Some people are weak because they over assess their own abilities. They do not trust in the Lord so are not strong in the Lord, they are too busy trying to be strong in themselves. Do not trust yourself too much! Do not be over-confident in yourself! Certainly do not place any confidence in your flesh, or your own righteousness. Do not assume you are more spiritual than you are!
The Bible tells us clearly: let him that thinks he is standing firm be careful lest he falls (1 Cor. 10.12)
If you think you are so wise you are a fool. If you think you could never end up off course, you are a candidate for getting off course. If you think you do not need to work on your strength in the Lord, you are going to weak for a long, long time.
Peter was the obvious example of this. He brags about never betraying Jesus and betrays him big time. I know so many people who have told me “I will never leave Tree of Life” – they are over-confident in their faithfulness, their ability to commit, their ability to handle offense, their ability to walk in faith. And so often they are gone in a week or two – walking out upset and angry and never coming back!
You can always see over-confidence by the way someone is critical of others. I have heard Christians rip other people apart, and they talk in a way that says “I could never, ever make that mistake, I would never, ever do that”. They are over-estimating their own ability, and they look down on others. Do not be like that – have some humility – if you stay arrogant, stay over-confident, you will one day fall, and find yourself in their shoes. You will be surprised, but no one else will. You staying on the right course, you doing what you need to do, you staying strong is by the grace of God! Do not be strong in yourself, be strong in the Lord!
When David heard that King Saul died, he wasn’t triumphant, he wasn’t over the moon about it – he didn’t get up and tell everyone what Saul did wrong. He did not even criticize him once. He could have taken the chance to put Saul down and expose his rebellion and witchcraft. He could have discussed all those things. But David was not strong in himself, David was strong in the Lord and said:
“Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon” (2 Sam. 1.20)
David never had an issue with being stubborn, but he did not attack Saul or talk about him behind his back, he was strong in the Lord, and realized that was because of God’s goodness, and God’s grace. Let this be your example and your path. If you think you are standing so firm that you can cast aspersions on others, be careful, you might fall!
Be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord – 1 Cor 15.58
Here Paul tells the Corinthians not to be weak, but to be steadfast. I love that word “steadfast”. I see so many Christians who are not steadfast, and Paul does not get involved in counselling or mollycoddling the Corinthians, he just tells them straight “BE STEADFAST”.
The word steadfast is a nautical word, it means to stay on the right course. Ships need to stay on course. The sea is kind of big, and there is not that much food and drink on the ship, and if you get off course, you could be in the middle of nowhere for years – you could die of starvation stuck and lost. Nowadays, we have radios and satellite phones on the ships, but in Bible days, you couldn’t get help from anyone. If you had 10 sheep on board for lamb chops, once they were gone they were gone! It is the same in life today, if we get off course, we can end up starving, lost, and lonely. We must be steadfast, but to be steadfast we must be strong. We must keep doing the things that keep us on course!
If you were joining a ship you would want to ensure that the captain was taking being steadfast seriously. If you were joining a church, you would want to ensure that the pastor was taking being steadfast seriously.
It is not just ships who need to be steadfast – you do too. It really does astound me what sets a Christian off course. They storm out of churches because of some petty thing that upsets them. More than once I have seen Christians leave a church because they disagreed with one point the preacher made. One point! And it was a church that helped them. I am very wary when people come to us from another church and you find out they left for the most petty of reasons. They are not steadfast people, and unless they get strong soon, they will be off course again very quickly! They need to get strong! People get offended over silly things and disconnect from their course. It is a tragedy, but we must obey Paul and BE STEADFAST.
Some people do not stay the course when they are corrected. A scorner hates being corrected and will hate you if you correct them (Proverbs 9.8). There are people who if you correct them you will make them hate you, and if you do not correct them they will leave the path of righteousness. What can you do? Steadfast people realize they have to make course corrections, and realize they are not always the wisest person in the room and listen to and even embrace and welcome correction. You need to be open to correction or you will never be strong and steadfast. A good pastor is someone who corrects you! If you get angry when you are corrected, when you are told “hey this behaviour is wrong” – then you are not steadfast.
Any Christian who cannot handle correction should never be put in a position of leadership. A man who can handle correction is wise. Jesus was not afraid to speak the truth. He told one crowd “your father is satan”. That’s correction! If you received that correction, you would grow. If you hated Jesus because of it you would not grow.
