1. Easy Christianity
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it" (Matthew 7:13,14).
There is a Christianity abroad, supposedly evangelical and fundamental, dedicated to making itself easy enough and popular enough for even half-hearted and jaded modern church-goers. True to its mission, it has developed a whole series of teachings which are consistent only in their common effect of smoothing off the rough edges and right angles of genuine Christianity. These new doctrines are very popular and widely accepted. Why shouldn't they be? They cater to the natural aversion of men to self-denial and especially to the modern worship of pleasure.
Only these deep-rooted tendencies can explain the delusion that such Christianity is authentic. Jesus himself warned against it by telling us that genuine Christianity would be difficult and unpopular ("small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it"-- Matthew. 7:14), whereas its counterfeit would be easy, popular, and damning ("wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it"-- Matthew 7:13). Is your Christianity authentic? Or, is it easy, popular, and damning?
2. Suspicious Inconsistency
One of the suspicious qualities of today's "Easy Christianity" is its inconsistency. For instance, "Easy Christianity" teaches that staying saved is all up to God. Christians will be saved irrespective of how they live. That's what "Easy Christianity" means by "Eternal Security." But when it comes to getting saved, that's another story. Getting saved, so "Easy Christianity" says, is all up to us. That is where we must make our decision for Christ. It's all up to our free will.
Quite obviously, this approach to salvation is hopelessly inconsistent except at one point. It is consistent in that it makes Christianity easy. People want a salvation they can get easily and keep even more easily. "Easy Christianity" accommodates them by illogically teaching "Eternal Security" and "Salvation by Decision."
Have you ever wondered why, if people can decide by their own free wills to get saved, they can't decide by their own free wills not to stay saved? If their free will can get them in, why can't it get them out?
The Bible truth is that "Easy Christianity" is wrong about both getting saved and staying saved, since both are all up to God and His sovereign grace, though both involve the intense activity of our hearts, minds, and wills. The Lord Jesus struck this balance on the matter of getting saved. "All that the Father gives me shall come to me; and the one who comes to me I will certainly not cast out" (John 6:37). The balance is perfect. It is because the Father gives that men come, but nonetheless they must and do come. The Word of God carries this balance into the matter of staying saved when Paul says, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12,13). We must work, but it is because God works in us the will and the work!
This balance is critical for avoiding an "Easy Christianity" while maintaining an authentic Christianity.
3. Cast Your Ballot!
"God has voted for you. Satan has voted against you. You must cast the deciding ballot." By teaching this, many Evangelicals encourage people to believe that "getting saved" is simply a matter of making their decision for Christ by their own free wills. Such teaching is imbalanced and harmful!
What is wrong about teaching that "getting saved" is all up to our free wills?
It is wrong because it encourages proud self-sufficiency in the sinner. Everything is made to depend on his crucial decision for Christ, made by his unassisted free will. How flattering and inflating to his opinion of himself! This is precisely the opposite of the attitudes required in response to the gospel! The Bible's evaluation of the sinner is not so flattering! Jesus asserted, "No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44). Paul tells the Ephesians that before sovereign grace they "were dead in their trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). Dead men do not decide for Christ! Such Biblical teaching is important, because there is hope in Christ only for those who find no hope in themselves.
It is in error also because it lowers the demands of the gospel and obscures the difficulty of true conversion. By making conversion at the crucial point dependent on unaided free will, this teaching encourages men to think that it is something they are able to do. Biblical faith and repentance are lowered to a decision for Christ because the demands of faith and repentance are more than free will can meet. The truth is that only God by mighty grace can enable men to believe and repent (Acts 5:31; 2 Timothy 2:25).
Do not rest satisfied and deceived by a decision for Christ that falls short of the faith and repentance bestowed by the free grace of God!
4. Easy Believism
"Easy-believism" is one of "Easy Christianity's" popular teachings. Like other false teachings "Easy-believism" is a perversion of truth. The Bible teaches--as Martin Luther and the Reformation proclaimed--that we are made right with God by faith in Christ alone. We grant that salvation is by faith alone. The question is easy-faith or biblical faith!
Biblical faith demands and produces costly and radical changes in one's life. Its essence is supreme commitment to Christ. "Anyone who loves his father or mother more that me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37,38). Its Siamese twin is repentance. "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance... The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 3:8,10). Its distinctive mark is that it produces good works. "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead" (James 2:26). "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" (Galatians 5:6).
