The ‘Almost’ Factor

                If you miss the train it doesn’t matter if you arrive an hour late or if the train doors slam shut right in your face; either way you are left standing on the platform.

The ‘almost’ factor is the most deceptive and misleading in that it is ‘so close and yet so far’. King Agrippa was ‘almost persuaded’ (Acts 26:28).

  • The history of the persecuted church is one of constant separation from error.

  • Today's fundamental churches, while seemingly Biblical in that they follow good rules of Christian living and some good doctrines are not fundamental in the least. In fact, they are completely apostate and any true believer must separate.

Modern fundamentalists today are able to explain why the ecumenical movement, contemporary christian music, immodest dress… are unbiblical. And they even believe in Biblical separation! So what could possibly be wrong? Why the assertion that they are apostate and that true believers must separate and call themselves something else?

Biblically, here’s why:  Churches today preach a perverted message of salvation that doesn't  result in the new birth.   As a result, the 'new christian'  does not  receive the Holy Spirit and his 'christian' walk becomes a walk 'in the flesh' .

A key issue is repentance.  Repentance is the denial of Self.  "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."  The Bible presents repentance and obedience/committment/Lordship as the way of salvation. The Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles never presented a watered down wishy-washy gospel.  There were no compromises.  It was God's way or nothing.  In fact, when they heard the Lord Jesus speak "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.(John 6:66)Today, the Gospel is mis-presented (by ignoring or minimizing or misdefining repentance and/or ignoring that one must committ to Jesus as LORD) and as such many people are deluded into thinking themselves saved and eternally secure when in fact they are still headed for hell. (Spend some time visiting websites and look at the faulty gospel messages.  Also, notice the slick sales pitches on the glossy websites with large pictures of the men who run them.) So fundamental churches don’t preach the fundamental doctrine of salvation Biblically.

Another key issue is that the Holy Spirit is only Someone who appears in the hymns and poems.  People believe that they have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them because they can point to a scripture verse saying that He should; not because they have actually experienced it.

The result is that the ‘show goes on’ without the essential foundation of repentance. And once the Holy Spirit, the ‘Life’, is removed, one is really only left with ceremony, ritual, and tradition; albeit closer to the Truth, and for that reason all the more confusing and deceptive.


Consider the following:

                The true gospel message of the Bible is not preached. With baptism comes the expectation of loyalty to the specific church, to participate and to help out, to serve, to work, to tithe. But why? The church is not spreading the True message of the Lord Jesus Christ. So it doesn’t make sense to serve. Or to support the whole misguided effort financially. In fact, it is not Biblical to knowingly spread a false salvation message. It is also not Biblical to fellowship with those who are doing so, while pretending that there is nothing wrong.

                Listen to what Tozer writes:  "I am of the opinion that we should not be concerned about working for God until we have learned the meaning and the delight of worshipping Him."  (Tozer on Worship and Entertainment, p. 16)  He continues "Jesus did not redeem us to make us workers; He redeemed us to make us worshippers.  And then, out of the blazing worship of our hearts springs our work"  (p. 19).  And note "I do not believe that we will ever truly delight in the adoring worship of God if we have never met Him in personal, spiritual experience through the new birth from above, wrought by the Holy Spirit Himself!" (p.14) "it was those who were the yearning worshippers who also became the great workers." (p. 15).

Attending a church that does not follow the Bible by clearly preaching Biblical salvation, is not Biblical as one slowly cooks like the proverbial frog in the water: Brainwashing. Compromise. Loss of the ability to discern. Such a bunch of nice Godly people means it can’t be wrong, right? Confusion. Inaction. Stagnation. All accompanied by a feverish call to keep busy by ‘serving’, but since there is no True gospel message being spread, it’s all in vain. Maybe these are some reasons why scripture demands separation from error. On what basis and by what authority does a believer attend or become a member of a church preaching a false gospel message in direct contradiction to God’s commands (repeated often in the Bible)? Sit there and not say anthing? While people are deceived.  Given assurance of eternal security and heaven when they are probably still headed for hell.

                One couldn't even invite guests to such a church, as the message of salvation is inaccurate. So the church looses it’s whole raison d’etre. But the whole thing continues. And it’s kept ‘alive’.  How? By keeping everyone too busy to notice anything. Most people spend their week running around, working… and they have very little spare time. The church tells them that if they love the Lord then they will show up for every service. So, the people rush to church in their little spare time and there they are lulled to sleep spiritually, kept busy serving, and get to participate in fun activities.  Isn't church wonderful they say?  Isn't God good.  We love our pastor.  We love our church.  Blinded robots who will not "oppose themselves" and get into the scriptures like the Bereans to see what is Biblical.

But why is it that the Truth doesn’t manage to surface? That few realize that something is desperately wrong.

