Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Jesus said that the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction and there are many who enter through it. He also said that those who find the way that leads to life are few. Now, if so many people are on the path to destruction, how can you be certain you're on the right path, the one leading to eternal life? And how can you help others find that right path? Consider those questions today on Grace to You as John MacArthur helps you understand a subject that is vital for every believer—the gospel according to Jesus. And with today's message, here's John. Certainly treating the subject of the Lordship of Christ should be a primary study for any believer.
I want to approach the subject from a sort of polemic viewpoint. That is, I'd like to defend the Lordship of Christ against what I believe to be a current attack. I think this attack on the Lordship of Christ has been coming for a long time. I remember as a young boy hearing people say, often to Christians, I heard preachers say it, speakers, teachers. They would say, you need to make Christ Lord of your life.
How many of you heard somebody say that? Christ has been my Savior. You hear people give testimony and say, and now I want to make Him Lord of my life. Very often we would go to a conference or a retreat or there would be some kind of a special emphasis meeting and people would say, yes, I've been a Christian and Christ has been my Savior, but He's never been Lord of my life. And usually, people like that are trying to explain how it can happen that at some time in their life they accepted Christ as Savior and nothing ever changed, basically.
In fact, that might be an experience that many of you can identify with. You go back to some point in your life as a child or a young person when you quote unquote accepted Christ, made a decision for Christ, and you look at that as the moment of your salvation, though basically nothing really changed in your life. You came to another point in your life, a crisis point, and maybe someone told you you needed to make Christ Lord of your life and you did that thinking that was some second step and things changed. There are those people who claim that you can be saved and not make Christ Lord, not acknowledge that Christ is Lord, accepting Him only as Savior. There are people who claim they were saved at some point when they made a decision to believe.
At that point they took total forgiveness. At that point they anticipated they received eternal life and they gave back absolutely nothing to God, absolutely nothing. They were told they were Christians because they made a quote unquote decision. They were eager, believe me, to adopt the popular notion that you could have Jesus as Savior and not necessarily acknowledge His Lordship. Some time later in their life they would get serious about living and at that time they could go from just being Christians to being Lordship Christians. This view is so popular that when I was doing a Bible conference at one of the major Christian institutions in America, a man spoke to the student body every day for the week as I did as well. He said to them, the point at which you really become a disciple, the point at which you really make Christ Lord of your life usually comes sometime in your thirties. And I was shocked, to put it mildly, that he had just basically told a group of young people to put their spiritual commitment on hold until they reached their thirties.
He was holding to a view that it's enough to accept Jesus as Savior, take your forgiveness, take your guarantee of heaven, and then live any way you want until you come to some crisis point, hopefully sooner than later, when you make Christ Lord. Now let me tell you how pervasive this kind of concept is, and I'll explain it in further depth as we go. It is frankly behind almost all contemporary evangelism. Almost all contemporary evangelism reflects this mentality. Whether it's television evangelism, crusade evangelism, stadiums, tents, churches, whatever it is, most evangelistic tracts and books and things like that are based upon this kind of thinking. Get people to make a decision. Get people in a moment of time to admit their need and to accept Christ, to receive Christ, to make a decision. And that will seal their eternal life and then tell them they can be sure they're saved and pray that sometime in the future they'll make Christ Lord.
But until that time, you could expect that there would not necessarily be any change in their life. In fact, in the process of getting these people to make a decision, you can use any technique you want, really. You do want to speak of the gospel. Admittedly, they do want to speak of the gospel. You want to use a lot of emotion. There is often subtle pressure and very often manipulation, singing multiplied verses of lilting songs, endeavoring to get people moving. There is even the strategy in many, many evangelistic crusades where people are instructed that when the invitation has begun, and this is pretty common in churches, too, there are certain people selected to start coming down the aisles to get the flow going.
And that what people are doing is really priming the pump to get people in the flow to make it happen. There are parents who cling to the fact that at some point in their child's life they made a decision for Christ, and even though they are presently living in gross sin and defiance of God's law, and do not even acknowledge Jesus as Lord, they are still saved because of that decision. They've just never made Him Lord. I've had parents say to me, I know my son is a homosexual. He's chosen that lifestyle. I know my daughter has absolutely no regard for the things of Christ, but I know they were saved.
I remember the time they made their decision. Parents cling to this. Spouses may cling to this for their partner.
