JUDGMENTAL CHRISTIANS: Breaking Fellowship Over Non-Salvation Issues
About a decade and a half ago there was a Christian conference relatively close by and would take place in just a few days. It featured a man I’d seen on television countless times. I made it a point to be there.
His name is Hugh Ross. In 1986 he started a ministry called Reasons To Believe, “Where Science and Faith Converge.” I encourage you to visit this website and look around.
As a young man he began looking for spiritual truth and, like so many of us with a hunger for God, began searching world religions. When he began his research into Christianity he was immediately struck by what he found in the first chapter of Genesis—it made perfect sense from a scientific point of view. He was amazed by the accuracy. He soon became a Christian. He also eventually became an astrophysicist.
I planned on getting there early with hopes of meeting Mr. Ross. I walked into a relatively mid-sized conference facility about the size of a very large classroom. There were many people milling about as new arrivals wandered in. I took a seat on the front row. At some point Hugh Ross walked in and went up to the front. He gave an informal talk and said we would wait a little longer until everybody arrived, and then sat down a couple of seats from me.
People who know me very well know I pray about everything, and I pray about everything in the context of God’s will, knowing for a fact that God’s will is always the best. A person can never do better than the will of God. Well, on the way over I had asked the Lord if it would be okay if I could talk to this man. Then when I got there the man sits down two seats over. No one approached him. I didn’t waste any time introducing myself and we began a brief discussion.
Hugh Ross is not a young earth creationist. For this reason alone many Christians don’t like him. Some see him as a heretic. It does not matter how well he explains everything from both a purely Biblical perspective and from pure science, many Christians judge him right off the bat as soon as they find out he doesn’t believe the Universe was created about 4000BC.
We had a great talk. I was trying to shed light on the nature of God and how the Bible clearly states that the Lord Jesus is the Creator though so many Christians recoil at that fact. He agreed. We spent most of the conversation, however, discussing young earth versus old earth creationism.
Hugh Ross is a solid Christian. He believes the Bible is the absolute Word of God. He makes an excellent case both Biblically and scientifically why young earth creationism is lacking. He is a very gracious man but has certainly seen his share of Christian persecution (that is, persecution from Christians). Then he said something very profound. Remember, this is a very brilliant man who loves the Lord Jesus with all his heart. He lives to serve Him. He is low key, humble, relaxed, and the very opposite of professorial.
We were discussing why so many Christians can’t see eye to eye on the creation issue. I have also faced many fights in this area even though most of the time I really don’t have a dog in that fight. Why can’t the young-earthers, who have traditionally composed the much greater percentage of creationists, find it in their heart to fellowship with those with a different perspective? Why can’t they honor the beliefs of others? Hugh answered my question perfectly:
“Because they see it as a salvation issue.”
I was somewhat taken aback and went silent for a few seconds. I was thinking. “Of course. I knew this, or I should have, and I have certainly applied this to other Christian doctrines and beliefs.” But still, in that moment, it hit me like a ton of bricks. It is why so many Christians favor separation over unity. It is why there are approximately four billion Christian denominations. The separatist Christians believe EVERYTHING is a salvation issue.
Though I always spend much more time in study and research than the average Christian, I am almost always forced to prove everything. This is impossible, of course. When Christians believe they have all the light and truth on an issue, they become not only dogmatic but very judgmental. They close their eyes and ears. Those who do the larger work and pay the greater price know the truth, however. They work very hard to see an issue from as many perspectives as possible. Those who rarely or never do the work usually only believe something because that is what they have been told. They can only see it one way.
What if a Christian is walking in all the light he has? What if he loves the Lord? Must he also be absolutely perfectly right in every doctrine taught by a particular denomination or pastor or single believer in order to be saved? Are Catholics saved? Are Protestants? Are Pentecostals? In all actuality we have millions of distinct beliefs within Christianity in general and there is no possible way anyone can believe it all. Much of it is contradictory. Much of it comes forth from people who insist they are right and never budge. What is being preached on one side of town is often the very opposite of that which is preached on the other. There is no way both can be right. But both can be wrong.
This is why I always make my final and only appeal to authority to the Lord Jesus. It is only His curriculum that is perfect and it must be His entire curriculum that we learn and live by. Not everything in His teachings, however, is a salvation issue. We should never, ever be divided as a result of such. If two Christians believe the Lord Jesus CREATED the universe but differ on how He did it or how long it took, that’s okay. Both of these Christians can still be saved. Besides, we were not there. We don’t know exactly how He did it.
The Lord came across this problem often and just as often He had to do some rebuking. His greatest rebukes were always for the hard core religionists who refused to see anything other than the way they saw it and would disfellowship a person in a heartbeat for not seeing it their way. What we should be doing is working harder and studying more and praying more and fasting more instead of thinking we’ve cornered the market on truth.
I found out later that evening that Hugh Ross and I did not believe everything the same way. But it didn’t matter. Wherever we differed on beliefs, they were not salvation issues. I’ll never forget that brief though deep discussion we had. He was humble enough and approachable enough to give me a few minutes of his time right before he was to give a major talk to so many of his ministry’s supporters.