If you've been told that you can have Christ as Savior without having Him as Lord; if you've been told that salvation is as easy as ABC; if you were assured that a momentary decision would save your soul, you've been taught "Easy-believism". If you think that such believing will save you, you are deceived!
5. Free From the Law
This phrase from a popular gospel song epitomizes another teaching of "Easy Christianity." The song has been caricatured as follows: "Free from the Law! O happy condition! Sin all I want and still be forgiven." Sadly, being free from the law means exactly this in "Easy Christianity."
But aren't Christians free from the law? Of course! They are free from the judicial and ceremonial law given to Israel. They are free from the moral law as the way to merit salvation. Thus, Scripture says, "you are not under law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14). But Christians are under the moral law as revealed in the Ten Commandments as a rule of life. In other words, they keep the law as the authoritative instructions of their Savior for living.
The New Testament demands such law-keeping! "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts" (1 Corinthians 7:19). "Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law" (Romans 3:31). "So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good" (Romans 7:12).
"Easy Christianity" offers freedom from the law, but such freedom is slavery to sin! The genuine Christian says, "I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts" (Psalm 119:45).
6. Eternal Security
Modern "Easy Christianity" - dedicated to effortless and carefree religion- has invented the doctrine of eternal security or "once saved-always saved." With such insurance one who has boarded the "train bound for glory," may relax and go to sleep. Having made his deposit in the bank of salvation, he may spend the rest of his money as he likes.
This is false doctrine! The Word of God nowhere teaches that once a man is born again he may give free rein to the lusts of the flesh and be as worldly as he pleases, yet still be sure of getting to heaven. Rather, it teaches, "If you live according to the flesh, you will die" (Romans 8:13). "If anyone does not remain in me," Jesus said, "He is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned" (John 15:6). The Apostle Peter remarks, "It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to have known it and then to turn their backs...of them the proverbs are true `A dog returns to its vomit,' and, `A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud'" (2 Peter 2:22,23).
Is there no assurance for the Christian that he will make it to glory? Of course there is! But it is found in the Reformation doctrine of the "Perseverance of the Saints." Scripture teaches that all those who are once saved persevere in holiness and are finally saved. This is great comfort for the true Christian, but none to the one who wants carefree Christianity.
If your hope is in a decision or experience long past, but not followed to the present by a new life, your soul is not safe! Do not let such false assurance destroy you!
7. Carnal Christians?
The "Carnal Christian Theory" is another of the teachings of "Easy Christianity" designed to take the pressure off the average church-goer.. The "great" thing about this teaching is that it also takes pressure off the teachers of "Easy Christianity." Time was that if "converts" went on in or went back to their ungodly lifestyles, they were labeled hypocrites or apostates. Now they are called "Carnal Christians." This looks much better for the evangelists' statistics and avoids painful evaluation of his message and methods.
What is the "Carnal Christian Theory"? Let its advocated explain! "After you have invited Christ to come into your life, it is possible for you to take control of your life again. The New Testament, 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:3, identifies three kinds of people... These three kinds of people are "the natural man", "the carnal man", and "the spiritual man". The carnal man is the "Christian who has invited Christ into his life," but "is not trusting God" and in rebellion against the lordship of Christ has "taken control of his life again." This is the theory as it is taught in the notes of a popular study Bible and the tracts of a well-known evangelistic organization. Many regard themselves as Christians because of it who are nevertheless under the wrath of God. Like false prophets its teachers cry, "Peace, peace; where there is no peace" (Jeremiah. 6:14 and 8:11).
Don't you be deceived by them! Examine the Scriptures. The entire New Testament testifies against this theory. Read Romans 8:1-17, Ephesians 5:3-7, Galatians 5:19-26. Galatians. 5:24 epitomizes their teaching, "Those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." If your sinful nature has not been crucified by the grace of Christ, you are not a carnal Christian. You are no Christian and need to become one.
The idea that a man may have Christ in his life but not on the throne of his life is the heart of the "Carnal Christian Theory." We noticed already that this dangerous doctrine is contradicted by the entire New Testament. What about 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, its supposed proof-text, does it teach this theory?
