“. . . Go and sin no more” – John 8:11

 A short little blurb on Facebook had a pretty profound and succinct statement capturing the contrasting church views of our day. It said, “A liberal church says you are welcome here and you do not have to clean up your life. A legalistic church says you are not welcome here until you clean up your life. Jesus says you are welcome here and I will change your life from the inside out. John 8:11.”[1] The quote was posted by the Stop Playing Church group site. What kind of church are you a part of?

Each successive generation faces the question, “What is the Church?” and “What does it mean to be a Christian?” Every person that receives the gospel message, if they are to progress in their faith, has to work through their beliefs. For a Christian to be a true Christian, they must walk with Jesus. And when we walk with Jesus what we discover is that we have to make a distinction between Christian truth versus “Christian” and worldly opinions. We have to decide whether or not we are going to walk with Jesus or walk with the world.

John 8:11 is a verse that records the concluding interaction between Jesus and a woman brought to Him who had been caught in adultery. For context I’ll quote John 8:10-11 which reads, “When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman [because all her accusers had fallen under their own conviction for sin and had walked away], He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’” The point here is twofold.

First, what Jesus says is really all that matters. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus is not a negotiator who overlooks sin. He came to free us from sin. Christianity is not freedom to sin, it is freedom from having to sin. Jesus enables us to “go and sin no more.”

But secondly, we are called to “go and sin no more.” We are called to holy living. Grace, when properly and correctly interpreted, does not facilitate sin, it overpowers it. Grace provides forgiveness for our past sins. Grace provides the means of victory over our present sins. Grace gives us hope for victory over sins that lay ahead of us.

On the Facebook group site where I found that opening quote there are other pithy and pointed quotes. Some of the quotes that caught my eye read:

  • “If the whole church goes off into deception, that will in no way excuse us for not following Christ” – Leonard Ravenhill
  • “Just because a Christian says it, doesn’t mean its true. Read your Bible.”
  • “We are Americans are the wealthiest Christians who ever walked on the face of the earth. We are the most protected Christians that ever walked on the face of the earth, and yet we are the emptiest Christians who ever walked on the face of the earth” – Paul Washer
  • “All you have to do is get a closer walk with God and you will discover your enemies are in your own church” – Leonard Ravenhill
  • “We’re in a point in Christianity where people don’t care if you can back it up with the Bible. There feelings, desires, and emotions override what scripture says. They don’t follow Christ they follow self.” – Warriors of Christ
  • “No one becomes a liberal by reading the Bible. You have to go to school for that.” – Dr. John MacArthur
  • “The devil wants you to pay attention to your feelings, Jesus wants you to pay attention to His truth.” – Anonymous
  • “Do you want to be a hero to sinners? Tell them they can have Jesus AND their sin at the same time. Do you want to be a help to sinners? Tell them Jesus can forgive them AND set them free from their sins.” – Dr. Michael L. Brown

These are challenging words for those looking for a watered down Laodicean type Christianity (cf. Revelation 3:14-21). There are a ton of quotes similar to these on the Stop Playing Church Facebook group site. I encourage you to check them out. They are very relevant for today.

Politics is a part of life. It’s pretty hard to avoid politics completely. We should be good citizens and vote. We should seek to be salt and light in society even in the area of politics (e.g. Matthew 5:13-16). But politics is not the answer for the Church. Politics and governing are supposed to maintain peace and security and order in society, but it can only treat external issues, not the internal necessities of the heart. Seeking power and influence by political endeavors is not the means God has chosen for the Church.

In Revelation 17, a perverted Tribulation Church is depicted. It has its roots in Babylon. Its route is immorality, power-lust, and murder. This perverse Tribulation Church is depicted by a harlot who at first is riding the beast [i.e. Antichrist]. She begins in a position of control. But toward the end of the chapter the beast is carrying the harlot (Revelation 17:7). In other words, the beast is not being led by the harlot, the harlot is being controlled by the beast. Historically, this is always the case. Whenever the “Church” tries to be the government or is so intertwined with a government that it is indistinguishable, the “Church” is compromised. In the end, as depicted in Revelation 17, even this Latter Days perverted “Church” ends up being the victim of hatred and consumption by the Global Antichrist led government powers (Revelation 17:16). And thus, we see God’s righteous wrath on worldly religion in the end times. Politics is not the answer. Politics cannot be trusted. And religion is not the answer. Jesus is the answer. We had better remember that!

