INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–A church or a denomination may assume it is experiencing God’s blessing because of external factors such as large membership rolls or financial success, but in reality it may be far from God, Eric Redmond said at the annual Founders Fellowship Breakfast June 10 during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis.
Redmond, a pastor, author and SBC officer, said one of the great dangers facing Southern Baptists is that of presuming upon the grace of God.
“The real danger of making assumptions based on good feelings or good outcomes or assuming that because you look righteous and feel well among nice Christian people at your church or at the convention, that you are right with God, is that you may be very far from being right with God in what you are doing or in what you believe,” he said.
Redmond, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Md., and outgoing second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is a member of the board of trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of the recently-released book, “Where Are All the Brothers?”
Addressing “the reformation that must come” from 2 Chronicles 34, a passage in which King Josiah removed idols and restored proper worship among the people of God, Redmond said Southern Baptists must reclaim the authority of Scripture to avoid falling into the deadly trap of spiritual presumption.
“The only way to get out of assuming we are right with God because of outcomes or because of tradition or because of history,” Redmond said, “is the same hope that Israel had at the time of Josiah and that is to completely submit ourselves, individually and corporately, to the whole counsel of God.
“Assumed righteousness can be hidden by earnest devotion to God…. It is this way in many of our churches,” he said. “We assume that we are walking rightly every day, but if we’re not seeking God through His Word, we are standing in a dangerous place.”
Redmond gave several “minimums” that must be in place for people to be genuinely following God:
— They must be reading and meditating on God’s Word daily. Israel lost the book of law because its kings failed to make a habit out of reading God’s Word, he said.
— They must be teaching the Word of God regularly to their children. Parents in Israel departed from the mandate of Deuteronomy 6, which demanded that they teach the law of God in their homes daily to their children, Redmond noted.
“We must make this a priority so that we are not swayed by new fads,” he said. “This keeps us from reinventing Christianity in each generation.”
— They must hold one another accountable for living in accord with the Word of God. Israel failed on this front also, he said.
Like Israel, modern Christians can become complacent for numerous reasons, Redmond said, including erroneously assuming they are not living sinfully because God’s wrath has not immediately come upon them. They also may become complacent because they have not been confronted by the holiness of God.
“We need to be confronted again by God’s holiness,” Redmond said. “We need to understand that it is His holiness that we are pursuing as individuals, as churches, as a whole body.
“Our goal is not to have great numbers in our churches,” he added. “Our goal is not to say, ‘We’ve met our baptism goal,’ or ‘We’ve met our evangelism goal,’ or ‘We’ve met the goal of the number of churches we want to add and the size of the churches we want to add to our denomination,’ but the goal is to be conformed to the image of God’s Son.
“Are we dealing with sin and trying to hate evil and are we loving what is good, are we saying to God, ‘We honor you with our lips and the motives and intents of our hearts?’ Great is the wrath of God upon those who think they are righteous but are not obeying all of God’s Word,” he said. “We need to humble ourselves and reclaim biblical righteousness.”
Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.