The Apostle Paul was not only divinely inspired, but also perfectly sane--not given to contradicting himself in the space of a few lines. In the same letter he made perfectly clear what he would have said about this modern theory. "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral not idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
All Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 is that Christians can and do sometimes in some areas of their lives act like unconverted, worldly men. "Are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? for when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos, " are you not mere men?" (1 Corinthians 3:3,4).
It is one thing in some areas at some times to act like unconverted men, it is something else to be a carnal man as to the dominant characteristic of one's life. Of such the Bible says, "their place will be the fiery lake of burning sulfur" (Revelation 21:8). May God deliver you from going to the place where all "Carnal Christians" will go!
8. Health and Wealth!
A recent development in "Easy Christianity" is its gospel of health and wealth. This gospel teaches that because God loves His children it is not His will that they be poor or sick. All Christians could be healthy and wealthy if only they knew that God wanted them to be and had the faith to claim His promises! Some actually think that a luxurious home complete with swimming pool will be theirs, if only they believe in God for it. Others are certain that terminally ill loved ones will get well, if it is claimed by faith.
Of course, false doctrine is often truth taken at an extreme. There is an element of truth in the gospel of health and wealth. It is true that God may make us healthy and wealthy in answer to our prayers! It is also true that godly living does have a general tendency to produce both healthy bodies and prosperity. Scripture warns against many sins that undermine health including the intemperate use of food, alcohol, and tobacco. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians. 5:22). One who has been a Christian from youth often looks remarkably younger than his classmates at the 25-year reunion!
Scripture also teaches diligence and the avoidance of folly and excess in the use of money. Such qualities tend to produce prosperity. "Diligent hands bring wealth" (Proverbs 10:4).
Health and wealth are good. They are produced by godly living. This is taught by the Word of God. The gospel of health and wealth is not. It has nothing to do with the gospel of Christ who warned men to count the cost before taking up their cross to follow Him (Luke 14:25-33). It contradicts the plainest realities of the Word of God
There is persecution. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:10). Persecution often ruins both the health and the wealth of the righteousness.
There is the sin that remains in every Christian. Wealth and health may not be in our best interest! Are we more holy that the Apostle Paul? "To keep me from becoming conceited...there was given me a thorn in my flesh...to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
There is the fact that all Christians die. How foolish to think that all Christians have died because none have ever had enough faith to escape death! No, it is God's will that Christians die. But if this, the ultimate evil, is God's will, then poverty and sickness may also be.
Ultimately, the problem with "Easy Christianity's" gospel of health and wealth is a matter of timing. After Christ's return, God does will perfect health and unimaginable wealth for his sinless people. When, however, such blessings are taught as present blessings for the Christian, the results can be cruel! Such teaching raises false hopes. When such hopes are smashed, such teaching adds to the burden of sickness and poverty -the false guilt of being told that only their wicked unbelief stands between them and healing or riches. May God deliver you from the cruelty of this false teaching of modern "Easy Christianity."
9. Prophecy and the Tribulation
Another characteristic of the "Easy Christianity" is its fascination with prophecy. Other important topics may not draw the crowds, but prophecy will pack the house! The fact is, the popular, prophetic scheme panders to the carnal itch of many so-called Christians. Some who believe this scheme are serious Christians, but the scheme itself is made to order for "Easy Christianity."
This is the case because this scheme teaches that Christians won't go through "The Tribulation." The Bible teaches that just before the end of this age a short period of heightened wickedness, violence, and persecution will occur before Christ returns to rescue his people. This period is often called "The Tribulation." From the earliest period of church history till the middle of the last century every Christian teacher taught that the church would go through "The Tribulation." This did not surprise the church since it had known all along that "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).
Such a prospect, however, was totally unacceptable to the followers of "Easy Christianity." Thus, the teaching became popular that Christ would secretly come before "The Tribulation" to take the church out of the world. Thus "comforted", such "Christians" were freed to indulge their curiosity about prophecy secure in the knowledge that it would all happen after they were gone. Such curiosity was worse than useless, of course, since it could by definition have no personal application.
Amazingly, this teaching became popular despite the fact that the Bible never asserts it and, in fact, teaches the opposite in the clearest language (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; 2:1-12; Matthew 24:29-51; Luke 17:22-37). Oh, the power of the heart to deceive itself! Do you have the kind of Christianity that can enter the kingdom through many tribulations? Only such Christianity will save you!
