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Saturday, November 10, 2018
Know What You Believe!
So now that we’ve examined the definition of an evangelical Christian, what do those who identify as evangelicals actually believe? Could it be that some nominal Christians differ from core doctrine not only in fine points over the meaning of a few controversial verses, but also in basic concepts about Jesus Christ, salvation, and God’s Word?
And does it really matter? As long as they prayed the “sinner’s prayer” and “asked Jesus into their heart,” isn’t that enough? Or does accepting heresy as truth really mean that the “Christian” doesn’t know Jesus at all, and therefore is not truly saved? Jesus Himself warned that not all who did good works in His Name or claimed to know Him belonged to Him, for He never knew them, and banished them as workers of evil (Luke 13:23-30).
To find out what those meeting their research definition of an evangelical Christian actually believe, Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research surveyed 3,002 Americans in 2018, including 518 identified as evangelicals. Their findings regarding agreement or disagreement with 34 core beliefs about God, salvation, ethics, and the Bible are published in the October 16, 2018 issue of Christianity Today.
Not surprisingly, the overall proportions of Americans disagreeing with Bible-based doctrine has continued to increase since previous surveys in 2014 and 2016. But more disheartening is the widespread, increasing, deep confusion about core Christian beliefs even among so-called evangelicals.
Among Americans with “evangelical beliefs,” nearly all (97%) endorsed the true statement that “there is one true God in three persons.” Yet 78% agreed with the statement that “Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father,” attesting to their overall confusion. As Scripture clearly states, Jesus Christ is God, the Word Who was present with God the Father since the beginning of time (John 1:1). Not only was Jesus Christ not created, but He actually is the Creator of all that there is and ever was (John 1:1-3).
If our thinking relegates Jesus to the status of a mere created being, it not only strips Him of His divinity, but it invalidates the miracle of salvation. The mystery of salvation is that God Himself, the Creator of all, willingly left His throne in Heaven, took on human form (John 1:14), and suffered an agonizing death to pay our sin debt in full (Romans 3:25). He then rose again on the third day, proving His divinity, so that all who believe this and trust Him have eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 3:16).
More than half (52%) of “evangelicals” agreed that “Most people are basically good,” which flies in the face of the curse of sin affecting every human since Adam disobeyed God (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12). Jesus in His earthly ministry reaffirmed that only God is good (Matthew 19:17), and the apostle Paul wrote that no person is righteous (Romans 3:10-12), for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The prophet Isaiah wrote that our so-called righteousness as a claim to salvation is as offensive as filthy rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6)
Even Paul, arguably the most devoted Christian ever to walk the earth, acknowledged that he had to die daily to his sin nature (1 Corinthians 15:31), which was constantly at war with the Holy Spirit (Romans 7:4-25) living in His heart since the moment he was saved (John 14:16-17).
Perhaps even more shocking than their belief in man’s goodness is that 51% of “evangelical Christians” agreed that “God accepts the worship of all religions.” Yet all other religions deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, claiming instead that he was a good man, wise teacher, great prophet, or even the brother of Lucifer. Jesus Himself proclaimed that He is the only Way to the Father (John 14:6), and that the gate to salvation is narrow, whereas the gate to destruction is broad and captures the souls of many (Matthew 7:13-14).
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
In keeping with this all-inclusive, yet tragically erroneous belief of many paths to Heaven, nearly one third (32%) of “evangelicals” agreed that “religious belief is a matter of personal opinion [and] not about objective truth,” as did 60% of all Americans surveyed.
But if evangelicals put no more stock in their religious belief than they do in any personal opinion, they slide down a slippery slope that ends in denying the absolute truth of the Bible. We cannot “cherry-pick” verses to match our idiosyncratic beliefs or to justify “lifestyle choices” that are actually sins, for “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” but rather was inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).
2 Timothy 3:16: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
If we give way to popular opinion rather than Bible truth, for example by endorsing evolution rather than a literal six-day creation by the Triune God (Genesis 1,2), then we are falling prey to “cunningly devised fables” (2 Peter 1: 16) that erode the very core of our faith. The theory of evolution calls for ongoing and repeated cycles of death to “improve” the gene pool, which in itself is ludicrous since observed mutations lead to disease rather than to better function.
More importantly, it denies the power of God to speak the worlds into existence, including mankind created in His image (Genesis 1:26). If we evolved from the animals, we are no better than the beasts, and there is no absolute standard for morality, and no rationale for or consequences of the construct of sin.
Even worse, striking at the heart of Christian faith is that if we are not all sinners through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, we have no need of a Savior. Christ’s death on the cross was therefore in vain, totally unnecessary, and irrelevant, because there is no God, no Heaven, and no meaning to our existence beyond the stark biological reality. Doubting portions of God’s Word ultimately leads to rejection of its saving power (Romans 1:16).
As we shall see next time, Americans as a whole are at even greater odds with Bible truths than are those who claim the Name of Jesus. So, born-again Christian, know what you believe, make sure it lines up with Bible truth, and be prepared to defend it to others!
© 2018 Laurie Collett