Dangerous Christianity offers God’s love without holiness, blessings without obedience, forgiveness without repentance, heavenly joy without godly sorrow, crown without cross, peace without righteousness and grace without godliness. It teaches faith in Jesus without fear of God, immersion of water without diversion from sin, believing in Christ without transformation of life and living for Christ without dying to self. By C Stephen David.
Why is this article titled as “Dangerous Christianity”? Dangerous Christianity asserts the half-truths of Biblical Revelation and offers a message of false hope by ignoring the weightier Scriptures with appealing ones that cost us less. We are all familiar with an old adage, “A half-truth is far more dangerous than an outright lie.” Now wait a minute! I am not talking about cults and heretics. These are evangelicals, as they call themselves, who believe in the ultimate authority of the Holy Scriptures, but neglect proclaiming the holistic teachings of the Holy Bible.
Dangerous Christianity presents ever-loving God who gives bountiful gifts at request, pardons the sinners unconditionally; benefactor of good health and wealth, and cherisher of peace and joy. Now that’s true! However, the other undeniable aspects of God’s character – such as holiness, justice, discipline and judgment are ignored in their Christianity. It is said that omission is as bad as twisting a meaning. And Dangerous Christianity offers God’s love without holiness, blessings without obedience, forgiveness without repentance, heavenly joy without godly sorrow, crown without cross, peace without righteousness and grace without godliness. It teaches faith in Jesus without fear of God, immersion of water without diversion from sin, believing in Christ without transformation of life and living for Christ without dying to self. It presents the broad way instead of the narrow way Jesus taught (Matt. 7:13-14).
It preaches the fulfillment of ‘self’ rather than the denial of ‘self’. It emphasizes prosperity over generosity. Moreover, Dangerous Christianity is a compromising and easy-going Christianity. There is no need of fighting a good fight of faith, taking up one’s cross, denying self, enduring suffering, renouncing the world, hungering for righteousness, making every effort to live at peace with others, sharing generously with the poor and needy…etc. It is a fascinating Christianity that lures the mind into the things of the world, blurring the heavenly sight. It eventually builds shallow Christianity than deep spirituality. No wonder many Christians cherish such carnal Christianity!
J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) cautioned many decades ago, "I fear much for many professing Christians. I see no sign of fighting in them, much less of victory… They have no quarrel with sin. I warn you, this is not Christianity. This is not the way to heaven".1
The Holy Bible declares that God is absolutely holy. He cannot compromise with sin. He is high and above all creation and separated from everything. And yes He is also intimate because He is love (1 Jn. 4:16b). But even His love emerges from His holiness. It is written, “Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty. Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Cor. 6:17,18 – 7:1). Our intimacy with the loving God is conditioned by our submission to God’s holiness. More than any other attributes of God, the holiness of God is immensely emphasized in the Holy Scripture. Twice it is underscored by the angels, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty” (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8).
R.C. Sproul wonderfully described this particular phrase: The song is called trishagion, which means simply the ‘three times holy’. The significance of the repetition of the word holy can be easily missed. It represents a peculiar literary device that is found in Hebrew forms of literature, especially in poetry. The repetition is a form of emphasis.2
He further wrote: Only once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love , or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is full of glory.3 Remember, again and again God said in His word, “Be holy because I am holy” (Lev. 11:44, 45; 19:1; 1 Pet. 1:16). Therefore, unless we determine to abstain ourselves from every impurity and separate ourselves unto Him with a penitent heart, we cannot experience the God who is Holy, Holy, Holy!
The Hebrew word for holiness, Kedushah, denotes separation, particularly separation for God’s holy purposes. Where is the cry within people for God’s holiness and the brokenness of heart over sin? Where are the blessed people about whom Jesus spoke? Blessed are the poor in spirit (recognizing their spiritual poverty), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn (repenting of sins), for they will be comforted. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (passionate for holiness), for they will be filled (Matt. 5:3, 4, 6).
