Last days society has a profession of faith in Christ and some of the trappings of Christianity. “Form” is the Greek morphosis, meaning “external form, appearance, prescribed system” (Mounce), “an image or impress, an outward semblance” (Vine). But they deny the power thereof.
The power of godliness is first of all the converting power of the gospel whereby the sinner is born again.
“... the gospel of Christ ... is the power of God unto salvation” (Ro. 1:16). The power of godliness is supernatural salvation, a born again experience like we see everywhere in the New Testament, a spiritual conversion that dramatically changes the sinner’s life. Most professing Christians today trust in baptism or a sinner’s prayer or a mystical experience such as tongues or something vague and spiritually ineffectual that happened when they were a child.
At a large ecumenical conference that I attended with media credentials in 1987 (the North American Congress on the Holy Spirit & World Evangelism), half of the 35,000-40,000 professing Christians raised their hands one evening during invitation, indicating that they were not sure of their eternal destiny. This well illustrates the confusion about salvation in ecumenical circles. When questioned about it during a press conference, the conference leaders said they didn’t have time to address the issue! They didn’t have time to settle the matter of salvation itself!
At another ecumenical conference in St. Louis in 2000 that I attended with media credentials, I asked many attendees the question, “When were you born again?” Only one had a biblical answer. Some said they were born again when they were baptized. Others said they were born again when they had a charismatic experience. Others said they did not know what born again is.
The book Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger contains the testimonies of about 50 emerging church leaders in Appendix A, and only a couple of them were even close to a biblical testimony. Some didn’t mention a personal salvation testimony of any sort, merely saying that they grew up in church. And these are emerging church LEADERS. For example, Jonny Baker of Grace in London, England, said, “I loved God, or rather, knew I was loved by him, from an early age. I actually received the gift of tongues when I was just four years old” (Emerging Churches, 2005, p. 240). Kester Brewin of Vaux in London, England, said, “I can point to a Billy Graham rally in 1984 as a conversion, but that was really more of a moment of STRENGTHENING A FAITH THAT HAD ALWAYS been there” (p. 248). Jesus said we must be born again, and a birth is not a process. Ephesians 2:1-2 says there is a time before salvation when we are dead in trespasses and sins and controlled by the devil and a time after salvation when we have new life in Christ and belong to God. Alan Creech of Vine and Branches in Lexington, Kentucky, said, “I went to catechism through the Catholic Church and was baptized at the age of fourteen” (p. 260). The Catholic Church teaches that salvation is a process that begins with baptism and is fed by the other sacraments, but this is not biblical salvation. Ben Edson of Sanctus1 in Manchester, England, said, “After a painful breakup with my girlfriend, I gave God another chance. I cried out to God at my point of need, and God met me in a profound and life-changing way” (p. 266). Is salvation a matter of giving God a chance, of God meeting my needs and having a “profound” experience of some sort? Many people have life-changing experiences through psychology, 12-Step programs, and New Age mysticism. Roger Ellis of Revelation Church in Chichester, England, said, “In my late teens, I had a dynamic experience of God, an encounter of the Spirit at a crazy charismatic church down the road” (p. 268). We would ask what spirit? Paul warned about receiving “another spirit” (2 Co. 4:3-4). Ellis mentions nothing about sin, nothing about Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, nothing about repentance toward God and saving faith in Christ.
The power of godliness, second, is the sanctifying, ministering power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Ac. 1:8; Eph. 3:7, 20; 6:10; Php. 3:10; Col. 1:11; 2 Th. 1:11; 2 Ti. 1:7; 2 Pe. 1:3).
By God’s Spirit, the born again believer has power to put off the old man and put on the new man in progressive sanctification; he has the power to live a holy pilgrim life separated from the evils of this present world system; he has the power to be an ambassador for Christ in a wicked age. The vast majority of professing Christians have little to no evidence of this power. They live much like the world; they are conformed to the world; they are comfortable in the world and with the world; they are friends with the world; they are more influenced by the world than they influence the world.
The power of godliness, third, is the infallible, living Word of God (“quick and powerful,” Heb. 4:12).
The power of God in the Christian life and ministry is the product of the life-changing Scripture. It is “able to build you up” (Ac. 20:32). It is the source of faith (Ro. 10:17). But the vast majority of professing Christians don’t believe that the Bible is infallible. They hold to myths such as theistic evolution, thus destroying the very foundation of biblical truth. They hold to heresies such as higher criticism (the documentary hypothesis, JEDP, form criticism) that destroy the absolute authority of Scripture. Even among those Christians who hold to the infallibility of the Bible in profession and believe in a six-day creation and the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, it is common that they are so ignorant of the Bible in practice that it has little influence in how they think and live and wields little power in their daily lives. The power of an infallible Bible is also ruined among professing Christians by the corrupt Bible translations such as The Living Bible and The Message, which are no Bibles at all.
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