By Stephen Colin 19 July 2018
“And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” Acts 2:40
Peter’s words were directed at individual Jews who could be spared from God’s coming wrath on that specific generation – a generation filled with people who had been either implicitly or explicitly involved in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. The principle regarding a Christian’s separation from the world and its perverse system remains vitally important to the health of the Church in 2018. In fact, James makes the point that, “…whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4b) This is an oft neglected teaching in the wider evangelical church and even a brief survey of the fads and movements in the world reveal a great need for the church to take the words of Peter and James seriously. Not only is this a critical matter, but James even adds this to his description of true biblical religion. He writes, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)
Now let me be clear that I am not advocating a legalistic approach to our separation from the world. I am not calling for local churches to burn their electric guitars and destroy all modern technology. I am not calling for Christians to separate completely from all unbelievers and form closed communities (that’s what cults tend to do) When we think about separation from the world it is important to know exactly what we are separating from. Biblically, the term ‘world’ is often in reference to sinful thinking, systems, philosophies, and practices. This would be the current world system along with its underlying ideologies ruled by Satan. An ideology is simply a system of ideas based upon an individuals or groups world-view. Therefore, it is critical that Christians develop a robust biblical world-view in order to identify worldly ideologies and then be able to resist them while standing on the firm foundation of biblical truth.
The Apostle John makes this concept of separating from the world very practical when he writes, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 John 2:15-16)
Notice how John identifies three basic categories that define the Satanic/worldly system of which unbelievers are a part. Firstly, he mentions the “lust of the flesh.” This is speaking of natural man’s desire for anything opposed to God and His perfect Law. Secondly, John speaks of the “lust of the eyes” which points to man’s covetous, greedy desire for more than what God has graciously given. Lastly, he mentions “the boastful pride of life” which has to do with one’s arrogance regarding the influence or wealth he/she possesses. Those three categories are evident in current trends being propagated by large movements within the visible church and reveal how ‘worldly’ these movements are.
There are two well-known “pastors” whom I will use to illustrate my point. Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church and Brian Houston of Hillsong Church, Sydney Australia. These individuals are key leaders in movements that are looking more and more like the world with each passing year.
Andy Stanley represents the Seeker Sensitive movement whose primary goal in his own words is to “create churches unchurched people absolutely love to attend.” This may sound pious at first glance, but think about it, if a church is a place that the “unchurched” (unbelievers) LOVE to attend then it has to be a place where sin is tolerated. Jesus provides us with an accurate evaluation of unbelievers, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (John 3:19)
An unbeliever should most certainly feel welcomed in any Christian church, however, he/she shouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable because a church is supposed to be a place where sin is exposed by the Law of God with the goal of leading the sinner to Christ for complete forgiveness. Paul makes it plain that when an unbeliever enters a Church, “…he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.” If these churches that Andy Stanley espouses are havens for the unbelieving, then who is being convicted and saved? You have to distort or remove the gospel to make the church a place that rebel sinners LOVE to attend weekly while remaining in a state of unbelief because “…the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” (1 Cor. 1:18) This is why Andy Stanley could say so boldly in a recent train-wreck of a sermon “Thou shall NOT obey the Ten Commandments.” (Aftermath – Part 3 – Not Difficult) This is the perfect concoction for “the lust of the flesh” because it makes little of God’s holiness, revealed in His Law and thereby ignores how offensive sin is to God. Andy Stanley, by “unhitching” from the Old Testament and God’s Law has removed the “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal.3:24)
Unbelievers may LOVE attending his “church,” however the sad reality is that many will remain in a state of unbelief and have their consciences seared to such a point that to indulge in the “lust of the flesh” is no big deal.
Brian Houston represents a movement which is basically a mixture of seeker sensitive/Word of Faith/NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) Arguably one of the most influential “pastors” of the past 10 years, Brian Houston has proceeded “…from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:13) Brian has been seduced by “the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life…” and has made a business of seducing millions of gullible people into “…following the course of the world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”
Of course he has cloaked his teaching with Christian terminology, however he has clearly adopted the ideologies of the world and appealed to the itching ears of the millennial generation.
In his most recent book “There is More,” Brian writes at the end of his introduction, “There is always more to uncover — More to discover about who He is and who He says you are. (God says we are sinners in desperate need of salvation) There is more ahead of you than you’ve allowed yourself to dream or allowed yourself to believe.” (How do you know that Brian? What if there is pain and suffering ahead of me? What if I die tomorrow?) He also writes, “And if for some reason you’ve stopped dreaming big things for your life, stopped imagining that your life is a story to tell or a legacy to be remembered, (Why should my life be a story to tell? Why should I leave a legacy? Surely a Christian’s focus should be on sharing Christ’s story, His death and resurrection…I prefer the good old saying, ‘Preach the Gospel, die and be forgotten)…then this book is a good place to start again.” (You mean to start thinking like an unbeliever again???)
It is interesting to note that Tony Robbins, an unbelieving, motivational speaker also spends a great deal of time talking about YOUR dreams. He says, “I’ve learned that the resources we need to turn our dreams into reality are within us, merely waiting for the day when we decide to wake up and claim our birthright.” Why does Brian Houston sound like an unbelieving, motivational speaker? Why does Brian Houston encourage his followers to seek for ‘more,’ as if Christ is not enough? Why does Brian Houston emphasize the so-called doctrine of “dreaming big” even though this doctrine is not found in the Bible? May I offer an explanation? It seems as though Brian Houston has abandoned the sufficiency of Scripture and the sufficiency of Christ and has instead made a living off the “lusts of the eyes.” As a result, he has reason “to boast” in what God has supposedly done through him, by giving him the Hillsong empire, wealth and all the influence and power an unregenerate sinner could ever want! Whenever a Pastor begins using his life as an example of what success looks like, he is actually the perfect example of one who loves the things of the world, including “the boastful pride of life…” The whole premise of Houstons book “There is More” is in stark contrast to the reality that for Christian’s “Christ is enough.” We don’t need “the more” that Brian is promoting. Why? Because “…His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3)
Both Andy Stanley and Brian Houston represent a large portion of the visible church which has ignored Peter’s call to “be saved from this perverse generation…” Instead they have indulged in worldly fads, “…teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” (Tit. 1:11) Do you want to separate from the world? A great place to start would be separating from the ministries and teachings of Brian Houston and Andy Stanley!
At the end of Paul’s life, in his final letter to Timothy, shortly before his imminent death, he writes something that should sadden us and wake us up at the same time. He writes about one of his closest associates “…Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica…” (2 Timothy 4:10) The Seeker Sensitive movement as well as the NAR will only cause you “to love this present world” and abandon the truth. Don’t fall for it. Flee from these movements! Stand firm upon the true Gospel, which is not about you, but rather about what Christ has done to save you from the wrath of God, which will come upon all who continue to follow the course of the world. Paul reminds us that Christ “…gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age…” (Galatians 1:4)
The Bible makes it clear that we are called and saved to make a clean break from all forms of worldliness, false religion, and especially those who come under the guise of Christianity.
If you belong to Christ and desire to be separated from the world then the Apostle Paul’s words to the Ephesian believers are designed to encourage you and remind us that “…Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph. 2:3-10)