by Rayola Kelley
In the last issue, I talked about getting away from the center. The center for man is God and His Word. They are the only sure foundation and test by which every individual must test every area of their life. The problem with shifting from center solely rests with man. He often adjusts the center to serve his own purpose and to confirm his particular reality, while God never moves from who He is and His unchangeable truths.
In this issue, I will talk about the Church shifting from off of its foundation of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). It is hard to say how the Church shifts from off of that which is true. Obviously, it is gradual, and will be determined by what the Church allows itself to be exposed to. The greatest influence in the American Church has been the world. This alliance has caused the Church to become desensitized towards sin, and liberal about righteousness. In fact, instead of remaining distinct from the world, the Church has become a subculture within American society. This simply means that we have instituted Christianity into our preferred American lifestyle.
Another question is, how did this shift occur? Did Christians shift away from the center of God, thereby changing the foundation of the Church because of the world? Or, did the whole Church gradually move off the sure foundation, causing Christians to shift in their perception of God? If the truth be known, the religious leadership of the Church first moved away from the foundation, causing the emphasis and calling of the Church to change. Today, Christians are finding that they must come out of the present church system to once again realign to the center.
A notable shift did take place in the Church within the third century of its existence, which has never been totally rectified. The Church had been greatly persecuted at different times by Rome. Finally, in the third century, Constantine supposedly received a vision. His interpretation of this vision was to make Christianity the main religion throughout the known world. However, Christianity is not a religion of rituals, but a way of life that must be embraced by the heart in faith. This life results in inward transformation, and not outward conformity. Although it will produce morality, its distinction rests more in attitude than lifestyle. Since Christianity is a choice of the free will, it cannot be legislated, demanded or put upon another in any form of tyranny.
Sadly, Christians fell into line with this new mandate. Since they were weary from persecution, they embraced the concept of Christianity becoming the main religion. It is hard to say how much this mandate quenched the vision for the lost, especially since it was the religion of the day. However, this mandate brought the Church under one main figure, Constantine. Constantine combined pagan religious practices with Christianity.
Up until this time, the Church had remained distinct from the world in every area. This distinction resulted in persecution, but the Christians had a sense of their high calling and purpose. However, when paganism is combined with Christianity, it results in carnality where people cover themselves with a religious cloak of rituals and ceremonies. This combination produced what we now know as the Roman Catholic Church.
Constantine did manage to unify the different religions under his auspices, by combining their practices. Today, most religious roads are heading straight back towards Rome. We call this movement ecumenism. Many Christians are falling for it because it promises peace and harmony. But, the truth is, history is simply repeating itself. Most Christians have no idea of the devastation that followed, and the blood of the saints that was shed because of this ungodly combination. When you compare the results, you will realize that Jesus ceased to be the head and foundation of the Church, as it became a religious system of manmade rituals and beliefs. Man’s leadership began to subtly replace Jesus, in the form of the pope. From that time on, man became the sole interpreter and authority of the Word, establishing people’s perception of God.
As you study the history of the Church, you will realize that there were those who tried to reform this system. However, the system was in place, forcing the reformers to come out and be separate from the system, in order to call people back to the true foundation of Jesus and His unchangeable Word. Most of these reformers suffered persecution. Some were imprisoned, tortured and/or burned at the stakes. In some cases, whole communities were wiped out because they would not bow to the demands of this religious system. This is why saints 40 or 50 years ago would cry out against the obvious agreement some Christian leaders had with the Catholic Church. We see this today as well, with the overwhelming support for such things as the Catholic movie, The Passion.
Since this ungodly agreement has occurred, the true Church is finding itself going against the tide of what is convenient and popular. In some arenas, the Church has lost its sharpness to discern the difference between truth and error. It has become overwhelmed by the necessity of wading through what is holy and what is profane, because the lines of holiness have been greatly compromised by worldliness. Nevertheless, history tells us that we cannot reform the system. In order to come back to center, we must come out and be separate from that which is unholy (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
This brings us to the environment this unholy agreement has created. The environment became a breeding ground for heresy. In the last four decades, there have been four major movements that have stripped Christ of His identity, redefined faith, erected other gospels, and brought Christians under an antichrist spirit of confusion, arrogance and liberalism. No doubt these movements have existed in different forms and often under different names throughout Church history, but now, they have come together in a dangerous mixture. Each new movement is like a tidal wave that successfully has engulfed the whole Church. As the wave goes out, a remnant of people manage to come out of it. However, the remnant is growing smaller as each wave takes more people with it.
The first movement is what I refer to as the feel-good gospel. It allows us to feel good about what we perceive as personal goodness in others and ourselves. This environment of goodness and good will in humanity produces sentimentality about God. Such a union creates a fantasy about the Christian life that is unrealistic and dangerous. This feel-good gospel is where God’s love is promoted rather than the true Gospel of Jesus. The true Gospel of Jesus declares that we are wretched sinners, separated from God who is holy, and doomed for eternity. Since one of God’s attributes is love, He provided a way for humanity to come to salvation. However, the love of God can only be received and experienced at the point of His provision, which was the sacrificial offering of Jesus on our behalf. In other words, His love does not operate outside of the cross of Jesus (John 3:16-19).
