首页 > 在线讲章 > 稀释福音的危险

稀释福音的危险

作者:道格·巴契勒 牧师日期:2016-11-26 12:55:1浏览数:6701
中文字体:【

中文:

奇妙真相:2005年,癌症患者乔治娅·海耶斯起诉了她的药剂师,并获得了22亿美元的赔偿。因为这名药剂师用水稀释了她的化疗药物,以致其错过了癌症的最佳康复时机。虽然22亿美元是一笔巨款,但是当你的生命将尽时,它无法给你带来任何慰藉。

字典中对“稀释”的定义是,淡化、减弱强度、参杂、贬值或降低效能、使之虚弱,掺水。

比起稀释治疗癌症的药物,还有什么更加致命呢?可能就是给心脏病人服用安慰剂,或给糖尿病人注射稀释的胰岛素。

但事实上,最最致命的药物,却是掺了水的福音——因为其悲惨的后果将是永远的。

耶稣说,在末时会出现两等人,一等人被称为“小群”,另一等人被称为“许多人”。“当那日必有许多人对我说:‘主啊,主啊,我们不是奉你的名传道,……行许多异能吗?’我就明明地告诉他们说:‘我从来不认识你们,你们这些作恶的人,离开我去吧!’” (太7:22-23)

很明显,在那些公开宣称为基督的追随者中,大多数是自欺欺人的人。他们虽知道基督的名,其宗教活动似乎也拥有真侍奉的特征,但耶稣却将要怀着一颗破碎的心对他们说:“我从来不认识你们!”为什么?因为他们一直活在一个妥协而充满罪恶的生活中。

这是末世之人的一个普遍特征。他们“贪爱钱财,自夸,狂傲,谤讟,违背父母,忘恩负义,心不圣洁,无亲情,不解怨,好说谗言,不能自约,性情凶暴,不爱良善,…自高自大,爱宴乐,不爱上帝。”(提摩太后书 3:2-5)

当然,保罗对末时情形的描述,只不过是将世人向来所具有的特征重述一番。然而在此,保罗称这情形将渗入教会——所有世间盛行的这些无法无天的行径,都将成为教会中的普遍现象。基督徒也将徒有“敬虔的外貌”,却背了敬虔的实意。(提后3:5)

他们手中有药瓶,瓶上也贴着标签,但是他们所服用的,却是根本无法痊愈疾病的被稀释药。

罪并非只是擤鼻涕

你知道花粉热吧(花粉过敏)?也许您就得过。对于花粉热,有时只需要服用一点点非处方药,便能减轻症状。至于药量的多少,则取决于是哪种花粉。有时你可能只须服用半片,但有时,你却不得不服下一整片或更多。如果你没有按正确的药量服用,却又自以为一切安好并去到户外。那么,很快你就会感到不适,眼睛开始发痒,同时鼻涕横流。很悲催,要是不加大药量,你根本就无法熬到冬日的来临。

以准确的剂量服用正确的药物,极其重要。在福音上亦是如此。

如果我们没有获得全备的福音,就会在本是每况愈下时,却自以为得了医治,满有平安。今日,魔鬼正在上帝的百姓中间大肆扩散被稀释的真理。他很乐意让你去一些教会,因为那里的“药物”经常被稀释得很厉害,以至无法令你的生命发生任何改变。

“因为时候要到,人必厌烦纯正的道理,耳朵发痒,就随从自己的情欲,增添好些师傅,并且掩耳不听真道,偏向荒渺的言语。” (提后4:3-4)

在这处经文中,保罗描述了教会在台上台下所存在的一个严重问题。

你的牧师并未分享直接的信息,且你的教友也不期待直接而有力的真理。百姓不想服用任何难以下咽的“灵命之药”——本着人性,他们大多喜欢听那些简易可口的道理,他们只希望有人能给自己开出香甜可口的药方。

“必有凶暴的豺狼进入你们中间,不爱惜羊群。就是你们中间,也必有人起来说悖谬的话,要引诱门徒跟从他们。 ”(徒20:29-30)

