God’s Kind of Success
by Hal Lindsey
An influential pastor of a popular mega-church explains that Christians have a “branding problem.” He says we’re seen as “judgmental.” That’s certainly a danger, but the solution is not to suddenly be silent on sin, or to speak out against only those sins that are politically correct to condemn. The popular sentiment seems to be that if Christians would simply love and affirm people, the reputation of the Church would be restored, and we would win many to Christ.
Not only is this unbiblical, it’s extremely simple-minded. If you go to your doctor about a health issue, you hope he will say, “All’s well!” But even though you may long to hear something positive, you need to hear the truth — even if it’s a hard truth. On the surface, “All’s well” sounds loving and affirming. But if a cancer is growing inside you and you need surgery, it is not love for your doctor to tell you you’re fine. It’s deadly.
We should not be surprised when people are unhappy with us. To receive the Good News that you have a Savior, you must first understand that you need saving. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you…. ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:18-20 NASB)
The desire to be popular in a world system that hates the real Jesus tempts us to remake Him and ourselves in the image of that world system. When we modify God’s Word — whether to increase our own popularity or to try to make the Church and the Bible more acceptable to a fallen world — we begin the deceptive spiral into apostasy.
We have warning signs right before our eyes. We call them liberal denominations, but they were not always like that. They didn’t go from zealous-for-God to a militant compromise of the essential truths of the Bible in a day. They worried that the Gospel was becoming so offensive to a new era that they started changing it to become less offensive to the world system. At last, they changed so much that while their forebears would recognize parts of their liturgy, they would be appalled at their outright unbelief in the absolute essentials of the Christian faith. They have so compromised the fundamental truths of the Gospel that no one can be saved by it.
The Apostle Paul was always under attack by the “religionists” who felt that the truth must be adapted to the prevailing view of the world system. History clearly shows that churches who compromise the Gospel lose their power to win people to Christ. The Churches of the United Kingdom that once drew people to Christ in great numbers are now like extinct volcanoes. Many of them have been taken over and converted into Muslim Mosques.
God through Paul declared what the attitude of true believers must be, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Gentiles).” (Romans 1:16NASB)
And what is the heart of the gospel’s power? Here is God’s answer through His greatest evangelist, “17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. 18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’ 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks (Gentiles) search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles), Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor. 1:17-25 NASB)
I believe this is the most revealing contrast between what the world system thinks and the Divine Viewpoint. The designer and controller of the world system is none other than the individual known in the Bible as “the evil one,” “the prince of this world,” “Satan and the Devil.” As it is written, “… the whole world system lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19) Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer to pray for protection from Satan. This is what He literally prayed in the original Greek, “… do not allow us to be led into temptation, but deliver us from the EVIL ONE.”
Today, what we call the “politically correct thing” is really the latest expression of what Satan has fashioned for us to follow in this present age. He is always setting “the IN THING” for the world to follow. It is not altogether evil as we would expect it to be. But the essence of the world system is always designed to lead mankind away from God and His truth. And that is the ultimate evil.
In our time, the world system goes in the guise of “political correctness.” It is the latest twist of the worldview Satan created to divert mankind from the things of God. God reveals Satan’s power to do this, “… in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world system, according to the prince of the power of the air (literally: the atmosphere).” (Ephesians 2:2 NASB) The last clause speaks literally of the Devil having power over earth’s atmosphere — not just air. And I believe in this context, it speaks figuratively of the world’s atmosphere of thought and action. It is not hard to see how effectively Satan is using his control of the world’s atmosphere of thought. A growing majority of mankind is being turned against all things Christian and Biblical.
Today, liberal churches are placing their hope for new growth in the same type of old lies that come from the world system. They are blatantly ignoring the clear truth of the Bible — such things as ordaining homosexuals, advocating abortion and abandoning the Jewish people. These things are clearly against what the Bible teaches. As a result, they are preaching to empty pews — their doctrine is as dark as their vast, hollow and empty sanctuaries.
Yet even with that warning before our eyes, a shocking number of evangelical churches are now falling for the same lie — that to expand their appeal, they must compromise the message. Evangelicalism has become pragmatic in nature, judging success by the size of the crowds, and buildings, and offerings. But God’s measure of success remains basic. Were you faithful?
Even the best pastors find it increasingly difficult to talk about things that may make their congregations uncomfortable. Today, everyone has a family member or friend, or co-worker or neighbor who is homosexual. It is loving to love the sinner but hate the sin. It is possible to truly love someone and still point out that the Bible calls his behavior sin, just as it is possible for an oncologist to love a patient and still tell him that he has cancer. It isn’t easy, but isn’t it better to try and save a patient than to be quiet and let him die? And in the case of a homosexual, isn’t it far more loving to express to him that God loves him so much that He sent his Son to die for his sins?
God doesn’t expect someone to have total victory right away for such a tenacious sin as homosexuality. But He does want him to confess that it is sin and then seek the LORD’s strength to set it aside. Every person who is born spiritually still has an old sin nature with its old weaknesses that have to be overcome by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. That is a progressive thing that takes time. Even so, there has to be the willingness to recognize and confess our sins, and to keep trusting in Christ’s deliverance from them daily.
We can learn a vital lesson from those who will receive Christ as Savior during the Tribulation. It will be far more difficult for them than it is for us during this Church age. In Revelation chapter 12, we see Satan, the accuser of the brethren, cast down from heaven. Verse 11 says, “And they overcame him (that is the devil) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death.” (Revelation 12:10 NASB) These three actions of faith will work for us now.
We are witnessing a great falling away, but there will also be a great in-gathering for those who, through Jesus, will overcome. And you will overcome because the Lord Jesus has sworn, “I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.” The time for the LORD to shout, “Come up here” is growing very near.
God’s Kind of Success