Once Jesus told Peter “get behind me satan”, and it corrected Peter, and he became a great minister and preacher. I have never called someone satan to their face, thought I have seen a number of people act like it, but if I thought someone could receive that level of correction, I would, because it would lead them to a higher level of life, success and ministry!
You should praise God for people in your life who love you enough to share wisdom with you and correct you. So many people are spiritual orphans, they have disassociated themselves from anyone who could ever correct them. They are so far off course they are in a place of complete unfruitfulness, and they get angry if you try and bring them back on course.
Another think that makes us go off course is being stubborn. Ecc. 4.13 says that a stubborn foolish king will no longer be admonished. I know many stubborn Christians who will never listen to advice. Never change their ways. They will hold onto their lifestyle no matter what anyone says to them. That is stubborn. We all need advice!
I have told people not to do a certain act or respond a certain way to a situation. No one has ever been stubborn to Biblical advice and then grown in grace!
Another people go off course because they love the world. Demas turned his back from Paul – what a step out of course that would be. Having the chance to be mentored by Paul and turn your back on him. Why would anyone do something do destructive? Demas loved the world (2 Tim. 4.10). He lost his way and got off course because he loved the world. He was too weak to stand against the temptations the world offered him. If you love someone, you will move in their direction. If you love the world, you will steer towards the world and get off course.
That love for the world is one of the major reasons people are not steadfast. They get off course, they gravitate to things a Christian has no business gravitating towards – lust, foolishness, stealing, getting offended and bitter. This what prodigal sons do – they get offended they are not getting their inheritance NOW (whether it is the pulpit they feel they are entitled to, the chance to be heard, the promotion they want). They are weak so they are easily drawn off course. Christians feel that they are missing something in the world and chase after it.
These are just some of the reasons people go off course. The underlying reason is that they are weak. A little thing offends them and they leave a church. A little thing upsets them and they don’t pray all day. A little thing nudges them and they get so upset and they run off. A little temptation attracts them and they leave for some carnal toy.
But not you – no – you BE STEADFAST! Stay on course!
Psalm 42.7 says that deep calls to deep. There is a language, a calling, that deep people have – they can communicate in a way that shallow people cannot ever communicate. They understand words like honour and truth and life. Strong people are deep people. They have deep roots.
One of the greatest principles that ever has been shared by anyone in history is when Jesus tells us that the quality of harvest from the seed depends entirely on the ground that it is sowed in. A good heart brings a great harvest from the Word of God. A weak heart cannot produce a strong harvest! We need strong hearts that are deep.
Jesus said that the seed that lands on the rock (in his parable) means people who “when they hear, receive the word with joy, and these have no root, which a while believe and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8.13).
Weak Christians get excited but they cannot stand, they fall away. Because they are not rooted! Can I let you all know a secret – you will have a time of temptation at some point? You will be tempted. You will have pressure. There will be things happen in your life that will make you want to compromise, want to quit. Whether you fall away or stand depends on how strong you are – how rooted you are.
I have noticed recently a number of Christians who are just not rooted. They do not even really fellowship with the Lord, they don’t know Him, they just know about Him. They do foolish things and you ask them why and they cannot even tell you. I know Christians who go to churches that do not feed them, and they do not know why. I know Christians that hate tongue talkers, but do not know why. They get offended at the slightest things, they fall apart and fall away in times of temptation. They have no backbone, no sense of conviction.
We had a lady in our church left our church, she went and joined a cult. They told her she was not saved when she was with us because they were the only church in London that preached the true gospel. They told her that speaking in tongues was from satan, and she stopped speaking in tongues. They told her how to dress, how to speak, how to behave – it was very controlling. That woman was not strong in the things of the Lord, not strong in the gifts of the Spirit, and under pressure, she fell away from the Lord. I know many stories like that, and they are sad. I know Christians who do not know the difference between the true gospel and what that Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons believe.
You need to know what you believe, you need to know why you believe it, you need to know what the Bible says about this. You might be going to church, but when times of temptation come will you stand? Your commitment to the house of the Lord will absolutely be tested. People fall away when they are weak. I am not talking about being led by the Lord to another church, I am talking about falling right out of the church, right out of speaking in tongues, right out of reading their Bible, and right out of walking with the Lord.
