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It is increasingly common today to hear parts of the gospel proclaimed. The same was happening in the early church. In Acts 20, Paul says to the Ephesian church elders, "I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you.  For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the WHOLE WILL OF GOD" (Acts 20:26, 27).

Unlike many modern preachers, Paul refused to edit out the difficult parts of the message. He insisted on preaching the whole gospel.

In 604, Pope Gregory wrote about the "Seven Deadly Sins" which included pride, gluttony, envy, lust, anger, greed and laziness. In the spirit of the Pope's top seven, here's my list of "Seven Deadly Sins of the Pulpit." 

1. Preaching Christ Without the Cross.

No-cost Christianity. Paul was determined to know and preach nothing except Christ and Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). Today it seems we preach everything but Christ and the cross, causing many to live as enemies of the cross (Philippians 3:18).

2. Preaching Salvation Without Sanctification.

No-change Christianity. So many claim Christ today with no evidence or change in their lives, and the pulpit is at least partially to blame.

3. Preaching Decisions Without Discipleship.

No-commitment Christianity. I know we are getting crowds and decisions, but are we making disciples?

4. Preaching Love Without Lordship.

No-compliance Christianity. Jesus is Lord, and because He is Lord, He heals, delivers, provides and saves.  

5. Preaching Prosperity Without Purpose.

No-cause Christianity. God blesses us so that we can be a blessing.

6. Preaching Blessing Without Birthright.

No-covenant Christianity. Esau threw away his birthright and still expected a blessing. It does not work that way. If we want the blessing, we must accept the covenantal responsibilities that go with the birthright. 

7. Preaching Revival Without Reformation.

No-transformation Christianity. We are called to be salt and light, to impact individuals and cultures, families and nations. The gospel is supposed to be transformational.

I have certainly been guilty of all of above at different times in my life as a preacher. As I have matured, hopefully, I'm being more and more faithful to preaching the WHOLE WILL OF GOD. How about you?

Steve Murrell is an accidental missionary, reluctant leader, frequent flyer, watch collector, and 1200gs rider.

Talk about it...

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jan 21, 2014

Not quite sure what the author means by number 2. We do not promise to do anything for God in order to be saved (Eph. 2:8-9, Titus 3:5). Faith and repentance in Jesus Christ, plus nothing, minus nothing, is how we are saved. If there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, then most assuredly there is nothing we can do to keep it. The thief on the cross is a good example of this. He didn't promise Jesus He would change his lifestyle, be sanctified, so that he could be saved. He didn't promise he would live for him. How could he, he would be dead in a matter of hours. Yet Jesus told him that he would be with Him in Paradise that very day. What did the thief do to be saved? He admitted he was a sinner, that Jesus was who He said He was (God), and he called on Jesus to save him. The same is true today. We are saved the same way. Now, of course, if a person really does accept Christ as Savior, then yes, their should be evidence of his or her conversion. If one is truly saved then transformation will take place. And yes, I believe that there are MANY false professions of faith, but I can't change the message of salvation i. e. "If you want to be saved you must give up this and that" in order to make sure that doesn't happen. Only God knows the heart, only He can know if the profession was genuine or not. There are many people who look like they are saved and sanctified for Christ that are not (Matt. 7:21-23). Discipleship, Lordship, and the rest come only AFTER a person is saved. And yes, we should preach that all of them need to be practiced as children of God.

Bill Williams

commented on Jan 21, 2014

"Now, of course, if a person really does accept Christ as Savior, then yes, their should be evidence of his or her conversion. If one is truly saved then transformation will take place." I think that's all the author means by #2. I don't see anything there to suggest earning salvation or adding to salvation or changing the message of salvation or anything like that. But you're clarifications are good.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jan 21, 2014

I don't know if I agree with you Bill. The point indeed seems to link the two together.To me he is saying, we are to preach "If you are going to be truly saved, then you must be willing to sanctify yourself in order to be saved." Read it again and tell me it cannot be taken that way. Maybe the author himself will clarify it if he reads the comments as other authors at times.

Bill Williams

commented on Jan 21, 2014

I read it again, but I still don't see him saying that. MAYBE, if you just took the numbered point without the explanation below it, you could take it that way. Maybe. :) I'd still think it was a bit of a stretch, but without the context I suppose it would be possible to stretch it that far! But the explanation below the point clearly seems to link sanctification as EVIDENCE of salvation (a word you yourself used), not the cause of salvation. What he seems to be saying is, "Don't preach Christianity as if it isn't going to make any change in one's life." At least, that's how I understood it...by the way, haven't seen you here in a while. Happy new year (belated, of course)!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jan 21, 2014

Happy New Year to you also Bill (belated of course) : ) I still don't think it is a "stretch" to believe the author is connecting the two even when reading the context. I guess without the author himself clarifying the point, we will just have to agree to disagree. To me, it needs a bit more clarification.

