John MacArthur Tells Christians: Don’t Fornicate With The World

The church, if it is to be anything, it is to be absolutely distinct from the culture, absolutely distinct from the world, absolutely distinct from unbelievers,” said prominent author and evangelical pastor John MacArthur.

Speaking from the pulpit to thousands of fellow pastors at the Shepherds’ Conference, MacArthur underscored the biblical command not to be yoked with nonbelievers and to be a separated people.

“Paul demands a total break,” he said Wednesday at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., citing the apostle in the New Testament.

MacArthur, author of Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World?, grew up in a fundamentalist environment. At that time, the word “separation” was a big word on the evangelical word list. Fundamentalists built high walls in terms of church conduct and relationships, he explained. If those walls or lines were crossed, the violator was vilified.

Even MacArthur was a victim of the highly separatistic fundamentalism. He recalled being stripped off of about 55 radio stations in one day when they felt he was behaving outside their parameters.

The fundamentalism back then was cruel and unbiblical, he said. And it was so cannibalistic that it consumed itself and disappeared.

But MacArthur feels there needs to be a “biblical (not traditional) understanding of separation” among Christians today.

“I think we are very much aware of the fact that there is a distinction between being a Christian and being a non-Christian,” he said. “I don’t think much of evangelicalism understands that. I think the line between a true Christian and a false Christian is significantly blurred.”

As Apostle Paul made clear to the Corinthians, MacArthur noted, Christians cannot live in both worlds – the world of righteousness and the world of unrighteousness, light and darkness, Christ and Satan.

Two millennia ago there were believers who blended Christianity and paganism with the intent of trying to make Christians more palatable and popular and less narrow, offensive and exclusive. It’s the same picture today as churches “import all the styles of the culture into the holy life of the church,” MacArthur lamented.

Such blending simply validates the culture and confuses the church, he pointed out.

“There’s so many of these, whatever they are, they’re not churches. They’re events on a Sunday with a standup speaker who’s got charisma. They don’t understand the church,” he said. “I’m not against evangelism but don’t call it a church.”

A church, he defined, is a group of people who have come to Christ and separated themselves from Satan’s system. It’s a redeemed community of believers, he added, and not an event open “to anybody and everybody where you accommodate the world at the expense of the spiritual life and maturity of the church.”

“You can’t marry the church to the culture,” he said. “Don’t fornicate with the world.”

Separating from the culture and from nonbelievers does not mean isolating oneself, MacArthur made clear. When Paul called for a clean break he did not say to avoid nonbelievers or to not share the gospel with them.

Rather, he called the church to be “an absolutely separate entity from anything that defines or describes the belief system or the behavior of the society,” the popular author stressed.

MacArthur went on to denounce interfaith or multifaith efforts.

“The issue here specifically relates to harnessing believers and unbelievers in any common religious spiritual enterprise,” he explained. “True Christians have to separate from all of that … all matters related to ministry, related to Scripture, related to doctrine and related to worship, right?

“Those who do not confess Christ truly, do not affirm the true Gospel have no place participating in any enterprise that intends to advance God’s purpose and God’s kingdom in the world.”

At the end of his hour-long message, MacArthur explained to pastors that he simply wants to be obedient to God’s word and enjoy His favor.

“I’m not by nature this narrow-minded kind of separatist who wants to chew up and spit out everybody who crosses the lines that I draw,” he said. “But I just want above all things in my life to obey the Word of God.”

“How ungrateful would I be to the God who has taken up residence in me … and in His church … and who has literally poured out endless promises to flagrantly disobey?” he noted.

“He called you to Himself. …What do you owe in return? You owe obedience to Him and honor.”

The Shepherds’ Conference kicked off on Wednesday, March 3, and will continue through to Sunday, March 7, 2010.

By Lillian Kwon

Friday, March 5, 2010

Christian Post

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Ecumenical Jihad – John MacArthur

According to some prominent evangelical leaders, we’ve been fighting the wrong war. Protestants, Catholics, and other religious people should quit bickering over issues of heaven and hell and unite in the culture war.

