Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15)
At this time of year we are reminded repeatedly of Christ’s birth. Yet in most reminders the purpose of His coming to earth is perverted or obscured. It would almost seem that Christ came into the world not “to save sinners” but to give retail sales a huge boost at the end of each year; and to give “Christians” a mirthful holiday season with ample excuse to overindulge in rich foods and strong drink. Honor to Christ becomes so confused with the festivities that even non-Christians can heartily join in the celebration.
Similar corruptions, unnoticed, are growing in popularity year-round. The very purpose of Christ’s coming (and thus of Christianity as well) is being subtly redefined. In order to get the world to accept Christ, the church has manufactured a “Christ” acceptable to the world: a moral leader of high principles whom those who have clearly rejected the real Jesus Christ can follow in partnership with evangelicals committed to the same good causes – a “Christ” whom the followers of any religion and even atheists can embrace. And, tragically, the very methods which the world uses to boost the sale of its products are being adopted to promote Christ.
This is nothing new. Multitudes who believed in Christ have mistakenly seen Him from the viewpoint of their desires rather than as He truly is. We have many examples in Scripture such as in John 8 beginning at verse 30: “As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
In the verses that follow, it is shocking to see the enraged reaction of those who “believed on him.” Instead of giving heed to Christ’s further instructions, they repudiated His mission to save them from their sins, rejected the truth about their evil hearts and refused to repent of their rebellion against God. After heatedly arguing with Christ they even took up stones (v 59) to kill Him! Why?
These Jewish “believers” in Jesus were convinced He was their long-awaited Messiah. However, they had a false concept of the Messiah. They were ignorant of – and would not have accepted had they known – what the angel had said to Joseph: “Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21). Instead, the Jews wanted a Messiah who would rescue them from their oppressors. Deliverance from sin and self was a need they refused to acknowledge and a remedy they would not accept. So it is today with mankind.
Again in John 2, “…many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them…” (23-25). These “believers” had the same mistaken idea of the Messiah, and, knowing their hearts, Christ didn’t even attempt to instruct them. Those instructions are given in Chapter 3 to a man whom Christ knows will receive them. Nicodemus believes Christ’s miracles are genuine and that His teachings are from God. Christ tells him that is not enough: the Messiah is more than a miracle-working teacher of morals. He must be lifted up on a cross and die for the sins of the world so that whoever believes in Him may be born again by the Spirit of God into the family of God.
In John 6 we encounter another group of “believers” who wanted to make Christ their king so that He would miraculously feed and heal them. They, too, rejected Christ when He explained that He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrifices for sin and that those who believed on Him would receive eternal life as a free gift. And so it has been down through history and remains the same in our day. Multitudes have “believed on Jesus Christ” but are not really saved because they, too, have false ideas of who He is and why He came.
Christ himself warned that many who even seemed to do miracles and prophesied in His name would not be Christians at all: “I never knew you” (Mt. 7:21-23). They would claim to be Christ’s not because of simple faith in Him as Savior but because of the signs and wonders they performed. Their followers, likewise, would rely upon the same counterfeit signs as evidence of true spirituality.
Christ (Mt. 24:4,5,11,24), along with Paul (Acts 20:29-30) and Peter (2 Pt. 2:1-3), specifically warned of these false teachers who would lead many astray. We have documented false prophecies by the Kansas City and Vineyard prophets and by the leaders in the positive confession movement. Doctrine is despised, truth is neglected and experience without biblical guidelines is glorified, especially new experiences. More than a decade ago, when John Wimber told Chuck Smith that he was going to go with “whatever works,” Chuck asked him no longer to use the name Calvary Chapel and Wimber adopted the name Vineyard. There is no limit to the unbiblical phenomena that the Vineyards (and others) have since found will work.
There are other more subtle ways by which Christ’s mission “to save sinners” is being perverted. Consider the March for Jesus, which brings literally millions around the world into the streets to “celebrate Jesus.” This massive display of loyalty to Christ is intended to show the world that Christians are a large and powerful segment of society that can’t be suppressed but must be given their rights as much as demonstrating homosexuals. Marches let the politicians know that here is a large voting block to be appeased.
In The Star of 2000, Jay Gary boasts that “the March for Jesus is becoming the world’s biggest street party.” Is that really why Christ came, so that street parties could be held in His name? March For Jesus literature encourages everyone including Catholics and even Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims to join Christians in the Jesus celebration. How can those who embrace religions and philosophies that oppose Christ express appreciation for Him? Does this not produce pseudofollowers of Christ, as far from the truth as those in John 2, 6 and 8 and as much opposed to the gospel? Gandhi admired Jesus but remained a Hindu whose very admiration for his false “Christ” prevented him from knowing the real Jesus and why He came.
Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to convince the world “of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment” to come (Jn. 16:8). That conviction must come through the preaching of the gospel, which demands “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Instead, a gospel is being preached today that lacks conviction of sin. No wonder that the moral standard among “Christians” varies little from that among the unsaved.
“Christians” tend to have the same worldly ambitions, are attracted by the same sensual commercials, lust after the same possessions and enjoy the same entertainment. There is little example of true Christianity to convict the world.
Yes, they know we oppose abortion and pornography, but so do many non-Christians. In fact evangelicals are joining forces with non-Christians such as Catholics, Mormons, Moonies and others in political and social action to uphold “traditional morals.” When godly leaders such as J. I. Packer confuse Christ’s call to proclaim the gospel with a call “to re-Christianize the North American milieu…[and] rebuild the ruins…[of] North American culture…,” we are in deep trouble! Christianity Today’s Senior Editor Kenneth S. Kantzer calls upon evangelicals “to close ranks with our Catholic neighbors. And with Mormons, conservative Jews, and secularists who share our values…[for] the good of society…” Had Christ joined the rabbis in such a coalition for moral improvement, think of the great ethical reformer He could have become and the immense good He could have accomplished — all without going to the Cross!
