Like the weeds that appear and grow slowly in a garden, ideas, philosophies, and reinterpretations erring from God’s true Gospel of salvation have in the past crept into the evangelical church community (Jude 4). Today they don’t creep in, they gush in unashamedly, and unabashedly. These weeds originally looked so much like the plants of value that discernment to distinguish them from the real thing was relegated to those most insightful and familiar with what a true plant should be. The insightful condition and familiarity does not come to those who can tell the difference naturally, but prayerfully, and through familiarity and continued labor in the Word of God. As time has passed there appears to be fewer and fewer of the discerning that even question what is going on. Unfortunately, more than a generation of compromising the Bible’s truth, abuse, neglect, and purposeful destruction has left a mass of people that are willing to believe anything stated in the name of Christianity, and especially if it is sweet and easy to swallow.
I have been contemplating the masses of church attendees at the largest church in the world. It is easy to view, because it is on TV. Here is an ocean of people. The performance begins, and ends - and as one who loves truth can only evaluate, nothing of any true spiritual value has been accomplished. I am not ashamed to proclaim honestly, candidly, but sadly that God has not been worshipped. The truth has not been presented. The curse man is under, and his sin leading to death is not discussed. Jesus Christ has not been honored. No person’s life has really been enriched, no glory has been given to God, no sinner has been converted, and not one person there among the thousands is better off for having attended. What has happened? People have met around an idea. The idea is a religion supposedly of the Bible, but it is not the message of the Bible at all. It is instead something made up, a taken out of context invention purposely designed for popularity around the theme of being happy. It is a sugar coating over the bitter reality of man’s real condition, and desperate need for the Savior. The Bible in such messages is abused, distorted from its context, message, and purpose. The true message has been neutered and changed to reflect the idea that the most important thing for any person is to live happy. The ways to live happy are encouraged through trying harder and thinking more positively. Implied is that God sent His Son so that all people might feel good about themselves. God is wishing, hoping, and trying to get everyone to feel and be happy. True salvation from sin is never discussed, as sin is a negative subject and offensive, but instead what is strongly implied, is that being happy is salvation. Feeling happy is the new birth. Feeling happy is being born again.
As a survivor of cancer, I have thought about the corollary of my physical condition in relation to my spiritual condition. In my early cancer diagnosis, and ultimate treatment, when I first went to the doctor with indications there was something wrong - what did I want to hear from the doctor? Well, I wanted to hear that I was OK. I wanted to hear there was nothing to get concerned about. On the other hand, I knew what I needed to know was the truth. If there was a cancer, I needed to know in order to find any hope of curing it, and continue living with my family and grandchildren a little longer. I needed to know what the truth was, confront the reality, and find the cure. Thankfully the doctor did tell me the truth. It was difficult to swallow, certainly not enjoyable, but it set me on the road to making right decisions to use the best procedure available to affect the destruction of the cancer. Had the doctor looked at me, and determined that regardless of my real condition, the best thing he could do for me is simply make me happy – tell me what I wanted to hear, that I was really well, and not to worry but just think positively about myself, and be happy - that would have been enjoyable for the moment, but the time of reality would have soon removed that false joy. It is a sure reality that if I had not been told the truth, and dealt with the cancer, I would either be dead today, or significantly suffering and well on my way. I am thankful the doctor diagnosed me properly and soberly told me the truth, and that from that I was able to take steps to deal with the cancer.
The Scripture says “there is a way which seems right unto man, but the end thereof is the way of death” (Prov 14:12). This passage alone warns to be discerning about where any person attaches their hope. A false hope, a hope without reality is ultimately useless. It may pacify the thinking for a short time, but as it is not real, it has no value, and even worse than useless because it swallows important time that could have been spent on something of substance. It misleads and tricks contrary to real hope.
Paul tells us through his writing to Timothy that in the last days “difficult times will come.” These times he goes on to say are characterized by people who are not focused on God, but on themselves. He goes on to describe them as “wanting to have their ears tickled” (2 Tim 4:3). He predicted a time when people wanted to be told they were OK when they were not OK. They did not want the truth, but wanted to be told a lie to make themselves feel good. This ear tickling has no value. In fact, it was and is a lie. A lie is destructive, and not constructive – not even in the least. Paul said this ear tickling “will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim 4:4). It is the truth that God uses to change people from sinners to saints (John 8:32). No myth has any value spiritually, in fact according as Paul stated what it does is not just fill time and space, but it actually turns those listening to myths. People engaged in following after and believing myths are not on the right road, no matter how sincere, but they are on the road that leads to destruction. No matter how sweet that road may appear, or how appealing it may be, it is ultimately as destructive as an untreated cancer.
I am completely persuaded that we are living in those last days Paul described. It should therefore not be surprising there are myths being taught from pulpits. The issue for anyone who will listen is to honestly ask, which road am I on? Have I bought the sweet message my natural self would like to hear, or am I engaged in a pursuit of knowing the truth? Jesus spoke of a wide road and a narrow road (Mat 7:13-14). The wide road is the road most people are on, but He goes on to say that it leads to destruction. The narrow road He says leads to life, but there are few who find it. Have you found it? The only way it can be found is not by listening to voices that tell you what you want to hear, or to make you feel momentarily happy, but to listen to voices that tell the truth. The truth is in God’s Word, and is found in righteous agreement with what is written, not in a reinterpretation of what is written. The cure and real hope is on the narrow way – the way Jesus described that leads to life.
It is interesting that Christ Himself was not popular in His day. He was well known, and His deeds were the talk of all the middle-east, but He was not popular. He was hated because of what He taught, and God used the unreasonable natural hatred of man against that which was not pleasant to hear, to place Christ on the cross that He might die for sinners. It is not a feel good story. It is a story that tells us that man is so desperate, wicked, and blind to the truth that He took the Son of God, our Creator and chose to maliciously execute Him in the most perverse manner possible. It also exposes us to the infinite love of God - a love so remarkable that He would send His Son to die for those who are ungrateful enemies. But, and this is most important - it also reveals to us the hatred of God against sin, and that if He would crush His own Son because of sin, how do you think He will treat those who continue arrogantly in their sin, when He has provided such a great remedy, a Great Redeemer – Jesus Christ?
Are you willing to be counted if necessary with the non-popular people – the people on the narrow road? Most importantly, are you willing to be counted with Him who was crucified? No popular sweet message will make up for the condition you and I were born into – a condition of sin with no remedy other than the Jesus Christ (John 14:6) of the Bible. Ironically, the message concerning our real condition in sin, like that of being told we have cancer, is the best message we can hear. It does not tickle our ears, but it deals with our Soul, and Spirit (Heb 4:12), and by it we can be transformed (2 Cor 5:17) and made new in Christ. It is a message that is initially harsh because it tells us what we need, but no message was ever sweeter, for it carries with it the promise of eternal life. I write this for whoever might in the providence of God read it, and I pray consider that it is not the big show of religion, the popular self focused message to be happy that has any value or power, but instead the truth of God from His Word that sets men free. Oh, I pray God will put it in your heart to seek the narrow way that leads to life. Find a church that preaches the truth of the Bible, no matter its size, or popularity, if it tells you the truth that leads to life it has the most valuable possession on earth.