Wait a minute…what’s wrong with this picture?

Sermon excerpt:

A woman once wrote to me, she said she thought Christianity was fine but frankly she was in to Zen. And she liked to listen to Christian radio, she says, because quote: “The music soothed…smoothed out her karma.” But she said I interrupted that karma because I am too narrow minded and too minded toward other religions. So she wrote to encourage me to be more broad minded. And she said, here’s a quote, “God doesn’t care what you believe as long as you believe. God doesn’t care what you believe, she says, as long as you’re sincere.” She went on to say, “All religions…all religions lead ultimately to the same reality, it doesn’t matter which road you take.” That’s pretty reflective of our generation, isn’t it? That’s a popular and pervasive lie that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something and as long as you’re sincere because everybody’s going to get to the same end any way. That’s not what Matthew 7 records that Jesus said, He said, “The gate is wide and the way is broad,” that’s the religious road that most people are on, “and it leads to destruction.” And in Proverbs 14:12 it says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death.”

Now I understand it’s political correct to have this kind of lattitude. I understand it’s political correct to not say your religion is right, and your faith is right and you believe right and everybody else is wrong. That doesn’t fly today, does it, in a post-modern world disinterested in truth? The great goal of post-modernism is that everybody is accepted no matter what it is that they believe and they certainly have a right to believe that. And who are you to come along and say you have the truth? We all know there is no such thing as real truth, it’s only a matter of preference, whatever makes you feel better is fine for you to believe. But don’t tell me it’s the truth and everything other than that is error. That’s not popular.

Now that kind of indiscriminate view of truth, or a view of non-truth is so pervasive that it is literally infecting evangelicalism and people are now saying that there are folks, as I said earlier, and all over the world and tucked off into little corners who never will know the truth and God will take them to heaven any way. And there is a book, I referred to this when I was teaching in Italy a couple of weeks ago called Ecumenical Jihad. Jihad is a holy war and the writer of the book, Peter Kreeft is a Catholic apologist, is saying that if we’re going to win the holy war which is the war for the culture, if we’re ever going to get the world to be more moral and get the world to be behaving itself better and end the wars and the crime and all the rest and get a moral world, we’ve got to fight that holy war together so we have to get ecumenical, so we all have to get together. We can’t do it alone.

So he says in the book, we have to recognize that we’re really all God’s children, we’re all going to…down the same road to the same heaven. And he writes the book in a very clever way. It opens up with him surfing in California, I guess, and he gets turned over by a wave and he hits bottom and has an out-of-body experience. He goes to heaven. And when he goes to heaven he’s amazed to find out when he arrives in heaven he sees Buddha, in whom anybody would recognize, I suppose, he’s a rather unique looking character. No doubt he didn’t have too long to discover who this was and he meets Buddha and he says, “What in the world are you doing in heaven?” I mean, Buddhism is not Christianity. What are you doing? He says, “Well, you know, I was in to contemplation, I was into peace and I was into tranquility and what I didn’t know about Jesus God sorted out when I arrived.”

And then he went a little further and he ran into Mohammed and he said, “What are you doing here? You just believe Jesus is another one of the prophets like Mohammed. What are you doing here, how did you get here?” And he said, “Well, we were into morality.” In fact, Kreeft says in his book that Muslims are better Christians than Christians because they don’t fornicate, adulterate, commit homosexuality and other things…it’s against their standards so they tend to do it less than people who claim to be Christians do and so they’re actually better Christians than Christians. And Mohammed says…What I didn’t know about Jesus, God straightened out when I arrived.

And he goes a little further and he comes across some Jews who didn’t believe in Jesus either but they were worshiping the true God, the God of the Old Testament and that was good enough for God because they were worshiping Him, the true God. And what they didn’t know about Jesus they found out when they arrived in heaven.