A.W. Tozer rightly said, “I believe we ought to have again the old biblical concept of God which makes God awesome and ma
kes men lie face down and cry, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.’ That would do more for the church than . . . anything else.”4 I suppose, in our day, we also need messages like that of Jonathan Edward’s (1703-1758), ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’. Now when we meditate on the atonement of Jesus for our sins, we fall at the feet of God with gratitude because of His immense love He has showered upon us through Christ.
However, as much as Christ’s death for us speaks about God’s love, it also manifests God’s absolute demand for holiness. Out of His love for us, God could have just offered His forgiveness for our sins from heaven. Why did He have to send Jesus to die on earth? Because God’s holy standard doesn’t take sin lightly. It is written, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22).
Someone is required to pay for the sins of the people. The holiness of God required the atonement for sin and the love of God sacrificed Jesus to atone for the sinners. Without the holiness of God there was no need for Jesus to die for our sins. God cannot compromise with sin and that is why He had to sacrifice His Son. Jesus offered His life to meet the holy standards of God in order to reconcile us to Him. Therefore, it is written, “Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1).
The holiness and the love of God are blend together in Christ’s death. Observe the following Scriptures carefully: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate His justice” (Rom. 3:25). As Jesus Christ is fully God and fully Man so He is fully Holy and fully Loving. If denying either the humanity or divinity of Jesus is a heresy so denying either the holiness or the love of Christ too is a heresy.
Regretfully, it seems the sobriety of God’s holiness is lost in the splendor of His love. Indeed if we come to a true understanding of who God actually is – We marvel at His love and tremble at His holiness. If anybody is casual in their attitude towards God, the Holy Bible cautions: Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29). Do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (Rom. 2:4).
Robert Murrary McCheyne (1813-1843) made a statement which calls for careful reflection: God will never cease to be a righteous God. God will do anything to save a sinner, but He cannot part with his rectitude in order to save you. He parted with His Son in order that He mighty gain sinners, but He cannot part with His righteousness.5
These days the emphasis on sin has been neglected with a fear of offending and losing people. There is a presentation of soppy messages, showing a smooth road that people can easily tread on. There is a representation of a gentle Jesus who can always bless and prosper people, despite living in deliberate sins. The Jesus of 'Dangerous Christianity' gives everything people desire rather than the Jesus who said in the Holy Bible, “Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (Lu. 14:33). Their Jesus can touch and heal people but he is different from the Jesus of the Holy Bible who touched, healed and said, “Go and sin no more” (Jn. 5:14; 8:11).
Furthermore, their Jesus can bless, heal, prosper, comfort, protect, promote but he is unlike the Holy One who came primarily to save people from their sins. It is amazing that the very reason the name Jesus is given to the Savior is missing. When an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, he said, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew word Yeshua, which means “the LORD saves”. That name was kept because He will save His people from their sins, not otherwise. Hence, more than anything else, this sinful world and this corrupt generation need the holy Jesus who has come to save them from their sins.
Charles Grandison Finney(1792-1875) rebuked long back, “Away with your milk and water preaching of the love of Christ that has no holiness or moral discrimination in it. Away with preaching a Christ not crucified for sin.”6
Interestingly, the term ‘sinner’ is not a good word to be used today. I am surprised how the secular psychology has had such a pervasive influence on the church of Jesus. There is room only for soft-pedaling and sugar-coated preaching and exhortations that will not hurt “self” or “ego”.7
Consequently, people are seeking Jesus to help them in their sufferings, comfort them in their grief, bless them abundantly, make them feel good about themselves but there is no struggle with sin and hunger to be molded into Christ-likeness. There is no considerable evidence of the sanctification by the Holy Spirit. The very purpose why God has predestined us is out of focus – “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son” (Rom. 8:29a).
