The modern Christian church has replaced the true gospel with a poor substitute. What is being preached today in many churches is NOT the gospel of Jesus Christ. This modern gospel is man-centered rather than God-centered. Some Americans are choosing a church to attend based on what the church can offer them in terms of programs and ministries. Attending church should be about worshipping and knowing a holy God. It should be about learning of the majesty and glory of God rather than finding ten ways to a better financial future or five ways to greater occupational success.
The Apostle Paul admonished his followers not to stray from the true gospel: "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand." (1 Cor. 15:1) Before they could receive the 'good news' they must first comprehend the bad news. The bad news was that they were depraved human beings. They were born in sin and they were completely helpless and hopeless apart from the mercy and grace of God. A man feels no joy at the sound of the keys unless he realizes he is imprisoned and about to be set free. We must realize our need for salvation before we actually experience salvation.
It seems the disciplines of the Christian life are no longer deemed necessary. Bible study and time spent in prayer are avoided by categorizing them as frivolities of legalism. Without these disciplines, Christianity has become shallow, a mile wide and an inch deep. The modern church has lost the strong conviction of the true purpose of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come simply to increase our level of happiness. He did not come just to make us more comfortable. He came for one purpose and one purpose only, to live a pure life, to die on a splintered cross, to rise from the dead thus providing us an escape from the sin that so totally separates us from him. He came to rescue us from the death we chose for ourselves and give us an opportunity for eternal life.
We fail to understand the true purpose of God because the gospel we hear is so watered down. The true gospel reveals the holiness of God. No man can contemplate God's holiness until he has realized his own sinful depravity. Too many church leaders are admonishing the shepherds of the flock to be careful not to portray a God who is so holy and so exalted that man feels that he can't approach such a holy God. This is nonsense. We diminish the holiness of God at our own peril. "As the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways…" (Isaiah 55:9) Try as we might, we will never comprehend the vastness of God's holiness. We must never put parameters on the nature of God.
We don't understand God's true nature because we don't accept the reality of our own nature. We could never understand the concept of light unless we experienced darkness. We can never achieve a true concept of the holiness of God unless we comprehend our own depravity. The secularist tells us that all men, by nature, are good. Scripture teaches just the opposite, that the souls of all men are blackened by sin and man is desperate for deliverance. "…There is none that doeth good, no not one." (Romans 3:12) "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
The one thing we dare not pray for is justice. No man deserves anything less than wrath of God. A just God cannot contradict his own nature. That's why he sent his only begotten Son to die in our stead. None are worthy of his mercy and grace. Men who turn their hearts to God don't pray for justice, they pray for mercy.
We have watered down the gospel so as to think we might be saved simply by saying a little prayer at some certain time in some certain place. If that prayer is not accompanied by genuine repentance we are not saved. Consider a man's wife who declares her love for him and then proceeds to live an adulterous life. Her words would be meaningless. The path to real salvation is difficult. Jesus said as much when he declared that few would find it. (Matt. 7:14) It is our nature to avoid pain when possible. So, we try to blaze our own trail to salvation. The Bible teaches that we are not saved from our sin until we repent, until we turn from our sin. Many fail to believe they are saved because they depend on their own simple incantation, so, of course, they are not saved. True salvation is a marvelous work of God Almighty in the soul. It is God opening a soul shuttered in darkness. It is the indescribable light of God flooding out the darkness of our souls. It is deaf ears hearing again, it is a hardened heart flooded with emotion once again. It is God lifting the weak soul out of the ditch of despair and setting him once again on the road to eternal life. It is nothing less than this. It is much more than this.
So how can one be sure they are saved? Not by the remembrance of a short prayer long ago. The evidence of salvation is a changed life. The man who is truly saved no longer captains his own ship. "It is no longer about me. It is now all about Christ." The true convert submits to Christ's choosing for his life's direction.
Biblical assurance means that a man who has become a follower of Christ and has been delivered from his sin is preserved, not by his own power but by the power of God alone. Many believe they are saved even though they are producing no fruit. Waving the banner of eternal security, they believe they are saved by a prayer or a trek down the aisle of a church. Many embrace the absurd contradiction that the heart can be somehow transformed even though outward actions may not demonstrate a transformation. This false doctrine rejects the idea that the true evidence of salvation is more than a dunk in a baptismal.. The Apostle Paul said you will know you are saved if you continue in your salvation. He said true Christians are "renewed by the transforming of their minds." (Romans 12:2) If you are not behaving in a Christian manner you have no assurance of your salvation.
One old preacher summed it up very well, "If your religion hasn't changed you, then you need to change your religion."