And then he ran into a group of atheists. And the atheists were searching for truth, and since God is truth they were really searching for God and that was good enough for God. So they were there, too.

And Peter Kreeft’s point is that look, when we get to heaven we’re going to find each other there anyway, why are we fighting down here? Let’s all get together and win this war.

Well, toward the end of the book, I’m going through it rather rapidly, he says, “Now we need a general, we need a great leader to lead us if we’re going to fight this war…getting all the Muslims, and all the Buddhists, and all the Jews, and all the atheists, and everybody else together. And there were others as well. And we’re going to all get together, we have to have a leader.” He says, “There’s one great leader, the great winner of unwinnable wars.” He calls him, “The Pope, and he’ll be our leader and we have to have an internal power and so we all have to devout ourselves to Mary. Mary is the great spiritual power, the great spiritual source. So we’ll all get together, we’ll all worship Mary, we’ll have the Pope as our leader. We’ll all embrace and we’ll win the jihad.”

And you say, “Well, that’s pretty bizarre stuff?” Well what is even more amazing is on the back is an endorsement and the endorsement is by Chuck Colson and this is what it says, on the back of the book. “Peter Kreeft,” the writer, “is one of the premier apologists in America today, one of our most valiant, intellectual warriors,” end quote.

Peter Kreeft is a deceiver and a liar. He’s not one of our most or premier apologist. And even more shocking was a quote from J.I. Packer who talks about the book and then asks at the end of his little blurb, “What if he is right?”

Are we asking that question? Is he right? Is everybody going to heaven no matter what they believe?

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A Clarion Call to the Modern Church

More than a decade ago, John MacArthur called modern churches to return to sound doctrine — we need to hear that call again.

Christians historically have understood that their calling is to be in the world but not of the world. As Os Guinness pointed out in a perceptive series of articles on the church-growth movement, traditional evangelicalism not only resisted worldly influences, but also used to stress “cognitive defiance” of the world spirit.

Now, however, “the world has become so powerful, pervasive, and appealing that the traditional stance of cognitive defiance has become rare and almost unthinkable” (“Recycling the Compromise of Liberalism,”  Tabletalk [May 1992], 51.). At some point, evangelicals decided to make friends with the world.

Guinness pointed out that although we are called to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-18), many Christians have reversed the formula, becoming of the world while not really being in the world. They did this by allowing cable television, VCRs, radio, and other forms of communication to infuse worldly values into their thinking, while isolating themselves from any personal involvement with the people in the world who most desperately need the gospel.

“Evangelicals are now outdoing the liberals as the supreme religious modernizers — and compromisers — of today,” Guinness writes (Ibid.). The market-driven philosophy so popular among modern evangelicals is nothing more than “a recycling of the error of classical liberalism” (Ibid.).

The reason most evangelicals were caught unaware by modernism a hundred years ago is that liberals rose from within evangelical ranks, used evangelical vocabulary, and gained acceptance through relentless appeals for peace and tolerance. New church-growth movements are following precisely the same course, and that tactic has taken evangelicals by surprise once again.

Most of the market-driven megachurches insist they would never compromise doctrine. They are attractive to evangelicals precisely because they claimed to be as orthodox in their doctrine as they are unorthodox in their methodology. Multitudes have been sufficiently reassured by such promises and have simply abandoned their critical faculties, thus increasing their vulnerability. Unfortunately, real discernment is in short supply among modern evangelicals.

Like the modernists a century ago, churches in the user-friendly movement have decided that doctrine is divisive — peace is more important than sound teaching. Wanting to appeal to a modern age, they have framed their message as a friendly, agreeable, and relevant dialogue, rather than as a confrontation with the gospel of Christ.

The relevant issues of our modern age–radicalism, abortion, feminism, homosexuality, and other politically charged moral issues  — pose the most obvious threat for user-friendly churches. Their undefined theology and seeker-sensitive philosophy do not permit them to take a firm biblical stance on such matters, because the moment they defy the spirit of the age, they forfeit their marketing appeal. They are therefore forced to keep silent or capitulate. Either way, they compromise the truth.