福音被掺水稀释的原因,乃是因为传道人想让自己变得更出名,并且有些传道人是出于骄傲或金钱的目的,想引诱信徒们为了权利和影响力而追随他们。(参见 结13:10)

未泡透的灰

取代警告迷失之人离弃罪恶的,是假教师们告诉百姓,即或留在罪中也不必担忧,因为上帝是充满恩慈的,祂并不指望我们有所改变。他们开出的,乃是稀释过的药;给百姓带来的,只是虚假的安全感。

圣经称这些假师傅为那些筑墙且“用未泡透灰抹墙的人。”(结13:15)在圣经时代,懒惰的建筑工人不是用灰泥叠砖,而是只用墙泥抹在砖墙表面。没有灰泥,墙就不牢固。这墙外表看上去可能很坚固,但是只要被驴一踢就崩塌,因为它并不坚固。

在2010年的海地大地震中,超过50万人伤亡。这场悲剧的一个主要的原因,就是“未泡透的灰”。贪婪的建筑承包商们,在混凝土中缩减了水泥的比例,并掺杂了灰泥,又使用了廉价的钢筋,而原本这些建筑是应当用坚固的混凝土来建造的。结果造成墙体十分脆弱,只要稍大一点儿的地震来袭,脆弱的建筑便会轰然坍塌。

其实,基督徒也有保护其生命的围墙。十条诫命就是这堵墙,它的建造乃是用以维护你的自由和幸福。若有人因放荡的性生活而得了性病,那么,一旦他读到第七条诫命,便会明白,那是一道耸立的隔墙,用以确保自己的幸福,而非让自己与幸福绝缘。

顺从的高墙,是为要保守我们的生命、自由和知足感。但是如果灰泥被稀释了,无论是在讲台上,还是在讲台下,一旦风暴来袭,便会如同一座建在沙土上的房屋,各墙分崩离析,倒塌遍地。

虚假的繁荣

我总是希望教会人数众多,这是很自然的事情,也可以理解,对吗?但是这种愿望却带来危机。为了吸引人来教会,我总是尝试让我的布道尽可能的引人入胜。

销售人员试图让你相信如果你使用他们的产品,就会活得更长寿,看上去更年轻,赚的钱更多,并且更有名气。那么,圣经有没有告诉我们,要如何经营基督教呢?耶稣应许健康、财富和名望了吗?我们要“繁荣布道”吗?

福音中有诸多的好消息,也有许多的福气,然而,耶稣也说:要“背起他(你)的十字架来跟从我。”(太16:24 )天天舍己——我们似乎很少听到。耶稣说,幸福的真正关键就是把上帝摆在首位,并爱人如己。今天,虽然表面如此,实则却到处是以“我”为主。

许多人听了被稀释的福音,并且相信它是良药。

然而,即或真按圣经开出良药,那也只是开端。耶稣还说,我们务要行道。是否是真基督徒,并不是以加入教会来界定,而是以那颗影响其自身行为的得蒙改变的心来区分的。耶稣曾问到:“你们为什么称呼我‘主啊,主啊’却不遵我的话行呢?”(路6:46 )我们若不行祂所吩咐的事,就不能称自己为基督徒。“凡称呼我‘主啊,主啊’的人不能都进天国;惟独遵行我天父旨意的人才能进去。”(太7:21)我们今天极少听到的那部份福音,就是有关耶稣要我们成为顺从祂的人。

开出强劲的福音真理之配方,就必治愈罪的痼疾。

当然,我们并非因顺从而得救,那是律法主义。然而,一旦顺从是对上帝之爱的回应,对得救的回应,那么它就不再是律法主义。“你们若爱我,就必遵守我的命令(原文为“诫命”)。”(约翰14:15)

