‘Life Change’ is not the Gospel; Neither is Putting a Noose Around your Neck

Today’s sermon review is one that doesn’t try to hide what it’s motives are. The entire twelve page PDF file is filed to the brim about what the point of the sermon is; and it has nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with you. The sermon can be found on Sermon Audio, you can find it here and download the PDF here. The title of this sermon is:

Who Can Tell?
By Evangelist Brian McBride of Victory Baptist Church

Bible Text: Jonah 3:1-10

1 Yahweh’s word came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I give you.”3 So Jonah arose, and went to Nineveh, according to Yahweh’s word. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey across. 4 Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried out, and said, “In forty days, Nineveh will be overthrown!”5 The people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from their greatest even to their least. 6 The news reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, took off his royal robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 He made a proclamation and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, “Let neither man nor animal, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, nor drink water; 8 but let them be covered with sackcloth, both man and animal, and let them cry mightily to God. Yes, let them turn everyone from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knows whether God will not turn and relent, and turn away from his fierce anger, so that we might not perish?”10 God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way. God relented of the disaster which he said he would do to them, and he didn’t do it.

Johnah 3: 1-10

This is a wonderful passage showing the active word of God. The Word is preached and the Spirit works contrition and faith in the people of Ninevah. They are struck at the core and are sorrowful for their sins and out of faith they turn from their evil way. Even Jesus talks about this wonderful work of the Spirit in working repentant faith in the people of Ninevah (Matthew 12:41). Jesus says that the people of Ninevah repented at the preaching of Jonah and behold, He is greater than Jonah. This text should point us right to Christ. Let’s see how Brian preaches on this text.

“Here’s the phrase I’m interested in, “Who can tell?” “Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” When I first read that phrase, I was studying in the life of Jonah and in the book of Jonah in these four chapters and that phrase just grabbed ahold of my heart, “Who can tell? Who can tell?” It’s an interesting phrase to me, an interesting thought to me because what the king is saying, “We don’t know what God will do but he might do something. We don’t know how generous, how merciful, how gracious God will be, but he may be. Who can tell what God might do if we repent and if we pray?” And I think it ought to be that way in our lives, instead of saying in our lives, “God won’t,” instead of saying in our lives, “God can’t,” instead of having this idea in our lives, “God wouldn’t or God couldn’t,” maybe we ought to live this way by faith and say, “Well, who can tell what God might do if we just believe him?””

‘Who Can Tell?’ By Evangelist Brian McBride of Victory Baptist Church

“Who knows if God will turn away His anger?” This is a great place to talk about Jesus and How because of Him God doesn’t want us to try to merit forgiveness for the sins we have done. Yet, Brian seems to go the other way with this one. He doesn’t place Jesus at the center but places the efforts and merits on us to first act and see what God might do for us in our lives.

“Some of you say, “Well, preacher, I know somebody God can’t help.” Well, the Bible says this, “The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord as the rivers of water. He turneth it whithersoever he will.” And I believe God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think. So I want it to be the model of my life. I’m just gonna find out, I’m gonna say, “Who can tell what God might do if I pray about it, if I live for God, if I’ll be what God would have me to be? Who can tell what God can do in my life?””

Who Can Tell?’ By Evangelist Brian McBride of Victory Baptist Church

Notice how God isn’t the center here, it’s you. Brian seems to have the view of God that He is waiting for you to pray, live for God, be what God has you to be, then God might do something in your earthly life. What does this have to with contrition and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins? It doesn’t.

“If you ever got born again, you are still born again, but you can wander away from God. You can get out of the will of God. You can backslide. That’s what Jonah did. Here is a prophet who is running from God. We dealt with running from God this week, but Jonah is running from the Lord and yet notice what the Bible said in chapter 3, verse 1, “And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time.” Aren’t you glad God gives us second chances? Aren’t you glad he didn’t say, “Alright, Jonah, I spoke to you once and that’s it”?”

‘Who Can Tell?’ By Evangelist Brian McBride of Victory Baptist Church

You can lose your salvation. Scripture is clear on this. If you persist in manifest sins, call evil good and good evil, openly fight against the Spirit and refuse repentance; He will depart. For more on this I have two articles here, and the follow up article here. If the good news here is that God gives second chances then that isn’t good news at all. I’ve blown my second chance, my thousandth, my trillionth, a second chance isn’t good news because we are sinners and we will sin. What we need is a Savior for our sins, we need God in the flesh, nailed to the cross, dead, risen for your justification. Brian, are you going to give us that good news? Spoiler alert; no.

