13 April 2012

The Church's Most Dangerous Enemies

by Phil Johnson

A brief excerpt from some things I said HERE.



he most dangerous adversaries of biblical truth today are not government policies that undermine our values; not secular beliefs that attack our confessions of faith; not even atheists who deny our God.

It's my conviction that the worst, most persistent hindrances to the advance of the gospel today are worldly churches and hireling shepherds who trivialize Christianity.

This is not a new problem, and it's no exaggeration to portray such people as enemies of the gospel. There were men just like that vying for influence even in apostolic times—in the very earliest churches. In Philippians 3:18-19, the apostle Paul wrote: "For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ."

One of the chief characteristics the New Testament cites about these enemies of the cross—enemies of authentic grace—was that they "set their minds on earthly things" (Philippians 3:19). They "pervert[ed] the grace of our God into sensuality" (Jude 4). They twisted the idea of Christian liberty into an opportunity to gratify the flesh. They "[used their] freedom as a cover-up for evil" (1 Peter 2:16). In short, they were carnal, worldly men, who twisted the idea of Christian liberty into an excuse for self-indulgence.

In the process, they trivialized the cross, corrupted the idea of grace, and perverted the gospel. None of the apostles were squeamish when it came to calling them out.

Phil's signature


26 comments:

Johnny Dialectic said...

Quite agree. Tozer was saying much the same thing 50 years ago.

wordsmith said...

Amen. Seems to me that the worldly churches and their hirelings are doing their level best to inoculate people against true Christianity.

romans923 said...

Thank you for framing the matter in this way. The severity is sobering and needed.

Stu2You said...

Thanks for this! It caught my attention right away... life is too short to let the church and the gospel suffer when they are the chosen plan of God for all who will be saved!

mick said...

"...being ignorant of the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they do not submit themselves to the righteousness of God..." The righteousness of God is Jesus Christ. (From Rom. 10:3)

Nash Equilibrium said...

Definitely true. And the hireling pastors are the ones who keep pointing to the secularists and the government as the real bad guys.

rippster4christ said...

False Conversion, or people within the church who believed they are saved are a result of these Pastors. It has to be one of the most dangerous spots to be in, and the deception is rampant in the seeker sensitive/mega churches.
Different terms are used to soften things up instead of sin, repentance, wrath, judgment, holiness....

donsands said...

Paul wept becuae of this false-brethren. Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
I pray I would weep as well. I mostly become angry, and there's the righteous anger as well.

I pray I can have tears with my anger in humility, as I ask our Lord to help me stand for Christ, and the whole truth of the Gospel, and the doctrines of God's Word. Amen.

have a terrific weekend in our Lord's great love and His peace that is beyond all comprehension.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Superb! Loved this sermon for its delineation between Law and Gospel, Legalism and License. Very appropriate for Christians steering a path between Charybdis and Scylla.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Suppose a Christian (say John MacArthur or Phil Johnson) lives a life of holiness (as much as possible) and encourages others to live lives of holiness as well.

This Christian is branded and seen by both some Christians and some non-Christians as a legalist, as a pharisee.

What should the Christian do in this instance?

Steve Drake said...

TUAD,
Was it the old Beatles':
"Love, love, Love, love...

Marla said...

Agree -- "Christian" is such a casual moniker these days -- lots of people don't even know what it means, and others get upset if you imply it has a closely-defined meaning.

jbboren said...

Agreed.

One of the most attention-grabbing comments I've ever made in my SS class was, "Barack Obama is not nearly the threat to the church in America as is Joel Osteen."

It certainly got conversation going.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

TUAD asked: "Suppose a Christian (say John MacArthur or Phil Johnson) lives a life of holiness (as much as possible) and encourages others to live lives of holiness as well.

This Christian is branded and seen by both some Christians and some non-Christians as a legalist, as a pharisee.

What should the Christian do in this instance?"

TUAD,

"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phl 3:12-14)."

David J. Dunbar said...

Jesus (and the Apostles) warned us about false teachers, not about politicians and atheists.

The worst enemy of the gospel isn't the guy that is obviously outside our camp -- it is the one who looks like one of us, claims to be one of us, but isn't one of us.

Phil Johnson said...

TUAD: "This Christian is branded and seen by both some Christians and some non-Christians as a legalist, as a pharisee. What should the Christian do in this instance?"

Speaking only for myself, I know that I was born with the heart of a Pharisee, so I don't even try to defend myself against an accusation like that. It's a charge people sometimes make when they are desperate to justify themselves or legitimize their own misbehavior by demonizing someone who disapproves of this or that pet sin. But it's just like an accusation of pride: when one is the recipient of such an accusation, all one can righteously do is remind oneself that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and even if the accusation was motivated by some evil desire on the accuser's part, there is probably enough truth in it to justify the rebuke.