福音被稀释的一种方式,就是鼓励人们信心满满地笃信,上帝必赦免他们,同时却缺乏信德的认为,不要相信上帝必保守他脱离罪恶。(译者注:假福音所教导的是:你要相信上帝必定会赦免你的罪,同时,你不要相信那些宣称上帝能帮助你胜过一切罪的教导。)这就是那种宣称“上帝可以接受原本的你,而不在乎你是否改变”的假福音。

圣经说,福音不单单是关乎称义,也在乎成圣。你的确可以原原本本来到耶稣面前,他不会拒绝任何罪人,那是福音。然而,祂深爱着你,祂要你来了之后,便离弃老路,这也是福音!你能变成像耶稣一样,祂能改变你,让你成为新造的人。“若有人在基督里,他就是新造的人,旧事已过,都变成新的了。”(林后5:17)

行动,而非宣称

“那能保守你们不失脚、叫你们无瑕无疵、欢欢喜喜站在他荣耀之前的…上帝。”(犹1:24)我要度一种永不失脚的人生,你呢?

现今,大多数的基督徒对此鲜为听闻。如果一个基督徒,能靠着基督的大能,度一种改变的生活,那么,其结果则是显而易见的。百姓必然要向世人解释他们是信徒,因为他们现今的生活和从前迥然不同。

我们应当成为山上的光。这样,人们就会说:“哇,她的生命显然与众不同,”“他和其他人真的不一样。”当人们讯问:“你们和世人有何不同”时,我们便要回答:“我信了耶稣,祂救赎了我,是祂改变了我的生命。”

在中古黑暗时期之前,基督教虽被严厉禁止,基督徒虽被扔进狮子坑,被焚烧在火刑柱上。但仍旧极其兴旺。他们既无法公开实践信仰,便在基督教历史的前200年间,于罗马城的地下墓穴中聚会礼拜。今天,你可以去参观这些罗马的矿坑遗迹。有些基督徒在墙上刻下拉丁文“Vita、Vita、Vita”意思就是“生命、生命、生命,我有生命!”他们在黑暗的矿坑中受难并死去——但却是如此的喜乐。

此后,在罗马发生了一些事情。君士坦丁(Constantine)要建立自己的帝国,出于与对手马克西姆斯之间的内战需要,他宣称,自己看到了一个有关基督教的异象,所以必须马上在十字架的标志下战斗。虽然他对基督教还是一无所知,却要求士兵将基督教的标志——十字架涂在了自己的盾牌上。他们都还是原汁原味儿的异教徒,但是当他们列队从台伯河中通过,并前赴战场时,却宣称已经在河中受了洗——他们认为,当他们从河的对岸上去时,就是基督徒了。

这让基督徒的身份在罗马帝国变得炙手可热,但他们当时并没有受教得到全备的真理。当罗马皇帝让基督教成为帝国的国教时,异教徒便纷纷涌入了教会。然而,可悲的是,当时教会的领袖们,并没有严格按照上帝的标准去进行掌控——他们不想失去新的皈依者。于是便开始一点点地稀释真理。异教徒本该进行生活方式的改变,但是教会领袖们担心,如果他们不喜欢这种改变,便会回到再度逼迫基督教的老路上。于是,教会便在原则上妥协了。

一个极大的问题便是偶像崇拜。一位历史学家写到:“罗马的偶像,比罗马人所拥有的财物还要繁多。”这些刚刚涌进教会基督徒,想要做该做的事情,于是讯问牧师,他们该如何处理自己的偶像。有些牧师回答:“把它扔掉!”但是许多刚刚加入教会的异教徒拒绝如此行。

这时,其他的一些牧师则建议:“不要对他们太严厉,先让他们给那些偶像取个基督教人物的名字,以后我们再处理这些问题。”因此,异教徒就给自己的偶像取名彼得、雅各、约翰、和马利亚。结果,朱庇特(JUPITER)神像摇身一变,成了彼得,希腊女神艾西斯(ISIS)最初本是埃及的女神,这时却被看作怀抱着婴儿耶稣的马利亚。

于是,许多异教的风俗便悄悄地混入了教会。只一代人的时间,基督教就变成异教教义和圣经信仰的混合体。他们稀释福音只是为了教友人数的缘故,而非信仰上的质量。并且它导致了长达1260年的基督教大黑暗世纪。

如何让教会增长?

