Editors Note: Jeremy Sanders returns to offer a painful, sobering look at the American church and why there are so many people who live lives indistinguishable from the world and call themselves Christians at the same time.
The Divide Between True Christianity and the Modern “Church”
Identifying the Problem
What does it mean to be “Christian? We hear the term thrown around in our culture at will, yet its meaning is often varied and lacks established parameters. Members of the establishment tend to use the term derisively, mocking those who identify as Christian, yet then turn around and use it as a club when someone dares point out the lack of morality in the culture. To some apparently, the true meaning of the Gospel is to be tolerant of every sin known to mankind, promote social justice in the church and society, and promote socialism and redistribution of wealth in our society. Such views are not confined to the establishment, politicians, big businesses, or the media. Even some “Christians” have adopted these talking points.
Countless “welcoming and affirming” congregations exist across our nation, recognizing such sins as homosexuality, abortion, fornication, and now transgenderism, as perfectly acceptable acts by members of society and their congregations. Entire denominations, such as Presbyterian Churches USA, American Baptist Churches USA, Episcopalians, and Methodists, just to name a few, have welcomed some or all of these ungodly practices. They seem perfectly content to allow members to not just practice homosexuality, abortion, and transgenderism, but openly promote such practices from their pulpits, often hiring “pastors” who openly live such sinful lifestyles. Stories of drag queen story hours taking place in churches are no longer considered horrifying; they are now normalized in many “churches”. Such churches encourage members to vote for political candidates that actively support such views. Indeed, huge numbers of “Christians” voted for Joe Biden in the recent Presidential race, a candidate that just nominated a transgender individual as his assistant health secretary. Millions of self-described “Christians” just voted for such a man, and the policies he represents.
So how are Christians supposed to view these events? As culture changes, are we supposed to adapt and stay relevant by affirming such behavior? Are we to say such attitudes are wrong, but still consider these congregations as “Christian” in their faith? What is a follower of Christ to do in such circumstances?
From a Biblical perspective, it is quite clear that all the acts listed above are wicked and ungodly. Furthermore, the fact that these acts are promoted by those calling themselves “Christians” raises a sad, but important fact about the state of religion in America. Many congregations in America are not true churches, because they are filled with people who are not actually Christian. Yes, they may call themselves by the name. They may go to church every week, give money to charity, help the poor, and do all sorts of wonderful things. They may have prayed some prayer and say they believe on Jesus. Yet, their actual fruit is filled with corruption. They have never surrendered to Christ as Lord, never bowed His commands, and are lost on their way to eternal destruction. Indeed, many such congregations no longer even recognize sin for what it truly is. Fifty years ago, they would have said such acts were carnal, but that men conducting such acts were “carnal Christians” but still saved. As we shall see, calling such people “carnal Christians” is a dangerous slope that leads to complete moral collapse.
Now, at this point, some people might exclaim that no one can judge a man’s heart, only God can see the heart. This fact is true. Yet, as we will ascertain from Scripture, we are to know someone by their fruit. And the fruit of the American “Church” is so corrupt, so evil, so vile, that it reveals their inner being. Not only can we say with certainty that the American “church” is filled with unbelievers, but we must do so. Denying this reality weakens the true church, corrupts the next generation of Christians, and blinds us to the fact that the greatest mission field in America might actually reside with the walls of “church” buildings across the nation. The implications of the modern church’s rejection of the Gospel are quite clear. Millions of self-described “Christians” are not saved, lost, and on their way to hell, while the once righteous culture has become a cesspool of depraved immorality. The church speaks endlessly about vague attributes of God’s love, but deny his holiness. They expound on His grace but reject His justice. They seek the benefits of a Savior while denying the demands of His Lordship.
We will briefly examine evidence to support this claim and then delve into a deep study of what it means to actually be a Christian. Is it just going to church and giving to charity? Is it seeking eternal life and believing on Jesus? Or is it something more? A lifestyle totally surrendered to Christ’s rule? The results might surprise you; the implications may very well change the way you define being “Christian.”
Statistics on the American “Church”
Let’s take a quick look at the fruit of the American Church today to see just where we are at as a nation. According to a recent study done by the Arizona Christian University, if we look at Evangelicals, we will see that 52% do not believe in absolute moral truth. Obviously, this is not a good fruit.
Among mainline churches, 58% do not believe in absolute morality. 63% do not believe that God is the standard of truth, 81% believe man is basically good. 76% believe that faith in any religion is just as important as having faith in Christ. 71% do not believe the Bible is the primary source of moral guidance. 55% do not believe all life is sacred, most mainline churches and even many Evangelical churches support abortion, affirm the abomination that is homosexuality, and even support the transgender movement sweeping across America. A large number of “Christians” just voted for a man who supports abortion on demand, homosexuality, transgenderism, and social justice, all of which are unbiblical. Only 13% read their Bible every day, 49% pray every day, and most concerningly, only 41% identify as Born Again. Considering the number who consider man good and God as not the standard of truth, the number of unbelievers currently part of the American “Church” is incredibly high.
Are these the actions of someone indwelt by the Holy Spirit? Our hearts should be broken because the beliefs I just described are demonstrations of evil fruit. We have an organization that we call the “church” in America, that is not displaying good fruit. The church does not display good fruit because it is filled with religious people who imagine themselves saved, but are truly lost and on their way to hell.