Bill Williams

commented on Jan 21, 2014

oops, meant to post this under your reply: "To me, it needs a bit more clarification." Hey, fair enough. Take care!

Troy Heald

commented on Jan 21, 2014

I agree with Bill, if there is genuine salvation there will begin a work of santification (done by the work of Christ thru us not us on our own.) That santification will work in different speeds for different people but it will begin and will never be complete this side of heaven. We need to be preaching that the santification is a sign of genuine salvation. If there is no santification going on than we have to question if there is genuine salvation. Again, not everyone will grow at the same pace. Some may still be struggling with sinful habits, or sinful natures and attitudes that may take time but are they growing (even if slowly) is the question that must be asked.

Robert Macmillan

commented on Jan 21, 2014

I also agree with both Bill and Troy. I would add that I agree with the author that the pulpit is at least partly to blame. Preaching a man centered message, minimizing the teachings of Christ in order to make coming to Jesus more palatable and the promotion of the cheap grace or hyper grace are all harmful to the body of Christ.

Carl Jones

commented on Jan 21, 2014

I would add we should never preach the cross with the empty tomb. Many love the cross, as do I, but too many remain there. The purpose of the cross was to buy our freedom to live. That life is given via the empty tomb. We are saved that we might live!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jan 21, 2014

Belief in the resurrection is certainly necessary for salvation (Romans 10:9). Again, the theif on the cross believed Jesus would rise again, he said, "Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." A dead man doesn't have a kingdom.

Ken Stokes

commented on Jan 24, 2014

Remember....the thief on the cross still was under the Old Covenant....not the new. Jesus had not died yet!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jan 25, 2014

Yes he was still under the Old Covenant, but people were still saved the same way. Before the cross they looked forward to the Perfect Sacrifice. The fulfillment of all the Old Testament types and figures. But they were still saved by grace through faith. No one was EVER saved by keep the Old Testament Law. They looked forward to the cross, we look back to the cross, but it's still always been the cross. The thief was saved by believing he was a sinner, that Jesus was that sacrifice, and that He would rise again. Look at the account in Luke 23:39-42 and you see we are saved in the exact same way.

Carl Jones

commented on Jan 21, 2014

Sorry. I intended to say "...preach the cross without the empty tomb." Bronchitis and meds will cause you to "tp ypo". :-)

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jan 21, 2014

Carl, I understood what you meant. : ) Hope you feel better soon.

Bill Williams

commented on Jan 21, 2014

"To me, it needs a bit more clarification." Hey, fair enough. Take care!

Leroy Thomas

commented on Jan 21, 2014

I love this discussion. I see great minds in this discussion. Let's remember it is the sum of God's word that counts. Let's keep it simple. Sanctification means to be holy. Was it not said to all children of God "to be holy because He that called you is holy. The author is right not many pulpits preach this gospel piece, which is why we see everything going on in Christendom but what is holy before the eyes of almighty God.

Pastor Jeff Hughes

commented on Jan 22, 2014

I think the author's article is spot on...and I do think that when folks hear that gospel message they need to understand that they should expect God to change them. People are to "count the cost", and understand what they are bound to experience. This is not salvation by works; if one does not experience change at least to some degree, then their "faith without works is dead", it was DOA to begin with. Great points of view, good discussion!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jan 22, 2014