在衡量成就时,教会一直面对一个长期的试探。他们会问“人数是否增长了?”我们很少按百姓的敬虔程度来衡量一个教会的成就。取而代之的,却是我们按教友人数的多少来衡量成就。但那却是一个可怕的误区。我们会受到试探——让人更轻易的成为教友。现今好多人持有的观点是:只要让人先进门,其余的事以后再操心。这几乎变成了一种思维模式。为此,我们便一点点的稀释了真理的信息,让“救灵的药物”甜美而容易下咽。

甚至今日,我听到有些牧师说:“在他们还没有加入教会前,别执意让他们戒烟戒酒。让他们轻松地来到基督面前,并且给他们施洗。主会按祂自己的时间表来解决这些问题。”然后他们就加入了教会,并且多年以后,他们仍被这些致命的恶习所捆绑——以基督徒之名。

浸礼代表一个新的开端、一种解脱、一个蒙改变的生命。它并非意味着你马上完全。但它却意味着,你必须公开地厌弃和抛弃对罪的迷恋。一位我最喜爱的基督教作家用以下的方式来表述了这一观点:

“男男女女们有许多习惯是与圣经的原则敌对的。烈酒和烟草的受害者,身、心、灵都被败坏了。不该接受这样的人加入教会(受洗)——直到他们显出了真悔改的凭据,感到需要那生发仁爱并洁净心灵的信心。上帝的真理必洁净真信徒。凡彻底悔改的人,必弃绝每一污秽的习惯和食欲。藉着完全的节制,他必胜过自己对破坏健康的种种嗜好的渴望。”(《圣经训练学校》七月一日,一九零二年(Bible Training School,July 1, 1902)

正如先前我们所得知的,导致中古黑暗时期的原因,就是在人们还没有明白真理、还没有降服自我的心志之前,便允许他们加入教会(受洗)。于是,教会遭到削弱,变得虚弱无力。那让人成为基督追随者的能力失去它的力量,结果是,基督徒虽然每周聚集在一起,经历着一周一次的礼仪,却仍旧如世人一般生活。取代为基督收获灵命并度敬虔生活的——是我们正精确地执行着魔鬼要我们做的事——削弱福音的大能和果效。

“精简的福音”

在庞大的福音教会中,有着他们所宣称的“精简的福音”。

他们想让参与者感到舒服,因此尽可能的简化崇拜的体验。他们在侍奉前后,提供咖啡和甜甜圈,并鼓励人们穿休闲装进教堂,甚至T恤和短裤也无所谓。他们拥有类似剧场般的座位,这样人们就不必和陌生人一同挤在台下…如果你的教会提供了足够吸引人的福利,就可以在一小时内让任何人到访。然而,一旦你以这种方式吸引人进来,就不能再宣讲让人痛苦的事情,也不能再责备他们所珍爱的罪,因为那样,他们可能会一去不返。

用穿插了经文的心灵鸡汤和所谓正能量思考的陈词滥调喂养他们,用披着宗教外衣的动感音乐、镭射光线和戏剧表演愉悦他们,然后你会认为这就是真理,因为毕竟有一万人坐进了你的教堂。

可是,又有多少人已经悔改了自己的罪,并且确实的认识了耶稣呢?

