Theological reflection is helpful for any Christian. And if that sounds daunting, what I simply mean is listening to what we say and do from the perspective of what the Bible says.
So I think I might have discovered a Salvation Army heresy, probably actually a 21stC church heresy in general, but I think we might be guilty of it, so no harm in personalising it. The iron is that it is the issue we condemned in other people before we talked ourselves into believing this heresy.
What is it? It is a “Jesus-loves-you, hates-the-sin-not-the-sinner, come-to-Jesus-and-he’ll-bless-your-life” gospel. I’ve been thinking about it. (‘Here we go!’, I hear you think!)
When we lost the guts to comunicate a gospel of repentance, redemption and avoidance of Hell, we had to start communicating something different, and so we went down the “Jesus – life enhancer” road instead of “Jesus-redeemer” road. The gospel de-generated into a “Jesus will give you peace joy love happiness and fulfilment.” So whats wrong with that, I hear you say.
Well, the church today records many decisions for Christ. One particular denomination, one year, recorded 294,000 decisions for Christ BUT they could only find 14,000 in fellowship, connected to the body. Why? Because they’ve heard a slick preacher say that they can have joy peace love happiness fulfilment and so they give it a try, but all they got was persecution, hardship, pain and disillusionment because Jesus simply didn’t promise that life would be a bed of roses. Love joy peace etc of course are legitimate benefits of salvation, but someone needs to be prepared of the reality of the Christian life.
What does the bible say about conversion? Psalm 19:7 says that “the Law of the Lord is perfect for converting the soul.” Thats an interesting statement. It suggests that God’s law has to function in the trauma of conversion. So, do we just preach “Jesus died for you”? No thats doesn’t help. How?
Let me try and explain…I am in the supermarket car park and a driver is coming towards me…he shouldn’t be coming towards me because the arrows on the floor are actually pointing the way I am going and there is a ‘No entry’ sign at the other side of the road. He doesn’t see any of that, so I roll down my window and say (in love) “you are going the wrong way you silly moo.” Thing is, he is looking at me wondering why I am shouting at him for going the wrong way when he is sure that it is actually me that is going the wrong way.
So, we get out our cars, go and have a look at the road signs together, in love. I point out to him that according to the law of Waitrose, he is driving his car in the wrong direction because he is driving against the arrows and in contravention of the ‘no entry’ sign. He realises what a silly fool he actually has been and lets me past, by which time I would probably been quicker showing love and compassion by letting him past in the first place, leaving him in his ignorance anyway. But, he drives off happy because now that he understands, he doesn’t have to be upset about the wrath of the Salvation Army Captain in Waitrose car park now because he understood the wrath and though the very person who was angry with him, he has found out how to appease the anger by turning round and going my way.
That is a simplistic example, probably has a few holes in it, but you know what I mean. If we preach that “Christ died for your sins” when they don’t think they are sinful, they the cross will be foolishness because the cross IS foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18). If through our evangelism we can open people up to divine law, showing them how they have broken it, then they will become, as James says, “convinced of the law as a transgressor” (Jas 2:9). The good news of forgiveness will be good news because he has an understanding of what he needs forgiven for.
Now, with those few thoughts in mind by way of introduction, let’s now look at Romans 3:19. We’ll look at some of the functions of God’s law for humanity. Romans 3, verse 19: “Now we know that whatsoever things the law says, it says to them who are under the law that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God.” So one function of God’s law is to stop the mouth. To stop sinners justifying themselves and saying, “There’s plenty of people worse than me. I’m not a bad person. Really.” No, the law stops the mouth of justification and leaves the whole world, not just the Jews, but the whole world guilty before God.
Romans 3:20: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” So God’s law tells us what sin is.
1 John 3:4 says, “Sin is transgression of the law.”
Romans 7: 7 – “What shall we say then?” says Paul. “Is the law sin? God forbid! No, I had not known sin but by the law.” Paul says, “I didn’t know what sin was until the law told me.”
In Galatians 3:24, “Wherefore, the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” God’s law acts as a schoolmaster to bring us to Jesus Christ that we might be justified through faith in His blood. The law doesn’t help us; it just leaves us helpless. It doesn’t justify us; it just leaves us guilty before the judgment bar of a holy God.
Perhaps the reason that the church has a big fall out rate is not so much about finding nice worship services, top notch worship and all the rest…perhaps it is simply because they never fully experience true faith by repentance because they have tried Christianity as a experiment, to see how good the ‘high’ is…to go for the ride.
When people are under conviction from God’s law, they need to know it. The law of the Lord has to convict the heart. Then…they can be under grace…that is where amazing grace comes in. Grace isn’t a good evangelistic tool….because it only makes sense when the need for grace is clear.
Well, I’ll probably have to write more on that….feel free to comment.
yours in Jesus
2 thoughts on “Salvation Army heresy?”
SOME CLARIFICATIONS:1) Of course, athenticity is something that many people do look for when they come to church, that is key and one of the reasons why people are perhaps in church. However, surely authentic Christianity is one which is more fully appreciative of what authentic redemptive commnunity is.2)Jesus never actually told any sinner that he loved them. In the case of many of the people, such as Zacheus, the Rich young ruler, the woman caught in adultery (interestingly, everyone who he confronts who has broken one of the commandments, the divine law) every time he gently shows them how they have sinned and invites them to change.3) Is it right to condemn people? The truth is that we don’t condemn people because they are condemned already. We point that truth out and explain the way out.4) Is this not all too serious, heavy, fire and brimstone? No, are urged to be sensitive and make the most of every opportunity etc…there is a very in Peter about it…the Good News is Good News. We can communicate this just as positively as we can communicate the “comfort gospel.” We are actually doing people a favour by being honest about the real content of the gospel avoiding immunising people from it.
Interesting!!!See your e-mail for some of my initial thought!CSM