, “But only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21b, NIV).

Interesting. These were almost the exact words of Polycarp. So it is not confessing Jesus only, but confessing Jesus and doing the will of God that will get us into heaven. And the only way we can do His will is through the grace He gives us when we humble ourselves by denying our own lives and receiving Him as Lord. It is as simple as confessing, but the difficult part comes in yielding ourselves entirely to the reality of His lordship.

Hear now why I’ve stressed this point so passionately:

      When the Judgment Day comes, many will say to me,
      “Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God’s message, by
      your name we drove out many demons and performed
      many miracles!” Then I will say to them, “I never knew
      you. Get away from me, you wicked people!”
           Matthew 7:22-23, TEV

In the late 1980’s, God gave me a spiritual vision. I saw a multitude so large you couldn’t see the end of it. It was a sea of humanity. I knew there were no atheists in this group, no self-acknowledged sinners, no followers of other religions; rather, all confessed being Christians through the lordship of Jesus. This multitude had come to the Judgment and were fully expecting to hear Jesus say, “Enter into the joy of your Lord; the Kingdom of God.” But instead they heard the words, “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:23).

I beheld the utter shock and terror upon their faces. Can you imagine feeling secure in a salvation you don’t possess? Can you imagine being exiled into the flames of hell forever when you fully believed you were heaven bound? Forever and ever having to deal with the memory that you, and possibly those who preached to you , took your eternal destination so lightly? Is there room for a seeker-friendly ministry that shuns the admonitions of Jesus? Can you understand why we are to proclaim the whole counsel of God, not just the positives or benefits? Yes, we love the benefits, and we should tell them and enjoy them, but not at the expense of neglecting the warnings!

I recall in a conference stating the reason for preaching these truths is that “I don’t want anyone screaming at me at the Judgment, ‘Why didn’t you tell me the truth!’, while their blood is dripping off my hands!”
After my session, a pastor immediately approached me quite upset; in fact, he was irate. He said, “How dare you put that Old Testament theology on us ministers. I won’t have blood dripping off my hands for not proclaiming the entire gospel.” He obviously liked the positive aspects but stayed clear of the confrontational portions of God’s Word.

I then said, “Sir, look at what Paul stated to the leaders of Ephesus.” Having my Bible in hand I turned to Acts and asked him to read: “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27).

He looked up at me in shock, his eyes and mouth wide open. He said, “All the times I’ve read the New Testament, I’ve never noticed this.” We then had a friendly conversation. I mentioned that in order to present every human being mature in Christ, we must not only teach, but warn them (see Col 1:28). What is the warning? To not drift away from truth, to not be swayed by the message propagated by impostors who seduce not only themselves but countless others from godliness.

Paul had been with the people of Ephesus for quite some time. He loved them dearly and knew by the Spirit of God he would not see them again until heaven. Think of how carefully you would choose your words knowing they would be your last to those who were like your children. His parting words were:

      Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which
      the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of
      the church of God, which he bought with his own
      blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come
      in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your
      own number men will arise and distort the truth in order
      to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!
      Remember that for three years I never stopped warning
      each of you night and day with tears.
           Acts 20:28-31, NIV

How would they distort the truth? Possibly by words, but most likely by actions. Notice that Paul felt so strongly about this that he didn’t stop warning them day and night for three years. Again, we see the emphasis; we are to affirm these things constantly.

Advertisements

Affirm Constantly…

Excerpted from John Bevere’s Driven By Eternity (Chapter 5: Pages 82-98)

AFFIRM CONSTANTLY

Notice in the above Scripture that we are commanded by the Word of God to affirm or teach these things constantly. Did you hear that? I find these things are rarely spoken of from pulpits or amongst believers today, let alone continuously. For this reason, we’ve drifted from the importance of maintaining good works through the grace of God. We in essence are allowing the power that is in us to remain dormant through the lack of belief and acknowledgment. Our faith, which accesses grace, must remain active through verbalizing our beliefs. Paul says, “That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus” (Philemon 6, NKJV).

