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I spend a lot of time listening to the radio when I’m in my car, and most of the time I keep the radio tuned to WMIE. I like listening to the station we pay to broadcast on locally because it gives me an idea of what’s going on out there in the evangelical wasteland. Nothing jumps out as entirely out in left field, but I do hear the same set of weird statements and suggestions repeatedly. I heard one pastor the other morning state clearly to his congregation that he wanted them to take the “ninety day Malachi challenge” and start tithing ten percent of their income, and he offered each and every person who did so a money back guarantee! Yes. He told them that if any of them fell into financial hard times during the ninety day period, the church would return the money to them no questions asked. The pastor stated quite clearly that he wasn’t in it for the money, but that he wanted to teach his congregation a “lesson” about tithing: If you test God in these matters of tithing, God will reveal Himself to you to be real.
On another program I heard a word of faith teacher tell his congregation, quite plainly, that Jesus’ name is a talisman that, when used properly, brings health and prosperity. I heard still another word of faith teacher tell me that if I used the name of Jesus regularly I could have victory over all my circumstances in life… If I used his name properly.
Ok, there are a lot of “ifs” out there with regard to Bible teaching. Lots of them. But I’m talking about “The Big If”. Here is the big one. “Jesus has won victory over death and Satan, and his victory is yours, if you believe and repent of your sin”.
There it is. And what’s more, people… Christians believe this schlock. They buy it hook line and sinker. Yes, the Bible does have passages where, when someone is confronted with their sin, they ask “what shall I do”. Yes, the answer that is given often times is “believe the Gospel”. Yes, people do regularly think that they somehow drum up faith within themselves. But that last thing about drumming up faith inside yourself?
Can’t happen. Impossible. Never in a million years. Not part of God’s plan. You don’t manufacture faith. You don’t. I’ll assert it again. You don’t drum up faith. There’s no spark of divinity in you that you can use to drum up faith. There is a part of you wants to hate God. That part of you hates God because it wants to be obedient. It wants to be obedient to God. It wants to obey because it thinks it has to. It hates God, not due to the fact that it’s helpless. Not because it perceives its falleness. No, rather it hates God because it doesn’t get to obey like it wants to, but rather God chose His only son to come into our human flesh, obey His righteous demands perfectly and make atonement for us. There’s a part of you that hates that. It hates the fact that Jesus is the one who get’s all praise and honor and glory for what he has done. It hates that it can’t make amends for the sins that it has committed.
There’s a part of you that hates that.
But it loves “The Big If”. It loves The Big If because that kind of teaching holds out the possibility that you can somehow contribute to Jesus’ work. You don’t want to receive all the benefits of Christ as a gift, but you’d rather earn it. The Big If leaves room for your works to somehow impress God. It leaves room for a Holy Spirit driven work that you did can be more lovely in God’s sight instead of Jesus’ works. It leaves room for improvement of self by self motivation.
I know all of you love “The Big If”. You do. You love to go out and buy books like “Purpose Driven Life”, or listen to Beth Moore teach you how to get rid of your insecurities. It’s because we all think too highly of ourselves. We think highly of ourselves by thinking that we’re ambulatory; able to move around as we please under our own power spiritually. What we don’t perceive is that this is a dream. It’s a dream where we can get up and move around and do spiritual stuff under our own power. What we don’t realize is that we’re lying on a gurney in a hospital ward, in triage, waiting for our physician to come administer to us the needed medical procedures and medicines that will keep us from dying…
I’m talking to YOU dear Christian. Where before you were spiritually dead, and now you’ve been raised to life, you are still not ambulatory. You are still crippled. You still have sin in you. You are still at times hateful to God. You are hateful to God in the same way a patient is hateful to their physician when he or she tells them the prognosis. You still can’t move. You’re paralyzed and can only speak. You want to move, but you can’t. The prognosis hits your ears and you start thinking about what you can do, but it’s to no avail. Your situation is hopeless. But you refuse to admit it.
Now, imagine a doctor saying to you, “this medicine will keep you alive, IF”… If what? If the medicine works? What could the IF possibly be? Do you feel like you’re going to live when the doctor himself isn’t even sure that it will help? You might live? You might die? This is how the Gospel is presented to you, week after week, bad sermon after bad sermon. Because it makes worldly sense that you should be adding some work of your own to the work Jesus has already completed on the cross, you believe a mixed up Gospel with all your heart never realizing how hopeless your situation really is. You are told, literally, “physician, heal thyself”.
Well, how about this, dear crippled Christians. Your Physician has acquired everything needed to keep you alive! And He promises to do exactly that! In Jesus Christ, you will live! He will raise you up in the last day! He is the resurrection and the life! He IS the way, the truth, and the life! He has become your Ransom! His promises are sure! His life is yours! You have life! And life more abundant!
No “ifs”, “ands”, or “buts”.
“But what do I do?” You ask?