When the Church Burdens Its Members Instead of Teaching Them Christ
The born again have no hope apart from Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ has no confidence in the flesh of believers or unbelievers. In a strange paradox, the flesh loves licentiousness. It also loves religion. For this reason, Jesus Christ preached Himself, for He knew that He was the only hope for the ones He came to redeem (Mt 1:21).
False doctrine is the most common way for the church to burden its members. False practice, usually derived from false doctrine, is another way. Lent is for Roman Catholics. Ironically, not one of my Roman Catholic Facebook friends posts anything about Lent each year, but many of my Protestant friends do…and in a position of advocacy!
There is a saying, “The more I read my Bible, the less I have in common with today’s American church.” Sadly, I must concur. Most Christians are not on a quest for truth. This means they are not following Christ with any sense of knowing Him, to the eradication of lies from their theology.
Of course, the denominational Pharisees are no help in this regard. They, too, burden their members with doctrine and practices that do not permit them to grow beyond denominational limits. Because every denomination believes something different than the others (these are called “distinctives”), the truth remains elusive in a sea of interpretation.
On one flight from Detroit to Minneapolis, I read the entirety of Jerry Bridges, “The Pursuit of Holiness.” I have seen books from this former leader in the Navigators in thrift stores. I finally spent the 99 cents and bought the book because I had seen him quoted on a number of Reformed Facebook pages. I even asked one Reformed Facebook group whether he was worthy of my time. I only received one indecisive response.
Knowing the Navigators is not Reformed, I was surprised by Bridges acknowledgments — the Puritans and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. This made me an expectant reader, despite the title of the book, which warned me of lurking man-centered theology. One hour and seventeen minutes later, as the Delta flight touched down in Minneapolis, I turned to the last page. I had gleaned the burden brought by Bridges.
Synergistic sanctification is a burden to members of the church. In the quest to emphasize human responsibility, synergists assume Christians are able to comply with the imperative demands of the Lord. Forgetting that believers’ sinful flesh remains, after conversion, these teachers press the ideas of “provision” and “possibility” in the pursuit of holiness. God has done His part, now it is time for Christians to step up their game. This, of course, is akin to Arminianism, in regard to the doctrine of justification. Synergism is man-centered sanctification.
Obedience was the key for Jerry Bridges, and with God helping, men can do what God requires. God is the provisional enabler for Christians, who have the responsibility to be obedient. Bridges’ writing was laden with Scripture, but in the end, his Jesus was the God who helps those who help themselves.
The crux of the problem rests in the wrong view of grace. Grace is God’s work in and for His elect, redeemed, regenerate people, who are indwelt by the Spirit of holiness (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11; Jas 4:5), who is conforming us to the image of God’s Son (Rom 8:29). It is the Holy Spirit who is willing and working (Phil 2:13), not to provide a possible outcome, but to accomplish a finished work (Ps 57:2; 138:8; Phil 1:6).
Jesus did not die on the cross to make salvation a possibility (He would be the Savior of no one); rather, “He saved us” (Titus 3:5); “He made us alive” (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13); “He caused us to be born again” (1 Pet 1:3); and He is now causing us to walk in God’s statutes (Ezek 36:27). We were made willing in the day of His power (Ps 110:3). He began the good work, and He will finish the good work (Phil 1:6).
Christian, are you burdened with the man-centered, false doctrine and false practice of, a joint venture sanctification? God is not wanting nor waiting for you to believe something or do something. He is already in the process of doing it.
Knowing Christ, by learning Christ, from our Teacher (Jn 14:27), the Spirit of Christ, is our delight, in shedding the errors and empty practices. These are mere distractions, employed by our adversary, who does not wish for Christians to see the truth, the beauty of our completely sufficient Christ. The devil lied about works-based justification, and he continues his lies, in the church, with the doctrine of works-based sanctification.
In conclusion, the burdens are many. God loves His church, not everyone. His church is positioned in Christ, as a body, with Christ as its Head. God is pleased with Christ, alone; and as His Spirit works to bring in and sanctify His people, they see more clearly that seeing Jesus is seeing His salvation manifest in us, by His work alone, for His glory, alone.
Spokane Valley, Washington
November 8, 2022