If we don’t affirm these things constantly, then we will drift away from the truth. This is clearly seen by the writer of Hebrews:

      Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the
      things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word
      spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every trans¬
      gression and disobedience received a just reward, how
      shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation.
           Hebrews 2:1-3 (Emphasis Mine)

By affirming these things, constantly we keep before us the urgent matters of eternity that keep us from drifting away. I remember when I used to fish as a boy. While focused on fishing, the boat, if not anchored, would drift unnoticed to us. We’d look up forty-five minutes later and wouldn’t even recognize our location. The drifting occurred because we had our mind on other matters, namely fishing. This has been quite costly for some, as there have been many who’ve been fishing in certain rivers that led to deadly waterfalls. Countless numbers have gone over falls to their death because of drifting away from where they were first positioned.


The same is true with the important matters of eternity. If God says we are to affirm these things constantly, then this should be our emphasis. Why are we not highlighting the power of grace, which gives us the ability to maintain godly lifestyles of obedience? I find that the early church did this. I examined some of the writings of the early church fathers and found they taught things that would almost seem foreign to our teachings today, but they didn’t teach contrary to the Scripture. The Fathers of the first few centuries believed that works played an essential role in the evidence of our salvation. Let’s look at a few examples.

The first man I’ll quote is Polycarp (A.D. 69-156), bishop of the church at Smyrna and a companion of the Apostle John. He was arrested in his very old age and burned at the stake. He wrote: “Many desire to enter into this joy (of salvation), knowing that by grace you are saved, not of works.” This would be an accepted statement in today’s Evangelical circles, as we have stressed the fact that we are not saved by our own good works. However, he also wrote to believers: “He who raised Him up from the dead will also raise us up – if we do His will and walk in his commandments and love what He loves, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness.”

You won’t hear this spoken often from our pulpits today. Notice the word “if.” We are told we have to do His will and walk in His commandments in order to be raised up in the believer’s resurrection. You’ll see shortly that this is exactly what Jesus said as well.

The next man I’ll quote is Clement of Rome (A.D. 30-100), a companion of the Apostle Paul and Peter and an overseer in the church of Rome. He wrote, “We are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own godliness, or works. But by that faith through which Almighty God has justified all men.” This too would be a widely accepted statement in today’s circles of Christianity. However, he also wrote to believers, “It is necessary that we be prompt in the practice of good works. For He forewarns us, ‘Behold, the Lord comes and His reward is before His face, to render every man according to his work’ (Rom 2:6-10).”

Could this truth be why Paul stated while on trial, “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance”? (Acts26:19-31, emphasis mine). Since Paul stressed this importance, it seems to follow suit that his companion, Clement of Rome, would do the same.

The next one I’d like to point out is Clement of Alexandria (A.D 150-200). He was a leader in the church of Alexandria, Egypt, and was in charge of the school of instruction for new believers. He wrote about unbelievers: “Even if they do good works now, it is of no advantage to them after death, if they do not have faith.”

This too, would be heartily cheered among Evangelicals today. We know, as I’ve already pointed out in the last few chapters, that no matter how many good works an unbeliever accomplishes, they still cannot gain him entrance into the eternal Kingdom of God; it is by God’s grace we are saved. However, look at what else Clement wrote to believers:

“Whoever obtains the truth and distinguishes himself in good works shall gain the prize of everlasting life…some people correctly and adequately understand how God provides necessary power (to be saved), but attaching slight importance to the works that lead to salvation, they fail to make the necessary preparation for attaining the object of their hope.”

Some of you may be thinking, It sounds like these guys didn’t read the New Testament. But they did. Josh McDowell points out in his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict that Clement of Alexandria took 2,400 of his quotes from all but three books in the New Testament. The same is true of the others. I have to say that many books in our Christian bookstores today have very little Scripture in them. Could it be that we have drifted due to the fact we have not affirmed constantly what is important.