There is no teaching of the Bible other than the watered down basics, which are then slightly distorted. The same pastor preaches the same messages slightly repackaged year after year. Baby food. The 'saints' (if there are any) never grow. They’re encouraged, admonished, almost threatened to grow; but they are not given any ‘meat’. Most are unsaved, thinking themselves eternally secure and on their way to heaven.  Instead of being a servant leader who guides the flock, the Pastor (no such title in the Bible) is a 'lord' over the flock (Nicolaitanism from Revelations)., who drives the flock.  He considers himself and is considered by all to be a 'superior' christian and the others are all carnal babes to be threatened to come to every service, tithe, nod their heads, smile, agree, and raise their hands when asked.  Then the music plays, eyes are closed:  it's emotional manipulation.

Listen again to Tozer:  "Our meetings are characterized by cordiality, humor, affability, zeal, and high animal spiritis; but hardly anywhere do we find gatherings marked by the overshadowing presence of God.  We manage to get along on correct doctrine [not true anymore today], fast tunes, pleasing personalities and religious amusements.  How few, how pitifully few are the enraptured souls who languish for love of Christ... The very memory of better days is slowly passing from us and a new type of religious person is emerging." (p.31) 

Listen to what Richard Wurmbrand, a believer who spent 14 years in a Communist prison in Romania said at the end of a sermon he preached in a church in America (his English is not perfect and this is transcribed verbatim):  “I know what you expect now. Usually at the end of the sermons American preachers say ‘Now every head bowed every eye closed nobody looking around. If you lift your hands or come forward if you decide for Christ.’ And I asked the American preachers ‘Why must every head be bowed and why must eyes be closed and nobody look around’. And he told me they would not come forward if somebody would look at them. Well, if they don’t wish to come forward let them remain seated. If they are not ready to endure so much that somebody should look at them how would they endure that snakes should creep upon their bellies. How will they endure to be fed with feces and with urine. How will they endure 43 years of prison for Christ. There is such a christianity of whole hearted surrender to Him. If somebody does not wish to come to heaven let him just quietly go to hell. It’s his business. So I would ask you please keep your eyes wide open. Nobody should bow his head and please everybody look around. And I will not bargain with you and I will not ask you twice. If in these conditions anyone says… then raise your hand.” from ‘Doorkeepers’ Sermon by Richard Wurmbrand

Today's church runs as a ‘one man show’. It's nothing like the description in the Bible where the men speak and share (perhaps that's why the men in the churches are 'dead' - their role has been taken away and they are left to greet people, smile, nod, and raise their hands).  So, they have fallen asleep, become apostate, and can only talk about the next church golf game, or whatever...  See 1Cor 14.  There is nothing in the Bible about a Nicolaitan 'lord' (see Revelations) standing on a podium, taking the name of Pastor (not a title in the Bible) getting the people to go through the same rituals of standing up and sitting down and raising their hands, and nodding their heads and coming up to the altar (where is that in the Bible?) week after week.  Imagine if men took their Biblical role, searched the scriptures like the Bereans, reorganized the church Biblically, spoke up.  Doctrine could be kept pure, one person couldn't hijack the whole thing, all would be edified.

Those seen as the most Godly women are the ones who don’t seem to know anything and tell you to ‘ask their husband’. Being quiet and humble is redefined to mean being ignorant of the scriptures and following blindly. So women who were created to be a helpmeet to their husbands don’t fulfill their role either.

Fellowship is redefined to mean coming ten minutes early and chatting and doing the same for a few minutes after the service. Or playing games at the church. Or going on a yearly church hike or picnic. Or maybe going out for lunch. Eating some junk food at a restaurant, while talking about most anything but the Bible.  When people gather for the occasional Sunday afternoon fellowship, it's to play games or have fun, with a quick Bible reading and prayer thrown in for good measure.  "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  (Matthew 6:21).  The church must also grow and raise money to build a building. (A building that will sit empty all week.) To impress the community. There is a flurry of activity. Everyone is busy serving. Raising money. Joining committees. It’s all for the Lord. It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that a room at a community centre would cost a fraction of the price and free up everyone’s time, effort, energies, and money to fulfill the Great Commission. But now we are back to the original problem, the church doesn’t have a saving gospel message. It’s simply spreading God’s 'love' all around. The community smiles. Doesn’t care. Barely notices. At the same time half way around the world persecuted true believers are imprisoned and tortured. But they are rarely prayed for, mostly forgotten. The concern here is about raising money for a new carpet. 'Missionaries’ the church sends out have never been born again. The ‘missionary’ from Alberta goes to Ontario. The ‘missionary’ from Ontario goes to Alberta. They are proselytes making proselytes. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Matthew 23:15). The Bible says “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8). Believers are to be witnesses in their own community first (Jerusalem) with the True Gospel, before anyone should go anywhere.

                Today's church is a community centre with fun programming for the whole family.  It's advertised as such on slick websites.  The message is tame and 'easy', nothing that will bring a "cross" or persecution:  Just come, we're such a friendly place, we care for you and your family, just believe in Jesus (the devils also believe and tremble), worship with us, give us your money, get your ticket to heaven after praying a little prayer, enjoy all of the various fun social activities available.  Why not come?  Who wouldn't want to come?  This is playing church.  Playing at being religious.  Does this sound anything like the Lord's message in the Bible?  Is this what Paul the apostle preached?         