“Someone will say, “Well, preacher, I got out of the will of God and I’m not able to do anything.” Now wait a minute, get back in the will of God. Who can tell what God can do with a backslider? Here was Jonah, he is a perfect example of a backslider. He’s going the wrong way but God chases him down and hems him up and brings him back, tells that great fish to vomit him out on the dry land and hit the ground running. Salvation is of the Lord, and he went into the city and he preached and did what God had told him to do the first time, and do you know what happened? One of the greatest revivals we ever read about in the Bible took place. Everybody got right with God from the eldest to the youngest, from the greatest to the smallest. They all got right with God. They are so interested in getting right with God they make the animals fast. Did you notice it when we read? They took the cattle and made the cattle fast, and then they took that sackcloth and ashes and not only put it on themselves, they put it on the cattle. I think they mean business with God. And how did God reach them? A fellow who got a second chance. Who can tell what God can do with a backslider? Who can tell what God can do in your life or in the life of someone you love if we pray for them? If we’d just get serious about it?”

‘Who Can Tell?’ By Evangelist Brian McBride of Victory Baptist Church

Someone comes to you with the fear of losing their salvation, for being out of the will of God and your response is to try harder? Brian, your response is to “get right with God”? The people of Ninevah were not told to fast and to put on sackcloth to merit God’s forgiveness, nor were they commended for this, they were commended for their faith. They repented in faith, they turned from their evil ways.

This was not of themselves as if they tried to cover up their sins or to make atonement for their sins. Yet, this seems to be how Brian is reading and preaching this text. There isn’t anything in this passage about how God relented because they made atonement for their sins. God relented because they believed His Word. They had received faith they didn’t constantly harden their hearts by rejecting God’s Word as the Israelites kept doing.

Brian’s whole point of this text is that God can do something in your life if you just get serious about it. If you just… Is Law, it’s not Gospel. There is no comfort in this message because who can know if they have ever done enough? Where in this passage are we told that if we just get serious God will do something in our life? Brian can’t even define what that something is he leaves it open and undefined. Again, what does this have to do with the promise of Christ Crucified for our sins, what does this have to do with contrition over sins and faith in Christ? It doesn’t.

“We went into Walmart the other night and Bethany, there were two ladies there and Bethany had two tracts, she only had one of them out, there was a reason why but she gave the tract to the lady and then we started out the door and this young man said, “Hey, hey, wait a minute! Hey, I think you forgot something.” And we walked back in and here was this other woman and she said, “Can I have one of those? I want one of those. Can I have one of those pieces of paper?” And we handed it to her and she stood there and read it and I thought to myself, “Somebody somewhere’s interested in hearing from God.” When you and I think nobody cares and we can’t do anything, but I’m gonna tell you, if we just believed God, if we’d just be obedient, if we’d just do what God tells us to do, who knows what God could do with us? Who can tell what God could do with us?”

‘Who Can Tell?’ By Evangelist Brian McBride of Victory Baptist Church

Brian’s point is to just be obedient and try harder to obey God. What does this have to do with contrition and faith; repentance and believing the promise of Christ? Brian keeps pointing us back to our works, back to the Law, instead of in Christ Crucified for our sins. He keeps saying “who knows what God can do with us if we are just obedient”.

The whole point of the text is that the people of Ninevah believed God and turned from their evil ways. They had repentant faith for their temporal and eternal punishment. Brian points us to our own works to merit temporal blessings. This is not taught in the biblical text. He’s eisegeting; putting things into the text that aren’t there.

You see, someone would say, “Well, preacher, I can’t do anything for God.” You can if you believe. If you’ll just have some faith, if you’ll just say, “Alright, Lord, use me somehow. Just use me. I’ll just be obedient to you.”

‘Who Can Tell?’ By Evangelist Brian McBride of Victory Baptist Church

“Well, soon as I got saved, you know, the preacher had been preaching, he said, “You ought to tithe.” So we were tithing. He said, “You ought to pray.” So we were praying. He said, “You ought to read your Bible.” So we’re reading our Bible. He said, “You ought to go to church.” So we were faithful at church. And then he said this, he said, “You ought to go visiting.” Well, we lived 30, what was it, 33 miles? We lived 33 miles away from the church. It was a pretty good hike to get over there. And on Thursday night they would go on visitations so I said to the pastor and my brother-in-law and we both lived over there, and I said to the pastor, I said, “Well, what if we went visiting over where we live?” He said, “That’d be good. Just go out and visit somebody. Go tell somebody about Jesus.””

