It seems to me that a very dangerous theological trend has developed among Christians of late, and that is this idea that we are to just love and accept everybody where they are and as they are and incorporate them into church fellowship without making them feel guilty for their lives of open sin. But I believe that if we are not careful, we will be loving people to death…, and accepting them in their lost condition without offering them the deliverance from bondage Jesus so wants them to have. Indeed, He lived and ministered and died to save His people from their sins, not in them.
I truly believe that we must not only love and accept the sinner where he is, but we must go beyond that to introduce him to the transforming power of God who is mighty to save, the whosoevers, from whatsoever, even to the uttermost.
On the subject of transformation, the Scriptures speak of two very different forms. In 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 we read, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
Here we are warned of false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. Let us not forget the words of Jesus, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 7:21)
We are told here that even Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Light represents truth, but Satan presents a spurious message, a fatal sophistry.
“We do not realize how untiring are Satan’s efforts to sap our spirituality. He is working mightily that the people of God may be only half converted. Then self will swell to large proportions, and there will be no revelation to the world of the transforming power of God. If this power does not rest upon God’s people and move them to sanctified action, they cannot do the work in the earth that has been shown us must be done. Without this power, they will not realize their responsibility as his representatives in a world of unbelief.” (RH 6/19/13)
This text speaks of his (Satan’s) ministers, transforming themselves as ministers of righteousness. These representatives, or workers, or messengers present themselves as bearing glad tidings…, of great joy…, messages of: “Saved by grace, (cheap grace), not by works…”, “License to continue in sin, for you are loved and accepted just as you are”, “Sin and live…” for “the wages of sin is not death, because the gift of God is eternal life if you just ask for it…”, “thou shalt not surely die”…
Such messages present a form of godliness denying the power thereof. (2 Timothy 3:5) They actually have their origin with the deception of Satan in the Garden of Eden. And of these messengers it is stated in the above text, “whose and shall be according to their works.” To such who love not the truth of the transforming power of God, we are told that God himself will send strong delusion. (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12) He gives to every man in accordance with the desires of his heart. If he loves not truth, he is free to receive delusion. But with every choice man makes comes consequences, and/or rewards.
Within the church today are efforts encouraging the church to change its position regarding open sin, rather than encouraging the sinner to change his behavior. We increasingly hear the plea to reach out with love and understanding to those involved in behavior explicitly condemned in the Bible, as caring Christians to make special efforts to include them as warmly loved and appreciated “members” of the church family, even though they be living in open sin; to surround them with loving support and acceptance, demonstrating patience and tolerance for them in their open disregard of the Word of God.
True, the church is to open its doors to anyone who wants to worship. It should present a warm, inviting atmosphere for those seeking respite from this troublous world. The key word, however, in the above scenario is “Members”, for with membership comes the right to participate in the decision making process of the church, to asume church office and even church leadership.
The teaching of “Love and Acceptance” is actually good doctrine, as long as it is taught from the true Biblical perspective, and is not “cheap love and cheap acceptance” which only leads one into the trap of the dangerous doctrine of “cheap grace”.
A demonstration of love and unconditional acceptance towards someone can very easily lapse into indulgence. If our “love and acceptance” leaves one feeling complacent in his sin, then our love is not really love at all, but rather a placating of sin. God’s love, if accepted, generates a responding love. That true love in return results in obedience, for Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
Our responsibility as Christians is to take the lead in demonstrating unconditional love and compassion, not condemning one for orientation or tendencies over which he has no control. However, we must be careful not to ecourage one to accept that which is less than God’s will for his life. We are to support such a person with prayer and understanding as he seeks to follow God’s plan for his life, through his seeking of God’s grace, his divine transforming power.
Let us explore the Biblical concept of “Love” and “Acceptance” as opposed to the “cheap love and cheap acceptance” that is being urged upon the church today.
