After a discussion about whether the Church should teach that we should love God and love our neighbour, which, incidentally, chookwatcher contends is poor doctrine, chookwatcher makes the following claim:
‘Church is not about changing lives. It’s about preaching the gospel to see people saved.’
Yes, indeed, readers, chookwatcher said this on their global site. The implication, of course, and the only thing you could surmise from the logic of these two sentences, which are not taken out of context, is that, according to chookwatcher, the gospel is not about change, nor is being saved.
If being saved is not about being changed, then what is it about? Does nothing change in a person when they are saved? If preaching the gospel is not an appeal for change in the heart of the hearer, then what is it? Do we preach the gospel so that people can remain the same?
Are we not changed when we are saved? Is chookwatcher saying that salvation is not change? No matter how you read these sentences, you can only come to the conclusion that chookwatcher is saying that the Church is not about changing lives, and, therefore, the gospel and being saved are not about change.
Is repentance change?
What do you think? Is the Church about changing lives or not?
Let’s start with Jesus, who is building His Church. Did Christ, the Head of the Church, come preaching change? His first message, and one He surely passed onto the Church He was building, was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”
Repent. Now it is plain to see for all Berean Christians looking in here that the word ‘repent’ means change. Yes it does.
Does the Church have the same message as the Head of the Church? Yes, of course. The gospel is entirely about preaching for change in the hearts of those who do not yet believe. It is to help change them from sinners to saved. It is about seeing them changed from being in darkness to being in the light.
Is deliverance change? I put it to you that it is. We are delivered out of the power of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Is this change? I say it is. It is a change of heart. It is also a change of position, spiritually. When we are delivered from darkness we are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. This is a change. The Church preaches for change. The gospel is a message of hope for change.
Is the message of the gospel – the death, burial and resurrection of Christ – about change? He died for our sins – once and for all. God, accordingly, forgave us, saved us through faith in Christ and the work of the cross, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. We were reconciled through faith in Jesus.
Is reconciliation change? Of course it is. It is being redeemed- bought back – to God through faith in Christ, who paid the price. Once we were lost. Now we are found. That is change.
The Church is given the ministry of reconciliation, and, therefore, the ministry of change to the hearer of the gospel. And who preaches this gospel of change if not the Church?
The issue of love for God and people
Chookwatcher has a problem with the teaching that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and being, and that we are also to love our neighbour as ourselves. This, claims chookwatcher, is the law!
For instance, they say, ‘when the mantra “love God love neighbour” is espoused, God is often de-emphasised and man is magnified.’
In fact, the reverse is true. We show that we love God by following His instruction to reach the lost through His love and grace. The gospel depends on love as the motive for the message, and is the offshoot of God’s love.
Notice how the chookwatchers demote the command to wholeheartedly love God and love our neighbour as ourselves into a mantra – a mere slogan repeated often – and not the basis of our worship of God.
It is only a mantra if the person has not understood the nature of God, or our relationship with God and His creation after we have received Christ as Lord and Saviour, and been filled with the Spirit. Love is not a mantra. It is our new nature.
The reason Jesus brings all of the law and the prophets down to these two commands is to tell us that we cannot love God absolutely without loving His people.
Of course, the point that chookwatcher misses is that, in fact, love is not just evidence that God is in our lives, or that we are being obedient to His will, but it is also the very basis for everything, including the law.
The law in itself cannot save, only contain, but, according to the Word, there was nothing wrong with the law. The problem was the sin nature in the descendants of Adam.
The law was a legal document that reflected God’s will to hold Israel in check until faith in Christ came into play. It was called the janitor, or schoolmaster, that disciplined the nation of Israel until the Son came into the world and faith supplanted the need for the law.
Jesus fulfilled the law and introduced grace. He was the end of the law to those who believe onto righteousness. But where does it say that love ended, or that love is not still the motivation behind grace? Circumcision no longer counts, nor uncircumcision, but faith that works by love.
New heart and spirit
We are told that when we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, we are given a new heart and new spirit that reflect the law. But remember that the law, like grace, was based on God’s covenant promises. In other words, the spirit of the law supersedes the letter of the law. The love of God that is of faith enters our heart and we obey what would have been the unwritten law by faith.
Love for God the Father is a reflection of our connection with Him. He is love. Since He is love, it follows that the Spirit within is love, and that love will be the evidence that we are in relationship with Him. Love for God is outworked through our love for people.
Loving our neighbour doesn’t take the place, or become more important that love for God. It is evidence of our love for the Father. If we truly love God we will show it by loving our neighbour as ourselves. The two go hand in hand.
It is also evidence of the gospel at work. The gospel is based entirely on the love of God for His creation. God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son so that we would not perish, but be saved. Therefore, we are saved through love.
The chookwatchers attempt to separate the gospel from the love of God. This is a serious error, and not reflected in scripture. The entire motive behind the saving grace of God is His love for His creation. He sent His Son because He loved the world – which was, at that time, a sinful world. There was no righteous person apart from Christ.
There is no gospel outside of the love of God. Love, according to the Apostle Paul, is the greater motivation for the manifestations and gifts of the Spirit, which are given so that we, the Church, can reach out to a dying and lost world.
The first mentioned fruit of the Spirit is love. Love is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, we are told. The entire motivation for the gospel is through love for God that is outworked by love for the lost, and love for the saints.
You cannot separate the love of God from the message of hope. Those who walk in the Spirit, we are told, are walking in love, and there is no law against love. Love supersedes the law, and yet demonstrates the purpose of the law, which was to bring us to righteousness through faith.
We do not need the law when we are walking in righteousness because we are, therefore, walking in love, and the love commands are natural parts of our character and nature. In effect, we have been changed to reflect the love nature of God.
The gospel is entirely about changing lives. The word for repentance, metanoia, means a change of heart. It is all about bringing change into the lost world of sinful people. The Church is sent, by the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, to preach the gospel, which includes the message of repentance – change – turning from our ways to God’s ways.
To say that the Church is not about change is to miss the point of the gospel, which is to promote change. Every one of us has needed or needs change at some point in our lives or we will not see God.
There is so much scripture on this. We are to put off the old man and put on the new. That is change. That is a work of the Church – to promote change, to encourage repentance and revival, to bring about restoration, not just of individuals or groups but of entire communities and nations – all in the name of Jesus.
So it would be true to say that the Church is about preaching the gospel to save lives, but you cannot separate this from change in the lives of the hearers.
Therefore, we come to the conclusion that chookwatcher should not be disingenuous about the teaching on loving God and loving people. It is theme throughout the New Testament. It is a command, but it is, more than this, our new nature when we are saved, and evidence of our great change through faith in Jesus.