Blog, Living in the Abundance of Christ

Are You Listening to a Less-Than, Distorted Gospel?

“…How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father
except through me.” John 14:5-6

What is the Gospel? The Gospel, put simply, is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

What is the good news of the Gospel? Christ came, and paid the penalty for our sin by dying on the cross and rising again, giving us his righteousness (which puts us in right standing with God), and adopting us into his family, making us co-heirs with him, and ensuring our eternal salvation, providing that we have believed in him with our whole heart, and continually put our trust in him (which is the evidence of our initial belief).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:17-21

This is my lame attempt to explain, as simply as possible, the gospel. I was very tempted to use someone else’s explanation of what the gospel is (which I know would have much more eloquent than my rough explanation), but the truth is: I need to be able to understand and explain it for myself. My relationship with Christ is not between me, Christ, and some other great teacher of the Bible, but is only between Christ and myself. I cannot depend on someone else’s explanation of who Christ is and what the Bible says. I have to know and experience it for myself. Just as you do. And while there are many, many wonderful teachers and preachers of God’s Word (which I whole-heartedly think we should be learning from and listening to), we need to read God’s Word for ourselves. There are also some terrible teachers and preachers of God’s Word, and that’s what I’m addressing today. How will you know what to look for, if you don’t know what His Word says?

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,  who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10

Please don’t listen to a less-than, distorted “gospel”. What do I mean by this? Anything that takes away from what Christ has done at the cross or anything that adds to Christ’s complete work being done at the cross. It’s a distortion “gospel”. How will you know you are listening to a distortion or a false “gospel”? Not by me telling you, although I can give you some things to watch out for, but by you reading the Bible for yourself.

Here’s a good place to start: 1 Corinthians 15:1-5, Galatians 1:6-9

What I do not mean by “reading your Bible” is: going to a Bible study where someone tells you (their opinion on) how to interpret each verse, watching a “Christian” movie about reading your Bible, reading other books or devotionals that talk about the Bible or verses in the Bible. What I do mean by reading your Bible is: Read your Bible. Pray for understanding and direction in your Bible reading. Find out the context of what you’re reading in your Bible (time-frame, who it was written by, who it was written to, why it was written). “You Want to Hear from God? Read Your Bible”

Here are some things you should look for in connection with a less-than, false “gospel” message. This is not an exhaustive list (obviously).

  1. Works Oriented.
  2. Prosperity Driven.
  3. Other Religions/Cultural acceptability.

All of these things overlap, but I’ll expand on them a bit. Whatever message you hear or read, that is not pointing you to Christ and what he’s done, should be considered at least a distorted “gospel”, and at most a false “gospel”.

Works. We are big on works. “We”, as in human’s. Why? Because we are guilty, and working busies us and soothes our conscience. It makes us feel good, so naturally we have no problem with putting in some work, especially if it means salvation for our souls. But, it doesn’t. We are not saved by works. You may hear a sermon, telling you that if you do X,Y, and Z, you’ll get the result of God’s approval and his blessing on you. If you belong to Christ, then you already have God’s approval and Christ’s righteousness. Nothing else needs to be added to make this more true.  X,Y, and Z can be good things like spending time in prayer, fasting, giving, helping, etc. But these things you will do as an overflow of Christ living in you. Not in order to earn something from him, but because he lives in you. When Christ lives in you, you can’t help but do these things. It is no longer forced or drudgery, you will do it gladly.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Prosperity. Health, wealth, and prosperity. We love these things. Who doesn’t love the idea of being healthy and wealthy and having things go well for us, wrapped up in a nice Christian package of salvation? Sounds great. Only…the Bible doesn’t promise any of those things on this earth. Eventually we will have health, wealth, and prosperity, but not now, not here. In fact the Bible promises that we will suffer.(2 Timothy 3:12) That we will have tribulations in this life.(John 16:33) That the wicked will prosper.(Jeremiah 12:1) They called Jesus “a man of sorrows, despised and rejected” (Isaiah 53:3). Do we actually think that we won’t be called to the same kind of life that our Savior lived?

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:16-17

Other Religions. Cultural Acceptability. Sadly other religions have crept into churches and into Christianity. Why? Because they are culturally acceptable. You can find it everywhere. New Age and Eastern philosophies like yoga (Christian yoga? Hello?!), Karma, and a major one, self-esteem. Oh, how we love self-esteem. We love to love ourselves! We love to focus on ourselves. We love to see how God focuses on us. That’s why in many “worship” services across this country we sing songs that glorify us, and about how we see God. We read “Christian” books about bettering ourselves. We read the Bible in order to get a personal message to ourselves. Maybe you don’t see anything wrong with this. That’s probably because everyone does it, and it’s widely acceptable behavior. We don’t need to know more about ourselves, or think more about ourselves, or feel better about ourselves. We need to know more about God. Who He is. What He says. We always want to make it about us. But it’s not. He includes us, but it is for His glory that he does this. If we don’t know and understand who God is, we won’t properly know and understand who we are.

“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:5-6

I recently heard a sermon that incorporated all of these things, and I was perplexed. I looked around and saw a lot of people listening to words that were not helpful, and were in fact hurtful and hindering in their Christian lives. It makes my heart ache to know that there are churches all across this country where this type of occurrence is so common, that no one bats an eye, let alone questions what is being preached. What is most heart-breaking is the fact that all those people did not know that it was a less-than gospel, a distortion, or a false gospel. At best, we can expect that these people, listening to less-than sermons, will be malnourished in all things regarding God’s Word. At worst, we can expect that they do not really know Christ and will therefore be eternally separated from him.  We need to pick up our Bibles and read. We need to pray for guidance and discernment. Most importantly we need to seek him first! I admonish you, seek him first and with all your heart! (Jeremiah 29:13)

 

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