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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Carnal Christianity Part I
False Converts.
I can't see the difference,... can you?Test question #1: Jesus, by his own testimony, came to call sinners to <fill in the blank>. (hint: see Luke 5:32).

Background: Scripture teaches that no one can come to Christ unless God the father draws him (c.f. John 6:44), and that God grants repentance (c.f. 2 Timothy 2:25) in order that they might "come to the truth" - that is, God grants repentance in order to lead men to eternal life (c.f. Acts 11:18) through the gospel; a message that Paul described as repentance towards God and faith towards Jesus Christ.

In Jeremiah 13:23 the question is rhetorically asked, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?" and the presumed answer is no. It is referring of course to ones ability to start doing good when one is accustomed to doing evil - that is, it is referring to repentance.

When scripture asks whether a man can repent when that same man is accustomed to doing evil, the answer given is "No, he cannot." Yet doesn't God command all men everywhere to repent?

These two ideas only seem to be at odds with each other when we imagine that God expects us to repent all by ourselves. If we begin with that premise, we will either say that a leopard -can- (in his own strength) change his spots, or we must conclude that God doesn't really command us to repent - but either way - we have to drop one if we are going to be intellectually consistent.

The proper understanding however drops neither - we cannot change our spots (repent) yet we are commanded to do so. This was well understood by Augustine of Hippo who prayed that God would give what He commanded and command whatever He would. Recall that Pelagius took exception to that prayer, feeling as he did (and this is of course a rank heresy that we call Pelagianism) that the human race did not suffer any corruption on account of Adam's sin and that men therefore were perfectly able to choose to do good without divine assistance. The orthodox understanding is that God -does- command us to do what we are not able to do apart from Him.

What do the scriptures say? They tell us that the purpose of the law was not to justify us, but to condemn us so that we would understand our "less than good" estate, and see ourselves as sinners in need of salvation - that is, in need of a Savior.

Now granted this is all Christianity 101 - I mean this isn't meant to be meat, but colostrum (mother's milk) - the first milk, the very beginning truths. I go over them only because I am inclined towards thoroughness.

Which bring us back to the point at hand - unbelievers are indeed commanded to repent and believe (turn to God), but they have no power in their unregenerate state to do either. That is why scripture makes it plain that God grants both the faith that saves, and the repentance that opens the way to that faith.

Why is it important (in the context of carnal Christianity) for us to understand that:
- God commands us to both repent and believe, and
- That we have no power in ourselves to repent, and
- That we have no power in ourselves to believe, and
- That no one comes to Christ whom God does not draw to Christ
- That God grants repentance to the one he draws to Christ, and
- That God gives grace through faith to the one whom He draws to Christ?


It is important because when we start tossing around labels such as "Carnal Christian" we want to define them up front.

The first case I want to talk about isn't a Christian at all - but is a deceived false convert. They think they are a Christian, but they have no oil in their lamp. They received a false or incomplete gospel, were not converted by it, but because they give intellectual consent to it, they imagine themselves to be Christians - as though one could enter the kingdom just because they agreed with the facts. They are absolutely sincere, and in the strength of their own will and delusion, they set about trying to be like Christ as best they can - they may or may not attend church, read the bible, and pray regularly. They are tares, and the whole point of the tare is that it looks like a genuine stalk of wheat.

The most common false convert is the one who came to Christ intellectually, without turning from their sin. They no doubt arrive at this persuasion because they have been told that all one must do in order to be saved is acknowledge certain facts as being true:
- That they are sinners,
- that sinners are condemned because of their sin,
- that Jesus is the son of God,
- that Jesus died to save sinners,
- that God raised Christ from the dead, and
- that God promised to save all who come to Christ.


We want to be ABSOLUTELY clear on this point. That --is-- enough information to bring a person into a saving relationship with Christ.

The trouble is, given this information the prospect is then encouraged to pray a prayer that more or less says, "I am a sinner, please save me Jesus" and the moment they do they are slapped on the back, gripped in a firm handshake and told, "Welcome to the fold brother - you are a Christian!"