Friends may cling to this for someone they love deeply. It conveys the idea that salvation is some momentary transaction that secures forever but doesn't necessarily transform your life and does not involve acknowledging Jesus as Lord of your life and submitting your life to Him. That kind of thing is behind most contemporary evangelism.
You listen. When do you hear someone say, are you willing to commit your life to following Jesus? When do you hear someone say, are you willing to repent of your sin and bow your knee in submission to the lordship of Christ?
Are you willing to allow Jesus Christ to take over as King and Ruler of your life? What you hear is accept Christ, receive Christ, make a decision for Christ. Now I want you to understand that this is a major issue because I believe in many cases what it creates is a whole mass of people who think they're saved but they're not.
Now let me give you a little more insight into the issue. Popular Christian magazine published an article arguing that Jesus' lordship is an inappropriate topic to bring up in the course of witnessing to the lost. It said and I'm quoting from the magazine, since the decision to make Christ Lord is possible only for those who have already trusted Him as Savior, the Gospel presentation should not contain anything about yielding in submission to Christ as Lord to be obeyed, end quote. The Gospel presentation should not contain anything about yielding in submission to Christ as Lord, said the magazine.
You don't even want to talk about that. I watched a film designed to instruct people how to lead someone to Christ. The film used some graphics, posed some questions and then asked if they were true or false. Let me tell you what some of the questions were and what the answer was. In presenting the Gospel, the narrator of the film said, should you ever ask these questions? Here are the questions.
Question number one. Should you say to someone, will you give your heart to Christ? Answer, false. You never want to say that to anyone. You never want to ask anyone to give anything to Christ. You don't want to ask them to give their life to Christ.
You just ask them to believe. Second question. Will you surrender your life to Christ? False.
Don't ever ask anyone to surrender anything. Question number three. Will you commit your life to Christ?
False. Don't ever ask anyone to do that. Question number four. Will you make Christ Lord of your life?
Don't ever ask anyone to acknowledge that He has to be Lord of their life. Question number five. Will you repent of your sins? False. Don't ever ask anyone to repent of their sins. Question number six. Are you willing to forsake your sins? False.
Don't ask anyone to do that. It is enough, then, said the narrator, to ask them, do you believe that Jesus died for your sins? That is enough.
That is enough. The devils believe in what? And tremble. Another Christian magazine carried an article entitled, This So-Called Lordship Salvation. The article began with a question.
Here's the question. Must a person make Christ Lord or acknowledge Christ as Lord as a condition for salvation? No less than ten times in the two-page article the author spoke of making Christ Lord of one's life. And of course in the view of the author it wasn't necessary to make Christ Lord to be saved.
That's something you did later. You made Christ Lord. You took Him as Savior and later you made Him Lord.
Ten times it said that in a two-page article. Nowhere in Scripture does it ever say a Christian is to make Christ Lord. If you're a Christian, He is Lord. And it does say, very explicitly in Scripture, that unless you acknowledge that fact that He is Lord, you could never be saved in the first place.
That is obvious. Withholding the Lordship of Christ from someone, withholding from them the fact that they need to surrender their life to His leading, withholding from them that they need to confess and repent of their sin, is to damn the person to a delusion that they are saved when they're not. Withholding the Lordship of Christ from someone while giving them the Gospel is a complete contradiction. The Bible says that salvation is granted only to those who acknowledge Jesus as Lord and are willing to submit their life to Him. To say that you should never talk about that, that all a person has to do is believe that Jesus died for them, doesn't say at all enough. One writer, a writer who is leading the parade against the Lordship of Christ, who has probably written, I'm sure has written more than anyone else on the subject and who is quoted quite frequently in my book, says against the Lordship of Christ this, quote, it is precisely this impressive fact that the Lord asks for no spiritual commitment that distinguishes the true Gospel from all its counterfeits.
Did you get that? He says it is precisely the fact that the Lord asks for no spiritual commitment that distinguishes the true Gospel from all its counterfeits. In other words, if you ask anybody to commit their life to Christ, to turn from their sin and follow Christ, be obedient to Him, you have a counterfeit Gospel. Now, this is pervasive, my friends. This is pervasive. Now, these men say that if you inform an unbeliever that Christ has any sovereign right to rule their life, you have, get this, corrupted the Gospel.
Did you get that? If you say to an unbeliever that Christ has a sovereign right to rule their life and they need to bow the knee to Him to be saved, you have corrupted the Gospel. Another writer says, and I'm quoting, it is possible, even probable, that when a believer out of fellowship falls for certain types of philosophy, if he is a logical thinker, he will become an unbelieving believer. Believers who are agnostics are still saved. They are still born again.