The True Grace of God…

Excerpted from John Bevere’s Driven By Eternity (Chapter 5: Pages 82-98)
THE TRUE GRACE OF GOD

Jude states these people distort the message of God’s grace. This is so prevalent in these final days because our teachings have opened the door to this. We’ve taught grace as God’s blanket of protection for disobedient lifestyles. You can hear this mindset often by many in the church with common statements such as “I know I’m not living the way I should, but thank God for His grace.” This is serious deception. Scripture doesn’t teach grace as the big Band-Aid, but rather: God’s empowering presence within to do what truth demands of us.

Grace has been taught as simply God’s unmerited favor. It is indeed His favor and cannot be bought or earned. However, it also empowers us to obey, and the evidence that we’ve truly received it is our godly lifestyle. Our obedience to His Word confirms grace’s reality in our lives. For this reason James says:

     Faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obe¬
     dience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (in¬
     operative, dead). But someone will say [to you then], you
     [say you] have faith, and I have [good] works. Now you
     show me your [alleged] faith apart from any [good] works
     [if you can], and I by [good] works [of obedience]
     will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you
     do well. So do the demons believe and shudder.
          James 2:17-19, AMP

James identifies a huge gap today in our teaching. We pull Scriptures out such as, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). If just believing in His existence and that He’s the Son of God is all that’s required to be saved, then James shows the demons will be saved because they believe. That is ludicrous! To even drive his point home further, James points out that the demons shudder. In other words, the demons fear God more than some who say they have faith but lack corresponding actions of obedience.  The evidence of our truly being saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, is that we will have the lifestyle to prove it. This is why John the Apostle states,

     Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His
     commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does
     not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is
     not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love
     of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are
     in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also
     to walk just as He walked.
          1 John 2:3-6 (Emphasis Mine)

John clearly states the proof that we do indeed know Jesus Christ is that we keep His commandments. The one who says that he knows Jesus but doesn’t keep His word is deceived, a liar, estranged from the truth, even though he confesses with his mouth his knowledge of the word of God. For this reason, John says, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1-2).

Notice he does not say, “These things I write to you so that when you do sin you have an Advocate.” No, the goal is not to sin. We’ve got the power of God’s grace so we can set our sights on a life like Christ (“also to walk just as He walked”), for we are free from the control of the nature of disobedience. But if we do succumb to sin, we do have an Advocate. The celebration of the believer is that we now have the ability to serve our God acceptably. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably” (Heb. 12:28, emphasis mine).

There you have it. Grace empowers us to serve God acceptably. Why have we not proclaimed the entire Gospel, just half the story? Yes, salvation is a gift – it cannot be purchased, and it cannot be earned. This is all true. However, we forget to tell people that the only way to obtain it is to forsake all, lay down our lives confessing His lordship, and in doing this we will be empowered to live in accordance to His nature. Just as Peter wrote:

     Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge
     of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us 
     everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge
     of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through 
     these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so 
     that through them you may participate in the divine nature and 
     escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
           2 Peter 1:2-4, NIV (Emphasis Mine)

Notice we’ve been given grace through the knowledge of Jesus Christ and that grace is His divine power that gives us everything we need to live in a godly manner, and that godly lifestyle is according to His divine nature. Thus we have been redeemed from the corruption that entered the world through Adam, and that corruption has been multiplied by the desires in men contrary to God. Don’t let anyone, whether by word or action, discourage you from living in the divine nature imparted into your being. Paul clearly states:

     For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all 
     men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly 
     passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in 
     this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the 
     glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 
     who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and 
     to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do 
     what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach.
           Titus 2:11-15, NIV

The grace of God teaches us to deny all ungodliness and worldly passions and to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life. Teachers instruct and empower us, and that is exactly what God’s grace does in our lives. Notice we are to teach these things. In fact Paul goes on to say, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works (Titus 3:8, emphasis mine).

We are to maintain good works by the power of God’s grace in our lives. We didn’t have grace before we were saved, nor did the Old Testament saints; this is God’s gift to us through Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus tells us that in Old Testament times you were considered a murderer, in danger of hell, if you took someone’s physical life. However, under grace, all you have to do is call your brother a fool, be prejudiced, refuse to forgive, or harbor any other form of hatred to be in danger of hellfire (see Matt. 5:21-22). Why? We have the power now to live according to God’s nature through the power of grace.

