A triple header much needed in view of what passes for Christianity these days…
Do you have the superficial faith of false religion? An inoculation that never cured the disease? You don’t have to indulge in astrology or new age practices to be a pagan. Do you seek truth outside of His word? Do you find normalizing in humanist endeavors? Do you seek the world’s answers in substitute or addition to the word of God? Do you seek to see what you really are by looking OUTSIDE of the mirror of the word of God? If you are not living your life in accordance to the bible, if you are not demonstrating objectively the fruit of the Spirit, but instead the fruit of the flesh, if you are not obeying the word of God in application…your faith is superficial. Plastering a false Christ on a depraved mind and heart only leaves you with false assurance, hypocrisy, and a form of spirituality that denies it’s power (by how you actually live)….if you seek to act moral, and not search and seek and strive to crucify the flesh and live out of a heart that has been REBORN…you may look better to yourself, maybe even to others you encounter, but to God you still reek of the stench of the sin nature that is the only nature you can live from, as you do not have Him except in name only. It is tantamount to being married and after the vows are repeated, never having anything to do with the spouse again, except to show the ring and call yourself married. And it leaves you an enemy of God and still under His wrath. Why? Because the sin of rebellion and wanting a form of “Jesus” without having to really give up a thing is your god. And that god only leads to eternal Hell. Repent. Believe. Surrender to the biblical Christ. If He is not your LORD and your love, He is most assuredly not your Savior. Demon faith is no faith at all. Just ask Judas.~AGM†
by John MacArthur
Sanctification isn’t easy—it takes faithfulness, hard work, and self-discipline. And even then, it’s not purely a function of your will, but the work of the Holy Spirit in you. It’s not manufactured overnight.
As with anything that takes time, effort, and patience, people are prone to look for shortcuts. Some people substitute a mystical, subjective feeling of closeness to God for actual spiritual growth. Others cling to outward expressions of godliness while sin still makes a home in their hearts.
But that’s not true spiritual growth—it’s counterfeit. If you truly love the Lord, you can’t be willing to move the goalposts on biblical sanctification.
There are many varieties of counterfeit sanctification. Some are easier to spot than others, but all lead to the same kind of spiritual shipwreck. Here are a few to be on the lookout for in your own life.
Moral virtue can often pass for true spiritual growth. Some people, for varying reasons, are fair minded, loyal, kind, conscientious, hardworking, and generous. They can make it through life without scandals and outrageous immorality.
But morality alone isn’t an accurate measure of a person’s spiritual condition. Moral virtue can exist apart from sanctification—even apart from salvation. You’ve probably known nonbelievers who hold to a high moral standard, perhaps even higher than some believers. But their virtue isn’t a substitute for saving faith. Outward morality doesn’t always equate to inward transformation. True spiritual growth isn’t just about good exteriors.
Another counterfeit of spiritual growth is religious superstition. Some believers methodically go through the motions of their daily Scripture reading, prayer times, and other practical spiritual disciplines as if the actions themselves merited God’s favor and blessing. You even see this attitude in little things, like praying before a meal. It becomes a mindless, empty ritual instead of an opportunity to express real thanks and praise to God.
The Catholic faith is built on exactly those kinds of superstitious rituals. But just as lighting candles, sprinkling holy water, praying the rosary, and confessing your sins to a priest don’t earn salvation, going through the motions of your Christian life—even fastidiously—cannot substitute for true spiritual growth.
Restraint is another possible kind of counterfeit sanctification. People don’t always avoid sin in favor of righteousness—sometimes they’re simply afraid to face the consequences of sin. They don’t necessarily have a heart to obey God or His Word. They’re just afraid of pursuing temptation because of the results.
That fear could be the sign of a well-trained conscience. Maybe the person was raised in a Christian home and has built-in convictions about right and wrong. Maybe he grew up under the moral standard of God’s Word and can’t shake the nagging of his conscience. Rather than face a troubled conscience or the consequences of his sin, he’ll simply not do it.
