By Marsha West
I’m addressing a subject about which I have already written a decade ago entitled A Culture of Counterfeit Christians (from herein out CCC). The article begins…
Have you ever run over a dead skunk in the road? I have, during a heat wave. The smell got into my tires and permeated our garage for days! I’ll go out on a limb and say that no one takes pleasure in the highly offensive smell of skunk spray, dead or alive.
My point in bringing this up is that to God the stench of sin is far worse than skunk spray. For an example of just how much the Lord hates sin, grab a cup of coffee and read First and Second Kings. But given our penchant for wanting everything now, here’s a snippet from 1 Kings 16 to illustrate how God dealt with one of Israel’s most ruthless kings:
Since I exalted you out of the dust and made you leader over my people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam and have made my people Israel to sin, provoking me to anger with their sins, behold, I will utterly sweep away Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Anyone belonging to Baasha who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the field the birds of the heavens shall eat. (1 Kings 16:1-4)
God had already destroyed Jeroboam for his flagrant sins, yet Baasha repeated the same mistakes. God rebuked the Israelites for their sinful ways and vowed to punish them. He did not take sin lightly! And yet we twenty-first century Christians are repeating the same sins the pagans committed when Baasha was king.
CCC was updated in 2017. Six years later I’ve decided to do one last update, this time to take a deeper dive into the sin problem in Christendom. I’ll begin with a few questions for readers to mull over: #1 Is it God’s desire for believers to have a biblical foundation? #2 Is it God’s desire for believers to exhibit Christlike behavior? #3 If a professing Christian were to wallow in a mud hole and eat slop with pigs, would God sluff it off and muse “That’s my boy,” or would He get angry?
Admittedly, new converts need to grow in their faith. Newbies need to understand what they believe and why they believe it. Becoming a mature believer is a process. The biblical term is sanctification. God uses this process to make believers holy. The Lord Jesus spoke about this in John 17:17 when he said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” The Lord was talking about separating believers unto God. Most believers don’t become holy overnight. Through reading and studying God’s Word, they’ll grow in their faith and receive divine guidance on how followers of Jesus Christ are to live their lives. The Christian’s primary goal is to become Christlike. Believers who spend time in the Bible will grow in their faith; likewise, they’ll gain knowledge and wisdom (or spiritual discernment which is the ability to recognize truth from error). Got Questions reminds: “Satan has ‘blinded the minds of unbelievers’ (2 Corinthians 4:4), so God must shed light on the human mind to enable us to understand truth. It is impossible to attain wisdom without God. He gives discernment or takes it away (Job 12:19-21).”
The Holy Spirit sanctifies every born again Christian. Anyone who professes a belief in the Lord Jesus but makes a conscious choice to ignore His commands that are expressly laid out in the Bible and stubbornly clings to the sinful ways of the world, might be a false convert.
So, how do we go about evaluating whether someone who claims to be a Christian is truly born again? Think of that individual as a fruit bearing tree. Eventually that tree should bring forth nourishing edible fruit. However, when trees bear no fruit, experienced inspectors who evaluate fruit must check to see what went wrong. Often the thing that becomes apparent is that a tree hasn’t produced fruit because there’s no root system to absorb water and nutrients. If that’s the problem, the tree is dead. It is impossible for a dead tree to sink its roots into the soil where water and nutrients are found. The fact of the matter is that a dead tree cannot produce nourishing edible fruit.
Born again believers are called to become like Christ. “The reign of King Jesus over my heart attitudes expels wrong attitudes,” says Gary Yagel. “Paul explains this part of the Christ-follower’s mission when he said to the church at Ephesus, “You’ve been taught to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Emphasis Yagel’s)
When I wrote CCC a decade ago, my main concern was believers’ fondness for involving themselves in occult practices forbidden by God. Anyone who knowingly disobeys God’s command to “be holy, for I am holy” is sinning. God views sin as a wicked evil act. Those who read/study the Bible will come to understand that God is holy. In fact, the Bible says He is “Holy, holy, holy…” Once the reality of His incomparable holiness sinks in, Christians will realize that all sin is first and foremost against the God they claim to love. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” (Psalm 51:4). When believers recognize that God sees sin as evil, their desire will be to put away all sin and honor their Lord and Master. “Woe is me!” cried Isaiah. “For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). (The holiness of God is covered in CCC under the heading Holy Smokes! So, I won’t restate it here.)