Robert Barr of the Presbyterian
Church of South Africa said: This is what our age needs, not an easy-moving message, the sort of thing that makes the hearer feel all nice inside, but a message profoundly disturbing. We have been far too afraid of disturbing. We have been far too afraid of disturbing people, but the Holy Spirit will have nothing to do with a message or with a minister who is afraid of disturbing. You might as well expect a surgeon to give place to a quack who claims to be able to do the job with some sweet tasting drug, as expect the Holy Spirit to agree that the tragic plight of human souls today can be met by soft and easy words. Calvary was anything but nice to look at, blood-soaked beams of wood, a bruised and bleeding body, not nice to look upon. But then Jesus was not dealing with a nice thing; He was dealing with the sin of the world, and that is what we are called upon to deal with today. Soft and easy words, soft-pedaling will never meet the need.8
In His great commission to the disciples, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18-20). Obedience to Jesus’ commands was of paramount importance to the apostles during their exhortation to the churches. Any common reader of the Holy Bible can sense this pulse in the writings of the Biblical authors. They proclaimed the whole counsel of God because their Lord commanded them to teach people to obey everything He had commanded. In fact, the very reason why God gave us the gospel is so that we would believe and obey Him (Rom. 16:26).
Christian living, in short, is wholehearted obedient living to God’s word. On the contrary, the teachers of 'Dangerous Christianity' teach especially material blessings rather than obedience to God, thereby leading their followers to seek God for material possessions rather than being possessed by God. They put forth a god who can promise anything to fulfill without any requirement of obedience from his people. Indeed, they will even quote Scriptures like, “The LORD will make you the head, not the tail” (Deut. 28:13a), while ignoring the next sentence, “If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom” (Deut. 28:13b).
Even if the victims of Dangerous Christianity try to obey, they tend to submit more towards man made traditions of church and society rather than the commands of God. Many believe, attending Sunday services, worshiping (lip praise), praying, giving offerings, reading the bible and hearing the sermons is what Christian life is all about. Of course these activities are good provided that they accompany obedience. The fact is one can do all these activities without being a follower of Christ and there are many of them who are already doing that! To follow Christ is to primarily live according to His commands written in the Holy Scripture. It is written, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:3-4). Where are the heart-pricking messages these days that speak about the condition of our heart and the necessity to walk in the ways of God?
Instead, there is a craze to win the crowd into the church buildings with appealing messages rather than winning them into God’s kingdom with His penetrating word. Jesus is not seeking the carnal crowd, but the obedient disciples – “Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mk. 8:34-36). I have been a Christian for ten years and I seldom heard preaching on this passage in the churches and meetings.
It seems we are living in the time about which Paul prophesied: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim. 4:3). These days the uncompromised teachings may be labeled as legalism; however, my often exhortation to the preachers and teachers of God’s word is, “Don’t be a scratching preacher to the itching ears.” Sometimes I wonder what the present day ministers will do if they have been given an opportunity to rewrite or edit the epistle of James. I suppose they will remove all hard words and use only euphemisms (inoffensive words). However, a true man of God will not refrain from proclaiming the whole truth and a true Christian will not abstain from following the complete truth.9
What is grace? We all know that it is an unmerited favor of God, i.e. that which we don’t deserve and neither can we earn but receive freely from God. The phrase “….by the grace of God” has become a buzzword these days. Is there anything more the Holy Scripture reveals about grace? It is written: For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It (grace of God) teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope– the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you (Tit. 2:11-15).
Paul exhorted Titus to teach this significant truth without fail, yet many modern preachers and teachers neglect to address this prime issue. The grace of God that brings salvation to all teaches to
say ‘no’ to worldly passions and thirst for godliness. Paul also mentioned, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).Yet how many Christians are content spiritually and chase worldly things! Many think that believing in Christ gives us peace and leads us into God’s Kingdom. Is this the whole purpose for which Jesus laid His holy life on the cross? Jesus Christ gave Himself for us so that He would redeem us from all wickedness and sanctify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good (Tit. 2:14). Is this purpose understood and evidential in many professed Christians? Oh, there is so much of worldly passion(s), than godly passion(s), reigning the lifestyle of many Christians, even among those who newly come to Christ.