Blurred Lines…

Excerpted from John Bevere’s Driven By Eternity (Chapter 5: Pages 82-98)

Blurred Lines

The difficulty is found in the lines being blurred. Let’s look at a person who is self-seeking but who confesses the born again experience, talks the language of a true believer, makes friends with the godly and is even excited about believer’s gatherings; yet there is no nature change. So in essence this person is unknowingly an impostor, and the difficulty arises in the fact that his self-deception spreads like a disease. Others base their lives off of the “norm” in the Christian culture, and this “norm” is out of sync with heaven, thus making it hard to be true believer. In Paul’s day, if you were a believer your life was in jeopardy every hour. There was no question about it – if you gave your allegiance to Jesus, you put your life on the line. Paul continues:
     But you know what I teach, Timothy, and how I live, and
     what my purpose in life is. You know my faith and how
     long I have suffered. You know my life and my patient
     endurance. You know how much persecution and suffer¬
     ing I have endured. You know all about how I was perse¬
     cuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra – but the Lord
     delivered me from all of it. Yes and everyone who wants
     to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
     But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will go on
     Deceiving others, and they themselves will be deceived.
          2 Timothy 3:10-13, NLT (Emphasis Mine)

Paul made it clear. It wasn’t only what he taught, but what he lived and his purpose in life (eternally driven, which we will get to later in this book) that proved Timothy could trust him. It wasn’t his answered prayers, supernatural gifts producing the miraculous, or his excellent ability to teach the Word of God. No, it was not these traits he pointed to. It was his lifestyle. It was, and still is to be, the determining factor.

He continued by saying “evil people and impostors” will flourish. Now we all know to stay clear from an evil person; however, it’s impostors, those who assume an outward identity that does not match their true nature, who are the most dangerous. They are the ones who profess and have a form of Christianity, but there is no evidence of the life changing power of grace. Notice Paul says that they will not only deceive others, but they themselves will be deceived.
This perfectly describes Deceived in our allegory. This young man was active as the School of Endel, professed to be a devout follower, and sincerely believed he was in good standing with the king. He put more emphasis on his professed allegiance than a life that revealed his loyalty. Not only was he deceived, but he deceived others. Due to the standards Deceived set, many were compromised, from the girls he slept with to the many he influenced by his message within the student body.
You say, Message? He wasn’t a teacher. Oh yes, I mean message, for how we live communicates much louder than what we speak. For those students in Endel who were true to Jayln, it was a battle not to be influenced by the strong personality and lifestyle of Deceived. Those who didn’t stand strong succumbed to his influence.
This is a battle not only Paul warned us about but so did many other writers of the New Testament. Jude tells us,
     My dear friends, I was doing my best to write to you about 
     the salvation we share in common, when I felt the need of 
     writing at once to encourage you to fight on for the faith 
     which once and for all God has given to his people.
          Jude 3, TEV 
Notice the urgency in his voice. He wanted to discuss the wonderful things we share in salvation, but he had to write about something different. He had to encourage them to fight, battle, and wage war for the faith. What is the fight? He explains by saying:
     For some godless people have slipped in unnoticed among
     us, persons who distort the message about the grace of our 
     God in order to excuse their immoral ways, and who reject 
     Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord. Long ago the 
     Scriptures predicted the condemnation they have received.
          Jude 4, TEV (Emphasis Mine) 
The war is against the influences created by people who have perverted the grace of God in order to excuse their ungodly lifestyles. These assaults are more deadly than all-out persecution against the church. They’re more dangerous than laws against biblical principles such as abortion and the requirement for schools to teach evolution. They’re stronger influence than any cult or false religion. They’re eternally fatal!
You might ask how this applies to people in church because the people Jude reference reject or deny Jesus Christ. No one could do that in our churches today and still be accepted as Christians. What would make you think they were more vulnerable in those days? Look again carefully. These people slip into our circles unnoticed. No one could stand up in our assemblies today or in Jude’s day and confess with their mouths their denial of Jesus Christ and still be unnoticed. So how do they renounce Him? The answer is found in another New Testament book. “Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way the live” (Titus 1:16, NLT). They deny Him by their lifestyles, not words. In fact, they claim to know God, they confess Jesus as their Lord, but they communicate otherwise by their works. Remember, they not only deceive others, but they deceive themselves. In other words, with all sincerity they believe they’re Christians.  

