Wednesday, June 2, 2010

TANSTAAFL

I heard a well known preacher on the radio today who boasted that he has been identified as one who preaches "Easy Believism." According to him, this is a badge of honor since there is no such thing as "Hard Believism." According to him, eternal life is a certainty to everyone who simply believes that he is a sinner and that Jesus Christ can save him from the penalty of his sins.

According to this famous preacher, to suggest that you must also believe that Jesus is Lord or God or must make any commitment to follow Jesus in obedience, is to make the gospel dependent on works rather than faith. According to this preacher, to suggest that people who evidence no change from their previous sinful behaviors might not really be saved is to preach a salvation of works, rather than of faith.

I am certainly not famous, nor have I attained the honors this man has attained, but he is definitely wrong about this. It is not difficult to demonstrate his errors from the Scriptures.

1) Salvation is certainly by God's grace and not through human works.
(Ephesians 2:8–9) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
2) Grace means "free" and God's grace is contrary to human works that would merit salvation for the worker.
(Romans 11:6) And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.
3) Faith is believing and is not at all contrary to works. In fact, the only sure evidence of genuine faith is ACTION that is consistent with the content of what you profess to believe.
(James 2:14) What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
(James 2:17) Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
(James 2:26) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Is there a "Hard Believism?" Consider the words of Jesus.
(Matthew 7:13–14) “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and DIFFICULT is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Jesus warned people to "count the cost" of following Him.
(Luke 14:26–28) “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—
What about the rich young ruler who came to Jesus for eternal life, but went away sorrowfully because Jesus said he needed to get rid of all of his riches and come follow Jesus? (Matthew 19:16-22) Presumably he believed in Jesus' ability to save him, but evidently he was unwilling to pay the price that would have signaled saving faith in Christ. What was Jesus' evaluation of the situation? Hard Believism!
(Matthew 19:23) ¶ Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is HARD for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
The Apostle John makes it clear that a profession of faith in Jesus is a lie if there is no evidence in the life of the person.
(1 John 1:6) If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

The person who has saving faith also has a changed life. The two go together.
(1 John 3:3–6) And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.


So what about "Easy Believism?"
It is true that salvation is a free gift of God's grace. All of the work of salvation was accomplished by Jesus Christ in His sacrificial death on the cross. He has atoned for our sins and He provides us with His righteousness. The gift comes to us free - apart from any merit. We don't deserve it. We could never earn it. We will always be unworthy of it.

The preachers of Easy Believism are sincere in their desire to keep the gospel pure, but they are making a fatal mistake. Easy believism makes "faith" into the one work that brings salvation. They then agonize over what must be included in (or excluded from) the content of that "faith."

As we preach the gospel, we urge people to believe and be saved. But what do we mean by "believe?" We had better mean EVERYTHING the Bible means.

When we are urging people to believe we are urging dead people to be alive.

Salvation is not by works - not even the supposed work of believing. Instead, believing is what happens when a person is regenerated by God. One moment they are dead in treaspasses and sins - the next moment they are spiritually alive and believing in Christ. What does that include? Repenting from sin! Trusting in Jesus! Taking up your cross! Following Jesus! Turning to God! Turning From Idols! Calling on Jesus!
(2 Corinthians 5:17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

3 comments:

Irv Cobb said...

We've been talking about these things around here lately, specifically as they relate to what constitutes an adequate presentation of the gospel. I'm a proponent of a simple gospel - simple enough for my grandkids to understand and believe.

I think it's a tough balance: "easy believism" seems to result in unchanged lives, and "hard believism" seems to require a rather comprehensive theological education prior to salvation. I reject both, but confess to finding it hard to define the middle ground with precision.

Thanks for the words, Dave. Good stuff.

Pastor D said...

I hear what you are saying.

I think Mark Dever's book, "Nine Marks of a Healthy Church" is good on this subject. His chapters on a biblical understanding of conversion and a biblical understanding of evangelism are helpful.

It makes me think of Acts 10, when Peter begins talking to Cornelius and his family. In verse 44 it says, "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word."

I think we begin at the beginning and keep on going with all of the content of the gospel as long as we have an audience. The Holy Spirit falls on them somewhere along the line. I trusted Christ as a four year old - and I didn't know much beyond the fact that I was a sinner and Jesus was the Savior I needed.

The problem is that there IS such a thing as a FALSE profession of faith. The solution is to not take too much for granted when someone (especially a child) makes a profession of faith. Instead, we should keep instructing them in the gospel and not try so hard to make them feel secure in their profession.

If the Holy Spirit has really brought them to new life, they will continue to follow Christ and to count the cost and deal with the difficulties - as they learn more and more about it.

Bobbi said...

I think easy/hard believism is connected to easy/hard evangelism. With my christian peers there is this fine line of "living it out before our unsaved friends" and "speaking out about WHY we live the way we do." I suppose there needs to be a balance of both...but the first (for me) is my cop out for not getting up enough courage. I think that is the hard end of it...we aren't prepared to make it simple to believe/understand (and really we think too much depends on US) and so we either do nothing or often just drown people in deep theology and often legalism. Or get REALLY confused.

It is hard to establish balance in so many areas. I often think, "Well, what did Jesus do?" I mean it's not what WOULD he do...but what DID he do! He is a perfect example.

Yeah, my Dad (a great Godly guy) has always pointed me to God's Word for Truth...*wink, smile*