“I am not come to call righteous [persons], but sinful [ones] to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)
There are many Christian heretical groups that teach false doctrine under the veil of “love” and “tolerance”. Such groups present a christ without the cross, the wide gate and the broad way, therefore many go to them, as they want religion without the stumbling block of the cross (see Galatians 5:11). Often, when we warn people concerning such groups, we hear the following objection: “But such groups are gathering the youth in a religious context; is it not better for those young people to go to such religious groups, however heretical they may be, instead of going to bad places like night clubs etc? At least, in these groups they are introduced to God, and during time they may see the truth and come to God…”
I agree that those people may be led to Christ anywhere they are, even if they are Muslims in a mosque, or even if they are in a night club. Nothing is impossible for God when He turns someone’s heart to Him; He may use any context and any condition to reach that person. But such heretical religious groups make it more difficult for those people to come to Christ than all the sinful places. I actually prefer if people are openly living in sin, rather than living in the context of a Church life with self-righteousness. It was clear in the Lord’s words that only the sinners who admit their sinfulness will be saved, while those who think they are good people will not be saved: “I am not come to call righteous [persons], but sinful [ones] to repentance.” (Luke 5:32) Those who honestly and openly live in sin may repent and be saved, while it is impossible for people who think they are righteous to repent. Read this: Not the Righteous, but Sinners. Such heretical groups have a wrong doctrine of justification, so those who follow them learn that they are good with God because they are in those groups and they believe what those groups believe… The choir of such a group (an Ecumenical group) was once singing: “Your love is so great, O God, it cannot be paid back by anything but love“… Actually, the love of God cannot be paid back… even our love is a gift of His love, so it cannot pay back His love… The members of this heretical group believe they can do something good to God in return to all what He did for them, and thus they think they are righteous as long as they keep doing those good things with what they call “love”… Who can convince such people that they are in error? Anyone who tries to convince them that they are in error will be accused of hating “love” and “tolerance” and of working against them; they will consider him the heretic who is trying to lead them away from the orthodox Faith in which they think they are… Thus they seek the popular idea of the “loving god” who is not Holy, because they avoid the stumbling block of the cross. They want a christ without the cross, a god without a righteous wrath on sinners… Thus they have a false doctrine of justification, the justification by works… Even faith for them is a work, i.e. a merit in them, but in fact real faith is the empty hands that receive the Gift of God (Grace) once for all, and receive the graces of God each day, receiving from Christ’s fullness grace upon grace (see John 1:16). So those heretical groups, under the veil of Evangelicalism or orthodoxy, are actually going back to Rome (to Roman Catholicism)… Such people who think they have some righteousness in themselves will not be able to repent, as the Lord said. This self-righteousness is the thing that the Lord hated the most, because it goes hand in hand with hypocrisy: the one who tries to please God by his efforts and merits will refuse to come to the light and to confess his total sinfulness to God and his total inability to save himself or even to cooperate in saving himself, and he will always try to look good before people. This is hypocrisy; the Lord explained that this is the leaven of the Pharisees: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).
The same problem is in the person who makes the above mentioned objection that those people would better go to those heretical groups than go to bad places. First, the objector believes that if we, humans, present the Word of God with better techniques and better ways, then that will help people be born of God and repent. This is a self-righteous idea, because it sees man as good and only affected by sin, and not totally dead in sin. No human method can make anyone be born of God, because the new birth is the Grace of God alone. The objector falsely thinks a religious context will be more efficient on the sinner than a sinful place, and he falsely thinks that the more we present the Gospel in user-friendly ways the more it will be efficient. A gospel presented in a worldly way often (if not always) is not the true Gospel at all, because the true Gospel is foolishness for the world and has in it the stumbling block of the cross (see Galatians 5:11); the flesh and the world do not accept this Gospel; they prefer entertainment and the self-righteous “gospel” of religions. The Gospel is the narrow gate and the narrow way; they prefer the large gate and the broad way; they prefer to enter Heaven with their sins… They want Heaven, but at the same time they don’t want to lose the world… This is impossible: you should choose between Heaven and the world, between righteousness and unrighteousness. So if you truly present the true Gospel, don’t expect the entertainment seekers to accept it. You have to choose: either you will have entertainment seekers as your audience, or you will lose many from your local church and in principle you will only have a little group that seeks God’s Righteousness alone… Besides this, the objector thinks those who go to religious groups, however heretical they may be, are better than those who go to bad places… This is again a self-righteous idea, because all humans are equally sinners and all are equally depraved and dead in their sins, whether they are in the Church 24h/day and 7 days/week or they are in sinful places. The Pharisees who passed long time in the temple worshiping God were not better than the tax collectors who worked with the enemies and robbed the people. Even worse: those who were not in the temple 24h/24 and were considered by the self-righteous as unworthy of the Kingdom of God will enter the Kingdom before the self-righteous, while the self-righteous will never enter: “Jesus says to them, Verily I say unto you that the tax-gatherers and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:31); “There shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves cast out.” (Luke 13:28)
So I have an important question to the objector concerning his/her objection; think about it well. Open Luke 15:11-32, and read the parable of the prodigal son; the Lord said this parable for the reason that Luke explained in the first verses of that chapter: “And all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near to him to hear him; and the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, This [man] receives sinners and eats with them. And he spoke to them this parable” (Luke 15:1-3). So the parable is exactly about the topic which we are studying. My question is: Who was better? The prodigal son, or the son who never left his father’s house? Think about this well. The son who left had nothing good in himself, and he admitted it and returned, while the brother who stayed at home, who also had nothing good in himself by the way, only judged his brother as a sinner, but he thought he himself was good with his father because he stayed at home and didn’t go away… The ones who think they are good if they go to any religious context are like that brother who stayed at home and never left… But staying in the temple does not make you a saint… God approves of the sinner who admits his total sinfulness, and not of the sinner who thinks he is righteous because of certain religious customs or rules that he follows faithfully. The self-righteous thinks he is righteous because he stays in so-called “good” places, keeping some religious discipline and staying in “the house of his father”… These people deceive themselves.
Finally, I want to give a short brotherly advice for those who do not know which local church they should join: First, remember that the goal is not to join a church as much as it is to join it as a real child of God. So first make sure the Lord knows you as His child, i.e. make sure you are born of God and you have the mind of Christ. Study God’s Word prayerfully in your privacy and walk in His truth. Also find true biblical believers and/or spiritual servants in your region, and join them and study the Word with them. To know who are the true biblical believers, or at least to have a good awareness about whom you are joining, you need to have the heavenly wisdom and discernment which only the true children of God have by His Spirit. If you walk in His truth according to His Word, the Lord will lead your steps. Those biblical brothers and sisters whom you will find will help you join a biblical church (i.e. assembly of believers) which has the true biblical doctrines. If you can’t find such believers in your region for some time, it is not wrong to stay in the church in which you were baptized, even if it is heretical or in apostasy now, on the condition that you make sure to work for the reformation of that church according to what you learn from God’s Word. A biblical church has the true Gospel. The true Gospel is explained in many places on this blog, especially in the following articles: HOW TO BE JUSTIFIED BEFORE GOD?; How to be saved?; The relation between justification and sanctification.
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