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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.

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         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.

THE CONFERENCE   

         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.

REAL CHRISTIANITY

         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] [1] 

         © 2017 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] 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.

RECOMMENDED READING FROM MY FRIEND LISA:

You are saved by grace? or works? or faith? or fruit? Can Grace save you?

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Evil Planet and the Expanding Kingdom of God

         This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. [John 3:19-21]           

         We live in a perverse, rebellious, bizarre, and fallen world. It is a planet teeming with mutinous lovers of sin, like maggots on rotting meat.

         Why do I have such an opinion? It’s very simple: Look what it did to the Creator of the Universe.

         He showed up here in human form. But it wasn’t just “form.” He was an actual human being. And He remains an actual human being, though in a glorified state. And this world did everything it possibly could to destroy Him, and had actually thought at that time that it did destroy Him.

         He loved everybody. He forgave everybody. He went about doing good. He never did anything wrong. He never committed a single sin. He honored the Torah and kept every part of the Torah and never, ever violated a single commandment. He was as innocent as innocent could be, yet most people still hated Him.

         For not even His brothers were believing in Him. So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.” [John 7:5-7]   

         After all the good He did and the love He expressed, the hateful people of this evil world savagely beat Him up, nailed Him to a rough wooden cross, and raised it up with Him attached like a trophy so all could see and behold its dirty, dirty deed.       

         “Look what we did to God, man! Who’s the boss?!

         Not only did the people of this rotten world kill Him, they wanted the whole world to see that they killed Him. If such rotten people that currently breathe air murdered Him they would instantly broadcast it on international television and plaster it all over the internet. They would want everyone to know what they did. Two thousand years ago the idiots were very, very proud of what they did and every generation since has been proud of what they did and supported what they did.

         How do I know?

         Isn’t it obvious?

         Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” [Matthew 4:8-9]   

         We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. [1 John 5:19]

         And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. [2 Corinthians 4:3-4]   

         But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. [2 Timothy 3:13]

         As evil as the world was then, it has grown increasingly more evil since. The world is presently more evil than it has ever been. How many people actually know or care that more people were murdered in the last century, for example, than had ever been killed in a single century before?

         The numbers are staggering. War, disease, genocide, and the most sinister of all sins perpetrated by humans—the outright butchering of defenseless, innocent babies by the multi-millions—made the twentieth century the Century of Death with somewhere in the vicinity of 200 million casualties. Stalin killed 30 million. Mao killed 40 million. The United States of America has killed over 50 million… babies.

         But most do not care. Most do not know. Most do not recognize the gross sin in this place or even their own sin. If God wanted to He would be absolutely justified in destroying this entire planet in a onetime big bang for what the corrupt and rotten race of humans have brought into an otherwise pure universe.

         Instead, because He is a Person of love and peace, He came for a visit to help show us the way and get us back on track. Though some think He’s a big meanie for being forced to clean the place up once before, His purpose was to rid the planet of vermin before the vermin destroyed it all. We thanked Him for His love and peace and concern and hope and belief in us by killing Him in perhaps the worst way possible.

         Thank you very much, God. And don’t let the screen door hit you on your hinder parts when you leave. And if you ever come back you’ll get more of the same. You hear!? This is our world now!

         Thank the Lord that He didn’t listen to such vile idiots. He did leave, of course, but not because of their threats. And it was only for a short time. He said the Holy Spirit would never come unless He first departed. Why does it seem that the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus could not be here at the same time? It reminds me of one of those movies when one actor is playing dual parts and always has to leave the scene as one character in order to return as the second. The answer is alluded to by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians:

         But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. [1 Corinthians 15:35-37]

         Fascinating, huh?   

         “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” [John 16:7]

         So the Lord had to leave. But He promised to return. For all of those who have been taught that the Lord left this world 2,000 years ago, has been gone since, and will return to it one day in the future, you have been taught wrong. The Second Coming (not a Biblical term) is not necessarily a future event only. In Hellenistic Greek, the word parousia is the general term used to denote the event, but in common secular terms of that time, it often meant the arrival of a ruler at a place. In other words, when the Lord returns, it is to take charge.

         The first “Second Coming” took place ten days after the Lord ascended to heaven:

         When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. [Acts 2:1-4]

         It was the extraordinary return of the Lord Jesus in the form of His Holy Spirit.