The exaltation of God’s love over the harsh reality of sin and the price of redemption has turned sin into a foreign concept that has no real meaning or impact in people’s lives. Christians will admit they are sinners, but they have no concept that their sin cost God His Son. Instead, they see themselves deserving of God’s love, rather than it being His motivation to establish a way of salvation for each of us. Granted, His love was sacrificial, but not unconditional. Like any love that is being offered, you must receive it on a personal level. As far as God’s love, one must receive the expression of His love, Jesus Christ, by faith, in order to experience the benefits (eternal life) of it.
The next affront against the true foundation of the Church is the Positive Confession movement. This movement redefines true faith. Most people have somewhat of an understanding of this movement, but it comes down to changing present reality with our minds and words. In other words, we put our faith in our abilities and our words to move God or change circumstances, rather than faith in God’s character, ways, and will. As you consider the emphasis of this movement, you will realize that it is exalting man as God. In fact, in this movement, it is not unusual to hear the leaders of it refer to followers as little Christs or gods.
This movement became very popular because it promoted a worldly gospel. A worldly gospel is a gospel where you can pursue the things of the world under the delusion that God wants to bless His children with their desires. Needless to say, these pursuits justify the sins of fleshly lusts and personal greed, while bringing people under the spirit of the world (Ephesians 2:2-3).
Jesus asked if He would find faith when He came back (Luke 18:8). When you study the principle doctrines of Christ in Hebrews 6:1-2, you will see one of the doctrines is faith in God, not in personal abilities or words. Pseudo-faiths actually redefine the character and ways of God. In Positive Confession, people create a god in their imaginations that can be controlled with their words and claims, as long as they adhere to certain methods and procedures. And, of course, if God is not being controlled or moved, it is because the person is not doing something right.
This false faith has caused people to become hard and unreceptive towards the real Jesus and the price of possessing genuine faith (1 Peter 1:6-9). Hebrews 11 talks about true faith. The purpose of faith is not to get your way with God, but to discover the true God of heaven, so that He can have His way with you, and be glorified in your life.
The next movement that has wrecked havoc on the Church is the Manifest Sons of God. This movement has changed the emphasis from the true foundation of Jesus as the only way, truth and life to the sole leadership and influences of apostles and prophets. It has replaced Jesus’ redemption with the personal pursuit of holiness and immortality. It finds its agreement at the point of new revelations and signs and wonders. Obviously, Jesus is no longer the center of attraction. Man’s leadership has cleverly replaced Him in the minds of many as this heretical movement strips Jesus of His authority and power as the only true head, King and Lord of His Church.
Instead of acknowledging that Jesus will be the One who sets up His future kingdom, these people are trying to establish His kingdom on this earth. This movement is actually trying to reclaim the dominion that Adam lost in the Garden of Eden. What few realize is that Adam gave the dominion to Satan because he rebelled against the authority of God. Since then, Satan has served as the god of this world. Satan mocks the delusion of man that he can somehow take it back from him, before the true King comes back to reign (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:7-12; 19:11-20:6).
In Jesus’ first advent, He set up a spiritual kingdom that was unseen and separate from the world (John 18:36). Believers are the ones who make up this unseen kingdom. In His second advent, He will come as the true King of kings. At that time, He will take His rightful place on earth and reclaim everything that has been lost by man’s rebellion against His authority. He will be the one that puts Satan under His feet (Acts 2:34-33; Hebrews 1:13-14; 10:12-13). Until then, Satan firmly remains the god of this world.
The final movement is the seeker-friendly church. As you study these movements, you will realize that they serve as springboards to each other. After all, they are conditioning the Church to embrace more and more of the world. For example, the seeker- friendly church uses the concept of God’s love to show tolerance towards sin, as it makes the person feel comfortable in his or her pew. It has instituted worldly methods and entertainment to attract numbers. Quality in the area of numbers and financial gain is the world’s ways of calculating success.
Seeker-friendly churches have instituted techniques to draw people into their midst. In other words, the Holy Spirit is not needed because it is not a matter of conviction, but one of clever methods, schemes and questions to entrap the person into seeing how wonderful the Christian life is and accepting Jesus. Ultimately, seeker-friendly churches are not seeking out the one lost sheep. Rather, they are focusing on the masses. In the end, they are simply using the world to attract the world. This serves those of the world well. After all, in their skewd way of thinking, they can go to heaven without conviction of sin, repentance, inward transformation, and a change in lifestyle.
Jesus did not go after the masses. He went after the one lost sheep who was searching. He never used the world’s method to attract people, He simply preached and taught the uncompromised truth with authority. He performed miracles to confirm His message (or the sincere faith of those seeking Him), as well as to bring glory to God. He never performed miracles to try to prove His identity to an unbelieving world.
As I compare the Gospels and Acts to the Church in America, I am amazed that anyone truly gets saved in the midst of all of these counterfeits. However, salvation does not depend on man’s best attempts, but on God’s faithfulness to seek out the lost and bring them into His kingdom with the convicting power of His Spirit. It is also frightening to realize that the remnant that has separated itself from these movements out of love for the truth is becoming smaller. Even these individuals must guard their heart against bitterness, skepticism, despair, and unbelief, as they go against the popular tides, and face the criticism of those who see such opposition as unloving, judgmental and legalistic.
The question is, have you been taken in by any of these movements? Perhaps you are caught up in one of them. If so, step outside of it and ask the Lord to show you where the center is. Keep in mind, the search for truth is personal and not a group effort. It is up to each of us to love the truth, seek it out, and prefer it above all the popular waves that have flooded Christendom.