Faith is like going into battle against impossible odds and being told by your General not to worry — that it will be painful, and you will get slaughtered, but you’ll win in the end. Some run and hide, but you move forward, following in his footsteps. You face the enemy and he defeats you. You get up over and over again and discover even your own body has failed you. You are overwhelmed by the enemy, conquered and killed. All of your effort wasn’t enough, and now your lifeless body lies on the battlefield. The General comes to you, breathes life into your lungs and raises you from the dead. He gives you the energy, strength, armor and weapons to defeat the enemy. He tells you to trust him and fight. You have a hard time believing him, because you’ve faced the enemy and lost time and again. But because you’ve experienced the General’s power to raise you from the dead, you trust him and believe he will, indeed, lead you to victory. He clears the way and helps you defeat each enemy you encounter. In fact, it seems like he’s doing all the work. Finally, the battle is over, and you’ve won. The General is awarded with countless medals, but he gives you one of them. Not because you earned it, but because he loves all the soldiers who fought with him and wants them to share in the celebration.
Your theology about “seekers” will determine how you structure your church services. Most Christian churches today are focused on making their worship services appealing to seekers. Whether it’s mimicking the secular world in its style of worship, or serving milk to its flock in the form of theologically-light, easily-digestible sermons – the contemporary Christian church has made Sunday mornings more about engaging “almost believers” and winning them to Christ, than strengthening and equipping the existing congregation of believers to confront the hostile world outside the church walls.
Churches have combined Sunday worship with evangelism – attempting to kill two birds with one stone – not knowing that by doing so, they’ve become less effective at both.
Sabbath or Sunday worship was established for the benefit of God’s people. It was a time for them to worship God, fellowship with other believers, and learn more about our Creator through the Scriptures. Though we are told that there will always be “tares” (read: unbelievers) among the “wheat” inside our churches – and that we shouldn’t bother trying to root them out (Matt. 13:29) – we are never encouraged to actively invite tares into our churches. “What fellowship can light have with darkness? … What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Cor. 6:14-15)
A “seeker” is someone churches think is actively pursuing God, but just hasn’t found Him yet, or hasn’t been intellectually convinced that Christ is the Messiah. However, the Bible makes it clear that there is no such person. In fact, the Bible states that natural man is at enmity with God (Rom 8:7), and there is none who seek after God (Rom 3:11). Only after being born again (i.e., spiritually regenerated) can a person even see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3).
The Apostle Paul states in 1 Cor. 2:14, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
R.C. Sproul rightly describes the so-called seeker as “…not seeking after God, but seeking the benefits that only God can give him, while at the same time fleeing as fast as he can from the immediate presence of God.”
The doctrine of man’s spiritual depravity is crucial to our understanding of the “seeker” issue. I won’t go into all the conclusions this doctrine ultimately leads to (i.e., the whole of Reformed theology), but it’s enough to say that the Bible makes it clear there are no such things as “seekers,” and the Church should not busy itself with trying to cater to this non-existent demographic.
Have you ever done something blatantly wrong, and then performed some good deed to make up for it? Maybe you talked badly about someone behind her back, then in an effort to make up for it, you treated her extra nicely the next time you crossed paths. Or maybe you disrespected your parents, and a religious leader told you to recite a prayer twenty times or make a difficult journey to someplace in order to “pay” for your sin.
As humans, we desire to be self-reliant and autonomous. But when we hurt someone else, we have feelings of guilt that don’t coincide with our autonomous lifestyle. Why do we care whether or not we’ve harmed someone? It’s survival of the fittest, right? We just need to look out for ourselves. Right?
The fact is, we all feel a sense of guilt when we harm other people. This is not a product of our environment and upbringing. We have guilt, because each one of us is imprinted with a moral code and a conscience that notifies us when we’ve broken that code. The moral code is written in our hearts. And it was written by God.
No one can claim that murder, rape, and hatred are neutral actions. We all know they are wrong. We are all aware of the difference between good and evil.
When we break the moral law written in our hearts, we rightly feel guilty. If we continue to ignore our conscience, eventually it will wear out and cease to notify us of our transgression. The Bible calls this the hardening of the heart. Sociopaths and serial killers fall into this category. Hitler would fall into this category. These are people whose hearts are so hardened that they no longer view their obvious sins as wrong. In fact, anyone who lives unrepentantly contrary to God’s moral law would fall into this category. You probably know someone who does this. You may even be one.
