Last week we began by looking at five commonly heard phrases that may seem to make sense, but in fact are phrases which encourage us to muddy thinking. This week we will conclude with five more such phrases.
6/”The Constitution is a living document.” People saying that want us to believe that what the Constitution meant originally may not be what it means now. We learn and grow, right? So the Constitution can and must move with the times. Which ends up meaning that ideas that would have seemed nonsensical to those who wrote the original Constitution, end up being supported, supposedly, by the Constitution.
However, by this point in our nation’s history, the Constitution is a dead letter, no matter what. Probably the Constitution should never have been enacted. The Articles of Confederation provided for a restrained central government. The people calling for the Constitutional Convention pretended to want to revise the Articles. Instead, they gave us an entirely new Constitution, one which led to a powerful central government. The U.S., as a republic under restraint, was dead by 1861. By 2020, the stench of the dead republic has become increasingly foul. So in any case there is no returning to the Constitution. But we still need to be warned that those people calling for the Constitution to be considered a living document, are people who want power for themselves and for their silly ideas.
7/”I think we’re in the last days; Jesus Christ is coming back soon.” No, He’s not. I’ll say this for such a foolish phrase–it would be nice if those if those of you who say that were right! I would have a red face from being wrong, but it would be worth a bit of embarrassment for me, to have the Savior Jesus Christ ruling the entire earth in visible power. But, alas, that is not what the Bible teaches about how world history will unfold.
Those who believe that Jesus Christ is coming back soon have a plausible excuse for refusing to act to clean up the earth. But the Bible teaches that when we obey God, He finds a way to bless us. When we refuse to obey Him, we bring misery upon ourselves and upon the people living alongside us. When we Christians take the Bible teaching seriously, and begin to act in ways that bring honor to God, we have a great effect for good.
Do you expect to be raptured out of your problems? Ain’t gonna happen. Your problems (in this country, at least) are 100% caused by the spiritual and intellectual abdication of the Bible-believing church. When we drop our pietist and antinomian (anti-God’s-law) brand of Christianity, and begin to develop an active and obedient faith, we will begin to be blessed by God, and He will help us solve problems and to create good things which bring joy and protection to untold millions. We’re not in the last days; most likely we are barely in the first days.
8/”Adults in the room.” Often when you hear this phrase, it comes from interventionists who want to kill off the possibility of a more humble foreign policy which wants to leave other people alone. “Ah, the poor simple childish people who want to bring our troops home and not involve ourselves in the doings of other countries! The adults in the room know that we rightly bear the responsibility to influence the entire world toward freedom and democracy.” As if “our democracy” were such a shining beacon of goodness!
The adults in the room are not really children rather than adults. They are power-hungry adult sociopaths who want to boss everyone else around, without taking up arms themselves. They don’t mind if you and you and me and him and her, foreign or domestic, get killed or crippled. They, on the other hand, have to stay alive, because they are the adults in the room who know how the entire world should be run. Any time we hear the phrase “adults in the room,” we need to speak up and say how empty of truth and humility are the supposed adults in the room. Usually they are the sociopaths in the room.
9/”The end justifies the means.” No, that is the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches. Those using the phrase “The end justifies the means” are saying that if we are trying to get to a good end, we are justified in using any means we want. That gives us an excuse to use bad means whenever we want to do so. But the Bible says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) We are always to use a good means; that is how we will defeat evil. This makes complete sense. We get to a good end by using good means. That is what we would expect of a reality created by the good God of the Bible.
Paul had been slandered. How? ‘And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just.’ (Romans 3:8) That is, the condemnation of people who made such a slander, is just. Paul here has made clear that “The end justifies the means” is not a biblical doctrine. I’m glad he spoke so clearly on the topic, but in fact the entire Bible bears witness to the fact that God wants us to get to good ends, but He also wants us to get there by using good means. This, He might have told us, is not rocket science. It is quite what we would and should have expected of the God of the Bible.
10/”We are saved by Jesus Christ alone, plus nothing, minus nothing.” Of course there is more than a small grain of truth to that statement! It is quite true that we are saved solely by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Our righteous acts are not going to save us. We are too wicked, and even the best among us can never gain salvation by our works. But that phrase is still very dangerous.
The phrase sounds humble, but it subtly encourages us to devalue what Christian obedience to God should be for us. True, we can never earn our salvation. But the Bible teaches in countless places that God wants heartfelt obedience from us.
There is close to zero danger that we are going to endanger our salvation by trying to work our way to heaven. For every person who is too focused on his works as a way to God, we will discover 10,000 people who are living carelessly because they are “saved by grace” and saved by “Jesus Christ alone, plus nothing, minus nothing.”
Many long years ago I asked more than two dozen people, people I had reason to believe were thoughtful Christians, to answer a question for me. Of professing Christians with a plausible connection to a church, what percentage had truly been regenerated and converted by God? Averaging out their answers, the math showed that they thought that about 30% of such people were truly Christians. Thus 70% were not Christians at all! (My own guess, not figured in the math, was a slightly more optimistic 40% converted.)
However, it is not only unconverted people who are hurt because they are careless about their obedience to God. It is also the ordinary garden variety Christian, people who have truly been converted by God, who are damaged. We have been taught to shrug at the quality of our obedience to God. Thus we harm ourselves and the people around us by the way we live, because we are not bringing forth as much spiritual fruit as we could be bringing.
The need of the hour (of the decade, of the century, of the millennium) is not that we stop trying to work our way to heaven. The need of the hour is that we begin to understand that salvation by Jesus Christ brings with it a concomitant responsibility to obey Him in every aspect of life. Our righteousness will never save us, but without an obedient righteousness, maybe we were never regenerated and converted in the first place!
So pastors, please, stop telling us that we are saved by Jesus Christ, plus nothing, minus nothing–unless you make extremely clear to us that we need to be obeying our Savior, or if we are not obeying Him we may not be saved at all.
That concludes our two-part series of phrases which annoy the socks off of me.