“Take heed what ye hear…” (Matthew 4:24)
by W. J. Mencarow, Pastor, Reformation Presbyterian Church,
That may sound like a silly question. After all, your church has Bibles, the pastor quotes from it, everybody thinks of themselves as a Christian (and most of them even act like it!)…of course the Gospel is preached!
And maybe your church really does preach the true Gospel. But some churches, even though they have all the outward appearances of being a Christian church, preach and teach another “gospel” which is not a gospel at all — it is a clever counterfeit of the real one, what Paul called a “perversion of the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:7).
We should not be surprised that this could happen. The book of Galatians in the Bible is God’s expose’ of a counterfeit gospel. The Lord Jesus condemns counterfeit churches in Revelation. In fact, the entire Bible, New as well as Old Testament, condemns false churches.
Compare the preaching and teaching that characterizes Reformation Church to what you hear at your church. I sincerely hope that you find them the same.
True Gospel preaching displays Jesus Christ as Lord and commands all to repent and trust in Him to be saved. The true Gospel teaches that all who trust in Him will be saved and will never lose their salvation. It teaches that it is the faith of Christ, His righteousness credited to the sinner, that saves — not anything we have done or will do. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation.
Counterfeit preaching invites all to “make a decision for Christ” (repentance is rarely mentioned) as though He, the Lord of all Creation, is begging and pleading for people to believe in Him. This leaves salvation ultimately up to what the sinner does, not based entirely upon what Christ has done. It is man-centered, teaching that man has the power to veto God’s desires — to deny the will of God. That is exactly what Satan promised Eve in the Garden of Eden: The ability to choose good and evil for ourselves, apart from the decree of, or dependence upon, God. Counterfeit preaching degrades Christ by denying that His death actually saved anyone — because if no one ever chose Him, His death would have been in vain and without apparent purpose. It teaches that Christ’s suffering and death wasn’t quite good enough. Jesus didn’t do it all; He needs our help, our “decision,” our OK in order to save us. He cannot save us unless we agree to it. In essence, we save ourselves. The bottom line is that a false gospel, counterfeit preaching, always denies Christ’s finished work on the cross. Always. And that is to deny Christ Himself.
Of course you remember the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead by the Lord Jesus. There was a time, some years earlier, when Lazarus was born. Do you think he helped his mother in the birth process? Did he make a decision to be born? No? Did he help the Lord Jesus call him out of the tomb after being dead and rotting for several long days there, called from death unto renewed spiritual (and in his case, physical) life? Did he make a decision to follow Jesus? Of course the Bible says it was Christ and Christ alone who called Lazarus each time. He saved him and sanctified him as well. But what does your church teach?
You see, true Gospel preaching does not dishonor God by turning Him into a pathetic figure tapping on our hearts and begging us to give Him our approval. It teaches that we need God, but He does not need us. It teaches that it is not us who should pity Christ, but that Christ pities us, although pity is the last thing we deserve. It teaches that His people, past, present and future, were actually saved by His suffering, death and Resurrection (Matthew 1:2); that His death on the Cross actually had meaning — it was the most important event in history — because it actually, at that very moment some 2,000 years ago, saved His people; past, present and future.
Having faith is not something we decide to do, “it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9). God decides to give the gift of faith to whom He chooses, and He uses the Gospel as the means to do it.
“No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John. 6:44). All whom the Father has given to the Son will believe and be saved (John 17). True Gospel preaching invites all to come to Christ and find rest for their souls. We preach the Gospel out of love for men, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9) and in obedience to our Lord’s commandment to preach the Gospel to every person in the world (Matthew. 28).
Rather than “bringing people to Christ,” which implies that it is men who are the active agent and Christ is passive, true Gospel preaching “brings Christ to people.” As the Lord Jesus Christ is set before men, women and children, He convicts them of sin, moves them to repentance, awakens them to faith and draws their hearts to Himself.
If you don’t know the difference between the true Gospel and a clever counterfeit, how will you know how to present the true Gospel to others with power? Do you think God will bless a man-centered message that does not give God all the glory? (Remember what happened to Herod — Acts 12:23). How will you distinguish between the true Gospel and a counterfeit for the salvation of your own soul?
Rev. Brian Schwertley observes, “A proper understanding of the new birth is crucial to the Christian faith. An unbiblical view of the new birth will compromise and pervert many other important truths. It is remarkable that most fundamentalists and evangelicals who champion the new birth have completely perverted the doctrine. They have made it dependent upon man’s choice rather than God’s choice.
” There is no excuse for anyone to misunderstand this doctrine; the Bible is very clear. If you do not believe what the Bible teaches regarding the new birth, then you must repent and submit to Christ’s teaching. If you have changed your view of the new birth and yet find yourself in a church that rejects the Bible’s teaching in this area, it’s time for you to find a new church. Jesus Christ clearly implied that men who did not understand this doctrine were not fit to be teachers of His people (Jn. 3:10).” What is your church preaching and teaching — the true Gospel or a counterfeit one? If it is the former, praise God! But if it is the latter, remember the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, “Take heed what ye hear” (Matthew 4:24) and join us for worship this Lord’s Day.
“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” (Jer. 6:16)
Reformation Presbyterian Church
11 a.m. Sunday
Holiday Inn Express, Boerne, TX
I-10 At Exit 540
I am indebted to Dr. J.I. Packer for crystallizing some of my thoughts for this article through his book A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life. Crossway Books 1990.