So, what do we do with our guilt? We’ve all broken the moral code within us, as well as the expressly written code of conduct in the Bible. No one is guiltless in the matter of sin. Anyone who claims to be without sin only needs to examine the 10 Commandments to find himself guilty of breaking God’s laws.
Ultimately, the question we have to ask ourselves is how can a sinner like me enter Heaven? How good do you have to be to enter Heaven?
Well, here’s the bad news… You have to be perfect.
“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
– Matthew 5:48
“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
– Matthew 5:20
“There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.”
– Romans 3:10-11
God is holy, and we are not. God demands holiness, and we can never be holy on our own. No amount of prayers, penance, or praise-worthy actions will ever make up for the fact that you are not perfect. Just one sin keeps us from ever living up to the perfect standard of God.
So, if you have to be perfect to get to Heaven, who could possibly get there?
Well, here’s the good news… Jesus was perfect.
“And having been made perfect, He [Jesus] became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.”
– Hebrews 5:9
“For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”
– Hebrews 10:14
You see, we will never be perfect on our own. But Jesus lived a perfect life for our benefit, and it’s only with Him as our representative that we can be seen as perfect in God’s eyes. We don’t deserve to go to Heaven, but because Jesus was perfect and paid for our sins, God no longer sees our sins as ours, but as Jesus’. God punished Jesus on the cross for all of our sins – past, present, and future – so that we could escape punishment. That is why we are now seen by God as perfect.
It’s through Jesus’ perfect life, punishment, death, and resurrection that we have attained perfection. It’s not our own perfection, but Jesus’ that will get us into Heaven.
So, if you’re looking to make up for your sins by doing good deeds, stop it. You can never make up for your sins. Instead, trust in Jesus’ payment for your sins to remove your guilt and provide you with the necessary perfect status before God.
This was a free gift from God – not something you earn. If you try to earn it, you lose it. The only way you can get to Heaven is through Jesus Christ’s perfection.
“But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
– Romans 4:5
CAUSE of Salvation = Faith Alone
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
– Ephesians 2:8-9
EFFECT of Salvation = Works
“Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
– James 2:17-18
Works are only necessary as an evidence of faith. But the only requirement for salvation is faith. Once you put Works into the CAUSE category, you have a false gospel, of which Paul says…
“… even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!”
– Galatians 1:8
The difference between CAUSE and EFFECT in the matter of salvation is of eternal significance.
The word deceit is interesting. It is like a fish hook, in that what a fish gets is not what it expects. What you see is not what you get in that circumstance. … The word guile is dolos in the Greek, it’s the word used for fish hook which is very deceptive if you’re a fish, obviously.
– John MacArthur
Satan doesn’t rule hell. Hell is not his kingdom, like Heaven is God’s. When a man or woman goes to hell, he or she will not be a slave of Satan. Satan will not be ruling there with an iron whip. Satan is just another fallen creature that will be sent to hell for punishment. Rather than the warden, Satan will be a cellmate to the damned. He’ll even be suffering worse than mankind.
Some say that hell is the total absence of God—that to be away from God’s presence is the greatest punishment. That is not true. The Bible does speak of “levels of hell,” if you will—that the damned will be punished according to their transgressions. If hell is simply the absence of God, then how can He be more totally absent from some than others? No, God is omnipresent—He is everywhere at once. Even in hell.
Hell is, in fact, the manifestation of God’s holy and just punishment. It is His wrath. Hell is the wages of sin. Hell is what happened to Jesus Christ, when He died on the cross. Actually, Jesus went through infinitely more than what a man or fallen angel will go through in hell, because Jesus bore the punishment of the multitudes of God’s elect. He didn’t just get punished for one man’s sin, He got punished for many. And that’s what allows the followers of Christ to enter Heaven. Christ has already paid for our sins. God, in His justice, cannot punish a sin twice. That is why it is a guarantee that, if Jesus Christ has died for your sins, you will definitely be allowed into Heaven. And the sign of having Christ’s sacrifice count as payment for your sin is your belief—or faith—in Christ’s sacrifice to be the one and only means of your salvation. To believe, even an ounce, in the merits of your own good works or your own good intentions is to not have complete faith in Christ. And that means you’ll have to bear the payment for your sins in hell. That’s not a scare tactic—it’s the truth.
So what is hell? It’s God’s punishment for our rebellion and treason. How can we be saved? By having faith in Christ’s sacrifice as the be-all, end-all of our salvation. When all is said and done—when we talk about salvation—what exactly are we being saved from? We’re being saved from God, Himself—and His wrath. Not the devil.