How Most Evangelical Churches and Ministries are Selling Indulgences, Just Like Rome

Galatians 1:6-8 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– (7) not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (8) But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

My thesis in this article is just as stated in the title: Many if not most evangelical churches, teachers, and counselors are teaching a system that is a false gospel. A system of rules and methods which, it is promised, will “redeem” the soul – both your own soul and the souls of others, even the unrepentant! Let me explain. First, some background.

I am currently re-reading Roland Bainton’s wonderful biography of Martin Luther, Here I Stand. Early on, Bainton describes the world Luther grew up in and the “church” he was taught to believe in before Christ opened his eyes. Rome has not changed, by the way nor has she ever repudiated the doctrines taught in the 1500’s. How can she? After all, Rome is infallible, right?

Well, listen to some things Luther was taught:

Luther simply had not the capacity to fulfill the conditions [ie, of the holiness of God]. But if he could not, others might. The Church, while taking an individualistic view of sin, takes a corporate view of goodness. Sins must be accounted for one by one, but goodness can be pooled; and there is something to pool because the saints, the Blessed Virgin, and the Son of God were better than they needed to be for their own salvation. Christ in particular, being both sinless and God, is possessed of an unbounded store. These superfluous merits of the righteous constitute a treasury which is transferable to those whose accounts are in arrears.

The transfer is effected through the Church and, particularly, through the pope, to whom as the successor of St. Peter have been committed the keys to bind and loose. Such a transfer of credit was called an indulgence.

Precisely how much good it would do had not been definitely defined, but the common folk were disposed to believe the most extravagant claims. No one questioned that the pope could draw on the treasury in order to remit penalties for sin imposed by himself on earth. In fact, one would suppose that he could do this by mere fiat without any transfer. The important question was whether or not he could mitigate the pangs of purgatory.

During the decade in which Luther was born a pope had declared that the efficacy of indulgences extended to purgatory for the benefit of the living and the dead alike. In the case of the living there was no assurance of avoiding purgatory entirely because God alone knew the extent of the unexpiated guilt and the consequent length of the sentence, but the Church could tell to the year and the day by how much the term could be reduced, whatever it was. And in the case of those already dead and in purgatory, the sum of whose wickedness was complete and known, an immediate release could be offered.

There were places in which these signal mercies were more accessible than in others. For no theological reason but in the interest of advertising, the Church associated the dispensing of the merits of the saints with visitation upon the relics of the saints. Popes frequently specified precisely how much benefit could be derived from viewing each holy bone. Every relic of the saints in Halle, for example, was endowed by Pope Leo X with an indulgence for the reduction of purgatory by four thousand years. The greatest storehouse for such treasures was Rome. Here in the single crypt of St. Callistus forty popes were buried and 76,000 martyrs. Rome had a piece of Moses’ burning bush and three hundred particles of the Holy Innocents. Rome had the portrait of Christ on the napkin of St. Veronica. Rome had the chains of St. Paul and the scissors with which Emperor Domitian clipped the hair of St. John. The walls of Rome near the Appian gate showed the white spots left by the stones which turned to snowballs when hurled by the mob against St. Peter before his time was come….Another had a coin paid to Judas for betraying our Lord…able to confer an indulgence of 1400 years.

The false Roman gospel, you see. It still stands today. None of these things have ever been pronounced error by Rome.

But the spirit of this same false gospel is alive and well not only in the Vatican, it is thriving in the evangelical churches as well. Indulgences are being announced and sold. How so? Let me show you.

If you could be a fly on the wall in the pastor’s study or counseling room in most evangelical churches today, listening in on what victims of domestic violence are being told (or rather, “commanded”), you would hear over and over again this very scenario:

  • Even if your husband is abusing you, God does not permit you to divorce him
  • If you will become a more “Excellent Wife” [the title of one of the most notorious books promoting this nonsense] then you will be able to redeem your marriage.
  • Read this book that I wrote. It will teach you things that you can do in order to save your husband’s soul, and more importantly, save your marriage. God hates divorce, you know [that’s not in the Bible by the way]

In other words, even though the domestic violence victim is in a hellish purgatory of suffering and perhaps even death, she is a sinner just like her abuser and God has called her to pay for her own sins by humbly accepting this suffering. But there is hope. Through the books and counseling and teaching of this self-proclaimed priesthood, the abuse victim can go on a kind of pilgrimage, visit the fabled relics of saintly women who have suffered before and gone on to their reward. And if she will do all of this, these mini-popes will grant to her an indulgence, pronouncing her justified before God.

