Monday, February 22, 2016

Putting Up with Falsehood

“…I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.”

 (2Corinthians 11:3 ESV)

            Paul expresses to the church at Corinth that he feels a divine jealousy for them.  What he meant by this is that he’s jealous for God.  He desired that the people would belong to Christ, and to Christ alone.  And, for this reason, he says that he betrothed them to one husband…to Christ.

            He feared for the people that they would be led astray from a sincere devotion to Christ. Just as Eve was deceived by the serpent, Paul feared that they too would be deceived.  And, when we see what was going on, his fear was not unfounded.

            He tells them that, if someone proclaimed to them another Jesus, if they received or accepted a different spirit or gospel, they put up with it.  So we find that, even though Paul had brought to them the message of Jesus, even though he’d brought to them the true gospel, the people were open to other teachings to which they were introduced.  Even if they contradicted the truth, the people received it without question.

            This is a danger that’s clearly seen in the American Church today.  We have the Word of God readily available to us.  Yet, even if we profess faith in Jesus, and even if we are regular at worship, we are open to other teachings.  We are open to messages that directly contradict the message of Christ.

            We encounter the stories of those who’ve had a near-death experience.  They tell us of seeing God and talking with him.  However, the message is one that contradicts Scripture.  They present to us a message of universalism.  They tell us that all people, regardless of their faith, will be saved.

            When this happens, so many of us are quick to jump on the bandwagon.  Our excitement about something that seems to confirm the reality of heaven trumps the fact that the message is wrong.  And, in this way, we open ourselves to false teaching.

            Many of us latch onto the thoughts of prominent personalities, simply because they profess a faith in God.  We listen to people like Oprah, who speaks so passionately on these matters.  We listen to the Dalai Lama, because he seems to spiritual.  And, again, even though their message contradicts Scripture, we accept it.  We accept it because it appeals to us emotionally.

            Many of us love to listen to television evangelists.  And, because they talk of Christ, because they talk of the gospel, we blindly accept everything they say.  However, we never seem to notice that the message brought by some of them is very different from the one we find in the Word of God.

            Just as Paul was jealous for the church, so must we be jealous for one another.  We must desire one another for Christ and for him alone.  We must desire that no one in the body of Christ would be drawn away from the true faith to a generic substitute.

            Let us, then, be careful and discerning as we listen to talk of God.  Let us hold firmly to Scripture as our source of truth.  And, when something or someone contradicts the truth, let’s recognize it for what it is.

            Let us also encourage one another in this way.  Let’s faithfully share with one another the true gospel.  Let’s faithfully share with one another the true Word of God.  And let us lovingly address the false teachings and beliefs that we encounter in the body of Christ. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

A Distorted Gospel

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one…”

(Galatians 1:6-7 ESV)

            The gospel had been proclaimed to the Galatians, and they had placed their faith in Jesus.  But, now, something was different. There were people who troubled them and who wanted to distort the gospel of Christ.

            Based on the words of Paul, it seems that many in the Galatian church were turning from the true gospel.  They were, instead, turning to the other gospel being promoted among them. And this is a change that took place relatively quickly.

            Paul makes it clear that this other gospel was not truly a gospel at all.  “Gospel” means “good news.” So this new teaching being promoted among them was not something that would comfort them or fill them with hope.

            As we read on in Galatians, we find that this other “gospel” was nothing more than a system of works.  It taught the people to trust not in Christ, but themselves.  It taught them to trust in their adherence to a system of rules and regulations.

            We have the same thing happening in the church today.  Instead of trusting in Jesus and his saving work, many have begun to trust in themselves.  Even though they profess faith in Christ, and even though they claim the name of “Christian,” they are holding to a distortion of the gospel.

            For some, Christianity means holding to the Law.  They base their confidence on how well they perform.  They base it on their level of goodness, measured by the Law.

            Although the Law does reveal to us how God desires for us to live, it cannot save us.  And it in no way reveals our goodness.  In fact, the only thing it reveals is our sin.

            For some, the gospel isn’t even about salvation from sin and death.  It’s about loving people in this life.  It’s about transforming this present world into something better.

            Yes, God desires for us to love people in this life.  He desires that we stand against injustice.  However, it’s impossible to bring about heaven and earth as long as there is sin in this world. 

            There are many distortions of the gospel in our world for today.  But one thing is true of all of them: They are unable to save.  They are unable to deliver us from sin and its consequences.

            For this reason, Paul was not tolerant of those who were distorting the gospel.  In fact, he called for their judgment.  In verse 8, he says: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

            This other gospel would not lead to the salvation of men.  It would only lead to their condemnation.  And, for this reason, it had to be opposed.

            The same is true for us today.  The false gospel being proclaimed in the world leads not to the forgiveness of those who receive it.  It leads only to their damnation.  And, for this reason, we cannot accept it as Christianity.  We cannot accept it as a reliable expression of our faith.  We must faithfully proclaim the true gospel while bringing these false teachings into the light.