For several decades a partial gospel has been preached . . . and the results have been terrible and tremendous.  A partial gospel does not save!  The fruit of this semigospel is a HUGE crop of people who have faith that Jesus died for their sins, a small degree of Bible understanding, a huge amount of false doctrine, a lifestyle of ‘do as thou wilt’, and the mistaken assurance that they are saved eternally and without exception.

This has led to two gigantic problems.  I’ll tackle the most critical one first.

1.  The ‘Carnal Christian’

When repentance is left out of the equation, true conversion has not yet taken place.  Until true conversion happens, the believer does NOT YET have the Holy Spirit inside them to empower them.  Without the Holy Spirit, the believer cannot ‘walk in the Spirit’.  Without the Holy Spirit, the believer does not have the power within them to overcome sin.  This dilemma breeds two different groups of people:

a.  The religious/self-righteous
b.  The ‘Carnal Christian’

The religious/self-righteous type are most likely the sincere seekers who really wish to please God.  But without the Holy Spirit, they must rely on their own efforts to conform themselves to the image of God.  They do all that they know is right, and they work very hard at it.  In the meantime, they become proud and self-righteous, because of all the good things they do and how hard they are working.  But on the inside they are often exhausted, resentful, and disappointed.

Those who are considered ‘Carnal Christians’ are often those who didn’t have a sincere willingness to die to their own desires in the first place.  The semigospel is perfectly suited to this type, because it tells them what they want to hear, and promises to give them something for nothing.

However, a ‘Carnal Christian’ can be the result of a religious type who has succumbed to burnout.  We have grown accustomed to believing that the zeal we felt when we first accepted Christ is something temporary that normally disappears in time.  But more typically this is the result–the burnout–that happens when sincere but unconverted (unrepentant) sinners get exhausted from trying to live the Christian life in their own strength.

As it became obvious to these people (who were PROMISED, and ASSURED that they were Christians, and were forever secure) . . . as it became obvious to them that they could NOT overcome sin or live in obedience, they began to devise a means of explaining this.  Rather than go back and re-examine the foundations–because they were adamantly ASSURED that they were saved–they began to reinterpret the Scriptures.

Soon the idea of the ‘Carnal Christian’ emerged.  They explained that the process of sanctification was something that GOD must do TO a person, and He would do it in HIS own timing.  Thus, until God miraculously removed their sinful desires from them, they would just be stuck with them, and the loving thing for the rest of us to do was just to be tolerant and accepting.  After all, if God hadn’t chosen to deliver them from their sins, who were WE to judge GOD?

But this flies in the face of SO many Scriptures–Scriptures that tell us that:

–A Christian does NOT continue in sin

 ‘Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.’  (1 John 3:9)

–A Christian is obedient

‘And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.’  (1 John 2:3)

–A Christian lives righteously

‘In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.’  (1 John 3:10)

–Christians love one another

‘By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.’  (John 13:35)

–We must be holy to see God

‘Follow peace with all [men], and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:’  (Hebrews 12:14)

–WE must be the ones to fight our flesh and bring it into subjection

‘For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.’  (Romans 8:13, also Col. 3:5-10, and 1 Peter 2:11)

–God desires a people that walk in holiness

‘Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you’  (2 Cor. 6:17)

Are all of these things automatic?  To some degree yes, but there is also choice involved.  We often have to CHOOSE to behave the right way, while feeling tempted to do otherwise.  The difference is: truly converted Christians DO choose to obey God (because they LOVE Him, not in order to OBTAIN salvation).  If we make the wrong choice, the Holy Spirit quickly convicts us and we repent.

If these things aren’t true of you, I’m not saying this to CONDEMN you.  I’m showing you there’s a good possibility you’ve never been completely converted.  Please don’t become angry and defensive.  Examine yourself.

The idea of the ‘Carnal Christian’ simply isn’t scriptural!  Yet many sincere believers, who struggle hopelessly with sin, use their own EXPERIENCE to confirm this doctrine.  But we are not told to compare things to our own experience to see if they be true–we are told to compare them to the SCRIPTURES: the only objective source of truth.  And, we are told to examine OURSELVES, to see whether we truly are converted.