As soon as the gold in the coffer rings; the rescued soul to heaven springs

You say that I am exaggerating? I differ with you. These false Christian leaders are setting the price, selling the indulgences, and pronouncing all who drop the coin in by doing their programs to be “redeemed.”  Oh, and for those who will not pay? Off to purgatory with them! Ex-communication! Hand them over to Satan!

These evangelical indulgences are just as worthless as those sold by Rome. Christ alone is our Redeemer. Reject all who tell you that you must “do” and “don’t” to mitigate God’s wrath against you. Jesus really has paid it all. We simply embrace Him by faith alone and His righteousness, full and complete comes to us while our sin, full and complete, goes to Him on the cross to be paid in full once and for all.

Martha Peace. Jim Newheiser. John Piper. Voddie Baucham. Are you people listening? Nope. You will just get angry at what I have said. But then, I didn’t really write this for you anyway.



My Experience as a Pastor With Evil in its Favorite Nesting Place – The Visible Church

Gal 1:14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.

Php 3:4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:

2Co 11:16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little.

In the first part of this article, it is going to sound like I am boasting. I assure you that I am not, and so I ask you as did Paul, to bear with me a bit while I talk about myself. It is necessary in order to make my main point, as you will see.

Not far from where we now live is the small town of Monmouth, Oregon where you will find Western Oregon State University. That is the universtiy (college at the time I attended) which my wife and I receive our Bachelor’s degrees from way back in 1973.  I was thinking about those days recently and the realization struck me that in my pre-pastorate life, things went quite well for me. I was a Christian then, but not very strong in the faith yet. Here are some of my experiences from that era:

  • I won the freshman outstanding chemistry student award
  • I was regularly recognized by my science, math, and history professors as their “best student.” regularly posting the highest exam scores of the class
  • Both my wife and I graduated with honors
  • My senior year I was chosen out of a large group of applicants for a deputy sheriff’s position in Benton County, Oregon
  • I attended the Oregon Police Academy (Camp Withycombe as it was known back then) and placed second in the class academically, and I won the shooting trophy for scoring the best target with my .38 revolver
  • Two years later I once again was hired out of a large number of applicants as a deputy sheriff in Multnomah County (Portland), Oregon. I would have the same experience some 8 years later when I was hired as a police officer in Gresham, Oregon, having competed for the position with over 200 applicants.
  • In seminary I won the biblical languages award and was also given the honor of preaching at the graduate class/faculty chapel.

And then, in 1983, I was a police officer on a Friday, and a pastor of my first church on Monday.

Alright then, that’s is the end of the boasting. It was also the end of my advancement in the eyes of man.

What has been my experience these 35 years as a pastor in the local, visible church? Oh sure, there were some tough times as a police officer. I was hated by criminals I arrested, but almost always we enjoyed real comradery with fellow officers. But in the vast majority of my experience in the church, I have found that the enemy sits in the pews. Police officer and comrade on Friday. Hated and targeted by false christians on Monday. The change was that real, and that fast.

We now enjoy a very small church of genuine believers here in Tillamook, but this came only after years and years of attacks from counterfeits who had, as Jude puts it, crept in among us. They professed Christ but they hated His truth and anyone to spoke it to them. And as a result, as a whole over these three plus decades of pastoral ministry, I have been hated. There have been no accolades. No awards. Just hatred from those who claim they serve the same Lord I do.

The Lord has been very faithful to us. He raised up the A Cry for Justice ministry in which He used us to expose evil hiding in the church in the form of domestic abusers. He has continued to circulate the books he impelled me to write and we regularly receive the thanks of abuse victims who have been greatly helped by them. But, I say again, as a whole, the mass of what claims to be the Christian Church has hated me.

When I was a police officer, I apprehended wicked people so they could receive what was coming to them. I loved it. In fact the reason I was hired over all the other applicants at the Gresham Police department was that in my application interview one older, experienced Lieutenant asked me, “Jeff, why do you want to be a police officer?” My answer was, “because I love to throw bad guys in jail.” He stood up and said “THAT is the answer I was looking for!”

I still love to throw bad guys in jail by exposing them whenever I can, and that means exposing hypocrites in local churches parading as Christians among the flock.

But my point is, I received a slap on the back for doing this as a police officer. “Good job nailing that armed robber, Crippen! That was great police work!” We were a team. We backed each other up.

