Michael Youssef - Saving Christianity?
Jane Robelot: And welcome this special edition of "Leading the Way with Dr. Michael Youssef". We are going to address that falsehood today. You know, when Madison Avenue wants to market something to us, they label it as "new" or "progressive" or "universal," and in the past few years, Dr. Michael Youssef has noticed an alarming trend of people within the church, who are trying to market Christianity with some of that same branding, something that's universally accepted, a progressive faith that's tolerant, accepting of all things, but Michael says that watering down the Gospel message and removing its power, in trying to do that, some people are actually trying to "save" Christianity, but, Michael, you say it doesn't need saving.
Michael Youssef: Absolutely not. Christianity doesn't need to be saved because Jesus Christ is the heart of Christianity, and he's never changed, never been modified, but we are trying to modify him. We try to change him. We try to water his Gospel down. The Word of God is now, became, "It's optional. You take it or leave it". And the whole Gospel is in danger right now of being lost in the shuffle because of the false preaching and the false teaching, and so, if you wanna modify what Jesus said, you wanna water it down, you wanna change it, I'm just gonna plead with you: Stop, stop for your own sake. I might never meet you, ever, on this side of heaven, but my desire is for everyone who's watching and listening, would come to the point and say, "God, I know I'm a sinner, and I can't save myself, and I desperately need what Christ did on that cross, paying for the wages of my sin. Forgive me". And then the Bible said that person goes home justified and literally at peace with God, and once you're at peace with God, you're gonna find that you're at peace with yourself, you're at peace with your neighbors, but it all begins with having peace with God. Without that peace with God and that reconciliation with God and humbling one's self so that God may have mercy on you, without that, then all bets are off.
Jane Robelot: And that's really what's at stake in this life. I've heard you say, "Living as a Christian, living faithful to the Bible and everything that's in it is what brings you peace and energy from one day to the next". It's what allows you to handle the obstacles in life. So why would these pastors and preachers wanna change that for people? Why would they wanna rob people of that?
Michael Youssef: That's right, they're robbing the church of its treasure, priceless treasure. I'm convinced that those who water down the Gospel know that they're watering down the Gospel, and they are deliberately, made the choice and they made the decision that "because I don't want to offend people, because I want to pack the pews, and because I wanna be liked by the culture at large, and I am going to make it palatable". Under the guise of relevance, they'll say, "I'll make it palatable". For example, "Well, you don't like the story of Jonah? Well, we'll take it out. It's okay. You don't like the Noah and the flood? You don't have to believe it. We take it out". There can be no greater testimony than to stand up and say, "I'm wrong". And so, that's my prayer that they will have the courage to say, "Look, I have been preaching this feel-good Christianity, feel-good Gospel, and I'm sorry". Christianity is Jesus. You take Jesus out of Christianity, and it's really, you pull the heart out of a body, and it's dead corpse. Christianity, institutions, religions, denominations, all of that be a dead corpse without Jesus. It's not only Christians are gonna go to heaven. It's only those who have washed their sins under the blood of Jesus Christ. That's the language the Bible uses. It means that your blood was shed on the cross. "Jesus is what saved me. Thank you. I receive it. I accept it as a payment for me". In that moment, God says, "Okay, I forgive you".
Jane Robelot: Let's address some of those things that have reemerged. "Everyone goes to heaven. It's a hateful thought that God sits on his throne and sends some people to a place called hell".
Michael Youssef: Right.
Jane Robelot: "It doesn't sound like a very loving God who would do that".
Michael Youssef: In the Scripture, particularly in the Gospel of John, Jesus makes it clear, "I did not come just to... but they're already being judged by either accepting me or rejecting me". So, they judge themselves by their decision. And I personally believe that in the final day, there is nobody who is separated from God in that Christ-less eternity, which the Bible calls hell, is going to be saying, "Oh, I got a raw deal. God didn't deal fair". I think as we transfer all of us onto the other side, we're going to see things and say, "Yep, I brought myself here. I rejected Jesus. I heard my mother, I father, I heard the preacher, I heard my husband, I heard my wife, but I rejected, I would not accept it. I thought I could be good enough for God, and yes, I deserve to be here". I don't care how many people are deceived, thinking that everyone won't make it to hell because God is just a loving God. He is a loving God, and that is why he did the most loving thing anybody can do. He sent his Son to die on the cross, bleed on that cross and bleed to death, buried, and then rose again. That is the most loving thing to... If you reject that love, then that's your decision. It is the consequences of your decision of your choices of rejecting him or accepting him. And so I am absolutely convinced that, in the final day, nobody's gonna say, when they end up in that place of torment, "I shouldn't have been here". They will say, "God, you gave me a fair deal".
