Thursday, April 19, 2012

Errors of Ray Comfort's"Hell's Best Kept Secret" -- Another Secret that Must be Told

For a long time, I have admired the evangelical ministry of New Zealand born and Bellflower-based preacher Ray Comfort. His teachings, starting with "Hell's Best Kept Secret", provided for me  a powerful script by which I could share the Gospel with individuals whom I had never met before. I could lead a non-believer through the Ten Commandments, including the stringent elements which Jesus presented on the Sermon on the Mount.

Whether a potential convert was offended to see himself as a sinner before God needing grace, or to see himself as a grateful believer who was glad for the Finished Work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, I possessed a greater respect for God's law, one that made me appreciate what Jesus Christ did for me on the Cross.

In cases where the person I spoke with shared utmost gratitude, I told him that if he wanted to be saved, he needed to believe, repent, and obey. At this part, I began to stumble, because I know fully well that we are saved by grace through faith, not by works (Ephesians 2: 8)

Then the other issue began to bother me: how does a believer live the Christian life? Of course, I usually brushed off these concerns, just grateful that one more person had receive saving grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Ray Comfort has trumpeted this method because the unspeakable gratitude which moves a non-believer to receive Christ, appreciating that they have been saved from torment eternal and unending separation from God. For Comfort, he noticed that many converts were uninspired, apathetic. Many evangelic missions emphasized the earthly comforts (no pun intended) that await the believer when he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, this method of evangelism fails miserably, in part because man is prone to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season instead of esteeming the true, yet invisible riches of God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. For many, their investment in earthly pleasures seems like so much more to them than the death of Jewish carpenter on Calvary.

 He also noticed that many individuals who claimed Christ as their Lord and Savior often did not demonstrate any outward sins of contrition. In his ministry, Comfort resorts to bringing the Ten Commandments back into the central focus -- and the motivation for obedience stemming from an over-awesome gratitude at being saved from the wrath to come.

Yet for me, as for many Christians, they find that living the holy life is no easier than before they were saved. They are not just frustrated with the persecution to accompanies living for Christ, but that in all of their efforts, they recognize how short they come to living in a holy manner. Disgusted with their efforts, many earnest believers quit going to church,  forsake fellowship with other believers, or consider themselves lost and abandon themselves to a profane and profligate lifestyle. In my life, I knew and believed that I was saved, but I was obsessed with trying to live right. I found myself trying to look over my shoulder every day, making sure that no untoward thought, word, or deed would fly out of my mouth. I also tried really hard to make sure that I did not lose my connection with God, for fear that I would lose His power in my life. I knew that the scripture said "I will never leave you nor forsake you," but more often than not I felt that he was a million miles away, that I need to do or say or think something to keep myself happy, joyous and free. I became legalistic to the point where I did not want to wake up in the morning. Life did not seem worth living, as  I could not maintain my joy and peace myself.

After reading Bob George's stellar and clarifying work "Classic Christianity," I found the element of the Gospel which was conspicuously missing. Not only has Christ saved us from our sins, but we have a new identity, we are a new creation in Christ. We are born again and perfected in our spirit. We are not trying to work up holy living, but rather we work out the holiness that God is working in us through His Son, who lives in us. We cannot live the Christian life; but as redeemed and rescued children of God, we are invested with the power and authority of God's own Son. If fact, God sees every believer as one with His Son, so much so that God does not see us so much as He sees His own Son. This new identification, this new identity, this rebirth is what John refers to when he writes:

"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4: 17)

We are not just saved, provided a parachute in case the plain crashes, as Comfort presents in one example. God the Father also brings us to the front of the plane that we are flying. He empowers us as captains with Him, granting us great wealth and power to impress and win over the other passengers on the plane, that they will also put on a parachute when the plane crashes, and also the status of beloved co-captains with Him.

I would deem this telling and damaging limitation "Hell's Best Kept Secret Part II" -- But not because it threatens to damn untold millions, but rather because by not knowing this crucial second element of the Gospel, many believers are living a sterile, or even hellish, existence on earth, as opposed to the "life and that more abundantly" promised by Christ Jesus.

We cannot live the Christian life on our own, yet many believers are convinced that God had indeed saved them, that they are going to heaven. Yet when they sin, they believe that they have lost fellowship with God. If they get angry of afraid, they feel burdened on their own to restore fellowship, even though Paul clearly tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Some believers, not seeking to live up a life of sin, find themselves burdened with condemnation, not understanding why they are still afflicted with guilty feelings or sinful thoughts. When inform new converts that they have a new identity, a new heart, that the Holy Spirit now lives, serves, and ministers within him, then every believer can walk in newness of life, knowing fully well that he is more than a conqueror in Christ, that Christ now lives in him. The fruit of the Spirit are borne in us by the Holy Spirit. We do not have to try to serve God. We walk in growing attitude and awareness of God's lavish, infinite, ever present and extravagant love for. When we realize that we are born again in our spirits, not our body our mind, then we understand that the real struggle, the real discipline has nothing to do with hardships and pains, but rather resisting the temptation to try to live life on our own.

The Christian life is Christ living His life in us. He quickens our minds with His truth, informs of his pleasure, even granting us the will and the way to do the things that He wants us to do! This is a life of rest, not self-effort. We are forever loved, forever accepted sons and daughters of God, children of light, caterpillars who have been transformed into beautiful, radiant butterflies. We do not sit still and do nothing, for as our minds are renewed to the truth of who we are in Chris, we find ourselves reigning in life of trials and tribulations. We are blessed in every way, cared for in every need through Christ Jesus, ever conscious of our status as redeemed children of God Most High.

This second part of the gospel, our identity and power in Christ, is essential in driving men and women from being layabouts to laborers. The more that we tell people that their sins are forgiven, the more that they know that they are now redeemed and well-received children of God, loved just as much as God the Father loves His Son, and that He lives in us to do and perform all, then we will see man and women run and tell with great excitement and joy the great things that God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ.

No wonder the matter of identity and unity with Chris has become another one of Satan's "Best Kept Secrets" -- he does not Christians to be so infused with victory that they overcome all his whiles while sharing the glory of their new status with others who need life and eternal pardon.

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