That all ended when I became a pastor. Why? Because local churches are filled with people who are fake christians. Or with people who might be Christians but who have been so brainwashed by false teaching that they have been told that it is unloving to throw bad guys in jail! The former class is far more common however.

What is my point in all this? My point is that this is the very same experience the Apostle Paul had. When he was called by Christ, he left all behind. And what was he greeted with in the church? Well, he met some genuine believers. He had the faithful Timothy and Epaphroditus. There were a handful of other faithful brothers and sisters standing with him. But largely, his experience in the visible church is that wicked people would creep in and before long they would have the whole place turned against him. Peter found it to be the same, as did Jude, and of course as did the Lord Jesus Himself.

And so sometimes I find myself reminiscing about those “good ol’ days” when Jeff was advancing, when people would say “you have a great career ahead of you,” when outstanding performance was recognized and rewarded. Those were the days. And then I have to talk to myself and remind myself that following Christ looks exactly what my experience as a pastor has been. That my reward, my “atta boys” need to come from Christ, not from man. Because if all the world slaps you on the back, flatters you, praises you….well, you had better take a hard look at yourself and see if you know Jesus at all.

Local Churches are Giving Standing Ovations to the Wicked (Part 3)

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (1Co 5:1-2)

As we have seen in this series of posts, local churches are giving standing ovations to unrepentant (or falsely repentant) wicked people. As you can see from the verses quoted above (which I quote very, very frequently), this is the very same sin that was pervasive in the church at Corinth. Boasting about how “merciful” they were, pronouncing a grossly evil man among them to be one of the saints. Paul nailed them.

Here then is still another instance which took place recently. Once again, in the absence of any repentance, people walking in sin who claim to be Christians were give a hearty round of applause from the congregation. This is how it went down:

An unmarried couple who have been living together for quite sometime have several children. They profess to be Christians and have been attending the church regularly.  After meeting with another “mentor” couple, also members of this church, the couple appeared on the platform of the church sanctuary at the Sunday morning worship service. The man got down on his knee and asked the woman to marry him. She accepted and a ring was given….and the whole place burst out in applause. No mention of sin. No mention of repentance.

Now, not only is there the issue of fornication, but it turns out that this fellow has been in jail several times this past year. Professing Christian. Living in sexual immorality. Committing crimes. He did mention to the congregation that he had had “a difficult year for him.” To which the pastor replied in front of all, “This is what God’s grace is all about.” Applause.  Shouts of “that was so beautiful!” That pastor, in his sermon, went on to chastise “nit-picky” Christians who are ungracious and unforgiving.

Now, if you have experienced abuse at the hands of the typical conscienceless, deceiving, sociopathic abuser, red warning lights are going to be going off in your head already in regard to this man. It is quite probable that this church just handed this woman over to an abuser, serving as his ally in evil. And the pastor and church are culpable. They are guilty. They are arrogant and they are presenting a false gospel. They are pronouncing a wicked man, who has been walking in habitual sin, to be justified and righteous in God’s sight. In addition, other abuse victims who are sitting out there in the pews will be further enslaved, confused, guilted, and shamed by all of this.

Do you realize that a wicked, evil person – even the devil himself – can easily stand up in front of a church audience and weep and wail in fake repentance, pleading for forgiveness, “confessing” his sin, and all the while be lying in every single word he utters? But, you see, so many people today who sit in church pews and claim the name of Christ for themselves, love this message of cheap forgiveness. Why? Because they know that if this is true —

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, (1Jn 2:4)

–then they stand condemned before God and their claim to Christ is false.

Local Churches are Giving Standing Ovations to the Wicked (Part 2)

Php 2:19-21 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. (20) For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. (21) For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

We continue now in this series of articles to expose the evil in local churches that, as in the case of one “Pastor” Andy Savage, enjoys a comfortable place among those who claim to know Christ. That claim, of course, is very dubious and highly suspect. How can Light abide darkness, or righteousness dwell with unrighteousness?

You will notice the experience of the Apostle Paul as he describes it here in his letter to the church at Philippi. He is alone. Almost all alone. This is the APOSTLE Paul! The Apostle commissioned personally by Christ. The ex-Pharisee met by the glorious, risen Jesus on that road so long ago. The “certain man” who had been caught up into heaven, seen and heard things that he could not even put into words for us. Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, whose apostleship and gospel were affirmed by the Lord’s signs and wonders. And he is alone. Except for Timothy and a handful of others like Epaphroditus, he stands alone.