Please readers, keep up all the great work. Keep doing your study and research. Keep reading the Word. But most of all, knowing we are all at different spiritual places based on our discipleship and knowledge level, let us not make everything a salvation issue and thus a disfellowship issue. The Lord only has ONE community. At the end of the day, the only opinion that matters with regard to who is in it and who isn’t is His. Let us all try to keep the salvation issues among the salvation issues, such as the simple teaching that decides salvation as quoted here:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. [Ephesians 2:8-22] 
© 2017 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
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You are saved by grace? or works? or faith? or fruit? Can Grace save you?
Posted on March 16, 2017, in Real Christianity and tagged Christian Unity, Community of Called-Out Ones, Fellowship, Grace, Lord Jesus, Sinners Saved By Grace, Spiritual Community, Truth, Unity, Unity AND Diversity. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.
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I have a sincere question…The Lord through His Holy Spirit convicted me of the practice of catholicism. Are those that practice Catholicism saved? I ask this because I believe and would like to be corrected if I am wrong that practicing such a religion is a salvation issue. (I come from a large community-family and friends )that practice catholicism. Can you “practice” such and be saved? Thank you for your time.
*I sat in and participated for many years and the “jesus” of Catholicism is MUCH different than the Biblical~true~ Jesus
Thanks for a great comment. We know from reading the Gospels that the Lord often did things in what may be termed an unconventional way. He was always right. But He always acted in love. It was always His intention, and still is, of course, to save. He saw how religion had divided His people and how judgmental and hard core the leaders of these various movements could be, and how they could so easily find fault and be exclusionary. It seemed they were much more concerned with making living for God as hard and even as impossible as possible. The Lord Jesus goes into all of this in His many rebukeathons.
We find that things were often turned upside down and backward by these religious people who always insisted on their own strict interpretations of God’s holy Word, in that what the Lord said was true:
“But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.” [Matthew 19:30]
We also know how it all turned out in 70AD in that exactly what the Lord predicted came true. The people who gained control eventually caused total destruction of all they held dear because they rejected the Lord and His pure teachings.
This is what religion can do. Though characterized as such, Real Christianity is not a religion. The Lord had so much to do and one of those things was revealing the actual truth, including the truth of Scripture. He also let everyone know (who had ears to hear and eyes to see) that He did not come to condemn us, or reject us, or find fault with us, or make excuses to disfellowship us, and the like. He came because He loves us and wants us to be set free from the power of sin and the false beliefs which reinforce spiritual incarceration.
There is no doubt that sin is a killer and that we must repent and stop sinning in order to be saved. That requires actions on our part. The problem for many Christians is that they are not allowed access to the spiritual power they need because certain denominations reject the power the Lord wants to gives us. Why would the Lord tell us to turn from sin when so many Christians would if they could? This is why He also blessed us, if we are willing to receive, with the spiritual power and anointing to stand up to sin and temptation and successfully resist it, just as He did. We see the actual outworking of this in Acts 2.
Regarding Catholicism or any other Christian denomination and the beliefs people hold, the bottom line is that no one knows a person’s heart except the Lord and no one can therefore make proper judgments about any one particular person or the track they may be on regardless of their denomination. Some people leave Catholicism and some stay. Some leave their mainline Protestant denominations and some stay. I think if a person is actively seeking a closer walk with the Lord and is willing do to anything He says there will be movement, because the movement portends spiritual growth. Some can do this within particular denominations and institutional structures, at least for a while. Some cannot. We must look to the historical record of the first century to gain a better understanding of this.
We know that the Lord was always calling people OUT. That’s why it was called The Community of the Called-Out Ones. He was telling them to leave wherever they were and join up with Him. He is still doing this. He has only one kingdom and one community. It is obviously the case that He would rather His people compose one big happy family without religious divisions.
At the end of the day, though, we are all at the place He has for us at any given time or where we personally feel comfortable at the time as we seek Him and a closer walk. We must therefore understand that judging a person by the company he or she keeps in a denominational sense may be true generally, but cannot be true regarding every heart. It is in this sense that we, as Christians, must make allowances for things we don’t have full knowledge of while also doing our best to properly follow the Lord and obey His will in our own lives, which can be quite a challenge.
Following the Lord has often caused me to have to leave places for different reasons. The key is following the Lord Jesus out on the spiritual frontier. The key is doing our best to obey Him and do His will. But in that process the Lord will always be loving and accepting and will never leave us or forsake us, though others will.
Great blessings to you.
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Really enjoyed reading this entire post and your feelings about meeting Hugh Ross and speaking with him. We had done several of his video courses in Sunday School, and I found them very intriguing, loaded with a good deal of science, but explained in a fairly easy-to-understand way. I really appreciated his answer, “Because they see it as a salvation issue” and how you explained this further. The science, at least for me, gave me even more “Reasons To Believe.” I really appreciate that in order to be a Christian, we don’t have to leave our brains at the door! Thanks for sharing all of this with us!
