The Theory that Promotes Christianity on Your Terms
Many evangelicals assert that repentance is not necessary for salvation. This means that a person can be saved while retaining the lifestyle he practiced before salvation.
Many also teach that when God looks on believers He doesn’t see their sin but He sees the righteousness of Christ. Therefore, the believer is free to maintain his pre-conversion lifestyle or any lifestyle he chooses since God doesn’t even see any behaviors that Scripture might teach to be objectionable to Him.
However, even if God did see those behaviors, many evangelicals (perhaps most) take the position that the believer doesn’t have to “perform” to be acceptable to God. Some state the case in cruder language, asserting that we don’t need to gain brownie points with God to experience His approval.
Should anyone view another’s lifestyle to be wrong, the person maintaining this concern would be the one with the problem, a legalist that did not understand grace. And should this legalistic person dare actually mention to the one sinning that his lifestyle was not compatible with Scripture he would be guilty of the only sin that God does not accept, judgmentalism. Regardless of the validity of the accusation, the countercharge, to which no legitimate response exists, is “I felt judged.”
This leaves us with a Christianity on our terms. We can live as we please and be saved, and we can live as we please after we are saved and still enjoy God’s acceptance.
Two problems exist with this contemporary evangelical approach to Christianity.
The Biblical Problem
First, it is not biblical. Many verses can be cited showing that each point of this self-made theology is erroneous.
In a previous post we developed the case for repentance being biblical and the consequent problem of omitting the message of repentance.
Regarding the assertion that we don’t have to perform to be accepted by God, it should be noted that the term “perform” is intentionally loaded. Of course God does not want us to put on a performance, an insincere pretense of being godly.
But Scripture does call us to obedience. The New Testament is loaded with verses commanding us to stop certain behaviors and practice others. Writers of the New Testament were not shy about using the imperative in telling us how God requires us to live. Considered just a small sampling from Ephesians 4.
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:28-32)
In addition, we find various New Testament passages specifically informing us that the acceptance of the believer by God is conditioned on how we live. For example, 2Corinthians 5:9 states, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing (Greek word for “acceptable”) to Him.”
The Practical Problem
A second problem with this Christianity on our terms is its failure to produce the godliness and power to which God calls us. Instead it has led to evangelical lifestyles that in many ways parallel those of the secular world, and a corresponding powerlessness to transform secular culture.
Since this approach to Christianity is not derived from Scripture, as shown above, and it is incapable of producing positive change, where does it come from and why are evangelicals employing it? The answer is that it constitutes the infiltration of our secular culture with its cornerstone of unconditional acceptance. Correspondingly Christianity on our terms asserts that God accepts us unconditionally in salvation and also in our ongoing relationship with Him.
Those holding this approach are not concerned about unbiblical behavior because of their confidence, derived from secular culture, that unconditional acceptance is the change agent. Consequently, they are convinced that those experiencing God’s unconditional acceptance in time will spontaneously adopt a lifestyle pleasing to God. This result has not been realized either in the secular arena or within the evangelical community.
Consequently, hope can only be found in exchanging Christianity on our terms for biblical Christianity.