You have to be a really shallow Christian to fall away from church because someone lets you down. You have to be a really weak Christian if the sins of someone else affect you walking with the Lord. You have to be shallow if you leave Christ because your pastor made a mistake or two!
My people in Tree of Life Church on the whole love me, but I tell them to follow me as I follow Christ and if I do something that is not following Christ, not to follow that. I make mistakes! I don’t always get it right. I tell my leaders you can always ask me “what Scripture is that based on? where in the Bible are you getting this revelation from?”
Pastors who do not base things on the Bible are the pastors who can steal from their church members, they can lead people far away from the Bible and lead them down a merry path. Shallow people will very quickly turn their back on the Lord and worship a golden calf. Shallow people listen to the ten spies above Joshua and Caleb. Shallow people will very quickly turn on Jesus and scream for Him to be crucified. Shallow people follow the crowd.
So, the first step to getting strong is to go deep. You need to go deep. What that means is three things:
You have to have a backbone. You need to develop a strength of character in your own heart that means you do not follow the crowd, but you follow your heart. You need to fellowship with the Lord and spend time with Him until you are strong in the Lord. You need to read your Bible and pray until the truths of the Word go deep in your heart. Until the seed is not on the surface, but it changes how you think, feel and decide.
You have to know why you believe what you believe. Get some books and start studying. Think about what you believe, read what the Bible says. Why do you speak in tongues? Why do you lift your hands? Why do you pray the way you do? Is it what the Bible teaches? Why are you sexually pure? Why do you vote the way you do? Is it Biblical? Ask yourself why and make sure you build a foundation that is deep. Not shallow.
Decide in advance what you are going to be deeply committed to, deeply loyal to in advance. Your wife or husband, your church. You need to decide in advance. I never get up on a Sunday and decide “I wonder if I will go to church”, I never get up on a weekday and decide “I wonder if I will pray”. I made those decisions well in advance. Some people will never miss a day’s work, never turn up late for work, but they don’t ever make it on time for church! This is because – and absolutely because – they are not committed. You should make a list of things that you will every day whether you feel like it or not. You should make a list of things that you will do every week whether you feel like it or not. That will make you a deeper person, that will bring strength and wisdom to you.
I know people who miss church because family just came round and turned up. I don’t do that, I miss family when church comes round. I tell all my extended family – if you turn up when church is on, and you want to spend time with me, I will be in church, and you will be welcome to join me, but as for me and my house – we will serve the Lord. I know people who miss church because they are tiling their bathroom. They are very weak people, and they are making choices that keep them weak! Selah.
God wants you to develop deep roots. You do not build deep roots moving around all the time. A plant cannot build deep roots when moved around, it needs to be planted and rooted somewhere. Selah.
Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord! – Ephesians 6.10
There are many times in the Bible where we are told to be strong. It’s in Joshua, Psalms, and many other places, in the Old and New Testaments. We need to be strong.
But in Ephesians Paul tells us one area of our life in which we must be strong – we need to be strong in the Lord. I know people who are very strong in their chest, in their legs, in their back. I know people who are strong in their artwork, strong in business, strong in their studies, strong in friends. But I don’t know too many people who are strong in the Lord. We need to be strong! We need to not be weak!
How can we be strong in the Lord? Why do we need to be strong in our faith, strong in our convictions, strong in our kindness, strong in forgiving, strong in walking in grace, strong in trusting the Lord.
Why must we be strong?
Strong Christians do not move. 1 Cor. 15.58 tells us to be both steadfast and unmoveable. Strong people are harder to move. When life pushes us around, we need to be standing in faith. When problems push us down into depression, we need to absolutely stand in joy and faith and peace! When you are tired and weary, you need to be able to keep going. We need to be able to stand when every fiery dart is hitting us, we need to be strong.
Strong Christians are mature Christians. We need to grow up. Paul could not give the Corinthians all the revelations he wanted to because they couldn’t eat them (1 Cor. 3.1). They could only eat baby food because they were so weak. That is a tragedy, but it is commonplace today. We need to be strong! We need to be strong enough to handle a strong message. We need to be steak strong, not Farley’s Rusk strong! We need to be able to eat our vegetables. We need to be able to handle a few home truths without getting offended and being so weak no one can tell us the truth.