10. Prophecy and the Judgment
Many followers of "Easy Christianity" love to study prophecy. But biblical prophecy has an annoying habit of returning again and again to the subject of the coming judgment. The words, "every man will be rewarded according to his deeds," are often repeated in the Bible. For the uneasy consciences of many church-goers such reminders spoil all the fun! To the rescue comes the popular, prophetic scheme taught in the notes of a well-known study Bible. It teaches that there is a program of many judgments, not just one. What a relief this theory is to such church-goers! It enables them to distract their consciences from the great reality of judgment by studying the number and the placement of these judgments in the prophetic scheme. Better yet, this theory assures them that their deeds will not be the standard by which their eternal destinies in heaven or hell will be determined. Oh, no! If they have once made their "decision for Christ," they will go to a judgment reserved only for Christians. Their deeds will only determine how big their bag of rewards will be. If they are content with a modest palace in the New Jerusalem, they need not worry about a holy life or good works.
Such teaching obscures and perverts the Biblical teaching on judgment and endangers the souls of men! We are judged by our deeds, because our deeds show our characters! One whose deeds and character are bad has never become a Christian! Jesus said, "Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree rotten, and its fruit rotten; for the tree is known by its fruit...And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned" (Matthew 12:33-37). There is one judgment at which our deeds will determine whether we are authentic Christians and whether our destinies will be heaven or hell (Matthew. 25:31-46; Acts 17:31; John 5:28,29; Romans 2:7-10; 2 Peter 3:3-13).
11. Judge Not!
We are the tolerant society. Nothing much angers us any more. Nothing, that is, except someone who is not as tolerant as we are! We can tolerate anything except the person who won't tolerate anything! No wonder our favorite Bible verse is Matthew 7:1, "Judge not that ye be not judged."
The new "unpardonable sin" is "judging." What a blessing this "new commandment" is to "Easy Christianity." Hypocrites can flaunt their violations of the Word of God and yet parade unchallenged as Christians. No one dares call them hypocrites for ("Oh, Horrors!") that would be "judging them."
Tell anyone nowadays that he or someone else is doing wrong and you will be immediately rebuked, "Don't Judge!" Is such a use of this verse proper? It clearly is not.
It can't mean that we must give up all spiritual discernment in order to be "loving Christians." Five verses later Jesus says, "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine" (Matthew 7:6). This command assumes the exercise of spiritual discernment. A few verses later Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets...You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:15,16,20). Again Jesus demands spiritual discernment. In Jesus' view it is not "judging" to conclude that someone is a false prophet.
Is it, perhaps, our duty to keep such discerning conclusions to ourselves in order to avoid "judging"? Emphatically not! Matthew 7:1 does not teach that it is sinful to confront and, if necessary, publicly expose evil. If this were so, how could Jesus say, "And if you brother sins, go and reprove him...?" How could Jesus go on to say, "And if he refuses to listen...tell it to the church"? (Matthew 18:15,17). How could Jesus' apostle, Paul, say, "Do you not judge those who are within the church?...Remove the wicked man from among yourselves" (1 Corinthians 5:12,13).
Matthew 7:1 does not forbid us either to form or express our opinions about such hypocrites. Jesus expressed such an opinion in this very passage. In Matthew 7:5 He said, "You hypocrite." John the Baptist expressed his opinion of the Pharisees publicly to their faces, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matthew 3:7). We must do the same. Jesus in this very chapter (Matthew 7:15,16,20) commanded, "Beware of false prophets...you will know them by their fruits."
It's time for Christians to stop being bound by such false interpretation and to start dealing with sin. "Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive with them" (Proverbs 28:4)
So what does Matthew 7:1 mean? In this context, Jesus is forbidding forming or expressing conclusions about others by those who won't see or deal with their own sins. Matthew 7:3-5 says, "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?...You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to take the speck out of your brother's eye."
If, on the basis of Matthew 7:1, you refuse to form and express (when necessary) moral opinions, you are confessing your refusal to see and deal with your own sins. The refusal to exercise moral discernment is a confession of moral bankruptcy! May God embolden you to stop tolerating sin in yourself and others, to your hurt and to theirs!
© 1996. Samuel Waldron, Reformed Baptist Church, Grand Rapids, MI USA