Adjusting the Gospel to the Peril of Those Who Hear   Leave a comment

I seem to be stealing a lot from Thabiti Anyabwile recently. This is a topic that he is preaching on for the upcoming Together for the Gospel Conference 2010. I haven’t been making a priority of stealing his work, but God has just led my heart in that direction… Maybe He wants me to move to the Cayman Islands. (Or maybe I’m just dreading shoveling the 2+ feet of snow on my driveway.)

Christians are to proclaim the gospel to those around us, to win people for Christ and “make disciples” unto the ends of the earth. Yet, whether we talk to a stranger or talk to a friend, there is sometimes a hint of fear (and most often a giant snowball of oh-my-gosh-please-don’t-hate-me-and-please-don’t-punch-me-in-the-face). We want to be loved and we don’t want to be rejected. We want to love Jesus Christ, but we don’t want others to hate us because of our love for Jesus. So we figure out how we can have both. Never mind that Jesus said:

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

and

“Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man” (Luke 16:22).

Never mind that Jesus said that, invariably, if we preach the gospel, we will be hated by many. Because, well… we figured out the secret that Jesus never did. We can have both!

WORKS-BASED GOSPEL: Some have adjusted the gospel so that, rather than focusing on the grace of God to save sinners, they push towards self-actualization. If you can do enough, you can be saved and earn your favor with God. People love this stuff because the onus is on them to achieve, and when they do achieve it… they’re gonna get the crown because they did such a good job.

SOCIAL GOSPEL: Others have adjusted the gospel to focus more on our relationship with others instead of our relationship with God. What matters isn’t that we have a right standing with God, or that, as Christians, we can have a relationship with God and get to know God more deeply and intimately. What matters is that we have a duty to love our neighbors, above all else. So, donate to charities and volunteer in soup kitchens and enter into the medical field. (Now, these are not bad aspirations and, when Christ is at the center of all this–when He is the greatest motivation–rather than the impoverished, then God will be greatly pleased.)

PROSPERITY GOSPEL: God is a God of blessing, right? So, if you donate $100 to my blog, God will give you $10,000. If you are sick, come to Jesus and you’ll never be sick again. If you are poor, turn to Jesus and you will have mansions and fancy cars. If you are stuck in a minimum-wage job, give your life to Jesus and He will make you the CEO. Rub His belly and shine His lamp, and He will give you unlimited wishes.

But God, knowing our propensity to adjust truth and to make it more palatable, states the following in Jeremiah 23:16-22:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord.
“They keep saying to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, “You will have peace”‘; and as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, they say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you.’
“But who has stood in the council of the Lord, that he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listen?
“Behold, the storm of the Lord has gone forth in wrath, even a whirling tempest; it will swirl down on the head of the wicked.
“The anger of the Lord will not turn back until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart; in the last days you will clearly understand it.
“I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied.
“But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people, and would have turned them back from their evil ways and from the evil of their deeds.”

Do not attempt to adjust the gospel. While it seems like you’re doing them good by giving them a little sweet with the bitter, you’re giving them a completely different product than the gospel. As it says in Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” Be a friend and inflict a wound on their pride by letting them know that they are sinners who have sinned against a holy God. And while that might hurt them a bit, you are providing for them everlasting peace and life because of Jesus, the God-man, who lived a perfect life and died on the cross, taking on the wrath that we deserved as sinners and giving to us a gift of righteousness. Love others enough, and love God enough, to tell them the unadulterated gospel.

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Posted February 6, 2010 by Mitchell J. Kim in Uncategorized

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