‘ . . . now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare: . . . Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?’  (2 Cor. 13:2,5)

Paul wrote to those in Corinth, after repeatedly addressing sin issues in their congregation, that he was going to be very stern with them if he returned and found the situation continuing.  He commanded all of them who had been involved in the sin there, to examine themselves, as to whether or not they were truly converted.  The same goes today, for those who call themselves Christians yet are constantly struggling with sin and/or living in disobedience to God’s Commandments.

2.  Doctrines of Devils

When repentance is left out of the equation, true conversion has not yet taken place.  Until true conversion happens, the believer does NOT YET have the Holy Spirit in them to open their spiritual understanding of God’s word.

‘But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.’  (1 Cor. 2:14)

Two serious issues have arisen because of this:

a.  A plethora of corrupted Bible translations
b.  ‘Doctrines of demons’ in mainstream Christianity

The Bible is a book full of spiritual understanding, that is sealed from the understanding of men.  It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can understand it.  When a person is not yet converted, the Holy Spirit will open their understanding to the basic principles of obedience, sin, and repentance, in order that the person can grasp their sinful condition, and failure to be obedient to God, and turn to Him in repentance.  But that is about as far as the unsealing goes.  (If we harden our hearts and reject truth, even what little we have understood will be lost.  When people repeatedly reject truth, God finally abandons them to their own delusions.)

Because unconverted believers cannot understand the word of God, great lengths have been gone to, to dumb down the Bible so that they can understand.  But those who have so little reverence for God’s word, and so little fear of altering it, are likely not converted Christians.  Thus we have the blind leading the blind.

Truly converted believers CAN understand the KJV, with the help of the Holy Spirit (without which NONE of us can understand God’s word).  But those who are not truly converted, will find themselves constantly grappling with the word, trying to understand it.  Paraphrased versions, versions based on manuscripts translated by Catholic monks, and versions made ‘relevant’ to our culture and times, will not get them closer to the truth.

As a result of not understanding God’s word (and sometimes as a result of rejecting truth when it IS understood) believers are wide open to the influence of seducing spirits, and the demonic doctrines they bring.  Every so often a new wind of doctrine sweeps through mainstream ‘Christianity’, and these tired and parched souls desperately take hold of it, in hopes it will bring them comfort and end their confusion.  These doctrines always tickle the ears of believers, telling them what they want to hear and want to believe.  They provide a soothing alternative to the truth, and lull believers back into complacency regarding their own spiritual condition.

Believers–who don’t have the faith or strength that the indwelling Holy Spirit provides to TRUE CONVERTS–do not have the strength of faith to believe in God’s provision for them during the Tribulation.  And most do not have the endurance to stay true to their beliefs during persecution (thus so many cling desperately to the false preTrib Rapture doctrine).  They don’t have the inner urge to go against the flow and swim upstream, while everyone around them is swimming downstream to destruction.  Despite their false assurance and strong declarations to the contrary, they are still horribly lost.  What greater tragedy is there than to be ALMOST saved, yet convinced that you already are?

Conclusion

I urge everyone who reads this to examine themselves.  Jesus said we will be known by our fruit.  Are you producing GOOD spiritual fruit (Gal. 5:22-24)?  Has your heart been transformed?  Have your desires been transformed?  Do you genuinely love God and His people?  Do you love truth?  Do you seek to live obediently, out of love for God?

(If you won’t answer these questions honestly, you’ll only be cheating yourself.  If you find you ARE lacking, pray and ask God to show you why.)

The core issue this post is addressing, is a gospel that no longer preaches repentance.  All of the problems I’ve addressed are the fruit that hangs from this poison tree.  We can see and complain about this fruit all day long, but we need to go beyond that.  When we smell the rancid smell of this poison fruit, we can be pretty sure we’re near a ‘semigospel tree’.  When you see that the ‘Christians’ around you are where the smell is coming from, you can be pretty sure that they were birthed from a false gospel.  The challenge is to help THEM see that–to help them realize that without repentance (true confession, godly sorrow, and turning from sin) there is no true conversion.  Without true conversion there is no indwelling, empowering Holy Spirit.  Without true conversion, there is no salvation.

‘John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.’  (Mark 1:4-5)

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