Jeff, when Jesus tells us to "count the cost" He is talking about discipleship, not salvation, the two are different and must be distinguished. Read Luke 14:25-33 for the context. We do not have to hate father, mother, wife, children, and so on to be saved. The whole passage speaks of discipleship. Also Paul wrote again and again that faith apart from works is the only thing that saves us (Romans 4:1-5 for example). I can see that you believe this. Many people then suppose an apparent contradiction in James when he says "fatih without works is dead." So how do we harmonize these two teachings? James has already done this with the simple word "brethren" in verse 14. Again, we need to read the verse you quoted in context. Paul was explaining how sinners become saints. But James was explaining how believers in Christ grow in their faith. James was dealing with the issue of sanctification or Christian growth; Paul was dealing with the matter of salvation. When James uses the word "saved" he is referring to the justification of the believer, not the justification of the sinner. Salvation has three tenses; We are saved from the penalty of sin, then as we grow we are saved from the power of sin, and one day when we get to heaven we will be saved from the presence of sin. James is referring to the second. James is concerned about BELIEVERS becoming dead spirituall because of carnal living. In other words, these two apostles were writing about two different groups of people, sinners and saints. James is talking to people who want to know what it takes to live life to the fullest for God. One thing it takes is good works. I'm sure you know all this. But this is something that is not necessary for people to know before they are saved. Do I preach that Jesus will change your life if you receive Him as your Savior? Of course. But my main focus is letting them know that if they die without Christ they will spend eternity in a lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). After all, that is the very point of salvation, what you are saved from. Jesus came to seek and to SAVE that which was lost. He doesn't save us from a carnal life, He saves us from eternal fire. Jude 23 "And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire;..." Again, I'm not sure exactly what the author means by point two. To me he is saying, we are to preach "If you are going to be truly saved, then you must be willing to sanctify yourself in order to be saved," which is wrong. If he doesn't mean this, I think he should have made this point a bit clearer.

Rev. Larry West

commented on Jan 22, 2014

I have been greatly disappointed with many of the sermons and articles on Sermon Central. However, this one is excellent. I will give Mr. Murrell all credit, but I plan on sharing this with my congregation and ministers in my church!

Stephen Belokur

commented on Jan 22, 2014

Amen!!!

Jeff Needleman

commented on Jan 22, 2014

I see, all too often that salvation and works are mixed up, as are our spiritual and corporal selves. Salvation is at no cost to us, (grace), but then we have responsibilities! I love what the author has written. I have seen all too often the decision to be follower of Christ without the commitment to grow spiritually and emotionally!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jan 22, 2014

So Jeff, are you saying that if a person is to be saved we must tell them that they must commit to live for Christ, or they can't be saved? Isn't that telling them that they must be at least willing to work for their salvation? Again, did the thief on the cross make a decision to be a follower of Christ with the commitment that he would grow spiritually and emotionally? And don't say that he was an exception. God is no respector of persons, EVERYONE comes to Christ in the same way! If we are to commit to grow spiritually and emotionally before we make a decision to follow Christ, then how much are we supposed to promise to commit before we get saved? Do you follow Christ perfectly? Do you always do His will? God's standards are PEFECTION, and NONE of us measure up, EVER. That is why salvation is by GRACE alone. No promises to God, just faith and repentance in His Son. Again, as I've stated, there are MANY false professions made, but just because that is so, we are not supposed to change the message of salvation. Take Lot for example. Read the account of his life in Genesis and show me anywhere where we find he lived a commited life to God. The opposite is true. In fact we would NEVER know that Lot was a child of God by the way he lived his life. The only reason we know Lot was a child of God is because of what we read in 2 Peter 2:7-8 "And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)" Only a child of God can be called righteous. Only God knows the heart. Some people who do not look saved, are, and some who look saved, aren't. We are commanded to preach the grace of God and let Him "worry" about who is genuinely saved. If I have misunderstood what you have said, them please forgive me. But I have answered what I think you are sayin.

Timothy Chow

commented on Jan 23, 2014

The gospel is the gospel of the Kingdom. We preach Jesus is both Saviour and King. We are talking about having to work for your salvation but the absolute need for full, total surrender and submission to Jesus before anyone can enter the Kingdom. God is full of grace and mercy but we come to Him on His terms.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jan 23, 2014

Timothy, where in the Word of God does it say that in order to get to heaven we must be fully and totally surrendered to Jesus? Romans 10:9 "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." And verse 13 "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Eph. 2:8-9 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Titus 3:5 "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" Gal. 2:16 "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." And Gal. 3:1-3 "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" Those are "His terms."

Timothy Chow

commented on Jan 24, 2014

The very verses you quoted says if we would confess Jesus as Lord means we acknowledge Him as Lord. Trust you understand what it means when we call Him Lord.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jan 24, 2014

Yes, it means that Jesus is God. You must believe that Jesus is the Lord to be saved. This isn't speaking about Lordship salvation. Phil. 2:10-11 "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." EVERY tongue will confess one day that Jesus is Lord, God. But for those who did not trust Him as Savior in life it will be too late. What about the other verses I quoted? What do you do with them?