If a church is not even willing to take a firm stand against abortion, how will it deal with the erosion of crucial doctrine? If a church lacks discernment enough to condemn such overt errors as homosexuality or feminism, how will it handle a subtle attack on doctrinal integrity?

Many evangelical churches have wholly abandoned strong preaching about hell, sin, and the wrath of God. They claim God’s primary attribute is benevolence–one that overrides and supersedes His holiness, justice, wrath, and sovereignty.

Rather than addressing humanity’s greatest need — forgiveness of sins — modern sermons deal with contemporary topics, psychological issues (depression, eating disorders, self-image), personal relationships, motivational themes, and other matters a la mode.

The market-driven philosophy of user-friendly churches does not easily permit them to take firm enough doctrinal positions to oppose false teaching. Their outlook on leadership drives them to hire marketers who can sell rather than biblically qualified pastors who can teach. Their approach to ministry is so undoctrinal that they cannot educate their people against subtle errors. Their avoidance of controversy puts them in a position where they cannot oppose false teaching that masquerades as evangelicalism.

In fact, the new trends in theology seem ideally suited to the user-friendly philosophy. Why would the user-friendly church oppose such doctrines?

But oppose them we must, if we are to remain true to God’s Word and maintain a gospel witness. Pragmatic approaches to ministry do not hold answers to the dangers confronting biblical Christianity today.  Pragmatism promises bigger churches, more people, and a living church, but it is really carnal wisdom — spiritually bankrupt and contrary to the Word of God.

Marketing techniques offer nothing but the promise of popularity and worldly approval. They certainly offer no safeguard against the dangers of the down-grade toward spiritual ruin.

The only hope is a return to Scripture and sound doctrine. We evangelicals desperately need to recover our determination to be biblical, our refusal to comply with the world, our willingness to defend what we believe, and our courage to defy false teaching. Unless we collectively awaken to the current dangers that threaten our faith, the adversary will attack us from within, and we will not be able to withstand.

Yet, surely, there must be some who will fling aside the dastard love of peace, and speak out for our Lord, and for his truth. A craven spirit is upon many, and their tongues are paralyzed. Oh, for an outburst of true faith and holy zeal!

(Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

End Notes

  • Adapted from Ashamed of the Gospel, © 1993 by John MacArthur.
  • Grace to You (Wednesday, February 15, 2006)

Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World – Expanded edition © 1993

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The Jesus You Can’t Ignore

by Mike Ratliff

While I was on my Christmas break, I bought and began reading John MacArthur’s 2008 book The Jesus You Can’t Ignore. As I stated in another post, I was in the process of rereading the biography of William Tyndale by David Daniell when I bought and began reading this book. It was as if God was showing me through the persecuted life of William Tyndale that he “got it” about the life of Jesus Christ and recognized that, no matter the cost, he had to obey Him in all things. He took on the entrenched religious system of the Roman Catholic Church and the state church of Henry VIII contemporaneous with the Reformation begun with Martin Luther. Then, as I began reading The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, God showed me that our example is indeed Christ and if we are ministering according to the seeker sensitive, politically correct, Church growth methods then we are actually being friends of this world and not obedient to our true calling to walk and serve according to our Lord’s perfect example.

John MacArthur states in the Prologue:

The way Jesus dealt with His adversaries is in fact a serious rebuke to the church of our generation. We need to pay more careful attention to how Jesus dealt with false teachers, what He thought of religious error, how He defended the truth, whom He commended and whom He condemned—and how little He actually fit the gentle stereotype that is so often imposed on Him today.

Furthermore, His attitude toward false doctrine should also be ours. We cannot be men-pleasers and servants of Christ at the same time.

Continue reading at Possessing The Treasure

Related Posts: Was Jesus Always ‘Nice’?

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