We don't need to look far to find scandal, abuse, adultery, the use of pornography, lying, drunkenness and other types of reprehensible behavior among people that are supposed to be living good Christian lives. People that call themselves 'Christian' are many times the opposite of what one would consider a Christian to be (I include myself in this group, in times past). While there is an aspect of human frailty and weakness that we all will struggle with to some extent, there is a doctrine that has become a 'pillar' of the vast majority of Christian churches which is not Biblical and has led to a proliferation of immoral behavior among so-called Christians. Worst of all, it risks the eternal destiny of millions, yet it looks so good and has such mass appeal that most don't even think to question it. It is time to face this false doctrine head on, so that people can make enlightened and informed decisions about their lives.
Have you heard the phrase, "Once saved, always saved"? Have you heard preachers talk about how, once we 'accept Christ', we are forever cleansed of all of our sins, so that, no matter how we live our lives, we can be secure that we will go to Heaven? It sounds nice doesn't it? Very appealing... no rules, no self-discipline... just live our lives like we always have but add a little prayer and, voila, we have a free ticket to Heaven. So what is the problem with that? Consider the martyrs who went to their death rather than deny Christ. If one could do anything and be forgiven, why didn't they deny Christ then ask for forgiveness later? The problem is that it is not based on what the Bible clearly teaches. The problem is that people are taught to believe that they can commit all kinds of immoral acts and still get to heaven... that, no matter what sins they commit, they get a free pass (it is often taught that all of their sins will be cast 'as far as the east is from the west', leaving zero accountability) , so sin abounds unrestrained, and the name of God is disgraced. The problem is that millions of people that considered themselves Christians will stand before the throne of Judgment, and will be shocked and horrified to hear the words, "I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS'. I am sure you don't want to be among those caught by surprise!
So where did this doctrine come from? The most likely source is an early heretical splinter group that broke away from Christianity called the 'Gnostics'. In the book of Acts there is a man called "Simon the sorcerer". As described in Wikipedia (under 'Gnosticism')..."Charges of Gnostic libertinism find their source in the works of Irenaeus. According to this writer, Simon Magnus (whom he has identified as the prototypical source of Gnosticism, and who had previously tried to buy sacramental authority of ordination from St. Peter the Apostle) founded the school of moral freedom ('amoralism'). Irenaeus reports that Simon's argument was that those who put their trust in him and his consort Helen need trouble themselves no further with the biblical prophets or their moral exhortations and are free "to do what they wish", as men are saved by his (Simon's) grace and not by their "righteous works." Eventually, as with many other pagan beliefs, in an attempt to 'win over the pagans', the 'Christianized version' of this doctrine slowly worked its way into the thinking of mainstream Christianity. In addition, Martin Luther's focus on the texts referring to being 'saved by grace through faith and not by works', while true up to a point, is not the complete message. There is more to salvation than a single act on a single day. There is more required than an experience of being 'Born again'. While the 'new birth' is an important first step, and it is the point at which all of our past sins (done in ignorance) are cleansed (and the most poignant demonstration of God's grace in Christ), it is just the beginning. Jesus clearly teaches that, unless we bear good fruit (and stop bearing bad fruit), we will be cut off.
John 15: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” In Matthew He repeats a very similar analogy with the same message: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS'." (For further clarification on the Biblically accurate position, consider Hebrews 6:4-15 and 10:22-39).
So what is ‘good fruit’ and ‘bad fruit’? I think the book of Galatians says it most clearly. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh [i.e. the bad fruit] are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
Friends, brothers and sisters, we cannot live a life full of sinful behavior and think God is OK with that. He is not. While sin in ignorance is bad, willfully sinning after “accepting Christ as Lord” is far worse (it has become deliberate betrayal), and it is clear evidence that we have not truly accepted Christ as Lord… if we had, we would not continue in willful sin. It is to God’s glory and to our benefit that we ‘bear good fruit’. If you have considered yourself a ‘Christian’ but have continued in willful disobedience to God, you still have a choice. Thank God for the story of the prodigal son! We can diligently seek God's mercy in prayer and turn from our self-destructive path (remember the father in the story said “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.") and live a life striving for holiness and goodness. When we fall, repent (which means being truly sorry and committing never to do it again… then not doing it again! As Jesus said, “Go, and sin no more”), then rededicate yourself to living right before God. You can do it!
Let us live lives that glorify God! Let us do good to all we meet. Let us love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength! Let us bear the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ by ‘walking in the spirit’. That, my dear friends, will be assurance of Heaven!!!
(Get more thought provoking explorations at http://fullcreativelife.blogspot.com/ )