At Grace Family Bible Church’s (Tulsa, OK) 2012 Discernment Conference, Paul Washer of HeartCry Missionary Society discussed American Evangelicalism and the need to understand the gospel by understanding the attributes of God. Paul says,
There is so much wrong with American Evangelicalism.
When we study the Bible, we need to take our interpretation and compare it to 2,000 years of Christianity. We live in an age that is cut off from history. We are following a path that many have gone down and failed.
We hate history because it proves that we are wrong. We love our sin too much, so we do not learn from history. Not studying church history is one of the greatest things lacking in today’s Christianity.
Today’s churches are like tiny islands that do not know how they fit within the big picture. We just compare ourselves to ourselves and our contemporaries. It is not wise. As Ecclesiastes says, there is nothing new under the sun.
So when we interpret the Bible, we need to look at church history and ask ourselves, “Who historically has had the closest relationship with God? Who has had the best understanding? Who has had the highest intellect?” And we need to compare ourselves to them and see if we’re headed in a different direction.
Too Little Education, Too Much Personality
If a cruise ship has a gaping hole taking on hundreds of gallons of water per second, you must leave the shuffleboard game and go fix the hole. What is our gaping hole?
Everything is personality driven.
Where is the church history? Where is the Scripture?
For a democracy to function, the people must be thinkers. They must be educated not merely in thought or individual areas of science. In order to have a good democracy, people must have a comprehensive worldview that can follow rational thought. Without education, then the people who are the most eloquent, the most popular, and willing to give the carnal masses what they desire will be in control.
We are a people of microwaves and instant everything. We are no longer people hardened by two world wars. We are not driven by character, thought, virtue, or intelligence. And this dumbing down of America and the church leaves room for demagagoues to rule without any context to church history.
So the masses are driven by desires. They like churches that give them what they want. We have become superficial. And this is why so many superficial men have risen to the top of the Church of the West. The West is dying, and you are dying with it.
Judgment is not coming to the West. It has come, and it is here.
Without grace, man hates God.
Romans 1:18-20, 29
(18) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (19) For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (20) For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[a] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
When we look at man apart from a work of grace in his life, he is a hater of truth and a hater of God. Atheists are merely suppressing the idea of God. Man hates God because man is not good.
A Mafioso has nothing against a corrupt judge, but he will seek to have a just judge assassinated.
God’s judgment is here.
Today when we look at society and see the many evils, we think that God’s judgment will fall because of them. But God’s judgment doesn’t fall because of these evils. Rather God’s judgment has fallen consequently birthed these abominations. The evidence that God has turned us over to be governed by our own desires is that the abominations exist.
You can seek to change this with all your might, but it will be in vain until the Western man repents and turns his life back to be centered on Christ and His gospel. We can eliminate maladies in culture, but it will not save culture.
Now compare this concept to modern Evangelical preaching, which is often about getting the things you want and fulfilling all your carnal wicked desires in the name of Jesus. It is Shamanism cloaked in superficial Christianity. It lacks submission and love for God.
The judgment and hammer of God will fall hardest upon pastors because to whom much is given much is required.
(8) But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. (9) As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
Paul’s repetition with two back-to-back statements emphasizes the importance of this.
Understand the attributes of God, and you understand the gospel.
The gospel is essential in justification and sanctification. But in order to understand what the gospel is, we must first understand who God is.
We are a people who are ignorant of God. Even seminary-trained pastors often spend only a few weeks studying God’s attributes. And this shows in how many Evangelical preachers teach. We have a problem if the gospel begins with God, but we cannot explain who God is.
Do not pray to have the largest church in the metroplex. Pray that God will show His glory to you that you might correctly show it to others.
God is just yet justifies the wicked.
God forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin but will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. On the one side God says that He is forgiving, and on the the other side, He says that everyone will be punished.
Proverbs 17:15 tells us that he who justifies the wicked is an abomination to God, but God justifies the sinner. This is the heart of the gospel, and if this is not understood, the gospel is not understood (at least very well).
Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
Corrupt judges exist in every culture that cover up people’s wrongs, but now we say that God covers sins? In dealing with the character of God and His actions towards men, the great problem is how can God be just and the justifier of wicked men?