问题是,人们要如何知道自己从牧师那里获得的是不是稀释的福音呢?答案是,你必须在圣灵的引导下去学习圣经,你必须亲自查考。

现今,有许多传道人是披着羊皮的狼。他们用教堂内的人数来衡量成就,因此,乐于宣扬被稀释淡化的福音。约翰·麦克阿瑟牧师(John MacArthur)说:“被冲淡、稀释的神学,绝不能产生内在深层次的敬虔、崇拜、悔改和谦卑,也无法对上帝的本性、作为、服侍、律法和标准进行深入了解。它无法造就上帝的真百姓——也就是以上帝为中心的人。”这话千真万确。

一个纯正而非稀释的福音,必定以对罪的真实悔改,使人对罪感到哀恸,并使之从罪中回转,离弃罪为目标和特质。悔改的意思就是:“对以往的罪感到懊悔,悔恨与愧疚。而其结果就是改良,比原来更好。”施洗约翰在开始宣讲上帝的国度时,他所提到的第一件事,就是“当悔改”。耶稣所讲的第一件事,也是“当悔改”.如果祂告诉我们“要悔改”,那么,就是意味着我们能、且必须做到。

耶稣说“我来本不是召义人,乃是召罪人,去悔改。” (太9:13 KJV直译)

初代教会的领袖们宣称:“你们各人要悔改,奉耶稣基督的名受洗,叫你们的罪得赦,就必领受所赐的圣灵。” (徒2:38)首先,来受悔改的浸,而后,受圣灵的洗。全备足量的福音良药,乃是开在接受圣灵并被之充满以前。

与悔改相伴的,必须是偿还和重生。“还人的当头和所抢夺的,遵行生命的律例,不作罪孽,他必定存活,不致死亡。”(结33:15)

1858年,宗教复兴运动领袖耶利米·梅尼利(Jeremiah Meneely)到爱尔兰的贝尔法斯特布道。在那里,他谈到了悔改,重生,以及献己于主。这时,一群在船厂工作的人,立时就认清了自己的罪。他们开始悔改,并归还了前几年所偷的工具。这种对真福音的回应接连不断,以至船厂不得不建一个额外的棚子,用来收纳所有归还的工具!最终,船厂的管理员不得不请求大家,不必再归还失窃的物品了!

你知道,当人们开始按照真基督徒的标准去生活,且在自己的生命中施行实质的改变,便说明,是圣灵在这个群体中运行了——这就是真福音的果效。

你所渴望的,是怎样的福音?

你渴慕被圣灵充满,且在你的生命中,以及你的教会里,拥有那未稀释的福音吗?让我们彼此鼓励,并成为一个真正以圣经为本的基督徒。借着亲自查考圣经来明白,一种与上帝有真正联络且得蒙救赎的关系,究竟是由什么构成的。

我有一位朋友,因小型飞机失事而直至今日仍旧瘸着腿。当时,他与同伴在一次南美洲飞行期间,因为相信了一个陌生人,而让其给自己的飞机加油。结果是,那些汽油被严重掺水。很不幸的是,直到飞离地面129米的时候,他们才发现燃油被掺了水,引擎发出噗噗声,失去了动力,并且坠毁在灌木丛中。

朋友,你是否确知,自己正在加注的是有关上帝真理之纯净的、高辛烷值、非掺杂的、工业溶度的燃油?很多人被财富的承诺和光芒所欺骗,只有一小部分人愿意自己研习上帝的圣言,并且得蒙改变。你是哪种人呢?

英文字体:【

英文:

The Dangers of a Diluted Gospel

By Pastor Doug Batchelor
An Amazing Fact: In 2005, cancer patient Georgia Hayes won a $2.2 billion court settlement against her pharmacist, who had diluted her chemotherapy drugs with water. In the process, she had lost her best chance for recovery. While $2.2 billion is a lot of money, it’s little comfort when you don’t have long to live.

Dilute: to make thinner, to lessen strength, to adulterate, to reduce value or efficiency, to make fainter, or to water down

What could be more deadly than diluted cancer medication? Maybe placebo pills for a cardiac patient. Or diluted insulin for a diabetic.

Actually, the most deadly medicine is a watered-down gospel—because the tragic results are eternal.

Jesus says there will be two groups of people in the end times. One group He calls few, the other He calls many. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name? … and done many wonders?’ ... And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ” (Matthew 7:22, 23).