The truth is that Jesus did not come into the world to engage in political or social action nor to encourage others to do so in His name. He never said a word to anyone about the oppression of the Roman Empire, never rebuked Caesar or Herod for their corruption. A Messiah who would do so was looked for by the Jews and such a Christ is offered by evangelicals today as the rallying point for ecumenical unity — but that is not the Christ of the Bible nor is it the reason He came.
While addressing not a word to the political leaders, Christ rebuked the religious leaders continually. In contrast, today’s church leaders expend much time and effort trying to sway politicians but refuse to correct one another. The evils of society are being attacked in a coalition with society while false doctrine is unopposed in the church. The call for unity under the banner of a false love that won’t correct becomes one of the chief means of legitimizing the deceptions of the last days!
The latest appeal from Campus Crusade declares that Jesus is appearing to Muslims in visions and dreams. Perhaps, but so is Our Lady of Fatima, causing Muslims to believe in her. She said that many souls go to hell because there is “no one to make sacrifice for them” — a direct denial of the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, a denial which is the heart of Catholicism. “Jesus,” too, appeared with her at Fatima as a small child to declare that there could be no peace until the world was dedicated to the Immaculate heart of his mother in reparation for the sins committed against her. This was surely a masquerading demon! Yet every pope in the last 60 years has approved Fatima.
On TBN, Betty Eadie, a Mormon and the author of the occult best-seller Embraced by the Light, said she saw Jesus in heaven and described Him as being like the Star Wars’ “Force.” Both the host and studio audience oohed instead of boohed.
Yes, Jesus in heaven appeared to Stephen and Saul of Tarsus and He could do the same today. It would be interesting, however, to know what this “Jesus” who appears to Muslims looks like. Does he look like TBN’s virtual-reality “Jesus” or the “Jesus” in the Jesus film? Hollywood never dared to portray Jesus face-on. One saw the back of His head or hand in films such as Ben Hur. But now a man who isn’t even a Christian plays the part of God manifest in the flesh! Are those who “come to Christ” through the film coming to the real Jesus, or to the actor who plays His part?
That actor, Brian Deacon, describes himself as a “lapsed Catholic” who hasn’t practiced his faith. “I’ve had many doubts about Jesus’ teaching,” says Deacon. “I’m just an actor. I don’t want the responsibility of being Jesus Christ…. The character of Jesus belongs to everyone and I had to find my own voice and emotions for the role.” What “Jesus” is this who attracts multitudes!
There is a growing ecumenical movement to evangelize the world by the year 2000. One of its leaders, Michael Green, has spoken at such prestigious gatherings as Billy Graham’s International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam in 1983. There Green suggested, “Don’t talk about the new birth, talk about liberation….Identify with and befriend secular society. Become one with them….” Green suggests that Christians “can be taught… about devotion to God by Muslims or Hindus, about detachment from the passions by Buddhists, about the sacredness of nature by animists, and about goodness by atheists…”!
An amazing unity will be achieved under Antichrist. National and International Religion Report noted that Louis Farrakhan at the Million Man March, “spoke of moral and spiritual renewal and his message sounded very much like both Promise Keepers and Pope John Paul II.” Both the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post reported that “Mr. Farrakhan’s message of self-reliance is also strikingly similar to that of the predominantly white Christian conservative Promise Keepers movement. Social scientists who specialize in religious trends see an overlapping that could lead to common ground between the movements at some point.”
An outrageous suggestion? No more outrageous than it seemed only a few years ago to suggest that leading evangelicals would embrace Roman Catholicism as truly Christian — but it happened. Ecumenism will only grow worse. Political and social action for a good cause breaks down doctrinal distinctives and creates a “Jesus” whose mission on earth has been redefined to suit all parties. Even religions which oppose Christ as Savior can embrace Him as the greatest moral leader. Islam has done so, though it is violently anti-Christian.
William J. Bennett, former Secretary of Education, and a leader in the campaign to Catholicize America, has become a hero and popular speaker among evangelicals because of his stand for “traditional values” and especially since writing The Book of Virtues. In his final chapter on “faith” he writes, “There is nothing distinctively Christian…in recognizing that religious faith adds a significant dimension to the moral life….Faith is a source of discipline and power and meaning in… any major religious creed. …What Paul cites as ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ …has its parallels in all the major faiths….” What a diabolical downgrading of Christianity!
A recent “Doonesbury” cartoon has a pastor listing the week’s activities as including a lecture on nutrition, a twelve-step program for drugs and a nine-step program for sex addicts, aerobic male bonding, etc. When a parishioner asks, “Is there a church service?” the pastor replies, “Cancelled. There was a conflict with the self-esteem workshop.” Not too far from the truth in many churches today — but very far from the purpose for which Christ came.
Christ said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk. 5:32). No benefit can accrue from Christ’s coming without acknowledging that one is a sinner and relying upon Christ alone for the remedy. That is the gospel which, though not popular, we must preach. No one can be saved until he realizes he is lost. Hearers and readers must be indicted with their awesome guilt as sinners before God; with the fact that they have lived for self and are thus in rebellion against the God who gave them life and existence. They must be convicted of their need to repent in fear and trembling of the judgment they deserve. Without that repentance, one’s “faith” will inevitably be in a pseudo-Christ whose false mission failed to provide the remedy sinners desperately need now and for eternity.