Consider the experience of the Lord Jesus Himself on this earth. Or the experience of Peter and the other apostles. Think about what we see all through Scripture to be the experience of God’s faithful ones.

Mat 23:37a “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!

Elijah wasn’t the only one left, as he wrongly concluded. Nevertheless there were very few who remained faithful to the Lord and they had to be in hiding:

1Ki 19:9-10 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (10) He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

The Lord Jesus told us very, very clearly what we must expect if we take up our cross and follow Him:

Joh 15:18-19 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. (19) If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

If you are chosen by Christ then you dwell now in a foreign land that hates Christ and all who follow Him. Therefore, as the Lord told us, we can expect to find ourselves standing alone, or at best with a small remnant of those who truly belong to Him. That has been the experience of ALL the genuine people of God, people who are circumcised of heart, not just players at external religion. No exceptions.

Now, what has all this to do with evil in the visible church? Simply this:

Whenever we see a “ministry” that is popular and highly spoken of by people whose lives are conformed to this present world, we can be certain that such a place protects the wicked and that it proclaims a “gospel” that is anathema in God’s sight.

Let me give you a contemporary, real life account of this false gospel played out in a local church. It is not just an example, it is the norm in the large majority of so-called evangelical christianity today. This one belongs to the Southern Baptist denomination [the SBC is notorious for embracing the wicked as “brethren in Christ”].

Mike and Ashley profess to be Christians. They are members of a “fine” SBC “church” that is a happening place, offering all the bells and whistles people expect when they choose a church “home.” Ashley was raised up in a Southern Baptist “christian” home in fact and both she and Mike “walked the aisle to receive Jesus” many years ago.

So Mike and Ashley are getting married. Big wedding plans. In the church of course. Invitations sent out. Met with the pastor already and received his blessing. Everyone is so excited, you know.

Well, almost everyone.

Ruth has known Ashley for several years, having met her in a Bible study group. Ruth was invited to the wedding and since she lived some distance away, she came a few days early. Upon her arrival, she was immediately troubled. Mike and Ashley, you see, were living together. Shacked up. Sleeping in the same bed. Fornicating to put it in God’s language.

And that is not all.

It was evident for anyone with eyes to see that Mike and Ashley were living very, very worldly lives. Take Ashley’s appearance for instance – in public – with Mike’s full approval. Ashley dressed like…well…like so many men and women of the world today dress. Sexually. Very revealing (emphasis on “very”). We aren’t pushing some pioneer/Puritan era head-covering, dress to the floor modesty code here. Nope. Ashley’s – and really Mike’s as well – appearance in all things was “look at me.”

When Ruth confronted Ashley about these things, both she and Mike dis-invited her to the wedding and told her to leave.

Now, let’s think this through. Why are people like Mike and Ashley so perfectly comfortable in their “church”? Why has no one ever confronted them with their blatant, shameless sin? Why has the pastor agreed to perform their wedding ceremony in the church building in the name of Christ, when repentance for their sin is completely absent?

I can tell you why.

Because that “church” is no church. That “pastor” is no shepherd called by Christ to oversee His flock. The whole thing is counterfeit. Antichrist. Evil is comfortable in that place. It remains unexposed and even boasted about because such a “gospel” attracts crowds and money and notoriety. If Mike and Ashley, and others like them in that church, were to be confronted for their sin, all hell would break loose! The fangs would come out. Either the pastor who confronted them would be fired, or the wicked themselves would “take their money” and march out the door. And yet this is exactly what needs to happen.

Let me say it again:

Whenever we see a “ministry” that is popular and highly spoken of by people whose lives are conformed to this present world, we can be certain that such a place protects the wicked and that it proclaims a “gospel” that is anathema in God’s sight.

And we see it everywhere today. Everywhere.

Isa 1:11-17 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. (12) “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? (13) Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations– I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.

(14) Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. (15) When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. (16) Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, (17) learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

At the root of all of it lies the unconverted, wicked heart of people who have been assured that they are “saved” no matter how they live. And the experience of every real Christian who dares to confront this false gospel is going to be the same as that of Christ, of Paul, and all the other faithful ones. Alone. Surrounded by people who mouth a confession of Christ but whose hearts are far from Him. People who seek their own interest.

Every once in a while you will find a Timothy. Or a Mary. Or an Epaphroditus. And when you do, be encouraged. You have found the real Body of Christ.




