“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9 NKJV
Let me begin this morning by asking a question of you, the answer of which I think I already know. My question is this; “how many of you would like to be cursed by God?” Now like I said, the answer to that is predictable, but let me go even further. The word in this passage for “accursed” in the Greek is anathema; a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed”. Now speaking for myself, I am pretty sure I would do anything in my power to avoid giving God the Father any reason whatsoever for passing that sort of curse on me. Yet unbelievable as it is, at this point in time many in the Church are doing exactly that.
I’m speaking, of course, of the resurgence in popularity of the social gospel movement which is found in so many churches today, especially those which subscribe to the emergent church model. I have spoken about this before, but the Spirit led me this week to revisit the subject, and share a few new thoughts about where we see the church as a whole going today. While many feel that the emergent church movement is a relatively new concept, the truth is that the social gospel they have chosen to repackage and present as new and socially relevant has been around for quite a while.
The beginnings of what we know as the social gospel movement actually began in the late 1800’s by way of a Baptist minister named Walter Rauschenbusch. After studying theology at the University of Rochester, an institution funded by John D. Rockefeller, he began teaching and writing about a Jesus who, rather than coming to save sinners from sin, actually came to introduce a gospel which believed in social activism which would improve the world by reforming politics and introducing a universal church sharing the same beliefs. The result was a turning from sharing the Gospel as Jesus taught, and teaching instead a gospel which believed society could change the world for good through social justice, political reform, and religious unity.
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 NKJV
As I have watched what many conservative commentators have described as the downfall of our country as a result of rampant liberalism, the thought occurred to me that we could also make the case that the Church itself is on much the same path. Although we can see the movement away from teaching about the need for repentance of sin and being born again as Jesus taught has been going on for some time, it is only lately with the appearance of churches which teach a “social gospel”, and the emergent church movement which has attracted so many, has this difference become so apparent.
“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,” 2 Thessalonians 2:3 NASB
The Greek word “apostasia” literally means to fall away, or defect from something previously believed to be true. When speaking to the Thessalonians’ about the rapture of the Church, Paul makes it clear that many will fall away and defect from the truth of the gospel before the Church is taken away. Since so many who choose to study the prophecies of the end of the Church Age believe we have arrived at that point in time, and the rapture could occur at any moment, should we as believers be surprised at the state of the Church in light of the apostasy Paul warned us about?
“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” James 3:1 NKJV
What you will find in many of these emerging churches is the avoidance of teaching the Gospel as Jesus taught, and replacing it with the social gospel, which is simply the focus and emphasis on works done in the name of Jesus. These churches choose to describe their members as “followers” of Jesus, and place a great emphasis on “doing” rather than “believing”. These churches are filled with programs and service opportunities which satisfy the desire of their members to be busy for God, yet ignore the teaching by Jesus that belief comes before works.
“Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” John 6:28-29 NKJV
“And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:30-31 NKJV
“Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 NKJV
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:” John 1:12 NKJV
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14 NKJV
If you look closely at the Church today and the majority of those which could be described as subscribing to the emergent church model or teaching a social gospel, is it any wonder that the last church of this age revealed to us in the book of Revelation as the Laodician church is also one in which Jesus appears standing on the outside knocking to come in? The sad fact is that as a result of not teaching the Gospel of Jesus as He taught it, with the emphasis on being born again as a result of believing in His sacrifice for our sin, these churches are full of what they call “Christ followers” but very few true believers.
“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Matthew 7:22-23 NKJV
Doing good works in Jesus’ name is what we are called to do, but Jesus made it clear that choosing to believe in Him comes first, and the works come as a result of our belief. The Word of God is clear that it is not enough just to follow, you must believe. Do you believe? Have you personally prayed to God and asked for forgiveness of your sins by the power of the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ? If so, you are born again as Jesus taught, and someone who can proudly say “I am a believer”.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” John 14:12 NKJV
“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:30-31 NKJV
“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10 NKJV
“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:11-13 NKJV
It’s possible you are reading these words today and have never told God that you truly believe in the sacrifice He made for you by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for your sins. If that is the case, simply pray a prayer like this; Jesus I know that I am a sinner, and have sinned against you. I believe you loved me enough to send your Son Jesus to die for my sins, and that He rose from the dead so that I can live. Forgive me of my sins and come into my life and help me to live for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:37-40 NKJV