As a 17-year-old boy, I had looked for truth and answers in this world and found none. Then, to my own amazement, I found myself completely won over by the bold, unashamed witness of a group of committed Christians on my high school campus.
People could have tried to be cool and win me over, but it would have never worked. I’d had enough of “cool” in the crazy home I was raised in to make me choke. I had pretty much seen it all, and nothing to me was lamer than people trying too hard to be cool.
The Christian kids I encountered in high school weren’t working overtime to be cool – and didn’t even seem to care about such things. They cared about knowing and following Jesus, and that deeply impressed me. There was an authenticity about their lives that drew me to them, then to Jesus Himself.
I had been looking for something to believe in, something worth living or dying for, something that was genuine, real and authentic. But most of all, I was looking for something that was true.
By the way, young people are still looking for this today. I have seen generations with names like Boomers, Busters, X, Y and Z come and go. At Harvest Christian Fellowship, the church where I pastor, music and worship styles have changed over the years. But our message has not changed, and will not! In fact, it cannot, because the Gospel is the Gospel.
I have the privilege of sharing this transforming message with thousands of people every year in the large-scale events we hold around the country. This year I will be speaking at Angel Stadium in Southern California, Madison Square Garden in New York City and also in New Jersey and Philadelphia.
The Gospel message, Paul reminds us, is “the power of God to salvation to everyone that believes” (Romans 1:16, NKJV). I believe this message with all of my heart, and that is why it grieves me to see it under attack from some unlikely places.
The church has always had its minor disagreements. But this isn’t about music, style of worship, the order of prophetic events, or even the never-ending debate concerning the sovereignty of God and freewill of man.
This is serious. This is life and death.
What I refer to is a debate among a growing number in the church as to whether or not Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. Or whether or not “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. …” (2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV).
One of the candidates who professes to be a Christian running for the presidency recently said in a speech, “There are a lot of Jewish people who are just as moral, or even more moral than I am. There are a lot of Muslims who are decent, good, kind people. I don’t think they are any less children of God.”
Now, that sounds very inclusive and kind, but I have to tell you it goes against the very core of the essential Gospel message. Yes, it is certainly true that people of faiths other than Christianity – or even no faith at all – can be “decent, good and kind.” But the simple fact is, a man or woman does not come into a relationship with God by being “kind and good,” but rather by admitting that he or she is a sinner who needs forgiveness from God.
This is why Jesus died on the cross. He was paying the price for our sins, because as the Bible says, “All have turned away from God; all have gone wrong. No one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12, NLT).
That verse isn’t saying there are no “good” people, but rather that no one is “good enough” to please God on his or her own. Jesus took care of that for us, dying in our place, paying the full penalty for our sins.
Now, I don’t expect every talking head on cable news to necessarily understand the Gospel message. But I do expect other ministers to. This latest attack on the Gospel, however, seems to be coming from within the church itself. I refer to a rapidly growing movement known as “The Emergent Church.” It is very popular, especially among young people raised in the evangelical church who are looking for a fresh expression of their faith. There is certainly nothing wrong with that! They want to “be real,” “authentic” and “honest,” just as my generation did.
That’s fine, but in the final analysis, “being real” is not the most important thing. Being right with God is. Quite frankly, you can be “real” wrong! And there are some pied pipers out there who are leading many young people down the wrong road.
One of these leaders made this statement: “I must add, though, that I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherence to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many, not all circumstances, to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.”
This sounds very inclusive and loving, but it is flat-out wrong and unscriptural! We want people to become followers of Jesus in a biblical context! The Bible teaches that you become a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible clearly tells us, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NKJV).
Jesus plainly said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the life. …” (John 14:6, NKJV) Yet despite this clear biblical teaching, another “emergent” leader says, “I see the world through the images of Christianity, which teaches me that I encounter God in everyone I meet, regardless of what they believe.”
This is New Age mysticism, not New Testament Christianity. The truth is, you will only find Christ living in those who have put their faith in Him. Scripture reminds us, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12, NKJV). The doctrines of the “Emergent Church” do not represent the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints. In fact, it is a dangerous counterfeit.
At the same time, I see other churches becoming distracted from the proclamation of the Gospel and instead focusing their primary energies on issues like “global warming.” I’ll tell you about global warming; it’s when people spend eternity separated from Jesus Christ in hell! Jesus said of hell, “The fire never goes out” (Mark 9:48, NLT).
I know some of you just cringed when you read the word “hell.” A couple generations ago, you would hear churches criticized for preaching “too much hellfire and brimstone.” Honestly, when is the last time you actually heard or read such a message? Many pastors don’t even use the “H-word” anymore.
Well, I do. But not because I take any pleasure in it. Please know this: The last thing God wants for any man or woman, created uniquely in His image, is to spend eternity in a place called hell. Jesus wants you in heaven with Him!
So, while some are wrapped up in the global warming panic, I would like to issue a global warning today. We in the Church of Jesus Christ had better get back to basics, or we will lose what little influence we have left in our culture. To those who do not yet know the Lord, I urge you, believe in Him. Find complete forgiveness for all your sins, and have your eternal address changed from hell to a place called heaven!
That’s not just a warning – it’s a promise.