Listen to this one. You can even become an atheist, but if you once accept Christ as Savior, you cannot lose your salvation even though you deny God. End quote. I don't believe you can lose your salvation, but I believe with all my heart that if you've got it, you'll never be an unbelieving believer, and you'll never deny God. Jesus said in Matthew 10, you deny me before men and I'll what?
I'll deny you before my Father. Paul writing to Timothy 2, Timothy 2 says, if you deny Him, same idea, He'll deny you. Salvation is forever, but only if it's real. But what this advocates is, you see, you can take Him as Savior, have no change in your life, even become an unbeliever, an agnostic, an atheist, because it's not necessarily going to change you. I was absolutely shocked to discover the writer who is most prolific in this is saying that if you believe at the moment of salvation, you never need to believe again the rest of your life because it's only that moment that counts, let alone submit to the lordship of Christ. You could even become an unbeliever, agnostic, atheist. He said, persevering in faith, that is continuing in belief, is not a factor of true salvation.
It isn't? My Bible says in Colossians 1 that you're saved if you continue in what? In the faith. Every call to discipleship, they say, every time Jesus says, leave father and mother, forsake all, follow me.
He says that over and over again. Take up your cross, deny yourself, be willing to die. You know, if you put your hand to the plow and look back, you're not worthy to be my disciple.
If you have to go home, bury your father and you're not willing to follow me at all costs, you can't be my disciple. You know, all those calls to discipleship, calls to death, calls to sacrifice, calls to laying your life down, calls to obedience, calls to submission, they say all of those are Jesus calling already redeemed people to the second step. So they take the whole ministry of Jesus and instead of it being evangelism, it becomes calls to people who are already saved to come to the second level. Well, the problem with that is, Jesus said, I have not come to call the righteous, but what?
Sinners to repentance. The son of man has come to seek and to save the lost. You have just taken the Lord Jesus out of his evangelistic ministry, if you have that view. But I'll tell you what, you can't hold to the non-lordship view unless you do that to all those invitations of Christ. Because every call to discipleship he ever gave was so strong. So Jesus isn't really evangelizing. He's calling Christians to come to the second level and make him Lord. So it discards the evangelistic intent of our Lord's ministry and ignores the fact that he came to seek and to save the lost. This goes as far back for example as systematic theology of Louis Sperry Chafer, in which it says in volume 3, page 385, to impose a need to surrender the life to God as an added condition of salvation is most unreasonable. God's call to the unsaved is never said to be to the lordship of Christ, end quote. God's call to the unsaved is never said to be to the lordship of Christ. Another writer comes to the astonishing conclusion that it is a perversion of the gospel to invite an unsaved person to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
Now, this has been around a long time. I'm quoting from sources that are somewhat old, but it never reached the pervasive widespread place that it has reached today. Another writer says to present Christ as Lord to a non-Christian is to add to scriptural teaching concerning salvation. This is what's being espoused. No turning from sin is necessary.
No resulting change in lifestyle is necessary. No commitment, no yieldedness to Christ is necessary. How about if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away and behold, new things have come. I'll tell you one that hit me the other day.
I went back to the book where it was already finished and put it in there. 1 Peter 2 says to those who believe he is precious. Have you ever thought about that verse?
I'll tell you whether a person is a Christian. Is Christ precious? To those who believe, he's what? He's precious. He's precious.
What does that mean? Valuable, costly, highly prized? That's his lordship. He's precious to the true believer. Now, the fallout of all of this, and I could go on and on, there's so many other things to be said about it and there's so many other illustrations, but the fallout of all of this is defective doctrine. The fallout of all of this is a salvation that is less than what the word of God teaches. The modern gospel is vague. The modern gospel holds out false hope to sinners who have a moment when they want to cash in on forgiveness, when they want to tie up heaven in the future while continuing to live any way they like. Maybe later they'll worry about Christ as Lord if they even know about that and they shouldn't know about it because nobody's supposed to tell them.
You want to know the effect of this? Millions of people are deceived. Millions of people are deceived. One of these writers said, if we accept the fact that you must take Jesus as Lord to be saved, then only a few people will really be saved. And an exclamation point. Well, isn't that exactly what Jesus said?
The gate is narrow and what? Few there be that find it. One of the writers says, for example, that Paul's list of gross sinners and their vices in first Corinthians 6, 9, and 10, do you not know the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God, do not be deceived, neither fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, swindles shall inherit the kingdom of God. He says all of those are believers. Those are all Christians who don't inherit the kingdom. They get in the kingdom, but they don't inherit it.
