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Assumptions - Part 8

In the December 2017 issue of "Christianity Today", Dr. Karl Vaters wrote an article entitled "8 Assumptions Pastors Can't Make in a Post-Christian Culture." We've been considering these assumptions for the past several weeks and today come to the final one. All of us, not just pastors, need to be aware of these things as we seek to glorify God in a secular culture.

The final assumption is this: 

An Acceptance of Salvation Through Christ Alone

The author says, "The idea that there are multiple paths to truth is more palatable to post-Christian people than accepting Jesus' claim of exclusivity."

About 15 years ago I was teaching an Inquirers' Class for prospective new members. It was the first class and I asked everyone to introduce themselves and tell us what church they had come from, if any. I was surprised by one man who was coming from a very liberal Presbyterian church in Nashville. I was so curious I put him on the spot and asked, "Why are you visiting our church since we are quite conservative theologically?" His answer was unforgettable: "Our pastor is preaching a sermon series he has entitled, 'Terrible Texts.'" I said, "You mean terrible texts from the Bible?" He nodded affirmatively so I asked, "Like what?" He said, "My wife and I only stayed for one sermon in the series but it was on John 14:6 where Jesus says, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.'"

I'm not often speechless but I was on that occasion. I was so naive! I would have expected to hear that sort of comment from a university professor but this came from a Presbyterian pastor right here in the Bible belt.

In these last 15 years it has become more commonplace for clergy to take issue with Jesus' exclusive claim of salvation. And if clergy take issue with it you can be sure the laity will too. We are told that Jesus' statement was narrow, rigid, arrogant, and too exclusive of other people's beliefs. But Jesus said it! And Jesus meant it! And frankly, I don't think there is anything else worth preaching. Some may complain that Jesus said there is only one way to be saved. I believe we should rejoice that there is a way, albeit only one, for sinners to be saved.

To borrow Augustus Toplady's words:

Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress; helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the Fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.

There is only one way to be saved and that is by faith in Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose for our justification. May God help us to declare that wonderful gospel to a world that desperately needs to hear it. 

Posted by Jim Bachmann

Assumptions - Part 7

We are nearing the end of our mid-week messages on "8 Assumptions Pastors Can't Make in a Post-Christian Era." These last two may surprise you. Today we come to #7 which is: 

A Recognition of the Need for Salvation

This seems so basic for us but remember, we are talking about a "post-Christian culture." The author of the article, Dr. Karl Vaters, says, "If there's no understanding of sin, [last week's assumption] there's no need for salvation...Instead of knowing they are lost, people feel lonely and disconnected. An awareness of sin has given way to a sense of hopelessness. And self-discovery has replaced a desire to be saved."

We are introduced to our need for salvation on the first page of the Bible! Our first parents broke the one and only commandment they had been given. From their standpoint God was asking too much, forbidding too much, to impose one simple commandment. And as the old hymn says, "In Adam's fall we sinned all." We lost Paradise and haven't been able to get past the cherubim with flaming swords ever since. We need help. We need salvation!

In the introduction to John Owen's classic, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, J.I. Packer supports this concern when he distinguishes between the old gospel and the "new gospel." The latter, he says, is exclusively "concerned to be helpful to man, to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction—and too little concerned to glorify God. The old gospel was helpful too—more so, indeed, than is the new—for its first concern was always to give glory to God. It was always and essentially a proclamation of Divine sovereignty, in mercy and judgment, a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good...Whereas the chief aim of the old was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better."

We are a church that preaches and teaches the old gospel. As Paul makes clear in Galatians, the new gospel is no gospel at all! We all need to be saved from our sins. Jesus has paid the price and only His blood, received by faith, can get us past the cherubim.

Posted by Jim Bachmann

Assumptions - Part 6

After their first visit to our church several months ago, some of our newer members told me that it was the first time they had heard the word "sin" in a sermon in several years!

Pastors are doing a tremendous disservice to their congregations when they de-emphasize or ignore the Biblical teaching on the reality of sin. And yet the problem is widespread. For example, if you visit other churches I'm sure you will notice that corporate prayers of confession are seldom included in the worship service.

This brings us to Assumption #6 in our series of "8 Assumptions Pastors Can't Make in a Post-Christian Culture" which is:

An Understanding of the Reality of Sin

The author writes, "Like sexual ethics [assumption #5], the idea of sin is increasingly passe for most people."

I don't believe this is a new development however. Go back to the story of the rich, young ruler (Mark 10) and you will find a man who genuinely felt he had kept the entire law of God since he was a youth. By the end of the conversation however, he had learned that he had failed to keep the very first law! He had failed to love God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. He loved his money and therefore went away sad when the Lord told him to give it all away.

Martin Luther once said, "The ultimate proof of the sinner is that he doesn't even know his own sin." He's right. The denial of sin only proves the reality of sin. It's been mankind's problem all along. Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed Eve. Actually Adam blamed God because of "the woman You gave me." But neither acknowledged their sin. They just tried to shift the blame.

If there is no sin we deceive ourselves, said John. If there is no sin, Jesus wasted His blood. On the contrary, G.K. Chesterton was right when he said, "Original sin is the only doctrine that has been empirically validated by 2000 years of human history."

Posted by Jim Bachmann