In his wonderful book, Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer lamented: The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic. Christ may be ‘received’ without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is ‘saved’ but he is not hungry and thirsty after God. In fact, he is specifically taught to be satisfied and encouraged to be content with little.10 The early apostles did not chase to add the crowd to their gathering. They sincerely preached the message of repentance and forgiveness in His name and it is the Lord who added people to their fellowship (Lu. 24:45-48; Mk. 16:20). They preached the gospel of grace but it was an unadulterated message. When Peter preached the crucified Christ and the plight of mankind, the response was, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 2:37) During the time of John the Baptist, people confessed their sins while taking baptism (Matt. 3:6). He exhorted them, "Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God" (3:8, NLT).
Shamefully, there are ministers today who give baptism to the unsaved bride and bridegroom for the sake of marriage ceremony or for the membership in the church. How we have allowed compromising things in the church of Jesus Christ! It seems the Christianity today has lost the biblical purpose of what grace is all about. In his book, Whatever Happened To The Gospel Of Grace?, James Montgomery Boice wrote: The “gospel” of our day has a lot to do with self-esteem, good mental attitudes, and worldly success. There is almost no preaching about sin, hell, judgment, or the wrath of God, even less about doctrines that centre in the Lord of glory and his Cross: grace, redemption, atonement, propitiation, justification, and even faith … To the extent that Christ and His Cross are no longer central, modern evangelicalism has become a movement shaped only by popular whim and sentimentality.11
Examining the ministry of Jesus and the apostles it is quite obvious that although they did astounding wonders their message was exclusively centered on the kingdom of God and repentance (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mk. 6:12; Lu. 5:32; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 17:30; 20:21; 26:21). They didn’t offer the gospel of grace without godly sorrow. It is written, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Cor. 7:10). It seems many are coming to Jesus with sorrows that are there in the world without godly sorrow at all. The sorrows that are there in the world are sickness, financial crisis, loss, mistreatment, disappointment…..etc. Albert Barnes comments that worldly sorrow is that “which is not toward God, and which does not arise from just views of sin as committed against God”.12
There is nothing wrong in coming to Jesus with these sorrows but if people come to Jesus solely to redeem them from these worldly sorrows without having godly sorrow there is no eternal life and intimacy with God. Jesus said, “What good it is for a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul” (Mk. 8:36). Moreover, a heart filled with godly sorrow grieves because of sin. It sorrows because sin has brought separation between God and man. It cries because it hurt the holy and loving God. A person with godly sorrow seeks peace with God, mourns over his sinful nature and hungers to draw closer to Him. But a person with worldly sorrows seeks to find solutions to his earthly problems without having any grief in regard to sin or hunger for God Himself.
Sadly instead of showing the people the way towards godly sorrow, 'Dangerous Christianity' satisfies people to seek Jesus as an answer for worldly sorrows. It entertains the people to seek blessings, not the One who blesses. How astonishing it is these days to see people comfortably believing in Jesus without going through any discomfort and pain in their sinful heart! Dangerous Christianity is offering a false hope of salvation to those who have never repented but just intellectually believed.