Jeff Needleman

commented on Jan 23, 2014

Dennis: you do not get it! This is apples and oranges. We are washed clean spiritually and get to live in Heaven. Before we get there, we have to live on Earth. Under the Holy Spirit's guidance we get to grow emotionally, and then we can better minister to, and pastor the flock. Don't mix the two up!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jan 23, 2014

Jeff, maybe you don't understand what I am saying so let me be very clear here. In point 2 the author seems to suggest that if we are to preach the message of salvation, we need to also preach that if you want to get saved, you must promise to sanctify yourself, to change your life. That is conditional salvation. "If you promise to do this, then I will save you." We come to Christ by trusting in His finished work on the cross and resurrection. Our faith and repentence saves us by the grace of God, not by my promising to live for Him after I am saved. Now as I have ALREADY stated, yes, after we are saved we are supposed to do works for God (Eph. 2:10). But this is AFTER we are saved, not a condition for salvation. I would say back to you, do not mix the two up. Even if I am misunderstanding the author, what I am saying is still true! We are not saved by works or promising to live for God in order to be saved. Please show me from the Bible where I am wrong on this issue.

Jeff Needleman

commented on Jan 24, 2014

Nope, I am not disagreeing with you... but I am disagreeing about what you think the author is trying to get across. His "No-change Christianity concept, where "So many claim Christ today with no evidence or change in their lives" is stating SAVED but STAGNANT. So, I think he is stating that we are saved but not growing (i.e. changing) in our Christian faith or walk.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jan 24, 2014

Thanks Jeff for clearing that up. Of course I agree with what you are saying. But my issue from the beginning was that if the author does mean what you believe he does, he could have made it a little clearer in my opinion. I wasn't quite sure what you meant and I said such in my first reponse to you. Again, thanks for taking the time to clear that up.

Eric M

commented on Jan 24, 2014

This is a timely and excellent article for our generation. I am joining this discussion from South Africa...I followed some discussion going on here is like arguments about grace and work. We know that to be saved one must confess Jesus Christ as Lord. Can Jesus be your Lord and you don't do what He command? Luke 6:46

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jan 25, 2014

He can be your Savior and you can still disobey. The verse you quote in Luke isn't about salvation, but discipleship. Look at 1 Corinthians 3:1-15. This speaks of the carnal Christian. There are envyings, strifes, and divisions. Then in verse 15 it talks about rewards lost for living a carnal life, but they are saved. If any works are involved for salvation we are ALL in big trouble because God's standard is PERFECTION ALWAYS and NONE of us will EVER be perfect this side of heaven. 1 John 1:8-9. If we as Christians live a carnal life then God will certainly chastize us (Heb. 12:6-8. Don't take me wrong. I am NOT saying we are free to sin and live anyway we like. As I just said, God will spank us and it will not be enjoyable. But do not mix law and grace in our salvation. We are not saved by living for Jesus as Lord.

Rev. Dr. Theophilus Lambo

commented on Jan 31, 2014

Thanks Steve on your submission based on long term observation and experience which cannot be fully realized or appreciated by many pastors with limited exposure, no matter how spiritually gifted they may seem to be and this is also quite understandable. To start picking each topic for scrutiny and comment is to lose the focus of the challenges facing the Christendom today, even though these problems or challenges were in existence during the time of the early apostles. We must however remember that there are two main types of ministries around today, one established on man motivated love where the motives are mainly for selfish gains. And the other established on Christ motivated love, where the spirit of Christ, the, Comforter which is the spirit of Truth, is constantly abound to guide the church and this among other things depend on the quality of the pastors messages to the congregation. Motivational sermons do not have to be a salesmanship package to promise and assure the congregation prosperity without sacrifice. At the same time it should not be a spiritual warfare where the pastor lashes out at the congregation, with condemnation. It should be able to fulfil all the ingredients enumerated by the author where the spirit of Truth and Christ is allowed to manifest. Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1.15-18 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will, the latter do it out of love. Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice. As long as is Christ that is preached, that is what matters, except that when a leader is not in Christ motivated love, how can such a leader radiate love or display servant leadership traits. It is not possible to give what you do not have.

Charles Waters

commented on Feb 19, 2014

It is hard to know what the author meant in point 2 without his input but Phil.1:6 says that God has begun and will perform His good work in us until the day of Jesus Christ. That "good work" is conforming us into the image of His Son. (Rom. 8). That is sanctification. Salvation is immediate, but sanctification is a process. I don't have a problem with the way this was stated. Eternal life is a "gift". It cannot be earned. It can only be received by grace through faith.

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