Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rejection: Easy-Believism

If you've been reading my blog, you will no doubt understand that I do not believe in what has come to be called, “Easy-Believism.” This is a doctrine of salvation (soteriology) that teaches a sinner can get right with God (saved from his or her sin) by giving a mental assent to the doctrines described in the Bible about Jesus. This idea of “Easy-Believism” is also called “Decisionism.” By whatever name it is called, I reject it.

I reject to the core the teaching that salvation can be accomplished by the intellectual acceptance of a few biblical facts about the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and then for the person to go forth living life like everyone else on the planet as though nothing has happened.

I know many people who profess Christ. What I mean is that they call themselves Christians and yet they live like the devil. Their “salvation experience” had no sense of the crushing weight of their own sin, which should cause them cry out, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13) Yet, they point to a time in their past in which they prayed a prayer, walked an altar-call aisle (went forward), or raised their hand in a revival meeting and call themselves Christians though their lives show no evidence of being New Creatures in Christ (Gal. 5:17).

The Gospel of Jesus Christ was not, nor is not, just a call to receive “fire insurance” from the damnation of hell. Rather, it was (is) a call to be saved from the penalty and power of sin. Did you see that last phrase: “...from the power of sin?” Someone who truly is born again, has been brought by the Holy Spirit to faith in the finished work of Christ, is saved not only from the wages of sin, but is saved from the rule, dominion, control, or power of sin in their lives. That is why John wrote in 1 John 2:6:

He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”

In fact, to come to faith and trust in Christ puts the professing believer on alert that if truly a Christian, one cannot have sin in any form reigning in his or her life.

Romans 6:12-14

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. ”

The Romans 6 text shows that when someone comes to faith and trust in Christ, he or she is united in the likeness of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The death Christ died to sin, we in Him also died. The resurrection of Christ from the dead, we in him were raised from being dead in our trespasses and sin SO THAT we might walk in newness of life and not like we did before we were saved.

Someone who is truly a Christian CANNOT live as they did before:

...according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath just as the others. “ (Ephesians 2: 2,3)

Note carefully what this is saying: As a non-Christian, you lived like everyone else did on the planet. You walked according to the dictates of the devil. You were a son or daughter of disobedience. (Living a righteous life was not in your plans.) You lived your life in the lusts of your flesh and sought to satisfy your sinful flesh and mind. Your nature, your very core, was a child of wrath just like all the rest of the world.

That’s the not-so-pretty picture of who and what everyone born in the world is like. And, this is what the “Easy-Believism” crowd thinks you can remain like when you “pray to receive Christ.” “Obedience,” I was once told, “is preferred but is not necessary.”

This is a horrific nightmare that modern-day evangelicalism will accept ANYONE who professes to know Christ and yet has a life that is not any different than those who “walking according to the course of this world, the prince of the power of the air (Satan), and are sons of disobedience.”

This is NOT the gospel. It is false and dangerous.

In the simplest of terms: the gospel call to faith presupposes that sinners must repent of their sin and yield to Christ's authority (John MacArthur)

What does the Bible teach?

The Bible teaches that the Gospel is a call to repentance: Acts 2:38, 17:30, 20:21; 2 Peter 3:9.

The Bible teaches that repentance is a true change of heart and behavior: Luke 3:8, Acts 26:18-20

The Bible teaches that repentance is NOT man's work but all of God's grace: Acts 11:18, 2 Timothy 2:25

The Bible teaches that the faith to believe is also NOT a work of man but instead is a gift from God: Ephesians 2:1-10

The Bible teaches that true faith will never be compromised: Philippians 1:6

(The Easy- Believism crowd believes you can actually stop believing in Christ and still be saved—see 1 John 2:19.)

The Bible teaches that Christ Himself is to be the object of our faith and not facts about Him: “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor. 5: 15)

(Did you catch the point of that verse? The context in which this verse occurs is speaking about being reconciled to God, or in other words, salvation. Those for whom Christ died (God's elect) are not to live for themselves but for Christ who died for them. That is salvation!)

The Bible teaches that if you are Christ's sheep, you will follow Him. (John 10:27, 28) You not only will not live as you did before but if you are one of Christ's sheep (in other words a believer), you will follow Christ.

(Easy-Believism teaching says that giving an assent to the facts of the Gospel is all that's necessary and that no following of Christ is required. I actually heard this once in an evangelism meeting in which the preacher told the crowd that all one had to do to be saved is believe that Christ died on a cross and nothing more would be required of you.)

The Bible teaches that the faith wrought by the Holy Spirit in you to believe unto salvation produces a “New Creation” (2 Cor. 5:17) in the inner person that can do nothing other than bear fruit of repentance.

The Bible teaches very plainly that we can know that we have come to know Christ if we keep His commandments (1 John 2:3). And, if someone who does not obey Christ's commands and claims to be a Christian, that profession is false. In fact, the Bible calls that person a liar (1 John 2:4).

Whoever says, “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,” -1John 2:4 ESV

The Easy-Believism bunch believes most sincerely that obeying Christ's commands is an issue pertaining to a “second-level commitment,” 1 which sounds suspiciously like another gospel to me.

Galatians 1: 8

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”

1 John MacArthur

Martin Luther on "Easy-Believism"

“They think one should not frighten or trouble the people, but rather always preach comfortingly about grace and forgiveness of sins in Christ and under no circumstances use these or similar words.

‘Listen! You want to be a Christian and at the same time remain an adulterer, a whoremonger, a drunken swine, arrogant, covetous, envious, vindictive, malicious, etc!’ Instead they say, ‘Listen! Though you are an adulterer, a whoremonger, a miser, or other kind of sinner, if you but believe, you are saved, and you need not fear the law. Christ has fulfilled it all!’…And it is saying yes and no to the same thing. For there is no Christ that died for sinners who do not, after forgiveness of sins, desist from sins and lead a new life…Now he who does not abstain from sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians: the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry ‘Christ! Christ!’

He must be damned with this, his new Christ…But our Antinomians fail to see that they are preaching Christ without and against the Holy Spirit because they propose to let the people continue in their old ways and still pronounce them saved. And yet logic, too, implies that a Christian should either have the Holy Spirit and lead a new life, or know that he has no Christ.” 1 (Note Luther’s expression “antinomians” here refers to church leaders who use the wonderful teaching of being justified and redeemed by grace through faith as an excuse for them and others to ignore or underemphasise the Biblical teachings on obeying God and living a holy life daily). Luther’s comments above are highly relevant to today.