As we live our life in awareness that we are here to spread the Gospel (Romans 10:14-15), we need to remember that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).
This means that we should walk in faith, not putting our trust in a program or a method, but in the God whom we preach. We must preach Christ and Him crucified; sometimes by spreading the seeds through an open conversation, sometimes by watering seeds through study. Regardless, we must preach a true Gospel. The Pharisees were good at spreading their message, but Jesus warned us about what they were doing. For our woe today, we will turn to Matthew 23:15:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
During the days when Jesus walked the earth philosophies and religions were a dime a dozen. Everyone was preaching a message, and usually the message would die out when the preacher passed on. Though we know a lot of the various religions from extra-biblical sources, some passages in Scripture show us how devoted people were to their gods. The most famous example was recorded in Luke as he is describing a message that Paul delivers in Athens. He was preaching Christ in the city. The philosophers actually took him to the Areopagus, the place to discuss philosophies and religious teachings, and he asked to explain these teachings! What a platform Paul had, and he used examples from the city. In Acts 17:22-23:
So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you."
The people were asking to hear new things; some to argue against it, others genuinely looking for truth, but Paul proclaimed Christ, and Him crucified. The Pharisees were not so. They sought conversions to their religion, which was not authentic faith (whether Christian or Jewish), but it was rather a legalistic religion born out of trying to please God through rules and regulations. The leaders of that day would attempt to make converts of the people. As respected teachers, they would frequently win over by appearances and then start to teach their disciples their rules, regulations, and how they believed God would accept them. Since they did not have the true knowledge of how to please God, Jesus declares that they make the people twice the son of hell as they are. To make their convert twice the son of hell, the Pharisees would, as most of us do, hold their disciples to a higher standard of conduct than they held. This is very common in cults where the leader seems to act above the law that he gives to the rest of the people. But this is not confined merely to cults, most of us hold others to a higher standard, more able to see their sin than our own. That is why Jesus says in Matthew 7 to remove the log from your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Our humility is the path to not hold others to a standard beyond what we can, though we still must strive to honor God in our body and our life and we are also commanded to encourage one another to do the same (Ephesians 5:1-21, Galatians 6:1-5).
In The Modern Church
There are two ways that I see modern church leaders making their converts twice the son of hell. The first is the incessant seeking of signs and wonders. The wisdom of Martin Luther was displayed when he received a message from a spiritual being but disregarded it when he was not able to verify the source of that being. Sadly many modern churches receive messages but never seek to understand the source. If it is from God, it is a good message, but what if it is not? Too many people seek signs and wonders to the end where they do not ever verify the source. Paul warns us that the Devil and his minions can disguise themselves as angels (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus warns us:
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
We should not be setting out to see signs and wonders, nor should we use our experiences or efforts as our personal confirmation that we are saved. Our salvation is from Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, and our confirmation is from the Spirit. The second way that modern church leaders are making their converts twice the son of hell is by not giving us a complete Gospel. In my article a few weeks back I discussed several points in regards to Release the Spirit. America is good at keeping simple steps and plans in front of people and trying to convince those people to say a little prayer to assure their salvation. This can make a person believe that nothing in their life needs to change, the prayer is the end-all. The true Gospel is a free gift, but it requires us to repent of our sins and follow Jesus. It requires us to count the cost of being His disciple, and though it is free, it is not easy. Jesus also says in Matthew 7:
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Verses 13-14).
Salvation is not three easy steps and welcome to the kingdom. It is a change in heart, a calling to follow Jesus. By making converts that believe that a prayer is the end-all, these preachers and program designers may well be convincing someone that the path they are on will lead to heaven all the while they are on a collision-course with Hell.
Fixing the Mess
Sobriety in our Christian life is the best path our true walk with Christ. We need to be humble because of our sin and seeking to daily give our life to Jesus. We should be seeking the knowledge of God through the revelation first, becoming a studious reader of His Word. We ought not seek signs and wonders, but be sensitive to the fact that God sometimes works in them, but test every spiritual experience we have. We need to daily live our life in service to the King for no other reason than the fact He bought us with His blood. Seek to find out who Jesus really is, and do not make your disciples a Son of Hell.