by Mike Ratliff
First, I want to thank Pastor Ken Silva for giving me this opportunity to contribute to this ministry. I am not a pastor or preacher. My Bible training is not formal. I never went to seminary. I work as a Database Administrator for large hospital group. However, I have been a Bible teacher for over 20 years. I became a certified Precept leader in the late 1980’s. It was the training through Kay Arthur’s ministry that taught me how to do word studies from scripture as well as how to correctly study the Bible.
From that training and leading many Precept Study classes and adult Sunday School classes I learned that God had given me an insatiable hunger for the truth from His word. This hunger was not to study the Bible as an end in itself. Instead, the Lord taught me that all Bible study must have the end of knowing the author more intimately and deeply. If we study the Bible as an end then we make the same mistake as the Pharisees who knew the Old Testament very well, but did not know the author. This caused them to miss His coming and actually become His persecutors.
The United States is in bondage to prosperity and entertainment. Television has caused most Americans to lose the ability to reason. It is as if all those hours of sitting in front of that mind control device has turned their minds to mush. However, that is no excuse for Christians to not know their God and His ways. The form of Christianity that is most prevalent in the United States at this time is a very poor facsimile of the real deal. It is as if it is geared to the lowest common denominator. The focus in our churches is backward. If you go to your typical “Mega-Church” you will find very quickly that it’s focus is on the people there. Everything is set up to attract people to be part of that group through sensory attraction as well as easy to digest teaching and sermons. If we take that church environment and contrast it to “church” as it was done in 17th Century England, for instance, we would see a huge contrast. While our churches focus on the people within them, the Puritans focused on God. They were primarily concerned with living for His glory.
Their church services were done in a worshipful tone because their God was Sovereign and was worthy. However, the biggest difference we would see would be in how people are called to believe thereby becoming Christians.In our churches the gospel has become diluted by well-meaning men who have made adjustments to it over the last 150 years or so so that people would be drawn to become Christians by choice. Since they wanted people to come to Christ they changed the message so that it would appeal to the reason of men. The intent was to create an environment in which no one would feel that God had anything against them at all. They were loved deeply by God no matter what their life consisted of. All they had to do was to make the right decision and come to Christ through a sinner’s prayer and be Baptized. This has created a whole new Christian culture that is based on people becoming Christians without the slightest pressure by anyone to repent of their sins. All that is required is their religious activity.What does the Bible say about this?
23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2:23-24)
When the people saw the miracles that Jesus did in their presence they decided to believe in his name. In other words, they declared that they were Jesus’ followers, His disciples. They declared it to Him. What was Jesus’ response? He did not call them His disciples. He did not entrust Himself to them. That means that in His heart, they were not His people. Wait a minute! Doesn’t God love everyone the same and all who come to Him believing in His name are saved? Not according to this passage. These people would be what I call “Religious Christians.” They are converts, but they are not regenerate believers. They want the benefits of having a savior so they become Christians, but all this produces are religious people who are Christian in name only. After Jesus fed the five thousand from five barley loaves and two fish, the people were again enthralled by Him and sought Him as He left the area and went to Capernaum.
24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:24-40)
If we attack these passages from John 2 and John 6 with reason that is polluted by the gospel view that is of the majority of professing Christians in the USA then we will have a huge problem reconciling Jesus’ call to the people to believe and His rejection of those who proclaim that they believe. What is going on here? We must understand that our salvation comes from God. It isn’t our decision or choice. God the Father must first give those who will believe to the Son. The Son died on the cross to accomplish their salvation. The Holy Spirit makes the salvation of those whom Christ died for effectual by drawing them or calling them to believe. This belief is in God’s timing and its impetus is not going to be tied to seeing miracles or signs or being in a church that is fun or friendly. Instead, people become genuinely saved when they believe and repent as their hearts are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. It is only accomplished according to God’s will in His timing as the genuine gospel is preached or presented. All the Father gives to the Son will believe. Those who “believe” for any other reason don’t really believe at all.
If this is true, and I believe it is, then we have a problem in the 21st Century Church. Those who are truly regenerate Christians will also be genuine disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. They deny themselves and take up their crosses and follow Him. They hunger deeply for personal holiness because their sin is becoming more and more abhorrent to them because they are walking in repentance. Their consciences are becoming more and more pure as they become bound to the Word of God. They have entered by the narrow gate that few find. They are on the narrow path that is the way of those who suffer for their faith. Religious activity is not a valid marker of a genuine disciple. Fruit is the marker that indicates a truly regenerate heart. That fruit is grown by God and is borne by those who abide in the True Vine. (John 15) Those who look real, but who bear no fruit are cut out of the Vine and thrown into the fire.
I repeat, we have problem in the American Church in the 21st Century. This problem can only be corrected by a movement of the Holy Spirit. The reason so many churches are mired in backward, humanistic Christianity is that their leaders are false shepherds who preach a false gospel. However, no man can stand in defiance of God and live for long. Those of us who know the truth must take it upon ourselves to come boldly, yet with broken hearts, to the throne of Grace. We must become those who pray fervent prayers that God will stay His hand of judgment and instead, send the revival we so desperately need.