Restraint from sin might eventually lead someone to true, saving faith. But on its own, it’s not an indication of God’s sanctifying work.
There’s one other category of counterfeit sanctification that we’ll call false profession. You’ve probably known people who parade their holiness and exhibit a kind of over-the-top, superficial religiosity. There are all kinds of ways to draw attention to yourself and your good behavior. But if you’re just putting on a show for others—if your outward holiness isn’t prompted by inward growth—then your holiness is phony.
Another example of false profession is the kind of subjective, mystical experience that’s emphasized by some in the spiritual formation movement. Feeling closer to God and more in tunewith His Word is not an accurate measure of your sanctification. In fact, relying on those superficial emotions is a sure way to short-circuit the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, dulling your discernment and watering down your wisdom.
True sanctification isn’t about outward morality, religious observance, restraint from sin, superficial holiness, or your feelings (1 Samuel 16:7). It’s about growing in Christlikeness in all aspects of your life. Anything less is a counterfeit.
The language of therapy has a stranglehold on our culture. Children don’t lie anymore, they tell stories. Serial adulterers have been re-branded as sex addicts. Drunkenness is now an alcohol disorder—in fact, addiction itself is treated like a disease. Even the gross perversion of pedophilia is listed as a psychiatric disorder in the ever-expanding Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
In short, the world’s pattern for dealing with sin is to diagnose away the guilt, or redefine wickedness as something more innocuous. You’re not a sinner, you’re a victim. And regardless of who or what is victimizing you, you’re not to blame for your flaws and faults.
Tragically, the church is following that thinking.
Today, psychological terminology shapes the way our culture talks about life, and that same terminology has infected the church. This psychological assault has major implications for biblical authority and gospel purity. One prominent professor of a major Christian seminary argues:
It is time for Christian sages—psychologically informed pastors, theologians, counselors, therapists as well as psychologists—to speak wisdom into the mind and heart of the church concerning its mandate to explore human nature.
The only mandate that Jesus gave the church is the Great Commission. The gospel message is not concerned with exploring human nature, it is the remedy for human nature (cf. Genesis 6:5;John 3:19–20; Romans 1:18–20; Romans 3:10–23). What needs further exploration?
But with the Freudian view of man we don’t need salvation, we need healing. We don’t need to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, we need fulfillment. The self-affirming language of psychology has changed the way we talk about sin, the gospel, and the life of the believer. With a few choice words, we’ve turned the life-transforming truth of the gospel into nothing more than a motivational speech.
More than twenty years ago, John MacArthur saw the threat that psychology posed to the church. He warned believers not to give credibility to the secular pseudo-science.
Psychology is no more a science than the atheistic evolutionary theory upon which it is based. Like theistic evolution, “Christian psychology” is an attempt to harmonize two inherently contradictory systems of thought. Modern psychology and the Bible cannot be blended without serious compromise to or utter abandonment of the principle of Scripture’s sufficiency.
At the time, pastors and church leaders were being cowed into surrendering aspects of their leadership to “professionals” who could supposedly better address the emotional and psychological needs of believers.
Evangelical psychological clinics have sprung up. Though almost all of them claim to offer biblical counsel, most merely dispense secular psychology disguised in spiritual terminology. Moreover, they are removing the counseling ministry from its proper arena in the church body and conditioning Christians to think of themselves as incompetent to counsel. Many pastors, feeling inadequate and perhaps afraid of possible malpractice litigation, are perfectly willing to let “professionals” take over what used to be seen as a vital pastoral responsibility. Too many have bought the lie that a crucial realm of wisdom exists outside Scripture and one’s relationship to Jesus Christ, and that some idea or technique from that extrabiblical realm holds the real key to helping people with their deep problems.
Fast forward two decades and it’s no longer a question of surrender. Instead, church leaders have embraced the therapeutic culture and adopted the kind of terminology that appeals to a generation of victims.
