Numerous believers who claim to be Christians have deceived themselves through fallacious strongholds, false hopes and unscriptural philosophies where the stubborn may fortify themselves in vain deceit. Ancient Israel fell into the same problem, as the prophet Jeremiah rebuked, “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you [or allow you] to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these” (Jer. 7:3,4). Judah had deceived themselves into thinking that because they had the temple they could not be touched by their enemies. They ignored God and the prophets because they put all their faith in the fact that they had the temple! Do we deceive ourselves by holding to vain strongholds? Let us consider several popular strongholds that deceive believers of the cross.
One common stronghold to which people cling is the doctrine of faith only or once saved always saved, which is based on the idea that a simple faith in Christ will get one to heaven, no matter the situation. Regardless of what the Bible says, people will say that they will be saved because they believe; “I believe in Jesus as my personal Savior! I know He will save me!” This confident belief is not enough, to think it is sufficient for grace is a lie! A false stronghold! Consider the words of James, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). James essentially says, “You believe in God, well good for you, but even the demons do that!” James writes further, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (vs. 24). Faith without works is dead (vs. 26). Unless one is obedient to all that Christ taught, the stronghold of faith will crumble (vss. 10-13).
Another major stronghold is that if God loves me then He won’t condemn me. “God won’t send me to Hell because He loves me” (Or some variation of this idea). Christ told Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God loves the whole world, and nothing can separate a person from God’s love (Rom. 8:35-39). However, there is a difference between having God’s love and having God’s grace. God loves the whole world, but the whole world will not be saved (2 Thess. 1:8,9; Matt. 22:14). Thinking that God will not punish the sinner because He loves the sinner is a terribly weak stronghold! It is a lie!
A great number of people hide behind the stronghold of good works. “God will not send me to hell because I am a good person.” Christ foresaw this stronghold when He said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:22,23). Being a kind, generous, and helpful person is not enough. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (vs. 21). Christ explained that one cannot earn salvation. Worldly works will not save, but the complete works of obedience will bring salvation (Matt. 28:19,20; 1 John 2:3,4).
While too many dubious strongholds exist in the world, salvation can only come to them that accept the truth, put aside the lies that cannot be found in the Bible and obey “that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Rom. 6:17).