And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. (Dan 2:44)
There is a phenomenal movement taking place within Christendom. It has spread across denominational lines, and is comprised of many different churches. There are several names for what some of their religious philosophies are, and some terms to describe each of them by their activities. Not all of their new ideas are actually new, and some are sprung from positions that are the products of centuries old debates. Many commentators have analyzed and classified them, and complete categorizations of their various parts, while they are interesting and have made a valuable contribution, do not want for more elaboration here. Those who have proven astute in their power of scrutiny and reliable in their dedication are trusted to continue in their work. The most general classification to gather the lot of them is used here as a departure point so that a primary doctrinal flaw which characterizes most of them may herein be treated.
They are emerging, and they are diverging, and they are missional, and they are self-help, and they are prosperity; they preach new reformation, new community, renewed mission, positivism, and personal wealth. In all, they are doing every sort of thing that resembles less and less biblical Christianity with each passing day. All of them, though, despite the differing frays and braids and tassels of tastes, have one dastardly common denominator: they are The Raiders of the Messianic Kingdom.
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Gal 3:2-3)
In his Epistle to the Galatians, Paul addressed the topic of those who were troubling the churches, including those who were momentarily led astray and also false brethren, under the larger subject of what happens when the truth of the gospel is perverted by adding the requirement of adhering to the “traditions” of the fathers (Gal 1:14). These traditions were included with ceremonial laws and moral laws, and became their own ordinances, or doctrines of men; and to subject the saints to these is to bring them into bondage. Paul describes this bondage as a heavy yoke that is placed over the head and rests on the shoulders whereby we may be led about in the flesh by false brethren.
If we seek to obtain again by our own efforts justification and blessedness we frustrate the grace of God, and we even become a transgressor of the law of faith (Rom 4:6, 9; Gal 2:18; Rom 3:27); or “the rule, or arrangement which proclaims that we have no merit; that we are lost sinners; and that we are to be justified only by faith.”(Barnes). By relying on the exercise of our flesh we do not allow God to work through us by the power of His grace; which power we neutralize by adhering to the traditions of men.
Those who were troubling the churches then are still troubling the churches today, and many have been put under the yoke of bondage of performing Christianity in the flesh (Gal 5:1). [trans] The Bible tells us repeatedly that we cannot accomplish it, and that only the power of Christ through us by His grace will provide the new life of a believer. As Paul put it:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
Astoundingly, the growth in the number of professing Christians who have taken to the track of programs and service projects to perfect their Christianity has outpaced every other phenomenon since the Reformation. It even appears that the end of the Reformation is in sight, having run its course, and is being absorbed back into a visible church which has a form of godliness, but denies the power thereof (2Tim 3:5). The Followers of Jesus have been seduced into following the portrayal of a super human leader, a strong man whose strength can be imbued to those who will join his ranks and move forward in the great cause. It almost sounds Christian, and that is why it works as a substitute for real saving faith.
1. Russ Jones, “Rick Warren and 1,700 leaders launch Peace Coalition,” Chonicle, May 25, 2008.