by Mike Ratliff
One positive that has come from the Manhattan Declaration has been the opportunity for many of us to deepen the clarity and difference between nominal Christianity, which is not genuine, and Biblical Christianity. What is the difference or differences between the two? It would be beyond the space and time here to go through each version of nominal Christianity showing the doctrinal fallacies of each. The best way to explain the difference is to show very clearly what Biblical Christianity is so that not only will it be plain to all, the Holy Spirit may very well draw many from darkness to light, to wash them with regeneration as they, by faith, repent and walk with the Saviour from now on instead of looking to their religiosity as their justification.
The first thing we must do is define what the writers of the New Testament meant when they referred to “the world.” When not used to refer to the physical world in which, by God’s common grace, we live and breathe, the Word of God designates “the world” to refer to humanity as a whole. This “humanity” is now fallen into sin and moral darkness. Not one in that state loves God or His truth. In fact, they are radically opposed to God. God’s creation was good, very good, but those who are among the fallen incur guilt and shame through their abuse of it. This only gets worse. Even in Paul’s day he wrote of creation itself yearning for deliverance from the evil that has overcome it since the fall in Genesis 3.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:20-23 ESV)
It is into this God-hating environment that all of those whom God brings to eternal life in the Son are sent by their Saviour (John 17:18). Why does He do this? It is as His witnesses they are sent. Not only are they to reveal what God has done for them in Christ, they are to explain the horrible, ugliness of the unregenerate human nature and what it has done to God’s creation and continues to do to people. They are to show them the one and only way back to the Garden from whence they were cast when Adam and Eve fell into sin. This is the preaching of the real Gospel, not the watered down, human feel-good gospel of seeker-sensitivity. This Gospel tells the truth about sin and judgment and why Christ really went to the Cross and what was accomplished there.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14 ESV)
But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” (Romans 10:18 ESV)
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing–as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, (Colossians 1:3-6 ESV)
However, even though so many are saved by this Gospel there has always been some in our churches who have not believed and thereby been changed by it, but have only become religious.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23 ESV)
Not only do Christians live in the hostile environment of the world, they also have many false brothers and sisters in Christ who are amongst them in their churches. Many of these have caused much damage. The philosophers who see themselves as theologians, but who are not part of the Kingdom of God by faith, are in this group. They have created alternate gospels and church environments. They have created such utter nonsense such as the Jesus Seminar, which is devoid of true Christian scholarship. These people confuse things. They muddy the waters. They are tools of our enemy in an attempt to destroy faith and deplete the Church. We see evidence of this by so many who claim to be Christians, but who have fallen victim to the lures of materialism (Matthew 6:19-24,32) and in their lack of concern about God and eternity (Luke 12:13-21). These are more about the pursuit of pleasure and status than in their obedience to the Lord (1 John 2:15-17).
When the Apostle Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and nearly killed by the Jewish mob, he was sent to Caesarea to be kept in custody so the Roman officials could decide what to do with him. The Roman Governor was Felix who, though he seemed to do some things right, was corrupt and wished Paul to bribe him (Acts 24:26). In Acts 24, we read of how Paul was most certainly not politically correct. He did not “play the game” in order to be popular with everyone. In fact, when he could have used flattery and bribery to become free, for there were not any real legal reasons to keep him in prison, he shared the Gospel with Felix and the truth of God’s coming judgment. What was Felix’s response?
And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” (Acts 24:25 ESV)
You see my brethren; this is what is missing in the Manhattan Declaration. The Gospel, which includes God’s coming judgment, is offensive to the unregenerate. To those not being drawn into the light by the Holy Spirit it does not cause them to respond in repentance, but in some form of rejection. Some respond in hostility. Some respond in fear. Some are so hard-hearted that it just bounces off and they go on their merry way to Hell. To all you “ministers” of the Gospel reading this: Are you trying not to offend people with the whole Gospel? If so then you are playing a very dangerous game and are not being obedient. You are more concerned with what people think of you rather than being the tool God uses to open hearts with the real Gospel. Stop being politically correct and preach the Gospel! The one you are bound to please with your ministry is Christ not the world.
Instead of being part of this world, we must consider ourselves as simple pilgrims here. We are just passing through as we travel home to our God (1 Peter 2:11). Not one thing we possess in this world will come with us. We are commanded to be in the world, but not part of it. This rules out monasticism (John 17:15) and worldliness (Titus 2:12). Our ministries are all about bringing God glory not riches to ourselves (Luke 16:9).
As pilgrims just passing through this world, we are to live in such a way that God is glorified in us. We are to be evangelical (Matthew 28:19, 20; Luke 24:46-48). We are also to live in such a way that our lives are used by God to draw others to Himself (1 Peter 2:12). We are not to minister and live in such a way that we can successfully be accused of not loving and serving others including unbelievers. We are to do our jobs well. We are to be good citizens. We are not to be hateful jerks that seek only to divide the brethren. The way we minister should be an instrument of grace. We are not judges. That is God’s purview.
Instead of majoring in making this world a better place as our primary mission in this lost and dying world, we are to be all about beacons that God uses to draw others to Himself. The way God uses us in this can very well cause many positive things in our cultures, but that is not our primary mission as Christians. When I look at my 1-year-old grandson and the world in which he is going to grow up, I shudder. Therefore, my task while God gives me the grace to do so is to lead this little boy to my Saviour. Do you think I could do this by being just like the world or by being Christlike? How do we become Christlike? That should be what we are about my brethren and we do not accomplish this in disobedience.
I pray that you read the whole article. If you did then you saw that the Gospel is the key for us in our roles as pilgrims progressing through this world on our way to the Celestial City. If we have a wrong view of the preeminence of Christ in all things then we will have a wrong concept of the Gospel and that means we have become compromised. This is why it is imperative to have the right view of Christ and His Gospel. We must become free from the burdens that this world, our culture, puts on us that keep us in bondage to the things in it. Why do we serve mammon and then wonder why we are so ineffective as evangelists? In any case, my brethren, let us sharpen our swords, stand firm, and never waver in our service to our Lord as He sees fit.
Soli Deo Gloria!