‘Who Can Tell?’ By Evangelist Brian McBride of Victory Baptist Church

“Then I went back to Sherry’s and a few days later, back to our house, and a few days later I went by my mom and dad’s and I was excited about this elderly couple being saved and I said, “Randy and I, we led an elderly couple to the Lord.” And my dad said, “Really? Where?” And I told him where and he said, “Now, what house is it?” And I told him and he said, “What was their name?” And I told him their names and he said, “Well, that’s your great-aunt and great-uncle.” I didn’t even know we were related. You see, God will use you in unusual ways if you’ll just believe him. He’ll use you to win people to God. He’ll use you to influence people. He’ll use you to help people if you’ll just believe him.”

‘Who Can Tell?’ By Evangelist Brian McBride of Victory Baptist Church

Obey, do this, do that. This is all Law and an improper use of the Law. He is using the Law as a means of meriting grace from God for your temporal life. Brian’s Gospel is one of trust God and He will use you to influence people. Yet, not only is this not taught in the biblical text, it’s telling you to obey God because God wants to use you. It’s as if he is saying “Stop running from God, He only wants to use you, as if you were just a tool” instead of repent and believe the Gospel because you are someone whom He loves that He bled and died so that you can be set free from your sins.

“You say, you look around and you say, “Preacher, the world is wicked.” I know the world is wicked and we were part of it until we got saved, and if we hadn’t got saved, there’s no telling what we’d be, but do you know what? When God saved us, then we became new creatures in Christ. The Bible said that, “If any man be in Christ, he’s a new creature, old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.” We’re saved now. What happened is what changed us, what made us different, we’re not perfect but we’re certainly not what we were. One old preacher put it this way, “If you is what you was, you ain’t.” If God hadn’t worked a work and changed your life, you see, when you get saved, you don’t just get changed, you get resurrected to newness of life.”

‘Who Can Tell?’ By Evangelist Brian McBride of Victory Baptist Church

So I’m looking at these people of Nineveh and they make a change here. God does a change in their life. They’re repenting of their sin. Repentance is still a Bible doctrine. Repenting, it’s taking God’s side against my side. It’s when you’re headed this way and you stop and you go back the other way. Repentance. And so they repent of their sin. God did that. He worked in their heart. You say, “Well, preacher, God can’t save me. I’ve gone too far. I’ve been too wicked or I’ve sinned away my opportunity.” If you’re still living and breathing, why don’t you call on him. Who can tell what God would do in your life if you’d ask him? If you’d just ask him. There’s no telling. All of us were sinners. All of us were wicked. Somebody would say, “Well, I wasn’t a bad sinner.” Yes, you were. You were bad. You were a sinner from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Your heart was wicked and depraved just like mine was.

‘Who Can Tell?’ By Evangelist Brian McBride of Victory Baptist Church

Now I want you to pay close attention here. He uses some biblical language that might seem accurate but the closer we look at it we can see the error. He says that you are saved and a new creation. He doesn’t mention what your saved from but he says your saved. He says God caused the people of Ninevah to repent, good, but watch how he places the start of that repentance on you. He says that if you think you are too sinful and wicked then you, dead in your tresspasses and sins, are to call out to God so that He can then cause you to repent, and cause you to have a changed life. His Gospel is one of a changed life that if you just rub that magic lamp then God can cause you to be a better person. This has nothing to do with Jesus crucifed for your sins. This is a different gospel, this is a different repentant faith than that given in the Bible.

Through all of that he still gives no comfort if his own false gospel. Brian says “who can tell what God can do in your life if you just ask Him”. Brian can’t even define the life change that he is describing. This way if you don’t see the change that you expect, he can either tell you that you have too high of expectations or you aren’t being obedient enough. This is nothing but a false gospel of works.

“Someone said, “Well, preacher, I would never do so-and-so, or I’ve never done such-and- such.” Because of the way you were raised, because of the constraints of society, because of some moral upbringing that you were taught, but in your heart, in your heart, the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and in your heart there’s murders and
there’s lust and there’s deceits and there’s lying and there’s abuse. All of that is in our hearts. We were born that way. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. You say, “Preacher, not me.” Yes, you and me and all of our children and all our wonderful grandchildren. All of us, born that way, wickedness in our hearts. All of us. We were born that way. But do you know what? When God saved us, he changed our hearts and changed our lives. So who can tell? You say, “Preacher, I don’t know, can God do something in my life?” He can. If you’re unsaved, God can save you. If you know somebody unsaved, God can save them. He can do something in their life.”