To be sure, SOME will say the prayer with their mouths while in their hearts there come a moment of absolute surrender to Christ - in the very moment of time that they agree within themselves that they are no longer the lord of their own life, but that Christ -IS- their rightful Lord, and that they are going to obey Him even if they go to hell at the end of it all - in that moment God's Spirit produces saving faith in them, comes into them, and justifies them. In that moment, when they set aside for the first time in their life their rebellion - in that moment when they step for the first time into the light - in that very moment God is no longer restrained, but the very moment they step into the light God's promise (the Holy Spirit) enters into them, and they are justified. Not that they produced this effect themselves, but that God granted them the repentance that opened the way to faith, and allowed them to truly believe Jesus would do exactly what He said He was going to do. Whether they sin from that moment on or not is not the point - what matters is that the way of life was opened through faith and repentance just as the scriptures teach.

However, SOME, having the same information, and assenting to the truthfulness of the facts will say the same prayer with their mouths but they will not come to Christ because in their heart they will not be willing to let go of their sin. These will not receive the Holy Spirit, nor will they be justified for having "prayed" a sinner's prayer. You see, the gospel promise is that God will save all those who come to Christ, but there is a way to go through the motions without actually coming to Christ because one refuses to surrender their life to Him.

The moment this latter group chants their Salvation Mantra they are welcomed into the fold by the well meaning, but misguided person who led them to Christ in their chant. The more genuine of these will rightly doubt the efficacy of their prayer - but often these will be sternly warned that such doubts are sinful, and must never, ever be entertained!

These same will think they are Christians, because a person whom they regard to be Christian has assured them that they are! They have heard a gospel, and prayed a prayer - and although they are exactly the same person they were before they prayed the prayer, yet they are told that they are now a Christian, and encouraged to act appropriately thereafter. So these place their faith in their prayer, and try ever after to be a Christian. Their "faith" is in the validity of the truths, and the fact that they said a prayer. Their trust is not in God, their trust is instead in themselves - that they have believed the right things, prayed to the right guy, and more or less jumped through all the right hoops. It is little wonder that such as these fear losing the salvation they hope they actually posses - they were never trusting in God to save them, but were in fact trusting in themselves to have done everything right.

Now some genuine Christians experience doubt as well, I am not suggesting that doubt identifies false religion - but a genuine convert will NEVER doubt, nor can they deny that something profoundly changed inside themselves the moment they truly repented/believed.

But we aren't talking about genuine salvation at the moment - we are instead focusing on the tares. The tares look like wheat, that is, they appear to be genuine on the outside - but they are and remain persuaded that their salvation comes as a result of [1] assenting to the truthfulness of certain biblical truths and [2] praying the right prayer because they acknowledged that certain truths are true.

We want to be clear before we go much further - when we call the latter gospel a "false gospel" we do not mean to say that the information associated with it is necessarily false, or that those who preach it are insincere or malicious. That is, We do not say that the facts presented in that gospel are invalid...

What we are saying is that what is being presented as the "way of salvation" either obscures or confuses the genuine way of salvation.

Surely we must show people that according to God's word we are all sinners, we must tell people that they are without hope in the world outside of Christ, we must present to them the truth that God provided a way for sinners to come to Himself.

Presenting these facts as factual is not wrong, but we must also explain that our faith is -not- simply that these facts are true, but that we trust Christ to truly accept us into Himself as He promised to do. It is subtle but there is a world of difference between trusting in facts and trusting in Christ. We cannot trust in Christ without trusting the facts, but trusting the facts is not the same as trusing int Christ.

The way of salvation does more than define the fact that there is no way to God except being in Christ - it operates upon that fact. There is no communion between light and dark - the way of grace is paved in genuine surrender - and that it is this very surrender that transcends our intellectual assent and enables us to exercise genuine saving faith in Christ.

We explain that in order to be saved you must come to Christ, and that you cannot come to Christ with a heart that remains in rebellion against Christ. Christ can forgive a former rebel, but he cannot receive one who is currently in rebellion. When God grants grace to the one who humbles himself, faith comes in like a flood, poured into them through the receiving of the Holy Spirit, but if that person stands aloof from God by holding onto their rebellion as they jump through the gospel hoops - the same is a deceiver and deceived.

The fact is that if we truly come to Christ we will truly be saved - and the faith that saves us will not have been generated by us, but will be a gift we received according to God's promise the moment we stepped into the light that the gospel gives.

