But that is not the way you learned Christ!-- assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. - Ephesians 4: 20-24 (ESV)
There is a price to be paid for engaging in superficial Christianity. Across this country we see more and more pastors, well intended or not, lead their churches under the purpose driven, seeker friendly model. At the core, this philosophy believes that the full Gospel of Jesus Christ is somehow not enough to reach the next generation in this increasingly wicked culture. No one will admit that up front but denial is a powerful tool the enemy engrains in us. The actions speak to the truth where the pastors refuse to see. When you think that your church needs to be "relevant" to a culture that is consigning everyone to hell, the truth is that you do not have faith in the Gospel. When you feel you must strip mine the Bible for the portions that are warm and fuzzy in order to lure unsuspecting people into your church, the truth is you do not have faith in the Gospel. When you water down what it means to be born again, the truth is you do not have faith in the Gospel.
What is the end result however? You take an unchurched and unsaved individual and have them come to your service. They sit through a half hour of contemporary songs disguised as worship. They do not know anything about God but they take away from this half hour that they are a friend of God. That they are going to get their blessings right now. That they are God's portion and oh how He loves them. Next, they sit through a five minute plea for money during the offering. From that they learn their first Scripture, usually from Malachi, that God is just waiting to throw open the windows of heaven for them if they would just honor God first with their money. Next they hear a half hour message about something that can benefit their temporal life. How to improve their marriage. How to fix their fractured family. How to find their "purpose." The message is not a sermon in that it is devoid of the full Gospel. It is devoid of the cross. It is devoid of sin and the need to repent. It is devoid of any meaningful examination of Scripture. Sure there will be a few verses for the sake of optics but those are usually horrifically ripped out of context to highlight the most positive human message one can find. They learn that God wants them to be the head and not the tail. They learn that God has this wonderful plan for their life, to give them hope and a future. They learn that the grace of God will cover all of their sins, even the ones they have not committed yet. As the message starts to end, sappy manipulative music begins as the altar call segment begins. With all eyes closed and no one looking around...who likes what they heard about this Jesus guy? Raise your hand! I see that hand, thank you. OK, those that raised their hands - I want to pray with you. As the worship team comes to "minister" once again, please step out of your seat and meet me at the altar. You leave your seat confused. Maybe because your wife pushes you out. Maybe because you feel silly having raised your hand. Maybe because you were sold on this Santa Claus God who is just dying to bless you. For whatever reason, you find yourself there. After all, the preacher guy said it would only take five minutes. There you are asked to repeat a three sentence prayer, which is made easier because everyone else in the whole place has been asked to repeat it too. Maybe there is an obligatory mention of sin and repentance, maybe not. Basically it is asking this Jesus guy to come into your heart. Everyone stands and applauds as they hand you a Bible.
So what is the end result? The preacher says that if you were sincere that you just became born again and are promised a spot in heaven. Later that month you are baptized by merely nodding your head in assent to pre-packaged "testimony" spoken by the pastor. You fill out a SHAPE application to discover what your "gifts" are. You are assigned into a ministry you like and begin to fulfill your "purpose." You start to fancy yourself a Christian. Your defense would be that you attend church regularly and serve in a ministry faithfully. Your hand is on the plow. Nothing however has significantly changed in your life beyond Sundays. You still don't read your Bible. You still flirt with your secretary. You still engage in destructive behaviors. So what is the end result? You grow old in your Christianity. You pick up all the lingo. Your outside is nice and polished. Then one day your life is required of you as it will be for all of us. You stand before Christ. This is the end result:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' - Matthew 7: 21-23 (ESV)
But Lord, I never heard my pastor preach this verse! Didn't I go to church religiously for decades? Didn't I faithfully serve in the security ministry? Didn't I...
I do not know you. Away from me, you who practice lawlessness.