Strong Christians are hard to offend. We have so many Christians today getting offended over the most trivial issues. Why? Because they are weak.
Strong Christians are fruitful. Some Christians have no fruit because they are not strong enough to even carry a little fruit. They cannot minister healing because the slightest resistance to their ministry – they give up. They cannot give big because the slightest financial pressure sends them flying. They cannot forgive big because the tiniest offence knocks them flat on their back.
We need to become strong Christians. We need a diet and workout plan for our souls that makes us strong! In my next post, we will start looking at that diet and workout plan!
Maybe you have friends who are falling for inclusionism. Maybe you are pastor or church leader having to deal with this problematic issue. I haven’t actually preached this, but it is a short sermon outline I have penned to refute inclusionism and call people to the need to believe and receive the good news, not just to get saved and to walk in the promises of God.
Matthew 7:23 “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” Let’s start with the words of Jesus Christ Himself. He is talking about the fact that at some point, some people will not enter Heaven. That’s the truth. Inclusionists say that no one will ever have to depart from Christ, but that is not what Jesus Christ Himself says. In dealing with inclusionism we must start at this point – some people will one day have to depart from Christ, and we must go to the words of Jesus, go to the Bible, and make sure that we are among those who do not have to depart, rather than just make up – against the words of Jesus Himself – a lie that no one will ever have to depart from Him. We have to agree with Jesus here. we cannot disagree.
John 6.47 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” So, in making sure that we are not in the group of people who depart from Jesus, we go to the words of Jesus. Jesus starts this verse by letting us know that He is telling us the truth. The way to have everlasting life is not to find out that God forced it on us, but to believe in Him, to put our faith and trust in Jesus! That is the pathway to salvation. We are not saved by works, we are not saved by doing nothing either. We are saved by grace through faith. We have to believe. It’s that simple, Jesus said it and that’s the truth.
Romans 1.16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” Unsurprisingly Paul agrees with Jesus! The good news is the proclamation of Christ that has power to save us when – and only when – we believe it. The gospel is not the announcement of a God who has set us free whether we like it or not – it is the announcement of freedom paid in full and all we need to do is believe. Notice that both Jews and Gentiles have to believe! The path of salvation and the principle that we must believe the gospel to receive the power of the good news is universal to every single human, no matter their past or background.
Hebrews 4.2 “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Look at how strongly it is preached here – the gospel does not benefit everyone! It only benefits those who believe it, who put their faith in it. The idea that everyone is included before they believe holds zero weight when it comes to the Scripture. There are precisely zero benefits to a gospel that is not mixed with faith. And that is the clear teaching of Scripture.
2 Cor. 6.14 “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” One of the mandates of the New Testament is that we do not yoke together with unbelievers. That makes no sense in an inclusionist world. Why does believing or not believing matter? Why does it matter unless believing saved us and puts us in the place where we are going a whole new direction. No inclusionist has discussed this or thought through the moral implications that faith has no role in salvation or obtaining anything from God!
1 John 3.15 “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” Just want to bring John into the mix here as well. John points out here that there are people – unbelievers – who have no eternal life inside them. That is exactly the opposite of what inclusionists teach. Inclusionism teaches we are all born born again, we all have eternal life and we are all saved from the beginning. But John deals with this head on and points out some people do not have eternal life inside them. This verse also builds on what we said about 2 Cor. 6.14, there is a way to live as a Christian, and the way and power to live that way comes from believing. Believing and receiving is how the whole kingdom of God works. To eliminate faith from the Scriptures butchers the entire New Testament. To say that everyone has eternal life contradicts Jesus, Paul and John. It leaves us without a moral framework, without a way to live and without a way to conquer, without a way to reach others and help them receive eternal life. Rather it weakly proclaims to a murderer – ignore the Bible, ignore that you just murdered someone, ignore all the hate in your heart – you honesty, really, truly, have eternal life. It’s nonsensical and unbiblical, but people still proclaim this!
Romans 3.22 “even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” There are so many Scriptures that could be put in place to finish this message, because the necessity of faith in God’s promises is all over the New Covenant, from Galatians, to Hebrews – which has a whole chapter on how people change the world “by faith” – but I wanted to wrap up with this verse from Romans, because it doesn’t just refute inclusionism, it helps us all understand the heart of the good news.