Local Churches are Giving Standing Ovations to the Wicked (Part 1)

Every single week, if not every single day, Christians who are either victims of evil in their local churches or witnesses to that evil, contact me and tell their stories. Over and over again. If you have been watching the news this past week, you may have read the report of one “Pastor” Andy Savage, a pastor in Memphis, being given a standing ovation by his large congregation after he “confessed” (under pressure of course) to a certain “sexual incident” 20 years ago while he was a youth pastor. It was neatly covered up by the other pastors of that church, the 17 year old girl sodomized by him being told to shut up about it. Standing ovation. Yep. You can get one too. Just commit a heinous evil and then be sorry about it. Or say you are sorry at least. If you are caught that is.

You can read the details here: “Pastor” Andy Savage’s Sodomy of a Teen

NOTE: Sodomy is the correct term according to Oregon Law. Oral/Anal sex forced are defined as “deviant sexual intercourse” and that is sodomy in our legal code.

We can no longer simply encourage people to “go to church on Sunday” and assume they will be better off than if they did not attend the services of a local supposedly Christian church. In fact, we may be sending them to a den of robbers and perverts worse than we find outside the local church.

1Co 5:1-5 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. (2) And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 

Do you think that I am overly pessimistically critical? I am not. Let me give you some real life examples of what is going on in most (I used to say “many”) local churches. They have ceased to be true churches if they ever were at all. Here you go. Case #1-

Prohibited by the Court, Permitted by the Church

In this first case, “Randy” we will call him, is divorced from his wife. She divorced him because he is a wicked, abusive drug user showing absolutely no repentance. He continually degraded and verbally demeaned her throughout their relationship. Randy (as so many of these kind do) claims to be a Christian. The court agreed with the charges of his abuse, and ordered that he only be allowed to visit his children ONLY in the presence of his ex-wife.

But that is not all. Oh no.

Randy likes his drugs. In fact, recently he was caught red-handed in his work van high as a kite on cocaine. He had been involved in the church’s drug and alcohol recovery ministry for years and claimed to have been sober from drugs. After he was found out, he told his ex-wife, “Well, I have to live my life!” No sign of repentance or remorse,. He was just as he had been throughout their marriage.

And there’s even more.

Randy has been “ministering” in his local church children’s ministry, in violation of the orders of the court. Randy is not supposed to be around ANY children unsupervised. The church did not take the wife’s word that he was not supposed to be around their daughter unless supervised by her, claiming she was being a vindictive ex-wife. So, what did Randy’s “church” do when they finally read the court papers? What was their response when they found out that they had failed to do an adequate background on this guy before handing children over to him? Well, here is what they did. This is an email sent to Randy by one of the pastors:

After informing Randy, in a tone of “I am so sorry we have to do this,” the children’s pastor told him: “Thanks for meeting with me. Your openness is so refreshing to me. Unfortunately the court documents leave no room for you to continue as a children’s ministry volunteer. I know you did not mislead us intentionally or maliciously, but this is what we must do to protect the church from liability. I am sorry, especially since you have been a faithful volunteer. Of course, Randy, this church is still your home. We love you and welcome you to be involved in one of the many other ministry opportunities here.”

Through several other emails, this pastor referred to Randy as “bro,” using apologetic and friendly language. This pastor even had breakfast with Randy! Apparently God’s Word  means nothing to this pastor:

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one. (1Co 5:11)

The pastor never met with the ex-wife, asking her side of the story, or apologized to her for their failure to keep her child and the children of the church safe. In fact, this same pastor called her and berated her, using a condescending tone, saying she was at fault for not producing the divorce papers earlier.

And Randy IS continuing in ministry there. In what capacity you say? Well, Randy is helping lead the drug and alcohol recovery group, in “Jesus’ name” of course.

Oh, and what of Randy’s ex-wife and children, the victims of his evil? Well, you know, because they just aren’t as gracious and merciful and forgiving as Randy and his wonderful, loving church home, they have left that place. She was the only one who was a member of the church for a long time, very involved in a women’s Bible study group, and her daughter attends the school at the church. She feels hurt and betrayed, since she lost her close group of Christian women friends, and her daughter misses the only church she has ever known.

In reality this mother and child were driven out of their church. Why? Because that counterfeit, wicked “church” parading as Christ’s church, embraced the evil one and arrogantly boasted about how gracious they are. If victims of rape and abuse and child molestation cannot forgive their oppressors and sit side by side with them in church, I suppose that is their problem. So sad you know, that after Randy said he was sorry, they just wouldn’t let bygones be bygones.