Other eras of Christians that were more prone to thinking would get hung up on this. Our generation’s Christians have been so influenced by culture that they are no longer thinking. Instead of answering tough questions, we adapt preaching to fit a TV show length and format. Learn to go against culture and train people to be able to sit in a 2 hour sermon, take notes, and rejoice!
The Puritans’ genius was that they decided to live only by the Bible and judge their life by that. The way we talk, the way we walk, the way we dress is a reflection of our culture. Throw that away for God’s standard.
So how can a just God justify sinners?
God is just. He cannot deny who He is. So before He can demonstrate grace and mercy to the sinner, He must satisfy the demands of His own justice by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.
2 Corinthians 5:21
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This is a text that is very difficult and very dangerous. You don’t want to say too much or say too little. If it wasn’t found in Scripture, you could almost call it blasphemy.
The moment that someone believes in Christ, it is legal or forensic evidence that that person is right with Christ. And when God declares someone right with Him then He treats as though you are right with Him.
We need people who can open up their mouths and tell people about God and not just spout Christian clichés. Answer the questions that fill men with fire. Answer the questions that thinking men agonize over.
Jesus is sinless.
Jesus knew no sin. It had nothing to do with Him. It has everything to do with you and me.
The greatest sin is breaking the greatest commandment to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. There has never been one moment in your life that you have loved the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. But there was never a moment in the life of Jesus that He did not love the Lord with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Jesus did in every moment of His life what we can never do in just a fraction of a life’s moment.
We fall at small temptations, but Christ withstood those temptations and greater temptations until the weight of the world’s temptations were on His shoulders – and He stood strong. In fact, Jesus grew in stature and wisdom.
So what does it mean that Jesus was made sin?
Even on the cross, Jesus Christ was the spotless lamb. But our sin was imputed to Him while He was there, and He was legally responsible for our sin, and God treated Him that way.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
We were under a curse and without hope separated from God without Christ. Those whose hearts have been changed are as a dead rotting corpse at the bottom of a pool of it own excrement that is then pulled up, resurrected, and rescued by Jesus Christ.
Our sins are paid for not because of what the Romans did to Jesus. Our sins are paid for because of what God did to the Son of Man. On the cross, Christ was treated as the covenant breaker so that you and I, the covenant breakers, can come back to God.
You can only be blessed because you were cursed. And the superficiality of that word (blessed) today is astonishing.
How can one man suffer for a few hours to pay the multitude of everyone who has ever lived?
Because that man is worth more than all of them put together.
Where comes true fire?
From a conference where the fire of zeal dies away within a few days? No. True fire comes from the revelation of Christ.
You do not have to be a flagrant, wild teacher to be a heretic. Just deviate from Christ.
Know what Christ died for. Know what He was raised for.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not merely that He died for sins. He really died. He really was buried. He really was raised.
Why is the resurrection important?
(3) concerning his Son, who was descended from David[a] according to the flesh (4) and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
The resurrection is important because it was the public proclamation from God that Jesus is His son. Romans 12 proves that Christ’s death was accepted for justification.
(30) The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, (31) because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Christ was raised for Him to be judge. He was fully God. He was fully man. It is a man that is seated at Christ’s right hand. It is a man that intercedes. And it is a man that understands all the ways of mankind.
(9) “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. (10) A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.
Just like Joseph was taken out of the dungeon and placed at the right hand of Pharaoh where all he said would be, Jesus was raised from the dead and seated at God’s right hand where everything that He says simply is.
The superficiality of the sinner’s prayer may be the greatest heresy of all.
Romans 10 says we call upon the Lord and we shall be saved. The key is the heart attitude and not the words spoken. Many believe they are saved because of the words they prayed, but Scripture warns that many think they are saved when they are not.
Only the Spirit of God can affirm salvation. Just because someone says they said a sinner’s prayer, does not mean they are saved.
The Christian life is not a life of perfection except the perfection of Christ. The evidence of justification is sanctification. Salvation is only by faith, but the doctrine of regeneration is that we are new creatures with a promise of His providence that enables us to grow. And we shall be known by our fruit.
The lifestyles of “Christians” are the greatest argument by other religions against Christianity.
(13) “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. (14) For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Few find it. Some scholars think that only 2%-5% of our nation truly know Christ.
Do not have a superficial view of the gospel and power of salvation. Salvation is only by grace. And salvation always yields fruit at some pace.