We were not born “born again”, we were not born righteous, we were not born right with God. We were born in sin. We needed a way to gain righteous not just so we can get into Heaven and not have to depart from Jesus, but so that we can pray and get those prayers answered, so we can enjoy the grace and mercy and blessings of God every day. So the power of salvation can flow through us and into this world. We are not automatically righteous and we cannot behave our way into righteousness. But because of God’s goodness and because of the work of the cross, righteousness is freely available. It is there for all of us, but it is not forced on any of us. It is unto those who believe. Anyone who believes can receive the righteousness of God. Anyone. But if you do not believe, it is not forced on you.
If you are a believer today, you are now as righteous as Jesus. You have the righteousness of God. It was a gift from Him! Your believing in Jesus opened the door to Him to be able to freely give you the same righteousness that He had on the earth. You can approach God without fear, without shame, without any sense of being second best. How wonderful! How glorious! But you have to believe to receive. You can believe and receive, or you can doubt and do without. God is love and love does not force salvation on anyone without consent. But all you need to do is believe and that belief gives God the consent to transform your spirit from sin to righteousness and pour His eternal life in you. It’s that simple!
This is where inclusionism is an issue for us as Christians – it doesn’t help people, it doesn’t create better more fruitful disciples, it cuts people off from what they need to move forward and be a life success.
We had a lady in our church who was clearly growing in the Lord. She was moving into a very fruitful life and seeing the promises of God manifest in her life. Then someone on social media sent her a link to some teaching on inclusionism and she watched the videos and found them really exciting. This is one of the problems with people – we have itching ears, we like things that sound new and intriguing. We tend to reject solid, established truth, we like to be cutting edge. “New” doctrines definitely appeal to our ego!
Now there is only a handful of things that if you do you will grow spiritually. One of the most important is going to church, another vital key to walking in abundance and life is tithing and giving, and another thing that every healthy Christian should be doing is reading their Bible. In addition, it helps us as well as helps the world to share the good news with others!
However, inclusionism leads invariably to people stepping back from these four key things:
I cannot quite get the link straight in my mind, but I have found that whenever someone embraces inclusionism they step away from local church. I think it is due to a feeling superior than the local church, and superior to everyone else who believes you must believe the gospel. Also, if the will of God is forced on us and salvation is pushed on us without consent, I do wonder if deep down that makes it difficult to worship God – thinking that He forced salvation on us. Finally, why bother going to church if faith means nothing, and it is all grace. Why bother going to a place that is going to give you the Word, equip you and encourage you?
Inclusionism is very much linked with a lack of giving. As soon as someone switches to inclusionism, their tithing stops, their giving goes down. Sowing less will lead to less harvest! It will lead to less success. But when people get into inclusionism, they will often say sowing and reaping is legalism, tithing is not for today, and they will attack those who teach otherwise.
If faith is not important, then people stop reading their Bible. I have heard several inclusionism teachers even mock people for reading their Bible, and one prominent teacher say publicly “I never even read my Bible anymore”. That’s foolishness!
Finally, if everyone is already saved, then why risk persecution and rejection by sharing your faith with them? You are missing out on winning people to the Lord and missing out on the joy and benefits of sharing what God has done for you.
So this lady drifted from church, stopped giving, stopped reading her Bible and stopped sharing her faith. It doesn’t take a prophet to work out what happened next – she backslid, she stopped living in victory, life’s problems started to overwhelm her and she ended up in a mess. We have helped her a lot, but we haven’t been able to get her to realize that it is her bad, unbiblical doctrines that are causing the problems.
Inclusionism is presented as a freedom, but it is not a freedom. It leads to a lack of discipline, a lack of generosity, a lack of serious Bible study, a lack of fellowship, a lack of wisdom. That’s not freedom, that’s bondage. And the fruit of it is a lack of success, a lack of joy, a lack of peace and a lack of victory.