Darlene said...

TUAD,

How can living a life of holiness and encouraging others to do so be considered legalism? We are free in regard to the Judaic laws, but as Christians, we are not free as regards Christ's new commands. IOW, as Christians we are expected and commanded to do certain things in order that we might continue in sanctification. If we do not cultivate our hearts, weeding out those things which are enemies to our very souls, (i.e. the passions of the flesh), then how can we claim to be in Christ? The very nature of the Christian life is one of struggle against the passions. Love for our Lord Jesus demands that we turn from evil and do good. Love for our Lord Jesus demands that we keep ourselves unstained from the world.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Thanks for the reply, Pastor Phil.

I was thinking that the following might occur:

Pastor: "... sermon on Law and Gospel (similar to Phil Johnson's) ..."

Person: "Pastor, you're a Pharisee for all your talk about Holiness and Law even when factoring in all your discussion about Grace."

Pastor's response: Nothing. Doesn't respond. Has strong feeling that the discussion will be hopeless in the face of such accusations.

Person: "You're ignoring me. How arrogant you must be. An unteachable, prideful legalist."

Pastor: Rolls eyes.

Person: "I saw that!"

Darlene said...

"Keep firmly in mind that you are a two-sided person. One side is fleshly, old and sick with the passions. This you must mortify, not giving in to its insistent sinful demands. The other side is spiritual, new, seeking Christ, living in Christ and finding in Him its life ad repose."
- St. John of Kronstadt

The way that I understand our life in Christ is that it should imitate John the Baptist, He must increase, but I must decrease. Christ is to be formed within us, and we are to be changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another." Christ works with hearts that are willing to be obedient to Him, even if that willingness is but a "dimly, burning wick."

Tom Chantry said...

re Phil's response to TUAD's question,

I find this so challenging. I want to reply to the bad theology and apparent bad motives of the accuser, and forget that, regarding me at least, he has a point.

I am reminded (again) of what my father said at my grandfather's funeral: it is a sign of healthy spiritual life to be quick to perceive sin in yourself and slow to perceive it in others. Now if only I could remember that the next time someone calls me a legalist, or proud, or...

donsands said...

Christ works with hearts that are willing to be obedient to Him, even if that willingness is but a "dimly, burning wick."-Darlene

And Christ will work in us to "will", and to do. Our father loves us, and he will chastise us at times. No one likes to be stuck in the finger with a sharp thorn, for it truly is painful. yet, it will be good for us, and the bottom line is our Lord and Savior is honored, and glorified.

Have a great weekend, and Lord's day Darlene.

Solameanie said...

I hate to bring up our Emergent friends again, but this is an area where I continually lock horns with them. And some who might not wear the Emergent label, but might as well given their lax views of Christian behavior.

You can make it as plain as you can about this not being about salvation by works, but rather being obedient to Christ's commands for the sake of loving Him, i.e. "if you love Me, keep my commandments." And those commandments are not just found in the red letter verses in the Gospels, if one believes in the plenary inspiration of Scripture. When Paul commands certain things here and there, unless it's the area where he specifies it's him and not the Holy Spirit, we can take an apostolic command as coming from the Lord.

But if you point this out and insist that Christians live, speak and act like Christians, you're a Pharisee and a legalist. You can't win. So I usually sigh deeply, roll my eyes, and tell them I'm going to watch their upcoming dialogue with the Lord with great interest as they try to justify their disobedience.

Joshua Bovis said...

Phil,

Very true. I think we do well to heed the Apostle Paul's words to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. [28] Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. [29] I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; [30] and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. [31] Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.

Esther said...

Marla said: ""Christian" is such a casual moniker these days -- lots of people don't even know what it means, and others get upset if you imply it has a closely-defined meaning."
No,no, Marla...they don't get upset if you imply that it has a closely-defined meaning, as long as that definition is "a nice person who doesn't let their dog mess in your yard."
signed...
laughing sadly

lisa said...

I only ask to live my life in such a way that Rob Bell finds it necessary to make a YouTube video to ridicule my behavior.
Lisa

will said...

Phil
Again the military analogy is appropriate. Speak to men and woman fighting in Afghanistan right now and they will tell you what they fear the most is the enemy inside the walls. Those which shoot them in the back when they aren't alert, or turn and run when the trouble begins. The wolves inside the church should be thought of in the same context.