Jane Robelot: But is it a very selective process though? People are saying, "Well, you know, it's not really fair that only Christians get to go to heaven," but what I've heard you say is, "But everybody has the opportunity to become a Christian".
Michael Youssef: Absolutely; you think you can go with your ideas and your thoughts, your philosophies, your gurus and your Hinduism or Buddhism or Islamism, or any of those? No, no, no, no, no, no, there's only one. The narrowness indicate that Jesus is one way. If you wanna think there are more ways to God, you're deceiving yourself, and you're gonna be in a world of hurt. Let me plead with you, don't do this because God said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I'm pleased". God said there is only one way, and his Son, Jesus, said, "I am the only way, the only truth, and the only giver of eternal life". I can tell you, without the power of the Holy Spirit that God gives us to dwell in us, that's the Spirit of God himself, comes and dwells on the inside of us. Without the power of the Holy Spirit enabling us, strengthening us, day by day, to live for him, we can't do it. We can't do it. And so we cannot live for Christ, even for Christian believers, without the power of God's Spirit in us, giving us the strength, giving us the power, giving us the wisdom, giving us the discernment to know what is deceptive, but what is true, and that comes from intimately knowing God's Word. That is a must. Once you depart from that, you're gonna say, "Now, how I'm gonna be successful? How I'm gonna do this"? and "How I'm going to..." And then, all of a sudden, it's you. I have allowed God to use me. Radio, television, wherever it may be, all over the world, and I have only one message. It's not "Your best life is now," or "You can do it," or "If you have good thoughts, good things happen to you". That is falsehood, but saying God can use you if you submit to him. Paul said his strength in my weakness becomes perfect, and that is the message that I am pleading with everyone who's watching, whether you are a deacon or an elder or a Sunday school teacher, or just a member of a church, who involved in the work of the church. Pastors, let me plead with you. Stay with the Word of God because it's gonna give you strength. The Holy Spirit and the Word of God together, in one unity, working in us as we submit to him and willingly learn from him, we're gonna see God do some great things, things you might not even see the results of in this life, which is fine, but you'll see it in heaven.
Jane Robelot: You talk about the Holy Spirit. There's some people who say, "Really? Come on, such a thing as a Holy Spirit, the devil, heaven, hell, the Resurrection, the virgin birth"? These are all real tenants of a Bible-believing traditional faith, but there are a lot of people who identify themselves as Christians, who just don't believe in those things, Michael.
Michael Youssef: Well, how can you call yourself a Christian if you don't believe what Christ said? How can you call yourself a Christian? I mean, that is a misnomer. You might go to church, but that doesn't make you a Christian. You might belong to a denomination, but that doesn't make you a Christian. The true Christian, and, again, I use the word very, very carefully. The true Christian is the person who says, "Christ is my only Savior and Lord, and what he said, I will do," period. That's it. All the other stuff, it's false, basically falsehood, deception. So that is, you put your finger on it. This is it.
Jane Robelot: So why is this deception taking off now?
Michael Youssef: Well, you know, the Bible talks about the Great Apostasy, that closer to the nearness of Christ, and I'm not an end-time preacher, but I sense, at least in my spirit, that we're getting closer to the time of the return of Christ. And even Jesus asked in the gospel of Luke, "When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth"? And so this so-called Great Apostasy, the departure from the truth, is taking place. There was a time in the '50s where, you know, everybody loves Ike, and everybody goes to church, and everybody... nice, and all that, but the time now is where I call the boat is leaving the pier, and if you have one foot in each place, you're gonna be in a world of hurt because the boat is leaving and God is separating the sheep from the goats, and we're seeing it right now, and those who, like we saw in the opening of this program, "Oh, God is loving. Everybody, my church says it doesn't matter what you do". That's falsehood. That is absolute falsehood. That's satanic...
Jane Robelot: "Falsehood, based on the Bible being truth, so this is false"?
Michael Youssef: A lie.
Jane Robelot: The polar opposite of what the Bible says?
Michael Youssef: And it's a lie when Satan came to Eve and says, "Well, you know, God is really loving. He's not gonna do this to you". He lied to her, and she bought into it.
Jane Robelot: But he told her a partial lie.
Michael Youssef: It's exactly right. It's always a nugget of truth, wrapped in a whole lot of lies, but then you kind of say, "Well, is this really true"? No, truth is the truth is the truth, and if it's not in God's Word, it's not the truth. If it's opposite to what God says in his Word, it is a lie.
