5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. – Pro 3:5-6 NASB
The Big Wedding
I heard a story a few years back about a very unusual wedding. It was a big storybook wedding with the white wedding dress and all the groomsmen and the bridesmaids and people throwing rice as the happy couple left the church to get into their limo. Just as they got in, the husband turned to the wife and said, “I know we just had a big wedding and you think you’re my wife. But I won’t really know if you’re my wife until the end of our lives, when you’ve proven by your actions that you have been faithful and true and genuinely virtuous. Only then will I know if you are truly my wife.”
It reminds me of one of my favorite Motown songs:
This will be
A temporary love
If you please me
I won’t toss you out
This will be
A love that measures up for me, oh oh oh
What kind of horrible husband is this? Marriage is a commitment of love up front to be faithful to each other through thick and thin. No one in their right mind would ever agree that this husband is correct about the nature of marriage. We would all rightly say that he is a monster, a horrible ass who knows nothing at all about what marriage is really about.
Yet this is the exact script that many people want to write onto God’s relationship with us. It’s as if they expect God to hold us all to a higher standard than He Himself holds. God expects us to be faithful and true, but He does not have the slightest intention of being faithful and true to us. He sent His Son to die for our sins, to be our savior, but PSYCHE! Not really! He’s not exactly sure about His commitment to save you unless your degree of progressive sanctification measures up to His expectations. If not, then you were never “saved”. This is such blatant Christless crossless works salvation that I can’t believe that anyone thinks this is even Christianity at all.
Christianity as it is generally taught is the greatest bait and switch scam that ever appeared on earth. It promises salvation and forgiveness of sins and eternal life, but then it turns around and predicates it upon “repentance” and “sanctification” and pretends to have it somehow jive with John 3:16 and the writings of Paul on salvation by faith alone through grace alone. You’ll never hear Romans 5:8 or 1 John 4:10. So-called “pastors” get up in the pulpit week in and week out teaching this faith-killing bait-and-switch bilge that completely destroys people’s confidence in the power of Jesus’ blood to save us.
I’ll save you – Maybe!
Now, if you believe that God is capricious and doesn’t really save you unless you are good enough, (even though salvation is supposed to address the problem of not being good enough,) then how are you supposed to trust in Him with all your heart? That idea means that you would HAVE to lean on your own understanding. This is an unfaithful God, a God like the husband who won’t commit to the marriage until all is done and his wife’s faithfulness has been proven. I would posit that it is in fact horrible and immoral and idolatrous to trust such a God. It’s like trusting a mob boss – by definition he’s a criminal and a murderer. What would ever be there to stop the mob boss from turning on you?
Don’t you ever wonder about these minions in the movies who are loyal to an evil linchpin? You know that on a whim they’ll just turn and kill someone near them for fun. Why would you trust them? But if God promises to save you because you are sinful, and then discovers you are sinful and therefore disowns you, how is that trustworthy? It means God makes this solemn, highest, and most costly promise, and then at the first difficulty, reneges on His promise. Is that the kind of God you would trust?
I just watched a video of a guy talking about why youth are leaving the church in droves. And he was giving these conditional promise kinds of answers. He actually made fun of the idea that you could believe very simply in Jesus and be saved. And he had all these other reasons to blame youth for leaving the faith. And I say, they are right to leave. This is not God – it is a deceptive monster, a lying idol of terror and cruelty. It is a God who says, you have to believe this crazy nonsense about Jesus dying for some reason, and then we’ll pretend some nonsense about it “saving” you, and then if you’re not good enough, He will toss you into the eternal fires of hell on a whim. Of course people are leaving in droves. It’s illogical and frightening and cruel teaching. But where are they supposed to go? People ask me all the time in other cities where there is a good church. I have no idea. Almost every church pulls this God-damned (I mean this very carefully and theologically) bait and switch. I’ll have none of it.
It isn’t just youth. Upright gentle right-thinking people of all ages are leaving the church, and they’re right to leave the church. They ought to leave the church. I wish more people would have the courage to stand up and say, this is an outrage! Why should we believe in such a cruel bait-and-switch message? How could you possibly be right about this? I’d rather burn in hell with my integrity than live in eternal paradise with such an evil God with a seared and scarred conscience at such a fundamental level.
I think these preachers who pull the rug out from under people’s assurance and faith are going to experience a very unpleasant final confrontation with God over driving all these well-meaning souls out from the church. And they will be terribly judged for denying people assurance of their salvation. How utterly dare they do this – there is no greater evil on the earth. They need to step down from their pulpits and their televangelist shows and their seminaries and pray to God to have mercy on them for distorting the holy and beautiful gospel of God. People want to think the main problem with the American church has something to do with politics. But the real problem is that most pastors are pharisees to the very bone, preaching a form of the gospel but denying its power.
True grace – simple faith that Christ died for our sins and that it worked – grants us a rock solid assurance that God is eternally on our side. He has saved us to the uttermost:
25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath (promise), which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. – Heb 7:25-28 ESV
What could these verses possibly mean if they don’t mean that we can have confidence that we are truly saved through Christ? That it is not we who through our practice save ourselves, but that Christ saves us by the demonstration of His own love toward us?
The gospel, the GOOD NEWS, is this:
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath [of God] through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. – Rom 5:6-10 NASB
Now THAT is a God I can place my whole trust in.
How does Trust Work?
19 [Like] a bad tooth and an unsteady foot Is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble. – Pro 25:19 NASB
Now, if I visit your house, and you lead me to an obviously broken chair to sit in, saying “Trust me, this is a good chair. Have a seat!” Is my lack of trust due to something that is wrong with me, or something wrong with you and your chair?
If you believe in an evil hateful unfaithful untrustworthy God who breaks His promises and says He’ll save you but then says He won’t, is your difficulty trusting Him your problem or His problem and His weird messenger’s problem?
It isn’t your problem. It is the cursed idols that have been pushed upon you that are not worthy of your sacred trust. It is easy to trust the real God, because He really is faithful and kind and good. He has promised you eternal life for simply believing, and He means it. Your faith includes this: when you are untrustworthy and sinful and inconstant and failing, He is trustworthy and holy and constant and true. He saves you. You don’t save Him.
Here’s the real point. You can’t solve the trust problem you have by resolving to “trust” more. If the God you believe in is a broken chair, all the resolve in the world isn’t going to help you. But if you believe in a kind and loving and faithful and saving God, it is easy to trust Him. He is TRUSTWORTHY. Proverbs 3:5-6 becomes a beautiful refuge, not a burdensome command. It is an invitation to rest and peace. Thankfully, you are not the wisdom of God or the power of God. Christ our savior is the wisdom of God and the power of God. You really can depend on Him, and this is the true and general message of Scripture.
18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not [come to] know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” – 1Co 1:18-31 NASB