         “…that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” [John 14:17-18]

         And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed. [Mark 16:20]

         My intention is not to split theological hairs here but shed some light on the fact that the Lord Jesus did not retire to “heaven” awaiting a day centuries in the future to return to earth. Besides that, “heaven” is usually a place defined by our own imaginations. And thirdly, how did the Lord return to His disciples, not leaving them “as orphans” without a Father or guardian, and work with them doing miracles while also retiring to heaven for two thousand plus years?   

         Of course, there will definitely be a Second Coming regarding the Lord Jesus returning to this planet in physical form also, and that is a future event. But until then, He not only resides “at the right hand of God,” but also right here with His people, as He has taken charge in the hearts of willing real believers, the exact same way He entered into the hearts of the 120 on the original Day of Pentecost.

         “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” [Revelation 3:20]

         But if nobody on this planet wanted Him He would not have returned even then.

         For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. [1 Peter 3:18-20]

         Only a mere 8 people on the entire planet wanted Him then, which gives perfect perspective to what this article is about, and reveals exactly what a sorry, rotten place this planet has become because of its evil human occupants.

         Only 120 wanted Him on the Day of Pentecost. Of all the tens of thousands who had heard Him teach and saw Him perform miracles, only 120 waited for His return in the upper room.

         This remains the same with the vast majority of Christian groups today, in that only a mere minor percentage wants anything to do with Pentecost or is willing to pay the price to “wait in the upper room.” Most Christians will fight against anything Pentecost or Book of Acts related until their dying day. They don’t want their perfect little Christian country clubs messed up with the actual presence of Jesus. They all put on a good show, but when push comes to shove most always shout, “Hell no!” They don’t want Him in charge. They want to be in charge.

         They have reputations to be concerned about and money to be made and social climbing to do and everyone knows you can’t have a good rep or make any money or climb the ranks in social circles if the people in your community think you’re a religious nut. It would be interesting to hear all the contorted explanations of those who denied the actual presence and authority of Jesus in their “churches” when they stand before Him at the judgment. All such people will have no chance at that point to fix what they did with their lives. It will be too late. But for anyone still breathing, there is still a chance to get it right.

         The following is a general list of dire warnings and prophetic statements (great preaching) spoken by the Lord Himself that all believers should keep in mind and apply when applicable:

         “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.” [Revelation 2:4-5]

         “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” [Revelation 2:10]

         “But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.” [Revelation 2:14-16]

         “But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” [Revelation 2:20-23]

         “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” [Revelation 3:1-3]

         “I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” [Revelation 3:11]

         “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” [Revelation 3:15-19]

         The above statements prove this world is an evil place. It is fallen in sin. It is a world of deception and illusion. Temptation and wickedness are all around, as is the specter of death. And all these things can invade the hearts of those in the Lord’s community.

         It is why the Lord constantly teaches His people to stay awake, to remain alert, to get strong and remain strong, to adhere to His teachings, to stay close to Him, to attend to our callings, to give no quarter to the enemy, to not allow any place for evil or sin or unforgiveness in our hearts, to repent and be cleansed if we fall, to be a powerful offensive force against the devil and his evil kingdom, to give it everything we have lest we grow weak and be deceived, and to always walk in the light and constantly believe in the “all things are possible with God” credo. Real Christians are behind enemy lines and are greatly outnumbered.

         But God’s kingdom is also here, as is the King of that kingdom. It exists wherever we allow and desire the Lord Jesus to be in charge. It starts in our hearts as individuals, and it grows as such individuals are knit together in true spiritual community.

         This community has stretched all over the planet in the last two thousand years and continues to expand. It is not dead, dull, boring, fake, and wimpy like counterfeit Christian communities, but, like the Lord, is ALIVE and VIBRANT and VERY POWERFUL, so powerful “the evil one” gets his butt kicked. It has the exact characteristics it did in the first century when it all began, and is still all about “RIGHTEOUSNESS and PEACE and JOY in the HOLY SPIRIT.” [Romans 14:17] [1]

         And as it is today, there was too much of the above for the taste of some, apparently, on that first Day of Pentecost:

         “They are full of new wine!” [Acts 2:13]

         On a Sunday morning?

         © 2013 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] 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.