Matthew 11:28-30 – In unconditional love Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
“The promise is, ‘Come unto me, …and I will give you rest.’ [The question is,] Have you come to him, renouncing all your make-shifts, all your unbelief, all your self-righteousness? Come just as you are, weak, helpless, and ready to die. What is the ‘rest’ promised? — It is the consciousness that God is true, that he never disappoints the one who comes to him. His pardon is full and free, and his acceptance means rest to the soul, rest in his love.” (RH 4/25/1899)
One “Christian” pamphlet left with me at a world church conference in St. Louis proclaimed, “Gay Christians are wholly loved and accepted by God,” using this Matthew 1:28 as the reference for their conclusion.
Now, we know of God’s unconditional love for the sinner from such passages as, Romans 5:8-10, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. …For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”
However, note in the following references from one of my favorite Bible scholars and commentators that acceptance with God is not unconditional, but rather conditional:
“Let not anything rob your soul of peace, of restfulness, of the assurance that you are accepted just now. Claim every promise; all are yours if you will comply with the prescribed terms. Entire self-surrender, an acceptance of Christ’s ways, is the secret of perfect rest in His love.
“The abiding rest–who has it? That rest is found when all self-justification, all reasoning from a selfish standpoint, is put away. Entire self-surrender, an acceptance of His ways, is the secret of perfect rest in His love. We must learn His meekness and lowliness before we experience the fulfillment of the promise ‘Ye shall find rest unto your souls’ (Matt. 11:29). It is by learning the habits of Christ that self becomes transformed–by taking His yoke, and then submitting to learn.
“Giving up the life to Christ means much more than many suppose. God calls for an entire surrender. We cannot receive the Holy Spirit until we break every yoke that binds us to our objectionable traits of character. These are the great hindrances to wearing Christ’s yoke and learning of Him. There is no one who has not much to learn. All must be trained by Christ.” (RH 4/25/1899)
In the case of Abel, he “came with the blood that pointed to the Lamb of God. He came as a sinner, confessing himself lost; his only hope was the unmerited love of God. The sense of need, the recognition of our poverty and sin, is the very first condition of acceptance with God. ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ Matt. 5:3” (COL 152.1)
It was to “the penitent thief [that] came the perfect peace of acceptance with God.” (Conflict & Courage 326.5; Sons & Daughters of God 250.4)
“There is hope for the penitent, …in Jesus every one who longs for help and acceptance may find deliverance and peace.” (GospelWorkers 213.3)
“The religion of Christ means more than the forgiveness of sin; it means taking away our sins, and filling the vacuum with the graces of the Holy Spirit. It means divine illumination, rejoicing in God. It means a heart emptied of self, and blessed with the abiding presence of Christ. When Christ reigns in the soul, there is purity, freedom from sin. The glory, the fullness, the completeness of the gospel plan is fulfilled in the life. The acceptance of the Saviour brings a glow of perfect peace, perfect love, perfect assurance. The beauty and fragrance of the character of Christ revealed in the life testifies that God has indeed sent His Son into the world to be its Saviour…” (Saviour from sin, I might add…) (Lift Him Up, 1988)
Warning: “‘If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered, and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.’ (John 15:6)
“Why do not these words make men afraid to sin against God? There are many today who, though professing Christians, are not one with Christ. They are drifiting hither and thither. May God pity them. Unless help from above reaches them, they will be lost, eternally lost.
“The members of our churches need to be converted, that they may understand what the love of Jesus means,–the love that He revealed in His life of meekness and lowliness. Profession without practice is of no value.