Evidently, the majority of Christ’s professed followers are self-deceived. They know His name. Their religious activities seem to have the marks of genuine ministry, but Jesus, with a broken heart, will declare to them, “I don’t know you.” Why? Because they live a compromised life full of sin.

This is a popular characteristic of people in the last days. They are “lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, … haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:2–4).

Of course, when Paul describes the last-day conditions above, he’s describing what has always been typical in the world. But here he’s saying that it will infiltrate the church. All these lawless behaviors so prevalent in the world are going to be common in the church. Christians will have all the “form of godliness” but lack the power (2 Timothy 3:5).

They have a medicine bottle and a label, but they’re taking diluted drugs that can never heal them.

Sin Isn’t Just a Case of the Sniffles
Perhaps you know somebody with hay fever. Maybe even you.

There are some over-the-counter pills you can take to fight the symptoms. Sometimes, depending on the pollen, you can take half a pill and be okay. Sometimes, though, you have to take the entire pill. If you don’t take the right dose, you might leave the house thinking all’s well, but then later it hits you: Your eyes start itching and your nose starts running. You’re miserable. You just can’t wait until winter arrives.

Getting the right medicine in the right dose makes a world of difference.

So it is with the gospel. If we don’t get the full strength, we could be deceived into thinking we’re really healed when we’re actually getting worse. Likewise, the devil is mass-distributing a watered-down version among God’s people. He’s content to let you go to some churches because the medicine there is often so diluted it won’t make any transforming difference in your life.

“The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4).

In this verse, Paul describes a problem in the pulpit and in the pew.

You have preachers who are not sharing a straight message, and you have people who don’t want a straight message. The people don’t want to take anything that’s hard to swallow. They generally want what’s easy and sweet to the senses. They want someone who will give them a prescription for candy-flavored, chewable medicine.

“Savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also, from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29).

The gospel gets watered down because preachers want to be popular and some, for pride or money, want to draw away disciples after themselves for power and influence. (See Ezekiel 13:10.)

Untempered Mortar
Instead of warning the lost to turn from their sins, false teachers tell people to be at peace in their sins because God is too full of grace to expect them to change. They give diluted medicine, which gives people a false sense of security.

The Scriptures refer to false teachers as those who build a wall and “plaster it with untempered mortar” (Ezekiel 13:15). In Bible times, lazy builders would stack bricks with no mortar and then put a plaster veneer over the bricks to hide it. Without the mortar, there’s no stability. (Today we use concrete to hold the bricks together.) The wall might have looked solid from the outside, but a donkey could have kicked it over because it had no real strength.

More than 500,000 were killed or injured in the 2010 Haitian earthquake. One of the principal causes of these casualties was untempered mortar. Greedy contractors skimped on the percentage of concrete they mixed into the mortar and expensive iron rebar, which reinforces the concrete. It made for pathetically weak walls, and as soon as the massive earthquake struck, the fragile buildings crumbled.

There are walls for Christians too. The Ten Commandments are a wall, built to protect your freedom and happiness. When someone gets an STD because of promiscuous living, he reads the seventh commandment and understands that wall was put there to protect his happiness, not to prevent happiness.

The wall of obedience protects our lives, freedom, and contentment. But if the mortar gets diluted, whether from the pulpit or the pew, then, when the storm comes, like a house built on sand the wall implodes.

Diluting the Prosperity
Naturally, I always want a big crowd in church. That’s understandable, right? But this desire carries risk. In order to draw people to church, I’ll always be tempted to make my sermons as attractive as possible.

Marketers try to convince you that if you use their product, you will live longer, look better, have more money, and be more popular. Does the Bible tell us that’s how we’re to market Christianity? Does Jesus promise health and wealth and popularity? Is “prosperity preaching” right?

There’s a lot of good in the good news. There are many blessings, but Jesus also says, “Take up [your] cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Deny yourself daily—we don’t hear that very often. Jesus said the real key to happiness is to put God and others first. Today, however, it’s all about putting “me” first.

A lot of people hear this diluted version of the gospel and believe it’s good medicine.