And THAT is a peek into the typical goings on every single day in most local churches.

I was going to give you more examples, but that will have to wait for part 2, and part 3, and part 4, and…….

O Foolish Evangelicals! Who Has Bewitched You? – The Deceptive Disguises of Legalism Pervasive in the Church Today

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1Co 1:22-25)

Salvation by grace alone through faith alone by Christ alone is the gospel. It is God’s one way of saving fallen man. We are saved by His grace, apart from our own doings, and we are sustained and kept by that grace as well:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Gal 3:1-3)

The thesis I present to you in this article is that the evangelical church today, and for many, many years past, is presenting and practicing Christianity as a legalistic system of self-help. Now, you may say “amen!” to that and fancy that you have the ability to spot a legalistic false gospel. But I suggest that the prevailing plague of “Christ plus _____” is far more deceptively subtle in its forms. So much so that it seems the very air we breathe in most local churches and Christian ministries is fouled by it.

Christ is a stumbling block to the natural man. His way of salvation is foolishness to Mr. Worldly Wiseman. The flesh craves doing. But God’s way is believing that the doing has all been done by Someone other than me. Good news! Grace! Indescribable gift! And yet, surely the Spirit in the believer needs, some help?

Please don’t misunderstand me. I fully confess that justification is entirely the work of God and that sanctification entails something on our part. I am in no way promoting some kind of misguided quietism in which the believer simply “lets go and lets God.” What I am saying is what Paul said:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Php 2:12-13)

What I am saying is that visible Christianity of our day is adding to this formula of God working in me and me working out what he is doing in me. Want to know the secret to the spiritual life? No need to go buy a book by that title. Just look at the two verses above. God is working in you by His Spirit to shape your heart’s desire, your very will, your free will (freed finally in Him) so that you will live and work and do according to His good pleasure. And what I am saying here is that for the most part in the majority of its teaching, standard, normal, typical evangelical Christianity is adding all kinds of trappings to this work of God to the point that most Christians are suffocating in it all. And the counterfeit Christians are using these things to fine tune their disguises even more.  All of this provides fertile soil to evil!

Let me explain by way of example.

Recently I received a catalog from Christian Book Distributors. CBD. They have been around a long time. If it’s trendy, you can bet CBD will be right on top of it – “Everything Christian for Less” – that’s their motto. Bestsellers. Favorite authors. Sunday School curriculum. Holy hardware as I call it. Bibles, study Bibles. Bible studies. Favorites for men and women. Marriage and family. Christian living. You have the bucks, they have the books.

Let’s look for a moment at the Marriage and Family section. (If you have followed the blog A Cry for Justice, you will recognize some of these titles as terrible, terrible books that enable abusers and oppress abuse victims).

  • Sacred Marriage
  • For Men Only
  • For Women Only
  • Parenting
  • The Total Money Makeover
  • Seeking Him: The Joy of Personal Revival
  • 40 Days with Jesus
  • One-minute Inspirations for Women
  • 199 Promises of God
  • The Battle Plan for Prayer
  • The Bait of Satan – how to escape Satan’s grip
  • Praying through Fear
  • Love and Respect (this one is particularly notorious)

And on and on and on and on it goes. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church has his own page so that you too can scarf up all the books and workbooks and DVD’s and finally find the purpose-driven life. CBD, it seems, is not overly concerned with selling books by false teachers. What’s hot right now. That’s the thing.

But here is my main point. I am saying that all of this junk, this stuff, is sheer legalism. It is exactly the same thing that Paul rebuked the Galatians for. Listen to him again:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Gal 3:1-3)

Are we so foolish, having begun by the Spirit, that we now believe we are being perfected by all of these doings and programs? Yes. Apparently we are that foolish. And let me ask you, Christian? How’s that all working out for you? I know the answer to that question even though I don’t know you.

For my part I went through the buying of books and dvd’s and programs phase. I never consciously said “today I am done with it all.” But I am done with it. Years ago I totally lost interest in it all and have more than once gone through my library and thrown volume after volume in the garbage, leaving only the very valuable few resources and increasingly turning my attention to the Word of God itself.

Do you see what I am saying? Christian, if you are indeed a Christian, God is at work in you to shape you increasingly into Christ’s image. He leads, you follow. He directs, and you go. He thinks His thoughts in you and you embrace them as your own. His Law is written on your very heart, and you love it. By His Spirit and through His Word, you have everything you need to live as the new creation you are.