Point 1: Identifying the Condition of the Heart by our Fruit
(Matthew 7:1-5,16-23, )
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:16-23
The passage says “Ye shall know them by their fruits”. Who will we know by their fruits? False prophets, those that do not obey the Lord and who preach a false gospel. This passage clearly tells us that we can identify those who are preaching a false gospel by simply looking at their lives. Verse eighteen tells us, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit”. Notice, a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, it is impossible to do so. “Neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” Jesus uses an allegory to make his point clear when he states that thorns and thistles do not produce grapes. The point is clear.
Lest someone think Jesus is not talking about salvation, notice what he says in verse nineteen. “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” He is clearly discussing hell in this verse. Such an assessment is made even clearer by the following verses. Verses 21-23 describe these individuals further. Some did many wondrous works in Christ’s name. They healed the sick, and no doubt aided the poor, and attracted quite a following of “believers”. Yet, Jesus will say on judgment day, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Jesus is clearly discussing salvation.
Now, what does Jesus mean when He says “I never knew you”? The word “knew” is translated from the Greek verb γινωσκω (ginosko) which means to know in a deeply meaningful way. It is a Jewish idiom we see throughout the Bible, often describing sexual relations between a man and wife. Read Matthew 1:25 for an example of this usage as an expression of love. In the spiritual context, it means to love in a truly intimate, deep, and divine manner. We see a form of the word multiple times in the New Testament (Acts 2:23, Romans 8:28, 1 Peter 1:2 to name a few), where it is translated as foreknowledge. The Greek word προγνωσις, (pro-gnosis, προ = before, γνωσις = to know) speaks of God loving the saved from before the foundation of the earth. Such a statement should fill every true Christian with both wonder and joy, for it demonstrates the incredible love God displays to us. It provides eternal security, for God has loved us from before time, and will not abandon that love. Conversely, it is damnation for those who reject His love, for we are told that Jesus never knew/loved them. Clearly then, Jesus is describing salvation in this passage, both here, and when describing knowing someone by their fruit.
Such a statement is further solidified in verses 13-14 of Matthew 7, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Notice “many” go to the broad gate of destruction. It is broad because every road outside of Christ leads to this gate, and practically all of them proclaim they are leading to life. Every religion declares it is the path to heaven. Even in many churches, it is fashionable to say that there are many paths to heaven, and so long as you have generic “faith” you will be saved. Yet, we know that the way to God is narrow, and it runs straight through faith in Christ. And following Christ is always accompanied by good fruit. Good fruit is not the prerequisite for a redeemed soul, but it is ALWAYS the product of a born-again life.
The feel-good, social gospel crowd, often points to the words of Jesus that tell us not to judge, lest we be judged. We are often told it is hypocrisy to judge the sins of others. Indeed, it is a common refrain from those who do not wish Christians to condemn sin. In their minds, repentance is not attractive, and the church pews will not be filled due shining light on sinful behavior. Interestingly, those saying it is wrong to judge another’s action are themselves judging Christians who stand on Biblical principles! Lest one be convinced by such empty hypocrisy, the positioning of the verses on judging others could not be clearer. Literally, they are at the beginning of Matthew 7, which we have just been examining!
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5
The context of this passage is clear. It is not saying that Christians are not to judge others. No, it is saying that those that judge must be prepared to receive the same judgment. It is a warning against hypocrisy, as Jesus plainly states in verse five. If Jesus is telling us not to judge at all, then He would not say in verse twenty that we can know the wicked by their fruits. As Christians, we must be discerning and determine the true identity of fellow Christians, and the identity of those merely playing a part. Doing so allows us to identify the wolves in sheep’s clothing and reject their false teachings. The importance of doing so is evident in the state of the American “church.” Ungodly teachings have been given a home, and the American “church” is now filled with non-Christian congregations who have welcomed and affirmed sin, displaying the evil fruit that grows from a corrupt soul.
If we cannot look to the American church to find an example of good fruit, where can we look? The Apostle Peter describes such fruit in his second letter to Jewish believers.
“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2nd Peter 1:4-8
As Peter writes, the good fruit in a Christian’s life as faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity. Notice he says that if these qualities be in a Christian, then a believer will not be barren or unfruitful. No, he will be the exact opposite. Furthermore, he will escape the lusts of this world and the corruption associated with such lust. Good fruit builds exponentially. A true Christian will exercise faith in Christ, which we examine more fully later. The outcome of this faith will be virtue, which describes our sanctification. Virtue is doing right, and eschewing wrong, even when no one else is looking. By living virtuously, we can more fully understand the knowledge of God’s Word. Studying God’s word allows us to live with temperance and control our base desires. Exercising self-control builds patience in our lives, for it is a long and difficult process. Yet, if we succeed, we will have acted in a godly manner. And the outcome of a godly manner changes the focus from ourselves to others. A godly person is only interested in serving others and showing Christ’s love. This is the heart of brotherly kindness and charity. And by cultivating this good fruit in our lives, the natural result is a harvest of souls for the Lord’s kingdom. By planting the seeds of good fruit, we will ensure we will neither be barren nor unfruitful. What a blessing!
Does the modern church demonstrate the fruit described by Peter? It is hard to reap good fruit when the church is currently sowing corruption. At this point, some might believe I am being too harsh. After all, do not Christians still sin? Is there not such a thing as a carnal Christian? The Bible says a good tree “cannot” produce evil fruit, but does this mean a Christian must live a perfect life to be saved? We must examine these points to fully understand if the American “church” is merely full of “carnal Christians” or unregenerate sinners.
This article will continue next week. The views of the author are his own and do not represent any organization, group or agency.
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