But good medicine is really just the beginning. Jesus said we are to be doers of the Word. A Christian isn’t defined by church attendance. A Christian is defined by a transformed heart that influences his actions. Jesus asked, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). We can’t call ourselves Christians if we don’t do what He says. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Part of the gospel we’re not hearing today is that He wants us to be a people who obey Him. Giving the industrial-strength prescription of gospel truth will heal the symptoms of sin.

We are not saved by obedience, of course. That is legalism. But obedience is not legalism if it’s a response to God’s love, a response to having already been saved. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

One way the gospel gets diluted is when people are encouraged to have enough faith to believe that God will forgive them, but not enough to believe that He will keep them from sin. It’s a gospel that says God accepts you as you are and doesn’t care if you change. The Bible says the gospel is not just about justification, but also about sanctification. You can come to Jesus just as you are. That’s good news. But He loves you too much to leave you that way. That’s good news too! You can be changed to be like Jesus. He can transform you so you become a new creature. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). That’s great news!

Show, Don’t Tell
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, [from falling,] And to present you faultless Before ... His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24). I want to have a life where I don’t stumble all the time. How about you?

But Christians hear so little of that, and the results are obvious. People have to explain they’re believers because they don’t consistently live it. Instead, we ought to be lights on a hill so people say, “Wow. Her life is distinctly different.” “He’s not just like everybody else.” “What’s different about you?” And we answer, “I believe in Jesus. He saved me. He changed my life.”

Prior to the Dark Ages, the church thrived even though the Christian religion was forbidden. They were being thrown into lion dens and being burned at the stake. They couldn’t practice it in the open, so they dug catacombs under Rome for the first 200 years of Christian history. You can still visit these Roman mines. Some Christians etched on the walls, “Vita, vita, vita,” which means, “Life, life, life. I have life.” They were suffering and dying in these dark mines—and yet they were joyful.

Then something happened in Rome. Constantine wanted to build his empire because of the civil war between him and Maximus. He claimed to have had a vision and was now supposed to fight under the sign of the cross. They didn’t know anything about Christianity, but his soldiers painted Christian symbols on their shields. They were all pagans, but they marched into the Tiber River for battle and called it a baptism, figuring they were Christians when they came out the other side. It became the

in-thing to be a Christian, but they hadn’t been taught the whole truth.
When the emperor made Christianity acceptable, pagans came pouring into the church. The leaders didn’t handle it well. They didn’t want to lose the new converts, so they began to dilute the message, just a little. The pagans would have to make a lot of lifestyle changes, and if they didn’t like it, they might go back to persecuting Christians.

One such problem was idols. One historian wrote, “There were more idols in Rome than Romans.” These new Christians wanted to do what was right and asked the priests what they should do with their statues. Some of the priests said, “Throw them out!” But many of the pagans balked. So some of the other pastors suggested, “Ease them into it. Tell them to give Christian names to their idols and we’ll take care of it later.” So they named their idols Peter, James, John, and Mary. Many pagan practices crept into the church so that in one generation Christianity became the commingling of paganism and Scripture. They diluted the gospel for the sake of having quantity instead of quality—and it ushered in the 1,260-year Dark Ages.

How to Grow the Church
It’s a constant temptation churches face when measuring success. They ask, “Is it growing?” Very rarely do we measure the success of a church by how godly the people are. Instead, we measure success by numbers, and that can be a mistake. We’re tempted to make it easier to be a member. It becomes a mindset to just get them in the door and worry about the rest later. So we dilute the message little by little to make the medicine easier to swallow.

Even today, I hear pastors saying, “Don’t insist they quit smoking or drinking before they join the church. Make it easy for them to come to Christ and baptize them. The Lord will deal with these things in His own time.” Then they come in and years later they’re still chained to these destructive habits.