CBD catalog going in the trash can now.


That “Most Holy Guy in the Church” is often an Agent of the Enemy

[I originally wrote this article on my Facebook page but I am publishing it here as well so everyone can see it]

Beware of people who are too “religious.”

I have been a pastor now for going on 35 years. And I can tell you that the people who have caused the most grief and trouble in the churches I have served as a pastor are the people who APPEAR to be the most “holy.” Let me explain.

Christ came into this world to set all who believe in Him right with God. We don’t enter this life righteous. We all know this. No one had to teach us to throw a tantrum or to be selfish or to curse someone who gets in our way, even using God’s own holy name in that curse. Nope. We all know how to do this even in our earliest years. But Christ came to 1) Pay for our sin by dying on the cross, and 2) live a perfect life in perfect obedience to His Father – FOR US. So that when we simply believe this good news, embrace by faith Christ as our Savior and in fact the ONLY Savior who can make us right with God, HIS perfect life and HIS redeeming sacrifice on the cross become OURS. It is all by Christ alone through faith alone by God’s grace alone. NOT by anything we do or don’t do. That is the gospel.

Ok, so what about these “holy” religious people. Well there is nothing wrong with holiness or with religion, as long as it is true holiness and true religion. The problem comes in when “holy” people base their holiness on works – on things THEY do or things THEY do not do. And then they start telling us that we have to keep the same code as them or God will have nothing to do with us. In other words, they teach by example and by word that getting right with God (salvation) requires not only faith in Christ but “doings and not-doings” on our part. The Bible calls all of this “works of the law” – the Old Testament requirement of keeping perfectly the ten commandments. If that is your idea of what God requires of you, well, let me ask you – “how’s that working out for you?” I can give you the answer. It’s not. Because God requires total and complete, perfect, flawless obedience to His Law, and only Christ could ever pull that one off.

But back to these “holy” people I have known and perhaps who you have run into. Listen to what Martin Luther said about these kind:

“Note carefully that every teacher of works and of the righteousness of the law is a troubler of the church and of people’s conscience. The more holy the heretics seem to be outwardly, the more mischief they do.” (Commentary on Galatians)

Man, I have to tell you, it’s true! Luther is right on. I could write books about the grief and false guilt and misery these kind have brought my way over the years. They come into the local church, they look OUTWARDLY like the best most holy Christians you have ever known. People start listening to them and imitating them, thinking this is Christ. It’s not. These people are phonies. As Luther said and as the Bible says, their “holiness” is barely skin deep. Their hearts are evil and unchanged. They crave to be worshiped themselves and they despise real Christians and the real truths of the Bible.

Let me suggest to you that the most holy, perfectly sinless, purest Man who ever lived, the Lord Jesus Christ, at times would cause people like Peter to say, “depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” And yet very frequently and even typically, “tax-gatherers and sinners,” the outcasts of Jewish society in His day, would flock to Him, invite Him into their homes, and listen to Him. He didn’t ever of course enter into their sin, and He told them exactly what they needed to hear. But people who really were “heavy-laden” with the weight and sense of their sin, craved to be with Him. In other words, the Holy One was not “holier than thou” as we say today.

Beware then of people who display great “outward” holiness. They don’t drink alcohol. They never say a bad word (so you can hear them that is). They are all the time quoting Bible verses. All they do, it seems, is religious. Don’t trouble them with “frivolous” talk about daily things. Oh no. They are too “deep” for that. They say long prayers. They are at every single meeting of the church.

And by their counterfeit holiness, they preach in word and in action a false gospel that can never set us free and give us a clean conscience that no longer condemns. In fact, their “law-keeping” actually promotes and energizes sin. That is why you so often read or hear about these kind being “found out.” Turns out what Jesus said about them was true all along:

You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Mat 23:24-28)

Innocent Until Proven Guilty? Really? Excellent Article by Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Davis exposes the misuse of “innocent until proven guilty” ploy that is often laid on victims and witnesses of evil. We see this tactic used over and over again in churches when an evildoer is exposed. Rebecca reminds us of something so obvious that we seem to miss it: that victims of and witnesses to wickedness certainly are not to consider the attacker “innocent until proven guilty.” And yet repeatedly we see churches essentially telling them they must.

Read the article here.

Paul’s Last Words to the Ephesian Elders are About Evil Creeping into the Church

Acts 20:28-31 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (29) I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; (30) and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (31) Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.

