“One, a corrupted gospel, devilish, satanic, counterfeit gospel. You’re believing a damning lie,” Pastor John MacArthur warned in a recent sermon. “You tamper with ‘faith alone’ even in one small ritual — that is a corrupted, damning gospel. I don’t think in this particular day in evangelical Christianity people have that very clearly.”
MacArthur is a pastor at Grace Community Church, a megachurch in Sun Valley, California. The author and theologian is also the president of The Master’s College and Seminary in Santa Clarita.
He warned his congregation that, like many in the Christians world, too many pastors today are promoting a soft version of the scriptures in order to stay “relevant.”
Last week, MacArthur delivered a message at the annual Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, Kentucky, titled: “Sanctification and the Pastor’s Passion.”
This year, the Together for the Gospel conference had the theme of, “Distinct from the World.”The TG4 Website noted, “If we want to make a difference in the culture, we must be distinct. It’s definitional for Christian discipleship. It’s part of the church’s mission. Renouncing the world for the sake of the world. Rejecting sin in order to save sinners.”
He began by citing Galatians 1:9, which reads, “As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse.”
He then cited Galatians 4:19, which reads, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.”
MacArthur described Paul’s “controlled rage” over any type of teachings that contradicted the gospel of Jesus.
MacArthur defines sanctification as “the work of the Holy Spirit separating sinners from sin.”
Paul warned the Galatians when he noticed a problematic attitude in Christians who believed their sanctification came from “external ceremonies.”
“I think this is pretty typical of evangelical Christians today.They were saved by believing the true gospel, but in order to be more friendly to religious people, they tolerate a false gospel,” MacArthur said.
“Bad theology bewitches true believers. It can bewitch them about the very gospel they believed for salvation, and bad theology about sanctification bewitches many, if not most churches. There are so many bad theologies of sanctification that can’t restrain the flesh,” MacArthur continued.
He warned that if believers are taught bad theology, then they will begin to practice a Christianity that is false. Like Paul, MacArthur believes that too many pastors today are preaching a message of false sanctification. He believes that there is a mandate that has been placed on pastors to shepherd sanctification in their churches, and they should have the following words at the core of their ministries: “biblical, holiness, humility, purity, godliness, separation, self-denial, sacrifice, faithful, and sanctified.”
He points out that too many pastors have the following words at the core of their ministries: “relevant, real, authentic, missional, exponential, cool, disruptive, innovative, multi-site, multi-ethnic, multi-anything, cultural, contemporary, millennial, no eschatology intended, post-church, post-truth, international, formational, social, inclusive, and heroic.”
“The vocabulary is reflective of the priorities, and they’re horrendously misplaced,” he said. “Frankly, contemporary, pop Christianity doesn’t have much interest in [sanctification].”
He pointed out that pastors hold extremely important jobs, as they are chosen by God to facilitate how Christ is followed in their churches.
He then asked the crowd, “Are you weary, of every other day, of some pastoral scandal? Where some guy obviously isn’t going to be an instrument of the sanctification of his people because he’s not even living a sanctified life himself? Have you had enough of crashing and burning pastors?”
“God took care of the election and the justification, He’ll take care of the glorification. He’s given me this long, drawn out process of forming Christ fully in this people, making them like Christ. As much as I can contribute to that in my frailty,” MacArthur said.
He advised pastors and listeners to “feed the flock of God, and they will, when they become like Christ, dramatically affect their world. Christ in us, and we are in Christ.”
MacArthur ended his message by asking the attendees these questions:
“What pains you in ministry?”
“What disappoints you?”
“What depresses you?”
“Is it the carnality, the lack of devotion to Christ, sin, weakness in your people? If it is, then you’re a true shepherd. But if it’s about you, somehow you’ve managed to get seriously off track,” he said.
“You will not be judged on the size of your membership,” he warned pastors. “You will not be judged on the size of your auditorium. You’ll be judged, you’ll give an account, Hebrews tells us, on the Christ-likeness of your people. Agonize over that.”