What does that mean? I don't know. First level people go there. Second level people inherit.
So I guess there's a poverty pocket in the kingdom for the first level group. He further says that the description of those people in Galatians 5, it says the deeds of the flesh are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, things like this. The people who do those things, practicing them will not inherit the kingdom of God.
He says those are Christians too, but they just don't inherit. In other words, the whole idea is to make room for people who made a decision who at one moment in time did something, accepted, believed, whatever, and nothing ever changed in their life, and we want them all to be saved. That's Grace to You with John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, and the title of John's current study, The Gospel According to Jesus.
John, this series always takes me back to the first time I met you. I was a part-time book editor, and I was also a youth pastor, and I was concerned that most of the students in my youth group hadn't come to faith in Christ, and yet they all believed they were saved, because they had invited Jesus into their hearts, and in most cases they were too young even to remember when that happened. So I was struggling to get them to understand the gospel better, and the nature of faith, and I got to meet you through my work as an editor, and I told you, you need to write a book on the lordship controversy, and you said you were planning to do that, you even had a title in mind, The Gospel According to Jesus. What was it that had motivated you to deal with this subject?
So I'm going to give you a fast history. I grew up as a pastor's kid. My dad and my grandfather were pastors, so I grew up in the church. I grew up in a traditional church. You would call it an evangelical church, a conservative church.
You might even say a fundamentalist church. But it became obvious to me in the early years of my childhood and through my youth, that the church was full of people who weren't genuinely converted. And I began to realize that because I saw them come and go. I saw them leave the church and in some cases abandon their confession of faith in Christ.
I heard my father talk about them. He talked about pastors that defected. One very, very famous one that he did ministry with overseas, and I knew from the kind of young people and the kind of families that were in the church that there was a reason to question the salvation of these people. And then I went to high school, and I had a friend, and we were on the football team and the basketball team together. He was the leader of his Sunday school group, and I was of ours in two different churches. He graduated and denied the faith, totally denied the faith, rejected it altogether and called himself an agnostic and did some horrendous things personally and ended up with a jail sentence. Then I went to college and I met another friend, another football friend, another guy on the team.
We were in the backfield together. His father was a pastor. My father was a pastor. He graduated from college, was leading his church youth group, turned his back on the faith, abandoned the faith, and horrible, horrible direction his life took. Then I went to seminary and met another very close friend there, and his father was the dean.
And when he graduated, he set up a Buddhist altar in his house. So I saw it in the microcosm of my own life, and I saw it in the church. I knew the reality was that they were horribly mistaken over what repentance and saving faith really was, to say nothing of what regeneration really meant. And for the most part, I'd just hear an invitation at the end of a service growing up, ask Jesus into your heart, pray this prayer, that kind of thing.
No crushing, soul-shattering repentance, no clarity on the doctrines that are related to salvation. So when I came to Grace, the first Sunday I was there, I preached on Matthew 7. Many will say to me, Lord, Lord.
That's how front it was in my thinking. And it's cycled through my life. And look, these books on this subject and the messages on this subject are out there all the time. More and more people are listening to them.
And even in Grace Community Church, I have to recycle this material, because there are people who come to our church with faulty understandings of the gospel. So it's so very, very important. And I'm glad we're doing it on the air. And I really do thank all of you for listening and encourage you to get others to listen to this important series.
That's right, Jon. And that's a great way for people to take an active role in ministering to others. So friend, thanks for encouraging people to listen to Grace To You. And if this ministry has benefited you, let us know when you contact us today. You can send a note to Grace To You, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. Or send us an email at letters at gty.org. That's letters at gty.org. And thanks for remembering to mention this station's call letters when you get in touch.
If you're benefiting from the teaching you hear on this broadcast and you want to help others benefit, you can mail a tax-deductible gift. Our address again, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. You can also speak to one of our customer service representatives at 855-GRACE. Just call weekdays between 730 and 4 o'clock Pacific time. That number again, 855-GRACE.
Or you can also make a donation at gty.org. Now for John MacArthur and the entire staff here at Grace To You, I'm Phil Johnson. Look for Grace To You television Sundays on DirecTV channel 378, or you can watch online at gty.org. And be back when John helps you understand the nature of God's grace and the place of your works in the Gospel. The title of his current study, The Gospel According to Jesus. Tune in for another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Tomorrow's Grace To You.
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