‘Who Can Tell?’ By Evangelist Brian McBride of Victory Baptist Church

There it is. Front and center for us all to see. Brian hammers down some hard Law and His Gospel is “life change.“. He tells us inside we are wicked, murderous, adulterous, and liars. We have broken God’s Law. The comfort Brian gives is that God saved you and changed your life. Now you can be obedient to God to make up for all that bad you have done. Sigh. This is a terrible sermon that offers no forgiveness, no hope, just you and your works.

“Here’s what I’m trying to say to you: who can tell what God can do with a sinner who would just come and trust him, he can change their lives. You say, “Well, preacher, I don’t know if I could be saved. I don’t know what to do about being saved.” Let me tell you what to do about being saved: do what the king of Nineveh did, just come and humble yourself before God.”

‘Who Can Tell?’ By Evangelist Brian McBride of Victory Baptist Church

Brian continues and says we should humble ourselves and God can then bless us with the good news of a changed life. This is not biblical Christianity. This is just missing the entire point of the text and the entire point of the Scriptures.

“You say, “Preacher, I would like God to do something in my life.” Let me tell you what to do spiritually speaking, put a noose around your neck and hand God the other end of it and say, “Lord, I’ve heard that you’re merciful. Do with me what you will. I’ll be your servant. Just do what you will.” And I’ll tell you what God will do: he will be merciful because that’s the kind of God he is. Don’t come and make a bargain with him. Don’t come and say, “If you do this, I’ll do that.” Just come and say, “Lord, it’s all you. I can’t do anything. I’m just giving myself to you. I’m just surrendering. I’m just calling on you. I’m just believing the Bible.” Do you know what God can do? He’ll take a broken life and put it back together. He’ll give you a brand new start and a fresh start if you’ll trust him.”

‘Who Can Tell?’ By Evangelist Brian McBride of Victory Baptist Church

“Every time something looks too big, every time it looks too far, every time it looks too long, every time it looks too expensive, every time it looks too troublesome, every time it looks like it’s beyond your ability, I want you to say, “Who can tell? Who can tell what God can do if we just trust him? If we just believe him? If we just take him at his word? Who can tell?” Do you know what, you’ll say, “This fellow said who can tell,” and what happened? God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way and God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto them and he did it not.”

‘Who Can Tell?’ By Evangelist Brian McBride of Victory Baptist Church

Brian ends his sermon with this advice. If you want to see life change then place a spiritual noose around your neck and give God the other end. Plead for His mercy by telling Him that you will be an obedient servant that will do what He says. Brian likes verse 10, but misses the point of verse 5. He likes all of the stuff that the people of Ninevah do that shows their repentant fruit but he misses the point that the Word came and gave them the gift of faith and that out of that faith came fruit.

Brian likes judgement and works, he likes to picture God as someone who only wants us for our works. His God only cares about outward life change and not eternal life won by Christ’s suffering and death to pay for those sins. His gospel has us atoning for those sins. Stacking the chips of all the bad on one side and the good of our life change on the other. This is how all religions see their merits. If the good outweighs the bad then that’s all that matters. Yet it is not biblical Christianity.

This passage, as I have mentioned, is one of wonder. It shows God’s wrath coming for sinners and God intervenes to bring mercy through the Word. He proclaims Law and Gospel and works in them repentant faith. We aren’t the hero of the story; God is. Jesus, the Word in the flesh, came proclaiming for us to repent and believe in the Gospel (Matthew 4:17). Brian disobeyed Christ by not giving you the forgiveness of your sins in God crucified in flesh and bone, fully God and fully man, risen from the gave for your justification.

46 He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47  and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem

Luke 24: 46-47

Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit who doesn’t confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God; and this is the spirit of the Antichrist, of whom you have heard that it comes. Now it is in the world already.

1 John 4: 1-3

Jesus is the Word that comes to you, to draw you away from your sins and to turn you towards Him. He brings you close to Himself by giving you gifts of love. He gives you Himself in His Word, He dwells within you through the Spirit, and gives you faith. He makes you spiritually alive and communes with you. He places His name on you in Holy Baptism, gives you Himself in the Holy Eucharist, and continues to give you His mercy and love for eternity.

This God, the Biblical God, doesn’t want you to put a noose around your neck, to test Him or to do any works to merit eternal life, He simply gives you all that you need. Our lives are full of sin and those sins are forgiven, covered, and gone. You will still sin, there is a battle with the Spirit and the sinful nature, yet in daily ongoing repentance, we remember we are baptized, forgiven, and belong to God because He loves us. He loves you very much.

I hope this post helped you to see that just because someone says something in God’s name doesn’t always mean that it is true. Always check what someone says about God to what God has already said in His Word. May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. With your sins forgiven, go in peace.

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