Jane Robelot: So for people who say, "Not all of God's Word is relevant anymore," what do you say to them?
Michael Youssef: "Well, who made you and gave you the authority to decide what is relevant and what is not"? N.T. Wright, a great theologian... and I don't normally mention names, but he is very popular among young pastors, and he says, "We have to decide when Paul speaks as a rabbi, as a Jewish rabbi, and when he speaks as the Apostle Paul". Okay, who's gonna decide that? You? Who's gonna make that decision, "I like this, but I don't like this, and I accept this, but I don't accept that". Okay, fine. You sat as a judge. You are judging the Word of God instead of the Word of God judging you, and that's arrogance. That's pride, and pride is always at the very core of everything that's going on, the falsehoods that are going on in churches today. Pride lurks right there.
Jane Robelot: So, some words that I've heard you say or some of the key words: "progressive Christians," "emerging church," "moral relativism," "a conversation". "Let's have a conversation". "Rethinking," "universalism," what are all of these? There seems to be sort of a language around this new way of thinking, and that if you oppose them, you're a hater, you're a bigot. Nobody wants to be that.
Michael Youssef: No, and that's why they begin to see themselves as the elite. "We are the intellectuals; we are the progressive. You're the backwards person. We are progressive and we're moving on". I remember one time I had a discussion with a very liberal pastor, and this was 30 years ago, and he said to me, he said, "Michael, you don't understand. God has grown up since the days of the Bible". I said, "Really"? "Yeah, he has moved on. You're stuck in the old God, but this other god that we're worshipping..." This is a mainline denomination.
Jane Robelot: Is that heresy?
Michael Youssef: Well, it's beyond heresy. I mean, this is total falsehood. Look, let's face it. There is truth and there's falsehood. There is no semi-truth. And anything that does not come out of the Word of God, the truth of the Word of God, without being re-interpreted for modern society, it's from Satan. And why risk being called names and being hated and despised by so-called "progressive" and calling you backward, and they're calling you this and they're calling you that? Who wants to be called? Nobody wants to be called any of these names. But that's their method of intimidation.
Jane Robelot: As people who do believe the Bible as the infallible Word of God, and they're looking to kind of shore up that faith day-to-day, you say that there is a document that the church has created that was well-thought out, and it's lived many generations, and that's the Apostles' Creed.
Michael Youssef: Yeah, and it's a summary. It's a summary of the faith, and the reason they put it together is because, even in those early days of the church, there were some people who were modifying the Gospel, believe it or not. There were the Aryans, and there were the Nestorians, and all these heresies that were to do with the nature of the Trinity, and, therefore, the early, early church put together the summary called the "Apostles' Creed," what do apostles believe, what the core belief of the apostles. And so, the Apostles' Creed... in fact, we use it in our church. I ask the congregation on special occasions to affirm the Apostles' Creed because this is a summary of what God has accomplished in history and what the apostles of Jesus Christ believed, and it's sort of the Gospel in a capsule, if you like. And remember, literacy was not something that is very common even though the Hellenistic Greek culture was dominant in the Roman world. But nonetheless, there are a lot of illiteracy. So, to put the gospel in a capsule is to say, "This is a summary of the faith. If you don't have a Bible, if you can't read, here's your summary. And you believe that, and you become a believer in Jesus Christ".
Jane Robelot: Speak to people who are not Christians, Michael, people who don't really understand a great deal about who Jesus is. The Bible, it's pretty impressive. When we look for truth, what's true and what's fact; true, facts normally will survive in perpetuity. The Bible has been in existence for more than 2,000 years. If you count the Old Testament, way more than that. I'm sure that gives it some foundational truth right there, the fact that it survived, but what do you say to people who are nonbelievers who are listening to this conversation, and they want to discern what truth really is and whether or not Christianity is true for them?
Michael Youssef: Sure, well, you know, truthfully, God knows my heart of what I'm saying. I love nonbelievers, and I love, I have a sweet neighbor, and her idea of "the Christian right" and "they're arrogant, they're unforgiving," and she had all this, and I said, "Do you know what Christianity is"? "Well, you know, this Christian-right people, those people who hate homosexuals, and they hate this, and they hate that". I just said, "I'll take a moment," and I opened the Scripture, and I showed her what Jesus said, "Love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you," and I'm showing her. She said, "Really? This is Christianity? Why didn't I know"? See, a lot of people are being given false information, and they run with it. So I plead with them, if you do not know Jesus, the loving heart of God that he manifested in Jesus Christ, read what Jesus said, not what people said about Jesus. Don't even listen to what I say. Go to the Word of God, start reading in the gospel of John. If you don't have a Bible, we'll love to send you one. But just start reading and see how God revealed himself in Jesus, and the heart of Jesus, and that he says, "For God so..." There is so much, you can't describe it. "So loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him, whosoever," And you may be one of those "whomsoever," "Believe in him, will have everlasting life". And so God loves you, and he wants you to come and believe in him and enjoy him forever, and so don't listen to what people say because you're gonna have a lot of noise, but listen to what God said.
