by Mike Ratliff
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7 ESV)
As many of you know, I was given the opportunity to do a pre-release review of a book written by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola titled Jesus Manifesto. To be honest, I was shocked after I received it and began reading it. I knew, for instance, that Sweet was a good friend of Brian McLaren and was emergent in his theology. However, the book started out well. It was like reading a sermon preached by a very good evangelist. My good friend Jon Cardwell was also enlisted to review the book and was going through the same struggle. It was amazing. However, I was also asking for a lot of prayer for wisdom and discernment from friends and family as I dug into the book. It did not help though that this was going on as I was also dealing with a great deal of mental exhaustion. In any case, my prayers were answered when I came to the part of the book dealing with our Lord’s crucifixion.
Here is a direct quote from a chapter titled “A Bottle In The Ocean,” which was about our Lord’s crucifixion. This quote is from pages 30-31 in my pre-publication version.
So where there was hostility, He brought peace. Where there was separation, He brought union. Where there was death, he brought life.
But here’s the mindblower: Because of that hill, because of that blood, and because of that cross, you stand holy, spotless, blameless, without reproach and accusation in the sight of a holy God.
Yet that’s not all.
This Christ created a new humanity, a new creation, a new race like Himself. That new humanity is His own body, a multi-member creature that we call the church, the ekklesia of God. It is bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh—kin to divinity. And this Christ is the head, the authority, and the source of that body.
But wait. There is more.
This Christ triumphed over the greatest enemy that God ever faced—death, the offspring of sin. He conquered its power, extinguished its sting, and dismantled the fear that attached to it.
Jesus Christ passed through death and came out in resurrection—and He is the first to return from the dead to never taste mortality again.
But that’s not all.
In His resurrection, this Christ—the only begotten Son—shook off His chains, no longer bound by time and space. He became a “life-giving Spirit,” the firstborn among many sisters and brothers—all of whom will be raised from the dead after Him.
This glorious Christ defeated death, the grace, the curse, the entire world system; He defeated sin, satan, and all condemnation; He slew shame, He conquered guilt, and He shared His everlasting victory and towering triumph with you.
Here is a Christ so grand and glorious that He is beyond the reaches of human comprehension.
All things are in this Christ. All things are through this Christ.
All things are for this Christ.
And He has been given first place in everything.
What an incredible Lord! This is how Paul described Him to the ailing Colossian church. The Jesus he presented smokes brain cells in one’s effort to grasp Him. He embodies the inexplicables of almighty God. And this is the same Jesus you have today.
As you read that my brethren, did you see anything missing? Did you notice that the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ was left out? That is what the most of the book of Romans is about isn’t it?
Yes, Sweet and Viola talked about our Lord’s death being the critical point in history and how it was actually the culmination in God’s plan for our Lord’s manifesto. It was as I read this that it was as if God did bring me to that critical place to stop and ask some questions dealing with Biblical context. What about our Lord’s propitiation (Romans 3:25)? In that passage, we see that His propitiation is received ONLY by faith. It is not something that was purchased for everyone on earth. However, in Jesus Manifesto, Sweet and Viola gloss over all of that and make the Gospel something entirely different. It is presented in such a way that if one is not BOTH discerning and Biblically literate he or she can be very easily duped into falling under the spell of a very subtle deception, that this work of Christ’s is something completely different from what the Bible says it is.
What is the deception? Before we go into that let me state here that I never thought I would see the day that I would have to explain the Gospel to Christians. There is a passage in the New Testament that speaks of Jesus marveling at the unbelief of the people of Nazareth, His hometown. I am at that point at times with professing Christians and the Gospel. It is amazing how many golden calves people have set up that are untouchable that keeps us from actually sharing THE REAL GOSPEL with them. In any case, the manifesto that the emergents claim was Jesus Christ’s real mission is entirely different from the Biblical Gospel and the creation of the Church or ekklesia out of the world not make everyone in the world the ekklesia. These are two very different things. Also, the theology of Brian McLaren and Leonard Sweet says that the mission of Jesus was to die on that Cross and rise again in order to create a new race by giving people the divine spark of God or to deify them. In other words, Christ went to the Cross to die then be resurrected so that the entire human race can be Gods just like Him. Don’t believe me? Read this.
The deception is growing. Visible Christianity is being absorbed into ecumenical religiosity. Interfaith movements will be the norm with the exclusivity of the Gospel message becoming more and more offensive as the day of our Lord’s return draws ever closer. In the early days of the Church, it could cost a Christian his or her life to confess Jesus as Lord and that meant refusing to compromise with “interfaith” nonsense of any kind. We are again approaching this where we will be seen as intolerant bigots. I have relatives who view me that way already. I work with people who think I am the most closed minded person on the planet. However, when they are hurting, I am the first person they come to. Weird… In any case, the heart of man is desperately wicked, who can know it. Subjectivity cannot be part of how we know God or try to understand Him or our faith. That is key my brethren. However, that is what keeps so many in the dark because they refuse to let go of “their right to choose.” Well, our salvation is by choice, God’s choice, not ours.
In a separate discussion with my friend Ken Silva about these things, I made the comment about using clear Biblical exegesis to show the emergents and other heretics what was right and that what they were doing was wrong. He said that they would simply ignore us if we did that because they have been deceived. Well, that may very well be true and probably is, but we must never stop showing the Church what poison is being fed to them by these false shepherds, these wolves in sheep’s clothing. Our role is to warn the Body of Christ, the ekklesia, about these things as we rebuke those who are doing them. Perhaps God will draw some to repentance.
My brethren, none of us know how much longer we have in this age. None of us know how many days we have left in these bodies. All we can do is live these lives the right way and that is as instructed by God Himself through the Holy Spirit who inspired the Apostle to tell us, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4 ESV)
As I worshipped and prayed this morning, I confessed to my Lord that life without Him would be meaningless. This is the heart cry of the regenerate heart. If your heart is more in love with this world than with Him then there is a problem. If your heart is fixed on self then you have elevated self to the throne as deity and that is a huge red flag. Yes, we can enjoy family, work, and hobbies, et cetera but these things can never take first place in the heart of the true sheep of Christ. Those who are truly His hear His voice and follow Him by walking in repentance. As we get better and better at that as we mature, these things that used to compete in our hearts for that first place will seem as rubbish compared to Him. This is the pattern of spiritual growth we should see in our walks. If that is nowhere to be found then there is a problem. Are you truly Born Again? Not sure? Contact me.
Soli Deo Gloria.