Why isn’t politics the answer? Politics by nature involves pleasing people. People get elected because the message they proclaim is pleasing to their constituency. There’s nothing wrong with pleasing people. However, the truth of God is not always “pleasing to people.” People don’t always welcome the gospel as “good news.” And that is where the problem between politics and Christianity comes in. The Bible states very clearly, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Od do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). Jesus went to the cross as a result of not pleasing people. And He calls us to “deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:24). Being a Christian and walking by the Holy Spirit in God’s truth is going to put you at odds with people on occasion.

The Apostle John wrote in his first epistle, “

  • 1 John 2:15–17 (NKJV) – 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

People in the world love worldly things. When we stand for God’s truth it more often than not contradicts worldly things, worldly loves, and therefore, it puts us at odds with the people of this world. These verses tell us that being Christian requires we make choices. We will have to make choices between wanting to fit into the world or to fit in with Jesus. We will have to make a decision about whether to be hip in the world or holy with God. I’m not talking about mere dress and style here. Trends and styles change, God’s word and His truth do not change. If you doubt that as true, just ask a baby boomer birthed in the fifties or sixties if they ever dreamed of some of the advances as well as declines in the world today. We’ve gone from Father knows Best to fathers perpetually portrayed as numbskulls and out of touch uncaring figures. We’ve gone from the comedy of men dressed as women to the reality of men identifying as women. We’ve gone from common sense based on evidence to nonsense based on whim. And in a fallen world, the trends are always down and away from holiness and God’s truth. The world rides a wave of what once was known as fantasy but that now is portrayed as fact on the basis of feeling. Sadly, some Christians are getting caught up in these worldly waves.

Another pithy profound statement I came across recently stated, “Reluctance to speak hard biblical truths to others argues that we have more concern for what they think of us than for what happens to them.” Are we going to be a people pleaser or a God pleaser? A quote from C.H. Spurgeon states, “I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church. . . Put your finger on any prosperous page in the Church’s history, and [you] will find a little marginal not [that says]: ‘In this age [people] could readily see where the Church began and where the world ended.” Is there this necessary distinctiveness, this holiness, between the Church and the world?

To be “hip” is defined in Wikipedia as, “a slang for fashionably current and in the know. To be hip is to have “an attitude, a stance” in opposition to the “unfree world”, or to what is square or prude. Being hip is also about being informed about the latest ideas, styles, and developments. [2] We should be “hip” in the sense of we are informed about what is happening in the world. But we should not get so close to the world that we are indistinguishable from it. Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out fo the world, there the world hates you” (John 15:19). Does the world “love” or “hate” you? What does that say about where you stand with Jesus?

The Urban Dictionary defines “hip” as, “To agree, concur or express understanding of something. Being in “the know” or knowledgeable about a subject.” [3]A “hipster” is defined as “a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter. . .. Consequently, many hipsters tend to have jobs in music, art, and fashion industries.” [4] Again, we should be “all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:22) in terms of knowing where they are coming from in their thinking and worldviews. Our motivation and purpose for being “all things to all men” though is not to fit in with the world or be accepted by them, it is “that I might by all means save some.” Paul was inspired to write about being all things to all people, but he also said that he, “spoke all things to you in truth” (2 Corinthians 7:14). We can never do anything or be anything apart from God’s truth.

But the problem today is that much of the Church is so much like the world that it is not distinguishable from it. The Church too often sides with the world and its trends. We see this in the adoption by segments of the Church of LGBT lifestyles, approving of sexual relations outside of holy matrimony (e.g. sex before marriage), and many other “progressive” positions that are contrary to the truth of scripture. How far will this go? Did you know that there is a push now for those with attraction to underage children (i.e. pedophiles) to be an accepted life choice to be included in the LGBT groups? [5] Will progressive segments of the “Church” accept this trend too?