Jane Robelot: And historically, I've heard you say before, and you've cited instances that Christianity is really, even just culturally speaking, Christianity has changed the world for the better.
Michael Youssef: Oh gosh, yes. I mean, you look at the hospital movements, the library movement. And I can prove it historically. All of that started with the Gospel, started with the preaching of the Gospel. The Salvation Army started... William Booth went out of love and care for the homeless and the drunkards in the streets of London. He would pick 'em up, and take care of... that's how so many of these ministries... Now, unfortunately, there are some who ignore the foundation, and they just stay with the building, but without the foundation, the building can't stand. But all of that, the education, my goodness, first, women, schools in the Third World, whether it be in India or my hometown, the country of Egypt, or anywhere in the Middle East, or in the world, Africa, the education of women started by women missionaries who believed that women need to be educated in order to come and know. Read the Bible and know Christ. So everything that is good that we see around, if you're honest, if you wanna be honest, you go back, and you find out how it started. You're gonna find it started by Christian believers who were impacted by Christ and, therefore, touched the world for Christ.
Jane Robelot: So a lot of people who say that Christianity is anti-women, you're saying just the opposite.
Michael Youssef: Oh, my goodness gracious, Jesus is the greatest liberator of women that there is. And, again, you read his Word. He did so many things that the religious leaders of his day would absolutely had frowned upon. He was talking to a Samaritan woman. A woman to talk to, even a Jewish woman, but he was talking to a Samaritan woman, even his disciples were shocked. Why? He was lifting up women from the oppression of the spirit of religion, which is man-made and modified, the original revelation of God in the Old Testament. They modified it. They added to it. They made 600 different rules, plus. So Jesus is the one who uplifted women, and that is why these women believers went all over the world, helping other women to come to know Jesus Christ were educated, health care, and all of that was provided. Now, people can deny all they want. I mean, I can put my hand on my face and say, "Well, I can't see anything". "Well, remove your hand, and you'll be able to see".
Jane Robelot: So discover for yourself. Don't just take what culture is saying right now.
Michael Youssef: Absolutely.
Jane Robelot: Discover for yourself what the Bible really says what Christianity really means and that everyone is welcome to come to the cross.
Michael Youssef: There's no doubt, in my mind, that even though that so many in the church are departing from the truth, there are people, and we know from our listeners and viewers, particularly in North Africa and in the Middle East, these people, when they realize Jesus is so loving, their religion says, "You can't ask questions". We say, "Ask all the questions you want". And they, all of a sudden, they said, "I am so glad to discover Christ". Their life is in danger. They could be tortured. They could be suffering for... but they do it with joy and happiness. Why? They discovered the truth. The truth. Not what somebody says about the truth, not even what I'm saying. It's what you can read in the Word of God itself.
Jane Robelot: And we can read much more about this in your newest book, "Saving Christianity"? But it's a question mark, "Saving Christianity"? That question mark is very important, isn't it?
Michael Youssef: Vitally important because they think they're rescuing Christianity, and they are the ones that need to be rescued by Christ, and it is arrogance, it's falsehood of saying, "I can save Christianity," and so, what arrogance, what pride? That is, it's so illegitimate to say that anyone, even a group of people, or a denomination can save Christianity. Christianity is Christ, and Christ does not need to be saved.
Jane Robelot: And for people who are a little bit nervous about this conversation that we've had, Michael, what do you say to them? How do they shore up what they really believe, and how do they find real truth?
Michael Youssef: Well, number one, get the book because the book is gonna take you to Jesus. The book is gonna take you to the Word of God. My books are always, have a sign, and the sign says, "Go to Jesus. Go to the Word of God". And that's what the book will do. It will open your eyes and realize that, if you're already down that road, that you, it's never too late to make a U-turn and come back. And if you haven't gone down that road, this is an opportunity to say, "Okay, Lord, open my spiritual eyes so I'll recognize that I desperately need you".