There are those however who rail against this idea that you must have clean hands in order to ascend the holy hill of God. They rage against this idea, because they regard humility as a "work" feeling as they do that faith is entirely an intellectual persuasion, and as such: they paint anything more than a purely intellectual decision as a human work - and reject it as false. They don't stop to think that the very "faith" they think is saving them is by this same definition a work, since it is a human effort that they are relying on.

Nevertheless some who hold and teach this view -are- genuine Christians, although they weren't saved by the way of salvation they both defend and present to others - yet they become deceived or persuaded falsely, and in their error they begin to misrepresent the role of repentance in the way of salvation.

These rail therefore against the true way of salvation because they have painted repentance in their own understanding with the brush of a cartoonist. They imagine that those who hold to the genuine gospel are teaching that you must (of your own strength and initiative) start doing good (which they caricature as "repentance") in order to (or at least prior to) believe. That is they reject the genuine way of salvation because they don't understand the role repentance plays in it. So they paint repentance as a "work" and In the strength of such a misrepresented and cartoonish facsimile, they reject the true way of salvation as a "works" gospel, and dismiss it summarily. To be sure, some spend all their time dismissing it ad nauseum. I am convinced that many of these really don't see their deception which is why they deserve our patience and our love (and -not- simply our pity or disdain).

I don't mind going over it again to make the point clear. God is light, and as such, by definition He cannot have fellowship with darkness. No one can bring darkness with them into the light - that is, there is no communion or fellowship between darkness and light. The one who enters God's holy hill must have clean hands - that is, they cannot come to God on the one hand while remaining rebellious on the other. They either remain rebellious and do not come to God (no matter what their mouth might chant), or they step out into the light in surrender. I am talking here about salvation. It isn't that they "stop sinning" in order to come to God - it is that they must come to God in the light - and the light isn't "sinlessness" it is genuine surrender.

So the first sort of "Carnal Christian" that we identify is not even a real Christian at all, but a false convert - a person who calls themselves a Christian because they followed a recipe that they are convinced has made them a Christian. The recipe can be as elaborate as the one described above, or as simple as an unbeliever deciding that today they are going to start calling themselves a Christian and attending a church. Whether they go through the fence, under it or over it is of no consequence - they did not go through the gate, they are not legitimate sons.

This is all a rather long way of saying, that there are some "Christians" who think they are "Carnal Christians" when in fact that are deceived and simply "carnal." The first group therefore of "carnal Christians" are definitely carnal, but they are not genuinely Christian - they just wear the label and are deceived themselves into thinking they have a right to it.

My next post in this series is going to be on genuine Christians who are or become carnal.
posted by Daniel @ 3:45 PM  
7 Comments:
  • At 4:40 PM, November 08, 2006, Blogger Even So... said…

    I will get back to this tonight after church, Daniel, it looks to be very interesting, for sure...

     
  • At 10:02 PM, November 08, 2006, Blogger Craver VII said…

    "...they have painted repentance in their own understanding with the brush of a cartoonist."

    I like the way you phrased that.

     
  • At 10:30 PM, November 08, 2006, Blogger jazzycat said…

    Interesting and very good. I am glad you are doing this series and I hope people will consider the importance of repentance & sanctification and how they relate to grace, justification and faith.

    Nothing interests me more in Bible study than reconciling these points.

    W.H.

     
  • At 10:55 PM, November 08, 2006, Blogger Even So... said…

    they were never trusting in God to save them, but were in fact trusting in themselves to have done everything right.

    Nice...

    Daniel, have you read any Gordon Clark?

     
  • At 10:59 PM, November 08, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    JD - never even heard of him. Though I plan to google him - like, in the next ten seconds or so after I post this...

     
  • At 7:08 AM, November 09, 2006, Blogger Even So... said…

    Yeah, let me know if you don't run across some of his "bare assent" stuff...he and Van Til were tooth and nail over a couple of issues, and Ole Corny actually tried to get his ordination blocked...this relates because Clark was seen as a bare mental assent guy, but was a very respected philosopher...I like a whole lot of what he said, but…try looking at articles from here

     
  • At 10:24 AM, November 09, 2006, Blogger bluecollar said…

    Bold. Powerful. Well done. Excellent.

     
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