Baptism represents a new beginning, a liberation, a changed life. It doesn’t mean you’re instantly perfect. It does mean addictions to sin should be repudiated and left behind. One of my favorite Christian authors said it this way:

“Men and women have many habits that are antagonistic to the principles of the Bible. The victims of strong drink and tobacco are corrupting body, soul and spirit. Such ones should not be received into the church until they give evidence that they are truly converted, that they feel the need of the faith that works by love and purifies the soul. The truth of God will purify the true believer. He who is thoroughly converted will abandon every defiling habit and appetite. By total abstinence he will overcome the desires for health-destroying indulgences” (Bible Training School, July 1, 1902).

As we learned earlier, the Dark Ages were a result of bringing people into the church before they really understood, before they had surrendered their hearts. The church becomes diluted, enfeebled, weakened. The power of being a follower of Jesus loses its strength, and pretty soon we’re coming together, going through a ritual once a week, and living like the world. Instead of winning souls to Christ and living godly lives, we’re doing exactly what the devil wants in weakening the power and the efficacy of the gospel.

“Gospel Lite”
The mega evangelical churches have something they call “gospel lite.”

They want visitors to be comfortable, so they make the worship experience as easy as possible. They offer coffee and donuts before and after service. They encourage relaxed dress, even just T-shirts and shorts. They have theater-like seating so you don’t have to squish together in a pew with strangers. If you offer enough enticing perks, you can get anybody to visit for an hour. Then once you get them in, you can’t preach the hard things or rebuke their pet sins because they might not come back.

Feed them on clichés about the power of positive thinking. Entertain them with animated music, laser lights, and dramatic presentations. Then you think it must be the truth because after all you have 10,000 people coming to church.

But how many have repented of their sins and really know Jesus?

So how are you going to know that you’re not getting a diluted gospel from your pastor? You must study the Bible with guidance from the Holy Spirit. You need to search it out for yourself.

There are a lot of preachers out there who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They measure success by numbers, so they preach a diluted gospel. Pastor John MacArthur says, “Watered down, diluted theology will fail to produce deep reverence, deep worship, deep repentance, deep humility, deep understanding of God’s nature, His work, His ministry, His laws, His standards, His principles. It fails to make people of God, people that are God-centered.” He’s right.

An undiluted gospel is going to involve real repentance for sin, a sorrow for sin, and a turning away from it. Repentance means “remorse, regret, contrition for past sin. To change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one’s sins.” The first thing John the Baptist said when he started preaching about the kingdom of God was, “Repent.” The first thing Jesus said was, “Repent,” and if He tells us to repent, it means we can and we should.

Jesus said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13).

The first church leaders said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). First comes the baptism of repentance, then comes the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The full-strength gospel medicine precedes reception and filling of the Holy Spirit.

Along with repentance must be restitution and reform. “If the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die” (Ezekiel 33:15).

In 1858 revivalist Jeremiah Meneely brought his preaching to Belfast, Ireland. He talked about repentance, reform, and committing yourself to the Lord. The men there worked in a shipyard and were so convicted of their sins, they repented and began to return the tools they had pilfered during the previous years. The response was so complete the shipyard had to build extra sheds to take in all of the returned tools! Eventually, the management asked that there be no further returns of stolen property! You know the Holy Spirit is working in a community when people start living like real Christians and make tangible changes in their lives. This is the fruit of the real gospel.

What Gospel Do You Desire?
Is it your desire to be filled with the Spirit and to have an undiluted message in your life and in your church? Let us encourage one another to be real Bible Christians by studying for ourselves to know what constitutes having a relationship with the Lord and being saved.

I have a friend who is still crippled today from a small plane crash. While flying with friends in a South American country, they trusted a stranger to fill up the tanks in their aircraft. It turns out that gas was badly contaminated with water. Unfortunately, they did not discover the polluted fuel until they were 600 feet off the ground. The engine coughed, lost power, and they crash landed in the jungle.

Friend, do you know that you’re getting the pure, high-octane, unadulterated, industrial-strength fuel of God’s truth? Many will be deceived by bright lights and promises of wealth, but a few will study for themselves in the Word and be changed. Which one are you?