“‘If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.’ (vss. 7,8) Fruit-bearing, then, is the condition of discipleship. What is the fruit that is to be borne? –Purity of character, unselfish deeds, Christlike words. Those who do not bear this fruit, those whose lives do not reveal the tenderness of Christ, are not accepted as representatives of God.” (Australasian Union Conference Record, 11/15/1903 Words of Counsel)
“…Many have no assurance of acceptance with [God]. They have forfeited, and are continuing to forfeit, the conditions upon which acceptance is based. When weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, they are found wanting; for they love self; Christian principle is away down in the scale, and their profession of knowing Christ is a deception.” (The Southern Watchman 6/04/1903)
“…Let none complain that they have not the assurance of the love of God, that they cannot obtain the evidence of their acceptance with him. Let them diligently search the Scriptures, and see if they are following the example of their Lord. …We need to practice close self-examination, to see what we are cherishing in ourselves that will grieve the Spirit of God…
“The easy position so pleasing to the carnal heart is, that Christ has done all, that personal striving is unnecessary, and would be an evidence of unbelief. But the Bible tells us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Self-complacency will never save us. Those who imagine that because Christ has done all that is necessary in the way of merit there remains nothing for them to do in the way of complying with the conditions, are deceiving their own souls…
The servants of Christ have a sacred work. They must copy his character and his ways and plans of reaching men. God does not want them to labor with their own finite power, but in his strength; he wants them to represent to the world, in their own characters, the Saviour’s purity, benevolence, and love….” (RH 12/22/1885)
“Having complied with the word of God, do not depend on your feelings for evidence of acceptance with God. ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ (Hebrews 11:1) If you have complied with the conditions, believe God, whether or not you feel any different. Christ declared, ‘If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.’ Let all who understand the abiding claims of the law of God, yield implicit obedience to every requirement given in the Word.” (RH 2/7/1957?)
“We must study, and copy, and follow the Lord Jesus Christ; then we shall bring the loveliness of his character into our own life, and weave his beauty into our daily words and actions. Thus we shall stand before God with acceptance, and win back by conflict with the principalities of darkness, the power of self-control, and the love of God that Adam lost in the fall. Through Christ we may possess the spirit of love and obedience to the commands of God. Through his merits it may be restored in our fallen natures.” (ST 12/22/1887)
“We are not to do something in order to purchase our entrance into heaven; for the Lord gives us heaven through the merit of Jesus Christ, and not through any merit of our own. Good works are the result of faith and love… Every one is under bonds to God to manifest obedience to all his commandments, relying fully upon the righteousness of Christ for his acceptance with God.
Accepting the grace of Christ, we are to live to the honor and glory of God, keeping the commandments at any sacrifice to ourselves. ‘There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.'” (ST 5/30/1895)
“Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
“Here is a promise to us on condition of obedience. If we will come out from the world, and be separate, and touch not the unclean he will receive us. Here are the conditions of our acceptance with God. We have something to do ourselves. Here is a work for us. We are to show our separation from the world. The friendship of the world is enmity with God. It is impossible for us to be friends of the world and yet be in union with Christ. But what does this mean: to be friends of the world? It is to unite hands with them, to enjoy what they enjoy, to love that which they love, to seek for pleasure, to seek for gratification, to follow our own inclinations. We do not in following inclination have our affections upon God; we are loving and serving ourselves. But here is a grand promise: ‘Come out from among them and be ye separate.’ Separate from what? The inclinations of the world, their tastes, their habits; the fashions, the pride, and the customs of the world. ‘Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.’ In making this move, in showing that we are not in harmony with the world, the promise of God is ours. He does not say perhaps I will receive you; but, ‘I will receive you.’ It is a positive promise. You have a surety that you will be accepted of God. Then in separating from the world you connect yourself with God; you become a member of the royal family; you become sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty; you are children of the heavenly King; adopted into his family, and have a hold from above; united with the infinite God whose arm moves the world. What an exalted privilege is this to be thus favored, thus honored of God; to be called sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty…” (A sermon preached in Battle Creek, Mich., June 19, 1877; ST 1/31/1878)
In our next segment I want to elaborate on what it means to be adopted as sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. Suffice it to say for now: The love of God towards the sinner is truly unconditional. However, acceptance with Him is not. It is conditional, conditional upon an entire surrender of the will to His transforming power. If we love God and hate sin, this is not bad news, and we should not be ashamed to share it.
And how does this relate to us as church members? We, too, are to show unconditional love to those living in open sin. But accepting them into church membership must be conditional upon penitence, and a willingness to be cleansed, transformed, into the image of Christ. As John the Baptist put it, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matthew 3:8) (To Be continued … )
This article is by “Victor J Adamson”/Ron Woolsey