Recently I was sharing with my friend, Cheryl* the concern I felt over my brother and his rejection of the gospel as found in Scripture. Eric* claims to love God and would say he’s a Christian who is heaven-bound, but his beliefs lack substance and hinge on being a “good guy.” He believes in heaven but not hell. Eric thinks all paths lead to heaven and that good people go there (so why wouldn’t he?). He has made a god to his liking, one who is tolerant, inclusive, and loving, and makes him feel eternally secure. Tragically, his faith is in a false gospel that offers counterfeit security. Sadly, there are many like Eric all around us.
I was sharing with Cheryl because she is a believer who knows my brother. I was expressing sadness and grief over Eric because I love him and have prayed for his salvation for years, and share with him every chance I get. But what she said to me indicated that she disagreed with me about Eric’s need for Christ and salvation and that I was wrong to question it. She told me, “You are not his judge; God knows his heart.” These words express what many Christians and non-Christians feel.
True, God alone knows and can judge the human heart, not me. (Jeremiah 17:10) And God knows one’s eternal destiny and whether they have accepted or rejected the Gospel. But, is it more loving to leave the question of anyone’s eternal destiny unanswered and up to chance, or is it more loving to challenge their thinking and point them to God’s Word and the cross?
Early in June, Pastor Dan encouraged us to read the book, The Unsaved Christian: Reaching Cultural Christianity with the Gospel, by Dean Inserra, which sheds light on this grave problem in the American Church and explores how to share the gospel with people who believe they saved because of external factors like infant baptism, belief in a “higher power”, Christian parents or occasional church attendance. By exposing the false security these beliefs bring, he helps believers know what they believe, then instructs in how to share the gospel with unsaved Christians.
"There is no doubt that these are hard conversations to have, but we need to wake-up from our slumber and realize people’s eternal destinies are at stake"
Both Cheryl and Eric are examples of the problem facing the Church in America. Eric has a false sense of eternal security based on a faulty understanding of God and the Bible. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). And Cheryl has a wide and inclusive view of Christianity that doesn’t align with Scripture. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who find it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).
“This reality calls us to missional urgency to reach those in our services who are comfortable with Christian lingo but have no understanding of the truth…The church must awaken to the reality that this [Cultural Christianity] is a false gospel with eternal consequences. Cultural Christianity is a mindset that places one’s security in heritage, values, rites of passage (such as first communion or baptism from childhood), and a generic deity, rather that the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.” 1
Dean Inserra’s book is beneficial in understanding the problem of cultural Christianity as found in our churches, communities, in our families, and among our friends. It is a great tool to know how to lovingly share the gospel with the unsaved Christian by asking probing questions that point to their need. It encouraged me to examine myself (2 Corinthians 13:5) and what I believe to be better equipped to share the gospel.
Often I think that we choose to ignore warning signs (like Cheryl) in someone’s ambiguous faith because we are afraid that if we challenge them, they might reject us. Worse yet, it might mean they are unsaved, and we are reluctant to believe this. We accept a warm and fuzzy version of faith because it’s easy and more palatable than the truth.
“While it is a sobering moment to admit that your son or daughter—who grew up in church, asked Jesus into their heart, and was baptized—might be a lost person in need of salvation, the embarrassment or failure you may feel is in no way as serious as the reality of being dead in one’s sins and needing to be made alive in Christ. (Ephesians 2:1-4)” 2
Sadly, Eric has been blinded to the truth and is lost but doesn’t realize it. By embracing a “god” who is loving, but not holy, just and righteous, where sin has no consequences, he has, “Exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).
What is more loving? To accept someone’s worldly view of God, heaven, and eternity that is not Biblically correct and clings to works as a basis for salvation, or to prayerfully and lovingly talk to that person, presenting the truth of God’s Word that challenges their misconceptions of God, and salvation? There is no doubt that these are hard conversations to have, but we need to wake-up from our slumber and realize people’s eternal destinies are at stake.
I would like to be able to say that I am good at sharing the gospel and confronting the cultural Christianity I see around me, but I am not. Dean Inserra’s book helped me to identify issues surrounding the “unsaved Christian.” Then it gave practical instruction in asking intentional questions meant to open dialogue with someone about their beliefs. If you, like me, feel weak in this area, I would encourage you to read this book and receive the practical help it gives. Then enter into the fight against cultural Christianity for God’s glory and the salvation of those who are perishing around us because it is the most loving thing to do.
*Cheryl and Eric are real people whose names were changed for the purposes of this article.
1. Dean Inserra, The Unsaved Christian: Reaching Cultural Christianity with the Gospel (Chicago, IL: Moody, 2019), 18
2. Ibid., 66