Being “hip” and a “hipster,” is nothing new. There have always been people in their 20’s or 30’s who are searching out their own footprint in the world and who challenge traditions and “truth” in the process. I have no problem with someone who wants to be “hip” or aware of trends in the world as long as doing so does not contradict the absolute eternal truth of God’s word. And that is what periodically happens through the cycles of human history. You can bet that as the first Israelites entered, took hold of, and then established themselves in the Promised Land, that they were eventually tempted with the trends of the world around them. And as they accepted as their own the pagan idolatry and immoral practices of the people around them, it led to their downfall and captivity.

There has been throughout history a tension and temptation to choose “hip” trends of the world to replace the truth of God found in His word. When this happens, the decision we are called upon to make is between being hip or holy before God, adopting worldly trends or living faithfully by God’s truth. Our choice of holiness over hipsterism and God’s truth over worldly trends determines our destiny.

Jesus prayed, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14). He reiterated, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). Jesus clearly distinguished Himself from the world. He did the same for those who followed Him. Why then are people so much trying to fit in or be like the world? Why are people so enamored with the world, its trends and views?

Over one hundred years ago a man by the name of William Booth, the Founder or the Salvation Army, spoke prophetically about the dangers of the future. He said, “The chief danger of the 20th century will be religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.” This statement was spot on as we look at what is happening today and the degeneration of religion.

In his book Surviving the Anointing author David Ravenhill, son of Leonard Ravenhill, the great prophetic voice of the relative recent past, made the following observation. He said:

  • Everybody is into discipleship these days. We have elevated this teaching beyond what the Scriptures teach. Most churches teach that after becoming a Christian, if you really mean business with God, you become a disciple. The fact is, in the Word of God it’s totally reversed. There were all sorts of disciples in the New Testament. The Bible talks about the fact that the Pharisees said, “We are disciples of Moses” (John 9:28). John the Baptist had disciples, the Pharisees had disciples, Jesus had disciples, and Jesus said, “It is enough that a disciple become as his master” (see Matthew 10:25).
  • In other words, the whole purpose of discipleship is to align yourself to someone with the intent of becoming like them. Today we would simply refer to them as a student of so and so or an understudy. . .. a disciple is simply a student whose desire is to ultimately be like his master or tutor, somebody who sits at the feet of someone else, wanting to become as great as they are.
  • The whole point of discipleship is to become like your master, and the Bible says in the Book of Acts, that the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. What is a Christian? A Christian is a disciple who has arrived at his goal of being Christlike. You see how we’ve reversed it? In other words, they said, “You are Christlike. We can tell that you’ve spent time with Jesus. You studied under Him, you act like Him, you walk like Him, you talk like Him, clearly you are a Christian.” So, you don’t begin as a Christian and then become a disciple. Instead, you begin as a disciple and you become a Christian, according to the Word of God.
  • Now I know that upsets a lot of people’s theology, and I understand where they’re coming from, what they’re trying to emphasize. These days the word Christian has become watered down, but as the Word of God reveals, it was an incredible honor to be called a Christian, a Christlike one.[6]

And the Church and its teachings are indeed becoming very watered down. In an article in Charisma Magazine, entitled Here’s How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel, author Chelsen Vicari states the following:

  • Peek behind the curtain of some “progressive” or “hip” evangelical churches, past the savvy technology and secular music, and you will find more than just a contemporary worship service. You’ll find faith leaders encouraging young evangelicals to trade in their Christian convictions for a gospel filled with compromise. They’re slowly attempting to give evangelicalism an “update”—and the change is not for the good. . ..
  • The seasoned Christian soldiers are noticing these distortions of the gospel. But for young evangelicals, the spiritual haze is harder to wade through. Desperate for acceptance in a fallen world, many young evangelicals (and some older ones) choose not to take Christ out of the chapel, and so they are unwittingly killing the church’s public witness. In this uphill cultural battle, mired by scare tactics and fear, three types of evangelical Christians are emerging:
  • Couch-potato Christians: These Christians adapt to the culture by staying silent on the tough culture-and-faith discussions. Typically, this group will downplay God’s absolute truths by promoting the illusion that neutrality was Jesus’ preferred method of evangelism.
  • Cafeteria-style Christians: This group picks and chooses which Scripture passages to live by, opting for the ones that best seem to jive with culture. Typically, they focus solely on the “nice” parts of the gospel while simultaneously and intentionally minimizing sin, hell, repentance and transformation.
  • Convictional Christians: In the face of the culture’s harsh admonitions, these evangelicals refuse to be silent. Mimicking Jesus, they compassionately talk about love and grace while also sharing with their neighbors the need to recognize and turn from sin. . ..
  • The Collision of Faith and Culture
  • Faith and culture will continue to collide in America. The culture wars, the growth of family, the success of missions, the prosperity of our great nation—the future rests on millennial evangelicals’ worldview. And that is cause for concern, because something has gone wrong with young evangelicals’ theology.
  • The millennial generation’s susceptibility to “feel-good” doctrine is playing a big part in America’s moral decline. Millennials’ religious practices depend largely on how the actions make us and others feel, whether the activities are biblical or not. For example, we only attend churches that leave us feeling good about our lifestyle choices, even if those choices conflict with God’s clear commandments. We dismiss old hymns that focus on God’s transforming salvation, love and mercy and opt for “Jesus is your boyfriend” songs. Or we contribute to nonprofits that exploit and misuse terms such as justice, oppressed and inequality because tweaking the language makes us feel more neutral, less confrontational.
  • Popular liberal evangelical writers and preachers tell young evangelicals that if they accept abortion and same-sex marriage, then the media, academia and Hollywood will finally accept Christians. Out of fear of being falsely dubbed “intolerant” or “uncompassionate,” many young Christians are buying into theological falsehoods. Instead of standing up as a voice for the innocent unborn or marriage as God intended, millennials are forgoing the authority of Scripture and embracing a couch potato, cafeteria-style Christianity, all in the name of tolerance.
  • This contemporary mindset is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian whose Christian convictions put him at odds with the Nazis and cost him his life, called “cheap grace.” In his book The Cost of Discipleship Bonhoeffer wrote: “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
  • Right now, cheap grace theology is proliferating around evangelical Bible colleges, seminaries and Christian ministries. . ..
  • Heed the Warning Signs
  • Evangelicals and culture warriors in the U.S. do not have to look far to discover what happens when Christian denominations give up on their traditional convictions and teachings. All we have to do is look at the dwindling memberships of mainline Protestant denominations.
  • In order to safeguard the trajectory of young evangelicals, we must uphold the authoritative Word of God. It is imperative that those in a position to influence millennials have transparent and honest discussions about the culture wars in which evangelical youth are already engaging. Otherwise they will be silent and accepting in the face of persecution and false doctrine.
  • The importance of arming the next generation of evangelicals cannot be overstated. If we continue to follow the example of mainline Protestants, evangelicalism will have a gloomy future. We must offer sorely needed leadership, but before we can do that, we need to know exactly whom and what we are up against. [7]

Each new generation of children who have been “educated” (really indoctrinated) in Public School and who are so constantly influenced by an anti-Christian, anti-Biblical culture via Social Media, are showing the signs of being influenced by that culture. But even those children who are homeschooled, if they are involved with social media, or if they go on to college, will be tested and challenged by a liberal worldly world view. And sadly, “Christian” programs and colleges are not immune to such liberal unscriptural slants. The salt is losing its saltiness (Matthew 5:13-16). How can we reverse this trend? How can we deal with this break in the dike of true Christianity?

I would suggest the following response to this decline or off course Christianity:

First, pray for a revival. God’s promise is that if we seek Him and turn from our wicked ways, He will bring healing. And that is the promise to “My people” (2 Chronicles 7:14). We are in not only a material social battle. We are in a spiritual battle. We must put our armor on and that begins with prayer (e.g. Ephesians 6:10-18). We need to humbly pray for God to make us what we need to be in order to do what He desires us to do for His glory until Jesus returns.

Second, get into the word of God and let it get into you. We need to return to God’s word. God’s word is our primary source of truth. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). To be sanctified is to be set apart to God for His use. To be sanctified is to be holy. To be holy means to be distinctive. It means to be particularly “Christian” or Christlike. We need to be truth warriors in the holiest sense of God’s word of truth.