This is my main concern with inclusionism. It leads to fruitless lives. There are no inclusionist ministers having healing services! There are no choices full of testimonies of God’s goodness and power. If you have embraced inclusionism, how is it working for you? It isn’t. It is that simple. The truth is what the Bible teaches:
I am not ashamed of the gospel, it is the power of God to all who believe (Romans 1.16)
If you embrace a doctrine that says we do not need faith, we do not need to believe, and you neglect believing, what will happen is you will disconnect yourself from the power of God. That means no miracles, no healings, no favour, no life changing prosperity, no increase, no peace, no joy. Without the power of God you cannot produce those things in your life. That is the harm of inclusionism.
Our next post will give you Seven Scriptures That Invalidate Inclusionism. It’s going to open your eyes!
The first time I encountered inclusionism in the Tree of Life Family, was in one of our churches when a couple were – in a very excited and very animated way – explaining how wonderful it was to me. They brought the discussion around to how inclusionism proves that Jesus is better than Adam, and that the traditional way of understanding salvation makes Jesus worse than Adam!
They explained to me that because Adam’s sin affected every single human without their choice, then obviously Jesus’s redemption must affect every single human without their choice. As I tried to suggest to them the Scriptures that I mentioned in my previous post that we have to choose life and it is not forced on us by God, they then told me that if I believed that I believed that Jesus was not as powerful as Adam. They were very insistent on this point – that for me to say you have to choose salvation is the same as me making Adam more powerful and more wonderful than Jesus.
But are they correct? is this what the Bible actually teaches? It all comes back to Romans 5 (which incidentally is my favourite chapter of the Bible). Let’s look at verses 12-15:
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! (Romans 5.12-15, NIV)
Look carefully at verse 15. It clearly tells us that the gift is not like the trespass. They are not the same. But the inclusionist will tell you they are different because the gift is better than the sin, and that Jesus is so good that just like everyone fell because of Adam and died spiritually without choice, then everyone is given the new birth by Jesus without choice. For the inclusionist, to say otherwise is to say Adam is greater than Jesus and that grace is greater than sin.
But that’s not a “much more” work. That’s the same work! If Adam’s sin brought death to everyone and Jesus’s grace gave the new birth to everyone, that’s not a greater work – that’s the same work. What the work of Jesus did is not the same, it’s so much greater. Let’s compare the two:
Adam’s sin brought death to all humans. Every man suffers from spiritual death because of Adam, without any choice at all. That’s not a good work, that’s a terrible work. We had no choice. Adam, without your choice, brought death to your planet and your family and your spirit. It was forced on you. That’s not a great work, that’s horrible. Now if Jesus did the same thing and forced salvation on you without your consent, that’s two things forced on you without your consent – sin by Adam and salvation by Jesus. That’s not fair, that’s not good. Your free will is more important to the Lord than forcing you into Heaven or the blessings of heaven.
Let’s keep reading Romans 5:
16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Romans 5.16-17, NIV)
The gift of God cannot be compared with the result of sin! One is forced on you by Adam’s failure, and one is a free gift, that verse 17 is very clear on: you have to receive it. It is not forced on you – you have to believe it and receive it. You have to choose life. That makes what Jesus did not the same as what Adam did, but so much greater!
Then the inclusionist will say, but look at verse 18. They love verse 18. It might be their favourite verse. Let’s read it:
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. (Romans 5.18 NIV)
“Can you see” this couple said to me, “this verse proves that all people are made righteous by Jesus”. If Adam condemned everyone, then Jesus justified everyone? No – that’s not what happened! The cross does not impose itself on you without your choice. You always can choose life or choose death. The cross opened up the choice of life. True life, abundant life. You have a choice – are you going to believe in Jesus’ work or reject it. To deny that choice is to reduce the free gift of God’s grace and make it a forceful action pushed on us without consent.
Your ability to make choices matters too much to God to force salvation on you, like Adam forced sin into your spirit! God loves you so much He gave His only begotten Son but He also loves you so much that you have to believe to benefit from it, He will not force it on you. God loves you too much to give you His grace without your consent. For God, no means no. He wants you to make a choice for Him, a choice for life, because that’s the nature of love – it lets you choose, it does not force itself on us.
For inclusionists the gospel is not good news to be believed, it’s an announcement that a God who does not care about consent has already secretly forced the new birth on us and all we need to do is find out about after the event. That is not love, that is not grace, and that does not make Jesus better than Adam!
In our next post we will look at the harm that inclusionism does to individuals and the church.