I am thankful to a good friend for pointing these verses out to me, and the ones which follow in this post. How very different Paul’s words sound in contrast to the typical teaching that pastors and church leaders are being given today.

Whenever we have a record of someone’s “last words,” as we have here, we do well to pay close attention to them. Paul was never going to see these Ephesians again. He had limited time. He had instructed them for three years about many things, but here he distills a final warning down to this very point – Be awake and alert. Fierce wolves are coming and some of them are going to rise up from your own ranks. If you are careless, they will lead the flock away to destruction. 

To some degree, the evangelical church has fought just such a fight in the past century, particularly standing against liberal theology that denies the foundational doctrines of the gospel – the deity of Christ, His resurrection, the inspiration of the Scriptures, and so on. And yet the battle against what I suppose is best called “legalism” has not been fought well at all. Paul warned the Galatians that they had been set free by Christ and must never, ever again be subject to a yoke of slavery. And yet, what are we seeing today? The traditions of men trumping the Word of God so that large segments of the church are enslaved.

Nowhere are these man-made counterfeit “doctrines” more evident than in their approach to the very evil that Paul warns about. We are told (“commanded”) by leading Christian celebrity authors, pastors, conference leaders, movers and shakers in the counseling movement, and others things such as:

  • Anger is always sinful
  • We must be sure that our churches have a “non-judgmental” atmosphere toward everyone
  • Everyone, no matter who they are, is to be welcomed into our churches
  • Regardless of the evil committed by someone, God requires us to forgive them and that forgiveness must include reconciling relationship with them
  • All of us are sinners, all just as bad as anyone else
  • No one is beyond God’s mercy

And on and on we could go. Not one of these teachings is true. None are to be found in Scripture. In fact, what we do find in Scripture is the very opposite of these supposed “bible” truths.

Paul did not lay these things on the Ephesian elders in his “closing statement” to them. What he did tell them was to wise up about evil, to fully expect emissaries of the devil to show up, to not be surprised that some of those diabolical agents were already in position disguised as brethren, and to be ever vigilant in guarding Christ’s flock. You can bet that in those three years of instruction, Paul had described what these wicked types look like, how they operate, and what Christ commands us to do with them. THIS is what he is telling them to remember!

Did they listen? We don’t know. But something we do know – most of the elders and pastors and church leaders today are NOT listening. And as a result the majority of local churches have numbers of these savage wolves sitting in the pews if not actually standing at the pulpit! This means then that another Babylonian Captivity of Christ’s people has happened and that a new exodus is sorely needed away from this bondage. These are dark, dark times when Christ’s light is needed desperately.

Ephesians 4:11-14 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (14) so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.


If You Stand Against Evil, Don’t Expect to Have Many Stand With You

2Ti 4:9-17 Do your best to come to me soon. (10) For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. (11) Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. (12) Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. (13) When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. (14) Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. (15) Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. (16) At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! (17) But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

The common, regular experience of Christ’s genuine people as they stand faithfully for Him is exactly what Paul describes here. “All deserted me.”

2Ti 1:15-16 You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. (16) May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains,

Over and over again it is the same:

Php 2:20-21 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. (21) For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

Mar 14:50 And they all left him and fled.

This is why I am immediately suspicious of any kind of “ministry” that claims to serve Christ and yet enjoys popularity and a large following. By “large,” I do not necessarily mean the tens of thousands in a so-called “mega-church.” Rather, I mean even a much smaller number. How, for example, do you attract, say, several hundred people nowadays and still faithfully and accurately proclaim God’s truth and follow Him? And yet this kind of thing is thought to be the norm, something we must expect to happen and if it does not then we are miserable failures.

Joh 6:65-66 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (66) After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

Jesus failed, you see. At least by current measures of ministry “success.”

You say that you want to follow Christ? That you want to be light and stand against the darkness of evil? Well, make no mistake. Largely you are going to be doing this alone. If you are really blessed, you will have a few faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who will stand with you, but not many. And even that number may grow thinner when the times get tougher and the cost grows higher. I am sure that this is the reason Jesus said:

Mat 10:36-39 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. (37) Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (38) And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (39) Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Think it through. Think of the Old Testament prophets. Think of the other Apostles. Think of the Reformers in the later history of the church. Think of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Betrayed and abandoned. Alone. Why do we expect that it will be different for us? Why do we envy “ministries” that attract lots of people, put up big new buildings, and are abuzz with all kinds of activity? The biblical pattern of faithful, genuine service of the Lord is nothing like that.