We need to review the Bible’s value and revive our reverence for it (e.g. Psalm 119). We need to take hold of and appreciate “the whole counsel of God,” (Acts 20:27). That means from Genesis to Revelation; all sixty-six books of the Bible, not just the gospels or New Testament as some modern-day preachers are proposing. [8]The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. You cannot truly understand the New Testament without the Old Testament and vice versa. They are two part of the same Book and each is indispensable to the other. We need to be students of God’s word who learn how to use it (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17). We need to understand our authority is Bible based (Hebrews 4:12). We have become impotent in proportion to our disconnection to God’s word.

Third, we need to cultivate a readiness to respond to our children and the unsaved culture. We need to heed Peter’s inspired words which state, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Peter 3:15-16).

We need to walk in the love of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22-24). And we need to walk in the Word of God which the Holy Spirit inspired (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We need to strap on the belt buckle of God truth (Ephesians 6:14). We need to then go forth speaking the truth of God in the love of God (Ephesians 4:15).

Fourth, we need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. If we want a Book of Acts Church, we need a Book of Acts empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We need the Promise of the Father, the baptism with the Holy Spirit just as the early disciples experienced (e.g. Acts 1-2). Then and only then will the Church be all it needs to be to do all God desires for us to do.

Fifth, we need to be aware of the time on God’s prophetic calendar. We are living in the Last Days. Even if God should tarry, it may be our personal last days. Life is so fragile. Life is so easily taken or lost. Life is a vapor that vanishes away before we know it (James 4:14). That’s a fear producing problem for many people. But we have the solution to that human problem. Life is a vapor, death is sure, sins the curse, Christ is the cure. We have to spread that message to the lost. It may be the last days of someone around us. We need to review our priorities and submit them to eternal priorities. Paul was inspired to say it like this:

  • Romans 13:11–13 (NKJV) – 11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.

What we need in terms of authority and power, only God can give to us. We need a fresh empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We need a revival of the Book of Acts in our lives (see Acts 1-2). We need a move of the Holy Spirit like we have seen at other times in history.David Ravenhill includes in his book comments on the revival that took place in the Hebrides islands in Scotland in the 1940s and 50s. He observed: “We need the authority that only God can give us. Some of you are familiar with one of the great revivals: the revival in the Hebrides. . .. Back in the 1940s and 50s, this little group of islands experienced a powerful move of the Spirit of God, one of the purest revivals that we have seen, at least in my generation. Seventy-five percent of the people who were saved were converted outside the walls of the church. . ..God came down and saturated the community with His presence. People were up all night getting right with God. People would walk on the road and come under the conviction of the sin and fall down at the side of the road, repenting of their sin. . .. The revival was preceded by the earnest praying of several young men as well as two elderly women. Their cry was that God ‘would rend the heavens and come down.’The people reported that five years after that revival you could count on one hand the number of people who had drifted away from God. Bars closed down; saloons closed down; dance halls closed down. The entire community was changed as a result of that revival. ” [9]

That is what we need. We do not know how long Jesus will tarry until His return for us. We look at Revelation 17 and we know the future state of religion is bleak. But there still might be time for one last mighty move of the Holy Spirit. There still may be some mercy and grace left for this God forsaking world. Let’s pray to our Heavenly Almighty Father in the name of Jesus and see what He will do. Let’s choose holiness over hipness and God’s eternal truth over ever changing for the worse worldly trends. Let’s follow Jesus and “go and sin no more.”

 

[1] https://www.facebook.com/StopPlayingChurch/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_(slang)

[3] https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=I%27m%20hip

[4] https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-definition-of-the-term-hipster?redirected_qid=8928808

[5] https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/health/2018/july/scholar-says-pedophilia-is-an-unchangeable-sexual-orientation-and-should-be-accepted-by-society

[6] David Ravenhill, Surviving the Anointing, (Offspring Publishers – www.offspringpublishers.com ), 2013. p. 67-68

[7] https://www.charismamag.com/life/culture/22494-how-the-new-christian-left-is-twisting-the-gospel

[8] https://answersingenesis.org/christianity/andy-stanley-says-we-need-to-unhitch-the-old-testament-from-our-faith/

[9] David Ravenhill Ibid. pgs. 70-71