A Case Study and Comparison

    If one is attending an apostate fundamental church or has been attending such a church it is easy to loose perspective, to get confused, to get lost in the mess. So, in order to understand this whole thing better it is useful to examine another situation in which we are not so closely embroiled as it can shed light on this whole mess. So, let’s draw a parallel by examining groups who separate themselves from the world and live old fashioned lives. It is stunning to read about their Godly lifestyle, (which is actually much more Godly than even most fundmental churches). One would be hard-pressed to find groups with a more Godly lifestyle (except for the true believers in countries where there is persecution). What makes the comparison even more interesting is that these people are not born again. They live the way that they do because it is their culture, their traditions. It’s really quite amazing. Any born again believer would be thrilled to hear about daily church services, the emphasis on marriage and Godly families, the strict avoidance of media and worldly entertainment… and yet the whole thing is spiritually dead; and rule, ritual, and tradition driven. Sound familiar?  The christian world has no difficulty declaring such groups to be cults or sects, however by the same definition today's apostate churches must be cults as well (since they deny/pervert the salvation doctrines of the Bible and preach a message that cannot result in the new birth.)  Just because people are Godly and relgious and nice, doesn't mean that their message is True.  (Satan doesn’t mind if one chooses to be a cannibal or a religious person – as long as one doesn’t find the Truth.) Listen to what Tozer said “One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organizations do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team. The first requisite is life, always."



Now some of what goes on in churches is Biblical and some of it isn’t. That’s the ‘beauty’ of the whole thing. It’s a mess of truths and half-truths and truths twisted just slightly and the end result is… that one has a bad feeling. The feeling that one is trapped in a “strange” thing. There is a need to escape. In many cases it’s very difficult to pin point exactly what is wrong. Imagine finding yourself in a religious sect.  So wrong and in many ways so right. It’s like the whole thing is just slightly out of focus. Remember the ‘almost’ factor? “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:22-25)

The really scary part comes when one speaks out. Starts to ask questions. Points out that what the Bible says and what believers since the time of Christ have taught (up until the last century) isn’t what is being preached and taught. Then there is the realization that the pastors don’t seem interested in discussing or finding or preaching the Truth and actually seem to have very little understanding of the Truth.   So, it gets very confusing.  Listen to what A.W. Tozer writes: “I hope that God can burn this frightful fact into our souls—the truth that men and women can be respectable and religious and prayerful and careful and eager and ask the right questions and talk about religion—and still be lost” (Who Put Jesus on the Cross, p. 55) So, is the pastor a baby christian who just doesn’t know the Bible? Or is he not even born again? Is he deliberately deceiving everyone? Or is he a nice person who ‘surrendered to serve’ God as a teenager, was indoctrinated at a Bible School ('Bible School' is not a Biblical concept) and has spent the last twenty years repeating what he learned? Or is he scared of the persecution and loss of money that would result if he started preaching the Truths of the Bible so it’s easier to keep doing what he has always been doing, what he was taught, what everyone else around him is doing? It’s hard to know.  (Just to digress for a moment - think about how useful it is for the devil to have all the young people who are interested in the Bible all learning from proud PhDs at schools.  The perfect ground to forever confuse, distort, and brainwash an entire generation of pastors, who then go out and lead any interested unsaved person to hell with false doctrine, all the while convinced that they themselves, as well as their proselytes have a 'home in heaven'.  Not to mention turning the role of Pastor into an occupation, for which one earns a degree, writes a CV, looks for a job.)

The end result is that one needs to run far away and fast (this is Biblical – see section on judging and separation). Not out of spite or in any mean-spirited way, repudiating pride; but kindly, humbly, warning others, and making sure that I “work out [my] own salvation with fear and trembling (Php 2:12b) “…lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor 9:27). This is a little off topic, but listen to Matthew Henry’s comment on this second passage: Note, A preacher of salvation may yet miss it. He may show others the way to heaven, and never get thither himself. To prevent this, Paul took so much pains in subduing and keeping under bodily inclinations, lest by any means he himself, who had preached to others, should yet miss the crown, be disapproved and rejected by his sovereign Judge. A holy fear of himself was necessary to preserve the fidelity of an apostle; and how much more necessary is it to our preservation? Note, Holy fear of ourselves, and not presumptuous confidence, is the best security against apostasy from God, and final rejection by him.” (Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary)

Now, if you were reading this whole thing in a ‘history of the persecuted church’, than the next chapter would open with the new group that established itself by separating from this mess.  However, we are in the end times final apostasy.

But then again, most of the people in the Bible stood alone. One can pick up the Bible and not rely on people. And at the final judgement each one of us will stand infront of God alone.  And one can read the writings of the long dead saints. And who knows, maybe as the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ they are encouraging us from heaven. So, let’s make sure that we aren’t ‘almost’ believers, but that we are truly Biblically born again, have the Inner Witness and that we “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).