To use the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, it is presenting ‘cheap grace’ without any repentance, obedience and submission from our side rather than the ‘costly grace’ that cost the life of Jesus to restore us back into the image of God. E.E. Shelhamer, writing on “Shallow Revivals,” gave a warning that is greatly needed in our day when there is such a massive misconception as to what Biblical Salvation is. He says: No wonder Wesley cried out and said, ‘How terrible is this! When the ambassadors of God turn agents for the devil! When they who are commissioned to teach men the way to heaven, do in fact teach the way to hell.’ “If I ever asked, “Why, who does this?” I answered, “Ten thousand wise and honorable men, even all those who whatever denomination, who encouraged the proud, the trifler, the passionate, the lover of the world, the man of pleasure, the unjust or unkind, the easy, careless, harmless, useless creatures, the man who suffers no persecution for righteousness; sake, to imagine he is in way to heaven.13
Dear reader, do not let you
rself be deceived by Dangerous Christianity. Arise, what we need today is a Biblical Christianity! Biblical Christianity offers God’s love with holiness, blessings with obedience, forgiveness with repentance, heavenly joy with godly sorrow, crown with cross, peace with righteousness and grace with godliness. It teaches faith in Jesus with fear of God, immersion of water along with diversion from sin, believing in Christ with transformation of life and following Christ by dying to self. It presents the narrow way Jesus taught. It teaches to fight a good fight of faith, take up one’s cross, deny self, endure suffering, renounce the world, hunger for righteousness, make every effort to live at peace with others, witness Christ to the lost and share generously with the poor and needy (1 Jn. 4:10-11; 1 Pt. 1:15-16; 1 Jn. 3:22; Acts 3:19; Matt. 5:4,6; Jas. 1:12; Ps. 85:10; Tit. 2:11-12; Acts 2:38; Lu. 9:23; Heb. 12:7,14; Mk. 11:22; Ps. 111:10; Mk. 16:15; 1 Jn. 2:15-17; Rom. 12:13).
Biblical Christianity is a glorious Christianity that sharpens our mind to focus on the things above than on the things below (Col. 3:2). The followers of biblical Christianity live on this earth with heavenly consciousness. And that’s the Christianity we desperately need today. May we humbly repent of all carnality and pursue true spirituality. Let us heed the admonishment of Charles G. Finney: The fact is that Christians are more to blame for not being revived than sinners are for not being converted. And if they aren’t awakened, they can rest assured that God will come to them with judgment. How often God visited the people of Israel with judgments because His prophets had called and they refused to repent and be revived! How often has God cursed churches, even whole denominations, because they would not wake up and seek the Lord, praying, “Will you not revive us again that your people may rejoice in you?” Nothing but arising to true spirituality can preserve a dying church from annihilation.14 O Lord, we know you are the Righteous One and cannot compromise with sin. We bow before Thy Holy Majesty and we too admit, do not compromise with sin, but change us in Thy mercy.
NOTES: 1. J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Moscow, Idaho: Charles Nolan Publishers, 2001), pg. 283
2. R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1985), pg. 38.
3. R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1985), pg. 41.
4. Cited by Stephen F. Olford, Anointed Expository Preaching (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998) pg. 44.
5. Cited by Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. A Passion for God (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1994), pg. 59.
6. Cited by Duncan Campbell. The Price and Power of Revival < http://www. christ-centered.net/cambell1.html>
7. Now this doesn’t mean we must to be totally insensitive towards people’s feelings and be harsh in presenting God’s message. We can speak the truth as it is in love. We ought to speak God’s holiness in love but it is not fair to speak God’s love by ignoring God’s holiness.
8. Cited by Duncan Campbell. The Price and Power of Revival < http://www. christ-centered.net/cambell1.html
9. This doesn’t mean we live a life of perfection but make effort to live a holy life with a penitent and obedient heart (Heb. 12:14).
11. James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened To The Gospel Of Grace? (Illinois: Crossway Books, 2001), pg. 89
12. Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament http://www.studylight.org/com/bnn/view.cgi?book=2co&chapter=007
13. Cited by W.C.Moore, Turn From Sin And Believe The Gospel (Nagercoil: Herald of His Coming, February 2005),pg.7
14. Charles G. Finney, Lectures On Revival (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1988), pg. 22.
C. Stephen David
6-96, Srinivasa Nagar Colony, Ramachandrapuram Hyderabad – 502 032. Andhra Pradesh. India.