Difficult to Be a Christian…

Excerpted from John Bevere’s Driven By Eternity (Chapter 5: Pages 82-98)
 
DIFFICULT TO BE A CHRISTIAN

Not only are those who’ve never heard, or refuse to believe the gospel in bondage, but many typical “converts” of this generation are in bondage as well. We’ve created this dilemma by neglecting to proclaim the cost of following Jesus. Many assume they are free but in reality aren’t and the evidence is in their lifestyles. Jesus says:

     I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, whoever commits
     and practices sin is the slave of sin. Now a slave does not 
     remain in a household permanently (forever); the son [of
     the house] does remain forever. So if the Son liberates 
     you [makes you free men], the you are really and 
     un-questionably free.
          John 8:34-36, AMP

These words reiterate the truth of the fruit tree. If someone habitually sins, then he is a slave to it. He is not a son, for his true nature hasn’t changed. He may think he is free because he confessed a sinner’s prayer, yet he has not freely given up his “rights” in order to follow Jesus. He still wants his freedoms (the counterfeit) along with the benefits of salvation. You cannot have both!

As stated earlier, they may start out their “born again experience” with joy, excitement and passion because it’s fresh and new. However, eventually their unchanged nature will manifest, but it will manifest in Christian circles and be cloaked in Evangelical language and lifestyle. This is why it is most deceptive. Yet the New Testament warns specifically of this deception; Paul writes, “In the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian” (2 Tim 3:1, TLB).


We are living in the last days. There is no question about it; all prophetic Scriptures reveal Jesus is soon to return. Paul foresaw our day as being the most difficult time period to be a Christian. Other translations use the words perilous and terrible in describing our times. Why is this? In examining Paul’s days, we see he encountered great opposition. He received thirty-nine stripes on his back from whippings on five different occasions; three separate times he was beaten with rods; once he was stoned; and he spent years in prison. He met up with amazing persecution everywhere he turned. Yet he says our days will be more difficult to be a Christian. Why? He gives the reason:

     People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud,
     abusive, disobedient to their parents, un-grateful, unholy, without 
    love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers 
    of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather
    than lovers of God.
          2 Timothy 3:2-4, NIV

In examining his statement, you may still wonder what point he’s trying to make. How does this list differ any from his day? People in his society had all these traits; they loved themselves, money, were unholy, unforgiving, etc. Peter even said on the day of Pentecost, “Be saved from this crooked (perverse, wicked, unjust) generation: (Acts 2:40, AMP). So why is Paul singling out our generation to have these traits causing it to be the most difficult time to be a Christian? He goes on to give the reason: “For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession]” (2 Tim 3:5, AMP). The NKJV states, “Having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

So you can see what makes it difficult to be a Christian in our generation; there will be many (according to other references in the New Testament) who profess being Christian, born again, or saved who will not have allowed the Cross to slay their self life. They’ll not have made the decision to forsake all their own rights to follow Jesus. They’ll sincerely believe He is their Savior, but they’ll affiliate with Him for the mere fact of what He can do for them, rather than who He is. It’s no different than a woman marrying a man for his money. She may marry him for love, but for the wrong reasons. Out of this motive they’ll see Him for the sake of salvation and success in this life and believe sincerely that He is their Savior, but they will have never relinquished control of their own lives.