Most celebrity pastors today won’t talk about sin or repentance or righteousness. Sermons—well, not sermons, talks—center on life’s journey, fulfillment, and relationship counseling. Christ is a cool guy who set a great example for us. The Holy Spirit is little more than an enabler. And a whole list of topics—basically anything that would confront any of society’s favorite sins—is all but forbidden.
In his book, Christless Christianity, Michael Horton describes the vacuous tendencies of modern evangelicalism:
We are getting dangerously close to the place in everyday American church life where the Bible is mined for “relevant” quotes but is largely irrelevant on its own terms; God is used as a personal resource rather than known, worshiped and trusted; Jesus Christ is a coach with a good game plan for our victory rather than a Savior Who has already achieved it for us; salvation is more a matter of having our best life now than being saved from God’s judgment by God Himself; and the Holy Spirit is an electrical outlet we can plug into for the power we need to become all that we can be.
While many in the church may be passively capitulating to those tendencies, the end result is still the same: The authority of God’s Word is neutered and the gospel watered down to an easy-to-swallow self-help message.
We need to reassert the prophetic voice of the church, and make loud and clear the hard truths of Scripture. We need to cut off the influence of those who would soften or dull the gospel, and vigorously proclaim the only truth that offers lasting hope, peace, and fulfillment.
And we need to remember, as John MacArthur wrote all those years ago, that the things that separate us from this therapeutic culture are the very things that are most valuable in our efforts to win the men and women in it to faith and repentance:
True psychology (“the study of the soul”) can be done only by Christians, since only Christians have the resources for the understanding and the transformation of the soul. Since the secular discipline of psychology is based on godless assumptions and evolutionary foundations, it is capable of dealing with people only superficially and only on the temporal level. . . . If one is a truly Christian psychologist, he must be doing soul work in the realm of the deep things of the Word and the Spirit—not fooling around in the shallows of behavior modification. Why should a believer choose to do behavior modification when he has the tools for spiritual transformation (like a surgeon wreaking havoc with a butter knife instead of using a scalpel)? The most skilled counselor is the one who most carefully, prayerfully, and faithfully applies the divine sanctification—shaping another into the image of Jesus Christ.
In his book, ‘The Truth War,’ the 12 Steps are addressed by John MacArthur. He writes, “Others would formally affirm Christ’s sovereignty and spiritual headship over the church, but they resist His rule in practice. To cite just one instance of how this is done, many churches have set various forms of human psychology, self-help therapy, and the idea of ‘recovery’ in place of the Bible’s teaching about sin and sanctification.” …”So wherever the work of God’s Word is being replaced with twelve-step programs and other substitutes,Christ’s headship over the church is being denied in practice.” (pg.159, Bold mine)
The following article deals with how Christians often unknowingly transfer their faith from Christ unto the 12 Steps; it also deals with the some of the unholy practices the A.A. cofounders engaged in:
Alcoholics Anonymous Cofounders Were Not Christians
It is a fearful thing, leaving AA. The Big Book (the AA “bible”) states, “We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not.” Because this passage of AA “scripture” is taken literally, alcoholics rarely look elsewhere for help. Christians continue to jam their God, the Ancient of Days, into AA’s chameleon theology.
“Do not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead even expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11-12)
It is not just fear that keeps us bound to this all-gods religion. The 12 Step experience becomes an idol-long-term involvement almost always results in a transference of faith. Bluntly stated, when it comes to sobriety, many Christians end up with more faith in the power of the 12 Step program than in Jesus Christ.
This idol worship is by no means limited to those in AA, but applies to many in “Christian 12 Step” groups.
This transference of faith is subtle, gradual, and frequently inevitable. The result is that sobriety without the 12 Step program will not even be considered. Biblical wisdom, given by concerned and caring believers, is rejected.
FULL ARTICLE: click here