Returning to CCC:
One of my favorite pastimes is discussing (debating, dissecting) the Bible with brothers and sisters in Christ. So, it troubles me when I strike up a conversation with a long time believer who knows very little about the Bible. To have a close relationship with a person we must get to know them. The obvious course of action is to ask probing questions. We’ve got to dig below the surface to uncover the intimate details of his/her life. If we’re not interested in a meaningful relationship, we won’t probe!
Those who sincerely wish to be in relationship with the Father must dig deep into the scriptures, because that’s the one and only place to learn about God and His ways. “What we believe about God,” said A. W. Tozier, “is the most important thing about us.”
What I was hoping readers would come to grips with is that God’s people are not to tolerate sin in their lives, they are to mortify whatever sins they’re committing. Unfortunately, we often discover some number of years after a so-called conversion experience that many who label themselves Evangelicals participate in the worst sort of sins imaginable. In CCC I wrote,
…many professing Christians ignore the fact that one of the gravest sins we commit is sexual sin. Having sexual relations outside of marriage (the biblical understanding of marriage is the union of a man and woman) goes against the clear teaching of Scripture.
To enlighten evangelicals who lacked a clear understanding of the religion they identified with, I included a quote from C. S. Lewis where he directs our attention to the fact that people make decisions based on a set of principles:
Our warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all the contemporary propaganda for lust, combine to make us feel that the desires we are resisting are so ‘natural,’ so ‘healthy,’ and so reasonable, that it is almost perverse and abnormal to resist them. Poster after poster, film after film, novel after novel, associate the idea of sexual indulgence with the ideas of health, normality, youth, frankness, and good humour. Now this association is a lie. Like all powerful lies, it is based on a truth …that sex in itself (apart from the excesses and obsessions that have grown round it) is ‘normal’ and ‘healthy,’ and all the rest of it. The lie consists in the suggestion that any sexual act to which you are tempted at the moment is also healthy and normal. Now this, on any conceivable view, and quite apart from Christianity, leads to impotence, disease, jealousies, lies, concealment, and everything that is the reverse of health, good humour, and frankness. For any happiness, even in this world, quite a lot of restraint is going to be necessary; so the claim made by every desire, when it is strong, to be healthy and reasonable, counts for nothing. Every sane and civilized man must have some set of principles by which he chooses to reject some of his desires and to permit others. One man does this on Christian principles, another on hygienic principles, another on sociological principles. The real conflict is not between Christianity and ‘nature,’ but between Christian principles and other principles in the control of ‘nature,’ for ‘nature’ (in the sense of natural desire) will have to be controlled anyway, unless you are going to ruin your whole life. (Excerpt from Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 5)
Sadly, many self-professed believers could care less if their life choices honor God. Their focus is entirely on what they feel God wants for them which, for a growing number, is to be healthy, prosperous and happy – having whatever pleasures them is their main goal in life. These people aren’t Spirit controlled; they’re lust controlled. I could go on, but let’s cut to the chase. The “Christians” I just described are false converts. They are ships without a rudder to guide the way, drowning in a sea of worthless idols. They may have a form of religion, however the religion they identify with is not authentic Christianity — and there’s no desire to identify with historic, orthodox biblical Christianity. Why? Because their hearts are darkened. Man-made, man-centered religion is counterfeit! A witch’s brew conjured up in man’s fertile imagination.
After quoting Lewis, I presented the following scriptures:
Our Lord spoke plainly when He said, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” John 12:26 And, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15 Jesus wasn’t just addressing the apostles; what He stated was meant for all those who have placed their faith in Him!
Jesus also gave this warning: I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit (John 15:1-2).
For clarification, Jesus Christ is the vine and the fruitful branches are the Christians who, through a personal relationship with Him, will bear much fruit. The unfruitful branches are the people who make a superficial commitment and bear little or no fruit.
The Father prunes the vine and discards fruitless branches. Those who professes Christ and behave like heathens may find themselves lopped off the vine – and not because God is mean and intolerant. On the contrary. God is long suffering, not willing that any should perish.
I’ll leave you with a warning from R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God that held up a mirror to this unrepentant sinner. The Holy Spirit used Dr. Sproul’s book to reveal the odiousness of my sins, sins against a holy God and the necessity for repentance.
Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself.
Let those words sink in.