Ever felt harassed? The Greek word for harassed means literally to forget who you are. You are under so much pressure you don’t even remember who you are, you forget the basics. Ever acted in a way that you look at yourself and think “I don’t even recognize myself”, “I know better than this”, “This isn’t me! Or is it…”
Ever felt helpless? The Greek word for helpless means you are moved by something other than yourself. Ever felt like a sickness, a situation, the Covid is too much for you? Ever felt that the woman I saw in the park the other day with a Doberman – I wasn’t sure who was taking who for a walk. Ever felt like life is taking you for a walk rather than the other way around. Ever felt helpless before the storm.
I can tell you why you feel that way, and I can give you the solution. It’s actually really simple.
Let’s read the Word.
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. (Matthew 9.35 NIV)
Look at what is going on here. These people were being taught by Jesus! Jesus was their teacher! Some of the greatest Bible teachers in the world are friends of mine. I love teaching, and I love hearing good Bible teaching, but I bet no-one I have ever listened to could hold a candle to Jesus. I reckon Jesus was the best Bible teacher in all of history. I reckon these people were the best taught people ever. I reckon you could watch TBN and God TV for weeks and weeks and not be taught as well as these people who were taught personally by Jesus! These people were well taught. They had a great teacher.
In addition, Jesus proclaimed good news to them. That’s the ministry of an evangelist. I love great evangelists, I know several people who are precious evangelists winning tens of thousands of people to the Lord around the world. I love people who proclaim the good news. I love good evangelists. But again, I don’t reckon any of us have ever heard someone proclaim the good news as well as Jesus did to these people. These people were the best raught people in the universe and the best evangelised.
In addition, these people saw Jesus heal the sick. They saw Him heal every sickness and disease. That’s a whole lot of miracles.
You would think that these people, having had the best teaching in the world, the best preaching of the gospel in the world, having seen miracle after miracle after miracle, would be the most godly, most successful, most victorious people in the world, but they weren’t. Read on:
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9.36 NIV)
The crowds, even after the best teaching in the world, the best evangelism in the world, after seeing so many miracles, were still harassed and helpless. Why? They were missing a shepherd. The Greek word for shepherd is poimen, the word for pastor.
I meet so many people like this as I travel as a speaker, or through our TV lines, or who just contact me because the harassment is too much and the feeling of helplessness overwhelms them. And they are doubly confused because they hear great teaching, they watch Christian TV every day, they have been to great Bible Colleges, they have gone to great conferences, they have gone to big crusades, they have seen healings and miracles, so they think they should be successful and full of peace.
But the solution is not more teaching, they will not stop the harassment by more conferences, there is not a Bible College module that will end their feeling of helplessness. Christians are helpless and harassed not because of a lack of teaching, a lack of miracles, a lack of conferences. They are helpless and harassed because they do not have a pastor, they do not go to church, they are not part of a church. They are not being led to green grass and still waters. They are not being prepared a feast in the midst of their enemies, they are not in a place without lack because they do not go to church. It’s that simple.
If someone contacts me and starts sharing about being helpless and harassed, it won’t be long until I ask them “what is your pastor’s name and why are you not going to them” and always the answer is they do not have a pastor, they don’t really go to church. That is the problem. That is why they are helpless. That is why they are harassed. They need a pastor.
There are two kinds of people need to make a response to this post. If you are a Christian and are not being pastored, you are not part of a local church and being discipled in that church, then you need to make a change. And don’t say the words “virtual church” to me. Virtual church means virtual growth, virtual maturity, virtual fellowship and virtually no benefits. It is better than nothing, lockdown has forced us to adapt, but under normal circumstances you absolutely need to be out of bed, off the sofa, out of the house and assembling with the people of God.
Or stay harassed and helpless forever. Keep sliding away from your identity, keep doing and saying things you never thought you would do, and keep floating downstream with the dead fish rather than being in charge of your life and walking in victory. It’s your choice. But choose church, choose life!
And if you are in church and you love Christians and want to help them, then pray. Jesus told His disciples: 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9.37-38 NIV)
Pray for God to raise up workers. Not just teachers and evangelists, who are both great ministries doing great jobs, but pray for more pastors. More pastors mean more churches mean more workers mean a greater harvest!