Thanks. I do appreciate it. It was great meeting Hugh and having the opportunity to learn. There are people like him out there who never try to put on airs. They just are. But they also know there is so much work to be done and that we must be productive. His ministry has achieved that to date. Its works are voluminous. I wasn’t able to really capture the essence of Reasons To Believe but hopefully many will check it out.
I have a couple of his books (should have many more!), The Creator and the Cosmos and The Genesis Question, both of which I highly recommend. Some of us have a strong intellectual bent that must be satisfied, something difficult to achieve within certain religious confines, and Hugh is somewhat the epitome of intellectualism/science meeting the Lord Jesus, who is, of course, intellectual brilliance personified. And it IS great that being a real Christian means we don’t have to check our brains at the door.
Thanks again and blessings to you.
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I don’t know anything about Hugh Ross. This reminds me though of a brother in the past year who wants to hang on to the theory of the earth being flat instead of a sphere. We had a short discussion about it and ended up on opposite sides of the fence. It’s not something I think worth getting caught up in. Each are free to believe as they wish. My only response was: When you are ready to talk to Jesus, give me a call. Sadly, I’m still waiting. Pride has no place in the Kingdom. Let us look to Him to reveal His creation as it truly is. It’s much more important to learn of and walk in His character and nature. God Bless.
Thanks Al. I would like to remind everyone, though, that the Lord’s creation involves everything He created and it is all very important, especially since the actual manner of creation has been under direct attack by the unbelieving scientific community for going on two centuries. Check out the website link I provided in the article. You would be quite surprised at the level of scientific inquiry and data and how it all agrees perfectly with the Biblical account. To compare the truth with flat earth stuff is unfortunate, but it proves my original thesis in revealing the attacks against the Lord and the Genesis account. I recommend the book The Genesis Question which goes into incredible apologetic scientific detail proving the accuracy of Genesis.
Blessings to you also.
I come from background of absolutism. There are some things I really MUST be absolute about. These are the truths worth dying for. like salvation by grace through faith, or the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. There can be no compromise on issues of that nature.
But I’ve had to learn over the years that there are indeed some things on which believers can disagree and still be sure of seeing each other in heaven. Hard for me early on. You have to understand that my dad was a totally biblical fundamentalist Baptist, and that’s still where I find my comfort zone. He was an outstanding Bible teacher, one of the best in my life. Having turned his life over to God only a couple of years after WWII and his experiences in the US Navy, serving God was the most important thing in his life. He did a great job. It wasn’t until he was facing the last few years of his life, ill with heart disease, that I began to see a softening in him that spoke to me of Holy Spirit work.
I decided some years ago that it wasn’t going to take me as long as it took him. I’m a biblicist first, one who happens to attend a Baptist church. I don’t agree with some of my own children, but I know they’re all committed believers. It can be done.
Thank you Linda. You have said here in a relatively brief but extremely insightful comment what every Christian must hear at some point along the way. It is obvious that division is easy and unity is hard, that there are a million things within “Christianity” in general that divide rather than unify, and that there are obviously more Christians who major on division rather than unity. It is often been said there will be no denominations in heaven. It would be best if we all identified as followers of the Lord Jesus first, as you have said, rather than by our denominations.
But this is where it gets interesting. There are many teachings of the Lord that are apparently seen as not so important and are rarely taught. The only way to discover these is to do much individual Bible study and reading, especially in the gospels since they contain His direct teachings, but also in Acts since it contains the historical record of how the first believers acted upon His teachings and carried them out. This is how one discovers the teachings of the Lord rarely addressed by ministers and churches in general.
I define a real Christian as someone whose Lord, Master, and Savior is the Lord Jesus, and is 100% willing to do whatever He says and obey all of His teachings. This is a difficult thing for many Christians. It appears to be way too strong and even somewhat scary. It can make one uncomfortable. But if we really believe that God is Love, and that the Lord actually died for us and only wants the best for us, His will and our surrender to Him is something we would earnestly seek and desire. We know He will only help us. We would also want to serve Him and help Him after He has done so much for us.
But we also know that this world is a fallen world. It contains millions of evil people who often have no reservations about harming others. And there are also untold numbers of invisible evil entities. That makes this world a battleground. It is filled with sin, evil, and deception. But the Lord’s Kingdom upon this planet is not part of that world. The Lord Jesus rules in His Kingdom. We are protected within it. But we also have a job to do that puts us at risk. We willingly risk our lives to do His work. This should make all Christians very supportive of one another and be there for one another, as they were in the beginning, but this is obviously not the case. Most Christians would much rather protect their establishments and standing within them than one another.
Therefore, it always comes down to serving the Lord Jesus with all of our heart. This is how we stay on the path. Concentrating on His love for us allows us to love others. Concentrating on His forgiveness for our sins allows us to forgive others. This is how we can recover from and stave off as best we can all the hatred and rejection from those who either don’t understand or are just bad people though they identify as Christians and Christian ministers.
Great blessings to you this morning.
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