Loss for Gain…

Excerpted from John Bevere’s Driven By Eternity (Chapter 5: Pages 82 – 98)

LOSS FOR GAIN 

It’s an exchange; we must give our entire life, and in place of it we get His life (nature). Jesus repeatedly communicates this:

     If anyone intends to come after Me, let him deny himself
     [forget, ignore, disown, and lose sight of himself and his
     own interests] and take up his cross, and [joining Me as
     a disciple and siding with My party] follow with Me
     [continually, cleaving steadfastly to Me].
          Mark 8:34, AMP

We are to continually cleave steadfastly to Him. It’s not just a one-time prayer and then life as usual except that you are now in the “born again” club and are heaven bound. Jesus continues, “If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life” (Mark 8:35, NLT). The Amplified Bible states it this way; “Whoever gives up his life [which is lived only on earth] for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it [his higher, spiritual life in the eternal kingdom of God].”

It’s a definitive exchange; we give up our rights as owners of our lives in order to follow His desires, and in return we receive His eternal life. With the gospel that is preached today, we’ve not emphasized this extremely important aspect of following Jesus; we’ve only told the benefits. In essence, we’ve preached the resurrection promises without preaching the impact and decision of the Cross.

It could be compared to a young man who sees a military recruiting commercial on television. He observes a classy naval man near his age dressed in a sharp uniform on the deck of a remarkable ship sailing the open seas with a beautiful crystal sky, smiling with his mates. The commercial then shows this sailor in ports all over the world, and it’s all free. The young man immediately goes to the recruiter and signs up. He doesn’t read the conditions of joining because he’s so focused on the benefits. He is so happy; now he’ll have a blast seeing the world, becoming a part of a great military, and making lots of new friends.


However, he quickly finds out in basic training that he can’t sleep in till nine o’clock in the morning, as was his custom. He is ordered to cut his cherished long hair. He can’t go to many social gatherings because he can’t leave base except for a couple days per month. Worse of all, he is on a regimented schedule that doesn’t allow time to hang out. All the while, he’s cleaning bathrooms and mess halls and doing pushups and other difficult training exercises. He’s lost the abundant leisure time he once had and is collapsing in bed each night from exhaustion. He’s still hopeful, as he knows he’ll soon be on the ship. Once basic training is over, he’s assigned to a ship, but it’s just as labor intensive, only now it is on the open seas. War breaks out, and now he finds himself fighting a battle for which he didn’t sign up.

He enlisted because it was a life he never could have provided for himself, and it was free. Yes, it was free, but he didn’t make note of the details at the recruiter’s office that it would cost him all his freedoms. In many ways he’s now offended. He feels cheated; in his eyes, he was sold a package that showed him only the benefits but didn’t make known the personal cost.

We’ve preached a gospel that speaks of a free salvation, which is absolutely accurate, but we’ve neglected to tell candidates it would cost them their freedom. When I speak of freedom, it isn’t real, but perceived liberty, for all those outside of Christ are bound to sin. They are slaves even though they may fully believe they’re free. It could be compared to the movie The Matrix. My oldest son rented the edited version of this movie one evening and showed it to our family, and I saw an amazing parallel.

An interesting question is posed in The Matrix: “How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world if you didn’t wake from the dream?” In this film, twentieth-century life flows on as normal, or so it seems. Late in the 21st century, man develops artificial intelligence (referred to simply as the Machines). These Machines take control of Earth, and man fights back. In the resulting power struggle, the world is decimated and the Machines are victorious. These machines discover they can manage to survive using electricity generated by the human body, so they create a grand illusion to fool humans into serving them. The world “seems” to still be normal (twentieth-century), but in fact the bodies of humans are contained in chambers on large “farms” and their minds are linked into a worldwide virtual reality computer program called the Matrix. So, in essence, the freedom of their lives isn’t real; rather, they are slaves.

It’s at this point that the film opens with a select group of men and women who have hacked their way out of the Matrix, discovering their true identity. They form a colony called Zion in the real world (which is otherwise lifeless). A few of them reenter the Matrix to battle the machines and set humanity free. The battle is intense and life is not easy; but the crusaders are more interested in genuine freedom rather than living a lie of false liberty. They would rather have liberty with difficulty than slavery with deceptive comfort.