In our first post on this topic, I explained what inclusionism is, and now we will hold it up to the truth of Scripture.
One of my favourite Scriptures is Deuteronomy 30.19 which says that God has set before us life and death and we can choose. We are told to choose life, but it is definitely seen as a choice. We have the power to choose life or choose death. You have the power to choose life or choose death. God has never and will never force us into the path of life.
This is the worst part of inclusionism – it presents a God who has forced us into the path of life. It denies the Biblical instruction to choose life and the loving, kind God who lets us choose life, and instead gives us a God who forces life on all of us. This destroys faith and harms people’s trust in God.
Ephesians 2.8-9 tells us we are saved by grace through faith. For many years, the church has struggled to grasp the role of grace, and praise God recently many people have been travelling the world and getting on media and sharing about the power of grace and there has been a grace awakening around the church. But inclusionism attacks and misrepresents salvation from the other side: it minimises the role of faith. But doing that makes the grace message equally unfruitful as legalism does.
In trying to exalt grace to the highest place, inclusionism forgets that we are saved, healed, blessed and succeed in life by grace through faith. When you teach that everyone was included in the resurrection of Jesus, that everyone is born born again, then you are ignoring the blessed truth that we need to choose life, we need to believe the gospel, we need to embrace God’s will for our life willingly.
God does not force His grace on anyone. Forced grace is not grace. Grace that was shoved into your life before you were even born is not grace. A God who will not respect a “no” for an answer is not a God of love.
Do you realize inclusionism presents a God who forces Himself on us and will absolutely ignore our choices, refuses to listen to our “no”, and will not ever wait for us to believe His Word? If you realize this then you will realize that inclusionism is absolutely incompatible with the idea that God is love. Inclusionism tells us “everyone is saved”, but the Biblical truth is this: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16.31).
Biblically, God has moved by grace at the cross, and now God waits us to respond by faith to His move. Our faith will then receive salvation from the grace. The gospel is presented so clearly in Scripture:
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10.8-13 NKJV)
Read that passage very carefully. You have to believe, you have to confess, you have to call on the name of the Lord, to be saved. It is not automatic, it is not done for us. All the payment is done for us, all the grace has been provided for us, but we have to believe to receive, it is not forced on us.
So, let’s go back to the beginning of this article. If grace is not forced on you, if life is not given to us without our request, without our consent, then you have to do what the Scripture says: choose life.
I really believe it is essential that I address the foolish and insidious nature of the doctrine of inclusionism. It has to be addressed and the Biblical truth has to be proclaimed. Before we go any further though and examine this idea, I have to explain what I am talking about.
Firstly, I need to say I believe the gospel is inclusive. Anyone can be saved – no matter their gender, race, previous religion and past. None of that is a barrier to what Jesus did at the cross. However, many things are good until you make an -ism out of them. Inclusion is the same, we all love inclusion, we love everyone, we love being included. We should include people. But if you start to make it an -ism, you distort it so badly and create a teaching that is more than just wrong, it is absolutely harmful to people. As a pastor, I have seen so many people harmed by inclusionism and I want to help people not harm them, so here are my thoughts on the matter.
So, let’s outline what inclusionism teaches. It’s not easy to explain, it’s not a simple system of belief, it is rather awkward and vague. Indeed, many people who teach inclusionism are – in my opinion – deliberately vague about how they teach it because they know how much it will shock people and deep down they know that it does not match the Scripture. But I will outline the key point.
Essentially, inclusionism is the belief that after the resurrection of Jesus everyone is saved. That when Jesus died on the cross, every human died with Him and when He was resurrected, every human was resurrected with Him. So every human subsequent to the resurrection of Jesus was born saved! Or to say it another way – every person was born born again.
So, everyone right now on the planet, according to inclusionism, is born again. Every atheist, every Muslim, every Buddhist. Everyone. Everyone is already righteous, everyone is saved, everyone is in union with Christ, everyone has a living spirit. Through the complete work of Christ, everyone is a recipient of God’s grace whether they believe it or not and whether they like it or not.
So every inclusionist is a universalist – they believe everyone is saved. In inclusionism you do not need faith to be saved, you just are.
That is what inclusionism is, and in my next post, we will look at it in the light of Scripture, specifically the freedom that God has given all of us to choose life.