Here we see the parallel. Many nonbelievers see Christians as slaves, in bondage, losing freedoms, while they themselves are free. However, the truth is that those outside of Christ are the ones bound, not unlike those living a lie in the “farms” enslaved by a machine. They are slaves to sin.

The Typical Conversion…

I was reading some old correspondence with a friend and thought I would share this with you.  It is from July 2007:


I was reading Driven By Eternity (John Bevere) this evening and read an insight that I found disturbing and interesting at the same time.  I wanted to share it with you as well.  The excerpt is lengthy, but worth the time to read.  If there are typos, I apologize.  It’s 2 AM, so my typing is not at its best.

THE TYPICAL CONVERSION

The gospel we’ve preached has been lopsided with emphasis placed on accepting Jesus by praying a sinner’s prayer.  We confess him as “Lord,” and once done we are saved eternally.  Yet this is not what Jesus teaches.  He says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 7:21, NIV).

If we would just listen to His statement without filtering it through years of unbalanced preaching, teaching, writing, and singing on the grace of God, we would see it contradicts our modern gospel.  His words couldn’t be clearer – not everyone who has prayed the sinner’s prayer, confessing Him as their Lord, is going to heaven.  And if they are not going to heaven, there is only one alternative.

Let’s rehearse the typical evangelistic service.  The preacher preaches a “come to Jesus and get ‘blessings’” message.  He tells how Jesus will give us joy, peace, prosperity, happiness, health, heaven, and so forth.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s God’s desire to bless us, but Jesus never used the blessing to entice people to follow Him.  Then after the forty-five-minute-or-so sales pitch, he then asks the audience to bow their heads and asks if they were to die tonight would they go to heaven?  He even encourages everyone to look to the person to their left and right and ask the same question in order to help recruit them.  “If they can’t say yes,” he says next, “take them by the hand and bring them forward.”

As the candidates come forward, songs are sung, such as “Just as I Am.”  In other variations, the audience just claps and smiles with  the instruments playing a jubilant tune for their march forward.

Once all are up front, the minister asks them to bow their heads and repeat a common prayer such as, “Father, I confess I am a sinner, forgive me of my sin.  This day I ask Jesus into my life as my Lord and Savior.  Thank You for making me Your child.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

The audience cheers, the music plays, and the new “converts” go back to their seats, “just as they were.”  Except now they are deceived.  Nothing has been said concerning repentance from disobedient lifestyles, denying their own desires in order to embrace the will of God, and losing their lives for the cause of Christ.  They’ve confessed Jesus as their “Lord,” but there’s been no heart change.  Jesus is now just a part of their lives.  Well let me inform you, the King of kings and Lord of lords doesn’t come into anyone’s life as second, or even first, among rival lovers.  He only comes in as our complete and total King with no person, thing, or activity vying for His place in our hearts.  He must be Lord, which means Supreme Master and Owner; meaning we don’t own our lives any longer.

Think of it, would you marry someone who informed you that they would be loyal to you along with their other lovers but that you would be first?  How much more the King of the universe?  Will He accept a bride who says, “You are first of all my other lovers?”  There is no covenant relationship, no joining together as one.  What deception!

These “new converts” have not allowed the Cross to slay their self-seeking life and make room for the new nature of Jesus to be formed within.  They’ve just bee sold on a better life here and the promise of heaven.  It’s interesting, in many countries of the world where Christians are persecuted, they come to Jesus knowing they are losing their lives.  Today in Western societies we come to Jesus for a better life and Heaven.  But we must lose our lives as well.

Today, many typical Evangelicals in our society live in deception as a result of the type of gospel we’ve preached.  New converts may be energized by their newfound “faith,” participate in Christian activities, attend church, even get involved in an outreach because it is all fresh and exciting.  It’s like being in a new club, trying a new sport, attending a new school, or working a new job.  There’s freshness about it, but they have not done what Jesus commanded all true followers to do, which is to count the cost of following Him and then make the permanent decision to pay the price of their lives given to His service (see Luke 14:27-33).